A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study

Welcome to my book reviews! I hope to do a fairly large series of reviews of biblically sound books. There’s a lot of wisdom out there, but there’s a lot of dross, too. For a long time I was totally opposed to reading devotionals and christian books, because I felt they really got in the way of Bible study – which is the answer to everything. But, like I said, so much wisdom out there! No reason to throw all the wisdom away because some people are misleading.

 

So to start, a book I adore: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study.

 

Love. This. Book. Jen Hatmaker is so very relatable, and she’s got a fantastic bit of subject matter. She does take her time getting around to points by trying to be relatable – there are a couple of stories that really could have been edited out – but in the end the core of this book is just fantastic.

 

The premise of the book and the point of the first chapter is that a lot of people don’t know how to bible study. We’re told we ought to, but what we end up doing is just reading…or not doing it at all. We wander with the Word open in our hands asking anyone who looks like they have good advice saying, “Hey! Do you know what this means?”

 

Not so effective.  And on that note, techniques that don’t work! She breaks it to the audience gently that maybe God did not intend us to let our Bibles fall open and read whatever lay therein. Sure, all scripture are valuable…but really? As she says, God is used to working in spite of us. But how cool could it be if we worked WITH Him?

 

Just studying whatever is pertinent to our lives right now probably isn’t enough either. If I never looked up anything but verses on parenting, I might shrivel up as a wife, woman, human being….and so on. We are multifaceted and so should our study be. Also, we might find some pretty amazing insight in verses that don’t actually reference subject matter we are interested in. She does allow that “bedding down with Scripture for a season” – reading what’s pertinent right now – is great when you know you’re actively under attack, but once things let up a bit, you have to branch out.

 

And that means not just reading your favorite book for the umpteenth time. The WHOLE thing is inspired and useful for teaching. It’s like she knows. If I still used a paper Bible, James would be falling out, but oh those untouched minor prophets. Several thousand years later and still no one will listen to them.

 

So what do we do, Jen? She starts off with pointing out that we have all that we require for Bible study. The first step is the Three-Legged Approach – you, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. She dives into a little mini study on Parakletos, the Holy Spirit, our helper and teacher. Bottom line: study the Word without the Helper at your peril.

 

How? Pray for guidance.. Each and every time. We are fallen and the spirit of the world would love nothing more than to turn the Word back on itself in our hearts. We have a long list of historical and modern examples of the Bible being misused and misinterpreted. Don’t risk it.

 

(Oh, and did I mention that throughout this whole thing she’s liberally sprinkled verses full of reason why we can trust these methods work? I love this woman.)

 

Next up, journalling – she suggests that if this whole thing is talking with God, we need to start talking back. And she doesn’t mean sassing! Bible study is a conversation. She recommends starting a conversation where God does, ie the beginning of a book, not at our favorite verse, and following it through until He’s done talking, at the end.

She also recommends some other ways to read, such as chronologically or by following the story of a given character wherever they are mentioned. Oh, and if you’re just starting? That person should be Jesus. Follow it up with an entire epistle. They are short and easy to chew.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean reading a book a day. Actually, she recommends a mere couple of verses a sitting – but making sure to take at least a half-hour with your 5-7 verse experience, to really come to an understanding of the topic.

Next Big Thing – get people in on this with you. I understand the lack of ease with this. I know several bible readers, and I am either intimidated by the part where they read more than I do or worried that bringing up a reading plan would make me seem excessively pious. It’s way, way too important not to, though, so find somebody. (And if you’re looking for an email buddy, I know a girl…)

 

Part Two is full of practical, yet optional suggestions. She makes very clear you shouldn’t be using all (or even any) of these tools every day (in contrast to prayer and journaling), but that they are great when a passage is either very confusing or much too familiar.

 

 There’s a great list of questions to ask yourself about major views and minor details.  (I love love love “If I believed this passage was inspired by God, how would my life look differently?” Love.)

 

She talks about bibles themselves! She recommends a study bible with cross-references, book introductions, a concordance, and maps – and you should familiarize yourself with them, because they exist to deepen your time in the Word.

 

Next, she gets into translations, and recommends secondary bibles based on the type of bible you currently love – for example I love the word-for-word translation style of ESV, so checking out a more thought-for-thought version, like the New Living Translation, could shake up my reading and bring insight.

 

And while you’re adding things to your Bible Study basket, can she recommend a dictionary/thesaurus? She recommends using a thesaurus when you’re staring an overly-familiar verse in the face. Maybe you memorized it when you were four and it’s long since gotten trite in your head. Change up the words without changing the meaning, see what that does for you. I can do all things in Christ, who gives me energy/fortitude/tenacity.

 

Yes, ma’am! (I really like that energy one, as I write this at 10:30 after another 2.5 hour “JUST GO TO BED” marathon)

 

And toss other things in your “space” as you feel the need – highlighters, post-its, crayons, note cards, whatever gets you thinking.

 

She also recommends getting a bible-history text, or at least making sure to always use what’s in your study bible before starting any given book. She points out that there is precedent for God just writing His Word on stone, so if He used a person and told us who that person was, maybe we should take notice. There’s another question list here to ask yourself about the author and the time period as you’re reading through any given book.

 

Last, she gives another question list regarding your personal connection to the Word. After all, the word used in Psalm 119:105 is “my,” not “our.” Your word is a lamp to MY feet, and a light to MY path. What’s in these pages is pertinent to you, not just the public at large. She reiterates being with the Spirit always, but ALWAYS when you go into the Word, so you’re 2 (them) against 1 (your sinful self) on the misinterpretation front. Personal failing? Neglecting to pray for guidance. It gets me every time! Thankfully, He never lets me get too far off track, but I don’t recommend it anyway. Other things on the “personal” front include writing bible passages out but changing pronouns to make it personal, using your own name (or whomever you’re praying for). Speak aloud a passage as a prayer, or write it in your journal with that intent. Rewrite a psalm to include your problem specifically.

 

She ends with a little pep talk – if these things make you feel awkward, do them anyway. Give them a try. Know that you’re not alone in feeling awkward. It’s okay to feel awkward at first. The possibilities here are worth it.

 

Last but not least is the expected bible study – every book has reader questions anymore, and frankly I usually just skip ‘em – but this study is worth doing if the rest of the book made you feel nervous and overwhelmed. She holds your hand and helps you practice these strategies on passages that are really improved by the use of these tools.

 

Like I said, I love this book. It really put life back in my bible study reading, and it helps when I get off track again. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

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Published in: on August 28, 2013 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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