For tips 1-30, please click here.
Bible Reading Tip 31: Hebrews
This anonymous letter was written to Christians from a Jewish background. They were apparently tempted to return to Judaism, or a highly Judaized version of Christianity. The writer warns them that if they give up on Christ, there will be no salvation. At least a dozen times in the “brief” letter (13:22), they are reminded that their salvation is in jeopardy. They mustn’t turn back, or everything will have been for naught. The letter was written in the ’60s AD. It refers to the priestly sacrificial system, which seems to have still been operational. Everything changed in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Since the writer says, “What is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (8:13), most scholars believe the letter dates to shortly before 70 AD. A “safe” date for its composition might be 68 AD. Reading tips:
• Keep in mind that the epistle establishes its theme, the superiority of Christ, by a series of contrasts between old covenant features and new covenant features. For example, priesthood and covenant are just two of the things starkly contrasted in Hebrews. See how many others you can find as you read through all 13 chapters.
• If there are any O.T. characters in chapter 11, the so-called “Hall of Fame of Faith,” be sure to look them up. Let no reference or allusion slip by!
• Search for the four “impossible” things the writer discusses. Why do they appear in the letter?
• If you lack the O.T. background necessary for understanding this epistle, set a goal: Finish the O.T. this year; get a copy of Neil Lightfoot’s Jesus Christ Today; or acquire a copy of John Oakes’ From Shadows to Reality (available at www.ipibooks.com)
Bible Reading Tip 32: Reading James
James was written by the brother of the Lord. He was executed by stoning in 62 AD in the vicinity of the Temple, but not before he had made a huge impression on the local population for his piety and concern for the poor. His practical letter was written to Jewish Christians, and abounds in references to various features of Jewish Christianity. For example, in 2:2 the word translated “meeting” by the NIV is actually the Greek word synagogue (sunagogé). Also, James describes the church as “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” a clear reference to the exiles of the Jews and their dispersion (diaspora) among the Gentiles. James is reckoned as the first of the “general (or catholic) epistles.” They are general because there is no one target congregation in mind. Reading tips:
• As with all New Testament letters, it is best to read the letter in one sitting. This will enable you to see connections. After that, go back and digest it more slowly.
• Don’t kill yourself trying to find the theme or “plot” of the letter. If there is a “theme,” it would be “practical Christianity.” Yes, that is quite vague as far as a unifying theme goes, but the specific commands and instructions James shares certainly are not!
• A lot of the phrases and ideas in James are also in the Sermon on the Mount. Go back to Matthew 5-7 and compare. Another book that seems to be in the background is Sirach. Although this book (also called Ecclesiasticus) is not properly part of the scriptures, many of its ideas are echoed in James.
• For a deeper study, there are six chapters in my James, Peter, John, Jude. (This book is a chapter-by-chapter look at the general epistles (James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude).
Bible Reading Tip 33: Reading the letters of Peter
1-2 Peter are written by the famous apostle, although like most ancient writers, he employed the services of a scribe. The scribe who write 1 Peter is Silvanus (1 Peter 5:11), also called Silas. Who assisted Peter with his second letter, we do not know. 1 Peter is thought my many to have been written in the wake of the persecution under Nero that began in 64 AD. Peter writes from “Babylon” (5:13), a code name in the New Testament for the city of Rome. The other letter was written (obviously) before Peter’s execution (2 Peter 1:14). Since Nero had Peter crucified, according to ancient sources, the letter must have been completed before 68, which was the year of Nero’s suicide. We can safely date it to 64-65 AD. Here are some reading tips:
• The unifying theme of 1 Peter is suffering.
• This letter is especially appropriate for new believers. (See 1:3, 23; 2:2-3.)
• As you read 1 Peter, ask yourself, “In what areas of the Christian life does suffering affect us?” (Joy, relationships, perseverance, etc.)
• 1 Peter 4:16 is one of only three N.T. passages to use the word “Christian.” The other two are in Acts. (Do you know where?) “Christian” was beginning to be a common word in the second half of the first century.
• The unifying theme of 2 Peter is knowledge. Not academic knowledge, but the knowledge of God that comes through spiritual growth (1:3-11, 3:18). The false teachers offer a different sort of “knowledge” (chapter 2), which Peter rejects.
• Who are these false teachers? Notice that they reject authority and embrace licentious living. You will notice that these twin traits characterize false teachers in many O.T. and N.T. books.
• This letter has much in common with Jude. Compare the two. Some scholars say Jude is a condensation of 2 Peter; others that 2 Peter is an expansion of Jude. Which do you think more likely, and why?
Bible Reading Tip 34: Reading the letters of John
The letters of John constitute the 4th, 5th, and 6th of the “catholic epistles,” and seem to be written by the same John who authored the Gospel of John and Revelation. They were written later in John’s life (2:1, 2:12-14, etc). Most scholars believe John lived until the end of the first century, though that would not mean he didn’t write his letters earlier. If John wrote in the 60s or 70s, he would still be in old man at the time of authorship. The enemies of the faith his first two letters are written to combat are docetic Gnostics. Gnostics advocated a secret “knowledge” (gnosis in Greek). Their emphasis was not on holiness so much as on esoteric wisdom. Docetists claimed that Jesus had no physical body. He only “seemed” to. (Dokein is the Greek verb meaning “to seem.”) The person upsetting the church in 3 John may or may not have belonged to these heretical groups. Its seems possible but unlikely. Reading tips:
• Remember that John is combating Gnostic error. To them, being “in the light” means enlightenment (knowledge). To John and true Christians, it means living in righteous relationship with God and others. The Gnostics minimized the moral component of true divine knowledge. The fact that the Gnostics were relatively unconcerned with sin explains John’s many stark statements, which are intended to show the incompatibility of sin with following Christ.
• Those who follow the Gnostics are antichrists (1 John 2:18, 2 John 7).
• The Gnostics were the New Age Movement of the first and second centuries. Do you know anything about this movement, or have any friends who are New Agers? The movement was extremely popular, and many enemies of the church, especially in the second century, were Gnostics.
• 2 John is 1 John in miniature. The themes are the same.
• In 3 John, the “good guy” is Demetrius; the “bad guy” is Diotrephes. Diotrephes (3 John 9) had an ego problem. His philosophy of ministry was “My way or the highway!”
• For more on all the general letters (the epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude) are discussed more fully in Life to the Full. There you will find eight chapters on the letters of John.
Bible Reading Tip 35: Advice on reading Jude
Traditionally, Jude (Judah or Judas) was one of Jesus Christ’s four brothers. According to Matthew 13:55, the others were James (Jacob), Joses (Joseph), and Simon (or Simeon). Keep in mind that he, like his three other full brothers, had been skeptical of Jesus at first (Mark 3:21, 31-35; John 7:5). Their incredulity may be foreshadowed in the Joseph cycle of Genesis, where his brothers are stunned, in complete shock and denial, on realizing who their sibling was and what power he commanded (Genesis 45:1). We know little about Jude’s life. This short letter ranks as 7th of the seven “Catholic Epistles.” It was written to urge Christian to stand firm and not give in to the deviant doctrines and lifestyles of false Christian teachers. Reading tips:
• Though the letter is short, it is not light. Read slowly, savor every illustration and make sure you “get” every Old Testament reference and allusion.
• You will notice that Jude—alone among the N.T. writers—quotes from a Pseudepigraphal (“false authorship”) letter, 1 Enoch. Although it was not widely considered scripture, 1 Enoch speaks of the “Son of Man” and the end of the world. It is appropriate that Jude cited this influential book.
• After you read Jude, skim 2 Peter and try to find the similarities and points of contact.
Bible Reading Tip 36: Reading the Gospels
The four gospels were written in the first century AD, anywhere from the 40s to the 90s, depending on which scholars’ works you read. Their authors themselves are called “evangelists,” since they wrote about the evangel (a rare English word meaning good news, or gospel). Here are some things to keep in mind:
• The gospels, just like the letters, were composed primarily for Christians. They were written for insiders, not outsiders. This being the case, it is appropriate to read between the lines: What were the specific needs in the communities for which Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were produced?
• Do not “homogenize” the four gospels. While it is not necessarily wrong to harmonize, the reason we have four documents—as opposed to one—is surely that the Holy Spirit wants to emphasize different things. It is in the differences among the accounts that we will find a lot of theology, as well as the richness and texture of the gospels. This richness is eliminated when we homogenize, but it becomes available to enhance and energize our study when we appreciate the differences.
• Speaking more generally, Matthew is the gospel for the Jews. It is concerned with the Messianic connections between the Old Testament and the new covenant.
• Mark is written for those in the Roman Empire who had less biblical background. It is a gospel of action.
• Luke was dedicated to Theophilus (perhaps the patron or underwriter of the gospel), and is written for those most comfortable in the Greek culture. Luke has the finest Greek, and the greatest literary quality, of the four gospels.
• John has the most universal focus. It is also the most “spiritual” and theological of the gospels. (Consider its prologue.) We read the constant refrain of misunderstanding: Jesus is speaking on the spiritual level, but his listeners misunderstand him, taking him literally.
• One last tip: When you are reading the N.T., it can help to alternate gospels with letters, especially when you are reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are quite similar (“synoptic”)—despite their unique perspectives. For example, a good reading order for the N.T. might be Matthew—Hebrews—James—Jude—Mark—1-2 Peter—Ephesians—Philippians—Luke—Acts—1-2 Thessalonians—Romans—1-2 p—Galatians—John—1-3 John—Revelation—Colossians—Philemon—1-2 Timothy—Titus.
For more on how to read the gospels, see The Faith Unfurled: New Testament Survey. If you have been a Christian for a few years and really want to challenge your thinking, be sure to read Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (3rd edition).
Bible Reading Tip 37: Reading Acts
Acts is the “church history” book of the New Testament, but that isn’t quite right. After all, it covers only one generation, and even then focuses primarily on the ministries of Peter and (especially) Paul. Here are some reading tips:
• Remember that Acts is Volume II of Luke. The themes are similar, and there is a strong continuity in the story line between the volumes.
• Notice Luke’s eagerness to depict the Christians as law-abiding persons, as good “citizens.” Rome is the capital of the Empire, and the Empire virtually constitutes the (known) world.
• Notice the attention Luke’s pays to medical details. He was, after all, a physician (Colossians 4:14).
• Notice also Luke’s focus on women; the needy; and above all, the Holy Spirit.
• As suggested earlier, try to coordinate events in Acts with the corresponding letters among the N.T. epistles (especially 1 Corinthians, Galatians-2 Thessalonians and Philemon).
• Study the sermons of Acts and list the themes/topics they have in common. For example, you will find repetitive stress on the Resurrection and the need for repentance.
• While we should not necessarily be aiming to recapture first century culture, we should certainly strive to imbibe the spirit of courage and faith of the early church.
For more help in getting the big picture on the Book of Acts, see The Faith Unfurled: New Testament Survey.
Bible Reading Tip 38: Reading Revelation
As suggested by chapter 17 of Revelation—also called the “Apocalypse,” or Unveiling—the book was written to fortify Christians who would suffer under the persecution of “the Beast.” This individual would be like Nero (one of the first seven “kings,” or emperors, of Rome), who persecuted Christians in the capital city. Nero died in 68 BC; “Nero Redivivus” (Nero alive again) was Domitian, the “eighth king,” who reigned 81-96 AD. In other words, Jesus revealed this special message to John to help Christians who would suffer at the end of the century in the first imperial (Empire-wide) persecution of followers of Christ.
Revelation is unique in the New Testament. After all, no other document is a book of prophecy written in apocalyptic language. The best preparation for reading Revelation is to read the Old Testament, since the 404 verses of Revelation contain hundreds of Old Testament allusions. Not to discourage the newcomer to the Bible from reading the final book!—but to gain any real depth of appreciation for this book a solid grounding in the O.T. is indispensable. Here are some suggestions:
• Since Revelation is very short, it is best to read the entire book at one sitting. Try to get the “big picture.” Don’t worry about the specific meaning of each verse on this first reading. Revelation utilizes pictorial language. Just as we step back from a large oil painting to take in a broad view, so we must approach Revelation. Standing too close, in fact—zeroing in on individual brush strokes—is likely to yield trivial observations or theologically errant conclusions.
• Look for recurrent themes and symbols.
• Be sure to focus on chapter 12, which contains the message of the entire Apocalypse in miniature.
• Once again, the O.T. is the real key to making sense of Revelation—especially the apocalyptic portions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.
For further study, see my audio set on Revelation and the End of the World.
Having given numerous tips on reading the book so the New Testament, in the coming weeks we will shift our focus to strategies for maximizing our Old Testament Bible study.
Bible Reading Tip 39: Reading the Law
The term “the Law” has several different biblical meanings. One is the Torah, the Mosaic Law itself, that legislation given by the Lord to Moses atop Mt.Sinai. Another, more general, meaning is the Old Testament (the collection of 39 books) itself. A third meaning is the first five books of the Bible, the so-called Books of Moses or Pentateuch (from the Greek for “five rolls.” This refers to the books from Genesis to Deuteronomy. A fourth sense of course is law as opposed to grace, for example the distinction made in Lutheran theology. The sense in which I will refer to the law in this short article is: the old covenant legal material that we find from Exodus 20 to Deuteronomy 31. That’s because the “rules” for reading and interpreting the laws are different to those for reading other literary genres (the narratives, poetry, wisdom writings, etc). Here are some things to keep in mind:
• The O.T. laws are the word of God, for us just as they were for the Jews of old. To repeat, all of the books of the law are the word of God. We should study them, reflect on them, and do our very best to understand them.
• And yet the O.T. laws are not our laws. Christians aren’t necessarily obligated to keep them. They were required keeping for the Israelites, but not for us.
• The exception: those laws repeated in the New Testament. Those we must follow. For example, most of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5), the Greatest Commandment (Deuteronomy 6), and the command to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19).
• Jesus predicted that the temple order would be dismantled and voided (Matthew 24), as did the epistle to the Hebrews chapter 8. In other words, those laws pertaining to sacrifices and cultic rituals were only meant to be temporary. This was even prophesied in the O.T. itself (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
• The law’s focus is the heart, not outward behavior. Leviticus 19:17-18—to cite just one passage—makes this crystal clear.
• No one was saved in the O.T. by law-keeping. The Old covenant, like the New, was a covenant of grace!
For more help with interpreting the O.T. Law, including common themes and background history, please see Foundations for Faith: Old Testament Survey.
Bible Reading Tip 40: Reading the Prophets
The O.T. prophets called the people of God back to the law of God. They did not generate new doctrines or give new commands. Everything points back to the Torah! Keep this in mind as you read through the Major Prophets (Isaiah-Ezekiel) and the Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi). All of these men prophesied in the 700s-400s BC, during a brief three-century window when the people of God were slipping spiritually. Keys for following their messages:
• Read Deuteronomy 28 or Leviticus 26, where the rewards for following, and the penalties for violating, the covenant were laid out. Much of the language of the prophets refers to the Mosaic (related to Moses and the law of Moses) promises.
• The prophets’ writings tend to be arranged topically, not chronologically. Material dealing with similar themes tends to be grouped together. Occasionally there are chronological indicators, as when we read “In the nth year of king ___ the word of the Lord came to me…” But in the case of many of the prophetic oracles, there is uncertainty about when they were originally received.
• Be impressed by the courage and radical willingness of the prophets to follow God at all costs. As the Jewish scholar Heschel stirringly wrote, “The prophet's word is a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.”
• Finally, remember that there were other prophets, some of whom left us something in writing (e.g. Elijah’s letter), but none left us an entire book of prophecy. That is why the 15 canonical prophets are in a class of their own. The prophetic movement, a reaction against ungodly leadership among priests and kings, arose, back in the 10th century BC.
Bible Reading Tip 41: Reading the Psalms
The Psalms are in some ways the prayer book and hymnbook of the people of God, in both testaments. Honest, colorful, and laden with authentic emotion, they offer models of genuine prayer and theological reflection to integral to the spiritual health of the man or woman set on following the Lord. A few suggestions:
• Remember that originally the Psalms were sung, not just read. Further, they were sung to stringed musical accompaniment. (That is the meaning of the term “psalm.”)
• Study the quotations from Psalms in the N.T. Ask, “Which Psalms seem to have meant the most to the early church? Why might that have been?”
• Since all of the Psalms are poetry, make sure you are not reading them as prose. Be sensitive to figures of speech, hyperbolic language, etc. Moreover, since Psalms reflect the feelings and petitions of persons crying out to God, do not try to find new doctrine in them.
For more information, please see my 4-part audio series, Reading, Singing, and Praying the Psalms.
Bible Reading Tip 42: Reading the Poetry of the Old Testament
How does one read the poetry of the Old Testament, especially when originally it was written in Hebrew?
• Much of the Old Testament is poetry: the Psalms, Proverbs, most of the prophetic literature, and many other segments of the Hebrew Bible -- a total of around 40%. We had better become comfortable reading poetry, or else we will cut ourselves off from a large part of God’s revelation to man!
• While English poetry often rhymes, Hebrew poetry hardly ever does! “Thought rhyme” is a better explanation for what is happening in the poetic sections of the O.T. Simply put, the initial line is amplified somehow in the following line.
• Be sure to read the Bible in several versions, not just one, since it is difficult for one version to capture the color, texture, and nuance of the original Semitic poetry.
• Read poetry, even outside the Bible! This has the potential to increase our literary sensitivity. Better yet, try expressing yourself in poetry. Maybe write a song or poem to the Lord.
Bible Reading Tip 43: Reading the Wisdom Literature
The “Wisdom Literature” includes principally the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, but also Song of Solomon, several Psalms (1, 19, etc), a number of other assorted passages in both testaments. How can we get the most from our study of biblical books falling into this literary genre?
• Realize that the rules for reading Wisdom are not the same as the rules for reading narrative, or poetry, or letters. Try to become sensitive to this genre.
• Did you know that most ancient cultures had an extensive wisdom literature? (For example, the Egyptians and Babylonians.) The O.T. writers were choosing to communicate in a medium well known in the ancient world.
• The Wisdom Literature often contains observations about life. While these observations may capture general truths, they seldom present absolute rules. For example, if a proverb said that a greedy man will end up poor and in rags, this does not mean there are no exceptions! (Some greedy men actually end up being quite rich, right?)
For more on this topic, please hear my 7-part audio series, The Wisdom Literature, which covers the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
Bible Reading Tip 44: Reading the Narrative portions of the Old Testament
Much of the Old Testament is narrative. The story is not just the story of Israel, but also the bigger story (or “metanarrative,” to use the current popular philosophical term) about how God works in the world. The keys to following these narratives:
• Do not read too much into the text, or attempt to “spiritualize” it. Most of the narratives are rather straightforward. Allegorical interpretation is fairly foreign to the Old Testament—and the New.
• Look for common themes and words. The narratives give every evidence of being carefully edited documents. They are literary masterpieces. Genesis, for example, is highly complex and textured. Recurring motifs mean something theologically. The writer—and hence the Holy Spirit—is trying to show us something!
• Where possible, coordinate the narratives with other parts of the O.T. that illuminate them or allow you to better understand them. For example, read the Psalms along with the narratives of the life of David in 1-2 Samuel. Read the prophets along with the relevant historical sections of 1-2 Kings or 2 Chronicles. You may want to read about the life of Solomon (1 Kings, 2 Chronicles) along with the Wisdom Literature associated with him (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon).
• Resist the temptation to moralize. Unless the “moral” of the story is given (as when the lesson of Nathan’s parable is explained in 2 Samuel 12), let the text stand on its own. Of course, the portions of the law (Exodus-Deuteronomy) that relate to any actions described may be called upon as witnesses to the morality or immorality of any actions described. But more often than not, narrative writers record what they record for a reason to paint a picture. For example, when Jephthah sacrifices his daughter (Judges 11), we are not presented with the horrible account so that we may imitate Jephthah (!). The writer is showing how bad things were in Israel. Even the leaders—those who should have been, relatively speaking, the righteous among the covenant people—made terrible errors of judgment. In the same way, the final five chapters of Judges (17-21) are showing how lost Israel had become without her God. The way is being paved for the monarch (1 Samuel). There is little to emulate in these chapters.
• Needless to say, the same principles apply for reading the narrative sections of the New Testament, which are found almost wholly in the four gospels and Acts.
Bible Reading Tip 45: Study Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
For those in Christ five years or more and who are diligent students of the N.T., “must” reading is Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd edition. Fee is the New Testament scholar, Stuart the Old Testament one. It is fair to say that, unless you have grasped and internalized the principles these scholars lay out, you do not really understand the Bible. This is not to say you do not understand the main point, only that you may be probably missing everything else. Have you read this invaluable book yet?
Bible Reading Tip 46: Pray through the Bible
Many books of the Bible lend themselves to being prayed, whether silently or aloud. Not only the book of Psalms, but most of the books in Scripture can be meditatively perused with a view to praying about the thoughts contained therein. Here’s how you do it:
• Read a short section of scripture.
• Respond in prayer to what you have read. Acknowledge the greatness or wisdom of God, your own sinfulness or need for wisdom, and the magnificence of the themes set forth in the text.
• If some other thought comes into your mind, do not ignore it. The scriptures will inspire you to think—and pray—about a number of things somehow connected with the ideas you have absorbed from the text.
• You might begin praying through an epistle. Paul’s letters, for example, are all jam-packed with material you can easily “pray through.” Why not try praying slowly through the four chapters of Colossians?
Try this idea out! Though the concept may be new to you, you will soon see how easy this is to do. Moreover, you will have a structure to your prayers, as you follow the structure inherent in the scriptures themselves.
Bible Reading Tip 47: Don't Rush!
Are you a fast reader? Sometimes that is good, helping you through the portions of scripture where rapid reading may be just as good—or better—than slow reading. (For example, the first nine chapters so of 1 Chronicles.) But other times reading too quickly will cause you not to engage the text. In general, the best advice is not to rush. Find a time where you are not harried and distracted by other concerns, when you can devote sufficient time to study to get something from your reading.
To put it another way, “speed up and slow down,” depending on the portion of scripture you are reading (its genre, especially), and how familiar you are with it. Just like driving on the road, there are times when there is no reason not to go fast, and others when trying to go fast may prove not only unproductive, but even hazardous.
Bible Reading Tip 48: Read The Law and the Prophets
In the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9, 2 Peter 1), there are six men on the mountain. Apart from Peter, James, and John, we meet Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Moses naturally represents the Law. Elijah represents the Prophets. ‘The Law and the Prophets” comprise the Old Testament. After the cloud disappears, Moses and Elijah are nowhere to be found. Jesus is alone. Then God says, “Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). What is the point?
While we should continue to read the Law and the Prophets (see Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), the one on whom we ought to focus is Jesus Christ. By so doing, we will come to grasp the true message of the Old Testament, since in so many ways it points to the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember the old adage, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament, the Old Testament revealed.”
Is your Bible study—New Testament as well as Old—Christ-centered?
Bible Reading Tip 49: Ask a friend for suggestions Are you stuck in a rut? Do you feel you have run out of ideas? While ideally this should never happen, it happens to all of us eventually. If your Bible study is dry, why not ask a friend for suggestions? Be careful, of course, whom you ask (Luke 6:39). Yet in your local congregation surely there are a number of veteran Bible readers who will have many ideas, and be happy to share them with you.
Bible Reading Tip 50: Plan an all-night Bible reading “marathon”
Sometimes men and women of faith have been known to stay up all night praying to God. Have you ever “pulled an all-nighter” just reading the scriptures? Reading for five, seven, or more hours continuously may not be realistic; schedule a short break every hour to keep your mind fresh. You might aim to complete one of the longer books of the Bible during your reading (Isaiah or Psalms), or perhaps the letters of Paul.
Bible Reading Tip 51: Memorize scripture
In Colossians 3:16 we read, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” One way to facilitate this is to memorize scripture. There are two pathways to scripture memory. One is rote memory. Just as actors learn their lines, you can sit down and force yourself, by intensive study, repetition, and self-testing, to learn the scriptures. There is much to be said for this method. The second pathway is to read every book of the Bible so frequently that the verses become more and more familiar. It is not necessary to memorize a city map in order to learn your way around (pathway 1). That is because as you make your way through the town over and over, you soon learn your way; and you develop a sense of direction that allows creative alternatives when they are needed. This (pathway 2) is more natural, and is the way I have memorized most of the scripture I know.
Two pathways. Choose the one that works for you, or the combination of approaches best suited to your preferred mode of learning.
Bible Reading Tip 52: Set goals in the area of your reading for the New Year
Do not enter the New Year haphazardly. Set a goal. One of the simplest is to read the entire Bible. While you will not necessarily read straight through from Genesis to Revelation, it is important to finish the books you have started, keeping track as you go so that you don’t forget which territory you have already covered. Perhaps you have read the entire Bible once or twice this year; in that case, you might deliberately slow down next year, reading shorter portions of the Bible more intensively. Another idea would be to read, every month, a book (outside the Bible) that relates to a biblical book or section (Genesis, the four gospels, the Minor Prophets, Hebrews, etc). Outside reading can illuminate scripture and bring to mind many themes and details you would otherwise fail to notice. Whatever your approach, do not read at random. Our God is a God of order.