Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bible Reading 101

As soon as we finished practicing the song, our pianist grabbed a Bible and started searching for a something. “Hold on a minute,” she said, “This is really good you’ll like this.” Since the song was, “God is Singing Over Me,” I guessed she was looking for Zephaniah 3:17 and called it out. It happens to be one of my favorite verses. After she read it, someone in back commented, “Beth would know that. She’s like one of three people in the whole choir who’ve ever even read Zephaniah.” And I have to ask, “Why is that?”

Why is it true that we who call ourselves Christians don’t read the Bible? Believers around the world willingly suffer persecution, torture, and death for the privilege of possessing even one scrap of this life-giving Word. They risk everything to smuggle it into their country so they can win others to Christ. Some memorize entire books of the Bible so they can pass it on orally without the incriminating evidence. And here we sit in America with 2-3 Bibles each and we don’t even read them!

I’ve heard all the arguments: “I don’t have time,” “I don’t understand it,” “I don’t like the Old Testament,” “I’m not a reader.” But none of those hold any water. Here’s why.

We Need to Read the Bible…
1. To get the whole story. Many people read the New Testament and skip around to other favorite verses. This is like reading only the last half of a novel or haphazardly watching scenes from a movie. We miss the setting, the plot, the introduction of characters, foreshadowing, motive, and continuity of thought (Colossians 1:25-26). It’s helpful to acquaint new believers with the story of Christ through the book of John or one of the other gospels. But when do we grow up and read the rest of the story?

2. To protect our hearts from false teaching. In 1517 Dr. Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. In it, he pointed out the discrepancies between the current teachings of the Catholic Church and the written Word of God. He suggested services be conducted in the language of the people instead of in Latin, so they could understand what was going on. Most people couldn’t read or write and relied on their priests to teach them what the Bible said. The Church had become corrupt and greedy, but the peasants didn’t know any better because they couldn’t read the Bible for themselves.

What’s our excuse? We know how to read and have easy access to Bibles and a wealth of resources. If we rely solely on pastors, teachers, and TV preachers to tell us what the Bible says, but don’t read ourselves, how will we know if what they’re saying is right (Acts 17:10-12)?

3. To protect our minds from worldly thinking. There’s stuff coming at us from every direction – TV, movies, billboards, radio, music, and popular slogans. The only way to counteract those deceptive voices is through regular contact with the truth (Jeremiah 4:22).

4. So we can tell others. If we’re not in the Word, how can we know what the Good News is? We have to get it ourselves before we can share it with others (Matthew 22:29).

5. To be a team player. If the quarterback is the only one who reads the playbook on his team, they’re not going to have a winning season. Yet, many Christians depend on our quarterbacks (pastors, teachers, missionaries) to lead the team and win the game. This attitude of nonparticipation is passed on to our children and new believers in the church.

6. To receive God’s power. Our only two weapons against the enemy’s attacks are prayer and the Word of God. We have no other offensive weapons. I don’t know about you, but I would rather fight the enemy than just stand there while he shoots at me (Ephesians 6:17-18 and Hebrews 4:12)!

What keeps us from reading the Bible?
1. Laziness. Let’s face it, self-discipline is difficult. Anyone who’s ever tried to diet or maintain an exercise program knows that. But the results are worth it!

2. Peer pressure. Who would think that Christians would experience negative peer pressure from other Christians regarding Bible study? And yet I face it all the time. If I refer to a lesser known story from the Bible in a Sunday school discussion, I get blank or guilty stares. I feel like an oddity. Comments, like the one in choir practice point out the fact that I’m different, even in my own peer group. But I’m resolved to please God rather than man.

3. No felt need. Many pour over the Bible when they first become Christians, or when they feel a need for comfort or direction. However, if we don’t read consistently, we won’t have anything to draw from when tough times hit. We need to store up God-talk in our minds and hearts.

4. Wrong impressions. It’s not how much we read every day that matters. It doesn’t do any good to read five chapters of the Bible a day if it’s just to check it off our list. I once heard a speaker say she reads until God stops her. That helped me to slow down and savor what I read instead of racing through devotions each day. The point is to take it in and respond to God’s message. It’s meant to be a conversation.

How Can I Start?
1. Ask God for help. The Bible is hard to understand; it’s a spiritual book, meant to be read over and over. If it was easy to “get” the first time, we wouldn’t keep coming back. God wants to give us understanding. So each day before you read, ask Him to speak to you.

2. Make it do-able. Reading the Bible in a year is a great goal, but most people get bogged down. Pastor Rob Baker recommends beginning each day with 90 seconds in the Word. You’ll be amazed how much you can absorb in that short period of time (the length of an average commercial). Once you get a taste, and it becomes a habit, you’ll want to read more.

3. Talk about it. It’s much more fun to learn when you tell somebody about it. My husband and I often read verses we like to each other. And we marvel at the way God gives us direction for our current situations, no matter where we’re reading.

4. Use tools. Bible study books, chain references, commentaries and other resources can help us get the most out of our reading. This time through the Bible, I’m reading Jon Courson’s Application Commentary as I go, and I’m learning terrific stuff! Just recently, he pointed out that when Isaiah prophesied that a guy named Cyrus was going to rebuild Jerusalem, it hadn’t even been destroyed yet (Isaiah 45)! But 200 hundred years later it happened just like God said it would.

I long to see hunger for the Bible in the hearts of God’s people. I yearn for the day when a verse in Zephaniah is mentioned, and instead of saying, “Zeph-a-what-a?”other Christians respond with equal excitement and others are encouraged. I hope you will be one of them!

I would love to tell you more! Invite me to your church or gathering. I teach a fun workshop called: "Ten Reasons to Read the Bible and Ten Ways to Go About It."
(c) Beth Vice, 2010


  1. Excellent article, Beth! As a member of a Bible translation organization, I complete agree with you. How can we really know and serve God if we don't even listen to what He has to say?

  2. Beth thank you so much for posting this! I used to be one of those Christians that sort of knew the basic "Bible stories"from the Old Testament, and focused mostly on the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs, but last year I had had enough of that! I wanted more and it has been an amazing journey so far. I find it amazing how so many people that call themselves Christians take a back-seat in their faith when it says right in the Bible to be prepared and to seek God! The best place to find Him is in the Word (in the WHOLE Word). You have encouraged me to keep at it, and I hope I never grow tired of it. God Bless!

  3. What a great post. You're hitting the nail on the head for many of us. I've had seasons of really being in the Word and seasons of "not so much." Your suggestions for getting started are great---currently I'm reading through the Bible with a yearly plan but I'm not guilting when I fall behind. The point is to be receiving from God's Word daily and let the Holy Spirit speak into my life as I go. Thanks for the good reminders.

  4. What encouraging comments! Keep it up! Hopefully others will follow.

  5. I just read your blog about Bible reading and have found it the most conclusive set of reasons to read the Bible I have ever seen.Thank you for your blog.
    Ron & Linda