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What is the Bible all about?
Do you have questions about life, friends, family, God, or your future? If so, the Bible is for you! Thousands of people just like you find their lives more meaningful because of the Bible's message. People all over the world turn to it to find answers to questions like:

  • Does God really care about me?
  • What does God expect of me?
  • Can I really make a difference in the world?
  • Is it really possible to live forever?
  • Is there really a hell? Is heaven for real?
  • Does God really listen when we pray?
  • What should I do with my life?

But the Bible is more than an answer book to turn to when the pressures of life are overwhelming. It is really a library of books. It's filled with stories about real people. It has great poetry and beautiful songs. It has prophecies and promises. But most important, it is the true story of God's visiting our earth through his Son, Jesus Christ.

As you read about him, you will discover the most terrific friend you could ever have—someone who's around twenty-four hours a day, any time you need him! So take some time each day to read the Bible. It could be the most important and life-changing step you will ever take.

The Message of the Bible
The Bible begins by telling how the eternal God created the world and everything in it. He gave people a beautiful place to live and supplied everything they needed. Best of all, he was their friend.

That glorious beginning, however, was ruined when people disobeyed God and plunged into rebellion and sin. This broke humanity's relationship with God and brought judgment and death to the earth, its creatures, and humanity itself. Even so, God did not abandon his disobedient creatures. He set out to reclaim fallen people, much as a shepherd sets out to restore lost sheep to the fold.

The Old Testament provides many references to a special individual who would provide salvation for his people. That special individual, the Messiah, was not to be merely a man, however. The Messiah was to be "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8), which in Hebrew means "God is with us." The Messiah would be both God and man, and those prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin, he also removed all guilt produced by that sin and restored the broken relationship between God and humanity. Furthermore, he lives today and speaks continually to God on our behalf. "Therefore he is able, once and for ever, to save everyone who comes to God through him" (Hebrews 7:24-25). He gives eternal life to all who trust in him.

How to Study the Bible
To get the most out of this Bible, you will need to study it on a regular and orderly basis. You may, however, have some questions. You may wonder, Where do I begin reading? Or, What do I need to know before I start? The following paragraphs and features will help you get started and give you some important hints and information to help you begin an effective study of the Bible.

Pray for Wisdom and Understanding
The most often overlooked and undervalued aspect of Bible study is prayer. Yet prayer is essential to gaining wisdom and understanding when you read God's Word. Through prayer, you can approach God and acknowledge your incomplete knowledge of his Word, as well as your need for him to open your heart to his instruction. So determine to begin each time of study with prayer. Only God can give you the wisdom to understand his Word.

Read in an Orderly Manner
If you receive a letter from a friend and read only a few sentences here and there, the letter will not make much sense. But sadly, this is how many approach their study of the Bible. They read a portion of Matthew, a story from Daniel, a verse or two from Exodus, and then a chapter or so from Revelation and wonder why they don't have a clear understanding of God's Word. They often misinterpret the meaning of a passage because they fail to grasp the larger context from which the passage or verse comes.

To avoid such pitfalls, you need to discipline yourself to read the Bible in an orderly manner. One way to do this is to use an established reading plan. A reading plan lists Scripture passages to be read in a certain order. Many of the existing plans were created with a goal in mind. Some plans break the whole Bible down into 365 daily readings. Others help you read through the Bible in the order that the events actually happened. We have included several reading plans to get you started.

One such reading plan is based on fifty-two great Bible stories that all Christians should be familiar with. This plan touches on great accounts of God's work in history, giving you the large sweep of the contents of the Bible. Another reading plan, the one-year New Testament reading plan, will lead you through the entire New Testament in a year. In this plan, you will read through the gospel accounts of Christ's life and study God's wisdom for believers in the letters to early Christians. Some of you may prefer a more topical approach to your Bible study. In the following topical indexes, the truths of the Bible are related to real life issues. You may want to look for topics that are of special concern to you and study the related Scriptures to see what God's Word has to say.

Finish What You Start
In life, the benefits of doing anything are often not realized until the task is completed. The same is true when reading a book from the Bible. Once you choose a book to read, read it from beginning to end. Although you may benefit spiritually by reading a verse from one book or a story from another, you will benefit more by reading the entire book from which the verse or story came. Reading the entire book puts each verse and story in its proper context. Thus, you will have a better understanding of what each verse and story means. In addition, by reading books from beginning to end you will become more familiar with the Bible as a whole. You may even discover passages that will one day become your favorites. To get a quick summary of each Bible book before you begin reading it, look it up in the feature called Overview of the Bible Books.

Meditate on God's Word
Thinking or meditating about what you have read helps you to discover the importance of a given passage. It also helps you to examine your life in light of what God reveals in his Word. One of the best ways to begin meditating on God's Word is to ask questions. Here are a few questions to help you get started: What is the main subject of the passage? To whom is this passage addressed? Who is speaking? About what or whom is the person speaking? What is the key verse? What does this passage teach me about God? To see how the text might apply to you personally, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there any sin mentioned in the passage that I need to confess or stop doing?
  • Is there a command given that I should obey?
  • Is there a promise made that I can apply to my current circumstances?
  • Is there a prayer given that I could pray?

Invest in a Few Good Resource Books
The Bible alludes to many ancient customs that are unfamiliar to us today. So the subtle meaning behind such allusions can easily be lost to us. To understand the culture in which the Bible was written, you may want to purchase a few good biblical resource books.

There are two types of resource books you should look into purchasing: first, a one- or two-volume commentary on the whole Bible; and second, a Bible dictionary. Most one- or two-volume commentaries are concise. They give you the necessary information on important words, phrases, and verses from the Bible. They will not give you commentary on each verse, and they will not go into detailed explanations on any one verse. But they are good resources to help you begin to understand God's Word in its ancient context. The price for such a commentary can range from fifteen to thirty-five pounds per volume.

Bible dictionaries contain short articles (in alphabetical order) on people, places, and objects found in the Bible. Most Bible dictionaries also contain maps, diagrams, and pictures of biblical cities, regions, and artifacts. Bible dictionaries also cost between fifteen and thirty-five pounds. You can find these resources wherever Christian books are sold.

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If you apply these practices to your daily personal Bible study, you are bound to develop habits that will help you grow in your faith.

endorsements

“The NLT second edition was put together by a dream team of scholars and linguists and gives us a Bible that is thoroughly reliable and eminently readable. It allows the Scriptures to speak with fresh vitality.”

John Ortberg
Menlo Park Presbyterian
Menlo Park, California

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