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All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
Friends, it ends this week. The belief that you can’t understand the Bible. We’re gonna chase sure-fire ways you can get into God’s Word and God’s Word can get into you!
Maybe you’re a little like me. When I first gave my heart to Jesus, I really wanted to study the Bible. I wanted to know Him and His words because I believed they could give me real life, new life, and wipe out my old life. But I have to admit… I just didn’t get it. I came away from Bible reading with more frustration than fulfillment, more questions than answers. So I began to dread it and avoid it.
Additionally, it seemed like everyone around me just got it. Apparently, my elevator just couldn’t reach the penthouse… you know what I mean? This made me feel nervous and a little ashamed, truthfully. I thought some people must have “insider information” about the Bible that I’m not in on. I find that many Christians feel this way. They tell themselves, “Understanding the Bible is for theologians and scholars, not for me.” That, friend, is a lie from the pit of hell and smells like smoke! The enemy of your soul knows that the Word of God is truth, and that your knowledge and right use of truth will always defeat his lies.
Well, it was in those days that God intervened in my life in huge ways—ways that unlocked secrets and mysteries about His Word through the power of the Holy Spirit in me. This week, I’m going to share them with you. All you need are the four “R’s”… Reach, Read, Reflect, Record. Get ready to become a biblical scholar—free of charge, by the way!
I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. - Psalms 119:15 (NLT)
I learned early in my adult life to love God’s Word. In my professional career, I was a journalist and had a couple of key mentors who taught me to dig deep and ask probing questions to get to the heart of any story. On the spiritual side, I was meeting with a wise, godly woman who challenged me to dig out the truth of Scripture for myself. Her words to me?
The first “R” of the biblical journey is this: Reach. Reach out to the Author. Listen, there are prayers God loves to immediately say “yes” to, and one of those is, “Lord, help me understand your Word and incorporate it into my life so that I will look more and more like Jesus.” I promise you, if you pray that prayer, God will smile really big and say, “Now, THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!” Pray, friends.
My sweet husband is an avid reader and life-long learner. One of his favorite authors is Steve Farrar. He recently noticed that Steve’s website was listed on the back of a book, and on that site, you can contact him directly. One night, Greg typed a quick email praising him for the words of his latest book, saying that they spoke directly to him and thanking him for providing godly teaching for men. Do you know? The next day, he had a return email! Of course, he now refers to Steve Farrar as “my best friend, Steve Farrar,” but that’s another story…
Listen. When we read the Bible, we should always reach out to the Author. Ask Him to bring a fresh understanding. Ask Him to teach you in your deepest, inmost places. And promise Him you will be obedient to what He shows you.
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. - Joshua 1:8 (NLT)
To say I am directionally challenged would be… well, an understatement. As a joke, my husband will occasionally say, “Honey, which way is north?” To which I will raise my hand in the air and point at the ceiling. Because that’s where it always is on a map, right? Straight up. The struggle is real, friends. Never have I been so glad as when vehicle navigation systems came into being (although that Siri gal still sometimes gets me turned the wrong way).
As Christ-followers, we want to go the right way, yes? We just need a good guide. God has given us a perfect one in His roadmap to amazing life, known as the Bible.
In his flagship book The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster describes the discipline of study as perhaps the discipline most likely to bring about the total transformation of a person, “replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits.” Bible study should never be merely for the sake of Scriptural knowledge because the Bible says that knowledge only puffs up, whereas love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
Yesterday, we identified the first “R” of Bible study: Reach. Now, we’ll flesh out the next one… Read.
Read. Start with the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There you’ll find the life and character of Jesus. When you’re good with the Gospels, move on. Old or New Testament, whatever you choose. Move slowly. Take it in small bites. Read. Re-read. Re-read what you just read. Our natural tendency is to skim, seeing what we want to see and skipping over anything that doesn’t make sense.
What? They piled up rocks at some place called Bethuel? Why would you pile up rocks? And who is this Beth lady? Oh well… leave that one to the scholars, I guess. No, you’re the scholar now. Dig deep. Ask probing questions. Slow your roll. Read.
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. - 2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)
Friends, the goal of Bible study isn’t learning facts; it’s transformation. We’ve learned two ways to understand God’s Word better already: Reach and Read. Today, let’s… Reflect. It’s the heart of deep Bible study—asking probing questions.
Listen, I’m not the brightest light in the sky, but asking the following five questions regarding every verse I read changed my entire understanding of the Bible and, consequently, my entire life.
Take your time and reflect on everything. Friend, if you want to look like Jesus, your mirror is the Bible.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. - Psalms 119:105 (ESV)
My husband thinks I’m afraid of the dark. I don’t usually enter a dark room without first reaching in and flipping the switch. He’ll laugh and say, “Is the boogey-man gonna get you?” Silly man. Everybody knows boogey-men are not allowed in my home! No, I flip the switch because, for some reason, my eyes don’t adjust quickly when the atmosphere changes suddenly from light to dark. It takes a pair o’ minutes for me! I’ve tripped over too many obstacles in the dark. Nope, I need a little light for my path. You need a little light for your path, too. Need wisdom when relationships get tricky? Want some answers when you’re thrown a curveball in life? Need hope when it seems like everything has gone dark? Flip the switch, friend.
Ask God for help… Reach. Crack open the Word… Read. Ask deep and probing questions… Reflect. And finally… Record.
Write down thoughts or questions about what you read and, more importantly, what you just heard from God. If you’re using a traditional Bible, write in the margins—maybe even date it! It’s really cool to see later what God was teaching us at different times in our lives. I know, some of you are weird about writing in your Bibles, so I’ll tell you what my sweet Little Mama once told me: “God doesn’t care what kind of mark you make on your Bible. He cares what kind of mark it makes on you!”
Friends, there are many ways to study the Bible. This is the way God used with me. One thing is sure: I went from dreading time in the Scripture to having it be the highlight of every single day. Throughout Scripture, God tells His people to do something for which they will not be sorry. Encouraging them with this phrase, God also tells you and me now, “Be strong and do the work.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)