FIRST THINGS FIRST
God communicates with His people in so many different ways- He is not limited. We know that there are many ways that we can communicate to him- prayer, in journaling and in talking to him… and these are great. But we want to hear from God too, right? We do that by- and your initial question about how to study God’s word- is right on track. We need to read and study His word. Some refer to it as a love letter from God… or a picture (story) book – that is all true- that helps to show us more about who He is, what He wants of us, and what His plan is. We read many stories in the Bible that show us how God keeps his promises, how he forgives and also how he judges and will judge all. God shows us how he made a way, through his son, Jesus, for us to have a relationship with Him and to be with him forever rather than separated from Him forever. (Here is a video that explains this.) Our God is a big God, a powerful God, a God who is good and can be trusted even though we may not understand what he is doing. Once you have realized you have sinned and are therefore destined to be apart from Him, and recognized that God sent His son Jesus to take your punishment for the sins that you committed (death) and believe that He did that for you and that you accept it and want to live your life for Him- God said He would send a helper to help you begin to live out a changed life. It will take some time for some things, but as you continue to do these things that you are doing and seeking Him with all your might, over time you will realize that you have been changing and you are becoming more like Him. Our Helper is the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to forget that the Holy Spirit is alive and living within us. He will convict us of sin and highlight truth. We can tune Him out though… but we don’t really want to do that if we want to grow. Why am I saying all of this? Well, because there are many methods to study God’s word and people will share with you what works for them or their own ideas. We want to keep in mind that God knows you better than you know yourself. Seek Him too as you continue to try out different ways to get into His word. Ask Him to help you with what you need- you want to know Him better. You want to hear from Him, you want to know Him and what he wants, you want to grow, you want to be obedient and do things God’s way in all areas of your life . You want him to change your heart completely. At least, I want those things. J
HERE’S WHAT I DO
So here’s what I do, or have done, to get into God’s word. It has changed over the years and seasons of life… sometimes it feels like a chore (checking the box) while other times I am super excited with eyes WIDE OPEN in amazement about what God said right there in His word. The words just JUMP OFF THE PAGE and I find myself feverishly sharing it with someone else, anyone who would listen. Then, sometimes (a lot of times) I find that others aren’t as excited… and then I think well maybe that lesson was meant for just me right now. And that is okay. I love how God is so personal to us. He loves us right where we are. Jesus went and gave himself up even though we were what we were and would continue to struggle. He loved us to death. But he didn’t stay there buried in a tomb and dead. God is alive! He reigns and sits at the right hand of the Father until He will come again. We don’t want to wait on this. Now is what we have, so that means NOW is the time. Now is the time to read and study God’s word for ourselves. Now is the time to share what we learned (and are learning) with others around us. Now is the time to do whatever it is that God is calling us to do- for all of us that will mean giving up what we want and giving it over- all of it- to the Lord. Allowing Him to do what He wants. His will be done. His good and perfect will.
READ YOUR BIBLE
Okay, I STILL didn’t answer the question yet. Sorry! Right now I am reading through a “read your Bible in a year” type chronological list guide. It started with Genesis and now I’m near the end of Numbers. I’m a week behind (again) but I keep on keeping on. (I can send it to whoever is interested if you want a copy.) I keep that checklist in my Bible and check off the block when I am done reading for the day. I am involved in a lot of different Bible studies and I read those Bible passages as they come up but NOTHING beats going through God’s word, on my own, in order (not skipping around through verses or passages) and seeing how the story develops over a period of time. I love understanding the background of things and thinking about what it was like for them- when they didn’t know how the story would end. Reading how many kept messing up over and over and over and yet God remained (and still remains) faithful.
Extra: I use VIDEO too! When I wash the dishes (which takes a while because I let them pile up- sometimes too much!!), I will watch video. I use RightNow Media which are online Bible study videos from well-known Bible study teachers. I also use YouVersion (they have videos as well as written Bible studies and games for younger ones. The app is great too!). I don’t use it for reading through the Bible or the Bible studies anymore because I don’t’ want to touch my phone AT ALL until I have done my reading- otherwise I get distracted checking my email and whatnot. It did work well for me for a while though. I found this site, which I like (and my kids like), through YouVersion called https://thebibleproject.com/ because they do a video summary of themes or books of the Bible. Again, nothing beats reading God’s Word daily in some sort of order- you can even read through specific books of the Bible as you have time (rather than the entire Bible). Perhaps start with Esther. I remember when I read through that for the first time, I was amazed. It was like a novel with action and danger and suspense!! Another site that I recommend to others is I Am Second. http://www.iamsecond.com/. There are a whole lot of resources available to us in America- most for FREE!
But there are pitfalls people face when they try to read the Bible … that I know I faced (and still do): confusion, lack of accountability and just plain ol’ giving up (or too busy).
Confusion– I’ve heard, “I don’t understand what I am reading!!!” “It’s boring.” Or the thoughts, “I am so far behind (don’t know enough).” Let me just say that we ALL have to start somewhere! “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Right? It’s what we tell our kids….. Remember you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is with you, if you are a true believer. God gives wisdom to those who ask of it. God gives faith and helps with our unbelief as well. I love that these truths are in the Bible so I don’t have to wonder!! Give it time. Remember, when you were 5 years old, even though you thought you knew it all- you really didn’t (and it was obvious to everyone but you LOL!!) Even when you were 18- same thing. Or maybe, by 20 you realized maybe you didn’t know what you thought you knew—either way, we are learning and growing. Even me. I don’t know it all and my understanding will grow greater in time if I keep seeking Him. You can’t begin by knowing everything already- there are truths and deeper understandings that are only fully realized with time and experiences. For now, one foot and then the other foot in front of the other; just do it. When you look back, if you keep going, you will realize that you understand more than you did before. Really.
Lack of Accountability– I give many, many thanks to God for sending me Carole. She was actually my very first PWOC facilitator back in Fort Bliss Texas, when I got out of the Army – moved with 2 babies– and attended my first PWOC in 2009. Because of her recognizing and responding to an opportunity for one-on-one mentoring and Bible Study with me she asked if I would be interested in her coming over my home once a week to go over answers to basic questions like “Who is Jesus Christ?” “What is a new life?” “What is the Bible?” through a “Studies in Christian Living” 6 booklet series Bible study. It simply asked these basic questions and included a Bible reference where I would look it up and write it down. Carole and I (and another friend too) STILL talk weekly today, even after several moves and years later. She would ask me (and remind me) that “if you want to hear from God, you need to read His word.” I would be annoyed at her saying this, because I just wanted her to give me her advice to my questions. But really, I am learning can we really know what is best for another person? We might have an idea- but who would REALLY KNOW??? God of course! So we need to go to Him and most importantly, we need to hear from and learn all about Him and His character and His ways so that we can begin to know – before we even have to ask- what He would want from us. The only way to really know this is to regularly read His word which he has preserved for us over all these years. It is the only way to also know if what someone else is telling you about God is true and right. Thank you God that we are not lost and without your word here in America. Is there someone YOU can ask to come alongside you or someone that you would invite to ask you periodically about what you have been reading? Is there someone who YOU can come alongside? Pray about these opportunities.
I tried it- it didn’t work. Or I’m just too busy- life gets in the way. I will tell you that it’s only because of God continuing to draw me to Him that I am where I am at today. I have fell off on my daily reading. A lot. Yet, I try again. It might be because of a situation in my life or maybe there is something that a preacher or someone else says that I want to read for myself. Maybe someone asks me a question… and I want to get it right. There have been many ways that God has kept me or calls me back to His word. If you know God wants you to deepen your relationship with Him and you want that too- then make it a priority. Change when you read, where you read, read out loud, write out what you read, read shorter passages and memorize a verse, draw out a verse after you have read…. Find a way to do what you want to do. We do it with other things we want to do and so we can do it with the Bible. Ask God to help us want to do it. I have done ALL of these things. I pray for understanding before I read. I keep trying until I am reading regularly and then if I find that I haven’t read in a few days- I will wake up early and get out of the bed and go into a quiet place and read out loud the passages I am reading. That helps me. Then, I check my block on my paper for the day. I am thankful for the opportunity to spend time with God, that he wants to spend time with me, that I can read from His word in my safe, heated home with food in the cabinets and the family he has entrusted to me in their beds. … I am grateful. Thank you Lord.
I hope this was helpful- I’ve enjoyed (really really enjoyed- can’t you tell by the length of this response!???!) thinking this through and writing out my answer to this great question. I’d love to talk with you (or anyone) more about this or be one of the ones in your ‘accountability’ group (or whatever you want to call it). I invite you into mine! Feel free to ask me what I am doing- or not doing! We all need encouragement! (Hebrews 10:19-39) Thank you for your question… by this I know God is working in your life as he is working in mine. 😀 Also, for you Bible scholars out there (or anyone else) let me know what was helpful or what I may have missed in my response. Thanks!
P.S. Allow me to explain the main photo. This is of me “keeping it real” one morning. My hub woke up to me (freezing- we keep our house kinda cold unfortunately) while reading the Bible one morning. Apparantly, I looked a little “crazy.” But this is me. 🙂 Next, he took that picture and made it his background for a while… LOL. See? Reading the Bible regularly will make an impact on others- in ways you might not expect. 😉