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For the first time, I began to understand the Bible, and those wonderful little cliff notes on the side of the pages made the stories come to life.
Over the years, as I began to dive deeper through bible studies, disciple class and Christian Believer, my love of those verses grew.
And several years later, when I was introduced to writing different translations of each verse, it blew my understanding of it wide open!
Although reading the Bible is something we should all do, if we want to see a transformation in our life and uncover what the Bible has to teach us, we have to do more than just read it.
We can’t just skim the surface and expect to uncover everything God has for us.
We have to dig deeper and look for the hidden treasures below the surface.
SCRIPTURE STUDY VS. BIBLE READING – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “Yes but Tammy, I read the Bible all the time.”
And that’s awesome! In fact, I’m the first to cheer them on!
However, if we want to…
- Experience a transformation in our life
- Learn how to experience peace in the midst of some of our biggest struggles
- Feel fulfilled in this life
- Grow closer to God
…we have to dig into the Bible and look for those hidden treasures below the surface.
Imagine driving through the mountains to look at the fall foliage.
You meander down those steep, winding roads, looking at all the beautiful colors — golds, browns and deep reds — taking it all in and marveling at the stunning shades. (Can you tell I love trees?)
They’re absolutely breath-taking!
But if you really want to experience all its glory, you have to get out of your car and walk into the trees. Examine them up close, feel the leaves between your fingers, and smell that beautiful mountain air.
It’s the same with the Bible.
Although reading the words on the pages gives us a lot, if we really want to find out what scripture has for us, we have to dig in and study the bible.
WHY DO YOU STUDY THE BIBLE
“Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval. They equip God’s servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 GW
So why is it so important to study the Bible?
- Helps us change our perspective and attitude — giving us better control of our emotions.
- Gives us a true understanding of the context — because let’s face it, when we just read the Bible, most of it doesn’t seem relevant in our life today! (Amen?)
- Draws us closer to God.
- Gives us a blueprint for how to live our life.
- Helps us gain a better perspective of our trials and challenges.
- Assists us in uncovering our purpose and how to courageously step out in faith to actually do it.
“If we don’t study God’s Word consistently and apply this truth to our lives, we will lack the power we need to mature in Christ and glorify God in this world.” Joyce Meyer
Effectively studying the Bible is about growth and transformation.
And when we’re consistent and intentional about spending time in God’s Word every day, we grow closer to God and are able to experience peace and joy — even when everything around us seems to be falling apart!
When you make studying the Bible a priority in your life, you begin to see more than just the hard things around you, and start trusting God to get you through.
But just reading the bible won’t bring us the transformation we want to see.
We have to participate by applying it to our life.
“My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.” Proverbs 4:20-22 NLT
UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE FOR BEGINNERS
If you’re new to the Bible, let’s take a quick peek at what you’ll find inside the pages of this incredible book!
The Bible consists of 17 books, with an estimate of 40 authors.
Just like in a traditional book, you’ll find many chapters. And within those chapters, it’s broken down into verses.
So if you’re reading or studying the Bible for the first time, you’ll be directed to the book, chapter and verse.
For instance, if you’re going to look up Psalm 32:8-9, this means you’re directed to the book of Psalm, chapter 32, verses 8-9.
I know it can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but it won’t take long and you’ll be navigating your way through the Bible with ease.
And if you’re just getting started, be sure to check out my free monthly scripture writing plans, which are a great place to start studying the Bible.
BIBLE STUDY TIPS
“When studying the Bible, one must keep in mind not only the immediate context of the portion under study, but also other forms of context such as the cultural context, the literary context and more.” Robert Verlarde, Focus on the Family
Since it was written in a different place and time, It’s no wonder it’s so hard to comprehend the Bible.
I mean come on!
Some of the things we read in there are hard to believe. Especially all we’re doing is reading it.
But when we take a step back and remember that although our circumstances may be different from what they experienced in the Bible, we can use their examples to find valuable insight on how to live.
So let’s break this down into the best tips to effectively study the Bible.
DEPEND ON HIM AS YOU STUDY THE WORD OF GOD
Throughout scripture, God was moving in the hearts and minds of the authors of every book of the Bible.
Therefore, it’s important we open ourselves up and ask God to give us wisdom, discernment and revelation about what we’re reading.
We shouldn’t rely solely on what others tell us, but rather ask God to reveal His truth as we’re studying it.
STUDY WITH EXPECTANCY
When it comes to the Bible, we need to read and study with anticipation.
In other words, there are treasures to be found within the pages of this glorious book, so be open to everything He has for you.
Go into your bible study with a teachable heart — willing to learn and be transformed.
After all, we can’t experience a transformation in our life if we aren’t willing to accept discipline and correction.
We must have an open mind about what needs changing, so we can fulfill our ultimate calling and enjoy this life God has given us!
So before you begin each study session, ask God to open your heart, eyes and ears to what He’s teaching you.
Ask Him to pour out His wisdom, discernment and revelation on any areas where you are not following Him.
“I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better.” Ephesians 1:17 GW
EFFECTIVE SCRIPTURE STUDY
Effective Bible study is more than reading one verse in one translation. It just doesn’t give us a clear picture.In fact, this is why Bible verses are often misquoted and misconstrued — because we don’t dig in and grasp the true meaning of what we’re reading.
To better understand the context of each verse,
|Record the Bible verse in multiple translations|
|Read the verses immediately before and after the one you’re studying|
|Reach the entire chapter the verse is in|
|Read other verses throughout the Bible that talk about the same topic|
CONSIDER THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
The Bible was written in a completely different time and culture, and as I stated earlier, there are a lot of things we read in there that make absolutely no sense to us.
This is where the cliff notes in a study Bible or Bible commentary are extremely helpful. They help you understand the culture, why things were done the way they were and how we can put this into the context of our own life.
LITERAL VS. FIGURATIVE
Not long ago I had a conversation with someone who told me that Adam’s son, Cain, is actually the son of Satan and that there are some of us who are also the enemy’s children.
Now, I’m not a Bible scholar, but I’d never heard this before. I thought we were all children of God.
So I set out to see for myself.
Since I wanted God’s truth regarding this, I first asked for His wisdom and discernment on the topic, and then dug quickly into the Bible.
Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:43-44 NLT
As you can see in the New Living Translation, Jesus does tell the unbelievers He’s talking to that they are children of Satan.
But that’s why we have to dig a little deeper and determine whether this verse is literal or figurative.
So I looked at other Bible verses on the topic and was led to Genesis 4:1.
“Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” NLT
As you can see by looking at relevant verses on the topic and sometimes other translations, Adam was the father of Cain.
But I wanted to dig a little deeper to uncover what that verse meant in John, chapter 8. So I pulled out my New Testament Commentary and here’s what it says:
People could be called “children” figuratively of those they resembled or whose ways they imitated…Because Jesus’ interlocutors (a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation) want to kill him and reject his truth, their behavior demonstrates who is their real father. (Definition of interlocutors added for clarity)
According to my deeper dive into the subject, what Jesus meant is that if you aren’t following Him, then you (figuratively) must be the son of the enemy.
This wasn’t literal at all. It was a figurative form of speech.
So, as you’re studying the Bible, you can’t take it verbatim. You must ask yourself, is this figurative or literal.
Again, don’t just assume what someone tells you is correct. Dig in and study the bible for yourself.
WHAT’S THE OVERALL TOPIC OF YOUR STUDY
It’s important to grasp the overall topic of what you’re studying.
And once you uncover the point of each verse, it makes it easier to apply it to your own life, as well as find other verses to back up the topic you’re studying.
You see, to help you navigate your way in life, it’s crucial you understand what the Bible says about the trials and challenges you walk through.
STUDY MULTIPLE TRANSLATIONS OF EACH VERSE
I mentioned this above, but it’s such an easy, yet powerful way to interpret scripture, I’m going to mention it again.
Writing Bible verses in multiple translations blows your understanding of scripture wide open!
The great news is you don’t need multiple translations sitting around your house. There are an array of Bible apps available that make it super easy.
My favorite verse to bring this point home is Psalm 23:1.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” KJV
Now I have no doubt you’re smarter than I am when it comes to this, but when I was growing up, I never understood this verse.
I mean, if the Lord is my shepherd, why wouldn’t I want Him?
But if we look at God’s Word translation, we get more clarity on this.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I am never in need.”
Ahhh, of course! Now that clears it up!
The Lord is my shepherd, therefore, I am never in need!
This is exactly what we do in our free monthly bible reading plans — dive into multiple translations of each Bible verse.
BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR STUDY OF THE WORD
When it comes to studying the Bible, it’s important to make a plan and be consistent!
Consider an Olympic athlete.
If they want their bodies to withstand the rigorous training and endure the grueling competitions an Olympian must face, they have to train consistently.
They can’t just show up when they want and expect to bear the heavy load their body is about to take.
And like the pressures of an Olympic athlete, we too must show up consistently if we want to endure the exhausting trials we face every day.
But effectively studying the Bible doesn’t have to be hard, nor does it require us to shut ourselves in a room for hours a day!
Because who has time for that?
As we discussed in our prayer and solitude section of this spiritual reset series, although it would be nice to get away from everyone and shut out the world, it isn’t necessary to grow closer to God.
Rather, it’s about intentionally setting your mind on Him and choosing to consistently show up — even if it’s only 20 minutes each day.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TOOLS TO STUDY THE BIBLE
As with anything in life, when you set out to do something, you need the right tools.
And the Bible is no different!
Because let’s face it, scripture can be anything but easy to comprehend and apply to our lives.
Let’s use your favorite recipe as an example.
You pull out your ingredients and start preparing that delicious dinner you’ve been craving, and it’s time to chop your onion.
Sure, you can cut it by hand, but who wants burning eyes and stinky hands? Not to mention it takes most of us a hot minute to chop an entire onion by hand. (Or is that just me?)
It’s far easier to pull out the food chopper and have that onion chopped quickly, without crying all over the cutting board!
Well, studying the Bible is no different!
So I put together a list of my favorite Bible study tools.
|Study Bible for helpful footnotes — consider the translation before purchasing a Bible. Personally, I love the New Living Translation. It’s far easier to interpret than some of the others.|
|Old Testament and New Testament Commentary|
|Bible Concordance, which allows you to look up Bible verses by topic|
|Bible reading plan|
HOW TO USE A BIBLE STUDY JOURNAL
We can’t talk about Bible study without discussing a prayer journal.
Did you know we’re 70% more likely to remember and understand what we’re reading if we write it down?
But it doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it have to take up hours of your day.
You can use a dedicated prayer journal, or just a regular journal.
Grab an extra notebook lying around the house. Or grab some loose-leaf paper and put it into a .29 cent folder from Walmart!
The only thing that matters is that you use something to take notes, write your Bible verses and prayers.
But here are some things to get you started.
- Take notes as you work through your study and write down anything that resonates with you.
- Record scriptures that apply to your life right now (in multiple translations).
- Consider what each verse teaches you about God and Jesus.
- Examine what each verse teaches you about who you are and what changes you may need to make.
HOW DO YOU STUDY THE BIBLE EFFECTIVELY
“The Bible was never meant to merely inform us; the Bible was meant to transform us.” Donna Jones, Crosswalk
If you want to experience a peace-filled life — even when everything seems to be falling apart around you — then Bible study should be a priority in your day.
God has something big planned for you.
If you want to receive it, you must stop sitting on the sidelines and start participating in the transformation you want to see!
Get into The Word and study what scriptures means. Learn how it applies to your life.
You got this, friend, and I’m here to help!
Grab my FREE 4-Steps to a Spiritual Reset to guide you in your journey to grow closer to God, and for goodness sakes, start living the life you were created for!
Don’t hesitate to reach out and tell me how I can pray for you as you navigate your way through this incredibly hard life!
After all, where two or more are gathered...
“For wherever two or three come together in honor of my name, I am right there with them!” Matthew 18:20 TPT
Until next time, my friend…
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Learning how to put our complete trust in God isn’t easy. We say we trust God, but what we really mean is that we trust Him for what we want, when we want it. At Footprints of Inspiration we uncover who you are and why you were created; how to walk in healing through forgiveness; and how to go before the Lord with confidence. Through this journey, you’ll discover that it truly is possible to experience peace, even in the hardest times in your life.
Tammy Rotzoll is the founder and owner of Footprints of Inspiration and podcast host at A Faithful God Podcast (which can be found on your favorite podcast player). She lives in Virginia with her husband and together they’re learning how to navigate their fun, new adventure as empty nesters.
Join Tammy and the FOI community and discover the freedom that comes from saying, “Heck yeah, God! I’m all in!”