The Bible: a Guide for Life
Since my last post on the book Growing Your Soul, I have taught it to another adult Sunday School class. I wanted to share some of the section about the Bible.
The Bible gives us instruction about how to live a quality life. While it provides truth about God and a history of the world it also is an amazingly useful guide for inner wellness and a happy adjustment to life. The Bible works for those who seriously try to understand its meaning and it helps readers discover their reason for being.
The Bible deals not only with daily experiences, but life and death issues. Reading and studying it nourishes our souls, inspires our minds and energizes our wills. It is as relevant to our lives as it was to the 1st generation of Christians.
Sometimes it takes trials, sorrow or sin to get us to turn to the Bible, but when we do it stands ready to strengthen us. The Bible doesn’t just comfort you when you are down, it picks you up and sends you back into the fight with all of God’s armor on.
God says the Bible is a living thing and it changes people. But, we have to read it, meditate on it and apply it. The author wrote, “After all the profound arguments are finished and the impressive research is published, simple believers, sophisticated scholars and everyone in between find a wonderful quality of life when they heed the message of scripture and follow this amazing book to Christ – its central character."
The Bible’s 66 books were written by about 40 people over a 1500-year time span. Its long time endurance is remarkable and its abiding influence is incredible. It gives us judgment for ethical issues, comfort for pain, clarity for confusion, inspiration for despair and discipline for rebellion. All over the world thousands of individual readers and study groups apply its teaching to their situations.
In Romans 15:4 Paul wrote, “For every thing that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” So it instructs us, it gives us the resources to endure and it inspires hope.
When we are lonely the Bible has this passage for us (Deut. 31:6)
When we are fearful we have (John 14:27)
As an antidote for anger (Matthew 6:14)
For help when frustrated (Is.40:31)
When we’re suffering (Romans 8:18)
When someone dies (John 11:25) and on and on.
The writer John Jay Chapman wrote: “The darker our world grows, the more light the Bible emits.” And the Bible has one encompassing message, "human beings have problems, but God provides miraculous answers.”
One of the most amazing things about the Bible is you can read parts of it and have it help you in the place you are right now and then a year or years later read the same passage and it helps you with a different problem.
That’s because the Bible, the written word, takes us to Jesus, the Living Word. We’re not following an abstract truth as Christians. We’re following a living person. The Bible introduces us to Jesus and brings us close to Him. The Old Testament looks toward Christ. It’s incomplete without the New Testament. The New Testament records the life of Christ and it is incomplete without the Old Testament. They are interdependent. More than 1300 Old Testament references are in the New Testament. The New Testament completes the Old Testament.
The Bible points out where we each fall short, but it doesn’t leave us there. It shows us how we can close the gap. The author says that the Bible is different from any other book because you have to read it with a “yielding yes” in your mind in order for it to enrich and renew you. In other words, you have to plan on being obedient to what it tells you, or its not going to do you much good.
He wrote, “Nothing is more vital to the ability to understand Scripture than a whole hearted devotion to Christ.” If you want to change the way you’ve been reading the Bible – here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. You don’t have to start with Genesis and read straight through to Revelation.
I had always heard if you’re new to the Bible, the place you should start is with the book of John, then read some of the Proverbs and Psalms, then Paul’s letters. This author has quite a plan laid out. He says you should start with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), then Psalms 23, 24, 100, 122 and 139. Then go on to Isaiah 35 and 55. Next the Gospels of Mark and Luke and then Philippians. Finally move onto the Old Testament prophets: Jeremiah, Amos, Hosiah or Micah and then learn the history of the early church in the book of Acts.
2. Take time – Some people get up to read the Bible at the crack of dawn. Some stay up late. The important thing is to pick out a time where you can be consistent and focused.
3. Read with anticipation – do not expect to be bored. Go into it expecting a fresh word. Our minds are strong. There is such a thing as self-fulfilling prophecy.
4. But, then again – read in spite of your feelings – everybody has mood swings – some of us worse than others. To keep from being victimized by these feelings we should read the Bible when we feel like it, when we don’t feel like it and when we aren’t feeling anything at all.
5. Read for meanings – read until the Bible says something significant to you and then stop. This may sound a little strange, but have you ever been to a lecture or seminar or heard a really great sermon and there are just so many good ideas that you wished you could just hit pause and write them all down so you could really think about each one separately for a day or so? That what this means. And when you stop – look up words you don’t know, look on an atlas to see where the story or event happened, read a commentary about it, read several translations. Take the time necessary to get the most you can out of it.
6. Share it – one Bible teacher said, “It was by teaching that I learned what I know about the Bible.” I totally agree with that. But, we can also share in: group Bible studies, family devotions, Sunday school and even casual conversations.
The Bible is simple enough that anyone can find the way to God with it and challenging enough to stimulate the most brilliant mind. It’s a way of life, an encounter with God, a loving correspondence of the Father, a plan for His child and a revelation for what really matters. Our lives will be both more useful and more joyful if we follow the owner’s manual.