Tag Archives: read the Bible

Bible Term: Spiritual Discipline

Spiritual disciplines are practices we willingly pursue in response to a God who created us, saved us, and guides us. Spiritual disciplines draw us closer to God, deepen our understanding of who he is, and help make us into the men and women he desires us to become.

Spiritual disciplines are not something we do out of guilt or obligation; they are not a way to gain God’s attention or earn our salvation.

The list of spiritual disciplines is varied and inexact. Prayer, Bible study, fasting, and meditation are commonly cited examples of spiritual disciplines. Many people end the list with these four, whereas others add additional activities.

What is the Apocrypha in the Bible?

 Bible FAQsQ: What is the Apocrypha?

A: The word Apocrypha isn’t in the Bible. The Apocrypha is a group of Old Testament books that are not in all versions of the Bible, such as the current Protestant and Hebrew Bibles. They are, however, part of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox versions of the Bible. Since much of Christianity deems these writings as holy and inspired, it’s important to consider them. These books are:

Interestingly, the Apocrypha books were part of the original King James translation of the Bible but were later removed. Furthermore, the Apocrypha was part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was in use during Jesus’ time. What happened to them? Why were these books removed? The justification is they aren’t in the Hebrew Bible and there are no versions of them written in Hebrew. Hence their removal.

I think that was a bad call. These books contain some epic stories and can add flavor to our understanding of God. We should embrace them rather than reject them.

To read a version that includes the Apocrypha books, consider Common English Version (CEB).

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Which Gospel Should I Read First?

Q: Which Gospel Should I Read First?

Bible FAQsA: The Bible contains four accounts of the life of Jesus, called Gospels; each one has its own strengths:

The Gospel written by Matthew does much to connect Jewish history and understanding to the life of Jesus. It is great as a bridge from the Old to New Testament of the Bible and for those interested in better seeing the connections between Judaism and Christianity – and the connections are significant.

The Gospel written by Mark is the shortest. It is an ideal source to quickly gain an essential understanding of who Jesus is and what he did.

The Gospel written by Dr. Luke contains details and information not included by Matthew and Mark, serving to nicely round out our understanding of Jesus.

The John contains more unique content than the other three accounts. John was a disciple of Jesus and part of the inner circle, so he was an eyewitness to what he recorded. His writing is poetic in nature and great for those who want to mull over and contemplate what he says.

Pick the Gospel that seems the best fit for you. Read it first, then consider the other three.

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What is a Lectionary?

Q: What is a lectionary?

Bible FAQsA: A lectionary is a methodical Bible reading plan that covers the entire Bible in a set time. By definition, our Bible reading plans are lectionaries.

A common and popular lectionary is the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a three-year plan. In it, each day’s reading covers three or four sections from Bible, often an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a reading from a Gospel, and a selection from an Epistle. This provides great variety, but also introduces discontinuity as it makes it hard to see the big picture, instead showing several small vignettes of the Bible each day.

For this reason, the Bible reading plans on this site involve only one passage each day and group whole sections of the Bible together over successive days. We feel this is a more effective way to comprehend and appreciate the way in which the Bible fits together as a collective whole.

This is not to be critical of the Revised Common Lectionary or other lectionaries, but to offer a perspective of its strengths and weaknesses.

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What if I Don’t Understand Everything I Read in the Bible?

Q: What if I don’t understand everything I read in the Bible?

 Bible FAQsA: If you don’t understand everything you read in the Bible, then you are in good company. No one completely understands the entire Bible.

Instead of getting frustrated or focusing on what you don’t understand, give your attention to what does make sense. Over time, as you read and study the Bible, God will reveal more and more truth to you and increase your understanding of it.

Mastering the Bible is like peeling an onion. There are layers and layers. Just when you think you have one passage mastered, God’s Holy Spirit will reveal another deeper and more profound layer. This is why reading the Bible is not a one-time effort, but a lifetime pursuit of discovery and revelation.

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Does Prayer, Meditation, or Fasting Have Anything to do With Bible Reading?

Q: Does prayer, meditation, or fasting have anything to do with Bible reading?

Bible FAQsA: Prayer, meditation, and fasting (along reading the Bible) are spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines draw us closer to God, deepen our understanding of who he is, and help make us into the men and women he desires us to become.

Praying for guidance before reading the Bible is a wise practice. Also, you may be prompted to pray while reading or studying a passage. Saying a prayer after reading the Bible is also a God-honoring practice.

As you read the Bible, you may want to spend time contemplating on what you just read for any possible applications to your life. This is meditation; it’s often combined with prayer.

The act of fasting (be it going without food or withholding some other enjoyment or practice) is used to heighten spiritual awareness. This includes insights gleaned from Bible reading as well as prayers and meditation.

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What is a Spiritual Discipline?

Bible FAQsQ: What is a spiritual discipline?

A: A spiritual discipline draws us closer to God, deepens our understanding of who he is, and helps make us into the men and women he desires us to become.

Spiritual disciplines are practices that we willingly pursue in response to the God who created us, saved us, and guides us. Spiritual disciplines aren’t something we do out of guilt or obligation; they aren’t a way to gain God’s attention or earn our way to heaven.

The list of spiritual disciplines is inexact. Prayer, Bible study, fasting, and meditation are common spiritual disciplines. Some people end the list with these four, whereas others cite additional activities.

Please email us if you have a question, FAQ, or idea for new content.

What are Those Strange Reference Notations in the Bible?

Bible FAQsQ: What are all the strange reference notations?

A: The reference notations in the Bible (such as Romans 3:23) are analogous to line numbers assigned to a Shakespearean play; they serve as a study aid. Since the Bible is much longer and more complex, its reference notations are more involved.

The Bible is divided into 66 books,* or sections, such as Genesis, Psalms, John, or Acts. These were the names given to them, over time, based on the pieces’ author, audience, or purpose.

In the 1200s each book was divided into chapters, such as Acts 2. In the 1500s the chapters were further subdivided into verses, such as John 3:16. The name of the book is listed first, followed by the chapter number, a colon, and then the verse number. This is sometimes called the chapter-verse reference notation; it was done in order to help people quickly locate a specific text.

Here’s how to locate a specific passage in the Bible based on its reference: Most Bibles contain a table of contents at the beginning, which gives the page number of each book. So start there, locate the book you want to read and turn to that page number. Then page forward to find the chapter you want, and then skim that page to locate the specific verse.

Although an effort was made to place these divisions at logical breaks, they sometimes seem arbitrary. Therefore, it is a good practice to read what precedes and follows each break, as the surrounding text may contain relevant insight into the portion you’re studying.

* see Apocrypha for more information

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What Bible Version or Translation Should I Use?

Bible FAQsQ: What version or translation of the Bible should I use?

A: Although some people are adamant that a specific version of the Bible is the only one to use, this is a limited perspective that only discourages people from reading and studying the Bible.

You should select a version that is meaningful to you and easy to understand. Some versions are paraphrases, putting the Bible into modern-day language that is readily understandable. If you are new to the Bible (or need to take a fresh look at it), The Message is recommended.

Other versions of the Bible are translations, either a word for word translation or a phrase for phrase translation. Popular versions include the New International Version (NIV), the Amplified Bible (AMP), and the New Living Translation (NLT). The King James Version (KJV) is the choice for many long-time Bible readers (complete with traditional Old English wording), though some now opt for the New King James Version (NKJV).

To read a version that includes the Apocrypha books, consider The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) or New American Bible (NAB).

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What if I Don’t Have a Bible?

Bible FAQsQ: What if I don’t have a Bible?

A: You can buy a Bible from almost any bookstore as well as online. If you can’t afford one, many churches and parachurch organizations will give you one.

However, since you have Internet access, why not just do your Bible reading and studying online? BibleGateway.com allows you to read and study the Bible from a selection of popular versions and translations.

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