Essential Elements for Reading the Bible

When I became a Christian twenty-five years ago, someone gifted me with a basic Bible so that I could start reading God’s Word for myself.

However, I looked at that thick book and thought, “I’ve got to read this whole thing?” My leisure time was scarce. Reading through something that resembled a text book was unappealing to say the least.

Fast forward several years.

By God’s grace and persistence alone, He has changed my indifference toward Scripture to a lifeline. It began as a slow burn which God ignited into a consuming fire.

Every now and then people ask how I study the Bible. Through much trial, error, and many years, I believe there are three key elements for reading/studying the Bible that have become staples along my spiritual journey.

1. Reliable.

Each day set aside (1) a reliable time, (2) in a place free from distractions, and (3) follow a plan.

Years ago, I jumped on the popular bandwagon to read through the Bible in a year. After the first year, my devotional time became nothing more than a speed-reading contest. I retained little because I did not allow God the necessary space to let His Words sink deep.

Today, I still follow a plan but have removed the pressure to complete it in a year. To that end, I have created several Bible reading plans that provide structure to constantly move through the Bible.

Sometimes, I write out whole books of the Bible by hand. I challenged readers with that practice in my first book and people still comment today how it continually helps them to slow down and actually think about each verse. It’s a powerful tool. Try it!

I cannot stress enough the importance of a distraction-free place to read and study God’s Word. Computer screens can be a huge distraction for me, so I sit at my kitchen table each morning with steaming coffee, my Bible, and a journal. My smartphone remains in the bedroom until it’s time to get ready for work.

I’ve never met a strong Christian who not does mediate daily on the words of God. Conversely, I have never met a weak Christian who does. Spending time in His Word consistently is vital.

2. Resourceful.

Assess your daily routine and find resourceful ways to harness time to meditate on the words of God. In my life, resourceful translates into music. Whether beautiful old hymns or powerful contemporary worship songs, Christian music focuses my thoughts on God.

Martin Luther said, “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Music stirs our affection for the Lord in ways that other sources cannot.

We carry the world on our smartphones, so I regularly access Bible reading apps and sermon podcasts. Some friends use their creative outlet for Bible journaling to mediate on God’s Word as they draw. There are many resources available to us to focus our hearts and minds on Him.

3. Relational.

We need people around us on a regular basis who can speak the words of God into our lives. Acts 2:42-47 paints a clear relational picture:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

We are told in Hebrews 3:13 that believers are to extol and encourage each other as long as it is called today so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and the dark forces in this world.

When I feel discouraged or under spiritual attack, there are four special women in my life who I can call at a moment’s notice. They will pray for me, over me, and speak light into darkness.

We need mature believers around us — and they need us.

Sometimes being alone with the Bible is not the best thing. A relaxed walk in the park on a beautiful Fall day with a fellow believer does a world of good to my soul.

Fresh air and a fresh word often bring a fresh perspective.

The bottom line is that we need to constantly search for reliable, resourceful and relational ways to open our heart and mind to God’s life-giving, transformational Word.

It makes all the difference along our spiritual journey.

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When Loneliness Feels Like It’s Swallowing You Whole

If you have ever felt the sting of loneliness for any period of time, you understand this truth: loneliness does not mean being alone.

Loneliness may impact us most deeply when we are in a crowd of people.

That’s because loneliness is a heart issue.

God created us to know Him and be fully known by Him on an intimate basis. Crowds are superficial, not intimate. Even those who know us best still do not know or understand the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart.

Although Jesus was God in the flesh, He experienced acute loneliness. In the hour of His greatest need as He hung on the cross of our making, the disciples abandoned Him. Even God the Father turned His back on His only Son so that God’s full wrath could be poured out on Jesus to be judged once and for all.

Jesus even taught His disciples about loneliness by talking about events that had not yet occurred:

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:32–33

Jesus is the friend who lays down His life for His friends (John 15:13–15), sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us but to be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Every believer has the presence of God in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He lives in us and is our interpreter with God. In Christ, even though we may feel lonely, we are never alone.

Loneliness Is Not Depression

When people asked me how I felt during my time of divorce seven years ago, I found it difficult to discern between loneliness and depression. After looking up definitions and reading a few helpful articles, they were easier to identify.

Loneliness doesn’t feel good, but we are still able to function and carry on the tasks of everyday life. On the other hand, depression inhibits our ability to function.

Loneliness says, “I don’t want to get up and go to work.” Depressions says, “I can’t get up and go to work.”

Loneliness is more of a state of mind, whereas depression translates physically. My lack of appetite for a period of time was due to mild depression, not loneliness.

Loneliness can certainly lead to depression if it continues unchecked over long periods of time. That’s why those friends who stop by and insist on getting you out of the house even when you don’t feel like it are truly life savers.

Two Dangers of Loneliness

Two common phrases come to mind when we feel the effects of loneliness: (1) “I need to keep busy to keep my mind off of it,” and (2) “I need to find someone so I don’t feel so lonely.” The first is common, the second can be dangerous, and neither are the long-term solutions.

1. Busyness

Most of us battle loneliness with busyness. But at some point, the busyness subsides, and then what? Although non-stop activity can ease your stress and temporarily distract you from feeling overwhelmed, eventually you need to slow down and let the Lord heal your heart.

Allow God to work in the silence what you have covered up by noise. Otherwise, you will careen into the nearest wall at 200 mph in full-blown burnout.

2. Replacement Love

It’s normal to find yourself longing for someone to assuage feelings of loneliness. However, it’s dangerous when you look for that someone in all the wrong places — especially if you are married and that someone is not your spouse.

Instead of giving in and letting neediness make us vulnerable, ask God to shift your focus. Pursue interests that perhaps you have put aside.

I rekindled my interest for travel and photography with enthusiasm and have since have traveled to many states and countries.

I also spent significant time investing in my relationship with the Lord through increased personal Bible study, worship, attending conferences, retreats, and listening to sermon/Bible study podcasts. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this investment.

Once you center your life in Christ and gain confidence without relying on horizontal relationships, you will be in a much better place spiritually and emotionally to embrace a new, healthy relationship when the Lord opens that door.

Declare War on Loneliness

You don’t have to live with loneliness. Period. Although it will inevitably happen, you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling like that until the Lord calls you home. We find the antidote in Scripture:

The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14 (NKJV)

The “secret of the Lord” is what God calls His people. They are those Jesus-loving special friends that every Christian needs. The word “secret” doesn’t mean a hush-hush utterance—it references our close, intimate friends who fear the Lord and with whom we share our joys, sadness, weaknesses, and strengths.

They are the friends you let into your messy home while you’re wearing sweats and no makeup. They are the precious few where we can confide real issues in real time.

We need those secrets of the Lord in our life to declare war on loneliness. Their love may look like chatting over a cup of coffee, but in the spiritual realm it’s like an impenetrable shield of love surrounding you in faith against the enemy’s darts of loneliness.

Loneliness can erect significant barriers that prevent God access to heal our heart and living life to the full.

The answer is short and simple: instead of giving into loneliness, lay claim to the nearness of God.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Thank you, Lord.

*This post is a revised excerpt from my book, Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce.

Without This Ring by Donna Pyle

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