Have you ever sat down to a problem with no idea where or how to even begin to solve it? I remember one fall sitting in a college calculus course feeling dismayed. In a large lecture hall, the professor lectured on countless mathematical theories. Deep in thought, he filled up a gigantic chalkboard. He did not demonstrate how to work through a single problem. He merely talked theories. Yet, for the test, I needed to know how to solve problems… not spout theories. I remember sitting at a desk in my dorm room wishing for someone to show me the practical side of working out one of these advanced calculus problems. I felt completely inept, overwhelmed and discouraged.
Opening up our Bibles to know God can feel that way, too. Heck! Even knowing God through a Simply Bible study- a book intended to simplify and guide you past the theoretical into the practical process of knowing God through the Bible- can feel that way!
When you first opened a Simply Bible book, did you wonder, “What is this?!! What’s with all the space?”
Friend, the good news is that Bible study is not rocket science. Bible study is not even advanced calculus. Bible study is a way to know and connect with God. He would not gift us with Bibles so that we can better know Him, and then make Bible study too hard for us!
You can do this.
Simply Bible is here to help.
Fall ushers in a new season and the corresponding activities that come with it- back to school, fall sports, and more rigid routines after summer fun- many use the new routine to also seek God through Bible study. This fall, we’ve had a good number of women discover Simply Bible.
If that is you, WELCOME!
Whether a first timer or a Simply Bible regular, we’re thankful for you and your desire to connect with God and others through His Word. We really wish we could gather everyone into one giant room! While there, we’d encourage first-timers! If you are new to Simply Bible, and you find that you are struggling with how to manage all the “empty boxes,” you are not alone. Please know that we all have been in your shoes. This includes me. If we could gather in that giant room altogether, and I asked women to raise their hands if they struggled in the beginning of a Simply Bible study, I promise that a whole lot of hands would fly up into the air!
No joke! Knowing God through the Bible is a skill that takes practice.
Think of a skill you are really good at. It could be either for work or play. For example, I can bake a pretty good chocolate chip cookie. Although I’ve never tried, I bet I could even bake them with my eyes closed. That skill did not happen overnight. Rather, it came from practice! Lots of practice. Making a decent cookie took baking dozens and dozens of cookies time and time and time again. This skill involved successes and failures. I learned from both.
Good Bible study is no different. At first the process may feel a little mysterious. After all, I now take for granted the “mystery” of a good cookie. Who would guess when looking at two cups of white powdery flour, some butter, brown sugar, eggs, baking soda, spices and bits of chocolate that the end result could be an ooey-gooey-yummy chocolate chip cookie? None of these ingredients in and of themselves (except maybe butter and chocolate!) are earth shattering. Yet, when we methodically put the ingredients altogether, voila! An irresistible cookie! Something tasty. Something that we crave more and more.
Similarly, no single box of white space within the Simply Bible study format- observe, interpret, apply, pray- is liable to be earth shattering. Rather, we walk methodically and step-by-step through the format, and voila! A tasty nugget of truth about God arises! We learn something that leads us to crave more and more of Him and His Word.
If you’ve already tried a study lesson and feel dismayed and wonder why that didn't happen for you, hang in there. Knowing and enjoying God through the Bible happens overnight for some. For others, it takes practice.
That was me. I needed practice. Lots of it.
And even now, years later, I continue to learn and grow in this process of experiencing God through His Word. I’ve read the Bible for over fifty years now. You’d think that I would know it pretty well. Yet, I never cease to be surprised by how rich and deep and poignant God’s Word is. It’s a treasure trove! Every day I learn new things about God. You can too.
If you’re sitting down and staring at the blank pages of a workbook, I’d like to offer a few practical tips:
#1. Read the introduction to your Simply Bible study. Everything you need to know to walk through the study is there. Use the format as your guide.
#2. Bookmark the page called “Quick Start Guide.” You can easily refer back to this page as you walk through a daily lesson.
#3. Focus on observation. What does the passage say? Nine times out of ten we get hung up on this step. It can feel like we’re not doing anything or making progress. I promise that if we do nothing else but carefully observe, we will have done the best Bible study we’ve ever done before. Observation seems easy. In our fast-paced world, it is not. To observe takes practice. It also means slowing down. That’s why I tend to use highlighters and ask questions of the text. I also mark a few words that interest me or seem important in the Keyword box. Doing these things help me slow down in order to see what the passage says.
#4. Use the toolkit to interpret. On the second page, mark the three boxes that include Keywords, Definitions and Cross References as TOOLKIT. Utilize this toolkit. Look up a keyword and a cross reference that will help to understand the meaning of a passage. This toolkit will help you go back to interpret the questions you asked. You will feel like you’re making some progress by using the Toolkit.
#5. Pray. Seriously. Write a short prayer. Something mysterious happens when we talk to God about what we're learning from His Word. When we apply these lessons to our daily life and talk to Him about it, He seals it in our heart.
#6. Discuss with others. We need this. It takes a little courage. But we are meant to discuss God's Word in community. If we’re willing to learn from others, it gives us confidence to continue on in our personal study.
#7. Keep going. Finish the book. When something feels hard, discipline is needed to keep going. (It’s also a beautiful benefit of being a part of a group and something bigger than ourselves. Our pals encourage us onward.) Once we complete our first book, and especially after the second book, we will own study skills that will forever help us know and enjoy God through the Bible. It’s true. I will never read the Bible or listen to a sermon in the same way.
Keep going. Finish the book. This skill will get easier. Isaiah said it this way:
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” ~Isaiah 28:10
Friend, if you’re reading this blog and realize, “She’s right! I’ve gotten better at this!” would you thank God and then share your story?
Share with others and invite them to study with you. Helping others learn learn to know and enjoy God through the Bible is another way God seals His Word in our hearts.
Also, share your story with us! We’d love to share your story and encouraging words with newbies to Simply Bible. How has learning to know and enjoy God through Simply Bible helped you? What helped you persevere? How are you thinking and living differently? Send us a sentence or two, and share it here.
Lord Jesus, I love how Matthew, in chapter 5, records that You, seeing the crowds- people afflicted, oppressed and needy- opened your mouth and taught them. Your compassion and care was on full display as You gave us Your Word. Thank You for revealing Your heart through Your Words.
Help us as we seek to understand and apply them to our everyday lives that we might think, speak and be more like You.
Would you especially be near and protect those who are new to learning how to know and enjoy You through Simply Bible? When You explain a message, it is precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. As we walk step by step through the Simply Bible format, open the eyes and ears of our hearts to know and love You through the Bible. Little by little, change us.
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