I grew up hearing some version of: "READ YOUR BIBLE IT'S YOUR CHRISTIAN DUTY" all the time. But I had no idea how to do this "reading" that I was constantly commanded to do. The Bible not like other books, where you could open it up at the beginning and just read it through to end. I tried that once and stopped after Exodus.
Sometime I wish that Bible came in handbook form, where I could just open to a section about a part of life that I need to understand and where I could find a clear, line-by-line explanation. Instead of that, when you open the Bible, you find a very diverse range of writing styles, voices, moods, stories. To understand those, you have to know a bit about the language and world it was written in. The one law code in there, the Mosaic Law, was made complete by Jesus so you can't just read and do it now (otherwise none of use could have round haircuts, eat bacon, or cook goat by boiling a kid goat in its mother's milk). How do you connect one part to the others? What was the world like when it was written? What parts am I supposed to take literally?
I found that taking the time to study the Bible helped me to read the Bible. Now when I open the Bible to different sections, I know more about how to connect it to other sections, what the culture was like, why the language uses metaphors like it does.
I grew up going to church on Sundays and went to a Christian school, so I've had a good amount of Bible teaching. But even after all those years, there was a lot that I didn't know and needed to learn. It's only been in adulthood that I've really learned to actually study the Bible. It's a process you have to take ownership over. Your pastor shouldn't be in charge of studying the Bible for you.
This is just a simple challenge: Find a way to integrate Bible study into your normal life rhythm of your life. Here are some helpful resources I've found:
- iTunes U app: I'm *obsessed*. You can get free classes from some of best seminary professors. And you can listen during your commutes and evening jogs. These classes were an easy way to learn about challenging subjects like the context of the Greco-Roman World and understanding the Mosaic law. Fuller Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, and others have classes up that you can download.
- Free online resources: Lots of websites have free materials on them. Biblehub.com has commentaries that you can search by Bible verse. BlueLetterBible.com/app is great free resource that I use to look up Greek/Hebrew words in a verse. It has a concordance, commentaries, and other good resources.
- Logos Bible Research software/app: This is a pricier, nerdier option, but it you get what you pay for. You can purchase different packages, and it gives you access to lots of commentaries, books, dictionaries, encyclopedias. The search functions make it very easy to use and makes studying go faster. The smartphone app has some good, free resources on it.
- Podcasts: Lots of churches and pastors put out podcasts now, giving you new teaching on a weekly basis. My current favorites are Timothy Keller (practical, interesting, very well researched) NT Wright (provocative, different, makes you think), and RT Kendall (Spirit filled former paster at Westminster chapel with great insight on Scripture- his sermon on forgiveness is life-changing).
- Bible study materials: Most Christian bookstores have Bible study sections. I like ones that go into cultural context and the original Hebrew/Greek of a verse. Beth Moore has some good ones.
- Books: Kind of a duh resource- but there is a reason why books remain so popular. Some recent favorites are:
- Paul's Metaphors: Their Context and Character by David Williams: An easy read and lot of good information. Paul's letters use a lot of illustrations and metaphors from his time, and the book outlines many of them. After I read this book, it made his epistles so much more clear.
- Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn: My favorite book on the topic of money in the Bible. It's balanced, comprehensive and practical.
- Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A classic resource on the Sermon on the Mount. It's long, but well-organized so it's a good book to read for a while, put down, and come back to as you get time.
- Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself by John Goldingay: This man is my favorite voice on the Old Testament. This book is a short introductions for Christians that struggle to understand and value the Old Testament. He's also written some wonderful textbooks and commentaries. A lot of his seminary lectures at Fuller through the iTunesU.
- The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann: Anything by Brueggemann is worth reading. His perspective and language are totally unique. I've read parts of his textbooks, and even those are wonderful.
- Challenge part 2: Read something from the perspective that you haven't heard from before. People with very different opinions spend their whole lives devoted to studying the same book, I've found that even in theological traditions that I don't 100% agree with, they have interesting insight that helps me understand God more. I'm assuming that y'all are mature enough to know that you can 'eat the meat and spit out the bones.' Try another perspective you've never heard from before, like Catholic, conservative Baptist, Spirit-filled, Latin American liberation theologians, etc.