Thursday, April 7, 2016
Understanding How To Study the Bible: Write It Down!
A devotional journal doesn't have to be fancy. It can be a nice leather journal or a simple wire-bound notebook. That is completely up to you. It can be lined or unlined--again, your call. And what you decide to write in your devotional journal is also up to you. There are no hard and fast rules about what does or doesn't belong in your devotional journal; however, if you would like a few ideas, I'm happy to oblige. Here are a few ways I use my journal:
1) I write out verses that speak to me and that I hope to memorize. Writing them out helps me to concentrate on each word and helps instill the verses in my mind more fully.
2) I note the reference of verses that I highlighted in my Bible (or Bible app) and why I chose to highlight it. Marking the reference of the verse makes it easier for me to find later. And as for writing down why I chose to highlight the verse, well, you'd think I'd remember if the verse was special enough to mark in the first place, right? But here's the thing about the Word of God. It is alive! While the Word itself is unchanging, its meaning and impact on our lives changes depending on our current circumstances and state of mind. There have been many instances where I reread a verse that I had marked and, for the life of me, couldn't figure out why I marked it. Sure, it was a good verse, but it didn't speak to me the way it did when I marked it. God opens our eyes and helps us to see what we need to see when we need to see, but I don't want to forget these precious lessons, so I jot down a short note about why the verse is special to me. For example, this morning, while reading in the book of Hosea, I came across a verse that talked about "the fruit of lies." Since I've been meditating and studying about Eve for an upcoming ladies' meeting, that was the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the phrase, "fruit of lies." So, I wrote down the reference in my journal and beside it, I wrote: "This reminds me of Eve. We may not know exactly what kind of fruit she ate in the Garden, but we can be sure it was a "fruit of lies" since the devil tricked her into eating it."
3) I jot down thoughts and/or questions that come to me while reading. When we invite the Lord to open our eyes and to speak to us through His Word, He will, and I like to write down what He says to me. Not in an audible voice, of course, but either in the words of the Bible themselves or in His still, small voice, He speaks to my heart. As a writer, book, story and devotion ideas jump out at me all the time, so I will often jot these down in my journal as well so that I can refer back to them later without letting my thoughts get sidetracked away from my Bible study. I also like to write down questions that come to me that I would like to study out later or about which I would like to seek the counsel of others. For example, in the account of the fiery furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar told his counsellors that he saw four men walking in the fire and the form of the fourth man was like the Son of God. The last time I read this familiar passage, this question popped into my brain: How did the king know what the Son of God looked like? I jotted the question down in hopes of asking my husband and/or pastor about it later. (BTW, they didn't know either. That one's still a mystery!)
4) I write out a quick prayer. Often, in the midst of my Bible reading, the Lord will convict my heart about something, and I feel the need to deal with the situation right then. So, I'll write out a quick prayer of confession, supplication or praise, depending on what the issue is that the Lord brought to my heart and mind. While I realize I could simply utter the prayer aloud or in my heart, something about writing it out helps me feel more settled about the situation and allows me to move on in my study.
These are just a few things that I like to record in my devotional journal, but as I mentioned earlier, what you write in yours is completely up to you. Perhaps you already use a devotional journal. If so, I'm sure my other readers would love to hear what you record in yours. Would you share with us?