Americans revere the Bible-but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates. GEORGE GALLUP, JR.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />America has changed and so have our reading habits with regard to the Bible. We have more Bibles than ever before, but we are reading them less. Americans express a longing to understand the Bible better. We believe the Bible answers most if not all of the real questions of life, but there our leather-bound, study Bibles sit-unopened.
What's the problem? Why do people who have access to so many Bibles, in so many versions, in a language they speak, who want to know more about the content of the Bible read it so infrequently?
REASON # 10 -- "I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START"
It's amusing, really, that the Bible is the only book in print in which knowing where to start is a problem. Readers of The Purpose-Driven Life knew where to start. So did readers of the Left Behind series and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Here's a novel idea: start at the beginning. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis are recorded answers to all the great issues of life. There you will learn whether you should be a deist or an atheist. There you will discover whether there is intelligent design in the universe because of a Designer or because a random explosion resulting in fantastic good luck. In these first chapters you will discover the purpose of marriage, the origins of evil, the geography of early humanity, the grace of God as well as the judgment of God. To have the best vantage point from which to understand the rest of the Bible, a good place to start is at the beginning.
Should you choose to begin in the New Testament you'll discover much of the same-stories, narratives, history, intrigue and love. Only this time the story will revolve around the life and death of Jesus Christ. You may find the reading easier here than in the Old Testament, but you will also find yourself going back to the Old Testament to get context, background and information that will help you understand the New Testament.
If you don't read your Bible because you don't know where to start, let your instincts guide you. You can start anywhere, but as in other books you read, why not start in the beginning?[i]
REASON # 9 -- "I CAN'T FIND WHAT I WANT IN THE BIBLE"
Sometimes as you are reading the Bible something will sound familiar to you. You'll say to yourself, I've read something like that before. Occasionally people are kept from reading the Bible because they are haunted by the memory of a story, a saying or even a word and can't remember where they read it.
Here's a good way to handle the problem. Read your Bible with an open notebook, laptop or journal nearby. When you encounter something that strikes you as particularly important or interesting, jot it down. Keep a list. Don't rely on your memory. There's an old Chinese proverb that says, "The smallest amount of ink is stronger than the largest amount of memory." Write it down.
There are also Bible study aids that will help you find what you want in the Bible. A concordance, for example, is a book or computer program that lists every verse in the Bible in which a particular word is used. If you encounter something that sounds familiar, use a concordance to see where you may have come across that word before. And then there is software. We've got it coming out of our ears. Logos has an incredibly complete program of Bible study tools all in one package that will be more than you will ever use in a lifetime.
Don't let your inability to find something in the Bible keep you from reading it. The fact is, the more you read, the easier it will be to locate things. So, just keep reading.
REASON # 8 -- "THE BIBLE DOESN'T CONFIRM WHAT I BELIEVE"
I received a letter from a radio listener in California. This young wife wrote: "I'm planning to divorce my husband. We were saved about the same time a couple of years ago, but he isn't growing as fast spiritually as I am. In fact, I feel like he's holding me back spiritually. Now I've met this guy at our church fellowship group who is already divorced. He and I are so much more compatible spiritually and I believe God may be leading us to each other, maybe even to marriage. It feels right to me. What do you think?"
Frankly, this woman wasn't at all interested in what I thought; she wanted me to give my blessing to her sin. She wasn't interested in what the Bible said unless it confirmed what she felt was "right." There's that affective domain ruling the cognitive domain again.
Many people today appear to be practicing a 'do-it-yourself'
faith taking pieces from various traditions and building
their own kind of 'patchwork' faith.
GEORGE GALLUP JR.
Some people choose not to read the Bible because they're afraid it will contradict what they've already made up their mind to do.
REASON # 7 -- "I HEAR THE BIBLE AT CHURCH, WHY DO I NEED TO READ IT FOR MYSELF?"
In the first days of the church, the early Christians compensated for their lack of personal copies of the scriptures by reading extensively from the Bible as part of the church service. That's why Paul said to Timothy, "Devote yourself to reading" (1Timothy 4:13). It was a common practice for huge portions of Scripture to be read at public services so that in a year the early congregations would hear the entire Bible read aloud. Today, however, we have our own copies of the Bible and it is becoming less common to hear portions of Scripture read in church.
[ii] In the King James Bible, there are 31,373 verses.
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