"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.
"If we are afflicted it is for your encouragement and salvation, and when we are consoled it is for your consolation, so that you may endure." 2 Corinthians 1:6
Once again, the Corinthians have Paul beside himself. He writes more to them than to anyone else. They drive him to write his most personal letter. In Asia, Paul was crushed beyond his "strength, even to the point of despairing of life" (1:8). The Corinthians only made matters worse by accusing Paul of selfishly changing his mind about a proposed visit. When you feel terrible, there's always someone willing to help you feel worse.
Prayer: Jesus, may I heal wounds instead of opening them wider.
Promise: "God is the One Who firmly establishes us along with you in Christ; it is He Who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first Payment, the Spirit, in our hearts." 1:21-22
"I therefore beg you to reaffirm your love for him." 2 Corinthians 2:8
Paul wrote to the Corinthians "in great sorrow and anguish, with copious tears" (2:4). In times of stress, the best thing to do is to focus on forgiveness. Paul counseled: "If you forgive a man anything, so do I. Any forgiving I have done has been for your sakes and, before Christ, to prevent Satan whose guile we know too well from outwitting us" (2:10-11).
Prayer: Father, by Your grace I immediately decide to completely forgive anyone who's ever hurt me.
Promise: "Thanks be to God, Who unfailingly leads us on in Christ's triumphal train, and employs us to diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge everywhere! We are an aroma of Christ for God's sake, both among those who are being saved and those on the way to destruction; to the latter an odor dealing death, to the former a breath bringing life." 2:14-16
"Our hope being such, we act with full confidence." 2 Corinthians 3:12
Despite Paul's anxieties, conflicts, and feelings of inadequacy, he had "great confidence in God...through Christ" (3:4). He was hopeful because of the surpassing glory of the new covenant in Christ. Christ had lifted the veil over the old covenant and had given us the Spirit of freedom. Therefore, Paul proclaimed: "We continue to be confident" (5:6). "I repeat, we are full of confidence" (5:8).
Prayer: Father, may Your Son's death and resurrection make me happy to be alive and rejoicing in the future.
Promise: "All of us, gazing on the Lord's glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord Who is the Spirit." 3:18
"It is not ourselves we preach but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." 2 Corinthians 4:5
Despite negative criticism, Paul refused to give in to discouragement. He also refused to compromise his preaching of the gospel by resorting to trickery or falsifying God's word. Although it was extremely frustrating to work with people "blinded by the god of the present age" (4:4), Paul proclaimed: "We are afflicted in every way possible, but we are not crushed; full of doubts, we never despair. We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed. Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed" (4:8-10). "We do not lose heart, because our inner being is renewed each day even though our body is being destroyed at the same time. The present burden of our trial is light enough, and earns for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (4:16-17).
Prayer: Father, may I not preach my own concerns "but Christ Jesus as Lord" (4:5).
Promise: "Indeed, everything is ordered to your benefit, so that the grace bestowed in abundance may bring greater glory to God because they who give thanks are many." 4:15
"The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction that since One died for all, all died. He died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him Who for their sakes died and was raised up." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
When we reach the conviction that Jesus died for each one of us personally, we are shocked and decide to live no longer for ourselves but for Him. We see life, death, and people very differently. "We walk by faith, not by sight" (5:7). We realize that reconciling people with God is the most important thing we can do. "This makes us ambassadors for Christ, God as it were appealing through us. We implore you, in Christ's name: be reconciled to God! For our sakes God made Him Who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in Him we might become the very holiness of God" (5:20-21).
Prayer: Father, may I "no longer look on anyone in terms of mere human judgment" (5:16).
Promise: "This means that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." 5:17
"Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!" 2 Corinthians 6:2
There is so much at stake in our service to Christ. It is a matter of eternal salvation or damnation for ourselves and those to whom we minister. Therefore, "in all that we do we strive to present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials, difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots; as men familiar with hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings; conducting ourselves with innocence, knowledge, and patience, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love as men with the message of truth and the power of God; wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left, whether honored or dishonored, spoken of well or ill" (6:4-8). We avoid yoking ourselves "in a mismatch with unbelievers" (6:14). We try to "purify ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and in the fear of God strive to fulfill our consecration perfectly" (7:1).
Prayer: Jesus, may I put in a good day's work for Your kingdom every day until I die.
Promise: "Tell me what agreement there is between the temple of God and idols. You are the temple of the living God." 6:16
"God, Who gives heart to those who are low in spirit, gave me strength." 2 Corinthians 7:6
Paul described his condition: "I was restless and exhausted. I was under all kinds of stress quarrels with others and fears within myself" (7:5). At this point, Titus arrived with the good news of the Corinthians' repentance. This filled Paul with consolation. Despite his many afflictions, his joy knew no bounds. "I tell you, there will be the same kind of joy before the angels of God over one repentant sinner" (Lk 15:10).
Prayer: Father, may I rejoice over those repenting as did the father of the prodigal son (Lk 15:20-32).
Promise: "Indeed, sorrow for God's sake produces a repentance without regrets, leading to salvation, whereas worldly sorrow brings death." 7:10
"Just as you are rich in every respect, in faith and discourse, in knowledge, in total concern, and in the love we bear you, so may you abound in this charity." 2 Corinthians 8:7
Although the Corinthians gave Paul so many problems, he dared to bring up the subject of money. Paul asked the Corinthians to contribute generously to a collection for the starving Christians in Jerusalem. Possibly, he realized that the love of money was the root of all their problems (1 Tm 6:10).
Prayer: Father, may I tithe and give alms according to Your standards.
Promise: "You are well acquainted with the favor shown you by our Lord Jesus Christ: how for your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty." 8:9
"Let me say this much: He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully." 2 Corinthians 9:6
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give bountifully and cheerfully. The results of this bountiful giving were:
Prayer: Father, may I dramatically simplify my life-style and significantly increase my giving to Your kingdom.
Promise: "He Who supplies seed for the sower and bread for the eater will provide in abundance; He will multiply the seed you sow and increase your generous yield." 9:10
"It is not the man who recommends himself who is approved but the man whom the Lord recommends." 2 Corinthians 10:18
After a two-chapter interlude on money, Paul returns to his problems with the Corinthians. They criticized him for being unimpressive in person but bold in his absence. "His letters, they say, are severe and forceful, but when he is here in person he is unimpressive and his word makes no great impact" (10:10). Paul threatened to act boldly in their presence by waging war with spiritual weapons against Satan's strongholds. He said: "What we are by word, in the letters during our absence...we mean to be in action when we are present" (10:11).
Prayer: Father, may I love even those who criticize me and compare me unfavorably with others.
Promise: "The weapons of our warfare are not merely human. They possess God's power for the destruction of strongholds. We demolish sophistries and every proud pretension that raises itself against the knowledge of God; we likewise bring every thought into captivity to make it obedient to Christ." 10:4-5
"I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God Himself, since I have given you in marriage to one Husband, presenting you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2
Paul was afraid that the Corinthians would fall away from their sincere and complete devotion to Christ. They were willing to listen to false apostles who exploited them, imposed on them, and put on airs. Paul maintained he was a true apostle, pointing to his sufferings as proof. Anyone can brag "about their human distinctions" (11:18), but only true apostles endure great sufferings for the gospel.
Prayer: Father, raise up pastors who are not articulate, sophisticated, or impressive but who are so committed to You that they will suffer for Your kingdom.
Promise: "If I must boast, I will make a point of my weaknesses." 11:30
"I fear that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may have to mourn over the many who sinned earlier and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and sensuality they practiced." 2 Corinthians 12:21
Here Paul becomes a little sarcastic. He says he is such a super-apostle with extraordinary revelations that the Lord had to give him a thorn in the flesh to keep him from getting proud. Paul jokes: "It's hard to be humble when you're as great as I am." Then he boasts of his weaknesses. Finally, Paul sobers up: "What a fool I have become! You have driven me to it. You are the ones who should have been commending me. Even though I am nothing, I am in no way inferior to the 'super-apostles' " (12:11).
Prayer: Father, may Your power reach perfection as I become more aware of my weakness.
Promise: "My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection." 12:9
"Test yourselves to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you." 2 Corinthians 13:5
This is the last round of the fight. Paul told the Corinthians to realize that Jesus was in them and to repent of their sins. He said: "I am writing in this way while away from you, so that when I am with you, I may not have to exercise with severity the authority the Lord has given me authority to build up rather than to destroy. And now, brothers, I must say good-bye" (13:10-11).
Prayer: "Our prayer is that you may be built up to completion" (13:9).
Promise: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!" 13:13
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
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
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com