I think we can all agree that the Bible can be a pretty intimidating book. To be honest, if it hadn’t been for a series of events that strategically happened in my life, I probably would have never attempted to study it the way I do now. I was absolutely terrified to even try to open it. Not only because I knew I would never comprehend everything in it, but also because I was afraid of what I would learn. Afraid. Of. What. I. Would. Learn. I mean…what if Hell really is like…real? (It is, btw.) What if I’m not good enough to get into Heaven? What if I have to change my whole lifestyle and how I live, immediately, because of what I learn? What if I don’t even know how to change myself? What if this book makes me feel inadequate for the rest of my life? What if this all turns out to be a lie? Fictional?
I sat there and stared at my Bible, asking myself all of the “what if’s”.
And then I opened it.
I’ve been doing hardcore Bible study for almost two years now. It will actually be two years this November. I now believe that God timed my study, and my path in life, perfectly. (Huh. How about that?! God’s timing being perfect…). My sweet mother-in-law is the head of Women’s Ministry at a huge church in Denver. Please know that when I say “huge”, I mean they have four services a week and over four thousand members. She went to the Denver Seminary and has been studying the Bible since she was a little girl. She knows her stuff. (Again…had I not married the man I did, I probably would have never met her. And how my husband and I met is an interesting story in itself. God’s timing.). Anyway, my mother-in-law, Janet, knows her stuff when it comes to being a Believer. Not only is she book smart, she’s a walking example of someone who loves Jesus. And she absolutely radiates His love. She gave me a Bible and Bible study book one year for Christmas. No pressure. Just wrapped presents under the tree. It wasn’t until almost a year later that we finally opened it. And I’m so glad we did.
We started with a study called “Open Your Bible”, but never finished it. Not because we quit studying together…but because we moved on to studying the actual books of the Bible. When I said I had been studying for almost two years? Well, I’ve only completed three books. Three. That’s how in depth these studies are. But I do truly feel that studying this way has not only taught me more than I would have learned by rushing through, but it also taught me patience. Something that I have very little of.
I’ve heard that reading the Bible is more difficult if you try to read it Genesis through Revelation. From my experience, I completely agree with this. I started off with Philippians (per my mother-in-law’s recommendation), and it was the perfect book for me to start with. It was only four chapters, so I was broken in easily. I had to learn to read it for what it was: A letter to the Church of Philippi from Paul. It also wasn’t a hard read or study. It has actually become one of my favorites and will always hold a special place in my heart as the starting point of really getting to know my God.
The next book I moved on to was the book of John. It was longer, and there was so much more to learn, but it was still pretty easy to comprehend. Don’t get me wrong…I have notebooks full questions I have asked Janet and notes I have taken. I didn’t just want to learn it. I wanted to understand it. I wanted to not only question, but prove to myself that my Faith was real.
I’m now a stronger believer than I have ever been. I’m hoping to dive into Proverbs next.
The last book I studied, and by far the hardest, was the book of Genesis. I’m so glad I had adopted a “study groove” before I started this book. There is so much to this book and it’s filled with family trees, and timelines, and very important stories. Ya know…stories of creation, and arcs, and lots of rain, and betrayal, and Pharaoh’s, and all kinds of babies being born. It. Was. A lot. And it took me literal months to get through it. But I’m so glad I did because it was filled with these stories. I had always heard of Noah and the Arc. And Abraham and Isaac. And Adam and Eve. But I had never studied them. I had never read them myself. I had only known the stories that I heard in Sunday School and from my mother and grandmother.
I knew the “jist”. And that wasn’t enough for me anymore.
I have always believed in God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It hasn’t been until recently that I understood the why behind my belief. Before, I had always believed in God because my mom told me to. Now, I know that I believe in Him because He is real. I feel it in my heart. I feel it in my bones. I feel it in my soul. I don’t see science when I look at my children. I see miracles. I don’t see nature when I look at the Rocky Mountains. I see a Divine Landscaper’s work. If I had never opened my Bible, I wouldn’t have the relationship with God that I have now, and I wouldn’t have the hunger to know Him more. I wouldn’t have the Faith it takes to get through life sometimes.
Listen, friend. I know you’re a little scared and intimidated. So was I. But don’t be. I promise if you choose to walk down the path of getting to know God better, you will never walk this path alone. He is with you every step of the way.
Here are a few things I’ve needed and used that have helped me understand, and stick with, my Bible study. I hope, with all my heart, that they can help someone too.
1. A Bible
I know this sounds obvious and you’re probably all “duh, Terri” right now, but hear me out. A lot of people only have a Bible app on their phone. You need a brick-and-mortar Bible. One that you can flip through and highlight and smell and write notes in and love and cherish and protect. I have a Bible app on my phone too, but I rarely use it. Large margin Bibles are my very favorite and the one Janet got me for Christmas has worked perfectly for my particular study. It has been filled with notes. This Bible also has footnotes for better understanding and maps to help you follow the journeys you are learning about. The Bible you use matters. You can see the one I use by clicking here. It’s called The New Inductive Study Bible: Updated New American Standard Bible.
2. A Bible Study
If this is the first time you’ve ever attempted to study the Bible…then you need some form of direction. There are so many studies out there that it’s easy to find the one that best suits you. Just decide the way you want to learn, and then pick a book match. You want a study that focuses around the New Testament? They have a book for that. You want to study the Bible based on the people in it? They have a book for that too. Want a study that focuses on the women in the Bible? Yep! They got it. The way that has been most effective (and easiest for me to understand) was studying it by the book. Like I said, I started with Philippians, moved to John, and have just finished Genesis. The studies I have used are called The New Inductive Study Series by Kay Arthur and they are extremely in depth. She wrote one for every book of the Bible in this series. Again, I studied each of these books for months. But I walked away knowing God a little bit better and having a softer heart each time. Here is a picture of the book of Genesis study, (it’s actually a study for the first five books in the Bible), and you can access the Amazon link by clicking here.
3. Someone You Trust
A mentor. I know some of you won’t have access to someone like this. Pray for one. And please know that I’m praying for you too. I feel so blessed to have Janet. I have found someone who is patient with me and who I trust enough to ask the deepest questions…even if I fear they may be stupid. She can put things in terms I understand and explain lessons to me when I am totally lost. She is the person who walks me through all of it. And I couldn’t have gotten this far without her. Seek out someone you trust and respect when it comes to spiritual guidance and judgement. Join a Bible study. Talk to your preacher. This will also help with accountability. When you have someone who is there to answer questions, they will often also help you keep up with your study. My relationship with my mother-in-law couldn’t be better and I owe a lot of that to our weekly Bible study. She always brings me back down to Earth.
I don’t have much to say about this one. Only that: You’re going to want to take notes. Trust me on this one. No matter what study you choose, there is so much to learn and even more to try to retain. Take notes. Highlight. And mark-up your Bible. Make it yours. The markers I use are awesome because they don’t bleed through too badly on my Bible pages. And I can color code certain events, people, and words. You can also see them on Amazon by clicking here.
5. Willingness To Learn
If you’ve decided to maybe crack your Bible open, you have to make a commitment. Everyone slacks every now and then. Me, especially. I’ve gone months where I put my study on the back burner. But I screw myself every time I do this. I’m lost. I have to backtrack to remember where I left off. And once you quit, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things. I’ve heard that it’s always better to make a daily habit out of Bible study. This ensures you learn a piece of The Word every single day. My favorite time to do my study is in the morning, after my husband has left for work and my girls are still sleeping. It’s a great way to start the day. Just remember, taking a short break is okay. Just don’t stay gone too long.
6. Desire To Understand
Okay. “Learning” and “Understanding” are two different things. You may learn that Jesus died on the cross. But unless you understand what that meant for Him and what that means for you…then you’re missing the whole point. And trust me, you don’t want to miss the big picture message. That’s the most beautiful part. That’s the part that will make you feel good enough to be on this journey. That was one of my biggest issues. (Remember all of my “what if’s?”). So please, truly take the time to understand. I believe that questioning our Faith only strengthens it. Have the courage it takes to ask the hard questions and the burning desire it takes to genuinely seek out the answers you need. Pray about it. God will talk back. But YOU have to seek a relationship with Him so you’ll know how to listen. The Bible is your gateway for learning how to do that. Just have patience. And remember, take your time. It’s not a race. It’s a journey. And it’s the most important journey you’ll ever be on.
If you enjoyed (or hated) this post, or have some Bible study tips and tricks of your own, please comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!
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