As the author of a recent Bible study series, I receive emails from girls all the time who tell me that these books have gotten them reading the Bible on a regular basis. Occasionally, they write to ask me how to stay in the Bible once they've completed the Bible studies. How do I read the Bible without a guide that can help me work through some of the archaic language? Their questions aren't always worded the same, but they usually boil down to the same point. Reading the Bible, and actually understanding it, can be tough.
If we aren't careful we can actually take passages of Scripture completely out of context and start applying them in ways they were never intended to be used. Doing this not only butchers the Word of God, but it can also wreaks havoc on our own spiritual lives when God doesn't do something we believed He was going to do--even though He never intended for us to believe He would.
So, here's an easy trick to remember when you read the Bible. Aim to get a great TAN.
T: Then. Take a close look at the passage of Scripture you are reading. Who wrote it and who was he writing to? (There should be a note at the beginning of each book of the Bible with this information). What was the original purpose of that book of the Bible? (For example, 1 & 2 Timothy were letters Paul wrote to a discouraged young pastor.) Learning about the original audience and intention of the passage you are reading will help you interpret it correctly and it will give you understanding and insights you may have overlooked otherwise.
A: Always. Now examine the passage in light of what is always true about God. If you are reading in the Old Testament about God delivering the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, you will see that God proves Himself faithful as a provider. Even though the Israelites left the wealth of Egypt and went for 40+ years wearing the same shoes as they wandered through the wilderness, the soles of those shoes didn't wear out!
N: Now. Once you've gained some insight into the historical context, and the timeless truths about who God is, then you are ready to look for ways you can personally apply this passage. When you look for personal application, being aware of the historical context will prevent you from deviating from the original meaning of the text, and knowing biblical truth about who God is will keep you from applying the passage in a way that opposes God's character or nature. The first two steps in the TAN principle will help you apply the third principle correctly. Going back to the analogy about the Israelites in Egypt, by seeing God's faithfulness to them you can be assured that God will be faithful to provide for you--even if your dad just lost his job. You might not be able to buy all of the latest and greatest gadgets like you once did (it's not a promise of wealth), but you will be able to reast assured that God won't let you go hungry.
Hopefully, that gives you a fresh perspective to your regular Bible reading. Now, go get a great TAN!