But Shouldn’t It Be Easy to Read My Bible?

But Shouldn’t It Be Easy to Read My Bible?

No one ever taught me how to study the Bible. (Or if they did, it didn’t stick.) I’d just open the Good Book up and do my best to discern a message from God.

If I read the crooked shall become straight,” I rejoiced that God was going to heal my bowleggedness! (You can read that crazy story here if you’re interested.)

I didn’t like it when I heard people say:

There are right ways and there are wrong ways we handle the Word.

But it’s true. And as an author, I should know better. I don’t want others reading my book and taking away whatever meaning they want; I wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl with a very specific intent in mind.

As Jen Wilkin said in one of her Revive ’15 messages:

“The Bible is not magical or mystical; it is a book. We should treat it with at least the respect we would give to a common textbook. You would not flip to an Algebra book page and say, ‘How does this apply to my life today?’ and expect to pass Algebra. Am I reading historical narrative? Poetry? Prophecy? Wisdom literature?

“Before we can talk about what the text means to us, we have to ask what the text means. There is an objective meaning that has been placed in the text. Meaning is determined by the author, and it is discovered by the reader—not assigned by the reader. Your job is to ask, ‘What did the author want me to know from what he wrote here?’”

Disciplined Disciples

In His kindness, God has given me a husband and brought me to a local church who are both serious about seeking out and understanding the original author’s meaning in the text.

And slowly I am learning that Bible study methods are not rules meant to stifle my creativity and squelch my fun; they are tools to help me get to know the living God as He really is.  

So this new year I’m ditching the lie that reading the Bible should be as easy as skimming a novel. As Jen Wilkin says, “Disciples are called to be disciplined,” and “Everyone works diligently about what they care about.”  

Here are the tools I’m currently using to study God’s Word. I got these from one of my local church elders. There are several other tools you could use to slow down and dig into the meaning of a passage, but I’m currently finding these super helpful.

The Five Bible Study Tools I Use

First, I write the date and the passage of Scripture I’m reading at the top of my journal:

January 10, 2016

Philippians 4:1–9

(I try not to bite off a longer section than I can handle.) Then I write five headings in my journal:

  • Tone
  • Repeated Words/Phrases
  • Relationships between words and phrases
  • One-word subject
  • One-sentence summary.

Now it’s time to get to work.

  1. Tone

You rely on tone every day in order to understand meaning. Take, for instance, this sentence:

I don’t like Barry.

Now, let’s add in a little tone:

I don’t like Barry.

I don’t like Barry.

I don’t like Barry.

I don’t like Barry.

Here’s what that might mean:

I don’t like Barry.

Meaning: Someone else does like Barry.

I don’t like Barry.

Meaning: I strongly dislike Barry.

I don’t like Barry.

Meaning: I love Barry.

I don’t like Barry.

Meaning: I like someone else.

Tone is just as important in written communication as it is in verbal communication. Is the tone of this passage encouraging? Sarcastic? Urgent? Harsh? Uplifting? Sober? Does it include a promise or a call to repent?

After I’ve identified the tone of a passage, I move on to repeated words and phrases.

  1. Repeated Words/Phrases

If you call your friend and she mentions “Stephen” fifteen times in five minutes, it’s pretty obvious what’s on her mind. If your younger brother yells multiple times, “Stop it!” you know you’d better back off. Write down the repeated words and phrases you find and why they’re there.

  1. Relationships Between Words and Phrases

Think of yourself as a detective, and watch for small clues like F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. (“for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” “so”). These words clue you in to connections between words and phrases that you won’t want to miss! What do these words teach you?

  1. One-Word Subject

Throwback to English class, anyone? What is the main subject of this section of Scripture?  

  1. One-Sentence Summary

Don’t try to get creative—just stick to the words used in the passage. Be specific. What is the author communicating? (Don’t worry if this is hard at first—practice makes perfect!)

I’m trying to discipline myself to get into the habit of doing this detective work before I jump to what this passage means for me today. Because it’s not going to mean something for me that it doesn’t mean for all believers. So now that I’m done with the fact-checking, I can apply it to my life.

Is there a promise I need to believe? A command I need to obey? An aspect of God’s character to prompt worship?

Your Turn

Now that I’ve shared one way to study the Bible with you, what’s holding you back? Do you think that seeking God should come easily? What makes you think that?

Oh, and if you’d like to hear about other Bible study tools, check out Jen’s message Practical Tools for Studying and Teaching the Word, and come back Friday for a chance to win her excellent book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.

But Shouldn’t It Be Easy to Read My Bible? was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

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