Bible Study

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

We’ll be getting started on our new Bible study next week.
In the meantime, I thought this might be helpful.

Originally published March 31, 2015

9 helps daily bible study

It seems to be a common dilemma among new Christians, Christians who have never developed the habit of daily Bible study, and even those whose current Bible study methods or materials just don’t seem to be “working.” You know you need to be studying God’s word efficiently and effectively every day, but you aren’t quite sure how to get the ball rolling.

Let me just say right off the bat that getting over that ginormous hurdle between knowing you ought to study your Bible today and actually doing it is normal. Every Christian goes through that at least occasionally. So don’t worry that your flesh balking initially when it’s time to open your Bible means you aren’t saved or you don’t have enough faith, or whatever. But don’t let it stop you either. There are some things you can do to get off to a good start with setting up and sticking to a daily Bible study time. What can you do to set yourself up for success?

Prioritize It

Take a little time to get alone with the Lord, and be honest with Him and yourself. Is daily Bible study actually important to you – something you want to do? Why or why not? Do you feel like you should be studying, but you don’t really have a desire to? Ask God to help you understand your motivations and submit them to Him. Ask him to give you a passion for His word. Ask Him to help you to be obedient to Him in making His word a priority in your life.

Pair It

Pair your study time with something you already do faithfully, and at roughly the same time, every day. Study while you’re eating lunch, during the baby’s nap time, right after you exercise, as soon as you get up in the morning, etc. Piggybacking onto something that’s already built in to your schedule helps you stay faithful and keeps you from forgetting.

Plan for It

Do your best to block off your schedule for your Bible study time and guard that time from interruptions. Turn your phone off and get away from social media. Don’t schedule other appointments or activities that might run long and impinge on your study time. Take care of any possible contingencies that could come up before you get started.

Be Purposeful About It

The Bible should be studied in an orderly way so you can understand and apply it properly. I usually recommend simply picking up the Bible and studying it rather than using Bible study books and workbooks, and having a systematic plan of study is essential, not only to proper understanding and application of God’s word, but also to keep you from wasting time trying to figure out what to study each day. Choose a book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and work your way through it, or choose a plan for working your way through the New Testament, Old Testament, or whole Bible.

Pare It

Bible reading plans are great, but some of them can simply require so much daily reading that you don’t have time to slow down, take it all in, and linger over what you need to linger over. You don’t have to read the whole Bible in a year, but if a plan interests you, you could tweak the timing of it or pare it down in some way so you’re not biting off more than you can chew. Go for quality rather than an overwhelming quantity. Many beginners find that a chapter a day (unless it’s Psalm 119!) is just about right.

Partner with Someone

Check in regularly with a friend or your husband and discuss what each of you is learning from God’s word and how He’s using what you’re studying to make you more like Christ. It’s great fellowship and will help keep you both accountable to staying in the Word.

Positively Reinforce It

It’s true that studying God’s word is its own reward, but sometimes disciplining yourself to stick to a schedule needs a little extra boost of incentive, especially when you’re just starting out. How about making a deal with yourself that you can get on social media, watch TV, have dessert, etc., only after you’ve had your Bible study time? Or that if you don’t miss any days of studying your Bible for a whole week, you’ll reward yourself with an ice cream cone, a bubble bath or some other small treat?

Pursue It

Realize from the get go that there are going to be some days when you’re going to forget to study your Bible, or oversleep, or have an emergency, or just plain old give into temptation to skip it. Take a breath. It’s OK. If there was sin involved, repent and ask God’s forgiveness. If there’s still time left in the day, and you’re able, go ahead and pull your Bible out, even if it’s not your regularly scheduled time. If not, just get back up on that horse tomorrow. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Prize It

Above all, whether it’s a day when you’ve had a fantastic time in God’s word or a day when you’ve messed up royally, keep your eyes on the prize and see the long term value in spending time in the Scriptures each day. God is using His word to grow you in holiness and make you more Christlike.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17


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

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

Originally published October 9, 2017

 

I am struggling with reading the Word. I find myself having to drag myself to it to dedicate time to read it, struggling against doing other things instead. I love the Lord with all my heart. I love His Word, LOVE everything about the Bible. I know that love for God’s word and hunger for it is one of the marks of salvation. I want to hunger for reading it like a baby hungers for milk. I want that passion for His word.

Please don’t tell me to check my salvation as I daily obsess about this to the point where my sister in Christ said I have OCD about this. I hear about false converts and it scares me. An elder told me that you can do the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit and I thought that once I was saved I could not do that, that was the sin of unbelief. Now, I am sometimes scared to even think about the Holy Spirit, because what if I do that! Please take me Lord, before I would do that! Please help me. 

This question from a friend of my Facebook page just reached through the screen and clutched at my heart. I’ve been right where this sister is now, and I know many of you have been there as well. If you would, take a moment to pray for her and any other Christian you know who’s struggling with this kind of anxiety in her walk.

The Unpardonable Sin
You cannot commit the unpardonable sin. No one living today can commit that sin. I don’t mean to sound harsh, as we all make mistakes, but I am appalled at your elder’s ignorance on this issue and what he said to you. It’s a very common question, and he should at least know a simple answer to it. I’ve covered it here: What is the unpardonable sin?

Check your salvation?
There is no reason for me to tell you to check your salvation, and it never entered my mind to do so. Lost people don’t ask God to take their lives lest they commit the unpardonable sin or worry about whether or not they hunger enough for God’s Word. Only saved people think like that, because saved people are new creations in Christ, with the mind of Christ, who desire to please Christ. Lost people can’t even understand the things of God because these things are revealed by the Holy Spirit, which they don’t have.

I would really encourage you to work through the book of 1 John (I’ve written a study on it if you’d find that helpful). John wrote this epistle to reassure believers. As he says in 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Getting over the “hump” of reticence.
What you describe about dragging yourself to do your Bible study but then loving the Word once you get over that hump of reticence is absolutely, without a doubt, one hundred per cent normal. Pastors feel that way. Elders feel that way. Bible teachers feel that way. Every Christian, including me, feels that way at least sometimes. Usually several times a week for me.

That feeling does not mean you’re not hungering for the Word or that you don’t have a passion for it. Indeed, if you weren’t hungering for the Word with such a passion, you wouldn’t be so up in arms about feeling tempted to do something besides reading your Bible.

That feeling is not something lacking in your desire for the Word. That feeling is Satan tempting you to do anything rather than study your Bible. And the way you combat that temptation? You pray through it, pick up your Bible, and start reading – regardless of how you feel about it. Obedience is hard sometimes. But when you grit your teeth against that temptation and obey God anyway, that is a precious offering to the Lord. He doesn’t require that you feel all hearts and flower-y while you’re doing it. That’s you putting that pressure on yourself. This is battle. Fight. You obey and let God worry about your feelings.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Matthew 21:28-31a

Peace be unto you.
God did not save you in order for you to spend your life in a state of fear and anxiety. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Forever starts the moment you’re saved. God wants you to enjoy spending time with Him in this life just as much as He wants you to in the next.

Christ is the Prince of Peace and His desire is for you to be at peace with Him. He knows you inside and out and He still delights in you. It is safe to let go, relax, and rest in His love and delight. He is not going to let go of you. Here are a few Scriptures that may bring you some comfort and reassurance. Believe them. Trust Him. He loves you. Let that sink in and simply love Him back.

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Psalm 149:4-5


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, 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.

Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ Priming Your Prayer Wall

Originally published February 27, 2009

A friend of mine recently remarked that sometimes when he begins his prayer time, he has trouble with his mind wandering to the various tasks of his day instead of being able to concentrate on doing business with God. I’ve had that problem too.

It’s easy to get distracted no matter what you’re doing, but since Satan isn’t particularly wild about our praying, he frequently uses distraction as a tool to either keep us from praying altogether, or to keep us from entering into deep, focused communion with God.

Have you ever painted a wall? My husband frequently paints as part of his business, and there have been a few times when he was so hard up for an assistant, he had to settle for me. Painting is definitely not my forte. It’s tedious and boring and I hate it. I hate it so much I even made up a little song to sing – under my breath, of course – while I’m doing it, about how much I hate it. (I know, I know, “do all things without grumbling,” but for me painting is more of a Psalm 55:17 proposition.)

But, thanks to my husband’s good teaching, at least now I know how to do it right.

When he paints, he doesn’t just go in, throw some paint on the wall and leave (like I would, because I hate painting so much). He prepares before he paints. He makes sure the floor near the wall won’t get spattered with paint. He protects the baseboards, chair rails, and mouldings. He removes the switch plates and outlet covers. Often, he will prime the wall with a base coat of a neat product called Kilz, which covers up stains and marks and leaves a nice, clean surface on which to roll on the new paint. Only after all of that preparation does he begin painting.

I’ve found that that kind of preparation can be helpful before praying as well. So what can you do to “prime” your prayer “wall”?

◊ Get as far away as possible from physical distractions. Get into a quiet room away from other people. (For me, that sometimes means I have to leave the house and walk the neighborhood or sit in the car while I pray!) Turn off the music, the phone, the computer, and anything else that might make noise. Sometimes a white noise machine can be helpful as well.

◊ Keep a piece of paper and a pen handy. Before you pray, take a few moments to take a mental inventory of the rest of your day. Jot down any reminders to yourself or lists of things you need to get or do. Then, set it aside, both mentally and literally, but within arm’s reach. Later, when you’re praying, if something that’s absolutely crucial comes to mind, just take a second and write yourself a very brief note about it and get back to prayer. I usually ask God to please help me to remember or accomplish whatever it is I’ve just had to write down.

◊ Prime the wall. My “primer prayer” usually goes something like this: “Lord, thank you for drawing me to this time of prayer. Please keep my heart, mind, and will focused completely on You and prevent me from being distracted. If I do get distracted, please help me realize this right away and give me the discipline to re-focus on you. Direct this prayer time and bring to my mind all the things You want me to pray about.” This gives me that “nice, clean surface” so I can start praying.

◊ Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5). Once I have prayed my “primer prayer”, if a thought comes to mind, I pray about it, even if it’s something as simple as, “Lord, please help me remember to stop at the store and get bread on the way home.” It’s important to be discerning, though, about whether a thought is a distraction, or God is impressing on you that you really need to pray about this thing that you thought was trivial. If it’s a genuine distraction, I usually employ the Scarlett O’Hara principle and say to myself, “I’m not going to think about that right now, I’ll think about that later.” Then I make a conscious decision to re-focus on the prayer issues before me.

◊ Practice. Keep at it. Prayer is like anything else– the more you practice it, the easier it generally becomes. Practice preparing for prayer. Practice asking for God’s help to focus. Practice re-directing your thoughts when they go astray. The more often you do it, the less often you’ll find yourself distracted.

Now go prime that wall and pray, pray, pray! It’s a lot more fun than painting!

Bible Study, Mailbag

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

 

I am struggling with reading the Word. I find myself having to drag myself to it to dedicate time to read it, struggling against doing other things instead. I love the Lord with all my heart. I love His Word, LOVE everything about the Bible. I know that love for God’s word and hunger for it is one of the marks of salvation. I want to hunger for reading it like a baby hungers for milk. I want that passion for His word.

Please don’t tell me to check my salvation as I daily obsess about this to the point where my sister in Christ said I have an OCD about this. I hear about false converts and it scares me. An elder told me that you can do the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit and I thought that once I was saved I could not do that, that was the sin of unbelief. Now, I am sometimes scared to even think about the Holy Spirit, because what if I do that! Please take me Lord, before I would do that! Please help me. 

This question from a friend of my Facebook page just reached through the screen and clutched at my heart. I’ve been right where this sister is now, and I know many of you have been there as well. If you would, take a moment to pray for her and any other Christian you know who’s struggling with this kind of anxiety in her walk.

The Unpardonable Sin
You cannot commit the unpardonable sin. No one living today can commit that sin. I don’t mean to sound harsh, as we all make mistakes, but I am appalled at your elder’s ignorance on this issue and what he said to you. It’s a very common question, and he should at least know a simple answer to it. I’ve covered it here: What is the unpardonable sin?

Check your salvation?
There is no reason for me to tell you to check your salvation, and it never entered my mind to do so. Lost people don’t ask God to take their lives lest they commit the unpardonable sin or worry about whether or not they hunger enough for God’s Word. Only saved people think like that, because saved people are new creations in Christ, with the mind of Christ, who desire to please Christ. Lost people can’t even understand the things of God because these things are revealed by the Holy Spirit, which they don’t have.

I would really encourage you to work through the book of 1 John (I’ve written a study on it if you’d find that helpful). John wrote this epistle to reassure believers. As he says in 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Getting over the “hump” of reticence.
What you describe about dragging yourself to do your Bible study but then loving the Word once you get over that hump of reticence is absolutely, without a doubt, one hundred per cent normal. Pastors feel that way. Elders feel that way. Bible teachers feel that way. Every Christian, including me, feels that way at least sometimes. Usually several times a week for me.

That feeling does not mean you’re not hungering for the Word or that you don’t have a passion for it. Indeed, if you weren’t hungering for the Word with such a passion, you wouldn’t be so up in arms about feeling tempted to do something besides reading your Bible.

That feeling is not something lacking in your desire for the Word. That feeling is Satan tempting you to do anything rather than study your Bible. And the way you combat that temptation? You pray through it, pick up your Bible, and start reading – regardless of how you feel about it. Obedience is hard sometimes. But when you grit your teeth against that temptation and obey God anyway, that is a precious offering to the Lord. He doesn’t require that you feel all hearts and flower-y while you’re doing it. That’s you putting that pressure on yourself. This is battle. Fight. You obey and let God worry about your feelings.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Matthew 21:28-31a

Peace be unto you.
God did not save you in order for you to spend your life in a state of fear and anxiety. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Forever starts the moment you’re saved. God wants you to enjoy spending time with Him in this life just as much as He wants you to in the next.

Christ is the Prince of Peace and His desire is for you to be at peace with Him. He knows you inside and out and He still delights in you. It is safe to let go, relax, and rest in His love and delight. He is not going to let go of you. Here are a few Scriptures that may bring you some comfort and reassurance. Believe them. Trust Him. He loves you. Let that sink in and simply love Him back.

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Psalm 149:4-5


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.