5 Simple Ways To Make the Best of Your Bible Study Time

Yesterday on social media I shared a little tip that has helped my Bible study: printing out the book of the Bible I'm reading so I can write notes onto the pages. Honestly, I didn't expect that post to get nary a like, but it did. So I thought I'd share how I approach my personal Bible study time. 

Here's my approach to Bible study:

1. Open the Scriptures Prayerfully and Humbly: I pray for the eyes of my understanding to be enlightened. The Bible is a historical, factual book, but, above all else, it is a book about God and who He is. I can't possibly fathom all that God is, so I come in knowing that there will always be more to learn about the Bible and God....always. I remember a pastor of mine saying that an older pastor well into his elderly years said he was still getting revelation on a verse of scripture after decades of teaching the Bible. We will never exhaust its knowledge.

2. Print out a copy of the Bible: This has been a great tool for me instead of marking up my Bible. I circle recurring words and themes. Ask questions. Mark definitions and note revelation or questions that pop up as I'm reading. Loose-leaf, hole-punched Bibles are sold online, but I've found it cheaper to just cut and paste into a Word document. Bible Gateway even lets you remove title headings and verses which makes reading easier. 

printed bible

And I just read the Bible only. When most people say they're studying the Bible, what they're really doing is studying a book someone else has written about their study of the Bible. Not a bad thing, but it certainly shouldn't be the only source of gaining knowledge of the Word.

3. Choose a method of study: You may choose to do a topical study. A word study. A character study or read a whole book of the Bible. Whatever it is, stick to it and don't jump around during a single study period. My favorite is to study a whole book of the Bible using the Inductive Study method. Inductive study using investigative tools to gather information about the Bible: Observation (taking in all the facts about the text taking into consideration its context), Interpretation (figuring out what the text is saying & keeping in mind there is only one correct interpretation), Application (lessons for my life).

inductive study

Keep in mind that there are 11 categories of culture that need to be taken into consideration when reading the Bible. They are:

political  * religious * economic * legal * agricultural * architectural

* clothing * domestic * geographical * military * social

The Bible was written in the framework of another time. So though it's spiritual significance is timeless, it was written within the boundaries of culture and should be read with that in mind.

4. Gather "excavation" tools: As I dig deeper in the Word through Bible study. I find it's good to have a Bible dictionary (I especially like looking up name meanings), commentary, encyclopedia, maps (I've just recently started using maps & it I'm finding it gives a frame of reference) and concordance on hand. I admit, I'm a Strong's concordance junkie. I love to look up the origin of words. And be sure to cross-reference; it's the best way to see how the Bible is woven together as one big tapestry. Need help finding tools? This link has a list of basic resources.

excavation tools

5. Separate Bible study and devotion time: For me, Bible study is studying as a student would to gain knowledge for a class. I block out an hour in the evenings after the kids are sleep and I just pore over the scriptures. Often things get so good, I end up staying up too late! In the morning I have devotion time where I dedicate a shorter period of time to reading passages of scripture and praying so that God can speak to my heart for the day. 

I should add that getting a Bible version that is easy reading for you is key. I recently switched from the KJV to the ESV because I wanted a greater ease of reading and the ESV is a word-for-word translation rather than a thought for thought translation like the NIV, NAB, NLT and Bibles. I also gave up the Message Bible for Bible Study because it's a paraphrase rather than a translation. Here's a handy list of Bible translations and types.

What are your tips for Bible Study? And what are you studying now? I'd love to hear how you study!

Forgiven and Fruitful: Wednesday Night Bible Study Notes

Last week's Bible Study was good. Still turning over the message in my head. Sharing the goodness below.

One of the more obscure parables is the parable of the barren fig tree found in Luke 13:6-9 

Galileans had gone into the temple and killed Galileans whose blood was mixed in with the sacrificial blood. It was a horrible event. Jews believed bad things happening meant a wrong standing with God. It was against this backdrop that Jesus taught the parable of the fig tree.

God is the owner o f this vineyard. Jesus the vineyard manager.  God noticed the fig tree was not fruitful but Jesus asked for one more year to make it fruitful.

How does fruitfulness really take place  in our lives?

1.     Fruit is received. If you’re going to be fruitful, you have to start with God's work in us. God’s work didn’t end at the cross. It continues in our fruitfulness. This Holy Spirit makes us fruitful, not our works.

2.     Fruit is internal. Most think it’s fruit vs. bad. But it’s really fruit vs. good works like serving, witnessing, giving. We use the external things to measure fruit, but if we don’t have love these things don’t matter. If the Pharisees lived today, we’d be enamored of them. They memorized scripture, never missed a tithe, crossed the sea to win converts, prayed three times a day, but there was nothing on the inside of them. Good works are good but if they don’t come out of the foundation of Christ in us, they amount to nothing. People being changed through you, doesn’t mean you’re being changed.

3.     Fruit is passionate. In our spiritual walk, we have warring battles between the spirit and the natural. Good things can take more of our desire than Jesus. It’s not good vs. bad like we traditionally think, but good things vs. Jesus. If you want more fruit, fall more in love with Jesus. The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus instead of the good things. We can get so busy with good works that we forget Jesus

4.     Fruit is seasonal. The benefit of fruit being seasonal is that it’s cultivated by God instead of us trying to conjure it up. God puts us in circumstances where fruit will grow. Marriage cultivates the fruit of kindness. Parenthood cultivates the fruit of patience. We have to discern the season to see the potential for fruit bearing. Because its seasonal, fruit growth is gradual not immediate. Declaring that we have fruit is really pride. One day we will look up and see fruit we lacked after a season of hard times.

5.     Fruit unifies. Since we live by the spirit, let US walk by the spirit. We help each other grow. An unfruitful tree harms the rest of the vineyard. Fruitful trees help other trees grow because of cross pollination. Jesus brings the right people to help us grow. 

Impressing God's Word on Little Hearts

impressitontheirhearts

As mommas, we are careful to teach our kids while they're young.

We teach them to brush their teeth. Wash behind their ears. Ties their shoes. Chew with their mouths closed. We teach them to say please and thank you. We do our best to equip for the world.

I realized I was going to great lengths to teach them all I could about how to navigate this big world they'll soon be facing on their own, but I was neglecting the most necessary thing: the Word of God.

Before baby girl was born, I would spend time in the Bible with the boys. But three kids + a tired momma soon squeezed out any extra energy I had for walking with them through the Bible. That is until I got a quiet nudging from the Holy Spirit recently.

Deuteronomy 6: 4-9: 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

My kids go to a Christian school, but it's not the school's responsibility to teach MY children about the Word. We got to church every week, but it's not on the church to be the primary teacher of my children about God. Our role as parents is to impress God's word upon our children's heart.

Sure, we can wait until they get older and let them decide for themselves, but that's not what the Bible requires. Waiting means the impressionable years would have since passed and getting that Word on their hearts is not such an easy task then.

I believe we are to impress the Word on our children's hearts when they're young because that's when it will make its mark best. I think about all the Play Doh that the boys have played with down through the years. New Play Doh is so lovely. It's soft and moldable in your hands. A joy to play with. They would mold the clay in their hands and then stamp it with designs or carve smiles on Play Doh people. Down the line, the new Play Doh would get left out, the tops not put on tightly resulting in dry, hard balls of clay. Hard to mold and carve Play Doh when it's old. It's mostly just a crumbly mess that has to be tossed. 

I see my kids hearts like that new Play Doh: pliable and totally ready for the Word of God.  This is is why I'm taking every effort to impress it upon their little hearts right now.

So every night before bed, this tired momma pulls out the Bible, gathers the little people and we walk through the Scriptures as they are read aloud. And last night, wouldn't you know what our Bible verses were? Deuteronomy 6: 4-9. Just a little confirmation that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

And as I asked the boys what this verse meant to them, my oldest recited word for word a New Testament verse that supported what we were studying.

My making an impression is not in vain. And our time together has become a welcome part of their day.

I'm making it my business to walk and talk the Word of God not just during our evening Bible study but also when we're sitting at home and when we are riding in the car. When we wake up and as we get ready for bed. I want their roots to run deep and for them to have a genuine love for God's Word....not just on Sundays (or Saturday nights which is when we go to church). I want the Bible to be woven into their every day lives.