When I was growing up, I heard how important it is to spend time in God’s word on a daily basis. I heard it at church. I heard it at home. I heard it a camp, at VBS, at youth group, at Bible study. I heard it at school – and I went to public school. As I got older, my friends and I encouraged each other to spend time in God’s word each day. We even held each other accountable. And for years I’d get up and open my Bible, and even with a reading plan, I had no idea what to do in my “time with the Lord” (a.k.a. “Quiet Time” or “Morning Devotions” or “Devos.”).

I honestly thought I was the only one who ever struggled with how to spend time in God’s word until I started speaking to women’s groups. When I started speaking to groups of women, I heard a lot of, “I know it’s important to spend time in God’s word, but how?”

So, how do we spend time in God’s word? I honestly think asking how to spend time in God’s word is a very brave question for two reasons. It is brave because (1) it is an admission that we don’t know/aren’t perfect/don’t have it all figured out, and (2) because being confronted with the word of God will require change – and change can be scary. But maybe you know it is time for change.

Time for change

If you are one of the brave women who want to know how to spend time engaging with God’s word on a daily basis on your own, let me encourage you to begin to meditate on God’s word. Let me encourage you to read to engage with scripture, not to read because you are supposed to read the Bible, or to read for information, or to read for amusement (a= not, muse=think, therefore amuse = not think); or to read to check it off your to-do list.

Meditating on God’s word (you can read more about biblical meditation by reading The Search for Peace or What is Meditation?) begins with reading God’s word in a way that it engages the thoughts of our heads and our hearts. It can begin with three simple questions:

  1. What does this passage show me about the character and nature of God?
  2. What does this passage tell me about the character and nature of man? (Both the saved and the unsaved – and ultimately, what does it tell me about my own developing character and nature?)
  3. So what?

Once I answer the first two questions, I can ask the third.  “So, what does this mean for my life today as I ___________ (fold laundry, drive to work, encounter difficult people, meet my husband for lunch, educate my kids, call the plumber….)?”

You see, the more we understand about who God is and who we are, the more we are able to move from life yielded to the flesh into life yielded to the Spirit.

There are obviously (or maybe not obviously!) more questions to ask before you can fully answer these three questions. You see, before we can get to what the passage says about God, man in general, and us in particular, we need to understand what the passage actually says.

There are several steps I go through to understand what a passage says. I didn’t invent this process – it’s basically inductive Bible study and there are dozens of books available to walk you through learning inductive Bible study methods,  one little (or rather long, actually) blog post cannot do it justice! The main thing is while I do think it is important to consider what other folks have to say about the Bible, I don’t think we need to sit around and wait for someone else to tell us what the Bible means. God had the Bible written down and protected it’s message across the ages and in a variety of languages so that we could know him personally.

So, how do I spend time in God’s word?

Well, I’m a mathematician, so I approach the Word like a word problem in math.

When I solve a word problem, I go through several steps:

  1. Read the question.
  2. Read the question again to become familiar with the information presented.
  3. Establish what am I being asked to find out. What is the point?
  4. Make notes on the important details – What do I already know? What do I need to know?
  5. How does what I know relate to what I need to know?
  6. What other information/resources do I have that will help me connect what I have to answer the question? (basic math facts, operations, order of operations, formulas, variables, rules for solving problems, calculator…)
  7. Answer the question. Put it all together, what is the answer?
  8. Double check. Did I get to what the questioner asked? Is the answer reasonable? (e.g. If someone gave something away, did the number get smaller? If the number got bigger, I need to go back and see what I did wrong!)

When I approach the problem of engaging with the Word, I follow similar steps:

  1. Read the passage.
  2. Read it again. Get familiar with what it says. {I read about one pastor who had a practice of reading a book 40 times before he would begin to study it. That’s getting pretty stinking familiar with the passage.}
  3. What is the passage about? What is the general topic/event/idea being presented?
  4. Make observations about the details of the passage. This is a great time to ask reporter questions:
    • Who? Who is the author? Who is the audience? Who is the subject?
    • What? What is is the context? What is happening? What is repeated a lot? What is the author’s purpose? What was the audience’s response? What is mentioned? What is left out?
    • When? When did/will this happen? When was it written? When did it/will it matter?
    • Where? Where did/will this happen? Where was it written? Where was it said? Where was it going?
    • Why? Why did the author write this? Why did the audience need to hear it? Why did the subject of the passage respond the way they did? Why was the subject mentioned? Why were some things not mentioned?
    • How? How did this happen? How does the author hope to help/inform/instruct? How does this help/inform/instruct the audience? How does this show truth?
  5. Connect what I have observed to other scripture – put these verses in context.
    • What do these verses say?
    • What do the verses right before and after these verses say?
    • What do other verses on the same topic say?
    • What does the Bible say as a whole on this topic?
  6. Evaluate other resources/information. What other information and resources do I have to help me connect this passage to me today?
    • What was happening historically when this was written?
    • What did the readers of the day understand about this topic?
    • How were these words historically used?
    • What have other scholars (yes, you are a scholar!) said about this topic? {Here’s a hint: If you are discovering something in scripture for the first time in human history, you’ve probably made a mistake. That’s why we do the reasonability check in a minute… }
  7. Draw conclusions. Ask yourself, “So what?”
    • So, what does this mean for me?
    • So, how does this impact my life?
    • So, how am I going to respond?
    • So, what would being transformed by this passage look like? How does it renew my mind and transform my life? (Romans 12:2)
    • So, how does this passage teach, reprove, correct, or teach me how to live righteously? How does it equip me for every good work? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  8. Double check.
    • Did I answer the question?
      • What does this show me about the character and nature of God?
      • What does this show me about the character and nature of man?
      • What does this mean for me?
    • Is my answer reasonable?
      • If I re-read the passage, do my conclusions still make sense?
      • Is my conclusion reasonable in light of scripture and consistent with the whole counsel of scripture?
      • Am I making any assertions that contradict other parts of the Bible?

Now this really is obvious: approaching scripture like this does take time. Which is why you really need to spend time in God’s word on a daily basis.

A little bit of time spent meditating on God’s word like this every day will lead to a heart equipped for the work he has prepared in advance for you to do. Meditating on God’s word will transform your thoughts, your words, your actions, your motives, and your heart. Meditating on God’s word is the way to wisdom.

You know that woman who seems to pull scripture out of the air with the perfect application to a circumstance – without being all preachy?  She meditates on God’s word. She has God’s wisdom because she has wrestled with God’s word and has been changed by the encounter. She is a sinner saved by grace, just like you and me. She is steeped in grace because her heart is trained in righteousness through the regular meditation on God’s word.

You can be that woman.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5. Meditate on that for a bit this morning. 🙂

__________

So what will you study first?

OK, I usually recommend studying books of the Bible in their entirety. Going through a whole book in order really helps with the whole context thing, BUT there is a place for themed studies, and with Easter just six weeks away, I am just starting a Bible study that focuses on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy through Christ at Easter.

Redeeming Easter Details

It’s a great place to start meditating on God’s word with a great bunch of women!

You can read all about it here: You are Invited!

You can subscribe to the emails here: Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study Email Subscription

And for fellowship, accountability, and interaction throughout the study, join the Facebook group here: Redeeming Easter on Facebook (Being in the FB group won’t really make a lot of sense without the emails… the devotions, songs, memory verses, and activities all come in the daily emails.)