Christmas, Holidays (Other)

Have Yourself an Awesome Little Advent 2019: 12 (Mostly FREE) Advent Devotionals, Activities, and Resources

Is your family getting ready for Advent? Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming. And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are some awesome Advent resources for young and old alike. Most of them are free, but the ones that aren’t, I’ve marked with a 💰.

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December Advent!– Here’s an advent calendar, craft, and devotional all rolled into one! Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study resource that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!

 

Repeat the Sounding Joy– This Advent devotional by Christopher Ash on Luke 1-2 “will help you to celebrate afresh the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah in history, and learn what it means to wait for him with joyful expectation today. Each day’s reading includes a short reflection, a prayer, a carol, and space to journal…”. Get a $10 off (when you spend $20+) coupon here for The Good Book Co.💰

 

Need a good Advent playlist? I’ve created one on YouTube. Your favorite Advent (not Christmas) song isn’t included? Leave a comment (a link would be helpful) and I’ll add it if appropriate.

 

Joy To The World: Daily Readings For Advent– “In the midst of the business of December, take 5 minutes each day and let Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, warm your heart with joy that can only be found in the good news of Jesus Christ.” A 25-day Advent devotional guide.💰

 

 

Names of Jesus Advent Ornaments– One for each day, December 1-24. Create them on paper, cardboard, or wood, and study one of the names of Jesus each day leading up to Christmas. Free printables, too!

 

The Christmas Promise Advent Calendar– This “attractive lift-the-flap Advent Calendar for children 5-11 years old…comes with a booklet containing 25 devotions for December to help families explore the Bible together in the run up to Christmas.” Get a $10 off (when you spend $20+) coupon here for The Good Book Co.💰

 

Advent: A 31-Day Reading Plan– A “31-day Bible reading plan on ESV.org aimed at helping you enter into and reflect on the story of Advent this season.” Use it during your own quiet time or for family worship. You’ll need to start today in order to finish by Christmas Day.

 

Christmas Messages– Maybe sermons are more to your Advent listening liking than music. “In this set of Christmas sermons, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the account of the Magi in the gospel according to Matthew and the relationship of David and Saul in order to unfold the significance of Christmas and the incarnation of Christ.”

 

Advent Crafts for Kids–  “Scripture-based crafts from Gail Schoonmaker’s book, Big Picture Bible Crafts, can provide an opportunity to do something with kids that will help you explain the Christmas story in a simple and interactive way.” Download two free crafts.

 

Advent at The End TimeElizabeth Prata has been hard at work on her Advent materials over at her blog, The End Time. Check out her series of articles each Monday during the Advent season, exploring “some of the less ‘famous’ characters or events in the Nativity story.” This series started on November 11, so you’ll want to get caught up! And starting this Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), watch for Thirty Days of Jesus, “Scripture pictures that progressively work through Jesus’ life from incarnation to ascension.” You could share them on social media or change your cover photo every day to celebrate the season!

 

25 Christmas Myths and What the Bible Says– Was Jesus Born on December 25? Did the angels really sing to the shepherds? And what about that inn keeper? In his recently updated book, 25 Christmas Myths…, Gabriel Hughes tackles some of the folklore and false assumptions that have sprung up around the Christmas story and shares what the Bible really teaches. One lesson for each day December 1-25. Get a sneak peek below. Audio is more your thing? Gabe discussed myths 1-10 from the book last year on his podcast. 💰

 

Who says crafts are just for kids? How about making an Advent mini-book for journaling your way through the themes and Scriptures of the Advent season? Use materials you have on hand or head out to the craft store, choose some Scripture passages to add, and create a charming, gospel-centered heirloom you can re-read each year. You might even want to use it along with the 31-Day Bible reading plan above! (The video below is part one of three. Part 2  Part 3)

 

What’s your favorite Advent resource?


I do not endorse anything on any of these sites that deviates from Scripture or conflicts with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs at the top of this page.
Christmas

Have Yourself an Awesome Little Advent 2018: 12 (Mostly FREE) Advent Devotionals, Activities, and Resources

Is your family getting ready for Advent? Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming. And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are some awesome Advent resources for young and old alike. Most of them are free, but the ones that aren’t, I’ve marked with a  💰.

Please note, I tried to vet these resources and writers as best I could for sound doctrine, but not all of these folks are thoroughly familiar to me, nor have I read all of these materials. Be discerning, and always make sure every teaching you embrace matches up with what God’s word says.

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December Advent!– Here’s an advent calendar, craft, and devotional all rolled into one! Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study resource that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!

 

coverLet Every Heart Prepare Him Room– This is a family Advent devotional from Bible teacher and mom Nancy Guthrie. Along with devotions for every day in December, this resource includes explanations of some hard-to-understand aspects of popular Christmas carols and discussion questions to draw in your elementary through high school-aged kids. 💰

 

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Joyous Expectation– Lynnae McCoy offers a weekly Advent devotional. The first week she helps us remember that “The King is on the way!” with a free printable. (Click on “Tagged With: Advent” at the end of the article for remaining devotionals.)

 

Lutheran Public Radio– Looking for sacred music to listen to during Advent? According to my reader who recommended this resource, “They play church music appropriate to the season of the church year,” so you might want to keep LPR handy all year long! Listen online at the LPR website or on the LPR app.

 

Worship Ideas for Family Time at Christmas– Jerry Vogel and his wife “always plan a dedicated time for family worship.” Here’s how they did it. Maybe it would be a fit for your family, too.

 

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The Christ of Christmas Advent Devotionals– These weekly devotional readings are excerpted from Calvin Miller’s book, The Christ of Christmas.

 

 

 

2009-11-18_0909aNames of Jesus Advent Chain– Paper chains are a fun and easy craft for families with little ones, and this one even comes with a printable template. Count down to Christmas with the Names of Jesus Advent Chain from Spell Outloud.

 

Know Him by Name– There are enough red flags with Focus on the Family that it’s not a ministry I proactively recommend, but they’re generally doctrinally OK enough that I’m comfortable sharing this Advent devotional with you to use as a template for your own family time. Use the Scriptures they’ve provided, tweak or beef up the teaching portion, and select some of the fun activities (advent wreath instructions and free printables) to do with the kids.

 

Love Came Down at Christmas– “Over the course of December, this devotional [by Sinclair Ferguson] walks through 1 Corinthians 13 phrase-by-phrase, showing us that “love is” the Lord Jesus himself…Each day’s reading finishes with a question for reflection and a prayer.” 💰

 

 

Christmas Messages– Maybe sermons are more to your Advent listening liking than music. “In this set of Christmas sermons, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the account of the Magi in the gospel according to Matthew and the relationship of David and Saul in order to unfold the significance of Christmas and the incarnation of Christ.”

 

Advent Crafts for Kids–  “Scripture-based crafts from Gail Schoonmaker’s book, Big Picture Bible Crafts, can provide an opportunity to do something with kids that will help you explain the Christmas story in a simple and interactive way.” Download two free crafts.

 

Come, Let Us Adore Him– “This book of daily readings for the month of December by best-selling author Paul David Tripp will help you slow down, prepare your heart, and focus on what matters most: adoring our Savior, Jesus.” Download a free excerpt of the book (readings for December 1-4). 💰

 

 

What’s your favorite Advent resource?

Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can I get started studying the Bible itself?

 

Where would you recommend someone start if they really wanted to read the Bible for themselves?

I love this question so much. I wish more women were asking this question.

If you’ve hung around the blog for practically any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me say that next to “Is ______ a false teacher?”, the question I’m most often asked is, “Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?“. I give the same answer to that question every time: no.

First of all, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than a doctrinally sound study at a Christian retailer. But, second, why would you rob yourself of the joy of holding the actual words of God in your hands and studying them for yourself? I can’t bring myself to recommend something that would be less – less joy, less growth in Christ, less depth, less knowledge of the Word – than the best. I recommend that you study God’s Word itself, not the gleanings from somebody else’s study of God’s Word.

When I first received this question, I wasn’t sure whether the reader wanted to know which book of the Bible she should start with or which method to use, so I’ll cover both.

📖 Fear not. Let’s take just one step backwards from this reader’s question for a moment. Sadly, some women have never been introduced to the idea that they can study the Bible for themselves, without using a pre-packaged (I call them “canned”) study (book, workbook, DVD, etc.). If this Mailbag article is the first time you’ve ever heard of such a thing, and you’re intrigued but apprehensive, don’t be afraid to give it a try. Until some time around the latter part of the 20th century, when people wanted to study the Bible, they just picked up the Bible itself and started studying. And it worked. People – usually with far less education than you have – grew in their faith to godly maturity just fine. There’s no reason you can’t do that, too.

📖 Go into it with the right mindset. Bible study is a skill just like anything else. You’re not going to be perfect at it the first time you try, just like you didn’t ride a bicycle perfectly the first time you tried. You may try a method of studying that just isn’t a fit for you. You might choose a book of the Bible that’s not as suited for beginners as another book might be. That’s OK. There’s going to be some trial and error. Stick with it and don’t give up.

📖 Commit I always encourage women to commit to putting aside all of the workbooks and devotionals for a year. It takes a while to get out of the habit of relying on somebody else to do the heavy lifting for you and into the habit of diligently digging in to God’s Word for yourself. If you have a little hiccup in your studying, don’t quit and go back to the canned studies, assuming you can’t handle studying God’s Word on your own. Yes, you can. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.

📖 “Training wheels” If you need a little help getting started, choose one of the studies I’ve written at the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. My studies are designed to train you to study the Bible for yourself. You’ll learn about context, cross-references, culture, the storyline of redemption from Old Testament to New, the kinds of questions you should be asking of the text, and more. They are “teach a woman to fish” studies rather than “give a woman a fish” studies. I fully expect that you will be able to bait your own hook in no time.

📖 Structure If structure and schedules and plans are your jam, you might want to choose a Bible reading plan. It’s become my New Year’s Day tradition to publish an annual round up of super Bible reading plans. You can find this year’s list of plans at the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page. There are plans that range in length from seven days to indefinite. Some will take you through a biblical topic, others through one or two books, others through the whole Bible. If you’re a beginner, I would recommend starting with one of the shorter ones (90 days or less) to get your feet wet. And, when you’re ready to read through the whole Bible (which you really need to do at some point), I highly recommend the chronological plan.

📖 Freestyle If you’re more of a “set your own schedule” kind of person, just choose a book of the Bible – maybe one you’ve had your eye on – start at the beginning, and read a bit each day until you reach the end of the book. Then choose another book and start again. Not really familiar with the layout of the Bible? Try choosing one of the shorter (less than 20 chapters) books if this is your first try and you’re taking a shot in the dark. Enjoy reading stories? You might want to start with Genesis or one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Looking for instruction instead? Try one of the epistles (basically anything between Acts and Revelation). You will probably want to save the longer and more complicated books (ex: the major and minor prophets, Revelation, Leviticus) for when you get a bit more experience with studying Scripture. As you get more confident in studying the Bible, make it your goal to study through every book at least once. 

📖 How to? There are a variety of methods and techniques you can learn for studying the Bible, and whatever method enables you to rightly handle God’s Word and works best for you is fine. I like to keep things simple. Before I start studying, I spend some time in prayer. I confess my sins, ask God to speak to me through His Word, and ask Him to help me correctly understand, obey, and apply His Word. After that, I have a spiral notebook and a pen, and I simply take notes on the text. (If you want to see the kinds of things I write down when I take notes, read through the questions in one of the studies I’ve written at the “Bible Studies” tab. I write those studies the same way I take notes during my personal study time.) As a beginner you may wish to simply read the text and build up to taking notes as you become more comfortable with reading.

📖 Get some help. You don’t have to do this all by yourself. Maybe your husband, a godly friend, one of the older ladies at church, or your pastor could offer you some pointers on studying your Bible or help you out with any questions you might encounter along the way. Never be afraid to ask for help. That’s what brothers and sisters in Christ are for.

I’ve also got a number of resources on how to study the Bible under the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. Click on the link and scroll through, or you might wish to start with one of these.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

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

As a newly doctrinally sound Christian, should I stop journaling?

(More details on taking notes on the text of Scripture.)


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.

Christmas, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Free (and Cheap) Devotionals and Family Worship Activities for Advent

Originally published December 5, 2014Advent 10

Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming (click here to learn more). And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are ten Advent resources for young and old alike (and nearly all of them are FREE).

Please note, I tried to vet these resources and writers as best I could for sound doctrine, but not all of these folks are thoroughly familiar to me, nor have I read all of these materials. Be discerning, and always make sure every teaching you embrace matches up with what God’s word says.

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1. December Advent!– Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study program/podcast that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!

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2. Devotions for Advent– “In Devotions for Advent, bestselling author Robert J. Morgan has gathered favorite hymns as well as classic, lesser-known gems to guide your quiet time with God during Advent.”

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3. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy– “These 25 brief devotional readings from John Piper begin on December 1 and carry us to Christmas Day.” Download the PDF or audiobook for free. You can also purchase it in paperback or Kindle formats.

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4. Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room– This is a family Advent devotional from Bible teacher and mom Nancy Guthrie. Along with devotions for every day in December, this resource includes explanations of some hard-to-understand aspects of popular Christmas carols and discussion questions to draw in your elementary through high school-aged kids.

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5. Joyous Expectation– Lynnae McCoy is doing a weekly Advent devotional. This week she helps us remember that “The King is on the way!” with a free printable.

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6. Good News of Great Joy– These Advent meditations are excerpted from the ministry of John Piper and correspond to the daily readings in Desiring God’s free devotional app, Solid Joys. The e-reader and PDF versions and apps are all free to download.

 

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7. Worship Ideas for Family Time at Christmas– Jerry Vogel and his wife “always plan a dedicated time for family worship.” Here’s how they did it. Maybe it would be a fit for your family, too.

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8. The Christ of Christmas Advent Devotionals– These weekly devotional readings are excerpted from Calvin Miller’s book, The Christ of Christmas.

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9. Journey to the Manger– Advent fun for kids from Thriving Family (a ministry of Focus on the Family). Free downloads include: Advent poster, Bible character cutouts, daily faith activities, and puzzles.

 

2009-11-18_0909a10. Names of Jesus Advent Chain– Paper chains are a fun and easy craft for families with little ones, and this one even comes with a printable template. Count down to Christmas with the Names of Jesus Advent Chain from Spell Outloud.

Bible, Bible Study, Christian women

Wednesday’s Word ~ You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

I’m taking some time off this week.
I hope you’ll enjoy this selected article.

Originally published July 17, 2014

Bible Five Reasons

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:

ColPotter MM

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 (and 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.

Cross References:
Take a look at your Bible. See any little superscript numbers or letters in the text? Find the corresponding letter or 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.

Study Bibles:
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.

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.