If you've never contemplated reading the Bible by yourself, or just the thought of seems daunting then you are not alone! The Bible is a huge book and just knowing where to start is the first hurdle, once we do jump in we can quickly become lost in the old language or confused by the culture. We need help!
Thankfully for us, there is a wealth of resources out there to support us.
So firstly, we might want to ask ourselves why are we bothering? Is it worth the effort, does the Bible have something relevant to say to us today? The Bible describes itself as being "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12) and also as being "God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God's words to us, are alive and relevant today, speaking into our everyday situations and giving us God's wisdom and knowledge of Him. Without the Bible we would be left to imagine who God is and what He's like, with it, we see a picture of a God who is far bigger and more wonderful than we could have imagined! We discover that this amazing God wants to know us personally and one of the best ways we can get to know Him is to spend time each day reading the Bible for ourselves and praying.
Read on for some more help with how to get started.
Christians often call spending time with God each day their "quiet time" or "daily devotions" or "Bible time" and there are lots of resources out there to help you if this is something new to you. These are often called "Bible notes". You can get (either online or as a book), daily Bible readings with a little explanation of the passage and suggestions for prayer and they cost only a few pounds. You can buy studies for adults, teens, school-aged kids, pre-schoolers and also ones you can do together as a family.
If you are browsing websites, notice that there is a difference between study guides for small groups and those for personal use. The ones for small groups tend to be a passage with a list of questions and some answers in the back of the book for the leader, but are much longer in length and are meant for group discussion. You can use them for individual study but it might be better to start with ones designed with that in mind, they will be shorter and will give you more help. It's also a good idea to look out for notes that ask you questions as you go through the Bible passage. It can be helpful in aiding you as you think through what it means and how it applies to you.
Once you find some Bible notes to try, be prepared to try something else if you don't find they suit you. Different authors and publications have different styles that click with us as individuals in different ways. If you don't enjoy your first attempt, don't assume, the Bible isn't for you, it will be the style of the notes that's the problem.
"Explore" daily Bible notes are available as both a hardcopy and an app. You can buy a booklet of around 3 months worth of daily readings, or download series from the app. They help you work systematically through different books of the Bible, which is often more helpful than jumping about reading little bits from different parts.
"Reading Between the Lines" is a set of 2 daily Bible reading books that will last you a year. Written by Glen Scrivener who spoke at the "Real Lives" event at St.Mary's, Maidenhead, earlier this year.
Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible
The Bible is a library of 66 books divided into two halves - the Old Testament, looking at the world from creation until the coming of Jesus, and the New Testament, from Jesus onwards right up until He returns again in the future. It is made up of lots of smaller stories but also tells one over-arching story of God's great rescue plan for the world.
The books are not listed in chronological order, so starting at the beginning and reading straight through doesn't work in quite the same way as it would if we were reading a novel. We also need to understand that there are different types of literature in the Bible - eye witness accounts, books of the law, books of songs or poetry, prophesy etc.
The Bible Society has produced an amazingly helpful course giving an overview of the Bible over 8 sessions. It is currently available for people to watch during lockdown and we have run a couple courses looking at the sessions together. Have a look on the Bible Society website or speak to Dave if you'd like to know more.