A Word from the Pastor: How to Read the Bible
We all agree that we should read the Bible. It is God’s Word for us. It testifies to Jesus Christ, the Father’s only-begotten Son. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). In keeping the commandments found in his Word, there is great reward (Psalm 19:11). Where else would we gather knowledge about God? From nature? From our own, flawed experience? No, with Peter we confess that Jesus is the One: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68b-69 ESV)
So our biggest hang-up is not whether we should read the Bible, but rather how we should read the Bible. My massive ESV Study Bible that sits on my desk is a tremendous resource. With all of its notes, articles, charts, maps, and concordance, it clocks in at 2,752 pages. That is huge. My shiny new CSB Ancient Faith Study Bible—counting all the notes, articles, and concordance—tips the scales at 1,742 pages. Even my NCV Reference Edition Bible—which doesn’t have any study notes at all—consumes 1,494 pages. By comparison, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a mere 368 pages. How do we read something as big as the Bible?
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And with strategy. If you’re going to read the Bible—either all of it or part of it—you need a plan. In other words, don’t just sit down and start on page one, Genesis 1. You’ll almost certainly get bogged down in Leviticus and quit in despair. If you’re thinking about tackling the Bible, I would recommend that you visit https://bibleplan.org/ to see what they have to offer. But here in this space I offer three general approaches for reading the Bible, based on your experience level:
- Absolute Beginners: If you’re a complete newbie at the Bible, I would recommend reading just the New Testament first. Get familiar with the stories about Jesus before delving into the thick and complicated Old Testament. Take small bites and get to know Jesus. Start on Matthew chapter 1 and read roughly a chapter a day. Be as disciplined or as lax as you need to be. The goal is not to get us through the Bible, but to get the Bible through us.
- Intermediates Who Want a Challenge: If you’ve already read bits and pieces of the Bible but want a bigger challenge, then start reading in two places: Matthew and Acts. It’s still just the New Testament, but it exposes you to Jesus’ ministry as well as to the early church. Read a chapter from each place every day, and you’ll make your way through the New Testament pretty quickly. Progress is the key. And remember, action usually precedes motivation. So it’s important to establish a discipline of reading.
- Ready for the Whole Enchilada: Say you’ve read the New Testament, but the Old Testament is still foreign territory to you (and it’s okay if it is!). Maybe you’re ready to read the whole Bible. Once again, front-to-back is a poor strategy for most people. Here’s how I read and re-read the Bible (in various translations): I start with three bookmarks: one at Genesis 1, a second at Ezra 1, and a third at Matthew 1. Creation, post-Exile, and Jesus. The Bible in about thirds. Then, I read roughly a chapter a day (more if I have more time, less if I don’t have enough time) from each location. I get a varied diet of Scripture, and I finish the Bible in about a year and a half.
Now there are so many other questions about reading the Bible (“Should I write in my Bible?” “Is a study Bible helpful?” “Which translation should I read?”) that it’s impossible to tackle them in a short article like this. But you can always attend our Sunday morning Bible study where you can dig deeper. Starting on May 9, we will be reading the First Letter of Peter together. See you there, and bring a Bible!
The Life of Our Church
Online or In-Person Services
We are open in a “new normal”! Feel free to worship in-person, with common-sense precautions (e.g., masks and keeping social distance). But if you are uncomfortable coming to worship, you may worship virtually through our YouTube channel. We will stream the service live, and the service will be archived after that.
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“Socially Distanced Sunday School.” Bring your Bible and a friend. Every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. We will be starting 1 Peter on May 9, so this is a great time to get involved!
American Baptist Women’s Ministries
ABWM will meet on Wednesday, May 19, at 1:30 p.m.
Our deacons will gather after worship on Sunday, May 9.
Wear Red for Pentecost
On Sunday, May 23, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the church. Wear red to worship to celebrate the presence of God’s Spirit in us and among us.
Atlantic High School will host its baccalaureate to bless its graduating seniors Wednesday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Seating is limited, but please pray for our seniors.
Graduation exercises for Atlantic High School will be Sunday, May 23, at 2:00 p.m. in the gym. Once again, seating is limited, but please pray for our graduates. And stay tuned for information on the livestream of graduation.
Celebrate with the Smiths
Please join the Smith family as they honor Jacob and Jarrit, who are graduating from Atlantic High School. Their reception will be Saturday, May 15, 1:00-4:00 p.m. in our church’s Fellowship Hall. Come and celebrate Jarrit and Jacob!
Celebrate with the McCallas
Please join us for a graduation party honoring Henry McCalla, Atlantic High School Class of 2021. There will be a taco/nacho bar Friday, May 21, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. in our church’s Fellowship Hall. Come and celebrate Henry!
Atlantic Food Pantry
Please remember to support our local food pantry, either directly or by dropping off goods here at our sanctuary. The food pantry is looking for paper grocery sacks, but they don’t need any more empty egg cartons.
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every first Sunday of the month. We will be observing it next on June 6. And if you are watching worship on YouTube, you are certainly encouraged to participate at home with your own elements.
Thank You from Ray’s Dad
Note from Ray: The day that my dad, Eddie, moved into the nursing home—which was six days before he died—he dictated a thank-you note to me and asked me to share it with our church, as well as with other people. Here is his note:
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community who have inquired or who have offered Ginger and my sons well wishes. We have had wonderful doctors and nurses and care. And now I come to the real heroes of the situation: those who have prayed for us. We have felt the power of your prayer to carry us along. Also, thank you to the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you again to my family and to each and every one for your contributions. Thank you.”
Thank You from Pastor Ray
Dear Church Family,
I am absolutely humbled by the number of visits, calls, texts, and cards that have poured in after my dad’s passing. I have felt tremendous support through your prayers, hugs, and expressions of sympathy. I was especially honored to see so many of you turn out for his visitation and funeral. I can’t thank you enough for your love and support.
Blessings to you all,
Ray and Family
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