How We Do—Bible Study

How We Do series

One of my favorite bloggers, Lora at Vitafamiliae, is writing a “how we do it” series, and I’m joining her series with a few posts of my own. It’s an attempt to think out the details of my daily life and to throw open the doors and welcome you in. So, welcome, all of you, to my life and home!

Oddly enough, Bible is not a subject per se in our homeschool. It’s just an integrated part of everything. Which, incidentally, means that I rarely blog about what we are doing in Bible. So, time to let you in on the big secret workings of Bible study in our home.

My Bible Study

I have blogged about this a few different times. I have a method that I’ve been using for the last year that I love, journaling through books of the Bible. I write out—completely, word for word—the book that I am studying. I write it in a specific journal and only on the right-hand pages. On the left-hand pages, I journal any thoughts, cross-references, or questions that I have about what I am studying. Sometimes, that left-hand page is filled to the last line. Sometimes, it’s pretty blank. I don’t beat myself up about having something on every line. This has been an awesome method for me. Slow. Sometimes tedious. But great for allowing me to customize to my morning and focus my thoughts. One morning, I may copy a whole paragraph. The next morning, maybe I’ll write my thoughts about that paragraph. The next, maybe I’ll copy only a single verse. But writing each word helps prevent my mind from wandering to the grocery list, to-dos, or menu that rattle around in my brain constantly. (Read more about journaling the Bible here.)

Journaling through the Bible

I also have a 3×5 card file box for prayer requests, with labeled sections and a card for individuals and their requests. I have a section for each child and my husband, a section for family and one for friends, a section for church and ministry, etc. I also have a “thanksgiving” section; answered prayer cards are dated and moved to this section. My favorite section is the “praise” section; as wonderful names of God or descriptions of his wondrous works come up in my daily Bible study, I copy them onto a 3×5 card and file them. Then, I pray those adorations back to God. (Read more about my prayer box here.)

organizing my prayer life

The Kids’ Bible Study

Kids Bible StudyMy Oldest is a fluent reader. Our gift to him when he reached this level of ability was a Seek and Find Bible. We choose a book of the Bible for him to study, and I print out sheets for him to fill out. The sheets tell him which verses to read (usually 5 or 6 verses) and either ask a question or ask him to copy a particular verse. Then, on his school assignment sheet, I have a spot for him to draw a smiley face each day he does his reading. He’s independent, but accountable. Usually, he’ll try to have this done before coming down for breakfast. But if it gets missed in the morning, he’ll make it up sometime later in the day.

Middlest, who loves to be like Oldest as much as possible, sees this happening every morning and often gets out her picture Bible for a study time of her own. I have no plans for her and have no requirements for her, but I love to see this habit already rooting in her routine.

A Family Habit

Our family “Bible Time” usually happens sometime after supper and before bedtime. We take Sundays and Wednesdays off, but every other day of the week we try to maintain this habit, a habit we’ve had since Oldest was about 2 or 3. Now, the kids hold us accountable. They love this time. Daddy usually reads, but sometimes I will, and occasionally Oldest has had the privilege of leading the time. We’ve done a variety of things in the past. We’ve loved R.C. Sproul’s children’s books, and the Gospel Story Bible. Sometimes, our Tapestry of Grace biographies make a great Bible time (St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and other Reformation heroes). Right now, we are reading God’s Promises.

family Bible Time

An Integrated Subject

For our homeschool, Bible is integrated largely into our history studies. When we study ancient history, we survey the Bible. When we study the Middle Ages and Renaissance, we learn church history, the corruption of the Gospel and the Reformation. The next couple of years, as we head into the modern era, we’ll be learning about great missionaries and the missions movement. (Then we’ll repeat from the beginning again.) I usually do assign some memory work for the year. Last year, we memorized the Ten Commandments and Psalm 1. This year, the kids are in Awana and memorizing lots of verses through that program. But we are also learning catechism through Teach Them the Faith songs.

Bible naturally comes up in nearly all of our subjects and in many of our daily conversations. That’s one of our primary joys of homeschool, that the Gospel and Bible study is integrated into life itself, not segmented into certain aspects. It happens when we rise up and when we sit down and as we walk (or drive) down the road. It doesn’t happen perfectly, and I don’t always give the right answer. But it happens, and in God’s gracious way, it’s a living, breathing part of life itself.

How does Bible happen at your house?

Bible Study Tips for Young Moms and Other Busy Women

I can remember pre-motherhood, the deep Bible studies and long times of prayer I used to have, particularly during my college days. Now, suddenly, I’m lucky to fit it in unless I wake up with the worms (that means, even before the early birds). Even then, my time is limited, and consequently, so is my depth of study.

For years, I’d beat myself up with guilt and even go through periods of giving up on devotions altogether because I couldn’t get the quality out of them that I craved. But as I talked with other godly women, older women who had survived the struggles of motherdom and come out on the other side, I received some valuable advice.

How do I care for my family and fit in quality Bible study? Through a strategy of immersion rather than submersion. Here’s what I mean: though you might not have time to go “deep,” we all have bits of time throughout the day to continually immerse ourselves in God’s Word and in prayer. Listed below are a few ideas that have helped me.

  1. Study shorter passages for longer amounts of time. Take a verse or two each day. This isn’t lazy by any means. I have learned that if I read a couple of verses, I have time to really meditate and to study those verses more fully than if I read long passages at a time. That doesn’t mean that you read verses out of context, but rather study a book of the Bible in bite-sizes.
  2. Meditate on your reading through the day. This is immersion, and it works best with a strategy of reading smaller passages at a time. The lesson from my devotions is the lesson for my whole day, and many times I will have a good paraphrase of what I have read fresh on my mind. And each day, my understanding of the passage grows. I’m digging deep one spoonful of dirt at a time.
  3. Arrange a sanctuary for retreat. We all have moments during the day when we just have to get away. Especially at home with little ones, I have found that I crave “just a few minutes” more than I ever used to. So, I’ve set up a place of retreat (don’t laugh) in my bathroom. This is the place I can lock myself away for those precious few moments and pray and meditate–mostly undisturbed. The short devotional readers are perfect for this sanctuary. Find a favorite devotional book that has a short verse and a page or two of devotional thoughts. A couple of my favorites have been Lydia Brownback’s books.
Purity: A Godly Woman's Adornment
Joy: A Godly Woman's Adornment
Other thoughts for your sanctuary might include a Bible verse written on a 3×5 card for you to memorize and meditate on, or a list of Bible verses that especially encourage you. You might even have mini-sanctuaries set up throughout your home—at the kitchen sink, by the rocking chair in the baby’s room, next to your cleaning supplies. Think through where you tend to be during the day when the exhaustion hits you the hardest, the place where you need an oasis and a refreshing taste of the Living Water; then, try to have what you need waiting for you.
Time with God is crucial, especially during the time of our lives when the demands of family and little ones are constant. Whether you find that time during the quiet late at night or the hush of early (very early) morning, make the most of it and take it with you through your day.
Want to know a little bit more about my quiet time with God? Check out these posts.

A Day Without Devotions

I’ve heard people say it over and over again. “Boy, I can tell if I miss my devotions. I just have the worst day.” And for awhile, I misunderstood that statement to mean only people who failed to do their morning Bible reading ended up with days when everything unravels at both ends.

I remember realizing my misunderstanding for the first time. On a particular day a few years ago when everything was unraveling,  I desperately prayed to God, “Why is this happening? I even had my devotions this morning!”

As soon as the words left my mouth, the pang of conviction stopped me in my prayer. I was, in a sense, blaming God for not coming through on His end of the bargain. The bargain was one that I had unknowingly established, which said God was entitled to give me a good day if I set aside time to pray and read His Word.

And I knew, in that instant, that God wasn’t entitled to give me a good day or bless my efforts or provide smooth sailing. Nothing I did could entitle God to do anything. He was the One at work in my life, and it was HIS work and HIS plan, not something I had contracted out to Him. If He decided that trying days would best conform me to His image, then my day would be nothing less than “refining.”

On the other hand, what were devotions and quiet times good for? Why was I supposed to faithfully study the Bible and pray?

I’ve come up with a short list of reasons that I have found to be true over the years.

  1. It clues me into God’s plan. I get a glimpse of what God is trying to accomplish in my life, and I can trust His promise that He will complete that work. As I study the Bible, I see the nature of the work He is doing and get an idea, from other characters in the Bible, how God will go about accomplishing that work in my life.
  2. It sustains the Spirit’s work. In temptation, the Spirit can only remind me of passages that I have read and studied. During trials, the Spirit can only comfort me with Scriptures that I am familiar with.
  3. It reveals the One who is at work. If nothing else, studying the Bible reveals to me the God of the Bible, the One who is at work in my life. Only through knowing Him can I have the assurance and the confidence that He is good, that He is merciful, that He is faithful, that He is the “I Am” of all that I will ever need.

Will studying God’s word daily guarantee that I’ll walk on water while everyone else is fighting storms? Not in the least. But that quiet time with God will be the outstretched arm I need when I’m sinking below the waves.

Monday Motivation: Resting on the Eternal God

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. —Isaiah 40:28-29

Take a moment to find yourself in that verse. Are you faint? Are you weary? Are you “them that have no might”? Sometimes, it’s easy to feel that we have given all of ourselves that there is to give. Used up. Burned out. Wasted.

Now, take a moment to find God. The same One whose power spoke the sun into existence and set the boundaries for the universe (boundaries we have yet to discover), is the same One who breathes power and strength into you.

Everlasting God, Creation was only the beginning of your strength. The vastness of space is merely a shadow of your infiniteness. You have poured your eternal life into our very souls.

Hold me, strengthen me, sustain me with your life—life that is eternal, that will never be exhausted. Help me today to pour my life out willingly, knowing that in you is life everlasting.

Monday Motivation: Everlasting Strength

 

Mission-Minded

Every morning, I roll out of bed with this prayer surfacing in my foggy brain: “Lord, give me grace and strength for this day.”  As I stir the cream and sugar into my coffee and look over the day’s agenda, I pray again, “Lord, I need your sufficient grace and daily mercies.”  But, lately, it seems I’ve needed an extra shot of strength and grace and mercy.

“Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.”  Isaiah 26:4

There is a world of thought and meaning packed into that small verse:  “I AM everlasting strength.” His is a strength I can depend on to fight my battles for me, to come to my defense, to meet my needs when no one else observes them. His is a strength I can count on to always be there, even before I am aware that I need it; to never run out or reach its limit; to sustain when nothing else can. He is more strength than I will ever need–strength enough to create life, to sustain life, to be life. And his strength, rather than being depleted by my need, is made more perfect, more complete, in my weakness.  Truly, that is everlasting.

Perhaps, instead of rolling out of bed muttering anxiously,  “Lord, I need…”, I should begin my day with the peaceful recognition, “Lord, YOU are…”

Journaling the Word: my new Bible study method

I must admit that many times during young motherhood, I’ve felt as though I were floundering through my personal Bible study time. Some studies demand too much; I honestly can’t fit it in to my brief moments without the kids. Then, I struggle with the guilt of not being able to do what is required. Then other studies don’t seem to go deep enough; I’m left with a shallow surface thought about a text pulled out of context.

But I’m excited to say that I have finally found a method of studying the Bible that seems to be the perfect fit for my time, my personality, and my spiritual growth. I love it!

I came across the idea on a friend’s blog when she began using Journibles. The idea of Journibles is taken from Deuteronomy 17:18 and the idea of scribes copying down every word of Scripture. (You can read more about it here.) On the right-hand pages, you copy word-for-word from the Bible; on the left-hand pages, you write your study notes on the passage. Unfortunately, Journibles has prompting questions on that notes page, which really cramps my style. The creator in me doesn’t like to color in someone else’s lines. Still, I loved the concept.

So I bought a lined journal from Staples and began in the book of Hebrews. It’s been absolutely awesome!

Let me list all the reasons why.

  • Writing word-for-word keeps me focused; I’m not thinking through my grocery list or wandering off on all my mental to-dos.
  • I can customize to fit my time and my day. Some days, the kids actually sleep in a little and I can make it through several verses. Other days, maybe I’ve had a late night and accidentally slept in, leaving me only a few minutes for a verse or two. It doesn’t matter with this system.
  • It allows me to meditate. Writing the verses and reflecting on those verses keeps them fresh on my mind. I write thoughts that come to mind, praises or prayer requests that are prompted from the passage, or questions that arise that I want to study more in depth later (or ask my pastor-husband about). I find that both the writing and the notes, keeps that verse on my mind all day. I’m meditating more on the Scripture I’ve read, not merely crossing it off my checklist and moving on.
  • I’m more in tuned to the context with this approach. Writing that passage allows me to concentrate on punctuation, complete thoughts and continuing thoughts, etc. I’m paying more attention that this verse is continuing his explanation from the verse above, and that verse is giving an explanation for what he just stated.
Bible Study | Bible journaling

I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s intentional Bible study, and I’m thriving on it.

Oh, and another new “love” I recently found is my Frixion pens, pens that erase so my journal stays nice and neat.