Getting Into the Word
Selecting a Bible
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. There are several great Bibles that have been translated into English.
English Standard Version
The ESV aims for a literal "word-for-word" translation of the original text at the same time speaking in today's English. In comparison to the ESV, some Bible versions have followed a “thought-for-thought” rather than “word-for-word” translation philosophy, emphasizing “dynamic equivalence” rather than the “essentially literal” meaning of the original. A “thought-for-thought” translation is of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture. Whereas the ESV seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.
ConnectingPoint Church uses the ESV because:
- It is a more literal translation allowing the reader to make "thought translations" rather than the opinions of the translator.
- Words carry meaning so we let the words speak for themselves.
- It is an accurate translation that is readable for today's English-speaking reader.
- Christian leaders from around the world have come to embrace the ESV Bible.
You can purchase a Bible at Crossway or at your favorite bookstore.
There are several other great translations of the Bible into English such as the NASB, NIV, King James and others. Sometimes it's great to read a couple different English translations of the same passage to better understand the meaning of the text.
There are several great online Bibles and Apps for your smart phone or tablet. We suggest you check out Bible.com. It's free and has several different translations and reading plans for your devotional life.
There are several different ways to read the Bible, but first let's learn a little bit more about you. How would you describe your experience reading the Bible?
- I'm exploring the Bible and Christianity. We're glad you're exploring Christianity and are interested in learning more. When you pick up a Bible it can seem a little intimidating because it has over 1,000 pages and it has unusual names of people and places. It is also not completely chronological which can make it seem a little confusing at times. Don't worry, over time it will make a lot more sense. You just need to get started.
To start we suggest a simple reading plan that tackles just a few, select books at a time. We suggest the following, easy to remember reading plan:
Open the J.A.R.
• John (A great look at Jesus)
• Acts (The life of the 1st Century Church)
• Romans (Basic, Christian theology)
Find a G.E.M.
• Genesis (Creation, Sin and the Fathers of the faith – Abraham, Israel, Joseph)
• Exodus (Moses; Red Sea; 10 Commandments)
• Matthew (The life and ministry of Jesus)
Contact us and we will come along side you and help you in your journey. We're happy to answer any questions.
- I'm a novice but would like to learn more. In this category you would say you have read several books of the Bible, believe in Jesus as your Savior and would like to keep growing.
Consider a reading plan that exposes you to some of the joys and struggles the early Christian church experienced. Read a few books at a time. We suggest the following, easy to remember reading plan:
Look at the A.R.T.
• Acts (The life of the 1st Century Church)
• Romans (Basic, Christian theology)
• 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Letters to new believers)
• Colossians (Holy living)
• Philippians (Faith encouragement)
• Revelation (The end times)
At this phase you may want to consider selecting a reading plan that works with your life and schedule. We suggest a daily reading plan that takes no more than 10-15 minutes a day. On YouVersion you can select from a variety of reading plans such as topical, chronological, partial Bible, etc.
- I'm new to reading the Bible. How do I read the Bible? We've provided some resources below (i.e. Lectio Divina and REAP). There are additional small books to help you read and understand the Bible. We've provided some of them below.
- 5 Things You Can Do to Understand the Bible Better by Zach McIntosh
5 Things You Can Do to Read the Bible Prayerfully by Mark Love
The Gospel and Scripture How to Read the Bible by Mike Bullmore
- I've read most of the Bible but would like to go deeper. At this point you're familiar with the meta-story of the Bible, God's plan of salvation and renewal of all things. You probably have several deep theological thoughts. You might be interested in more challenging Bible studies. At the same time discipleship is not just information about Jesus but it's also imitating Jesus. At this point we suggest you contact our pastor to make a tailored discipleship plan for you. Meanwhile read our section below on Lectio Divina and REAP.
LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Hello Friends in Christ,
I've been meeting with a handful of people one-on-one over the past year. Last year I invited a friend of mine to read the story of Joseph - Genesis 37-50. (This is the Joseph with the colorful coat, not Jesus' step-dad. The story of Joseph is a wonderful reminder that God is faithful and brings us through difficulties in life for a bigger purpose.) My friend went away and read the story of Joseph. We met a couple weeks later. I asked, "How did it go?" They said, "Okay, but I was confused about the characters and places I was reading about."
Does this sound familiar?
People's names in the Bible can be a bit confusing. Seriously, who names their daughter Rahab or their son Lo-ammi (means not my people)?
Reading the Bible can sometimes be confusing, but I want to encourage you to keep reading your Bible.
I remember the first time I read my Bible cover-to-cover. I was in my late twenties. Reading entire books of the Bible on my own was a huge spiritual step for me. I was intimidated. Reading 1,200 pages seemed like a lot of reading. I wasn't sure I would even get through 100 pages or even like it. I didn't grow up loving to read. My parents were not readers. As a teenager I preferred sports over school. I'd rather run than read.
Reading the Bible front-to-back was a personal goal for my spiritual growth. As an athletic teenager I knew that lifting weights made me stronger. I knew that running farther improved my endurance. I knew setting goals and following through on them was the way to grow. If I wanted to grow spiritually then I would have to read more books of the Bible.
When I started reading the Bible front-to-back on my own it sort of reminded me of reading Shakespeare in high school. It's a bit challenging to the reader. But just like my Shakespeare class I kept reading book after book. After all, if I could read a romantic novel like Romeo and Juliet then I could read Song of Solomon. And if I could read powerful dramas like MacBeth then I could read 1 and 2 Kings.
So I started reading. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus.... Revelation. It didn't all make sense, but I was making progress and I was growing. By God's grace I finished reading the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time in about a year and half. I finished much later than I had hoped. There were many starts-and-stops because of my work schedule and the busyness of raising a young family. We kept going to church on Sundays where I heard God's Word and was growing, but I wanted more. Reading the Bible on my own was important for my spiritual growth.
I read through the Bible front-to-back and I was confused at times. I had many questions. But as I kept reading the stories started connecting together and started to weave together like one piece of fabric. My questions converted into answers. Every time I read something from the Bible it was as if God was giving me just what I need to hear from Him that day. I was growing and over those 18 months my faith grew a lot.
How did I grow spiritually? I was reading the Bible on my own. I had to pick it up and read it. No one could do it for me.
After I finished reading the entire Bible I remember celebrating and taking a break for a few weeks. Then something unexpected happened. I started re-reading it all over again! This time I got through it front-to-back in about a year and everything made a lot more sense! God was growing me through His Word.
For the word of God is living and active, shaper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I encourage you to worship with us when you're in town. I also encourage you to read your Bible. You will grow a lot. I'm always available to meet with you if you have questions or need encouragement. Feel free to contact me anytime.
P.S. Did you know that you can watch parts of the Bible on TV. You can watch the Gospel of John on Netflix.
Lectio – The first step is reading Scripture. Find a quiet, peaceful place to read the Word.
Take your time – Read slowly. A patient, gradual reading of the Scriptures and even re-reading the same passages several times (Romans 10:8-10).
Make it sparkle – Like a diamond reach each word with a little different focus on each word, phrase, or passage. See the different "angles and brilliance" in the Word.
“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9–10 ESV)
Meditatio – Listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit.
Listen – Meditate upon and reflect upon the passage. It's not just information. Don't just assign a meaning but allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Word.
Breathe – The focus is not textual analysis, but spending time with the Lord as He speaks to you through His Word.
Luther wrote "You should not only meditate inwardly in your heart but also outwardly by repeating the words out aloud and rubbing at the written word (like a sweet-smelling herb), by reading and rereading it, carefully, attentively and reflectively, to gather what the Holy Spirit means by them" (AE 34:286).
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV)
Oratio – Prayer is dialogue with God. We speak to Him in prayer and listen to Him in sacred Scripture. Prayer is the voice of faith. That is to say, that prayer grows out of the Word of
Clarity – Out of the Word we can more clearly hear what the Lord is saying to us.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 ESV)
Contemplatio – Hear the Word of God. What is God saying to you?
Theoria – The Greek word for contemplation. It corresponds to the Latin word contemplatio for "looking at, gazing at, being aware of." It's about being a spectator to what God is saying and doing in your life.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
(John 10:27 ESV)
REAP stands for Read, Examine, Apply, Pray. This is a tool to help you to read the Bible.
Read the passage. Read it a few times to make sure you understand the context.
Examine the passage. In this step we are looking at the meaning of the text.
What are the key concepts?
What does the text mean?
What tense are the verbs?
What do you understand? What don't you understand?
What do I learn about God, Jesus and the gospel (good news)?
What do I learn about people or myself from this passage?
Apply the text. Ask, "What would it look like if I applied the truths of this text to my life?" Write down your answers.
Pray. Ask God to help you apply the living Word to your life.
The purpose of this type of study is not to simply have more knowledge but to grow your faith.
Prayer, Meditation, Trials
Martin Luther was born November 10, 1483 and died February 18, 1546. He was a German monk (observant Augustinian), Catholic priest (eventually excommunicated by the Pope), professor of theology and central figure of the 16th-century movement in Christianity known later as the Reformation. He posted the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517 on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Saxony. One of the important theological cornerstones of Luther's theology and the Reformation was the doctrine of justification – God's act of declaring a sinner righteous – by faith in Jesus Christ alone through God's grace alone.
Luther proposed a way to study theology focused on three things: prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio), and trials (tentatio). His method of studying the Bible is based on what King David teaches in Psalm 119.
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.”
(Psalms 119:33 ESV)
Luther emphasizes the Holy Spirit to enlighten, guide and direct your understanding of Scripture. It's important to appreciate that Luther puts the Bible on a much high level than other books because the Holy Scripture teaches of eternal life. In the study of the Word, Luther places himself below the text rather than above the text. His posture towards the text is one of a servant of the Word, rather than the master and authority over it. He also saw the incredible limits and fallacies of human reason (i.e. when you think you know everything, you actually know very little). He discounted his own human reason and points the reader to rely upon the Holy Spirit and prayer as the teacher to understand the Bible. The Holy Spirit and prayer is essential for studying Scripture.
“I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.”
(Psalms 119:48 ESV)
Meditation for Luther is not simply reflecting upon the text in your heart, but it is an external thing. In Psalm 119 King David shares how he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, and center his life on God's Word. Luther's advice is to read, re-read and read again the Word. Reading a passage once or twice makes does not make you an expert on the passage. You have to dwell in the text and keep reading, speaking, thinking and meditating the Word.
“Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.”
(Psalms 119:78 ESV)
King David experienced hardships and trials. In Psalm 119 David often reflects upon lying, cheating, wrong doers and enemies that surround him. He endures these trials by turning again to the Bible and meditating on God's Word. Luther's advice for those who are experiencing emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, or relational hardships and tests is to go directly to the Bible. Luther says, "For as soon as God's Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real doctor of you, and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God's Word."*
* What Luther Says, CPH page 1360