Book Recommendation: Read This First
I write these recommendations to encourage others to read. I do not intend to provide a critical review, but to provide insights to what God has taught me through the authors I read. When I look at books on my shelf, I want to recall at least one thing that I learned in the book. If I can do this, I consider the reading of the book a success. My desire is to get you interested enough to read the book so that you can learn and grow along with me. Don’t take my word for it, read the book for yourself. But for now, here is what I learned.
For many in the church, reading the
Bible is a challenge. Reading the Bible seems nearly impossible. When we do read the Bible, it tends to be more about completing a task or skimming the text. We often get discouraged because we find little that seems to apply to life and there seems to be so much that we do not understand. We are quickly defeated and choose to contentedly live with the nagging guilt of not reading the Bible rather than experiencing defeat once again in our attempts to read the Bible.
Understand that only the Spirit can give us understanding of Scripture, but the Spirit has gifted others to assist in the work of being students of the Word. These are not means to understanding, but tools to help us get into the Word where the Spirit will give us understanding.
Gary Millar helps the common person grasp Bible reading. Do not be mistaken, reading the Bible will take effort and will require intentional and consistent work. If we wait for reading to “just happen,” we will never crack open its leather binding or open the app. If we are willing to put forth the effort and make the time, then Millar’s book is truly a good thing to “read first” to begin the adventure.
He makes reading the Bible understandable and provides good illustrations and good examples for us as the reader to practice what he teaches. Many of his chapters provide illustrations from Scripture to demonstrate the point he is teaching. At the end of most chapters, he gives one or two examples to work through on our own. These would be great tools to work on together with individual.
In chapter 1, Millar challenges us with the importance of reading the Bible. Most Christians do not really need to be convinced of this reality. The author however does give some compelling thoughts for the need to read. This is done as more of an invitation to explore something special or interesting. He does not drive us to Scripture, but rather beautifully states that God is speaking to us in Scripture, so why would we not want to listen.
Chapter 2 instructs us how to read the Bible. It is a unique book, so if we try to read it like the latest best selling fiction novel, like social media, or like a text book, we will be disappointed and discouraged. We need to learn “how” to read the Bible. One big theme of this chapter is that we need to just keep reading. Do not quit when it gets a bit challenging. Keep training that reading muscle!
Chapter 3 begins to introduce us to what we look for in the Bible to understand what the Bible is saying. Too often we read the Bible like it is addressing us in the world we live it. The Bible does apply across all decades and time periods, but we must first learn to discern what Millar calls the “vibe” of the passage we are reading. The vibe is the tone or the feel of the passage. The Bible has different genres. Millar simply identifies the major genres of Scripture and where they are found. Each genre is read and studied differently. This is one of the most significant chapters of the whole book. It helps us to understand what we are reading.
Chapter 4 helps us to begin understanding the meaning of what we are reading. We do not just get to make up the meaning of Scripture. We cannot disregard its true meaning in exchange for “what it means to me.” A few simple tools and illustrations will help us find the basic meaning of a passages.
Chapter 5 instructs us how to figure out the context. Until we get the context of the passage right, we will struggle with right understanding and application. Reading the Bible at this level becomes even more compelling. We begin to “get it.” We want more! In addition to greater joy and depth in our reading, we will listen to preaching and teaching in a completely different ears and understanding.
Chapter 6 helps us to remember that Scripture is not first about us. It is first about God and what He is doing. However, God does speak to us. We learn about Him as we read the Bible. As we learn about Him, we are changed from within. Search the Scripture for what God is doing.
Chapter 7 is a great review of the book. It concisely presents how to read the Bible.
We do not need degrees to understand the Bible. We need to trust the Spirit and get into the Scripture. Develop a plan of Bible reading and use the tools that Gary Millar points to in this short book. Start small. I encourage us to choose one day a week to spend some extra time working through a section of verses or a chapter. Apply these tools on that study day and jot some notes down along the way. Spend the next week or so working through the passage in shorter increments of time. This slower process is good for allowing the Word to work deeply into our heart. It might look something like this: (always approach the passage in a spirit of prayer and in dependence upon the Spirit)
Saturday: 30-60 minutes in John 1:1-14 – study to get the overall vibe of the passage, identify key words, statements, events, people, etc., write down your initial thought on the meaning for those who are first reading it, identify the context (who is it written to, why is it written), and then what is God saying or what is it saying about God.
Sunday: 15 minutes – re-read the section, see if there is anything that you missed in discerning the vibe
Monday: 15 minutes – re-read and ask how the key words, thoughts, characters, etc. verify the vibe and begin to give understanding to the passage
Tuesday: 15 minutes – praying through the passage. What would you thank God for, pray for yourself from the passage, or pray for others from the passage?
Wednesday: 15 minutes – re-read the section and consider what God is saying about Himself or saying to the audience or saying to you
Thursday: 15 minutes – re-read the section and look for anything you may have missed throughout the week.
Friday: 15 minutes – re-read the section. What has God revealed in your life that you need to change (attitude or action)? What has God used to encourage you to continue (attitude or action)?
Title: Read this First: A Simple Guide to Getting the Most from the Bible
Author: Gary Millar
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