Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
1 Thes 1 — BEAUTIFUL BABY CHRISTIANS
"Our preaching of the gospel proved not a mere matter of words for you but one of power; it was carried on in the Holy Spirit and out of complete conviction." 1 Thessalonians 1:5
The Thessalonians were baby-Christians when Paul wrote to them. Paul was praying for them constantly, and they became models "for all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia" (1:7). He wrote: "Throughout every region your faith in God is celebrated" (1:8). The people of those parts were reporting how the Thessalonians had turned from idols to serve "the living and true God" (1:9). What are other Christians saying about you and your church?
Prayer: Father, may my life be a model and an inspiration to other Christians.
Promise: We "await from heaven the Son He raised from the dead Jesus, Who delivers us from the wrath to come." 1:10
1 Thes 2 — THE HONEYMOON'S OVER
"Fresh from the humiliation we had suffered at Philippi about which you know we drew courage from our God to preach His good tidings to you in the face of great opposition." 1 Thessalonians 2:2
Baby-Christians are almost always surprised and upset at the sufferings and persecutions which are part of the Christian life. Paul tried to strengthen the Thessalonians by reminding them of their original commitment to the Lord, how they had received his message "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe" (2:13).
Prayer: Father, may I consider it a privilege not only to believe in but to suffer for the gospel (Phil 1:29).
Promise: "So well disposed were we to you, in fact, that we wanted to share with you not only God's tidings but our very lives, so dear had you become to us." 2:8
1 Thes 3 — STANDING OVATION
"You know well enough that such trials are our common lot. When we were still with you, we used to warn you that we would undergo trial; now it has happened, and you know what we meant." 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4
Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage them lest any of them be shaken by their trials. Timothy returned with the good news that the Thessalonians were standing firm in their faith.
Prayer: "May the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May He strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones" (3:12-13).
Promise: "What thanks can we give to God for all the joy we feel in His presence because of you, as we ask Him fervently night and day that we may see you face to face and remedy any shortcomings in your faith?" 3:9-10
1 Thes 4 — CONFUSION, SEX, AND DEPRESSION
"It is God's will that you grow in holiness: that you abstain from immorality." 1 Thessalonians 4:3
Baby-Christians are easily confused. They often have difficulty applying their faith in Jesus to their sexuality. The Thessalonians had made progress in this, but they needed "to make still greater progress" (4:1,10) in being pure as Jesus is pure (1 Jn 3:3). In addition to sexual temptations, Satan attacked this community through confusion about Jesus' second coming. Some were overwhelmed with grief because they thought the dead would not rise to meet Christ on the last day. Paul assured them: "The Lord Himself will come down from heaven at the word of command, at the sound of the archangel's voice and God's trumpet; and those who have died in Christ will rise first" (4:16).
Prayer: Father, may I guard my senses so as not to fall into sexual sin.
Promise: "Then we, the living, the survivors, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thenceforth we shall be with the Lord unceasingly. Console one another with this message." 4:17-18
1 Thes 5 — READY AND WAITING
"All of you are children of light and of the day. We belong neither to darkness nor to night; therefore let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober!" 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6
Paul often concludes his letters with practical applications and exhortations for living the Christian life. Paul calls us to be always ready for Jesus' second coming. We should respect our leaders, "remain at peace with one another" (5:13), "admonish the unruly; cheer the faint-hearted; support the weak; be patient toward all" (5:14). We should do three things always: rejoice, pray, and thank God (5:16-17). Finally, we must "not stifle the Spirit," "not despise prophecies," "test everything, retain what is good," and "avoid any semblance of evil" (5:19-22).
Prayer: "May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May He preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Who calls us is trustworthy, therefore He will do it" (5:23-24).
Promise: "God has not destined us for wrath but for acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." 5:9
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 25, 1997
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 28, 1997
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