The Salvation Army for a new generation

Word Up!

The Bible is an amazing and beautiful gift from God. It is so much more than a book, so much more than a resource or tool. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Did you know – the Bible has been translated into more than 1,200 languages, and it is historically the best-selling book of all time!  It contains 66 books split into the Old and New Testaments, and there are said to be around 40 different people who wrote various parts of the Bible over 1,600 years between 1500BC and 100AD. But why is it such a hot seller? Why does it continue to sell over 100,000 copies every day all around the world?

Well, if I had to pick a verse from the Bible to put on the blurb to try and tell a reader what they are about to get themselves into, it has to be this verse from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – ‘There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us’ (The Message paraphrase).

The Bible is literally the training manual for Christians. It shows us what to do, how to live, how to treat each other, how to respond to critics. It builds us up, helps us grow, reassures us, guides our futures. You name it – it does it.

The Bible is however a long book, and it was written a long time ago, so a lot of it can be difficult to understand and difficult to apply to our present-day lives. However, If we look at the chapter that is slap bang right in the middle of the Bible – Psalm 119, which also happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible (so it must be important, right?) – it talks about the importance of God’s word. Verse 9 says: ‘How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word’ (New International Version). So that’s the answer to living a pure life – simply living according to God’s word. In the words of the famous Aleksandr Orlov (the meerkat) – ‘Simples!’ If only it was that easy!

If you have grown up in church, you will probably have some understanding of how important the Bible can be, and yet maybe you still don’t spend time reading it, or if you do, you don’t really get anything from it. Now I can’t tell you what to do or how to read the Bible, since what works for me may not work for you – but here are some pointers that I have found helpful.

Firstly, it’s important to realise that this is a book like no other. It’s not to be read cover to cover; it’s purely a reference book only. It is the living word of God; the words in it are ‘God-breathed’ so it needs to be treated that way. Before you start reading the Bible, spend some moments in prayer asking God to reveal a message to you through his word. Ask that you will gain some understanding of the passage you’re looking at. Sometimes you will feel you know exactly what God is saying to you through the readings, other times you won’t have a clue! Don’t be put off by a lack of understanding. Ask somebody else what they think of it, look at the same passage a number of times over a couple of days. Learn all you can!

Don’t read verses out of context or in isolation. Instead, make sure that you understand why the Bible says the isolated verse. I always like to read before and after the verses I’m looking at to try and build up a picture of what is going on. It’s almost like setting the scene. A good film or book doesn’t go straight to the action – it sets the scene first, and the Bible is no different. For us to understand it, we need to understand the context.

I think it’s most important to find a time and space in your daily routine to spend time with God. Read regularly. There’s a verse I remember which talks about prayer, but prayer in the act of communicating with God through his word. I think it’s great to apply it here and it’s something that really helps me concentrate and get the most from my time spent studying the Bible. It’s Matthew 6:6, and The Message translation says this: ‘Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.’

The Bible is an amazing and beautiful gift from God – unwrap it and discover the gift for yourself!

If you are looking for tools and material to help you in your Bible study, make sure you get your hands on a copy of our Shelf Life resource.

For monthly personal Bible study material check out Cell Extra in the Cell resources zone. 

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