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.
Lk 1 — MARY, MODEL OF DISCIPLESHIP
"I too have carefully traced the whole sequence of events from the beginning, and have decided to set it in writing for you, Theophilus, so that Your Excellency may see how reliable the instruction was that you received." 1:3-4
In his gospel, Luke teaches us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We want to be like Mary and not like Zechariah.
- Overshadowed by Spirit
- Stifling the Spirit
The good news is that after nine months Zechariah obeyed the Lord and became a true disciple filled with the Spirit of power, faith, and praise.
Prayer: "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say" (1:38).
Promise: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit." 1:41
Lk 2 — "A SIGN OF CONTRADICTION" (Lk 2:34)
"She gave birth to her First-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged." 2:7
There was no room for Jesus "where travelers lodged," but the angels declared that His birth ushered in the long-awaited Messianic age of peace. Simeon called Jesus "a revealing Light to the Gentiles, the Glory of Your people Israel" (2:32). The 84-year-old Anna "gave thanks to God and talked about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem" (2:38).
From the very beginning, Jesus was accepted and rejected, glorified and denied. This continued throughout His life. And to the present day, Jesus remains a sign of contradiction (see 2:34). Will you lose Him forever or find Him on the third day? (2:46)
Prayer: Jesus, I accept You as Lord, Savior, and God. My life is Yours.
Promise: "Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests." 2:14
Lk 3 — HUMANITY'S ONLY HOPE
"A herald's voice in the desert, crying, 'Make ready the way of the Lord.' " 3:4
Luke traces Jesus' genealogy back to Adam the first human, to show that Jesus is the Hope of the human race. Jesus is the greatest thing that has or will ever happen to humanity. While "the Holy Spirit descended on Him in visible form like a dove" (3:22), God the Father said: "You are My beloved Son. On You My favor rests" (3:22). John the Baptizer preached a baptism of repentance to prepare for Jesus' coming. The Father, the Spirit, and the prophets, proclaim Jesus as the Savior of the world. Will you also join this eternal symphony, bend your knee, and proclaim that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD? (Phil 2:11)
Prayer: Jesus, You are the Meaning of life. I adore You.
Promise: "He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire." 3:16
Lk 4 — TWO KINGDOMS
"They were spellbound by His teaching, for His words had authority." 4:32
Jesus overcame the temptations of the devil and delivered a man from the evil one. This chapter ends with demons departing "from many, crying out as they did so, 'You are the Son of God!' " (4:41) Jesus' mission is to announce the good news of God's kingdom, rescue people from the power of darkness (Col 1:13), and bring them into God's kingdom.
Jesus said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; therefore, He has anointed Me. He has sent Me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners" (4:18). "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (4:21).
Prayer: Father, I repent of any compromise with Satan and his kingdom.
Promise: "He stood over her and addressed Himself to the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them." 4:39
Lk 5 — CALLINGS AND CURINGS
Jesus said: "I have not come to invite the righteous to a change of heart, but sinners." 5:32 (our transl.)
Jesus called sinful men to follow Him. He called spiritual lepers and paralytics. He had to be both Master and Doctor to His disciples. They needed forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and restoration. They needed everything. You, too, qualify to be a disciple, for you are in desperate need of everything from Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for accepting me as I am, but not keeping me as I am.
Promise: "At the sight of this, Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus saying, 'Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man.' For indeed, amazement at the catch they had made seized him and all his shipmates." 5:8-9
Lk 6 — BE-ATTITUDES
"Those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured; indeed, the whole crowd was trying to touch Him because power went out from Him which cured all. Then, raising His eyes to His disciples, He said: 'Blest are...' " 6:18-20
Jesus announced that the way to happiness was material poverty, spiritual hunger, sorrow for sin, and persecution. He said we should love enemies, turn the other cheek, and "lend without expecting repayment" (6:35). If we can give like this, it shall be given to us "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over" (6:38). As shocking as these statements are, Jesus insisted that we live by them, or else our lives will collapse.
Prayer: Jesus, may I be among the first to live the Beatitudes.
Promise: "The measure you measure with will be measured back to you." 6:38
Lk 7 — OPEN FOR BUSINESS?
" 'Two men owed money to a certain money-lender; one owed a total of five hundred coins, the other fifty. Since neither was able to repay, he wrote off both debts. Which of them was more grateful to him?' Simon answered: 'He, I presume, to whom he remitted the larger sum.' Jesus said to him, 'You are right.' " 7:41-43
The religious leaders defeated "God's plan in their regard" (7:30), while the Roman centurion, a well-known sinner, and a demon-possessed woman, (8:2) experienced God's power. If we are willing to repent and open our hearts to Jesus, we will see that He is bigger than all our problems. "The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them" (7:22). However, if we are not open to the Lord, we tie His hands and prevent Him from healing, forgiving, and saving us, despite His almighty power and perfect love. Let God have His way in your life.
Prayer: Jesus, You died for love of me, but You won't force me to accept Your love. I choose to receive Your love and salvation.
Promise: "I assure you, there is no man born of woman greater than John. Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he." 7:28
Lk 8 — A WORD WITH YOU
Jesus "told them in reply, 'My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.'" 8:21
A disciple is someone who accompanies, receives, proclaims, and obeys God's word. When we are under the authority of God's word, we're in authority over every demon, disease, and even death itself. God's word is either our weapon of victory or our judge (Jn 12:48), depending on whether we choose to hold on to it or oppose it.
Prayer: Father, may I take Your word "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within" me (1 Thes 2:13).
Promise: "Filled with fear and admiration, they said to one another, 'What sort of man can this be Who commands even the winds and the sea and they obey Him?' " 8:25
Lk 10 — THE PRIVILEGE AND COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
"After this, the Lord appointed a further seventy-two and sent them in pairs before Him to every town and place He intended to visit." 10:1
After sending out the twelve apostles, Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples. He didn't hide anything but forthrightly expressed the good news and the bad news concerning discipleship. He bluntly stated that there are few workers for a great harvest, the disciples will be "lambs in the midst of wolves" (10:3), and they will not be welcomed in some towns. However, the disciples will have power over the devil and will have their "names inscribed in heaven" (10:20). They will know God in the ways that the learned, the clever, even the prophets and kings, do not.
Prayer: Jesus, I decide to love You with all my heart and my neighbor as myself.
Promise: "Everything has been given over to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him." 10:22-23
Lk 11 — "TEACH US TO PRAY" (Lk 11:1)
"If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him." 11:13
The heart of prayer is sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to His words (10:39). Prayer is not a guessing game, as if we didn't know whether God loved us. Prayer is a "blessed assurance" that our heavenly Father will provide for His children all that we truly need, even giving us the Holy Spirit. Submission is the essence of prayer. Rebellion and selfishness are contrary to prayer. When we are "at His feet," we are in right relationship with God.
Prayer: Lord, may I not try to persuade or inform You in prayer. You know all my needs (Mt 6:8). Rather may I let You persuade, inform, and change me.
Promise: "Blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it." 11:28
Lk 12 — EVANGELIZATION ALERT!
"I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God. But the man who has disowned Me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of the angels of God." 12:8-9
When Jesus returns, He should find us busy telling the world about Him. Jesus wants "to light a fire on the earth" (12:49). We have an urgent message to proclaim. We must not be stopped by fear of persecution, even from our family. We must not be drained of energy through pleasure-seeking and worldly concerns. Wherever our treasure lies, there our hearts will be. Do you have Jesus' heart for world evangelism? If not, what are your treasures? "Seek out instead His kingship over you, and the rest will follow in turn" (12:31).
Prayer: Jesus, may my life be consumed with spreading Your gospel.
Promise: "When much has been given a man, much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted." 12:48
Lk 13 — EVANGELIZE OR ELSE
"Someone asked Him, 'Lord, are they few in number who are to be saved?' He replied: 'Try to come in through the narrow door. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and be unable.' " 13:23-24
Many will not go to heaven. If we are not concerned about this, we may not be going to heaven either. We must repent and bear fruit for God's kingdom by releasing those bound by Satan. At times our evangelistic work is discouraging. The results of our efforts are so small and seem insignificant. We are even threatened, persecuted, and rejected. But, like Jesus, we must go on, no matter what, even to Calvary.
Prayer: Jesus, if I don't evangelize, am I evangelized? Give me the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.
Promise: "How often have I wanted to gather your children together as a mother bird collects her young under her wings, and you refused Me!" 13:34
Lk 14 — ONLY ALL
"Happy is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God." 14:15
Jesus calls us to go out into the highways and byways to invite "beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind" (14:13) to meet Jesus. We must not make excuses but humble ourselves, take up His cross, and even expose ourselves to persecution all for the spread of the gospel. To give anything less than everything is not enough. Our life in Christ will be a half-built house and a lost war, unless we renounce everything to follow Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, You gave Your life for me. I give my life for You.
Promise: "You should be pleased that they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just." 14:14
Lk 15 — DIS-GRACED AND GRACED
"The father said to his servants: 'Quick! bring out the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Take the fatted calf and kill it. Let us eat and celebrate because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found.' Then the celebration began." 15:22-24
Luke's community endured suffering and persecution. Some were courageous, risking and giving their lives for the gospel. But others gave in to the pressure and denied Christ. Later those who denied the Lord repented and wanted to return to the Christian community. Some refused to take them back; others felt they should be forgiven. Jesus said that there is "more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent" (15:7). He told us not to be like the older brother of the prodigal son but to rejoice and celebrate because our brothers and sisters who were dead in sin have come back to life.
Prayer: Lord, I decide now to forgive everyone for everything.
Promise: "You are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost, and is found." 15:31-32
Lk 16 — TICKET TO HELL
"If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead." 16:31
We should use money as a tool to serve God. "What I say to you is this: Make friends for yourselves through your use of this world's goods, so that when they fail you, a lasting reception will be yours" (16:9). If we use money according to God's will, we will be entrusted with greater things. Money is to serve us as we serve God. But if instead we serve money, we lose our relationship with God and become blind to the Lord's presence, especially in the poor. Money can't buy us a ticket to heaven, but it can buy us a ticket to hell.
Prayer: Lord, may I be faithful in tithing, then in almsgiving, and finally in "all-giving."
Promise: "You justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God reads your hearts. What man thinks important, God holds in contempt." 16:15
Lk 17 — SERVICE WITH A SMILE
"When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say, 'We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.' " 17:10
Despite the sufferings of the Christian life, we are greatly privileged to be chosen as Jesus' servants. We should thank the Lord constantly that the kingdom of God is already in our midst. One day with Jesus is better than a thousand elsewhere (Ps 84:11). "A time will come when you will long to see one day of the Son of Man but will not see it" (17:22). Let's rejoice in serving the Lord now as we anticipate His second and final coming.
Prayer: Lord, "the greatest thing in all my life is serving You."
Promise: "As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate and drank, they took husbands and wives, right up to the day Noah entered the ark and when the flood came, it destroyed them all." 17:26-27
Lk 18 — RARE FAITH
"But when the Son of Man comes, will He find any faith on earth?" 18:8
We talk about faith in Jesus as if almost everyone had it. Jesus talked about it as if it were very rare. He does not ask how much faith He will find when He returns. His question is: "Will there be any faith at all on the whole earth?" The Pharisee and the rich man don't have faith, although they think they do. The tax collector, the little children, and the blind man are more likely to have faith. These are sobering revelations. Don't lose heart, but pray always.
Prayer: Father, "all depends on faith" (Rm 4:16); I ask for ever-increasing faith.
Promise: "Things that are impossible for men are possible for God." 18:27
Lk 20 — SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION
"Teacher, we know that Your words and Your doctrine are completely forthright, that You are no respecter of persons but teach the way of God in truth." 20:21
Jesus revealed to the religious leaders that they were unrepentant, compromised with the world, out of touch with reality, and ignorant of God's plan. He bluntly said that "the heavier sentence will be theirs" (20:47). After Jesus cleansed the Temple, the religious leaders were looking for a way to destroy Him (19:47). They tragically fulfilled the prophecy: "The Stone Which the builders rejected has become the Keystone of the structure" (20:17; Ps 118:22).
Prayer: Father, send the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sins while there's still time.
Promise: "The children of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of resurrection from the dead do not. They become like angels and are no longer liable to death." 20:34-36
Lk 21 — SHAKE DOWN
"The heavens and the earth will pass away, but My words will not pass." 21:33
Just before the world ends, we will be faced with exceptional demonic deceptions. Wars and natural disasters will put an unprecedented pressure on the human race. Persecution will rage as never before. "Men will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth. The powers in the heavens will be shaken. After that, men will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory" (21:26-27). We must prepare to stand erect and hold our heads high throughout this tragedy of tragedies. "Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares" (21:34).
Prayer: Father, when everything is shaken, may I have already put everything in Your hands.
Promise: "By patient endurance you will save your lives." 21:19
Lk 22 — UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
"Then, taking bread and giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying: 'This is My body to be given for you. Do this as a remembrance of Me.' " 22:19
In the midst of Judas' betrayal, Jesus gave us His body and blood in Holy Communion. In the midst of Peter's denials, Jesus suffered out of love for Peter. In the midst of our sinfulness, Jesus continues to love us unconditionally. "It is rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just man, though it is barely possible that for a good man someone may have the courage to die. It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us; that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rm 5:7-8).
Prayer: Jesus, I pledge my life for You as a perpetual offering of thanksgiving.
Promise: "This much only will I say: 'From now on, the Son of Man will have His seat at the right hand of the Power of God.' " 22:69
Lk 23 — YOU DIED FOR ME
"Jesus uttered a loud cry and said, 'Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.' " 23:46
"Jesus, Judas betrayed You. Peter denied You three times. All the apostles abandoned You. Herod mocked You. The crowd and Pilate let themselves be manipulated into crucifying You. And I also shared in Your crucifixion through my sins. Forgive us; we don't know what we're doing." "And Jesus replied, 'I assure you, this day you will be with Me in paradise.' " (23:43)
Prayer: Jesus ...
Promise: "When the crowd which had assembled for this spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breast." 23:48
Lk 24 — ALIVE AND WELL FOREVER
"The Lord has been raised! It is true!" 24:34
Alleluia! Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead! We meet the risen Christ not by seeing His glorified, physical body but by hearing His word. After our hearts burn inside through the power of His word, we recognize the risen Christ through the breaking of the bread. Then the risen Lord clothes us with the Spirit's power, and we become witnesses of the risen Jesus to all nations.
Prayer: Jesus, by the way I act, may people conclude that You're risen from the dead.
Promise: "Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; He has been raised up."24:5-6
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, October 10, 1995
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 16, 1995
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