If you’re like me, you have a box full of good intentions when it comes to growing deeper in your faith.
Most mornings left me wondering how or where to even begin. When I finally arrived to a place of consistency, all I had was my own interpretation of what I was reading. Sometimes references would fly over my head and I would never follow up to figure out what they meant.
What I lacked was a strategy for a better understanding. Like an archeologist uncovering an artifact, I didn’t have the tools to dig beneath the surface of what I was seeing.
But don’t be discouraged as you read Scripture! Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (NLT).
As long as you’re reading, God’s Spirit is working. To go deeper with your time in God’s Word and recall the lessons you learned, try these helpful tools.
A study Bible provides a bundle of resources in one. Most are equipped with graphics, verse-by-verse commentary and a concordance (cross reference of words sorted alphabetically) — all immediately accessible in one resource. Some commentaries are based on literal meaning, like the English Standard Version, and others are geared toward application, like the NIV Life Application Study Bible. They also provide background information of the author, context for each book of Scripture and resources such as maps; some study Bibles, such as the NLT Study Bible, also have helpful articles. You can also visit your local Christian book store for more options to fit your needs! If you don’t want to carry a physical Bible, consider a powerful online or app version, such as the Blue Letter Bible or YouVersion. If you choose this option, you will want to take notes in a journal or notebook.
Consistency can be the biggest foe you face in your desire to go deeper. Maybe you’re reading Scripture every day, but it’s a scattered sampling of verses and books. Instead of getting the meal, you’re getting a snack of what each passage represents. A reading plan, like the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan by The Navigators, is designed to break up Scripture into daily portions that help the reader digest context and meaning. It’s also an excellent tool to keep you consistent and on track.
A college pastor once explained to me that there are two types of Bible students: those who underline in their Bible and those who highlight. Though amusing, my messily underline-ridden Bible testified that he was onto something.
Using a pen or a highlighter physically engages you with the Word. It’s an excellent means to remember passages and why they stuck out to you. Check your local arts and crafts store for pigment-based ink transfer pens in a variety of nib sizes. Don’t use regular highlighters for delicate Bible pages; look for Bible-specific highlighters in pencil or quick-drying pigment ink formats. Be sure to test products in a small area before marking up text.
Numerous scientific studies show that a person learns and retains more information if they write it down. Having a journal or notebook at the ready as you read Scripture is a great opportunity to jot down your thoughts, reactions and prayers. As an artist, I also include drawings in my reflections. Journaling Bibles, with wide spaces for artful journaling, have become popular and you can buy kits with all the needed supplies to get started. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to our growth is actually remembering the lessons we’ve experienced or already learned!
A concordance is a list of important words present in a text that help connect you to other passages where that same word is used. An “exhaustive” concordance contains all the words in the Bible. Concordances can also provide a reference to the original Greek or Hebrew plus their meanings. Having a Bible concordance on hand can help you dive into the details of layers hidden beneath language and cultural context. You can find them in print or as part of a Bible app.
Life is busy. Though it’s not good to be busy all the time, these seasons roll back around to us in the inevitable cycle of life. Devotionals have been an excellent means for me to focus and gear up my mind toward the Word. Before I begin my work day, I open up Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” and read the devotional of the day. How you add a devotional into the mix of study is up to you and your schedule — used strategically, it’s an excellent tool to keep you focused.
In the same way that a physical warmup prepares us for exercise, prayer can be an excellent spiritual warmup to approach Scripture. According to 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But people who aren’t spiritual[a] can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means” (NLT). The Holy Spirit enables you to comprehend the things you read in the Bible. I usually begin by asking Jesus to meet with me in his Word, asking for wisdom and clarity for the things I will be reading. I also close my time with prayer, asking God to reveal how I can apply what I’ve read to my life.
Once you fill your Bible toolbox, create a spot to study. Whether it’s a desk, a comfy chair in a corner or even a closet, arrange it so your daily Bible study space has everything you need close at hand.