Making Bible Reading Simple

Simple

Have you ever gotten lost while reading your Bible? You’re wandering through Judges, and as you’re reading about bloody sacrifices, bloodier battles, and a long-haired strong man killing hundred of Philistines with a jaw bone, you suddenly realize, I have no idea what this means for me today. What do ram sacrifices, the sun going backwards, and a long line of oddly named judges, have to do with budgets, disciplining your children, and spending eight hours in a cubicle? I’ve been there, and frankly, it can be pretty discouraging.

Let me give you two simple questions to ask when you’re reading Scripture and feeling lost. These questions came directly from a sermon by a man named Mike Bullmore. The questions are:

What Does This Passage Tell Me About God?

At times we forget the obvious: the Bible is all about God. Every passage points to God, revealing something about his character, his desires, or his actions. The OT sacrifices tell me that God is holy and that he takes sin seriously. The Psalms tell me that God is sovereign, and yet he’s also an intensely personal. In every book of the Bible, the glory of God bursts through and the story of salvation is unfolded. So when you feel lost, step back a moment and ask, Where is God in this picture? What work is he doing in this scene? How does this passage point to God’s saving work in Christ? Where’s the glory, and where’s the story?

What Does This Passage Tell Me About Myself?

For each revelation of God there is an appropriate response from us. His majesty calls us to humbly worship him, His goodness compels us to thank him. His commands require obedience, which in turn leads us to ask him for the grace to obey. The Bible isn’t simply information to be digested, it requires a heartfelt response. So as you read, ask yourself, How should I respond to what I just read? Is there a command I must obey, a sin I must repent of, or a blessing for which I should be grateful?

I find these questions to be tremendously helpful, and they have a simplifying effect on my devotional life. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dive deep into Scripture, or read commentaries, or do word studies. Those are all wonderful tools. But ultimately Scripture is the story of God revealing himself to and redeeming sinners. When we keep that in mind, things get much simpler.

+photo by Sarah Jane

Originally published May, 2008

  • Tim

    Stephen:

    We are running on the same track. I’m meeting with our home group leaders tonight and will talking to them on this: “Don’t Waste Your Summer”. One of my points is to commit/recommit to the basics. One of the basics is abiding in the word. To abide in the Word I use Bullmore’s idea to encourage abiding expectantly. (Another point is to abide meditatively and I recommend these obscure scripture memory cds from something called Forever Grateful).
    And then … wait, the talk is tonight …

    Anyway, why don’t you fly in and do the part above? There’s still time. I’ll pick you up at the airport. ; )

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Tim –

    Great idea for a discussion – “How Not To Waste Your Summer”. What are your other points in addition to back to the basics?

  • http://thedeeps.wordpress.com Mickey Friedrich

    That’s some great advice, and I notice that there’s no “what does this passage tell me about how others need to change.” It is easy to point our righteous finger at others and miss what the passage is telling us about God and ourselves.
    The Word of God is our sword, but we must first use it on ourselves before we can wielded it in our ministries. Only then will we be able to apply the Word with love and live what we preach!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Mickey –

    So true. We’ve got to rip the log out of our own eye before we can help someone else with the speck.

  • Tim

    Stephen -

    Let’s see … (rummaging) … Don’t waste your summer … Don’t waste your vacation …Don’t waste your Sundays … Don’t waste your reading …Don’t waste your home group’s summer (this was to home group leaders) … (Re-) Commit yourself to the basics … yeah, that’s the biggies … got it in a powerpoint somewheres …

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Bobby – Yep. I don't often think about that when I read genealogy passages. It really does show how God is the Lord of history…

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Tim –

    Sounds like you’re much better equipped to teach this subject than I am! Maybe you should have written this post!

  • http://sojournmusic.com Bobby Gilles

    Great post. As you say, it’s easy to read things and think “I have no idea what’s going on or what to take from this.” But these two simple questions help to frame our thinking. Even the genealogy passages reveal things about God — that He is Lord of history, that He didn’t create us to live in a vacuum, etc.

  • http://heisaltogetherlovely.blogspot.com Liz

    Thanks for your sermon on Psalm 1.

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Liz –

    I’m really glad you found it helpful! I love getting to preach, even though I’m still learning!

  • http://photosandquotes.blogspot.com/ YellerDaisies

    Those are fantastic “main things” to keep in mind while reading Scripture…

    Random question. Is that a pic of Cuban coffee and Cuban bread? YUM!

  • http://www.exuberancemagnified.blogspot.com,www.naiesha.blogspot.com Caroline

    It has happened with me many times when i would read the Old testament… Just to realize that the Bible is God revealing himself to us….(Will keep the questions in mind when i will read the OT ) What helps me understand the old testament is to read about the culture, context..etc prevalent at that period. It does give a better insight:)

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