Many people have heard of and make use of Bible reading plans. Not so many people use a reading guide. While reading plans tell you what to read, a reading guide tells you how to read it.
Personally, I have benefited immensely from such bible reading guides. In fact, I dare say that they helped me more than any reading plan ever could have. Imagine you’re in Egypt looking at the pyramids. What would be more beneficial at that moment: a travel agent telling you to look at the pyramids, or a tour guide telling you what the pyramids are, what makes them special, etc? In the same way, reading guides provide help as to what to look out for when reading the Bible.
I want to share my favorite two reading guides, but prior to that, let’s quickly consider a couple of dos and don’ts of reading guides:
- Don’t read the guide only and neglect the Bible. The guide is a help, but cannot replace diligent Bible reading.
- Don’t read the guide first and then the Bible. Read the Bible text first at least once or twice. Proverbs 2:1-5 emphasizes the importance of digging deep into the word of God and searching for its treasures. Reading the guide first is like stealing someone else’s gold when you are really robbing yourself of the joy of finding the treasure.
- Do use them. Aha, you say, I have the Holy Spirit and have “no need that anyone should teach” me (1. John 2:27). Really, who taught you that? John, the Apostle, in a letter, in which he teaches other Christians … see the problem with that argument? We need the insights of other Christians to enrich and safeguard our understanding of the Bible, and reading guides can help with that.
- Use them for the gist of the text. A reading guide should be like someone who teaches you how to ride a bike. Once you know how to ride it, you take off and wave the teacher good-bye. That is to say, the goal of the reading guide should be to get you into the Bible and away from the guide.
These few steps should help you use reading guides. There might well be more to consider, but I want to stay under 400 words ;).