It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, and you’re frazzled and grumpy. It’ll be time to start dinner soon, and you wish the world would just go away. Instead you have to keep pressing on, but for some reason, today you’re having a hard time with it all. It’s not like anything terrible happened, so what’s the deal? If you’re like me, one of the most common causes of the afternoon frazzles is that you neglected your personal Bible study time that day.
Time in the Word is one of the most important things we can do each day. I have made mine one of the few non-negotiables in my morning routine, and yet I still sometimes struggle with keeping a consistent schedule of personal Bible study. Today I have pulled a post out of the archives of my previous blog to remind us all of several tips that can help us have a consistent time with the Lord — and hopefully avoid the afternoon frazzles. And the impatience with the kids. And the complaining about things that aren’t going right. And the thoughts that take us where we shouldn’t go. And the list goes on — I am pretty familiar with it… um…
10 Tips for Consistent Personal Bible Study
1) Make a commitment to spend time in the Word every day that it is at all possible. I’m not unrealistic; I know it’s difficult to do it EVERY day. I don’t do it EVERY day myself. But do open your Bible and see what it says as often as you can. Even 10 minutes is better than nothing. If you don’t have your own Bible, check out www.BibleGateway.com. They have many versions accessible for free online.
2) Have a plan. Being haphazard about personal Bible study can only lead to stagnation, or worse, misinterpretation. The best way to learn what the Bible says is systematically by book, or less frequently by topic. There are some wonderful studies based on portions of the Bible at Doorposts.com.
3) Journal about what you are learning. This has been HUGE for me. I write just a little bit every day that I study. This helps me clarify my thoughts and remember them longer. [Update in the interests of transparency (remember, this post is pulled from my archives): I actually haven’t journalled in awhile, because blogging sorta uses up most of my writing mojo. But when I did it, it was SO helpful to keep me consistent and also to solidify things in my brain. What I usually do these days is #4.]
4) Pray about what you read. I tend to write my prayers as part of my journaling. “God, help me to understand this better,” “God, show me how this applies to my life,” “God, please help me to be willing to change my life as You show me I should be in these verses”–prayers like these should be part of our response to what we have read. The Holy Spirit is faithful to illuminate our hearts and minds, if we but ask. [This is what I do more often now — but out loud, or at least a whisper. Sometimes with tears. I keep a box of kleenex handy, lol.]
5) Choose a verse or passage from your reading to meditate on and memorize. Take as many days as you need to think about it fully and memorize it well. No need to try to do a different one each day, unless you are truly realistically able to do that.
I find it more helpful to keep working on the same verse for several days, because that causes me to think about it that much longer and thereby understand it more fully. I remind myself to think about it and practice it by writing it freshly on my “to do” list for each new day. Each time I look at what else I have to do, the verse is there in front of me.[I do this more now than I did back when I wrote the post. A friend and I are working our way through the Navigator Topical Memory System — and wow, it has made a MONDO difference in how I look at life. Having verses handy in my brain helps me thing about things God’s way rather than through my own spiritual myopia. I can’t say enough about this one!!]
6) Regularly attend and become involved in a solid church where the pastor practices expository preaching. This means he preaches through the Bible by concentrating on a particular book from start to finish. The Bible is meant to be understood as a whole–it is an amazingly crafted work; each part is interrelated to all the others. Topical sermons are helpful in moderation, but over the long haul they cheapen the value of the Bible, turning it more into a genie in a bottle that will give answers when rubbed, rather than the high-level treatise on the nature of God that it truly is.
7) As you have time from your more important commitments to home and family, attend a small-group Bible study. Be careful with this. Some “Bible studies” are nothing more than gab-fests or opinion-sharing meetings. The Bible is God’s Word, not to be treated lightly. Our opinions don’t really mean much; what matters is correct interpretation of what God meant when He caused a given passage to be written. The leader of the study should show humility in his/her handling of the Word and yet be mature enough to be able to keep the discussion under control.
8) Share what you are reading and learning with your friends and family. Your children are your God-given disciples; teach them what is fresh on your heart. Your friends can be your sounding boards, giving you further input or calling you up short if your understanding is off base in some way. This is presuming that your friends are as interested in the Bible as you are; we should definitely be encouraging one another with it regularly. If they are not, perhaps your enthusiasm will spark more interest in them! 🙂
9) Continually practice the habit of replacing negative, sinful thoughts and emotions with God-honoring ideas from the Bible. Pick out a verse or passage for each temptation you suffer, then call that to mind as often as necessary. Go look it up if you can’t remember it when you need to.
One of the most growing times in my life was when I categorized verses from my regular personal Bible study into areas of application: homemaking, parenting, marriage, finances, etc. Then when I was struggling in a particular area I could go look at my list of verses for that topic and be corrected or encouraged. A lot of them have become close, personal friends that I still refer to often.
10) Don’t get discouraged. One time I asked a pastor why I could never remember what I had studied. He asked me if I remembered what I had eaten for meals every day the previous week. When I predictably answered “No,” he proceeded to tell me that neither would I remember every verse I study, but that I still needed to study regularly, just as I needed to eat regularly.
The growth comes with the consistency. We don’t see the results day-to-day, but with time and consistent effort, Christian maturity WILL develop. I think regrets for wasted time are natural, but we are not to give in to them. There is always hope for change. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6).
–Did you find some new ideas to boost your motivation? Or do you have one of your own to share? While the afternoon frazzles may still occur even when we’ve had our personal Bible study, I do believe they happen less frequently when we have steeped ourselves in God’s Word and His presence. Do you agree?