"The LORD is my Rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation."
                                               -- Psalm 18:2

Bible Reading Websites:

Practical Suggestions  to Get the  Most Out of Your Study

- Read!  The only way to know for sure what the Bible says is to read it.  There are many
       books about the Bible and many people who will tell you what they believe the Bible
       says, but none of those can replace the knowledge, encouragement, instruction, and
       fulfillment you can experience through your own reading.

E-  Examine  what you read closely for answers to the questions and to answer any of
        your own questions.

A - Approach each time of reading with a clear mind.  Spend a moment preparing your
        mind to concentrate fully on the task at hand.  Remove any distractions, if possible.

D-  Designate a specific time and place for your daily reading/study and keep it as a part
        of your daily routine as much as possible.

- Meditate on the concepts and facts you glean from your daily reading/study. 
        *Is there something you discovered that could affect your own life some way?
        Feel free  to mull over it.  Reflection is a valuable tool when studying the Bible.

Y -  Yield preconceived ideas about the Bible and religious teachings others claim are
        from  the Bible.  You may find that what you have heard is absolutely correct OR
        you may find that it is absolutely INCORRECT!  Let the Bible speak to you for itself.

Be a blessing to someone by sharing what you have learned in your own  reading
        or study.  Repeating 
what you have learned will also etch the teachings and concepts
        in  your own memory.

 I -   Inventory the facts, concepts and teachings you learn.  Keeping a spiral notebook
        nearby when studying will serve you well.  As you review your notes/lists, you will be
        amazed to see how much you have learned!

B -  Balance what you learn in one part of your study with what you learn in the rest of
        your study in the Bible.The Bible is full of wonderful things to learn, but if you only
        take certain ones and neglect the others, it's like  having only a few pieces of a
        puzzle -- You will only see a part of the picture, rather than the whole picture God
        wants you to see!

L -   Linger a little while when you find a scripture that you want to wrestle to understand
        better.  Yes, time is a valuable commodity, but time in the Scriptures is not a waste.

E -   Enjoy your reading time!  As you develop the habit of daily Bible reading, you'll
         find that you will begin to look forward to learning what the Bible has to say to you.
         It is not uncommon for a person to develop quite an appetite for Bible reading/study. 
         You may find  you want to study and read more of the Bible on your own,  perhaps
         more than just a chapter or two daily.  Go ahead!

        B - I - B - L - E
M - Y
      R  -  E  -  A  -  D

#1 - What is the Bible?

The Bible might well be described as  God's word in written form.  It is unlike any other book.  It is not a book made up by a man, or men, but is from God, written through the hands of men.  It is a collection of 66 books, divided into two testaments, or wills, known as the Old Testament (consisting of 39 individual books) and the New Testament (consisting of 27 books).

The Old Testament tells of the beginning of time - the creation of the earth, mankind, and the wonderful relationship that existed between God and man.  It continues on to tell how sin entered the world, disrupting the perfect relationship man had enjoyed with the Creator.  Included in the account is the Creator's promise of a savior who would make it possible for that relationship to one day be restored. The Old Testament tells the story of God's people through the centuries - faithful to God for a time, then unfaithful, then faithful, over and over again.  It is full of exciting historical accounts, deep teachings, practical wisdom, lovely poetry, amazing prophecies and hopeful promises.  However, the beauty of the Old Testament is realized in the revealing of the nature of God - His holiness, His faithfulness, His justice, His mercy, and His enduring love for mankind.  In reading the Old Testament, one will begin to see what the Creator expects of mankind, as well as the unfoldiing of His plan to save man from his sins, the cause of the disruption between the Creator and His creation.

The New Testament tells the story of Jesus - his birth, life, ministry, teachings, death, resurrection and his ascension into heaven.  The story of Jesus' life is recorded in four different accounts:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, referred to as the Four Gospels. After Jesus ascends into heaven, the story continues in the book of Acts with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit to teach the apostles all things and to remind them of all that Jesus had said to them.  The apostles traveled the known world spreading the message of Jesus as the promised Messiah who had been crucified, but was resurrected, ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of God, having been made both Lord and Christ.  Acts includes accounts of people who decided to become Christians and how they did so, as well as the persecutions early believers faced.  The rest of the New Testament is comprised of books that are actually letters to churches and or individuals in specific places, written to encourage and instruct believers in matters of life and doctrine, all with a view to the promised return of Jesus to rescue his people from a sinful world and the judgment that will occur at the end of time.  Revelation is the last book of the New Testament and also its only one of prophecy.  It was penned by the apostle John as he was exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith in Jesus.  As the persecution of the early Christians was growing, the book of Revelation was "revealed" to show God's servants what would soon take place.  It has  a strong emphasis on the judgment of all and the rescuing of God's faithful people, their reward being they will dwell with the Creator as man did at the beginning of time, in perfect fellowship, face to face!

#2 -  Can I just open the Bible to any page and
begin reading?

All parts of the Bible are beneficial to read, but to get the most out of reading, it is wise to understand the setting and circumstances of what was written, know the real context.  A person walking into a room while a conversation is already in progress would be at a disadvantage to understanding what is actually being discussed.  In the same way, if you do not answer some very important questions about the context of a biblical passage, much information can be missed or misunderstood.  For this reason, the following  questions are recommended to ask yourself every time you begin reading the Bible:

A. Who is speaking?
B. Who is the speaker addressing?
C. When is it taking place? (Under WHICH covenant between man & God?)
D. Why is this being spoken, what are the circumstances surrounding the teaching
     or story?

#3 - What is the difference between a Bible that
is a translation and one that is a paraphrase?

Just walk into any bookstore to buy a Bible and you are sure to be overwhelmed at the number of translations and paraphrases available!  While translations vary widely in reading difficulty, paraphrases are typically very easy to understand because they use everyday language to convey their message.  This makes the paraphrased Bible quite appealing, especially to someone setting out to read the Bible for the first time.  HOWEVER, one should know that a major difference exists between a paraphrase and a translation.

A translation is produced by scholars reading the books of the Bible in their original language, as they were written, then using the exact words in English to convey the meaning from the Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Aramaic and Greek (the New Testament).  Usually scholars of varying religious backgrounds work together to check and re-check the accuracy of the translation, making sure that no religious bias, no particular denomination's theology, is allowed to influence the translation.

A paraphrase is quite different than a translation.  It is an interpretation of individual verses or entire passages of the Bible by a person or persons, often of a specific religious group or denomination.  This interpretation, or understanding of the verse or verses, may be affected by the interpreter's personal religious traditions, convictions or experiences.  In a paraphrase, the meaning of each word is not brought into English, but the interpreters explain in their own words what they feel or believe the passage means.  While different words or explanations may be helpful in understanding the meaning of the Bible, relying on anyone's interpretation, especially regarding matters of salvation, can lead someone into religious error.  So, *while a paraphrase may at times be helpful, it is not the same as a translation.  It is an opinion of what the original text might or might not mean.

**There is a new trend in the religious world to refer to paraphrases as translations.  To find out whether a Bible is actually a paraphrase or a translation, read the Preface page, one of those pages at the front of a book that you often never notice.  The Preface page will tell you the process by which that particular version, paraphrase, or translation was brought about.

*** When questions arise in your reading of the Bible, never rely on another person's interpretation, but seek for clarity on the subject within the Bible itself.  The Bible is its own best interpreter!

#4  What do the names of the books, the big numbers on each page, and the little numbers on each page within the text signify?

The names of the books of the Bible were not part of the original writings, but were given to designate the different books  in the same way that titles of other books do.  Bible books are  named for their subject, their author, or the person or group to whom they were addressed (many are actually letters!).  For example, the book of Genesis is so named because it is the book that tells of the beginning, as the word "Genesis" signifies.  The book of Jeremiah is so named because it is ascribed to Jeremiah, the prophet whose visions are recorded therein.  The New Testament book of Acts is about the acts of the apostles of Jesus after he ascended to heaven.  And the book of Titus is so named because it is a letter addressed to Titus from the apostle Paul.  *Some Bibles have a section of introduction to the individual books, but be aware that these also are not part of the Bible itself, but opinions of the editor(s).

Big, bold numbers are used at the beginning of entire passages to signify chapters.  Smaller numbers appear withing the text to distinguish verses.  These are not part of the original text, but are placed there simply to aid in designating a location within a book.

EXAMPLE:      John 11::35   *Means:     Book of John
                                                                             chapter 11
                                                                             verse 35

35 Jesus wept.            *35  is the verse number and is smaller than the text.

To cite the location of a passage of Scripture, simply write the name of the book, leave a space, then write the number of the chapter, a colon, then the number of the verse, like this:

John 11:35

* To read the location out loud, simply say, "John 11  35"  OR  "John chapter 11, verse 35".

** A Contents page showing the location of each book is usually found situated before the first page of the text.

*** Many Bibles also have a page of abbreviations for the names of the Bible books.

#5  What is a Bible Dictionary?  What is a Concordance?  Should I use one?

A Bible dictionary is a book that expounds on certain subjects mentioned in the Bible, such as names, places, teachings and customs.  It is often useful in providing historical details on some Bible subjects; however, one should be cautioned that the Bible dictionary is not the inspired word of God.  It is not the Bible, but rather a tool to accompany the studying of the Bible itself. It can present man's interpretation of the Bible, which may or may not be accurate.  Remember:  *The Bible is its own best interpreter!

A Bible concordance is a book that lists all the locations of main words used in a particular Bible translation.   It can be especially useful in locating scriptures that address a certain subject.  A basic Bible concordance is relatively inexpensive and is a valuable tool for Bible study.  Some Bible related websites also have a free concordance for use.

**While each of these tools may prove useful at times, neither is required for participation in this program of study.

#6  What about the footnotes (at the bottom of each page of text)?

Footnotes are found at the very bottom of the pages of most Bibles.  They have been put there by the translators to present possible alternative translations and information regarding ancient textual manuscripts.  Occasionally  information  included in footnotes bears the personal bias of the editors.  *It will be helpful to refer to the Preface section (usually at the front of the Bible) to determine what is included in the footnotes of your personal Bible.  NOTE:  Study Bibles often contain long passages of interpretation by their editors.  Be sure to distinguish the actual text of the Bible from the comments and opinions of editors of the Bible.

#7  Is it acceptable to mark in my Bible?

The Bible contains the message of God to mankind.  Obviously, a book with such an important message should be treated with respect, but keeping in mind that it is meant to be read and studied.  Underline, highlight, write study notes in the margins to aid you in getting to know the Bible.  These are generally considered acceptable markings. Be sure to use a highlighter or pen that will not soak through the thin pages, obscuring the message printed on the opposite side of the page.  NEVER tear out a page of the Bible or make any part of it unable to be read.  If a Bible is well taken care of, it will last many years.   A Bible never touched, never opened or read, will last longer, but will not be a blessing to its owner who has not learned what God wants man to know.  *Extra advice:  If you don't develop the habit of storing loose papers, church bulletins, etc., in your Bible, the binding will last a very long time!

#8  In a"Red Letter" edition of the Bible, are the words in red more important than those in black?

No.  The words in red identify quotations from Jesus, but ALL of the Bible is from God, inspired of God, which literally means it is "God-breathed".  *See 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 15 for more on this.