Studying the Bible Together

When I started my adult journey with God, I remember looking up a verse and realizing that while I’d grown up in the church and been a Christian most all of my life, when it came really knowing the Bible and what the context was around an individual verse, I really didn’t know.

 So, I started at Genesis. And started studying it word for word. And by the time I finished the first day, I was hooked. Genesis 1:1 is no longer a verse that I can just quote by memory, but it is a verse that means something to me and speaks to me whenever I think of it. If you ever hear me talk about making a verse mine, that is what I mean.
Over the course of this study, one of my hopes for you is that you gain an incredible repertory of verses that are yours – verses that you can cling to and know that God is near and that He loves you.
During the summer break, as I’ve been praying and planning for this group, a few things from my own experiences came to mind that I wanted to share:

1) As we study one part, God may be using that to speak to you about something completely different.

That’s fine. In my experience, sometimes those are the places that the greatest insight comes in. I love following the rabbit trails that God will lead us down sometimes. Sometimes they loop around and actually speak to the actual verse I’ve been studying, sometimes they really are about something completely different (a different verse, a different subject, or anything else), but I’ve never yet found that I wasted my time following the trail. I always come away with new insights and revelations that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
You are always welcome to share the paths God is leading you down, even if they don’t seem to be the same paths everyone else is going down.

2) My sheep hear My voice and they know Me.

I have precious friends who are prayer warriors, and in their times of prayer are when they are most used to hearing God’s voice. For me, I’ve found that in the quiet time of my Bible study is often when the still, small voice reaches me.
Perhaps all of you already know and recognize God’s voice, but my sons once asked me how do you know if what you’re hearing is from God and after much thought and prayer, the answer came to me during praise and worship one morning at church, so I am going to share it here.
Of the dozens of voices that we all hear in our heads, there is one that feels different. I told my sons to touch it, taste it (they had fun with that one), try it – and you’ll know it’s God.
If you’re not sure, listen to see if the voice speaks of condemnation (outward, condemning and makes you feel guilty or angry) or conviction (loving and very freeing).
And if you need to, ask if you’re not sure. The more I learn about God, the more I realize that I’ll never run out of things to learn about God. One of the most freeing things I’ve learned fairly recently as I was studying 1 Cor 13 is that all of us see through a glass darkly (or through a terribly dirty window). Like the poem of the Blind Men and the Elephant (which I have shared on here before, but also include at the end of this message), none of us see all of God clearly and so it is very possible for God to show me one side of Himself while at the same time showing someone else a completely different side. So while God may show me that He is Love, another person may be seeing that God is Creativity – or so many other aspects of God that I haven’t learned yet.

3) This is not my study, it’s yours.

I love sharing my Bible studies. You have probably already realized that when you read my excitement about this study.

A cookbook is fun to read when you're planning dinner...

But, to be honest, my writing is for me, even though I love sharing with you. If it helps you have a new insight then that’s awesome! But I think too often reading a book or notes that someone else has written can be a lot like reading a cookbook.

A  cookbook is fun to read when you’re planning dinner. But if you’re starving, it doesn’t really help.
There are many times when I’ve read someone else’s Bible study and then wondered why I wasn’t getting filled. It was a major ah-ha moment when I realized I wasn’t getting filled because the study wasn’t mine. I was reading their notes and it might even change how I lived, but I was reading what God had shared with them instead of allowing God to speak to me.
I finally realized that while the books and study notes were great, it was like spending all my time reading books on how to improve my marriage and not spending any time with Ken. The books may teach me to be a better wife, but until I add in quality time, it really isn’t going to make much difference in my marriage.

4) Finally, my promise to myself as I do this study is to be real.

That means that what I share here is pretty much the same as you’d see if you were reading over my shoulder during a private Bible study. Perhaps names and identifying info might be changed if it needs to, but I think as we become adults, we learn over and over that it’s better–easier–to hide our true selves and not be real, and I’m working to overcome that in myself.
When I first started studying Genesis, I stopped reading Christian books. 

I wanted to know God through my own lens, not through someone else’s.

Gradually, little by little, I would add books back in, but over and over, I found that the books that drew my interest were people telling their story and sharing their true selves. In those parts, I would read and see God moving and see how it applied to my life as well. If a book turned preachy, I’d tend to skip over that part or at least read them quickly. My yearning was for things that are real.
One of my favorite verses (I have many and I’m sure over time I’ll share many of them) is “In my weakness, You are strong.” I’ve found this definitely true in my life. It’s not in preaching about God that I reach people, but when I share my weaknesses, tell of my struggles, and share how God has moved in my life, then maybe someone will read what I share and it will reach them where they’re struggling right now – and they’ll know that they’re not the only ones going through that experience and that it does get better.

5) How arrogant it seems to be setting a goal (well, really a desire or hope) for each of you, but as I was considering what my hope was for each of you, it was this – that the verses become yours.

For me, that’s easier if I write down my notes about the verses, share my own stories (feel free to share with us if you feel comfortable, but at least share them in your notes), and tell how the verses make me feel, what memories come to mind, what God is putting on my heart. A verse read is just words on paper. It’s not until we take it in and make it our own that it gains power.
As I was studying a couple verses recently, the rabbit trail I followed lead to memories that to my surprise were hidden like they’d been swept under a rug. They weren’t happy memories to be sure, but the fact that even to myself I had long ignored them surprised me. In the writing and in sharing them with  a friend, I felt the release of old chains, forever taking away their power to bind me again.
Most of all, my desire is for you to find that which draws you closer to God, whatever it is, that gets you out of the way and lets Him move.


PS If you would like to do a Bible study via email and/or over Facebook or Google+, please click on the link and sign up to join our LifeGroup. It’s the same study that you read on here, but you’ll be joining a group of people to do life together with – to pray, share, cry, and laugh together.

The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!