Interestingly enough, as I was planning this article I received an email newsletter with an article that says 60% of Christians world-wide know that they don’t give enough time to their relationship with God, this survey included pastors! You can read the article here. This was me a few years ago. I have been in church all of my life but up until a few years ago I didn’t give any serious time to Bible study. I am so glad I have made this a habit. I have learned more the last few years doing my own study than I did in all those years in church. I am not against church. The church serves many purposes, but we have a responsibility to study God’s word for ourselves. Study to show yourself approved (II Tim. 2:15).
I think the biggest reason most of us don’t read our Bibles regularly is that we think it’s too complex and don’t know where to start and/or we don’t understand it when we do read it. I know this was my problem. I knew the basic tenets of my faith from my years in church, but every time I opened up the Bible to read it, I didn’t really understand what I was reading.
My motivation came when I ran across a yearly Bible reading schedule and decided it was time to make Bible reading a habit. It had selections daily from the Old Testament and the New Testament. After a while of following this schedule I was starting to see the big picture and really beginning to understand. I did not finish the entire Bible in the year. I fell out of the habit for a bit and then picked it back up. But the matter is not how much you read, it’s how often. There have been times that I tell myself I’m going to sit down and study for 15 or 20 minutes and when I’m through I have only studied one verse. But interestingly these seem to be the times I’ve received the most out of the study.
As far as Bibles I really enjoy my Thomas Nelson New King James study Bible. It includes commentary, cross reference verses, concordance, selected Greek and Hebrew word definitions, and much more.
Many people like the Message Bible because it’s written in modern language. While you wouldn’t be able to do a word study with The Message since it is a paraphrase instead of a translation, it does make certain passages easier to understand than the King James.
I have recently found the Narrated Bible. It is a NIV translation presented in chronological order with commentary interspersed to read more like a story. We are going to use this soon for our family reading time. I think it’s important to see that the Bible is more than just 66 books written by 40 authors. It is an integrated whole divinely inspired by God. There are no parts of it that should be glossed over, everything is there by design.
For children I really like The Comic Book Bible from Barbour Publishing. It’s for 8 to 12 year olds. Ty has read this Bible from cover to cover more times than I could count. I like this Bible better than the typical storybook Bibles because it covers more territory. It follows the order of the Bible with Old Testament first and then New Testament. It includes maps and verses to learn. I like that it includes the prophets, both major and minor and places an emphasis on Paul’s ministry that is usually absent from storybooks.
www.esword.com - Free download of various Bible versions, Strong’s concordance, Webster’s 1828 dictionary, and numerous commentaries and extras (like Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, for example).
www.biblegateway.com - Great tool for looking up passages in other translations. They have every translation here that I’ve ever heard of. Sometimes it’s helpful to see the NIV or the Amplified translations, for example. They also offer commentaries and study helps.
www.eliyah.com - Online concordance available on this site.
www.khouse.org - Chuck Missler’s website. He offers commentaries, if not on every book of the Bible then close to it. His commentaries are available on CDs, MP3 download and some of them are even available to listen to, streaming from his website. I downloaded his MP3 of the Spring and Fall Feasts, it was fabulous. I had skimmed over details of these feasts in my Old Testament reading, but now see how relevant they are. Learning about these feasts has helped me to understand numerous things in the New Testament. I’m in the middle of his Philippians commentary right now. His radio broadcast, 66/40, is broken up into 25 minute segments. They make a great size for a nightly Bible study. These commentaries offer so much depth, they take you through the Bible verse by verse. And, if you’re interested, you can even get college credit for listening to these.
www.jcstudies.com - Center for Judaic-Christian studies. I signed up for the free weekly study from the Torah. I have really enjoyed it. It’s very interesting to see the Jewish perspective.
I hope this information helps you get started. You can’t trust in the Lord unless you know what His Word promises you. You will reap many rewards for diligence in this area – see Matthew 6:33 and Hebrews 11:6.