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.
Jas 1 — LONG DIVISION
"A man's anger does not fulfill God's justice. Strip away all that is filthy, every vicious excess." James 1:20-21
James' church, like ours, was divided. The worldliness of the church promoted selfishness and division. James lists various steps toward unity:
- We should rejoice even in bad circumstances because when our faith is tested this makes for endurance and maturity.
- We must ask for God's wisdom to deal with disunity.
- "Let the brother in humble circumstances take pride in his eminence and the rich man be proud of his lowliness" (1:9-10).
- "Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (1:19-20).
- "Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word" (1:21-22).
- We must control our tongues.
- We must look after orphans and widows and keep ourselves "unspotted by the world" (1:27).
If we do these things, unity will be restored.
Prayer: Jesus, I pray with You that all may be one as You and the Father are one (Jn 17:21).
Promise: "Happy the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love Him." 1:12
Jas 2 — RACISM IN THE CHURCH
"Have you not in a case like this discriminated in your hearts?" James 2:4
If a person says he has faith and yet is prejudiced, racist, or insensitive to the poor, that person's faith is without works and is as "dead as a body without breath" (2:26).
Prayer: Jesus, deliver the Church from the demon of racism.
Promise: "Did not God choose those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom He promised to those who love Him?" 2:5
Jas 3 — TONGUE-LASHING
"All of us fall short in many respects. If a person is without fault in speech he is a man in the fullest sense, because he can control his entire body." James 3:2
If, by God's grace, we can just control our tongues, we can control our entire bodies. This may even apply to the body of Christ, the Church. Divisions in the Church can be reconciled by controlling our tongues.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, use my tongue for praise, not for gossip and division.
Promise: "The harvest of justice is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace." 3:18
Jas 4 — LIFE-STYLES AND DEATH-STYLES
"Are you not aware that love of the world is enmity to God?" James 4:4
Conflicts and disputes, including those in the church, originate from our inner cravings. Our selfish, pleasure-seeking, and worldly life-style marks us out as God's enemies. Let us "begin to lament, to mourn, and to weep" for our sinful life-styles (4:9). Let us not judge others, but repent of our sins, and "be humbled in the sight of the Lord" (4:10).
Prayer: Father, give me the gift to cry for my sins and the divisions in the church.
Promise: "Therefore submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight. Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you." 4:7-8
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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