Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Sentence diagram Bible study, Evangelism, Making teens attend church, Female pro-life speaker…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


So it is by way of this email that I ask you to pray about my request to disciple me as a young woman in accordance to Titus 2.

You are so dear, and your e-mail was so sweet. I would love to say yes, but sadly, I cannot. Please see #10 in my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs.


I would love your thoughts on the study of Scripture using the sentence diagram method. I have never tried it but it does look interesting. However I do not want to get into a mess of confusion.

If reading the phrase “the sentence diagram method” just gave you a fond or traumatic flashback to 7th grade English class, then you pretty much already know what it is. It’s taking a Bible verse and diagramming it – either grammatically (with all the little lines for adverbs and adjectives and conjunctions and whatnot), or conceptually (blocking it out according to concept and how those concepts connect.

If you’d like to see an example, click here. (FYI- This link does not mean I’m recommending this site. She endorses and/or has connections to several false teachers.)

If you’re a grammar nerd or language aficionado like I am, this is method is probably right up your alley, and if you need to employ it from time to time to better understand one of Paul’s numerous lengthy run-on sentences, then go for it!

My only counsel would be, don’t make this your only method of Bible study. For the most part, you need to be reading and studying the overall meaning, concepts, and application of larger passages of Scripture, not focusing on dissecting one verse every day. It’s kind of like cooking supper. You need to focus on fixing the whole meal every night rather than pouring all your focus into mincing that clove of garlic into perfectly symmetrical cubes.


I am convicted because I have not been faithful to be a witness for the Gospel. I get tongue tied even with family! I just want to be faithful like the Apostle Paul. My problem is getting started……I know the Good News and want to share. Can you help guide me? I was invited to church and heard the Word preached and the Holy Spirit convicted me of my guilt as a sinner. Can I just invite someone to church?

What a wonderful encouragement it is to encounter a sister with a zeal for sharing the gospel! If it makes you feel any better, a lot of us have the same experience when it comes to sharing the gospel. Let me see if I can offer a little help:

  • While we are all commanded to share the gospel with the lost, there are some people who are just really gifted at it. It comes as naturally to them as breathing, they never get flustered, and they make it look easy. I’m not one of those people, but I can point you to a couple of brothers who are: Ray Comfort and Todd Friel. Head on over to the Living Waters YouTube channel and watch a few thousand videos of Ray walking up to strangers and sharing the gospel. Subscribe to Wretched on your favorite podcast platform, and listen in to the “Witness Wednesday” episodes with Todd. These are the kinds of guys you should look to and be learning from when it comes to “cold call” evangelism.
  • Remember that walking up to a stranger and verbally sharing the gospel is not the only way you can evangelize:
    1. If you have unsaved children at home, they are your primary mission field. They’re just as lost and dead in their sins as any stranger on the street.
    2. Ditto for teaching children at your church. Pour the gospel into those kiddos every week.
    3. Tracts. Get a bunch and carry them around in your purse. Leave them behind at the store, the doctor’s office, the gym, wherever you go. Hand them to people personally when the opportunity arises. I highly recommend the Bezeugen Tract Club and tracts from Living Waters.
    4. If you’re on social media, share the gospel on your timeline. Write it out in your own words, share Scripture, or share links to gospel presentations. Here’s our gospel page at A Word Fitly Spoken. It has a text presentation of the gospel and a couple of videos if you’d like to share them.
    5. It is absolutely fine to invite someone to church (assuming you go to a doctrinally sound church) or any other Christian event where the gospel will be clearly and biblically presented. I would only quibble with people who call inviting someone to church “evangelism”. That’s not evangelism. Evangelism is when you actually share the gospel with someone (which every Christian should do when the opportunity presents itself). Inviting someone to church is inviting her to a place where she’ll be evangelized.
    6. Get creative! Give my articles 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays and 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism a read and see if they give you any ideas.

Additional Resource:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#11)


Should I attempt to bribe/beg/force my teenage sons to go to church? My husband is no longer attending or leading the family spiritually. My sons and I do Bible study together, but they have no other church experiences.

Wow, this is such a difficult position for you to be in. I’m so sorry. I’ve taken a moment to pray for you and your family, and I would ask everyone reading this to pause briefly and do the same.

I would strongly encourage you to set up an appointment with your pastor to discuss this. Giving wise counsel to those he pastors is part of his job. You could also more thoroughly explain your situation to him and he could give you better informed counsel than I can.

Not knowing the dynamics of your situation, the best I can tell you is that I don’t see anything in Scripture that would say it’s a sin to offer your sons something they want or to excuse them from a certain chore or something like that in exchange for them attending church.

I’m not sure “beg” and “force” are words I’m comfortable with in the parent/child relationship. You are the parent. You are the one in authority and responsible to God for your children. When you tell them to do something, they should respectfully obey you. Period. “Begging” and “forcing” shouldn’t even be part of the equation.

That being said, I think it would be good and healthy for you to sit them down and have a serious, loving talk with them, explaining that, because you love them and want what’s best for them, you want to urge them to come to church with you. You can also explain how much their attendance would mean to you (just be careful not to guilt or manipulate them). And, since you’re teaching them the Bible, you might want to spend some time on Hebrews 10:24-25. But when you’ve had this talk with them, especially if they’re older teens and not Believers, you will probably need to leave the decision up to them. This is something it would be good to get your pastor’s guidance about.

Additional Resource:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#12)


If a woman were to speak at a church on the issue of abortion, would that fall into the category of a woman exercising authority over men?

No, the issue here would be whether or not she’s preaching to men or instructing them in the Scriptures, not whether or not she’s exercising authority over them. Someone giving an informational talk on a certain topic isn’t exercising authority over anyone, regardless of the venue, the sex of the speaker or the sex of the audience.

It’s a little difficult to answer this question due to the lack of details. Is this woman simply a member of the church who wishes to address the congregation, or is she a special guest speaker from a pro-life organization? Is her talk taking the place of the Sunday morning sermon? Is she going to be going at it from a “professional” angle (ex: stats on abortion, stories about moms who chose life, pro-life legislation), or is she going to get up and preach a sermon on Psalm 139?

It would be perfectly biblical for a special guest speaker to give a professional informational talk (not preaching/teaching the Bible) in any time slot other than when the sermon usually takes place (Tuesday night, during a special Sunday luncheon, etc.). (Because a- nothing should take the place of the preaching of God’s Word, and b- you don’t want her or anyone in attendance to be confused that she’s preaching the sermon.)

It would also be fine a woman who’s a member of the church and does sidewalk counseling or volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center or even a woman who has had an abortion (and repented of it) to speak about her experiences in a “personal testimony” sort of way.

But when it’s time for biblical instruction and admonition from the Scriptures about abortion, that’s the pastor’s job.

Additional Resource:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#7,14)


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Bible Study

How to Study the Bible- and How Not To!

It’s almost the new year! Are you making a resolution to start having a personal, daily Bible study time? Would you like to improve on the way you study your Bible? Maybe you’re looking for a Bible reading plan, or maybe you’re just looking to change things up a little?

If that sounds like you, give a listen to this week’s episode of A Word Fitly Spoken:

How to Study the Bible – and How Not To!

Amy and I discuss what our own Bible study times look like, plus some other helpful methods and resources. We also discuss false doctrine and false teachers to avoid as you’re studying your Bible.

This episode is a great way to kick off the new year. And don’t forget to subscribe to A Word Fitly Spoken on your favorite podcast platform!

Additional Resources:

Bible Study Resources (how to study the Bible)
Bible Studies
Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2021

Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends

Bible Study

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2021

Happy New Year! Do you make resolutions or set goals you’d like to accomplish during the new year? A lot of people resolve to read the Bible more often or read it through in a year. If that’s you but you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some awesome and unique reading plans that can help¹. (Click titles for links to each plan.)

1. The Chronological Plan

I cannot recommend this plan strongly enough. You’ll read through the entire Bible in a year, following the events as they happened chronologically. I have been through this plan several times (I even took my ladies’ Sunday school class through it in 2014). It is wonderful for helping you see the big picture of the Bible as well as how all the little pieces of the biblical puzzle fit together.

2. 5 Day Bible Narratives Reading Plan and Family Devotional

You can use this year long, 5 days a week plan individually or with the whole family. It “focuses only on the narratives [stories] of Scripture, along with all of the psalms and proverbs,” and includes a 52 week catechism, a weekly hymn, and a study guide for each day’s reading. You can access the plan online, in CSV format, in Google Calendar, and via daily email notifications.

3. The M’Cheyne Plan

How about reading through the Bible in a year with your spouse or family (you could also do this one individually)? With the M’Cheyne plan you’ll read through the Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms, twice. Each day, you’ll read an OT chapter and a NT chapter as a family and another OT chapter and NT chapter on your own (“in secret”). Free Daily Bible study offers suggestions for making this a two or three year plan if one year seems too daunting.

4. The Bible in 90 Days

“Read the Bible cover to cover by investing as little as 30 minutes a day.
In 90 days (two “grace days” are included) you’ll see the big picture of God’s great story unfold before you.” Can’t be done, you say? Think of it as binge-reading the greatest story ever told.

5. The 21-Day Challenge

New to daily Bible reading and don’t want to bite off more than you can chew? Try Back to the Bible’s 21-Day Challenge. Each day, you’ll read one chapter in the book of John, and in three weeks, you’ll be finished. It’s a great way to get your feet wet.

6. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment Plan

“The God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgment Bible Reading Plan will aid your study of Scripture by helping you see the gravitational center of Scripture, God’s glory in salvation through judgment. This Bible reading plan follows the order of the Hebrew Bible and the
canonical order of the New Testament.” This one year plan is available in two printable formats and a Kindle format.

7. The 90 Day Challenge

Another great one for those who struggle with long term commitment. “The 90-day Bible reading plan integrates readings from Genesis, the foundational book of the Old Testament, with the three [synoptic] Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. On one side you’ll see God’s creative work and earliest interactions with His people; on the other, you’ll get to know Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us, fulfilling the promises made even in Genesis.”

8. Every Word in the Bible

Take time to slowly savor God’s word with this relaxed pace plan. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testament to keep you from getting bogged down in some of the more difficult sections. You’ll read through the whole Bible, one to two chapters per day, in three years.

9. Daily Wisdom from Proverbs

“The book of Proverbs is a unique and treasured part of the Bible, rich with timeless wisdom. It is meant to be read slowly and meditatively, yet most reading plans require whole chapters of reading at a time…Read through the book of Proverbs in a year—a few verses per day—with this 365-day plan.”

10. Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Up for a challenge? The Horner system is sort of an osmosis system, the idea being “inundation” rather than “meditation.” With it, you’ll read ten chapters per day from ten different books. Over the course of a year, “you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the Old Testament History and Prophetic books about 1 1⁄2 times.”

11. To the Word Bible Reading Challenge

Want to join with others all around the world using the same plan? Try the To the Word plan. Jump in any day you’re ready, and in a year you’ll have read through the entire Bible. This plan is available in several different languages, and on a variety of apps (YouVersion not recommended). There are also separate men’s and women’s Facebook groups for connecting with others using the plan (Use the Facebook groups discerningly. Anyone using the plan can join the groups regardless of church or theology, and posts are not always screened for sound doctrine.)

12. The Bible’s Grand Narrative

“Over the course of a month, follow along with a reading plan…comprised of twenty-eight readings, offering a selection of passages that follow the broad narrative of Scripture. This plan stretches from Genesis to Revelation, making important stops along the way.” Geared toward new Christians.

13. Bible Reading Plan for Beginners

“The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners takes into account the great number of people who do not have a strong background in the word of God. This plan gives you a stepping-stone so that you do not have to read straight through every word of Scripture the first time. It starts you with the basics. After you feel comfortable at this level, then you can go on to the entire Bible.

The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners is a plan for reading about 40% of the Bible in 170 days (about six months). In this plan, you will read much of the Old Testament story, every chapter in Psalms and Proverbs, the two gospels of Mark and John and several of the New Testament epistles (including Romans, Philippians, Titus and others). You will not read the details of the ceremonial law, lengthy genealogies or difficult prophecies.”

14. The Thematic Bible Reading Plan

This unique, one year plan offers daily readings from the Old and New Testaments focusing on various biblical themes. “This Bible reading schedule is thematic or connective in nature. The goal is to make as many associations as possible between the different parts of Scripture while still reading individual books of the Bible from start to finish.” Another great feature of this plan is that it isn’t dated. You can get started on the day of your choosing.

15. The “How to Eat Your Bible” Plan

My friend, Pastor Nate Pickowicz’s latest book, How to Eat Your Bible, is a gem in the Bible study genre. This brief book is packed with great instruction on how to approach studying your Bible, and culminates with Nate’s seven year Bible reading plan, which you can customize.

16. Who’s Who of the Bible

A fascinating topical study. In 121 days you’ll learn how God works, teaches, and reveals Himself through people, including major characters of the Bible and not-so-major characters. Each day’s passage is linked so you can do your reading on site from the translation of your choice, or you can print out the chart to use with your regular Bible.

17. Genre Plan

Did you know that biblical literature can be divided up into different genres? The Genre Plan takes you through the entire Bible in a year, with a reading from one of seven genres – gospels, law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and epistles – each day of the week.

18. 31 Days to Know God’s Plan for Us

Though it’s billed as a plan for new Christians (and it’s certainly an excellent plan for that), this would also be a wonderful plan to work through to help you present the gospel to others, or to suggest to a lost friend who’s open to learning the gospel. Day 1 starts with the Fall of Man. Then you’ll work your way through OT passages demonstrating our inability to keep the law, followed by NT passages from the gospels and epistles detailing what Christ did for us and how that applies to us for salvation and eternity.

19. The 6 Month Challenge

“Over six months, this plan takes you through the New Testament from Acts to Revelation. This plan also integrates the worship and wisdom of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes on a daily basis, for a balanced diet of instruction and intimate time with God.”

20. Bible Reading Plan Generator

This handy dandy little algorithm allows you to design your own Bible reading plan. You choose the start date, the length of the plan, your language, your favorite format, which books of the Bible you want to read, which days of the week you want to read, and several other options, and the Bible Reading Plan Generator creates a custom designed plan just for you.


Need more suggestions? Check out these collections of Bible reading plans:

  • Ligonier– A wide variety of plans, most available in PDFs.
  • ESV Bible– Here, you’ll find several good, “no strings attached” plans available in PDF format for easy printing. But if you sign up for a free ESV/Crossway account, you’ll have access to more than twenty great reading plans, many of them only 5-7 days in length. You’ll be able to read the day’s text, take notes, and track your progress, all online.
  • Bible Study Tools– Some awesome “start any day you like” plans, ranging in length from ninety days to two years.
  • Bible Gateway– Several great plans, especially if your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary or the Book of Common Prayer and you want to follow along at home. Log in each day and the selected text is displayed on your screen, or subscribe to your plan via e-mail. (Note: I would not recommend the Daily Audio Bible plan. It uses several different “translations,” which is an interesting idea, but while some are accurate, reliable translations (ESV, HCSB), others are faulty paraphrases (The Message, The Voice). However, many translations on Bible Gateway have an audio option, so pick another plan with a good translation and listen away!)
  • Into Thy Word– A number of diverse plans, including one in large print, from 31 days to one year in length. Available in PDF or Microsoft Word formats.
  • Heartlight– Five different one year plans that will take you through all or parts of the Bible. Daily passages are linked so you can read online, but translations are limited, so you might want to use the printable PDF guides with your own Bible.
  • Blue Letter Bible– Several one and two year plans that cover the whole Bible. Available in PDF format.
  • Bible Plan– Yearly and monthly plans, one chapter per day plans, and a few miscellaneous plans. Sign up for daily reminders for your plan via e-mail. These plans are available in many different languages.

¹Please note- I do not necessarily endorse all of the content of the websites linked Above. These links are provided for Bible reading plans only. I do not endorse anything at any of these sites which conflicts with the theology outlined at my “Statement of Faith” and “Welcome” tabs at the top of this page. Should you choose to explore these sites beyond the linked Bible reading plans, please do so discerningly and reject anything that conflicts with Scripture.

Additional Resources

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them

The Mailbag: As a newly doctrinally sound Christian, should I stop journaling? (Taking notes on the text of Scripture.)


Which plan looks most interesting to you?
Have a plan you love that isn’t listed? Please share!

Bible Study

Throwback Thursday on Wednesday! ~ Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Family stuff, church stuff, a hurricane in the Gulf, and a speaking engagement this coming weekend, means I needed a little flexibility in the blog schedule, so I’m flip-flopping Wednesday and Thursday this week. Today, I hope you’ll enjoy this Throwback Thursday article, and, Lord willing, Lesson 10  of Ezekiel will be coming your way tomorrow.

Originally published August 19, 2014

12 dos donts

Bible study. As Christians we want to do it, we know we’re supposed to do it, but have you ever stopped to think that there are right ways and wrong ways to do it? Let’s take a look at a few do’s and don’ts of “rightly dividing God’s word” in Bible study.

Do use a good translation, not a paraphrase. You want to get as close to the original wording as possible. There are a number of easy to read, accurate translations out there. The English Standard Version (ESV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB) are two of the best. Try some translations on for size at BibleGateway.com.

Do read the entire Bible from cover to cover at least every few years. It will give you a better understanding of the “big picture” of the Bible and how all the little pieces inside it fit together. (I highly recommend a chronological reading plan since the books of the Bible aren’t always arranged chronologically.)

Don’t neglect the textual context. Every Bible verse has what I call a “micro-context” (how it fits in with the verses immediately before and after it) a larger context (how it fits in with the chapter and book it’s in) and a “macro-context” (how it fits in with the big picture of the Bible). When we fail to take verses in context, we are mishandling and misappropriating God’s precious and holy word.

Do consider the cultural context. Who wrote the passage, and what do we know about him and his perspective? To whom was the passage written- Jews or Gentiles? Those under the Law or those under grace? Men or women? Pastors or lay people? How did the culture at the time view the topic the passage is about, God, Judaism, the church, etc.? At what period in history, in which country, and in what language was the passage written? A good study Bible or study Bible app can be a tremendous help here.

Don’t confuse descriptive texts (passages that describe something that happened to somebody) with prescriptive texts (a command we’re to obey). Just because you read that Noah built an ark or that Judas went out and hanged himself, doesn’t mean that God is telling you to do the same (thank goodness!). Those are descriptive passages. God is simply telling the story of what happened to someone else because it somehow fits into His bigger story of redemption.

Do consider the type of literature and literary devices you’re reading. Is this book of the Bible history? Poetry? Law? Prophecy? Epistle? Is the particular passage a song, metaphor, hyperbole, comparison, allegory, parable? The Bible uses various vehicles to drive truth home, and they must all be understood in different ways.

Don’t feel like you HAVE to use a Bible study or devotional book or workbook. It really is OK to just pick up the actual Bible and study it. God made His word understandable, made you smart enough to understand it, and gave you the indwelling Holy Spirit to illumine your understanding.

Do, if you decide to use one, choose a Bible study book or workbook that treats Scripture as the “swimming pool” you dive into and swim around in, not the “diving board” the author springs off of into a pool filled only with her own personal stories, anecdotes, and opinions.

Do read the Bible in orderly chunks, not in single verses. Think about the way you would read a magazine. Do you pick it up each day and read a random sentence or paragraph? Do you read the third page of an article before you read the first page of it? You’ll best understand a book of the Bible if you start at the beginning and read the chapters in order to the end.

Don’t give in to the temptation to read yourself into Scripture. The Bible isn’t our story. Approach every passage remembering that the Bible is God’s story of redemption through Christ from His perspective, and we study it to learn about and draw closer to Him.

Don’t underestimate how helpful your Bible’s cross-references to related verses can be. Reading several different passages on a particular topic you’re studying can give you a broader understanding of what the Bible has to say about it.

Do let clear passages interpret unclear passages. This is another reason cross-references are so handy. If you come across a passage you just don’t get, try reading related passages that are clearer, and understand the unclear passage in light of the clearer ones.

Lengthy tomes have been written on the topic of biblical hermeneutics and Bible study methods, so I’m sure I could go on at length, but it’s your turn:

Have you ever found it difficult or daunting to study the Bible?
What are some of the benefits of rightly handling God’s word?
How has a right understanding of Scripture helped you to grow
in your walk with the Lord?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.
Bible Study

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Originally published April 22, 2016.

plain vanilla

Baskin Robbins is one of my favorite places to get ice cream. Not only is their ice cream good, but they boast a plethora of flavors to choose from. I love to start at one end of the counter and work my way through all their offerings, getting a little “taste spoon” here and there if a particular flavor piques my interest.

Flavor_Enlarged_Peanutbutter'nChocolate2
Photo courtesy of BaskinRobbins.com.

Having a myriad of options is great when it comes to ice cream, but when it comes to studying the Bible, the tsunami of materials, methods, and other choices out there can be overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I know if a certain Bible study book or teacher is doctrinally sound? Is the study method I’m using in line with good hermeneutics?

It can be enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and head for your local Thirty One Flavors to drown your sorrows in Peanut Butter ‘N Chocolate.

Sometimes it can help to get back to plain old, simple, vanilla Bible study. I’ve been saying for a while now that Christian women should, for the most part, put all the “canned” Bible study books, workbooks, and DVDs aside and simply pick up their Bibles and study them in a systematic way. After all, up until somewhere near the latter half of the 20th century, that’s generally how people studied the Bible. And it worked. People grew in their faith to godly maturity just fine. So, why can’t it work today?

It can. It does. It will.

Unfortunately, the blessing of lots of options, methods, resources, and information, and the marketing of that blessing by celebrity Christians and Christian retailing, has bred a generation of Christian women who are fearful that they aren’t as smart or as capable of reading and understanding God’s word as all the “experts” out there. They look at the simplicity of picking up their Bibles and studying them like calves looking worriedly at a new gate.

“What does that mean?”

“How do I do that?”

“I’m scared I’ll get it wrong!”

It absolutely breaks my heart to hear this angst from women who, I’m certain, genuinely want to study God’s word correctly so that they can know Him better and grow in their faith. And it makes me livid at the churches who haven’t trained them properly, the plantation-style women’s “Bible study” marketing that has kept them ignorant and dependent slaves to Christian retailers, and whatever other forces have conspired to keep these precious ladies away from the pure milk of the word.

So let’s reboot, get back to basics, and get as many women digging into the Word as possible.

First, it’s important to start out with a biblical perspective:

1. God is kind, and He loves you.

Yeah, I know, that’s pretty basic. But it’s worth bringing to the forefront for this discussion. This is a God who loves you and wants you to know Him. He has revealed Himself to you through creation, through Christ, and through His written word. He has indwelt you as a believer with the Holy Spirit to help you understand Scripture. He has told you that you can ask for wisdom and promises to provide it. In His kindness God has bent over backwards to provide you with ways to know Him. He is not some mean ogre sitting up there just waiting for you to get something wrong so He can chastise you. He wants you to understand His word.

2. The Perspicuity of Scripture

There’s this really great, comforting, reassuring doctrine called the perspicuity of Scripture. The gist of it is that Scripture is, for the most part, clear and understandable, especially for believers, because of the aforementioned indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But even lost people tend to understand a lot of what Scripture says (that’s why you hear so many of them arguing against it – they couldn’t do that if they didn’t at least partially understand it).

So, by and large, if you’re reading the Bible in an orderly way you should be able to understand it fairly well. You don’t have to have a seminary degree or be an “expert.” There are dirt farmers and country preachers out there who have a better grasp of Scripture than some celebrity pastors in multi-million dollar churches with thousands of congregants, and a string of seminary degrees behind their names.

OK, now that we have a biblical perspective on studying the Bible, how do we do it in a systematic or orderly way?

3. Pray

Don’t see this as childish or unimportant and skip it. Start your Bible study time by asking God to help you understand His word, to learn what He wants you to learn from it, and to obey its instruction. Even if you’re pretty well versed in the Scriptures, praying like this before opening God’s word will remind you of its holiness and your proper place of humility and submission to it.

bible-1089968_12804. Read the Bible the way you would any other book.

When you pick up a novel, do you read one sentence out of the middle of chapter 4, followed, the next day, by a paragraph from chapter 37, and, the next day, a couple of lines from chapter 1? Of course not. You wouldn’t know what was going on and what the characters meant by what they were saying. If you wouldn’t read something as inconsequential as a novel this way, why would you read the Bible in such a haphazard manner? Yet this is precisely the way people often approach daily Bible study.

My pastor said something awesome about this in his sermon the other day:

The Bible isn’t Google for self-help.

And he’s so right. We don’t just parachute in to a random passage, hoping to glean a nugget of truth. Pick a book of the Bible (maybe Genesis or one of the gospels if you’re new to all this), start at the beginning, and read a little each day until you reach the end. It’s really that simple.

5. Context, context, context

It’s important to read and understand Scripture in its context: how a verse fits with the verses immediately surrounding it, within its chapter, within its book, and within the overarching narrative of the Bible. This is really the biggest key to comprehending Scripture. Fortunately, the main way to do this is by reading the Bible in an orderly way (see #4- You did already read #4, right?)

Another invaluable practice is to make use of the cross-references and footnotes in your Bible. Cross-references will help you get a better idea of how the passage you’re reading fits together with other, related passages. Footnotes are there to add a touch of clarity to particular words and passages.

6. Get a plan, Fran.

If structure helps you, choose a good Bible reading plan. For the beginner, start off with one of the shorter plans so you won’t get overwhelmed. When you’re ready, I highly recommend the chronological plan. It is extremely helpful for learning the big picture of Scripture.

If you decide to choose a reading plan, though, hold its schedule loosely and don’t be beholden to its time frame. Work through the readings at your own pace. Take the time to let the Scriptures sink in and spend as long as you need to on any given section. God doesn’t give gold stars for finishing the Bible in a year.

7. Understand the background and setting.

There are some passages in Scripture that are a little more difficult to understand if you don’t know the customs of the time or what was going on historically and politically. In these cases a good study Bible, commentary, and other resources can be beneficial. I’ve touched on the specifics of some of these resources here. Many of these helpful materials can be found on-line for free.

8. Take notes on the text.

Hmm…an orderly method of reading…footnotes…extra resources…taking notes…this is starting to sound like…well…studying! Yep, that’s the idea. Isn’t it interesting that we often take a more serious and scholarly approach to studying for a class or a test than we do to studying our Bibles?

If you were a better student than I was in high school and college, you probably took notes on your text books as you read them. You wrote down things you wanted to remember, things that seemed important, things you didn’t understand and wanted to work on more later, things that were especially meaningful, even questions that occurred to you. Those are all good things to write down as you study your Bible, as well.

presenter-1206345_12809. Listen to good preaching.

As a Christian, you should already be doing this at least weekly at the church you’re a member of. But try to sneak in some extra listening – to your own pastor or another doctrinally sound pastor – as often as you can during the week. Listening to someone rightly handle and explain God’s word helps you to understand it and trains you to rightly handle it yourself as you study.

I once read that children who read a lot are better spellers. Not because they study spelling more, but because they’re exposed to more words and have the correct spelling of words constantly in front of their eyes. They sort of soak up good spelling by osmosis, and when it’s time for the spelling test, they simply write down what they’ve absorbed. Listening to good, expository preaching can have the same kind of helpful impact on your Bible study skills.

10. Practice makes perfect.

Studying the Bible is just like any other skill. You’ll probably fumble around a good bit when you’re first getting started, but if you stick to it, you’ll find that it gets easier and you get better at it as time goes by. Don’t be afraid to start. Jump right in there and try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

 

Ladies, simply picking up the Bible and studying it each day is such a joy. I have been doing it for years, and I love it. The excitement of “digging for buried treasure” in God’s word and uncovering the truths of Scripture for myself has been far more meaningful to me and has grown me so much more than any workbook or curriculum I’ve ever used. I hope you’ll put aside your book studies and devotionals, and give it a try yourself!