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Nurturing Life – A Journey of Faith

Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible

by Tim Nichols

Some years ago, I had the opportunity as a theology student, at what was then known as Southern Missionary College, to meet H.M.S. Richards Sr., founder of Voice of Prophecy, in person. As a young man hoping to capture some little gem from a pastor of such great reputation and experience, a friend and I decided to approach him in the cafeteria. We asked him what wisdom he might offer young pastors in training like us.

He paused for a moment and thoughtfully said, “Read the Word, read the Word, read the Word.”

We were a little surprised at the simplicity of the answer. I felt I should have known this, but as he explained, I understood more deeply what he meant to say. He described how he had read through the Bible so many times, the impact of the words had become easy to miss. Pastor Richards then told how he had begun to read Scripture backwards! In other words, he read John chapter 21, verse 25, then verse 24, then 23, and continuing up through the verses. When I first heard this, it seemed like the strangest Bible reading plan I had ever heard. But, as I thought about it, I discovered its wisdom.

Have you ever found yourself reading along in Scripture and suddenly realize you are reading the words, but not catching the meaning? It is possible for the words to become so familiar that we pass over them without letting them sink in. This leads us to ask the question, “When we are reading the Scripture, why are we really reading? Are we looking for answers to a particular question? Are we searching for a memorable teaching we could incorporate into our lives? Or are we reading to become more deeply aware of the ways of God?”

All of the above are valuable reasons for reading Scripture. We are reminded, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV) Scripture is the best source we have to guide, direct and instruct us in living a faithful Christian life. We also read, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63 NIV) So, when do we read for answers, and when do we read for discovering the “Spirit and life?”

When you approach Scripture, what are you looking for at that moment? There are plenty of reasons to come to God’s Word looking for specific counsel or knowledge. When I want to know God’s teaching about healthy relationships with my spouse, my children, or my neighbor, I can find answers there. When I need hope in times of tragedy and trouble, I can turn to God’s Word for encouraging words about the future and His plan for me. When I have trouble making sense of the injustice, sin, and suffering in the world around me, I can find perspective and peace in the promises of God. As told by the gospel writers, the message of God’s grace and love for me, as revealed in the life of Jesus, gives me hope and purpose when the world is so confused. Seeking to separate truth from error is a very important reason to read the Word of God.

Pastor Richards reminded me of a lasting truth at a very important time early in my experience of learning to walk with God. What did he teach me in such a simple way? Reading the words of the Word are not as important as hearing the Author of the words revealing Himself. As I read my way through the Bible, however I do it, God is seeking to show me His heart and His ways. He may be doing it through the ideas and experiences described by those who were learning to walk with Him, but it is always more about Him than it is about those individuals. It is always more about Him than it is about mere ideas and rules. The rule of my life should be the relationship I have with Him. I’ve found that if I don’t have a healthy walk with Him, I am less inclined to really honor the rest of the teachings of His Word.

There are many sources for reading plans that will guide you through the Bible. We may each have reasons why one system works better for us than another. The important thing is to find a plan that works for you. This means that the plan needs to be one you can stay with, and it needs to be one that helps you capture the meaning and not just the words. If the plan you have tried is not working, try another approach. What is important is the experience you are able to have with God while creating a routine that keeps bringing you back to spend time with Him.

If you are looking for help finding a Bible reading plan, there are many resources available. BibleGateway.com has become a great source to search and read the Bible in many versions and languages. Look for the Reading Plans link on this site.

With so many people using smartphones today, it is important to consider using the Bible you have with you throughout the day. YouVersion.com and the YouVersion Bible application available on most phones and tablets provide a great resource for Bible reading and offer numerous plans to help in reading the Bible in portions or as a whole. Recorded audio Bible readings are also offered, if that will help bring you into the experience in a new way. All of this is free. Some have found the Olive Tree Bible Software on phones and tablets to be another great alternative. It offers study helps and a wide range of reading and study resources, though they are not all free.

By mentioning these resources, it is not my intention to endorse one tool over another. I only seek to point out the availability and how easy it is to find support for your choice to read more regularly and frequently.

Many have found they want to preserve the journey and the discoveries along the way as they read and reflect on God’s Word. So, while I am encouraging you to read the Bible, and read it for an experience with God, I hope you would consider recording in a journal, or in some other way, the journey through which God brings you in the discovery of His Word. In the Bible, you will discover One who made you and understands every nuance of your personality. You will spend time with the One who loved and saved you at the price of all of heaven. He eagerly waits for you to know His heart and His purpose for your life. I hope you will experience this wonderful opportunity to walk with God!

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