Reading your Bible each day is a terrific way to experience God as well as to learn his ways and wisdom for life. This year our church is reading through the New Testament and the books of Psalms and Proverbs. As we read the written word (the Greek word logos), we position ourselves for the Holy Spirit to give us a quickened word (the Greek word rhema) specific to our situation.
As we read, some days may seem more relevant and powerful than others, but like any meal, God's Word does us good, whether we are aware of it or not. Also, as we read, some parts of the Bible are easy to understand while others can be more difficult. To assist us with those times when we aren't sure what the Bible means, there are a number of excellent tools available. Here are some of my favourites.
1. Begin by choosing a good Bible translation. For my devotions, I like the New Living Translation, The New International Version (2011 edition) or the Message Bible. I like to change it around a bit each year just so I see things in fresh ways. When selecting a Bible, consider purchasing a good Study Bible. I love the NLT Study Bible and the NIV Study Bible as they both provide a wealth of helpful information right there in the text.
2. For some extremely helpful devotional comments from a scholarly author you can't go past the long time classic New Daily Study Bible series by William Barclay or the recent New Testament for Everyone series by Tom Wright. Both series are worth every penny.
3. For a more extensive commentary series, check out the NIV Application Commentaries, available as individual books from the Old and New Testaments or as a set (the NT is complete). Other more scholarly commentary series include The Expositor's Bible Commentary (EBC, 7 vols), The Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), The Tyndale Commentaries, the New International Commentary.
7. Finally, most of these tools and more are available in digital formats – for computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones – at far cheaper prices. Check out eSword (free) and Olive Tree for starters. The most extensive programs are Logos (for Windows and MAC) and Accordance (for MAC). Also, worth mentioning is PC Study Bible and Quickverse. For free online Bibles check out Bible Gateway and YouVersion.
Don't be overwhelmed by all the books and helps available, including the cost. Just select one or two tools. Use them well, then add to your collection over time.
As the apostle Paul said to his young protege, Timothy … "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2Tim.2:15)." After all, we don't live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God's mouth (Matt.4:4). May you hear his voice clearly today.