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How I Get the Most from My Bible Reading

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Reading the Bible seems intimidating for some people, when it really should not be. A part of this, I think, is a common fear that they may not understand everything they read. Let me offer some tips on how I get the most from my Bible reading.

  1. I read in multiple translations. Now that Pastor Craig has outlined the difference between a translation that tries to translate word for word (literal) as opposed to those that focus on thought for thought (dynamic), I would say use one of each when you do your Bible reading. If you missed Craig’s message, go on to our website and download the May 7th 2017 message! Using multiple translations allows you to see more things in the text as you read it and it helps you grasp the meaning of that passage.

  2. I read the references listed with the verses. References are the footnotes or the center column references. These fall into three main areas: a) a note that explains the meaning of the verse; b) a cross reference to another passage that has the same word or topic and c) a reference to the Old Testament when it is quoted in the New Testament. While we were reading in the Gospel of Mark this Spring I noticed a few things in the text.
    The first was that Jesus quoted a verse from the Old Testament in Mark 14:47. This was further indicated in my translation by the fact that these words were in all caps on the page. I looked at the reference column in my Bible and saw that this quotation came from Zechariah 13:7. As I read Zechariah I quickly saw that chapters 12-13 were one long prophecy that God delivered through this prophet.

    What also immediately caught my attention is that these two chapters seemed filled with messianic prophecy (references to Jesus). Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1 immediately jumped out at me (I will let you look these verse up for yourself!)

  3. I highlight verses that catch my eye. I use a set of colored pencils so they will not bleed through the pages to the text on the back side. You can buy expensive ones from the Christian bookstore, but I use ones I buy from an art store because I like a greater variety of color options. If you begin to use more than four colors you can consider this as well. I look for verses I think God is using to speak to me that day or verses that relate to a topic I enjoy tracking through Scripture.

  4. I make notes in the margin of my Bible. I do this for several reasons. The first is that if God speaks to me personally I need to write this down and remember it. Sometimes I just write down my question beside that verse. I have written down sermon ideas, theological points (for later debate with my friends) and thoughts about what God might be saying to me. My wife writes down sermon notes from the service in her Bible, but I reserve the space for my own thoughts about what God is saying to me. That way when I look back there is no confusion about what was on my heart as opposed to what was on Pastor Craig’s heart as he preached. I use the worship bulletin to take my sermon notes. When God speaks to me personally from a sermon, that justifies a note in my Bible.

  5. I take time to read and re-think the things I wrote before. It is always amazing to me when I read something I wrote at some point in the past (I don’t date anything) and think: “What an inspiring insight!” Then I realize that I had forgotten this inspiring insight and it might have been lost for an even longer period of time if I had not written it down in my Bible. The older I get, the more important it is to write things down! Let me add here that if you begin writing in your Bible, then always write in the same Bible if you own more than one. If you are reading in multiple translations, pick the one with the best margins and references to be the one you use to record where the Holy Spirit leads your thoughts. If you have a “go-to” translation use it for everything you are highlighting and writing down.

  6. I let my Bible reading take me to places I would not have normally gone. I am using the Bible reading plan we offer at the church, but for me the point is not to get through the reading plan. The point is for God to speak to me and hopefully use this to transform my life a little closer to the image of Christ. The truth is, I probably would not have woken up one morning and just decided that I needed to do some reading from the book of Zechariah. Sometimes the minor prophets in the Old Testament are more challenging to read. But when I follow a reference or even a passage that the Holy Spirit brings to mind as I read then I am truly listening and not just marking Bible reading off of my to-do list for that day. I discovered some riches in Zechariah because I was willing to go off the beaten path and peek into a part of the Bible that seems to be a little more challenging at first glance.  It reminds me of that line from the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken:”
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference 
Darrell Brown
Minister of Adult Discipleship
Posted by Darrell Brown with

Happy or Joyful…Must We Choose?

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The Bible says we are to find our happiness (our delight, our joy, our gladness) in God…who He is, what He has done, what He promises, and all He provides. But when we seek that happiness, we sometimes find people (even “theologians”) who quickly explain that the happiness we are seeking is not Biblical.

There is considerable confusion about the words “joy” and “happiness” among Christians. Some believe you should be “joyful” (a deep emotion and response to God) but not “happy” (considered a more shallow, frivolous emotion and response to circumstances). Is joy superior to happiness?

In the Bible, joy, happiness, gladness, and merriment are often interchangeable based on the original language (Hebrew, Greek) and are often mistranslated “blessed”. Being happy and being joyful can be the same experience. Both happiness and joy are found in God through Christ by the Holy Spirit.

The angel announced in Luke 2:10:  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day…”  (The Greek word for great is megas: This good news is megajoy…the best news ever.)

Another example is found in 2 Chronicles 15:15 (GNT) – “All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant [with God] with all their heart. They took delight in worshiping the Lord, and He accepted them and gave them peace on every side.”

You would be shocked if I told you who wrote the following erroneous, unbiblical statement in a very well-known and highly recommended book: “It is an insult to use the word happiness in connection with Jesus Christ.” Such careless understanding of the original language and word meanings misleads people. 

Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher, said, “Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites. Rather, they ought to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasure.”

There is such a thing as worldly “joy”: “There is pleasure in sin for a season…” (Hebrews 11:25) but the way of death results from it. On the other hand, spiritual joy and happiness found in Psalm 1 is the offer God makes to His people.

A.W. Tozer: “…For a long time it has been drummed into us that if we are happy, God is worried about us.  We believe He’s never quite pleased if we are happy.  But the strict, true teaching of the Word is that God takes pleasure in the pleasure of His people, provided His people take pleasure in God.”

The first principle of happiness:  As we obey God, happiness belongs to the believer. (Proverbs 28:14)

Applying the truth of happiness and joy to our lives:

  1. Solomon chose joy and wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:12 – “I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves [in God] as long as we can.”
  2. God grants us the resources for joy (2 Peter 1:2-4) and gives us freedom to choose how we will think and act (Romans 12:2).
  3. Happy people practice and act upon their happiness. Paul, speaking of spiritual gifts, wrote: “…let us use them…the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)
  4. Philippians 4:8 says to “fix your thoughts…” which means we must train our brains toward happiness and joy.
  5. Practice deliberate, Biblical thinking rooted in the scriptures and careful interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to the opinions of men.

Will you choose, practice and claim for God’s glory your God-provided happiness and joy, or will you continue to seek a “deep joy” and miss the “abundant happiness” that is so closely related?

Author RANDY ALCORN is credited with much of the material above. I recommend his book Happiness published by LifeWay Publishing.

Larry Shields
Associate Pastor of Administration
Posted by Larry Shields with

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