As a women’s Bible study author and teacher, I have the unique privilege of talking to women from all kinds of backgrounds about their spiritual lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had women share with me that they didn’t grow up in church, or they grew up in a church that “didn’t allow” them to read the Bible, and now they have to use a Bible study or devotional book in their quiet time or they’re afraid they won’t be able to understand the Bible. My heart goes out to these ladies because they desperately want to learn from God’s word, but somewhere along the way, someone or something has convinced these perfectly intelligent women–I haven’t met a dumb one, yet– that they’re not good enough or smart enough for God’s word.
As Colonel Potter used to say:
Ladies, you are not dumb. God created you smart enough to understand the Bible, and He created the Bible to be understandable. He loves you and wants you to read, embrace, and apply His word to your life. So don’t be afraid to throw that Daily Bread out the Open Windows of your Upper Room and read a chapter out of your Bible instead. Why?
1. Because you need spiritual nutrition, not mind candy.
The other day I was asked my opinion of a popular women’s daily devotional web site. I read a few of the devotions, and the basic format of what I found was a Bible verse (or worse, part of a Bible verse) followed by an inspiring or poignant personal story. Frequently, the Bible verse had little or nothing to do with the story. There’s nothing wrong with reading a good story, but that’s not the same thing as studying God’s word. Other “Bible” studies are built largely on the author’s opinions. You’ll find that I think… or I believe… far outnumber God’s word says… (quoted verbatim, in context, and with a chapter/verse reference). Still others are basically advice or “life tips” books.
Don’t let the fact that a book, magazine, or website bills itself as a “Bible study” or a “devotional” fool you. If all you’re reading is the author’s unsubstantiated opinions, advice, or anecdotes from her (or someone else’s) life, you are studying her story, not God’s story.
There are many good, doctrinally sound studies out there that can be a fine supplement to your regular study of God’s word, and there are many more “Bible studies” and devotionals that are merely feel-good stories, or worse, contain teaching that actually conflicts with the Bible. But how will you know the difference if you don’t know what God’s word says by reading it?
If you don’t know enough of what God’s word says to use it as your measuring stick for other books, you’ll end up doing the same thing a child would do when offered anything in the world that he wants to eat. He’ll choose what looks and tastes good (which might be candy or it might be poison) instead of what’s good for him. When you pick up a Bible study or devotional, you might not know what you’re getting, but when you pick up your Bible, you can be sure you’re getting the very words of God, and that’s what your spirit needs to feed on to grow up healthy.
2. Because King James has been dethroned.
No disrespect intended. The King James Version of the Bible is a good translation, and the language is beautiful, but if you have trouble with 1611 English, it’s not the only game in town anymore. Some of our modern translations (please note: that’s translations not paraphrases) are actually more accurate than the KJV because thousands more biblical manuscripts have been discovered since it was first published, allowing translators to be more precise. Two of these, which I highly recommend, are the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the English Standard Version (ESV).
If you can read books, recipes, magazines, instructions, and Facebook (good heavens– if you can decipher certain Facebook posts, you can comprehend anything), and understand them, there is a Bible translation out there that you can understand. You can even check most of them out for free at BibleGateway.com.
3. Becase the Holy Spirit promised to help you.
I always find it heartwarming to hear someone say, “Before I was saved, I read the Bible, but it didn’t make any sense to me. But now when I read it, I get it!” What changed? The Holy Spirit now lives inside that person. He convicts us of sin, leads us to love the things of God, and shapes us to be more like Christ. One of the ways He does that, according to 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, John 14:26, and 1 John 2:27 and other passages, is that He helps us understand and apply God’s word to our lives.
Before you start reading your Bible, take a moment to pray, confess and repent of your sin, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand and obey His word. He’ll do it, because He keeps His promises.
4. Because you can get by with a little help from your friends.
While the Holy Spirit illumines our understanding of the Scripture, it’s both immediate and a process, so sometimes, you’ll run across a verse that stumps you, a word you don’t understand, or passages that seem to conflict with each other. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is/was at work helping other godly men and women to understand the Scriptures, too, and one of the ways He can help you is through their study and hard work.
Take a look at your Bible. See any little superscript numbers or letters in the text? Find the corresponding letter/number, and you’re likely to see the reference for another related Bible verse. Look it up. Clear passages of Scripture interpret unclear passages, and it will probably shed some light on what you’re finding confusing.
I almost hesitate to recommend study Bibles because there are so many shoddy ones out there, but if you can find a good one they are extremely helpful. Good study Bibles contain the entire text of the Bible plus notes and explanations on most of the verses. They also often contain historical, cultural, and background information on each book and author, maps, charts, glossaries, etc. As to the shoddy ones, generally speaking, stay away from “theme” Bibles (the Bible for teachers, for athletes, for petroleum engineers who eat waffles for breakfast–yes, I’m kidding– the environmental Bible, the NASCAR Bible, the Duck Dynasty Bible– no, I’m not kiding), and from any Bible whose title contains a televangelist’s name (such as the Bibles T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen have put out).
For my “hard copy” Bible, I use and strongly recommend the MacArthur Study Bible. It is my understanding that the Lutheran Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible are also very good, although I have not personally had a chance to check them out myself. And there are some phenomenal (and free!) study Bible apps out there. I absolutely LOVE the Faithlife Study Bible and the Bible study app from Olive Tree. And check out this article from Tim Challies: What Makes a Really Good Study Bible?.
Commentaries, Dictionaries, and Bible Study Helps
Commentaries are a Bible scholar’s written explanation of Scripture. Bible dictionaries will help you with definitions of certain words and phrases. And there are many other notes, outlines, and other Bible study helps you can use to better your understanding of Scripture. The resources page at BibleGateway.com contains several of these, including Matthew Henry’s commentary (my favorite). The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) has a treasure trove of thousands of resources to help you study. And Logos Bible Software has a great free app that has dozens of resources.
5. How badly do you really want this, anyway?
Nobody ever won a medal at the Olympics by practicing her sport for five minutes a day. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb by messing around in his garage for a few hours on the weekend. And, despite the titles of some Christian books, nobody ever grew to spiritual maturity by spending five minutes a day reading a devotional.
Think about the things you spend your time on. Work, cooking, cleaning, TV, social media, novels… If asked, we would probably all say that our relationship with Christ is more important than any of these things, but do our day planners reflect that?
Anything worth having is worth investing time and effort into. It’s worth working at it and sharpening your skills. And nothing–nothing–is more worthwhile than growing closer to Christ. Is Christ worth some time and effort to you?
So, ladies, this is probably going to sound strange coming from a women’s Bible study author, but you don’t need my book, or anybody else’s, to study the Bible. Just pick up the Scriptures, pick a book, start reading at the beginning, and keep going until you get to the end. People did that for thousands of years before Bible studies hit the scene. They did just fine, and you can too.
35 thoughts on “You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible”
A BIG EMPHATIC AMEN!
I love this! I’ve always felt that devotional’s were just not for me, but that’s how the women in my family did their bible study. Drove me nuts. It’s taken my 30 years of life to get that I can study the bible just as is. I use Bible studies that go in depth (quoting scripture and full verses) by pastors to help me find relate-able passages, as I am not that well versed yet but the difference in the quality of study is amazing.
I went from a painful 5 minutes to losing myself for HOURS studying my bible.
I’d like to add to these that it’s perfectly okay to jot notes in the sidelines of your bibles, things that God points out to you, a verse that corresponds and such. My grandmother was a big stickler for never doing this, she barely believed in underlining. Once I got over that I started really going far in my studies and now when I read I have my own correspondences to check out again.
And yes the ESV is an amazing translation. It’s the only one I use now. It’s easy to understand like the NIV but to me flows like a KJV does with the ‘poetry’ of the words. My next bible will be an ESV study bible.
Do you mind if I feature this post in a round up next week?
Hi Felecia- I’d be honored and delighted for you to feature this article in any way you’d like.
I did want to clarify (for other readers to whom this might not be clear) that I am not saying you should NEVER use a Bible study, only that you shouldn’t feel like you HAVE to use one. Our study time should be centered around God’s word, and sometimes a doctrinally sound Bible study (pick mine, pick mine! lol :0) can be a good supplement to our regular reading of God’s word, as long as it is leading us into the Scriptures and not away from them.
Thanks for your input!
I completely agree with you regarding women’s ability to study God’s word. I too agree that we need spiritual nutrition, not just mind candy and I believe too many are content with just that. I wanted to address #3 and #4 of your article regarding Holy Spirit Illumination of scripture. The Bible teaches us that those who were not yet saved did indeed understand the Bible message and understood it well enough to want to be obedient to God’s will. Peter spoke to a crowd of Jews in Acts 2 and they understood the message and thousands were baptized that day. The Jailer in Acts 16 asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. Verse 32 says that “they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” The gospel message that Paul and Silas spoke to the jailer was a message he/they believed, understood and ultimately obeyed, for that same hour he and all his family were baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, Gal. 3:26-27,Romans, 6:3-5). I wanted to pass on to you a great article on the topic of Holy Spirit Illumination which is an excellent study. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/641-holy-spirit-illumination-theory-a-critical-review-the May God bless you and keep you as you pursue truth in God’s Word.
First, I want to apologize for taking so long to publish and respond to your comment. I’m usually much quicker, but last week was just jam packed with stuff. Second, thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful, and reasoned comment. It’s always nice to chat with people who are polite, whether or not we end up in agreement.
With regard to your comment, I think it would help if I clarify a couple of things. This article (actually the entire blog) is written to and for Christian women– women who are already saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Although I realize there are atheists, agnostics, other lost people, and men among my readers (and they are certainly all welcome) all of my articles should be understood to be targeting women who are already saved.
All of the examples you cited in your comment (and THANK YOU for backing those up with Scripture– something I constantly exhort women to do) are instances of lost people getting saved, not saved people receiving the Holy Spirit’s help to understand Scripture, which is what I was addressing in the article.
You are definitely right in saying that the Holy Spirit enables lost people to understand the gospel. We know that all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:21), so He is certainly at work through the Word in the heart of an unsaved person hearing the gospel. Additionally, we know that no one can come to Christ unless God, through the Holy Spirit, first draws him (John 6:44). Whether God does that through the Word, through moving on His heart as he hears the Word, or both, or exactly how He works is one of those “secret things” that Deuteronomy 29:29 talks about.
Thanks again for commenting. Glad to have you :0)
Regarding #1 — Wouldn’t happen to have been She Reads Truth, would it? LOL.
No, but that’s another one I’d definitely stay away from. Boatloads of bad theology there.
So much truth here. The Bible is definitely accessible to each of us. And with all the helps, it’s so much easier than even a few decades ago. I love esword.net as a one-stop Bible study resource for Greek and Hebrew words, explanations for hard-to-explain passages, and just a variety of translations. SO grateful that the KJV is not longer the only option available. 😉
Thanks, Lisa. It’s always encouraging to hear of another sister digging into God’s word :0)
Just found your post since it was shared on facebook. I never cared for typical devotionals, and would be made to feel guilty b/c this was so often insinuated as the only or best way to spend time with God. I got nothing (or little) out if it. As you highlight, many are a single verse pulled out of context with the author sharing some brief superficial story in relation to it. Huh? There are devotionals of more depth and substance, but they are a minority. Yes, how about just thoughtfully reading the Bible! Your post is more detailed than mine, but it reminded me of one of my posts entitled “You don’t have to feel dumb.”
Thanks, Laura. Great article :0)
Amen! Great post! We need to be studying God’s Word, not man’s word.
Curious to what your thoughts are on the Daily Light – Pulls related scriptures for morning and evening readings each day. TIA!
Thanks, Cyndee. I’m not familiar with Daily Light, but it sounds like a daily Bible reading plan. Any systematic plan that helps you stay in God’s word every day is a good one :0)
I just came across this article, and I think every woman should read it! I have a lot of friends who are wrapped up in Beth Moore-mania, and when I share my misgivings, I get a deer-in-the-headlights look from them. In my own church, there are women who do not have a firm grasp on the word of God. In fact, this morning in Sunday school someone mentioned Proverbs 25:24 (It is better to live on the rooftop than with a quarrelsome wife) and one woman said she never heard that verse before. Another said it’s equally true about husbands and that the bible should be changed to say ‘spouse’ not ‘wife.’ I literally gasped at the suggestion to change God’s word! And I sensed a spirit of wanting things to be fair instead of accepting what God has said. To be honest, and as a former wife of a verbally and emotionally abusive husband, there were times I would have rather been on the roof! But that doesn’t erase the truth of the verse.
BTW – Two months ago I began a monthly women’s prayer breakfast. In September, our ‘kickoff’ meeting, I had one woman show up. In October, I had one woman show up–not the same one in September. My plan is to have a short time of refreshments and fellowship, followed by a scripturally-based devotion and discussion, then a time of sharing and prayer. I’m not discouraged; I’d rather start out small and grow than start out big and fizzle! But my prayer and my heart’s desire is to help women love God more, understand and love His word, and have a safe, loving place to share their burdens.
Taking a moment to pray for you and your church right now. Be encouraged and keep plugging away! :0)
What a great article, thank you! May I expand on your great suggestion to look to godly men and women to help us understand the scriptures? Our pastors have been studying the scriptures for many years, under those who have diligently studied the scriptures for many years, and most have studied the Biblical languages for years. They continue to study the Word diligently in Hebrew and Greek, as well as English, and typically use many fine commentaries, alongside their study of the Word, in preparation for their sermons. I’ve heard John McCarthur say that he uses around 15 commentaries in preparation for his sermons each week! These men have been called by God to shepherd us in the Word, and they like nothing more than to share what they have learned with their flock. Go to your pastor with questions about the Scriptures. They are God’s gift to us, and we bless them when we allow them to use what they have been given to edify the body of Christ. Pastors have been an immeasurable help in teaching me to understand the Scriptures, from the pulpit, in Bible study, and by being available to answer questions at any time via email or phone call, or in person. Also, he is not only a resource himself, but he is the man to direct you to sound resources — study bibles, commentaries, theological books, etc. Take advantage of this, it’s why God put him in that vocation. Thanks, again, Michelle. It’s so refreshing to hear a women say what you’ve said about women, to women. God bless.
Thanks, Tracy. Well said! :0)
Solid advise and so needed! Thank you for the wise counsel and good references. God bless you sister. 🌻
My pleasure, Lisa! God bless you right back! :0)
This is by far my favorite post. I’m going to share it to death.. 🙂
God be with you, Ren. :0)
Some of us are not as dumb as we think; we are dumber. Some of us insist on clinging to the KJV of the bible written in 17tb century English when we can hardly grasp or understand the syntax of modern standard English. Even worse, some of us refuse to acquaint ourselves with a dictionary, a thesaurus, a map, an encyclopedia, or anything outside of the text that would help us understand the meaning of the words that we are reading. I have even listened to people stand up in an assembly to read scripture aloud and then teach when it is abundantly clear that they did not understand the text they have referenced. This is nonsense, yet is allowed to continue unabated. There are whole swaths of the bible that make absolutely no sense without some very basic understanding of things which most Americans do not encounter on a routine basis such as agriculture, yet we are encouraged to grasp the meaning of words based upon context clues rather than definitions. This seems lazy to me. What is the purpose of this rote consumption of the word? Why is this encouraged or allowed?
Thank you so much, Michelle, for your continued encouragement in the Word. I love to read your writings and always check out your recommendations. Everytime I try a bible app, the are inevitably links and books and devotions using false teachers, or mystic techniques, etc. I was hoping the Faithlife Bible Study app would be different. However, the first devotion I clicked on was from Richard Foster, who promotes Eastern mysticism prayer methods/contemplative prayer. They even offer his book “Sanctuary of the Soul”, free this month on their ebooks. 😕 Just thought you should know.
Thanks for letting me know, Lynn. They must have added devotionals after I wrote this article. I have only ever used the actual Bible part of the app.
I thought I would love this as a resource, however, the first time I used it, I found an error in the notes on Genesis :
Genesis 3:2 (FSB): 3:2 “we may eat” The woman corrects the serpent’s wording, but she does not do so precisely. Instead of echoing 2:16, where God gave the human couple permission to eat from every tree except one….
God did not give the couple permission, only the man in 2:16. My first thought was “What else may not be represented correctly?” I deleted the app right away.
I understand what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t call this an error. God gave the verbal instruction to Adam before Eve was created, but as her spiritual leader, God would have expected him to teach her this command, and God did expect both of them to obey His command on this. Perhaps the note could have been worded more clearly, but it’s not a biblical error.