My dad died at 57 of a heart attack. I turned 57 this year. I suppose this could indeed be my last year on earth. Or perhaps I might have another 30 left.
It's a sobering thought. Sooner or later, we'll all depart this life. If we don't believe in an afterlife, it's just depressing. The clock is ticking and we are all running out of time. However, if we believe that there is something after this life, it gets more complicated. We have to figure out what "afterlife" means- is there a heaven? If so, what, if anything, do we have to do to get there? And finally, if there is a heaven, is there also hell?
In my book, "The Reasonable Person- Due Process of Law, Logic, and Faith," I discuss the reasoning process I went through to decide that heaven and hell are real. I also discuss the impossibility of earning one's way into heaven.
I'll go out on a limb here, but logic aside, I think that most people believe the same thing. This belief is the basis for most of the world's religions. It just feels right. If humankind did not believe in an afterlife, then it would quickly devolve into a dog-eat-dog mentality- each of us taking for ourselves without considering others. Our history has certainly had plenty of examples of this; however, these people are sociopathic anomalies and not the norm.
But that's not the purpose of this blog post.
Instead, I would like to speak to Christians about eternal judgment.
It's not something most of us think about. After all, we are forgiven, thanks to Jesus. We've received a free one-way ticket to heaven. However, "forgiven" is not the same thing as "exempt from prosecution." The bible tells us repeatedly that there everyone will be judged. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul explains it eloquently- Christians do what we do because one day, we will all be judged by Christ for our actions.
He's not going to send us to hell. But if we've acted badly during our earthly lives, I would imagine He will not be too happy about it. This is why, even though we are heaven-bound, we continue to fight the good fight, just as Paul did.
When I look at eternity and compare it to the few years I have left on this earth, the decision should be easy. I should decide to act the way that Jesus taught me to act. But I don't.
It's sort of like dealing with a small child's fears. You can explain that her fears our groundless. Unless she makes a decision to overcome the fear, she will remain controlled by it. Eventually, over time, she will come to realize that you were right.
In the grand scheme of eternity, anything that can happen to you on earth during this life, is completely unimportant. At the same time, the decisions you make- how you act; how you treat others, are all "evidence" in terms of your eternal judgment.
When you face your Maker in heavenly court, what do you want the evidence to show? That you acted selfishly, fearfully, greedily, dishonestly . . . evilly? Or, do you want the evidence to show that you acted as He would have had you act? Certainly, for many of us, like me, the evidence has substantially accumulated. This could either discourage you or inspire you.
I'm going to choose to let it inspire me. For whatever remaining years, or minutes, I have left, I'm going to live as best as I can, in the way that He intended for me to live. When He evaluates my record, He will see plenty of mistakes. But I'm sure He will also consider the extenuating circumstances- I simply didn't always know what I was doing.
But today, going forward, I do. And I want Him to look at this portion of the record and say, "Well done."
In "The Reasonable Person," I devote a fair amount of space to the concept of faith. The subject intrigues me because I think a lot of people misunderstand it.
Popular culture would have you believe that faith in something unseen is irrational. Anyone who relies on a God they can't see is essentially weak. The argument presents Christians as spiritual descendant of people who worshipped ancient gods and goddesses because they couldn't understand life any other way.
But here's the thing. I can see God. No, I haven't lost my mind. I see Him all around me. The evidence of His creation alone is overwhelming. Call me a simpleton, but I cannot imagine that all of this was a cosmic accident, the result of some primordial burp. Pick any living thing. Pick any function of any living thing. Try to replicate it. We can't. As simple as we would like to make life, it is miraculously complex- a system that by its very nature cries out "Creator."
Here's the other thing. My life is evidence of God. I know what I was like before I found Him and I know what I'm like now. People change all of the time- they learn from their mistakes and so on. But most of us tend to drift back into our old bad habits. Aradical sustained change in one's life is strong evidence of an external influence.
Here's the last thing. Trust me. I see, in big and little ways, God surrounding me. It might be a random passage I stumble across in the bible. It might be a random act of kindness by a stranger. It might be an answered prayer. When I add it all up, over the course of my life, it all points to Him. It's extremely difficult to describe this to someone who hasn't experienced it. But it's real.
The only way to find out for yourself is to take that leap of faith. If you've reached that point in your life that many of us have, you realize that it's not working. You've tried to do it on your own. You've struggled with it. You've tried to bulldoze your way through it. It's just not working.
The bible tells us that God has provided a way out for all of us. His name is Jesus. He was our teacher, but he was also our payment. His death paid for our sins. His resurrection is proof that the payment is our one-way ticket to Heaven.
Stop right now and think about your life. If you feel so inclined, tell God you are sorry. Thank Him for Jesus. Accept the payment.
And get ready for the most incredible, fulfilling life you could have ever imagined for yourself.
I'm beginning to think that jealousy, envy and bitterness are the most destructive emotions a person can have. It's so easy to fall into the trap. Life is hard. There are so many disappointments. And the older we get, the more we begin to realize that we've only got so much time left. One by one, we begin to write off the dreams of our youth.
We look back on our mistakes. That one bad turn we made twenty years ago has turned into a labyrinth of disappointment. "If only I hadn't . . . . .", we think; or "If only I had . . . . ". And then, there are those fortunate ones. They are the people who have it made. For every wrong move we made, they made three right ones.
We think, it's not fair. I deserve better. Somehow, the self-dialogue takes on a different character. It becomes envy. And the envy becomes hatred. We begin to believe the lies whispered from the darkness. It's like some evil yeast, fermenting in our hearts. It grows and grows until we are consumed with bitterness. And the pain is almost unbearable.
But here's the thing. We've all only got a few years in this life, especially when you compare it to the timeline of eternity. When we die, that's the end of the pain, at least in this life. The things that we have (or don't have), as compared with those of others is immediately irrelevant. You can't take your BMW, or your nice house with you. You can't take your prestigious career with you. You can't take your body with you. And yes, even your family stays behind (at least until they reach the end as well).
And by the way, the folks that you were so envious of face the same thing. We all go through the same gate.
So, whatever you are going through in this life is, relatively speaking, unimportant. All of your problems will be solved soon, relatively speaking. Conversely, your eternity becomes, relatively speaking, extremely important.
This raises the question of exactly how you will plan for your eternity. Forget the last will and testament, and the side-by-side cemetery plots. Even those are temporary. Instead, think about what your options are and which one you will exercise. They are all mutually exclusive. Unlike the market, you can't hedge your bets. You can only pick one. One option is to do nothing and hope for the best. Another option (which I many people choose by default) is to hope that your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, and that there is some sort of cosmic tally being kept. The third option is simply to open up a Bible and begin reading.
It doesn't matter what preconceptions you have. It doesn't matter if you have a real problem with religion. All that matters is that you simple open it and begin reading it at the beginning. The Bible purports to tell you what you need to do to make it through that eternal gate. You can decide for yourself whether it makes sense for you. A caveat: the Bible isn't an easy read, like many of the "fast food" books found today, purporting to provide spiritual insight. You may have to wrestle with it a bit. But if you do it with an open mind and heart, I think you will find what you are looking for.
And, by the way, if you find what you are looking for, it might even help with all the other stuff.
What if Heaven was like a hospital? The hospital is filled will all kinds of sick people. Some of the patients are seriously ill. These people have cancer. The hospital does all that it can to treat them. Doctors administer chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In some cases, radical surgery is necessary. Organs are removed in order to give these victims a chance at life. But nothing seems to be working. The cancer simply and relentlessly keeps coming back.
Eventually, the patients grow weary of the exhausting and debilitating treatments. They begin to give up hope. For them, life ibecomes a constant state of dread, sadness and worry.
But one day, something miraculous happens. On that day, every single patient is cured of cancer. Through testing, the doctors confirm it. Each one of the doomed people is now somehow and inexplicably cancer-free.
Imagine how these formerly terminal patients would feel. They have been given new lives. Hopelessness is replaced with an incredible sense of joy and wonder. Now think about their problems. They probably still have mortgages and car payments. People still cut them off in traffic and conversations. There lives are, in a way, exactly the same as they were before their illness. They still have problems, worry and fears.
But something has changed. Their problems just don't seem the same as they did before, in comparison with what they were facing when they were sick. They find themselves willing to forgive others more readily. In a way, they won a lottery of sorts and everything else pales in comparision. They didn't do anything to earn their healing. It was a miraculous free gift.
What if you were suddenly given a similar gift? But instead of being a gift of life, it was a gift of eternal life. What if Someone gave you a free ticket to an eternal life of happiness, comfort and peace in an almost indescribably wonderful setting?
Chances are, the things of this life would concern you less. You would probably realize that, relatively speaking, you would have only a few years left here on Earth. You would most likely begin to anticipate your afterlife. When people cut you off in traffic, or in the middle of a sentence, you wouldn't mind as much. You would probably put it all into an eternal perspective. Knowing that your eternal destiny was assured, you wouldn't sweat the small stuff, or much of anything else for that matter.
One other thing: if this happened to you, you probably wouldn't be able to contain yourself. You would feel compelled to share this almost too good to be true news with others. You'd want them to take advantage of this free gift..
What if Heaven was like a train station? All day long, passengers come and go. Conductors announce departures and people scurry to get onboard. Everyone is so caught up in the events of the moment, that they get on and off trains without even thinking about it.
As the day draws to a close, there are some passengers remaining. They aren't in any rush to catch their trains because they think that they have plenty of time. If they miss one, there will be several more later. Some people are busy with important telephone conversations. Others are napping before their departure, with the confidence of knowing that their trains won't leave for hours. Still others are grabbing a bite of dinner at the concession or a cocktail at the bar.
And suddenly, it's midnight. It happens without any warning. The remaining passengers look around and realize that they are the only ones left in the station. It seems so much larger, now that most of the people have gone. One of the napping passengers wakes with a start and looks around. The station has changed, in what seemed like an instant. Once hustling and bustling with activity, now it seems empty and foreboding.
The passengers make their way to the departure platform. Every destination on the board is now black. There aren't any more trains leaving. The passengers look around helplessly. The hadn't expected this. There are no more trains.
Ever since the very beginning, God has beckoned mankind to join Him. He did it throughout the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, He paid mankind a personal visit, in the form of a Man. He fed people. And He healed them. He had friends. And he told them that eventually, He would have to die in order to fulfill all righteousness. He would be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind. It was His gift. For the first time, mankind would have a choice. Rather than slaughtering animals in vain efforts to somehow make themselves right with God, man could simply accept the gift through faith in Him.
What will happen to you if the train leaves next month? What if it happens tonight? Do you plan to be with Him? Do you know how?
I would think the lonliest feeling imaginable would be to wake up in the train station and realize that there would be no more trains. Ever. And any chance you had of getting home is gone forever.
If you don't know how to make that trip, there are plenty of people who can tell you how. Churches are filled with them. And I'd be happy to explain it to you as well. Just send me a message through the contact form on this website.
You've probably heard it. Perhaps you shook your head and smiled to yourself. Or maybe it made you angry. I'm talking about "Christianspeak". It's the language many well-intended Christians use to describe their Christian experience. The problem with Christianspeak is that it's use can be a circular proposition. The terminology describes something that is difficult to understand unless you've experienced it.
Consider the term "saved". A non-Christian hearing the term might ask "saved from what?" It's a simple term for a complicated topic. It can mean saved from one's sins; or it can mean saved from oneself. It can mean saved from the natural consequences of my actions. But fundamentally it means one's eternal salvation. Until you've actually experienced salvation, from a Christian perspective, it's very difficult to understand what it means. And it's harder still to describe it. But I can tell you as a Christian that I'm saved, and when I think about it, it's a pretty incredible condition to be in.
I understand how use of the term can irritate non-Christians. First of all, many people don't think that they need to be saved from anything, much less themselves. And to add insult to injury, Christians tell them that there is only one way to be saved- through Jesus. But before you get mad, just understand that Christians are simply relating what the Bible tells them that Jesus said. He said that He is the only way.
You might argue that this is simply misinterpretation of Jesus' words. But I would argue that He didn't leave any room for misinterpretation. Read the gospels. I think you'll agree that Jesus claims were uncategorical. And that may be why they are hard to accept for some people. Most of us subscribe to some sort of ethical framework based in "fairness". And it just doesn't seem fair that God would create such a narrow path to eternal salvation. It seems more fair that He would create a system in which our good works would be weighed against our bad deeds. And if the good outweighs the bad, then we get a free Heavenly pass. We reap what we sow.
The problem with this framework, however, is that it rests upon a bad assumption. Reaping what you sow assumes that we begin life with a net zero balance. In other words, it assumes that from the moment of our life, our cosmic scale is in perfect balance. Our ledger of life is clean of any debits or credits. The fallacy with this thinking is simple. God gave us our lives. So, in truth, we begin life with a pretty large debit balance- God's gift of life to us.
And of course, it only goes downhill from there. We consume. We need. We use all kinds of bad ways to get those needs met. And the deficit balance only grows. At some point in our lives, we may begin to act selflessly. Selfless acts certainly reduce the deficit. But could you ever do enough good to pay God back for your very life? About the only way that I can think of would be to somehow sacrifice your own life in His service. Do you know anyone who has done that lately?
I can only think of one person. His name is Jesus. Granted, He lived and died on earth long before I got here. To conclude what I have about His life and death, I must rely on the documentary evidence, the Bible. The Old Testament describes a savior who bears an eery resemblance to Jesus (Old Testament prophecy is pretty fascinating stuff. If you want a taste, read Isaiah. Look for references that describe Jesus birth, life and death). The New Testament describes His life. I also rely on the testimony of witnesses. They tell me what they believe and the impact of it, and Him, on their lives. I rely on the evidence in my own life. I read the Bible. I follow its instruction. And it works for me.
There's one other piece of testamentary evidence upon which I rely. The book of Acts indicates that after Jesus died and ascended into Heaven, He returned. He wasn't in the same form that He assumed during His earthly existence. It was in the form of a spirit, the Holy Spirit. Jesus called it the "Comforter". Christians believe that when we become Christians (that is, we tell God we are sorry for what we have done with our lives- essentially a deficit sin balance; we accept the fact that Jesus paid for our sins- we believe in and trust in Him; and we promise to follow Him going forward- making Him the Lord or our lives), we become indwelt with the Holy Spirit. In other words, God comes to live within us.
The Holy Spirit ultimately validates all of it for me. I read the Bible and He teaches me through that reading. I pray and He "speaks" to me. This is another misused "Christianspeak" term. Non-Christians hear it and for them, it confirms everything. Christians are certifiable. They hear voices. They're crazy. But when God speaks to me, I mean it metaphorically. If you've seen the movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", you know what happens to people who are exposed directly to the power of God. I'm talking about the Nazi officer who is carrying the Ark of the Covenant and accidently peeks into its contents. He melts instantaneously.
I suppose I just offended my conservative Christian friends with the foregoing analogy. But I think the point makes sense. God is so great, and so powerful, that I imagine a direct communication from Him, unfiltered, would probably have a severe and undesireable outcome. At least in this life.
So, when Christians talk about God speaking, it's not audible. Instead, He speaks to me through the Bible (His Word) and through the circumstances of my life. He causes things to come together in such a way in my life as to continue to propel me through all of it, in such a way that I continue to become remade more and more in His likeness. I have to continue to trust in Him for it to work. And I have to continue to obey Him, at least as best as this miserable little human shell that I live in will allow.
More importantly, He speaks to me through the life of Jesus. I believe that Jesus was God's Son. Jesus is that filter through which God communicates to mankind. He shows us that God loves us and wants to take care of us. He shows us that God loves us so much, He was willing to suffer crucifixion and to die for us. So, Jesus really is the only Human who ever lived who actually did end up with a credit balance on His life. And He invested that credit balance in each of us. It's sort of like giving us an envelope containing a check for deposit in our eternal bank account. The check will pay our way into Eternity. Christians often refer to it as a "free gift".
The only question remaining is whether we will accept it. We can cash the check. Or we can leave it in the envelope.
Deposit the check. If you're not sure how, send me a message. Or I'm guessing God has placed someone in your life who can help. Look around you- they are there, just waiting for you to ask. And by the way, so is He.
And have yourself a Merry little Christmas.
To understand Christianity, you have to understand Christ. The best way to understand Christ is to read the accounts of his life, death and resurrection in the Bible.
Some people rely on other people to tell them what to believe about Christ. They learn about Him through their pastors and Bible teachers and draw conclusions based upon what they hear. I'm not knocking pastors or Bible teachers. They can certainly help you understand Christianity. But it’s a mistake to avoid the source document itself, the Bible. Relying solely on the opinions of others to come to your own conclusions about Christianity is like a jury relying on hearsay evidence to determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant.
The Bible can be an intimidating document. This is why a lot of Christians avoid it. It was written a long time ago, in an unfamiliar language. At approximately 1000 pages, it is imposing. A lot of people don't even know where to begin. The read it rarely, and when they do read it, they read only parts of it.
But what a lot of people don't understand is that the Author is more than willing to help you interpret His work. And once you begin to navigate the Bible, you will realize that the Bible is an incredibly well-organized book designed to serve a number of purposes. You can begin to read the Bible today. The Author of your faith will help you to understand it. If you understand the basic structure of the Bible, the intimidation factor will begin to dissolve. And if you will allow Him to do so, the Holy Spirit will guide you through it.
Most books are read once and then quickly forgotten. The Bible, on the other hand, is a lifetime read. You can read a scripture verse as a child and gain something meaningful out of it. As an adult, you can read the same verse and discern something completely different but equally meaningful from it. Can you think of any book that can satisfy the spiritual, physical, and intellectual needs of approximately two billion people? The Bible is spiritual “milk” for new Christians, but also spiritual nutrition for people who have been Christians for decades.
The Bible can also be read simply as narrative, cover to cover. It describes the story of God’s relationship with mankind. And it can be read as a daily devotional, with scriptural guidance on how we should live. The Bible is a book that remains absolutely constant. But in practice it seems as if the Bible was designed to be flexible, in terms of meeting the needs of a person at any point in time. And the Holy Spirit helps to get what we need out of the Bible when we need it.
Organization of the Bible
The Bible contains 66 “books”, which function a lot like chapters do in other literature. The New Testament has 27 books and the Old Testament has 39 books. The following is a grouping of these books and brief overviews, which will provide you with an overview of the basic layout of the Bible.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament describes the events that ultimately led to Jesus’ birth.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: These books describe the creation of the world and mankind, the temptation and original sin in the Garden of Eden, God’s covenant with mankind, the development of the nation of Israel and its freedom from Egyptian slavery, the Ten Commandments and other rules of cleanliness and obedience, and God’s deliverance of the Israelites into the “Promised Land”.
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, Second Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job: These books describe the lives and acts of the early nation of Israel and the ongoing principles of mankind’s cyclical rebellion, repentance and obedience to God, and God’s continuing forgiveness.
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon: These books contain principles and rules for man’s relationship with God and with each other.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: These books are the stories of God’s prophets through the years, as well as their messages of the coming of the Messiah, who Christians believe is Jesus of Nazareth.
The New Testament
The New Testament describes Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the growth of the early Christian church.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John: These Gospels describe life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels tell the “good news” of Jesus and provide the basis for the Christian faith.
Acts: This book describes the acts of the early Christian apostles, including Paul, who wrote much of the remainder of the New Testament.
Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews: This almost staggering volume of works was written by one man, the apostle Paul. Originally a persecutor of the early Christian church, he converted following a dramatic encounter with Jesus following his ascension into Heaven. These epistles are letters to the early Christian churches and describe some of the foundational principles followed by believers today.
James 1, James 2, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude: These are the epistles written by original apostles of Christ, describing Christian principles and instruction.
Revelation: This book was written by the apostle John, this work is the final chapter of the Bible and describes in apocalyptic terms, the second coming of Jesus and the end times for Earth.
A Suggested Approach for Reading the Bible
To the uninitiated, the Bible can be pretty intimidating. But it doesn't have to be. All you need is a plan of attack. And that’s the purpose of the following section- to give you a methodology to use as part of your regular Bible study.
Read it Cover to Cover
Dedicate at least thirty minutes a day to Bible study, the length of a typcial television sitcom. Read the Bible as you would read any book. Consider reading it cover to cover. Begin with Genesis and read about the beginning of mankind. Read about the first sin and its consequences. You’ll find an incredible story. It’s incredible because it resonates so perfectly with what we know about how we act. The basic problem with mankind is the same today as it was then. God wants only the best for man, but man wants to do it his own way. This is important because the Old Testament describes man moving further and further away from God. And it becomes apparent that only something extraordinary can fix this problem.
Some people set a goal of reading the Bible through in one year, which works out to be between three and four chapters per day. Reading the Bible cover to cover will help you to understand its broad concepts and ideas. You will start in the Garden of Eden and trace the development of the relationship between man and God. You will begin to discern “themes” throughout the Old Testament, which ultimately center on mankind’s disobedience and redemption. As you read the New Testament, you will learn about Jesus. He was the fulfillment of God’s plan, once and for all, for mankind through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
When I first read the Bible this way, I was amazed. I had previously thought it was a disjointed collection of materials. Instead, I realized it was a beautifully seamless and consistent book. In Jesus, God solved the sin problem once and for all. Man had proven time and time again that, despite God’s love, he would rebel. God had given mankind the power to choose, and mankind repeatedly made choices which were against God- we call it sin. In response, God could have done any of a number of things. He could have destroyed mankind. Or, He could have imposed His will. But there was a third way- through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
As you read through the Bible, consider also reading Psalm, a Proverb and a snippent from the writings of Paul (most of the epistles in the New Testament). This will help you to also gain daily nourishment, something critical to
After you have read the Bible cover to cover, then read it strategically. This means choosing sections to read based upon your spiritual needs at that time and based upon particular issues you may be faced with. The more familiar you become with the Bible, then the more often scripture will come to mind as you approach your life.
Reading the Bible sequentially will allow you to understand its big picture. But reading it strategically will also enable you to extract gems of wisdom. The Bible was designed to be a lifetime read. It is probably the only book ever written, which can be read in parts just as beneficially as reading the whole. Some people have favorite scripture that they refer to over and over again, in times of difficulty. I’ve found that no matter what I’m going through, my daily Bible study finds me in a particular passage that helps. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is always there in the background, guiding me. If we listen carefully to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us to scripture that fulfills our needs at any given time. Further, the Bible can be read in big or small pieces, or from cover to cover, depending upon the needs of the reader.
But the important thing is to incorporate Bible study into your daily routine. Set aside time each day to read it.
You won't be disappointed.
I'd like to make a wager with you. You'll need one book to participate- the Bible. Here are the conditions of the bet: tonight or tomorrow morning (or right now, for that matter) collect your Bible and find a quiet place. If you don't have a Bible, you can visit http://www.biblegateway.com/
and wherever your computer is can be your quiet place.
Once you're settled, sit quietly for a minute. Say a simple prayer. Ask God to show you something, reveal something to you, if you will. If you don't believe in God, of course, this will be a problem. I've written previously why I think it takes much more faith to be an athiest than it does to believe in God. The fact of our very existence, leads me to believe that their has to be a Creator behind all of it. Believing that we evolved into our current state (especially when we know that matter tends to move from order to disorder) from a cosmic blob is hard for me to believe. I can't accept that we are a cosmic accident. It's just easier to start with the premise that Someone was behind all of it. In any event, if you don't believe in God, humor me for a minute. Say the prayer.
Now, open your Bible (or web brower to http://www.biblegateway.com/
). It doesn't matter where. You can randomly pick a page. Now, read that page. Take your time and read it carefully. If you encounter something unfamiliar, read it again. Read the page like you would read any unfamiliar text. Read it for content. Read it for context. If you need definitions for terms, look them up in a dictionary or an online source such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
. The point is to read it actively and not passively. Ask yourself, "What does this mean?"
Now, here's the wager. I'm betting that if you do this, God will speak to you. Something will resonate for you. It might be a sentence. It might be a story. It might be a person. Or it might be something else. But something that you read will strike a chord. It might be instruction. Or it could be that you've been struggling with something and, lo and behold, an answer jumps out at you from the pages. You might realize that you need to change something in yor life. Or perhaps you'll read something that will encourage you to treat someone differently.
That's how God speaks to us. Of course, there are many other ways He can do it. He can impress you during prayer. Or He may speak to you through the circumstances of your life. But He can speak to you regularly and predictably through the Bible. That's why Christian call it His Word (or Words). God may speak to you through a snippet of scripture. Or you may read a story and it will absolutely resonate for you. But if you read the Bible, God will speak to you.
I'm betting on it.