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Bible Study Season: Lessons Learned II

The thing about study is that the more I read and dig, the more I realise what you do not know. It's no different with bible study. Over the last few months that I've become more familiar with the Bible - the purpose, what it says about the character of God, what it says about my identity in Christ and other themes it explores - I think I know a lot. But the more I learn and mature on this journey, I realise I don't know anything at all. It's humbling as much as it is exciting. Consider this a cheat sheet if you're just starting out. Here are things I've learnt that I wish I knew earlier.

The Holy Spirit: I said this in part 1 but it's worth mentioning again because it's crucial and really the only way we are able to gain wisdom and revelation of knowledge of God. I won't attempt to unpack the power of the Holy Spirit in this post, but know this, the Holy Spirit is who makes the words of the Bible come alive for us. As we read and we begin to 'hear' and realise things, that is the Holy Spirit revealing the wisdom and knowledge of the word to us; to our minds and hopefully hearts.

Commentaries and Resources: these are a necessity I've found. When I first mentioned them, I'm not sure I even understood how to use them and this is why I said the more I learn, the more I realise I do not know. Commentaries are game changers and now I can explain why. As I've only recently started using them, I don't have a particular one I use yet. I leverage the power of google and read as many as I can until I find one I like for the book I am reading. Commentaries and other bible related resources are useful as they give us background and context that may not be immediately obvious to a new reader. For example, when and where a book was written. It may also give meaning to things said, words used or the other background to the book, which could shape how we read it and always help in understanding it. I'm learning that there are hardly ever wasted words in the bible. Everything has a meaning. If it seems useless, I probably don't understand it.

On a more basic level, reading commentary around the book before proceeding may give context that makes it easier to understand the book. Furthermore, it may help identify things that we missed. There may be a list of 7 things, but I spot 5 because the other two are subtle or in the way I read it, I group things which really should be stand alone given their power. More of the same - it will explain people, things or words that I may not be familiar with.

Bible versions: Speaking of understanding the Bible, I've recently moved from my Message Bible which I loved and over the past nearly 5 years has served me extremely well. However, I came to a place in my Bible study journey where I wanted to begin memorising scripture. If the words of scripture are readily available it's easier to fight battles, keep my heart pure and walk the path of righteousness. Sometimes I do need to go back to the message, or read other versions that are easy for me to understand. Before switching between versions, it's worth doing research on the different versions available. I personally wanted to be closer to the word for word translation for memorising verses, hence the switch. I tried a few versions before deciding on NKJV but I do have others that I refer to that are meaning for meaning translations (GW - a new translation for me) or thought for though equivalent (NIV, NLT) which I've found I find easier to understand. After reading these other versions, it's much easier to understand what the NKJV translation is saying.

Line by Line: As I mentioned earlier, hardly ever are there wasted words in the Bible. So I break each verse sentence by sentence and piece it all back together at the end. After every verse or group of verses under a particular theme, I ask myself what the take away is. What have I learnt? What is it saying about the character of God? What does it say about who I am in Christ? Is it offering me language to use as prayer? etc I no longer read whole chapters or books alone. I read and re-read as many times as possible.

Going slow and easy: I once heard Priscilla Shirer say it took her 3 years to study one book, in the way she properly studies and I was confessed as to how and why it would take so long to study one book. However given the line by line study I mentioned, I can see why it would take quite some time. If one is trying to memorise verses along the way, this will also extend the duration of study per chapter.

Cross referencing: Another reason I understand why it could take a while is all the cross referencing that may need to be done. The Bible sometimes mentions things that require full view of in other chapters. For example, Ephesians 1 which I am currently studying talks about the seal of the Holy Spirit. Great but what does the seal of the Holy spirit actually mean? Who is the Holy Spirit in fact? This is where the need to pause and find answers in other books of the Bible comes in and that can lead one down quite the rabbit hole.

Writing Notes: Given the cross-referencing, context, background etc that commentaries and other resources provide, it's key to write it all down for next time. So I have all the information I need in one place and can focus on other things during future readings. Similarly, questions or answers that are revealed to me are written down, because the revelation might be different next time or if what I need next time I'm reading from a place of needing to be filled. The spirit filled, Bible consuming version on me can pour into the dry or empty version of me later. I've been surprised by the notes on the sides of my Bible in seasons when I read and get nothing because of my state of mind, but i am lifted and assured by the notes I wrote in a different season.

The aesthetic: is great but it's not about the aesthetic. I am the kind of person who need things to be visually pleasant to be able to enjoy them. However, I've realised that if I want to focus on the right thing, I need to let go of that and just write notes all over my Bible page in no particular order as long as I get the information down. It can't be rough or ugly because I really can't cope with that. At the same time, it's not an aesthetic completion, if I make a mistake, I need to just cross it out, deal with it and move on.

Until next time, keep us a secret x

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