One important principle for reading the Bible:
When encountering God's law as embodied in the Ten Commandments, ask God how we have failed to be obedient. When encountering God's grace as ultimately revealed in Christ, ask God to help us believe that Christ's death and resurrection were for us too.
The first question is a hedge against self-righteousness that would destroy our relationship with God and others, driving us instead to repent and be reconciled with God.
The second is a hedge against against despair, helping us to remember that we are also part of that world for whom God the Father sent His Son and for Whom the Son Jesus died and rose. His grace incites us to fall into the eternal arms of the God Who loves us with an unquenchable passion.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." (Jesus in John 3:16-18)
The upcoming Christmas season, which begins in two days, is a great time to get to know God through the reading of His Word. But one other hint: Reading the Bible is best done in association with a group of friends who read the same passages each day, then gather once a week to reflect on the Scriptures, learn from each other's insights, pray together, share their highs and lows, especially in light of what God is teaching them through His Word, and, of course, be a part of a local church family. We were made for fellowship with God and others.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]