Versions of the Bible
There are many versions of the Bible in English and there isn’t time and space to comment on them all. Many people remain enthusiastic about the King James Version (KJV), officially known as the Authorized Version of the Bible. Besides being God’s Word, it is also regarded as a classic masterpiece of English literature. It has been in use for nearly 400 years, and is still arguably the most well known and most recognized even though some find its seventeenth-century Elizabethan English (the language of Shakespeare) difficult to understand.
The New King James Version1 is the version used most in the Get Activated books. It retains many of the qualities of the King James Version. Archaic words have been replaced with modern equivalents and grammar and punctuation have been updated. The New International Version2 and The Living Bible3 are also referred to in these books. Reading a familiar passage in a version you are not used to can sometimes shed new light and meaning on it.
Bible study helps, Bible commentaries, and other Christian literature
Good teachers are a shortcut to learning. A classic example of this can be found in the story of Philip and the eunuch from Ethiopia, which is told in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts:
On the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, Philip, a deacon in the early church, met a eunuch of “great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians.” The eunuch was sitting in his chariot, reading the book of Isaiah, and Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. “How can I,” the eunuch answered, “unless someone guides me?” Now it so happened that the eunuch was reading from chapter 53 of Isaiah, which contains a number of very specific prophecies about the first coming of the Messiah—prophecies which Jesus had fulfilled in detail! So Philip “opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” As a result, the man received Jesus as his Savior.4 Philip was a good teacher!
You also can benefit from what more experienced Christians have learned through their study.
A good Bible concordance will help you quickly locate verses when you can only remember one or two key words. (A Bible concordance is an alphabetical index of words found in the Bible, and the references of verses where these words appear.) Concordances range in size and depth from huge tomes such as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance5 to the very brief concordances found in the appendixes of many Bibles. Because the larger concordances are more thorough, they’re more likely to include the reference for the verse you’re looking for, but you may have to peruse quite a few entries before you find it. Compact concordances are handy, but because they contain fewer entries, they’re less likely to have what you’re looking for. Cruden’s Concordance6 strikes a happy medium. Most computer Bible programs have built-in concordance functions which are excellent.
Some of the most time-honored Bible study helps and commentaries are: Halley’s Bible Handbook,7 Nave’s Topical Bible,8 Nelson’s Bible Dictionary,9 and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible.10 Some of these are built-in features of some computer Bible study programs.
There are also many good Bible-based devotional books available. These can be very helpful, especially when you’re not yet very familiar with the Bible yourself.
Christian literature provides worthwhile reading: testimonies of faith and God’s power, inspirational poems, anecdotes, and fiction that promotes Christian faith and values, biographies of dedicated Christians, etc.
Where to start
The Bible is one book you shouldn’t necessarily start reading for the first time at page one. Some people who do get bogged down in the books of Numbers or Deuteronomy, or lose interest and quit reading before they make it to the most important part.
You could begin your reading of the Bible with the first four books of the New Testament—the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which chronicle Jesus’ life and ministry. The gospel of John is perhaps the best to read first, as it contains the most actual words of Jesus. You may even want to read all of the Gospels, or portions of them, more than once before moving on.
The book of Acts is important because it not only recounts many of the main events of the first Christians, but it also can serve as a blueprint for Christian living and evangelism today.
The rest of the New Testament—the epistles and book of Revelation—can be rather difficult to understand at first, but if you pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you,11 you’ll find many beautiful passages and powerful promises there.12 Don’t miss 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter!
In the Old Testament, the book of Psalms has been a source of inspiration and comfort to millions for thousands of years. The book of Proverbs offers much wisdom and food for thought. So many fascinating and lesson-filled stories and accounts of God’s miraculous power can be found in other books of the Old Testament that it may take you a while to read them all. But don’t get bogged down with the detailed instructions and rituals of Leviticus or lengthy genealogies like those in Numbers and 1 Chronicles. If a passage doesn’t hold your interest, move on to something that does.
Mary and Martha—the sisters of Lazarus (the man whom Jesus raised from the dead)—were among Jesus’ closest friends and followers. The two sisters expressed their love for Him in different ways. Once when Jesus was teaching in their home, Martha “was distracted with much serving,” but Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”
When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister should be helping her, Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”13 He told her, in effect, that Mary was right in putting His Word first. Jesus appreciated Martha’s service, but He knew that her spiritual needs were more important than His physical ones.
Martha in the kitchen, serving with her hands;
Occupied for Jesus, with her pots and pans.
Loving Him, yet fevered, burdened to the brim,
Careful, troubled Martha, occupied for Him.
Mary on the footstool, eyes upon her Lord;
Occupied with Jesus, drinking in His Word.
This the one thing needful, all else strangely dim:
Loving, resting Mary, occupied with Him.
So may we, like Mary, choose the better part.
Resting in His presence—hands and feet and heart;
Drinking in His wisdom, strengthened with His grace;
Waiting for the summons, eyes upon His face.
When it comes, we’re ready, spirit, will, and nerve;
Mary’s heart to worship, Martha’s hands to serve;
This the rightful order, as our lamps we trim,
Occupied with Jesus, then occupied for Him!
—Lois Reynolds Carpenter
Cycle of life
As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.—Isaiah 55:10-11
Warning! Please refer to the maker’s manual before operating your machine!
Intelligent people always thoroughly study the instructions to a valuable machine before they attempt to operate it—and as a result, they save themselves a lot of time and trouble and possible permanent damage to their equipment as well. But those who are too impatient to read the book first, or who think they already know how to operate it, or who don’t want to admit that they need the help of the instruction book usually have nothing but trouble!
Why struggle through life needlessly when your Creator, your maker, your manufacturer, God, has had some men of His write a maker’s instruction manual with definite diagrams and already-stated specifications for the complicated business of living and operating your body, mind, and spirit? You could waste an awful lot of time, and do an awful lot of damage to yourself and a lot of other people by not taking time to read the Book first, to learn the right way to operate your soul in order to save it for His use without abuse, and to get it finally safe to heaven! Don’t take chances! Read and follow the Book!—D.B.B.
When to read
Where in your busy schedule are you supposed to find even a few minutes each day to read the Word? Well, here’s your chance to put God to the test by putting this promise of His to the test: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these [other] things shall be added to you.”14
Conversely, if you get so busy with other things that you think are more urgent or more important that you don’t have time for God’s Word, things are bound to go wrong.
Put the Word first, and the Lord will always give you time to do the other things you need to do. One way He will probably do that is by helping you do some of those other things better and in less time. You will soon find that putting Him and His Word first solves not only the problem of where to find time for it, but many of your other problems as well. It creates a winning situation all the way around! When you see the difference it makes in your relationship with the Lord and in your life in general, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!
The best time to read the Word is when you are at your best and can give it your full attention. For most people that’s first thing in the morning, before their busy day begins. Once other responsibilities are upon you, it’s much harder to block out the press of the day in order to fully concentrate on and absorb God’s Word.
If the start of the day doesn’t work for you, find a time that does—perhaps as soon as you arrive at your workplace, or even on your way there, if you aren’t driving. Or if you’re a busy mother, try to do it as soon as you’ve gotten the kids off to school or the baby down for her morning nap. Listening to the Word in audio format is also an excellent way to take it in—such as when you’re driving to work, or you’re out on a walk, or if you’d just rather listen than read. Audio versions of the Bible and devotional books are available from many Christian bookstores or for downloading online. You could also make your own recordings of your favorite passages.
If it’s not possible to set aside a larger block of time, try two or three times of 10 or 15 minutes each. Turn your coffee break into a Word break, or use part of your lunch hour. You’ll be surprised at how much better the rest of your day will go, and so will those you work with. The evening is another great time, especially for reading the Word with other members of your family—a few minutes around the dinner table, an uplifting Bible story with the children before you tuck them in bed, a quiet moment around the Word before you all turn in. (Whenever you choose to have Word time with your family, it will bring you close together like nothing else.) Reading the Word for a few minutes before you go to sleep can set your mind at ease after a busy day. “Cast your cares on the Lord”15 and you’ll sleep better!
When you find a time that works for you, stick to it each day until it becomes a habit.
Plan your reading
It always helps to have a goal and a plan for achieving it, but be sure your goal is realistic. Start with something you know you can do, like spending 10 or 15 minutes each day reading the Word, and keeping it up for one week. Once you master that, increase your reading times to 20 or 30 minutes each day. Or you could try to read one Gospel a week, and finish all four in one month. Or you could read on a topic that concerns you—worry, relations with others, comfort in time of personal loss, etc.
A plan and routine can be helpful, but there will be days when something other than what you had planned to read would do you more good. Get in the habit of praying before you start to read, so if the Lord wants you to abandon your previously established plan that day in order to read something else, He will have a chance to show you.
Liven up your reading times by reading from different books of the Bible or a variety of other devotional materials. One day you could read several Psalms, the next a few chapters from one of the Gospels, and the next a few short passages from a devotional book. Or you could follow a similar plan over a longer period of time; spending one week reading through a Gospel, the next studying about one of the foundation topics of Christian faith, etc.
Quality, not quantity
Unlike almost anything else you might read—whether for information, recreation, or in the course of your work—God’s Word nourishes your spirit. And just as it takes time to digest and assimilate a meal, it takes time to get the full benefit of the Word. You won’t get that by skimming or speed-reading.
Read slowly and carefully, and take time to think and pray about what you’re reading. If you find that you aren’t comprehending or remembering what you’ve just read, slow down. Even if all you read is one verse or one short passage but you discover some new truth, or if you feel God’s peace or comfort or presence, or if something causes you to think deeply, or if something stirs you to positive action, then your Word time will have been a success.
However, don’t expect to feel a spiritual “rush” or make some big new discovery every single time that you read the Word. There will be times when you don’t feel anything at all. That doesn’t mean that you should stop reading or that your Word time is ineffective. Just as eating a healthful meal strengthens your body whether you immediately feel strengthened or not, so reading the Word strengthens your spirit whether you feel the effects immediately or not.
Try to find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. If you can learn to think of this time as your daily appointment with the Lord—as important as any business appointment or other activity—you’ll be less likely to let other things interfere. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. Take your phone off the hook or ask your secretary to hold all calls. Get your children busy with some activity that you know will hold their interest and that they can do safely on their own for a few minutes.
Then, before you start to read the Word, pray that your mind will be clear from distracting thoughts. Even when an especially busy day or a major problem looms ahead, Jesus can help you set your concerns aside temporarily in order to concentrate on what you’re reading.
Where to read
Some locations are obviously more conducive to reading the Word than others. A park bench may be too uncomfortable, but a cozy armchair may be too comfortable. Some people can wake up, roll over, turn on a light, and have profitable reading time first thing in the morning. Others wake up, roll over, turn on a light, and go back to sleep. Find what works for you.
“Warm up” by praising the Lord
The Psalmist said, “Come before [God’s] presence with singing … and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”16 Take a few minutes before you start your Word time to praise and thank God for His goodness and blessings. That will help set the mood and get your mind off of other things. Think about the good things in your life and say a word of thanks to God for them.
If you know some songs of praise to the Lord, you can sing one of these at the start of your Word time, even if only in your heart; or listen to one or two of them.17
Memorizing the Word
“Lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul.”18 The best way to retain the most important verses you come across as you read the Word is to memorize them. The ones you commit to memory become a part of you. They will strengthen your faith and be with you for life. The Holy Spirit can then more easily bring them to mind when they are the key to a situation or problem you face, and claiming them in prayer will become second nature.
Having important verses memorized, as well as knowing the reference of each (or at least what book and chapter of the Bible they’re in) will also prove helpful when you share the Word with others who need God’s truth and answers. If you’re a good student of the Word, you’ll become a good teacher of the Word.
The thought of memorizing parts of the Bible might seem daunting at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Start by reading and rereading the verse you want to memorize. Then try to repeat all or part of it without looking at the text. You can also copy it into a notebook or type it up and print it out, so you’ll have it handy to review later.
Work at learning that verse for a minute or two several times a day until you can quote it without looking. You may have it memorized by the end of the first day, or it may take longer. Then choose another verse and memorize it. To help you not forget what you’ve memorized, review each verse at least twice a day for the next week or two, and then less frequently once you know it very well.
Regularly reviewing what you know is vital to retaining it. Whatever you are able to memorize, at whatever speed, will soon pay off.
If you think you can’t memorize the Word, it might help to realize how many things you have already memorized—at least one language, mathematical tables, phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, etc. Repetition is the law of memory. If you hear or read something often enough, you will remember it.
Fill your heart and mind with God’s good truth!
The Lord has given you the best computer ever constructed—your own mind—but it’s up to you how you fill it. It has to be filled with something, good or bad, and your reflexes are mentally conditioned to react in a certain way according to what you have learned or experienced. That’s why you could hardly accomplish anything more important than to memorize the Word of God.
God Himself is like the Great Central Computer. You can plug into Him and by His power, His Spirit, He can give you all the information, all the wisdom, and all the answers you need. If you’ll be faithful to read, study, and memorize His Word, then He can spiel it off by the Spirit when you need it. He will just pop it up in your little computer whenever you make the right connection in your programming.
Once you’ve saturated your heart and mind with God’s Word, you just need to be a yielded instrument. Then the Lord can sit down at the keyboard and get out of your computer the information that He wants, for your little memory chips in your head will have the whole story, as much as you’ve programmed them to contain!—D.B.B.
Isn’t it wonderful to have God’s Word for our encouragement? Absorb it into the very fiber of your being, for it is His Word by His Spirit in His love that makes you strong!—D.B.B.
Someday the only Word of God you may have is what you’ve implanted in your heart!—D.B.B.
Where did Susanna find time every day for God and His Word? She had 17 children. Yet somehow she managed to spend one hour each day reading the Word and praying for her children. Obviously, she made that a priority. And it paid off, especially in what two of her sons, John and Charles, accomplished for the Lord when they grew up. John Wesley led a religious revival that swept across England and Wales, and also founded the Methodist Church. His younger brother, Charles, was also a renowned preacher and wrote over 6,000 hymns.
Eternally true, eternally yours
There has not failed one word of all His good promise.—1 Kings 8:56
The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.—Psalm 119:160
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.—Psalm 119:89
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.—Isaiah 40:8
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.—Matthew 24:35
The Scripture cannot be broken.—John 10:35
But the word of the Lord endures forever.—1 Peter 1:25
1. © Thomas Nelson, Inc
2. © Biblica, Inc
3. © Tyndale House Publishers
4. Acts 8:26-39
5. © Holman Bible Pub
6. © Barbour & Co
7. © Zondervan Pub. House
8. © Hendrickson Publishers
9. © Thomas Nelson, Inc
10. © B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co
11. John 16:13
12. 2 Peter 1:4
13. Luke 10:38-42
14. Matthew 6:33
15. Psalm 55:22 NIV
16. Psalm 100:2,4
17. Ephesians 5:19
18. Deuteronomy 11:18