Debbie Salter Goodwin
Your Personal Letter from God
When I get a text or email from someone I love, I click through immediately. I want the connection. I want the update. As I read the message, the person who sent it is present with me.
That should be a picture of Bible study! Being present with the Word of God because the Word IS God. Having coffee with Him. Meeting up for catch-up and discovery. This isn’t a class session with a lecturer. It isn’t just for the academically minded. The Bible is our letter from God. He wants us to know the history of his love, the depth of it, the never-failing quality of it.
When we engage with God’s Word this way, it is like an awakening, an oasis, a feast.
Finding a regular way to engage in Bible study isn’t always easy. We think it must take a lot of time. It can, but it doesn’t have to.
First, we need to understand the difference between Bible reading and Bible study. Bible reading is simply reading for the story, for the big picture ideas. If you follow a plan to read through the Bible, you probably don’t have time to study at the same time. Your goal is different. That doesn’t mean you can’t receive new understanding or direction. Let the Holy Spirit be your reading guide. Ask Him to point out what you need to know. Some days it feels like there’s nothing there. Wait for the cumulative effect instead of a daily morsel. Consider using Bible reading of your study passage when you don’t have time for Bible study.
Bible study is trying to understand the who-what-where-when-and why of a passage, a chapter, a book. You study it to find the answers. Study Bibles help you process a passage and give you information you wouldn’t know without looking it up. Other reference helps include commentaries, period maps, historical timelines. While Bible reading might be on the light side, Bible study can bury you without heart engagement. Never let it become a burden. It’s your personal letter from God. Anytime it becomes a burden, you need a new rhythm.
What kind of rhythms work with Bible study?
Join a group who wants to study a book of the Bible. Make sure it is study and not just a collection of what everyone thinks. Don’t depend on a leader to spoon feed you. Learn the study techniques that work for you. Capitalize on your personal interests but don’t stop learning new ways to study text, language, background to find out what the original message was and how it leads you to your personal message. Always ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the Truth you need to apply.
My goal is to have a personal Bible study focus 1- 2 times during a year. If it’s not a group study, then I choose personal study. Summer schedule is often ab oxymoron. It can be difficult to sustain regular study. That’s when I often opt to read a book on a topic from the Bible or keep a devotional book going through the summer. I find a rhythm that works within the year. The different seasonal rhythms keeps moving me forward.
Earlier in my life when we were a family of 3 living under the same roof, I worked hard first thing in the morning to get everybody going in the direction they needed to go. Then, before I did laundry, straightened the house, or got into writing, I did Bible study. I brought books to the breakfast table or the recliner, had another cup of coffee and often lost myself in the adventure of learning what might be buried on first reading. The regular appointment propelled me. I always missed it when the schedule changed. That was my sign I had the rhythm and process right.
Early in my young adult years, I read an article sharing the perspectives of Christian women in ministry. One woman’s comment was a wake-up call for me. She said it something like this “The most important thing I’ve learned, is how to study the Bible for myself.” I knew I wanted to be that woman, too. I’ve collected Bible study techniques over the years. You can click here for a list of my favorite Bible study techniques.
Remember, God doesn’t want us to depend on a triangular relationship with him. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Make sure your Bible study approach makes a straight line to God, not a straight line to the speaker who talks about God. At best, those who teach what the Bible says are priests with the goal of helping you make your own straight line to God and His Word. Then, the study is about relationship not information. It’s about how to live and react in life. It’s about
how to know you are loved beyond belief.
When Bible study takes you there, you will always find a way to make it happen.
Coming Next Week !
Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of our concentrated review of Jesus' journey to the cross. To help us take this purposeful journey, I am offering a free daily devotional guide. You can download a pdf copy t next week or write me and I'll send you a copy.
I load it on my iPad by sending it to my "Books" app.. This makes it available to my phone as well.
I hope you will join me in this thoughtful and focused time. It is a journey of the heart we can't afford to miss.