I was recently presented this question, "Do you use a daily devotional and if not how do you go about reading your Bible?" She then asked me if I had any advice about that. I told her that in fact I do because the same question played over and over in my mind as well for along time. As I began to ask God about this, He showed me few things that I was doing wrong!
Devotional books and study guides are just fine, however, when I first began to read them, I used them in the wrong way. Instead of using them as tools to help me better understand the Bible, I let it replace my Bible. Since most devotional books and Bible studies have the Scripture written at the top of the page or out in the margin, out of laziness, I would not open my Bible to read the verse straight from the source. That was not wise.
The Word of God says that all Scripture is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) meaning that although it was written by men, we can trust that God, in His sovereignty, inspired these men to write down the words that He had for us. And since God is in control of all things, we can rest assured that what is in our Bible is there because He wanted it there and He allowed for it to be there. Therefore, the Word of God should be the truth by which everything else is compared. While God can still inspire people today to write and speak about the truth of His Word, He also tells us in Matthew 24:11 that "many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." I believe this is one reason the perfect Word of God tells us to test everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) While devotional books (as well as Bible Study books and blogs like this one) can be encouraging and useful to help explain the Word of God, we should only trust the Word of God for complete truth. Therefore, we should ALWAYS compare everything next to the Word of God to make sure it lines up with what His Word says. I have made it a habit to go into every book that I read or every sermon that I hear with skepticism, especially if it is the first time I have read or heard this particular author or speaker. For example, I have listened to my pastor preach the Word of God for a long time now. But, the first few times I heard him, I listened skeptically, making sure that He spoke and taught the truths of God’s Word. And he did. Because of his consistency in teaching God's truths, I have grown to trust his teachings. However, I still open my Bible to read for myself the Scripture he is speaking on that day. We should not rely on our teachers to read the verses for us. If he or she accidentally says aloud “does” when the verse actually reads “doesn't” that would completely change what that verse is saying.
When we read the Word of God everyday, we learn more and more about the truths of God. We are then better able to decipher God’s truth from Satan’s lies. I heard once that the people who are trained to identify counterfeit money do not study the different ways that money can be counterfeited. They study the real money so that when the fake ones come along they can recognize it. In the same way, we should study the real truth in God’s Word so that when the “fake thing” comes along, we will recognize it.
Psalms 119:18 says, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Don't take my word for it, go look it up!) :) This is another very important part of Bible study: asking God to open our eyes. God showed me that I should always ask Him to open my eyes before I read His Word so that I can understand it. With out Him doing this for us we can not understand the "wonderful things" He has for us. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) His thoughts and ways are on a level so far beyond what we could ever understand by ourselves. We need Him to help us understand His Word.
God, please open my eyes and show me the wonderful things you have for me in your law. Show me how to put these things into practice so that I can honor you with my life. In Jesus name! Amen