Tag Archives: bible reading

Make a Habit of Taking Notes During Your Quiet Time

Make a Habit of Taking Notes During Your Quiet Time

Recently in my college classes we talked about reading strategies. One of the things that we discuss is a strategy to be a critical thinker and reader. In turn this practice enables us to be a better learner and understand and retain information better. The strategy we learn is taking notes (or annotating) while reading. We tell our students that simply holding a pen or pencil in your hand creates an active reader of you. This is a great approach to use during bible reading and quiet times too.

Unfortunately, this is a strategy that has fallen a bit by the wayside for me during my own bible reading times. It’s something that I’ve always been so good about in the past. Lately though, I’ve grown a bit lax and more intermittent in taking notes or journaling during my quiet times. I guess I had gotten out of the habit.

I’ve noticed a pattern when I write notes less. I tend to remember less, and I notice a little deceleration in my spiritual growth. Sometimes I have even tangibly “felt” further from God. It’s been a noticeable difference for me in hindsight.

Lately, I have sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to go back to what I did before. I remembered that before I was more consistent in journaling and in taking notes during my quiet times. During those times of my life when I took more notes and journaled, I grew more spiritually.

“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Revelation 2:5 (NIV) 

Benefits of taking notes and journaling

I know firsthand of the benefits of taking notes. You’d think I’d be better about practicing what I preach! I guess sometimes even I need reminders. I’ve written before about why it’s important to write things down and take handwritten notes. Some of the advantages to taking notes and journaling I discussed in previous posts were…

  • Scientific research shows it’s proven to help with remembering the information better—we remember more of what we write down.
  • This article discusses how our brains are engaged more and we learn more when taking notes.
  • It helps the information to take root into our minds and spirit.
  • Writing things down gives us something to go back and reference later during a time of need or just as a timely reminder.
  • Writing things down can be a record and evidence of our growth and progress as we look back on our notes.
  • Our written notes can be a resource to share with others or from which others can learn.

Maybe my notes and journals aren’t just for me

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A Different Approach to Bible Reading

A Different Approach to Bible Reading

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash 

A Different Approach to Bible Reading

During the first of the year many Christians often resolve to be more purposeful in their spiritual growth. The Bible dedicates a significant amount of scripture to the importance of reading and meditating on God’s Word daily and spending quality time with God through prayer and praise. Because we know this, one of the main spiritual goals or resolutions at the start of a new year is to start a regular bible reading habit. Often people get off to a good start. Then, like many New Year’s Resolutions, what started off as a good intention gently fades, and it never quite becomes a habit or routine.

Two years ago I wrote a post on Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis. This might be a good time to go back and revisit that post for some great tips and a story about how and why I started my bible reading practice. This week I’d like to resume and expand on that discussion because I recently gained some more insight on a better way to approach bible reading.

Typical approaches: Duty & Application

My pastor, Whit George, just shared a different approach with our church[1]. Pastor Whit said that many of us approach bible reading in a couple of different ways. First, many of us approach our quiet times and reading like a duty, out of obligation or out of guilt. This approach is not as meaningful. It is not really “delighting” in God’s Word as Psalms teaches.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 (NKJV)

Secondly, others of us approach scripture like reading a self-help book or instruction manual. We read it only for application. Reading for application is not bad—it’s actually a good thing. However, this approach doesn’t work when you read something that you can’t apply or when you don’t get anything out of what you read that day. To be perfectly honest, I have been guilty of both the “duty” approach and the “application-only” approach.

A better approach: Read for relationship

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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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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

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