Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Spiritual Discipline: Study the Word
I am blessed to have Bible reading folks in my life.
I am not one of them. (And apparently, I'm not alone.)
The importance of spending time in Scripture isn't lost on me- I know that His Word has immense power, that rooting myself in it helps me to overcome some of the influence of the world. But actually sitting down, opening my Bible, and reading the truth of it's pages? It isn't a natural priority for me.
While I struggle with this particular discipline, I know that my attitudes, my priorities, and my lifestyle changes when I do make spending time in Scripture a priority.
But I need help to do it.
Maybe you're finding yourself in the same spot. So here are some things that have helped me:
This article over at Like Mother Like Daughter is great inspiration and has an interesting perspective on the why behind reading the Bible.
Get a Bible that Works for You:
We are incredibly (INCREDIBLY) blessed to have access and financial resources to even have Scripture available to us. How many Bibles are in your home? (I have two, Zeke has one, and we have a children's Bible, too). How many do you actually use? (Zeke uses his a ton, I use only one of mine.)
The truth is, we're most likely to use a Bible that works with the way we think. I like to take lots and lots of notes, so this Bible is a great fit for me. Zeke doesn't take any notes at all, but he really likes the commentary provided in most study Bibles.
Find one that works for you. And then donate any other Bibles you own to a church, a camp, a friend, send it overseas... give the Word of God to someone who may not otherwise have access to it.
Have a Plan:
I'll be honest- there are times when I've just opened up the Bible to any old page and started reading. But for the most part, that doesn't work well. I've found that if I have a plan to follow, I'm typically more successful in following through with reading Scripture. There are tons of great plans out there. I really like Good Morning Girls.
This online Bible study has been an awesome resource for me. My small group used it for a study in Ephesians. We followed the "SOAP" plan that was developed by Good Morning Girls.
You write down a part of scripture (maybe a verse or a few verses) of the day's reading that stood out to you. I think this was the part that really made the difference for me. I tend to remember things much better when I physically write them down. Then, you note observations about the text, and applications you glean from the text to live out. Finally, you take a moment to pray about what you've read.
It's recommended that you do this with a group of gals- it helps to keep you accountable- but I went through one of the studies by myself and thought it was great, too.
Read the Bible in a Year:
Giving yourself a goal like this one can be a great motivator. There are lots of plans out there (Bible Gateway has some good ones). I like the book-by-book way of reading the Bible - it flows better in my mind rather than jumping round from Old to New Testament and from book to book.
Even while you're doing a plan like this one, it's vital to remember that you're not just reading- you're studying. Write stuff down, think about it, chew on it a little. Ask questions.
Which leads me to my next point...
Check out Commentaries
One of the best things I did in college was take a Bible class in which we were encouraged to check out commentaries and do some comparison. The Bible is an incredibly rich piece of literature (because, well, it was written by God, after all). People study it for lifetimes; it's okay to see what someone else has to say about what they see in God's Word... especially when you get to a part that makes you say, "Wha?"
(And I wrote a 15 page paper on Leviticus in that Bible class, so I did a lot of going "Wha?")
There are some cool online resources for commentaries- including YouVersion (people can add comments to a book or passage- some are really great), as well as the commentaries through Bible Study Tools. I'd also recommend checking out a library to see what they've got for commentaries.
I think it's important to get more than one point of view. Sometimes the most inspiring perspectives come from a voice that's very different from our own. I really love the Africa Bible Commentary. It was written by 70 scholars from Africa, and the worldview of these brilliant folks is often very different from the way I see things.
Those are the things that have really helped me with this particular discipline. Do you have anything to add? What helps you to stay on track with studying the Word?
This post contains affiliate links as well as web links to products that I use and have found helpful.