It’s a life textbook. It has outsold every other book for several decades. It’s His legacy. The words are our instructions.
It gathers dust on our coffee tables. The words are foreign and the language seems incomprehensible. We would rather read sexually explicit and violent material about a non-romantic, extramarital relationship. Instead of treating it like a life textbook, we treat it like any other outdated piece of decor in our homes.
Thanks to a wonderful group of women and an infectious author, things are different now. Before 3 years ago, I didn’t have much interest in the Bible. I felt much the same way I described above, that the book was so old I couldn’t relate to it or that it didn’t apply today. The language was so foreign I had no idea what it was even saying.
The Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study opened my eyes to a whole new way to studying God’s word. First thing’s first, the Bible is God-breathed and He wrote this book for you and me. It is relevant, and I challenge you to read through it and not find someone that went through what you’re going through. You will find a connection.
Find a version you are comfortable with.
Why are there versions of the Bible? That’s because most of us can’t read Hebrew (the language of Moses). Think of the versions on a spectrum, the left side being those that were translated “word for word” meaning one word in Hebrew translated to one word in English. These are going to be a bit harder to read. Now, to the right, “thought for thought” meaning one thought (maybe a sentence) was translated from Hebrew to English. Much easier to read, but further from what God may have intended us to know.
My first version was the New Living Translation (NLT) which is closer to the right than left. I have a study bible in this version and it’s my “go to”. I recently got the English Standard Version (ESV) and it’s further to the left. A little harder to read, but as I get more comfortable with God’s word, I am better able to understand this version.
Do some research and find what’s comfortable for you. If you have a smart phone, you can download the Bible app and try a few out before buying. Once you are well into your Bible study, I recommend getting more than one version, they read differently and you may get something from one that you didn’t from the other.
Write in it.
As a new Christian with a shiny new Bible I thought the best way to honor God was to keep that Bible looking good! Keep the dust off, don’t fold the pages down, and certainly don’t write in it. That didn’t last long. Something my pastor said stuck with me, your Bible is a life textbook, write in it. Highlight what’s important to you. Circle. Underline. Star.
There will be times that you need to quickly find a verse on anxiety or God’s love for you, and by marking up your Bible you’ll be able to do just that.
Set a time to meet Him.
The best way to make reading the Bible a habit is to set a time each day to go there. You may find that right when you wake up is the best time. That’s what works for me. I leave all of my writing supplies next to my bed and before my brain can start thinking about all the things I have to do that day, I’m in His word.
Maybe digging in before bed would work best for you. Whatever time of day that you have about 20-30 minutes to devote to Him is key. Before you start, go to God in prayer and ask him to meet you in his word. Ask that he open your eyes and heart to what it is he wants you to know today.
Do some research and get the background info.
I used to think of the Bible as a book. You know, you just pick it up and read it. Maybe it was recommended by a friend or you heard about it on TV. Simply picking up the Bible and reading it (whether starting on page one or randomly picking a page/book) isn’t very effective. If that’s what gets you in the word, go for it. I did that for a time, and left unsatisfied or confused. There are at least 40 authors of the Bible, and each of their personalities and writing styles come out on the pages.
Here’s an example. My Bible study group just started reading John. Our first task was to do some research on John the author, world history at that time, and the purpose of the book. Knowing that John was a beloved friend of Jesus Christ completely changed the way I will read this book. Of his disciples, John was in Jesus’ “inner circle” of 3. John knew Jesus, so when he’s telling us about who Jesus was and what he did, you can believe he knows what he’s talking about.
Get this! While Jesus was on the cross, dying for you and me, he asked John to take care of his mother. Boom. They were like BFF’s. No doubt.
Do some digging, it will put everything you read into context. This may seem strange, but spend a whole day gathering information, don’t even crack your Bible.
Focus on a small group of verses.
Before I did the Modern Girl study, I thought that by simply reading the Bible everyday, and the more the better, I would inhale all of God’s wisdom. I have a different perspective now. One thing I realized recently is that every single verse is important. Yes, every one of them. Focus on 10-20 verses a day.
You could also try for one section at a time. For example, in John Chapter 1 verses 1-18 is God Became a Human. Followed by John the Baptist Declares His Mission, verses 19-34. I would recommend reading 1-18 one day and 19-34 the next. Spend some time in each verse. Maybe read over the whole section once, and note anything that really sticks out to you. Then go in and dissect each verse.
Use your Bible Tools.
Do you have a study Bible like me? Take advantage of those footnotes and cross references (the little abbreviation and numbers in the margin). Look at the maps in the back and the chronology timeline in the front. These things aren’t there just to look pretty, they can be very useful if you’re trying to learn everything you can about the Bible.
Get yourself a handy (and comfortable, if you’re a lefty like me you know that not all notebooks are comfy) journal/notebook and use it as your Bible study journal. Journal what you learn from the verses. Journal as prayers to God. Thank Him through your words. Let him know your frustrations. Expand on what you’re reading.
I usually start my daily journaling with a prayer. Then, as I read I note what stands out to me, I cross reference to other scripture, I ask questions. I make tables: What Names are Used to Describe God.
If you haven’t been studying God’s word these tips may seem overwhelming. Start small, pick up 2 or 3 of these tips to start. If journaling and reading the Bible everyday seems like a lot, vow to start with 3 times a week. Give yourself grace and just start.