Welcome to the first article of the 'Genesis to Revelations' teaching series of the Bible.  Anytime we set out to accomplish any feat we have to prepare.  Even a race begins with , "On your mark, get set, and go," so this article the "on your mark" portion of this series.  In order for us to study together and for you to follow easily and learn effectively it helps to take a primer on how to approach scripture.  These rules of communication will help you to glean as much as possible at this point in your life from scripture.  2Timothy 2:15 says, "be diligent to present yourself approved

to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  Paul wrote this to Timothy as he trained him to carry forth the gospel.  If you have set your mind to follow this teaching series you are also being trained to carry forth the gospel and God bless you you richly for the heart to recognize already a need for this.  Before we can make a difference in this world as an ambassador for the Kingdom of God we must allow the Kingdom to reside in our hearts and minds richly so that it can be poured out truthfully and readily in every opportunity the Lord will provide us.  This is why Christ walked with and taught the disciples for over three years before He was able to finally leave them and send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, in His place.  Christ built the foundation for the ministry in person and when the time was right He left so that the Holy Spirit could come and lead those disciples to do as He had done, make disciples who will make disciples and so forth.

Whether you are cognitive of it or not, you follow rules of communication every time someone speaks to you everyday.  There is not special set of rules for understanding God's word that are any different than those you use everyday in your personal relationships.  You are probably not aware of those rules because you have been taught them through the course of life.  In the same ways you understand what others tell you, that you decipher truths and lies, and that you apply your knowledge to your belief systems and practices you will approach the Word of God.  This is good news because it means the process will be much easier than you probably think.

Firstly, meaning is singular, not plural.  What does that mean?  You have probably heard many times that there are many interpretations of the Bible.  Let me clarify right from the beginning that this is the first lie you must do away with in your thinking.  The word of God is divinely revealed by God to man.  There were many writers but only one author of scripture.  God has one intent in mind as He relates the word of God to us and we must decipher what it is He wants for us to understand in scripture.  There are not many meanings in scripture.  There are many suggested interpretations of scripture however there is only one true interpretation.  To rightly divide the word is our commission.  To find the correct interpretation, God's intent in scripture, is for us to do.  He also has provided the Holy Spirit to guide and help us.  With all of that said, let me clarify further.  There are many applications to one interpretation.  There is only one interpretation (message) to each scripture, but the way in which it is applied can be widely varied.  Because people come from different cultures, personalities and different interests the single message can be properly applied in many ways to suit each person without changing the definitive message of the scripture.  This is why scripture is still very relevant to all people today.  It speaks a single universal message to a variety of people in many personal ways.  The word of God is as relevant today as it has ever been and will forever be.  The Word has been weighed over the ages and has been found to be the most highly trustworthy texts to ever have been written.  I will back this claim in an article coming soon about why we can put so much faith in one simple book of scripture.  No account of facts today has ever stood the test and scrutiny than that of the Word of God.  This is exactly why people are still finding truth in it today, because it is truth and we'll talk more about why you can trust scripture in the new couple of articles.  For now let us get through this article about how to read scripture and process God's Truth from it.

There is a four step process to, as Paul put it, "rightly dividing the word of truth."
1. Word Focus
2. Word Relations
3. Context
4. Culture

Using a concordance as you read in scripture with help to explain the definitive meaning of the original wording of the text.  For example, the word 'love' is used many many times in scripture, but in it's original text there were four types of love mentioned and each one is definitively different in meaning.  Understanding which love is being discussed helps us understand the whole meaning of the scripture.  Where the word of God tells us to 'love our neighbors' it is probably not telling us to have intimate relationships with everyone in our neighborhood.  Yes, I know that sounds funny but in many other cases it is easy to misunderstand scripture and even relay wrong meanings as we tell others about what we have read when we did not understand the true definition of the words.  Having a good concordance with you as you read through during this series will dramatically illuminated your understanding.  I choose to use the Expanded Edition of Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance.  It is a collaborative work which spans over at least a couple of decades of defining words comparatively with original language texts.  I suggest using the New King James Version of the Bible as it is the easiest and most accurate translation, not only in my opinion but in the learned opinion of many theologians, that exist today.  The message Bible is not suitable for study.  Be very careful about the translations you choose to study from.  Those translations which comes as closely to the original are the most accurate.  The most ideal study would be in Greek and Hebrew, but if you do not speak those languages and most don't, then the very next closest copy is the best.  The New King James Version can be easily studied in it's original language with a Strong's concordance. This is a very good place from which to work.

Word focus is choosing key words from a scripture and looking up their meanings in Greek or Hebrew (using the concordance) to more fully understand the scripture.  Word Relations is looking at the grammar in the scripture to understand more fully the application of that scripture.  There are words from scripture which are often ignored or glossed over which solely turn the discerning of the scripture. Words like "For", "Truly", "In as much", "For though" and so very many more.  As we work through the series these will be pointed out to you often!  Many misinterpretations have come from not understanding sentence structures in scripture.  Also passive tenses, feminine and masculine forms, etc.  These things will easier for you to grasp as we walk through line by line and discuss examples and discern the scriptures.  Don't worry about being great in English, you will understand it as we apply it.  Context is something that is sometimes intentionally twisted and sometimes just misunderstood in scripture, both of which unfortunately relay wrong understanding of scripture.  It is so very important that scripture be understand within the use of context.  I have seen news broadcasts where an individuals comments were edited or a scene was edited to show something completely different from what actually was said or happened.  The problem with this type of editing of context is it allows the reader to come up with their own ideas about what something says or means rather than takes in all the information in order to make a completely informed interpretation.  Often reading verses earlier and after the verse being interpreted helps shed understanding on the entire teaching of the text.  The last step is culture.  Understanding the culture from which the text came from, the customs of the times, the historical periods, and the environment geographically helps to shed tremendous light on understanding.  Many books have been written just on biblical traditions and times, encyclopedias, and Bible dictionaries which help teach cultural information that adds to our understanding of what was going on when the text was being written.  The beautiful part of scripture is that even with all the changes in custom and culture the applications of the single message of the text can vary and so the Word remains as relevant today as it has ever been.  This is a quick, as it relates to what was possible to have been written, article to help prime us for the information we'll be taught as we walk through the Bible together.  This will help us approach the word in a manner of study and we will be able to take from it more truthful knowledge than if we had just scanned through quickly and gotten a simple and probably not completely accurate understanding. A final authenticity test for our interpretation of scripture is to weigh what it commands with everything else scripture demands.  Using scripture to test our interpretations of scripture helps us to maintain the single message of scripture.  God will not contradict Him self in His Word.  He does not aim to confuse.  If He tells us not to judge others but then in the same chapter tells that we will know believers by their fruit (which suggest some form of judgement) we must rightly divide what the Lord is truly telling us in ALL of those scriptures combined.  This will enable you to understand the Word in the most accurately secure and easy to relate fashions.  You won't feel the need to memorize mounds and mounds of scripture, but you will know that the message you have received from it in agreement with all of God's Word without contradiction.  It has been ignorantly stated that the Word of God contradicts itself, but with proper interpretation you will find that even when the Word SEEMS to differ, it actually builds upon and solidifies the message it brings forward.  (It makes it's point for itself.)

God bless you as you set out to understand, learn and grow through the scriptures.  I am sure you will be blessed. 
Let me leave you with this before we begin in Genesis. 

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  John goes on to say in 1:14, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld HIS glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."  In Matthew 17:5 God said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."  The Word of God became Flesh (Jesus Christ) and God tells us to "hear" Christ.  So as you approach the Word of God it is my prayer for you that you will "Hear Him" who is in it and who is it.