Intentional Bible Study for Intentional Growth

Welcome  Have you ever found yourself haphazardly studying God’s word, without any aim or direction or defined purpose?  Have you grown bored with your current method of Bible study?  Have you ever wondered what exactly you’re supposed to be acquiring through reading this long and complicated text?  If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone.  In fact, I can personally identify with each of these queries.  So, in the past year, I set out to become more intentional with my Bible study time so I could experience intentional growth as an individual, as well as becoming a better example to others.

Today, I’m going to share a little about my own personal study journey along with links to some of my favorite Bible study tools and resources.  We also have a GIVEAWAY announcement today!  Check out the Terms and Disclosure page for complete contest rules.  I am not sponsored by or affiliated with any publishers or groups mentioned in this post.  The opinions are strictly my own and shared as helpful resources only.

 

Food For Thought  When I was teaching, it became a big part of our instruction to have students be “intentional” with their learning.  This required teachers to share learning targets and objectives with students and have them on display in the classroom, as well as alongside any student work that addressed these targets.  This required extra work on my part and I didn’t really see the benefit in writing out learning targets to display on a board for my kindergarteners that could not even read yet.  I really viewed this more of an act of accountability for teachers than an actual tool for our students.  However, I do see a benefit in “knowing what you need to know” when it comes to other areas of my life.  It has become obvious that I need some “learning targets” for my Bible study time.

The look of my Bible study time has evolved and changed along with the rest of me over the years.  Honestly, as a child I looked at reading the Bible as pretty boring, as do a lot of kids.  That’s why we have to jazz up the stories with crafts and felt-board displays and cute songs.  But like other area of instruction and education, this sets the foundation.  All the “bells and whistles” work as strong memory aides for later in life.  As a teenager, I wanted to read the Bible more, but it was so long and dry!  In my immature Christian stage, I felt like I was getting enough from church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible class.  Then, when I attended a Christian college, I was immersed in the Bible daily.  I came to realize I didn’t know even close to what I should have by this point on my spiritual journey.  My first semester I was enrolled in Honor’s New Testament.  I felt so dumb in that class!  I sat in a class of 18-and 19-year-olds getting philosophical and deep, and I’m trying to make sure I pronounce all the words correctly!  I was out of my league and the next semester I took a regular Old Testament class.  Enrollment at this university required a Bible class each semester along with daily chapel time.  Additionally, there were Bible study and devotional groups all over campus.  My four years there were saturated with scriptural text and Bible discussions, for which I’m very thankful.  I learned a lot along the way, but I still had no idea how to dive into Bible study on my own.  I bought the NIV Women’s Devotional Bible from Zondervan to at least give me a starting point.  This turned out to be a good thing for several reasons.

Giveaway announcement
Giveaway entries accepted March 19-April 1, 2018. See Terms and Disclosure page for complete rules.

 

Using the Women’s Devotional Bible helped me to do three things.  For the first time, I was able to read the Bible from a real-world application perspective, aside from things like the Golden Rule and the Commandments, since the devotionals in this complete Biblical text addressed topics that were identifiable to me.  Which brings me to the second benefit.  This NIV Bible texts include a topical index in the back.  When I found myself struggling in a particular area, maybe disappointment or singleness, I could look up a devotional and corresponding scriptures that addressed what I needed help with for that day.  I was finally able to see how God’s Word could directly help me through my struggles or weaknesses.  This was a huge revelation for me!  And finally, many years after purchasing the first installment of this Bible, I actually read the Bible all the way through.  When my daughter was very young, I determined I needed to spend more time in God’s Word to be better prepared for where my life was headed.  Each day, going in sequence, I would read that day’s designated devotional, along with the day’s scriptural passage, making sure I read all the way through to where the next devotional would be so I wouldn’t miss any of the text.  I would also read the suggested “additional” verses for the day’s devotional, so actually some of the Bible was read more than once in that time frame.  I did this until I completed the entire year’s worth of devotionals and the entire Bible.  This is the only time I have completed reading the Bible from beginning to end.  It was a great journey.  I have a better understanding for the context as a whole and how stories were connected.  I have a better point of reference for some characters and their stories.  I remember quite a bit from that “whole” reading, but there’s a lot I don’t remember either.  While the Bible is obviously the best text for study and learning, don’t shy away from devotional books either, as they often inspire you to dive further into the text!

Since then I struggled with a way to study the Bible and keep my focus.  I decided I needed to set learning goals for myself.  I started to address topics of interest or concern, making lists of verses that would assist in my understanding, or using reading plans that others had developed for certain topics.  Next, I began to read an entire book, trying to figure out everything I could about its context and meaning.  Sometimes I pick a topic, such as faith, to spend an entire month focusing on in my studies.  Or I might pick a single book from the Bible to spend a whole week focusing my study on.  The key is to not be lost or random in my study, but intentional.  I still leave room for God’s divine inspiration, bringing me to what I need to read and contemplate.

On this journey I have found some great tools and resources for maintaining my focus and increasing my understanding.  Have I solved all my dilemmas when it comes to personal Bible study?  Of course not, it’s a work-in-progress, just like every other area of my life.  I am likely missing some pieces and I’m no expert!  But when it comes to working in God’s Word, I want to be intentional.  I want to have focus.  I want to grow and learn, and for me, that means I need a goal or target that says, “This is what I want to work on.”  I hope these tools and resources are helpful to you, as well.

My Tips for Organizing Your Bible Study Time  There are so many people out there that seem to have this Bible study experience under control, and you may be one of them.  That’s great, I’d love to hear tips from YOU!  In the meantime, some people are more like how I have been, roaming and kind of lost and searching for help.  If you feel you fit this description, start by gathering your supplies first:  A Bible, obviously, but a translation you feel comfortable with.  I grew up with KJV, and honestly, it’s hard to read.  I discovered NIV when I was in college, as that seemed to be what all my Bible professors recommended.  It was easier for me to understand.  I now have three translations at home-KJV, NIV, and ESV, and there are other translations available for free online.  I also recommend some good highlighters, especially if you plan to follow the color code.  Last week I found Sharpie Gel Highlighters.  They are amazing, with a smooth and even glide and no bleed-through!  I also like to keep my Bible Study notebook and pens handy.  I use my notebook to organize topical studies, elaborate on stories or passages, or write out prayers or life applications.  You don’t need anything besides a Bible, however.  God’s Word is powerful.

Bible Study Tips
Start with these basic tips, then launch into study methods like S.O.A.P, W.O.R.D., or color-coding.

 

Online Resources for Bible Study Tools  Do not be afraid to let others do some of the hard work for you!  There are tools and resources out there that can help you find exactly what you are wanting to study and to explain confusing terminology or contexts.  Here are some links to websites that offer topical Bible study verses and articles.  I have used them for both personal use and for this blog.  I find these to be trustworthy sites and useful for obtaining a variety of information about scriptures.

Bible Study Tools  has multiple translations of free Bible text, topical studies, commentaries from experts, and concordances.

Bible Gateway has devotionals, Bible reading plans, multiple translations, and verse cross-referencing.

Open Bible is a topical Bible reference site, that includes verse cross-referencing, a blog, and children’s resources.

Bible Reasons looks up Biblical references based on topical questions and real-world application.

Bible Hub offers topical studies, Greek and Hebrew translations, concordances, commentaries, and more.

Life, Hope, and Truth is a source of inspirational quotes, references, and commentaries.

 

Best Blogs for Bible Study Tools  These blogs offer tools and suggestions for how to get the most from your Bible study and devotional time.  Many of them offer free printables, too.

Journal Moxie has FANTASTIC free printables for verse mapping, scripture writing, and devotional planning.  No need to reinvent the wheel, here!

Free Indeed also has great free printables and also the color-coding highlighter system that I have adapted for my own use; great devotionals too.

The Felicity Bee explains the W.O.R.D. Bible study method and has a great blog, too.

Rachel Wojo offers Bible study and reading plans as well as many great free printables.

Hallie Writes is an inspiring blog with more free printables and the Bible 180 plan, which is a plan for reading the entire Bible in 180 days.

Tales of Beauty for Ashes explains the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and has blog posts and devotionals for relevant mom-topics.

Arabah Joy discusses some verse mapping strategies, and also offers printables and devotional topics, although some study tools are not free on this site.

Check out my Bible Study board on Pinterest for all these links and resources as well as topical Bible reading plans and handy reference tools.

Check out my Devotionals board on Pinterest for some topical devotionals and a variety of blogs for scriptural studies.

 

Today’s Scripture  Psalm 119:66  “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands.”

Today’s DIY  A couple year’s ago, I decided I needed a place to keep my Bible study notes handy.  A 3-ring binder with dividers is perfect for this purpose.  I made a cover for the notebook and placed five dividers into the book, along with some loose-leaf paper and page protectors.  I labeled my five dividers: Bible Study and Scripture, Prayer Works, Inspirational Quotes, Journaling, and Mental Health.  In the first section of the notebook I placed a color-code guideline, adapted from Free Indeed.

color-coding the Bible
A color-coding system I have adopted (from Free Indeed) for highlighting scriptures in my Bible.

 

I frequently select a month-long topical study.  I place these sequentially in the notebook.  I may embellish the pages, write reflections and applications about the verses, or simply copy the scripture and meditate on it while copying.

Faith divider page for study notebook
A divider page I did in my notebook before starting a topical study on faith.

 

Here are just a few pages from my notebook.  Copying the verses into my notebook helps me keep focus, especially on the individual words.  Instead of trying to comprehend a great big passage and infer its intended meaning, this helps me break down the verses word by word.  I often find things I have missed in previous readings.  I then try to write a reflection, application, or prayer for the passage, using a different color to distinguish the two on the page.  This is going to look different on any given day, as verses often speak to us differently at different times in our life.  Sometimes I add an image to my notebook.

What are some of your best tips or advice for having meaningful Bible study time?

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