Here are 3 simple and easy ways you can improve your Bible reading and Bible study.
When I was recently teaching out of the Book of James, I said that this was the first book written in the New Testament, and it was written about AD 45-50, so it was written not many years after Jesus had returned to heaven. In fact, it was written just about 10 or 13 years after Jesus had ascended back to heaven, so this was “hot off the press” so to speak. I brought up the fact that James was such a prayer warrior that they called him “Old Camel Knees” because he spent so much time on his knees in prayer. So much so that his knees looked like those of an old camel. That’s not a slam on James but a compliment, so one way you can get more out of your Bible reading is to read about the history of the book you’re reading, like when it was written, to whom it was written, and what was the historical context of it. This gives your Bible reading much more meaning. If you know the background of the author and the setting of the book, then it’ll make a lot more sense to you. One example is when Peter wrote his first book, he wrote it “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1st Pet 1:1), meaning Peter was writing to the Jews who had been dispersed through severe persecution and were not spread out around the Roman Empire. If you know who it was written to, you’ll better understand the context and the verses.
Who Wrote It
We touched briefly on the authors of the New Testament and on the context in which they were writing their books, but it’s always interesting to study about the author himself. For example, we might be reading the Book of Romans and want to know more about Paul and why he wrote this book, so we can find out who the Apostle Paul was to begin with. We can find out why was he such a powerful preacher for the Gentiles, even though he was Jewish. A little bit of study will show you that Paul was a devout Jew who sought to quiet the quickly growing movement of men and women who followed Jesus Christ and had received permission to arrest them (Acts 9:1, 2), or in some cases (as with Stephen the Deacon), stone them to death. Paul had broad exposure to classical literature, philosophy, and ethics, and was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Paul may have been one of the most brilliant men in Judea at the time, and after his conversion of the Damascus Road, he was able to take advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences and gain access to both people groups to preach the gospel. Even though he was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, he never missed a chance to preach in the local synagogue to the Jews. In time, Paul was seen as a traitor to his own people, even though the opposite was actually true, but the point is, the more you read and study about the authors of the Books of the Bible, the more your Bible reading will improve, and in fact, it will make it a lot more interesting.
Get an Atlas
I have a huge Bible atlas at home and when I find a place in the Bible I’m not familiar with, I try to find out where it was in the Roman Empire. I can see the topography, the land itself, and if it’s in the middle of nowhere or near a town that’s now extinct. Looking at a Bible atlas, you can see just how far some of Paul’s missionary trips were and how hard this must have been, travailing through wilderness areas, navigating through the stormy Mediterranean Sea, walking in paths where bandits or robbers frequently hide, and other things that might open our eyes to the trips that Paul had to take. We can also see the path that the ancient nation of Israel took after they were brought out of Egypt and how they had to endure many years in a very hostile environment (because they refused to enter the Promised Land). When reading the Bible, if you find a place you’re not familiar with, find an atlas or look in the back of your Bible because some Bibles have maps for differing times in biblical history. You can find the map that is dated for the time the book you are reading was written and I believe this too will help spice up your Bible reading because it will give it much more meaning.
There are some days that honestly, I don’t feel like reading my Bible. You’re thinking, “A pastor doesn’t want to read his Bible?” but I think it happens to a lot of people. When you begin to pray or read your Bible, it seems that the Enemy starts infiltrating your mind and it makes it hard to concentrate, but this shouldn’t be surprising because we’ re fighting an invisible enemy (Eph 6:12), so try to improve your Bible reading, or at least make it more interesting by getting to know the setting and time in which the book was written, find out more about the author of the book, and look at the maps where these events took place. It will not only make your Bible reading more interesting, you might learn something about the author, the book, and maybe even yourself.