Category Archives: Reading

Tips for Understanding the Bible

Check out some of these tips for understanding the Bible better...

Tips for Understanding the Bible

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that included a prayer to help understand the Bible better when we read it.  However, even after praying at times there are still things we don’t always understand right away. There are occasions where we may want to do a little further study when we are having trouble understanding.  Today I thought I’d share with you some of my own processes and tips for understanding the Bible based on things that seem to help me, personally.

I’ve been a consistent Bible reader and “student” for many years now, and there are STILL things I don’t understand. It might be a word, a custom, or it might even be when the Bible seems to contradict itself.  We’re not crazy, abnormal, or unintelligent if we read some things that seem a bit confusing or out of whack!  Even pastors who have been studying scripture for decades have questions and don’t always understand everything that they read.  Take heart…we’re in good company! 

A different take on struggles with understanding

Recently, after reading some of his devotions on my Bible app, I started following a guy named Dave Adamson.   He has an Instagram feed with daily photo devotions that are always absolutely amazing!  One of his posts this week fit right in line with how we struggle when we read the Bible at times. Dave had some tips for understanding the bible when we struggle based off of the story of Jacob, who was renamed Isaac.  He posted a picture of his girls wrestling on the lawn at the National Mall in Washington DC.  He compared it to how we wrestle with God and with scripture sometimes…

“See, I used to carry a lot of guilt whenever I questioned a paradox in Scripture or disagreed with something I heard in church. But there’s a story in the Bible of a man named Jacob who one night literally wrestles with God. By morning, God walks away from the fight and changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which in Hebrew means “struggles” or “wrestles with God.” This name is prophetic, signifying that God’s people will always wrestle with Him. The ancient Jews believed God invites you into this wonderful wrestling match with Him. Author Athol Dickson says, “What if God placed these paradoxes within the Scriptures to cause me to struggle for the truth? What if it is the struggle he desires as much as the truth itself?” When you wrestle with God, He’s right there with you, just like my daughters are with each other in this picture. So the next time you struggle with faith, that’s not a time for guilt, but celebration. God is inviting you to wrestle with Him so you can be connected with the Creator of the universe.”[1]

I love how he used this analogy to free us from some of the guilt of having doubts and questions.  You can also see more of Dave’s amazing photo devotions on his reading plans on the Bible app (YouVersion): 7 Hebrew Words Every Believer Should Know and 7 More Hebrew Words Every Believer Should Know.  Dave also has a photo devotional book called Chasing the Light.

God wants us to understand

Nevertheless, like I said before… God wants us to read our Bible and to understand it. He doesn’t want it to be difficult or overwhelming for us. Because God is not a God of confusion, we should be at peace and not in a state of confusion. Scripture is given to us to help us, not to hinder us. It’s meant to be useful for us.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16(NLT)

So on to the tips!

8 Tips for Understanding the Bible:

  1. Try these 8 tips to help you understand the Bible better

    Find a translation that makes it easy to understand the Bible verses and passages

  2. Read a verse or passage in multiple translations
  3. Use a Bible commentary
  4. Read related verses or cross references
  5. Use a concordance
  6. Ask someone else
  7. Look up or research what you don’t understand
  8. Pray more specifically about a particular part that you don’t understand

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Prayer to Help Understand the Bible

Say this prayer to help you understand the Bible better...

Prayer to Help Understand the Bible

Sometimes it’s hard to understand the Bible, which can be very frustrating. Often this will tempt us to just stop and give up trying. This is especially true if we’re not in a habit of reading it on a regular basis. However, I will say it gets easier the more consistent we get in our reading habit. Today, I’d like to share some scriptures and a prayer based off of scripture that we can pray to before we begin reading in order to glean the most out of our reading session.

God wants us to read our Bible. He also wants us to understand the Bible. He doesn’t want it to be difficult or overwhelming for us. We should be at peace and not in a state of confusion. God is not a God of confusion. Scripture is given to us to help us, not to hinder us. It’s meant to be useful for us to help us lead a successful, happy, healthy and prosperous life. It is effective and powerful and always relevant to any and every situation we face.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) 

There is simplicity in Christ

Beth Jones explained once that we don’t have to understand all of the complex parts of the Bible to learn about Jesus and have relationship with him. Beth compared it to driving a car. You don’t have to understand all of the inner workings of a car engine to be able to drive the car.

Similarly, you don’t have to be all deep and philosophical and intellectual when reading scripture. He’ll help you out along the way. You’ll grow in knowledge and understanding as you walk with him. In fact, Jesus liked to keep things simple. It was the other religious leaders of the day that tried to make things confusing, complex, and super formal. He’ll meet you where you are and help you to understand little by little.

“But I fear, lest somehow, he serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)

 Scriptures to use when we need to understand the Bible 

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Tips for Spending Time With God

Tips for spending time with God

Tips for Spending Time With God

On occasion readers post comments on different blog posts that I feel deserve more attention than just a reply at the bottom of a post. This week is one of those occasions. A reader recently posted a comment with some questions on my post “How to Overcome Feeling Unloved or Unwanted”. I’d like to take some time to answer her questions and provide some additional resources that I think might be helpful for her and others struggling with spending time with God.

This might also be a timely message for others too since the start of the year is a common time to evaluate spiritual growth and set some goals to grow stronger and spend more time with God. You might find some good tips within the post or other resources to help you kick start and/or maintain some of your spiritual New Year’s resolutions.  You can also check out Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis for some extra help and encouragement too.

A comment from Tina

“As great as this article is, I still can’t grasp the concept that “God” loves me…I know partly this is due to me not spending enough time in his word, but for me I never really got much of a true understanding of the Bible and his Word 1. How do I know what to read? 2. What is enough time to spend with God?

I find comfort in being around others… amongst other things, but I want to find comfort in God. 2016 was a very very hard year for me. For the past 4 or 5 months I have felt so UNLOVED, lonely, and rejected…I have prayed countless times for God to just take me away, because the pain I feel on most days has become the norm.

It hurts the most when the one person you love, says one thing but acts different….the same person that I once was all he ever wanted and because I have felt so unloved my entire life, once the triggers started happening it made me become clingy and probably push him away (although he never said it)…My point is not to get advice on the above, but instead I feel the most unloved when things like this happen.

I wish I had the belief, peace, joy, and faith, but honestly it is hard for me to fathom that there is a God…I am very skeptical, logical, and need to be in control and those 3 things are disastrous to truly believing. I get so discouraged about this. I have prayed endless prayers to stop my unbelief and doubt, to prayers about understanding, etc.

I can’t take any more on my own the stress, sadness, and heartache is making me sick. It is so hard to see and understand God when you feel like everything is against you. I truly wish I was stronger, more confidence, and self-esteem. I wish someone (outside of God) would love me like I love. I am so genuine and all that’s brought me is heartache. I sit in my room or in my car with just with tears flowing wondering what I could have done in my life to feel like this. I am hurting and can only hope that I can find happiness and joy inside of me.”

Dear Tina…

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The Importance of Writing Things Down

The Importance of Writing Things Down ...Learn some of the benefits and advantages of taking notes during quiet times and sermons.

The Importance of Writing Things Down

We recently talked about reading the bible on a regular basis (with tips here and how to stop spiritual cramming here).  This week I’d like to take that a step further and share about the importance of writing things down.  It’s a good idea to keep a journal or notebook for taking notes during our quiet times and even during church.  For a lot of people they know writing things down is helpful and that it’s probably a good idea (much like reading the bible on a regular basis), but they still neglect to do it merely for the hassle or inconvenience of it.  I’d like to discuss why the benefits of writing things down might outweigh the disadvantages of it.

Writing things down helps the information sink in…

Writing things down takes listening and reading a step further.  The simple act of writing forces us to think about what it is that we are hearing or reading and then reiterating that or abbreviating that onto paper.  When we take notes it help us to recall the information later.  How many times have you written a list only to find out that you didn’t even have to refer to it?  But try not writing that same list, and chances are that you will forget many of the items.  It’s almost a catch-22.  The process of writing things down will help you to remember what it is that you’ve written.  Skip the notes and potentially forget—with an added disadvantage of having nothing to refer back to if you’ve forgotten.  Which brings me to the next benefit…

Writing things down gives you something to reference…

Overall, the purpose of taking notes is to key in on the important information that we need to remember and to use as a future reference.  We need to write things down to remember—even for those with a good memory.  Exodus 17:14 (NLT) says, “…the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder…”  Jeremiah 30:2 (AMP) says, “This says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write all the words that I have spoken to you in a book.”  Psalm 105:5 tells us to “remember” the wonders God has done, and Psalm 103:2 tells us to bless the Lord and “forget not” all his benefits.  If we are being told to “remember” and “forget not”, then apparently it is possible to forget.  Writing things down will serve as a reference for those things that we may have forgotten.

I’ve also heard it said that writing things down can also give the Holy Spirit something to work with—a reference of sorts.  In John 14:26 it says that the Holy Spirit will “remind” us.  Taking notes will act as a reference to which the Holy Spirit may even trigger us to go back and look at.  Continue reading

How to Understand God’s Will

Learn how to understand God’s will ...

How to Understand God’s Will

Recently I received a question from a reader that I thought was an excellent question and worthy of sharing…

“How can we understand about God’s will for us? I’ve been struggling with the feeling that I may have done something out of His plan, and it saddens me so much.”

I think this is something that many of us have wondered about at one time or another.  How do we understand God’s will, and what happens if we feel like we’ve missed it or did something opposed to His will?  This week I’d like to discuss a couple of ways to understand God’s will, and also address what happens if we miss it.

First let me say, don’t beat yourself up too much if you feel like you’ve done something out of God’s will or plan.  We ALL have “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s”.  I screw up all the time! 🙂 The cool thing I’ve learned is that I can never mess up so much that God can’t fix it or even use it.  God can turn anything around.  I wrote about that in “Mistakes Can Turn Into Success” if you want to see an example in the bible.  Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  So if you know you’ve messed up, repent (admit it, apologize and don’t do it again), and then ask God to fix it or work it out to be something good. 

As for understanding God’s will, I’ve learned that the best way to learn and understand God’s will is by reading the bible.  His will is in His word.  Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Other versions say “renewing your mind…to discern what God’s will is”.  We renew our mind by reading the bible.  God’s will or plan will NEVER contradict what the bible says.  For example, God’s will is never for someone to have an affair because the bible clearly calls that adultery, which is a sin, or God’s will is never for somebody to go to hell because God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I’ve also learned that I can ASK God to show me what His will or His plan is.  James 4:2 says, “You have not because you ask not.”  That means if we want something we need to ask for it.  The same can be true when trying to understand God’s will—We just need to ask.  So first I pray (i.e. God, please help me to understand your will and plan in this area…). Then secondly, I just spend some time reading the bible.  I usually just do this in my regular daily quiet times, and I try to pay attention to anything that stands out.  A lot of times God will answer my question (usually not right away though) in some of the verses I read.

A recent example of when I was trying to understand God’s will was when Continue reading

Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis

Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis

Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis

After writing last week’s post about reading the bible by “spiritual cramming”, I was hoping that nobody would feel condemned or have that feeling of “yeah, yeah, I hear that all the time.”  Those same thoughts and feelings are all too familiar for me so by no means do I want to impose them on others.  My hope is just to encourage people to start somewhere and to make having a regular quiet time a routine.  I really just want to share about it and encourage others because of the difference it’s made it my life.  Let me share how I got started…

When I first started reading the bible regularly it was really out of desperation and despair.  It was the summer before my sophomore year in college, and my boyfriend of 3 years had just broken up with me.  I’m pretty sure he was cheating on me too because not too long after our breakup he was engaged to the girl that he swore was just his “friend”.  I was devastated.  It seems a little silly now, but I truly was in pain then.  Side note: Never minimize or make light of the pain somebody is feeling because their hurt is very real and very consuming to them in that moment.  Even though it seems silly and trivial now (and I’ve gone through MUCH worse since then), it really was a pivotal moment in my life.

During that time I was an emotional hot mess, and I couldn’t sleep.  I started reading the bible at night along with a devotional book (My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers) to find some comfort and to help me get to sleep at night.  It honestly was the only way I could get to sleep and to deal with the anxiety and panic attacks.  I often fell asleep reading the bible, and then I would later feel guilty about it.  I had a thought come to me though.  I now know it was God talking to me—though I didn’t know it at the time.  The thought was, “What better way to fall asleep than by spending time with me?”  It was true.  I could have fallen asleep watching TV or listening to the radio, but instead I did so by reading the bible or praying.  It really did give me peace.

My regular bible reading continued for the next few years.  To be honest, I’m not really sure why it stopped or how I got out of routine after that. Continue reading

Do You Practice “Spiritual Cramming”?

Do You Practice Spiritual Cramming?

Do You Practice “Spiritual Cramming”?

“And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you–and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.” Mark 4:24 (AMP)

“spiritual cramming”  /’spir-i-choo-uh l kram-ing/ VERB 1. The act of attempting to pray and/or to study hastily or learn biblical information in a short period of time and at the last minute due to an impending test, trial, struggle, problem, or hard time. Cramming is often discouraged because the hurried coverage of material tends to result in poor long-term retention of material.

It seems like most Christians know that we should read our bible.  Most also probably realize that it should be done on a regular, daily basis.  The problem is, most don’t do it.  Maybe it’s because we think it’s hard to understand.  Maybe it’s because we think it’s boring or that we don’t have time.  Maybe we think getting “bible” on Sundays or in church is enough.  Any additional study we pursue is frequently just “spiritual cramming”.

I had the same problem.  I was raised in church my entire life.  I heard the children’s church teachers, youth ministers and pastors say all of my life “read your bible”.  I just never did—except for when I was in church on Sundays or Wednesdays.  Regular, daily bible reading was not a habit of mine until about 6 years ago (with the exception of a short stint in college).  Until then I was just a spiritual baby even though I was a grown adult with children of my own and even though I had a decent amount of knowledge from the bible.  I was spiritually immature and had an underdeveloped understanding of spiritual life.  I expected everyone else to “feed” me, and any independent study often consisted of spiritual cramming.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NLT)

It kind of makes me think of my college students Continue reading