13 Best Bible Study Methods

Whether you are a new or seasoned Christian, knowing how to study the Bible and where to start are daunting tasks. Been there. Done that.

Technology allows us to have the Bible at our fingertips 24/7. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops enable us to access God’s Word just about anywhere in the world.

We can attend church online, listen to sermons and podcasts as we drive, or experience worship through music videos without leaving our homes.

The entire Bible is more accessible than at any other point in history, yet “How to Study the Bible” is searched online over 8,500 times each month.

Access to the Word of God is not the issue. Yet our knowledge of its contents is decreasing.

Where Do I Start?

I will say it again: knowing how to study the Bible and where to start are daunting tasks. Our spiritual growth stagnates the longer we wait. Many Christians lack practical tools to study the Bible effectively.

It takes time to incorporate a new habit, discover the best way to study, and the best study bibles to utilize on this new journey.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Why Is Knowing Scripture Important?

Studying Scripture changes our lives from the inside out. We learn how to love like God. Forgive like Jesus. And treat enemies with kindness. Counter-cultural to say the least.

Most importantly, the Bible reveals God’s beautiful truth that He sent His only Son to rescue us from sin, death, and the grave!

I first started studying Scripture after becoming a Christian at age 23. I did not know anything about the Bible. There’s an Old Testament and a New Testament? You get the gist.

I felt that my basic questions were off-putting to mature Christians. I lacked a good starting point, a good study bible, or a good direction on which steps to take first.

Over the past thirty years, God has cultivated in my daily life solid tools to study, memorize, and apply Scripture every day. I am passionate about biblical literacy.

Bible study methods

Participating in church or small group Bible studies along with Sunday sermons is important. However, taking a personal lead in developing effective self-study methods stokes that flame of faith.

Some of these methods may work better for you than others. Invest some time trying each one to discover which works best for your personality and schedule.

First Things First: Start with Prayer

Scripture is God’s breath exhaled onto the page. Focusing your mind and thoughts on Him comes first and foremost. Always begin your study time with prayer.

Perhaps, one similar to this one:

Dear Lord, as I open my Bible today, open my heart to hear your words of truth. I pray that your Word comes alive in me. Remove all distractions right now. Open my mind to gain understanding as your words heal, teach, inspire, convict, and restore my heart. Enable your words to take root, grow and blossom in my life. Bring your light of understanding and peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Method #1: Study One Book of the Bible

I suggest starting with a small book from the New Testament. The books of James, 1 Peter, and 1 John are all good choices for first-time studies.

Depending on your schedule, plan to spend 3-4 weeks studying the book you have chosen. Take time to read through the entire book more than once.

Look for themes that may be woven throughout the chapters. For example, the book of James contains an obvious theme of persevering through hard circumstances. Write down the verses around each theme.

Also, make a note of life application principles within the book. In James, a clear life application is that words need to result in action. Saying that we forgive is vastly different from moving toward forgiveness.

As you meditate on the themes and life application principles, allow God’s Word to speak to you personally. Where can those themes or applications apply to your life right now?

Method #2: Read Straight Through the Bible

Reading the Bible straight through (without taking notes) allows us to “hear” it like Israel’s nomadic tribes. Individuals did not have parchment, so the Bible stories were shared verbally.

Note that you do NOT have to start at the beginning of the Bible. The Bible contains 66 separate books compiled into one. You can start anywhere you like, just use a checklist to ensure you read through all 66.

Bible study methods

Also, choose a Bible version that is easy to read. Let’s face it, if you don’t understand it, you won’t get far.

There are dozens of translations and different versions of God’s Word, but the King James version is probably the most difficult. For clear reading, I suggest the English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), or The Message versions.

As you settle down for uninterrupted reading, imagine story time around an evening campfire. Or story time in the afternoon with milk and cookies. (That’s a flashback to elementary school.)

This method allows us to see and hear the overarching story of God’s love and goodness to His children from Genesis to Revelation. His passionate, relentless pursuit of us toward salvation comes across with beautiful clarity.

I have many different Bible reading plans and checklists as free downloads here.

Method #3: Write Out Parts of the Bible

Our culture moves at lightning speed. Since we are technologically driven (for the most part), we desire things to move fast – such as food, lines, and traffic.

Absorbing Scripture into the marrow of our bones takes time. Breathing space. Quiet surroundings. That’s where grabbing a pen, your Bible and a journal plays a vital role.

The rhythm of physically writing slows us down to absorb the words. Words have a chance to stick with us past the moment – especially if you want to memorize particular verses.

As an author, I love the steady cadence of writing out God’s Word. That cadence resounds in my soul to retain those life-giving words. I recently started once again with the book of Matthew.

Make writing fun! I use my favorite Tul pens and a variety of colorful journals that are readily available and inexpensive.

Method #4: Character Study

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Who’s who in the Bible?” The follow-up question is usually, “Why do they matter?”

I love reading current biographies of historical great men and women because they lend insight into the person. Doing character studies throughout Scripture accomplishes much the same with an added bonus: we glimpse the character of Christ.

For instance, Scripture contains only two books named after women: Ruth and Esther. My quest to understand Esther using this method turned into a full-blown, published Bible study. Talk about an amazing woman of faith that God used mightily! We can learn invaluable life lessons from Esther.

https://cph.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=110&url=334

Studying characters matters because their examples teach us how to actually live a life of faith:

  • Moses steadfastly led the Israelites through the desert for forty years.
  • Joseph never complained about being thrown into prison after refusing Potiphar’s wife.
  • Mary did not doubt when God told her that she would be the virgin mother of our Savior.

Character studies allow us to see how God moved in their life. How He provided for their needs, disciplined them toward success, and loved them beyond measure. He still does that today with you and me.

Pick one person and get started! You will be amazed at how relevant their experiences still are today.

Method #5: Topical Bible Study

This method is similar to the Character Study method listed above. However, instead of a person, pick a topic. Temptation, peace, addiction, and forgiveness are a few that could be tackled.

I remember as a new Christian being confused by what it meant to be “quenched” or “hydrated” by the Lord. What does “living water” mean? Years later, I used this topical Bible study method and turned that personal quest into another full-blown Bible study.

https://www.artesianministries.org/book/quenched-christs-living-water-for-a-thirsty-soul/

What topic do you long to know more about how God instructs His children? Use the concordance in the back of your Bible to find where that topic appears in Scripture. Then grab a notepad.

Read and/or write down all of those passages. What does God teach about that topic? Are common misconceptions debunked? Most importantly, meditate on how God can apply those truths to your spiritual journey.

Method #6: Memorize Scripture

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is vital. When the enemy knocks us to the ground, God brings relevant verses to mind to comfort us and bring His peace. Scripture memorization is a crucial line of defense.

One of the first portions of Scripture I memorized was the Armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18. The evil in this world is evident – just turn on the evening news. As His children, we need to know God has protected us from head to toe.

If you are facing a particular battle right now start with verses that speak to that situation. If you are experiencing joyful circumstances, start with passages that praise God.

Yes, all of Scripture is worthy of memorizing. However, focusing on ones that directly apply to your current situation will be more meaningful. Memorization and real-time application will come easier.

Method #7: Bible Journaling (the SOAP Method)

A vital step in our faith journey is applying Scripture to our lives. A popular, helpful method appeared a few years ago called “S.O.A.P.” It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

Bible study methods

I used this method effectively when writing The God of All Comfort based on 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Paul teaches how God comforts us in our affliction, which enables us to also offer His compassionate comfort to others.

The S.O.A.P. method is simple. Pick a section of Scripture each morning or evening during your devotion time. Using a notepad or SOAP journal:

  • Write down the Scripture passage.
  • Read through it again and record your Observations.
  • Jot down how you can Apply those truths in your life.
  • Close with Prayer asking God to make that verse personal to you.

When you come across your S.O.A.P. journals later in life and read through them, you will be amazed and encouraged by God’s faithfulness along your journey.

Method #8: Single Word Study

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about fear? Love? Humility? Kindness? Such wondering offers a perfect opportunity to undertake a single-word study.

When I experienced divorce over a decade ago, I did not feel very loved (to say the least). One of my pastors challenged me to read through the Bible and write out every passage that talked about God’s love. WOW!

That undertaking left me without a trace of doubt about how much God loves me, even when people may not. Writing all of those love passages consumed an entire journal. If I am ever feeling unloved, I still pull out that journal. I don’t feel unloved for long.

If you desire to be more kind, I challenge you to search for every instance in Scripture where God talks about kindness. Write them out in a journal. Ask the Lord to enable you to be more kind.

God will blow you away as He works through this discipline.

Method #9: Coloring Scripture (Bible Marginalia)

Bible marginalia appeared on the scene a few years ago and has exploded in popularity. If you are an artistic person, this method is a great tool.

The premise is to meditate on a Bible verse as you highlight, color, and create art around it.

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/bible-journaling

Friends of mine have a hugely popular Visual Faith® Ministry. There are hundreds of free graphics and ideas (where I downloaded the one above) that include examples of how to highlight, color, and visually enhance your Bible reading experience.

The Bible is God’s inspired Word – a TEXT full of grace and love to you. Think of the margins as your invitation to text back your response of love, gratitude, praise, or devotion. Adding a date to your pages creates a story of your spiritual journey – and leaves behind a legacy of faith for your children and grandchildren.

Visual Faith® Ministry

The goal is to utilize your God-given artistic gifts to engage with and meditate on Scripture. Be sure to keep in mind the main purpose: meditate on that passage(s) as you use your artistic talents.

Method #10: Read Scripture Like a Novel

Right from Genesis 1, Scripture opens as an epic, cosmic tale about the heavens and the earth. We see God creating everything out of nothing. We see marital drama between Adam and Eve. Blessings and curses. Covenants. Promises. Murder. Adultery. Betrayal. War. Political subversion. Even cinematic-worthy battles.

If you are a writer or wannabe screenwriter, simply look at the account of David’s battle with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. You can’t make that stuff up. It flat out reads like an award-winning novel.

https://cph.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=110&url=379

There are main characters, metanarrative, and deep plot development that become clearer when reading the Bible like a novel. The settings are both intimate and dramatic. The important difference? Scripture is non-fiction.

The overarching message of the Bible becomes crystal clear: God’s love towards us never fails.

If you love stories, read through the Bible like a novel. Mentally insert yourself into those stories. Visualize your surroundings. See how God challenges and rescues. Scripture comes alive!

Method #11: Pray Through the Psalms

As a new 20-something Christian struggling with how God could love someone like me, a godly mentor pointed me to the Psalms.

The Psalms put into words the hurricane of thoughts whirling in my head that I could not verbalize. She suggested that I use the Psalms as a prayer guideline.

It was a spiritual game-changer.

Every emotion that we experience can be found in the Psalms. Anger. Love. Bitterness. Praise. Confusion. Hurt. Thanksgiving. You name it, and it’s in the Psalms.

This method can be written out in a prayer journal, as well as spoken aloud. Since prayer is spoken aloud, start by reading the psalm aloud. You will hear the emotion of each psalmist.

Why do emotions matter?

God created us with emotion to move our hearts and soul beyond our comfort zones. What emotions are in the psalm? The key to relating to the Psalms is putting yourself in the place of the psalmist. Speak as if you were writing it from your own experience. Joy. Heartbreak. Victory. Loss.

King David penned almost half of the psalms. He poured his heart out to God in his writing. And as he wrote, God’s peace and comfort faithfully surrounded him. And his writing reflected it.

As you pray the Psalms aloud, God’s peace and comfort also surround your everyday life. We are verbally handing over our worries and concerns to the only One who has the power to change them.

The Psalms are also infused with worship. Worship was an integral part of the Israelite’s life. Consequently, the Psalms overflow with adoration and worship of God. If your circumstances leave you without words to worship, speak those worship Psalms aloud.

Praying and worshiping through the Psalms continues to be one of the most powerful spiritual tools that God has given us.

Method #12: Pull Out Your Biblical Maps

Understanding the geography around Biblical stories adds an important layer to studying Scripture. Years ago, a friend gave me an ESV Bible Atlas as a birthday gift and it is never far from reach.

For example, when Jacob sent his favorite son Joseph to check on his shepherding brothers, a map reveals that Joseph’s journey was between 50-60 miles. Not just up the road! Such insights lend a greater understanding of the hardships and blessings of Biblical characters.

When you realize that the Sea of Galilee is only eight miles wide by twelve miles long, we can visualize how the crowds tracked Jesus’ boat as they followed Him along the shore to experience the miraculous feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21).

I regularly lead tours through the Holy Land. One comment repeatedly stated is that they had no idea the close proximity of some locations to others. For instance, Magdala, Tiberius, Capernaum, and the Mount of Beatitudes can be seen from an anchored boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Holy Land Tour

If you love maps, this is a very effective method of diving deeper into Scripture. Grab a Bible atlas, pick a story from Scripture, and track the character’s movements. This is particularly eye-opening in Exodus.

I have spent many hours lost in the pages of that Bible atlas seeing Scripture come to life through geography.

Method #13: Use Bible Flash Cards

Flashcards are not just for school students. As a bona fide lifelong learner, flashcards are an invaluable way to study Scripture.

When my Forgiveness Bible study was released, the publisher had the brilliant idea of offering Scripture memory cards as a companion study tool. I still keep those cards close as a reminder to keep a short account of hurts. Life is short. Forgiveness is commanded.

If you are new to the Bible in general, there are flashcards for learning the books of the Bible, significant characters, and even timelines.

This study method is a great resource if you do not have much daily time for in-depth study.

The Bottom Line

The Bible is our only true source of wisdom and knowledge. Regular studying of God’s Word provides a firm foundation to grow and strengthen your faith.

Remember to give yourself some grace as you study Scripture. You are learning the spiritual riches of a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. It takes a lifetime.

The Bible is a life manual for all Christians. God’s Word is life-giving and life-changing. There is a reason that it is the world’s best-selling book of all time.

Above all, diligent Bible study will remind you time and again of the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. God bless your study time!

{As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.}

What Does the Bible Say About Adultery and Forgiveness?

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2, ESV).

Old Testament: King David’s Sin of Adultery

He was supposed to be out with the army. That’s what 2 Samuel 11:1 says about King David. But he decided to stay home.

He took a stroll along the rooftop and saw a beautiful young woman taking a bath. And he decided was “all in.” The rest, as they say, is history.

David lusted. Bathsheba succumbed, even though she was a married woman. David had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah murdered so he could marry her. Their sexual relationship resulted in a child. But God did not forget what took place. The price of David’s sexual immorality was the death penalty for their child.

The Collateral Damage of Adultery

So much collateral damage from one person’s act of adultery. David mistakenly thought that defiling Bathsheba’s marriage bed was above the reproach, law, or reprimand of a king.

Are you and I any different when we believe we have ultimate sovereignty over our own lives?

Adultery plagues our world today. The Ten Commandments are treated as suggestions. Whether we know a family member or friend who has suffered a wayward spouse, infidelity will likely affect every human being at one point or another. 

Teachers feel the effects and consequences of adultery in their classrooms. Kids tend to act out or their grades suffer as they process the emotional hurricane caused by their parents’ divorces. Pastors’ and counselors’ schedules stay full as they walk the victims of adultery toward God’s healing.

I do not use the word “victim” lightly. That is what adultery feels like. I know. My ex-husband was a repeat offender. The one person to whom you opened your heart, body, and mind decided on some level that you were insufficient. Whether that insufficiency stems from within or is persuaded from without, it decimates intimacy. And it decimates marriages.

What is the Definition of Adultery?

Although spiritual adultery certainly happens, I am specifically talking about sexual sins. Webster defines adultery as: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse.”

If you have been the victim of adultery, you struggle with your identity in the world. Discarded. Less than. Not good enough. Those labels kept me up some nights. Yet Christ Jesus has given us a much more beautiful identity. Take time to memorize these Bible verses:

  • But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV).
  • See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2, ESV).

Since our identity is in Christ, extending forgiveness to someone who has committed adultery is not optional.

So How Do We Begin the Process of Extending Forgiveness?

Forgiving the deep betrayal of adultery seems impossible. It is perfectly normal to ask God how you even begin such a daunting process. Your life just exploded and all you can see is the debris. That’s when professional Christian counselors become vital.

When our emotions are screaming for vengeance, entertaining thoughts of forgiveness seems impossible. We want to cast the first stone. We may be tempted to inflate the circumstances and bear false witness.

But as God’s children, with the Spirit of our God dwelling inside of us, we understand that we do not operate in our own strength:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV).

Holding on to unforgiveness creates a cage of anger and bitterness around our hearts. Taking the first step toward forgiving that betrayal is the first step to unlocking that cage toward freedom.

Adultery: One of the Hardest Acts to Forgive

Adultery ranks among the top significant hurts that are the most difficult to forgive. In fact, getting over such thing took me a solid year of counseling. Yet through the power of the Holy Spirit during that difficult time, God’s steadfast love won and forgiveness was extended.

If your marriage ended in divorce as a result of your spouse’s adultery and you are contemplating a second marriage, ensure that you have truly forgiven your ex-spouse. Otherwise, you will carry all of that ugly baggage, hurt, and bitterness into a new relationship. And that’s a recipe for disaster.

The same goes for an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend if you have engaged in premarital sex. If you are considering a new marriage (or getting married for the first time), the consequences of your ex’s lack of self-control will cause you to be suspicious of any future spouse.

New Testament: What Did Jesus Say About Forgiveness?

As Jesus was walking with His disciples in Luke 17, He paused by a sycamine tree to make a specific point about forgiveness. Why should we care about this tree and what does it have to do with forgiveness?

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:6, KJV).

The sycamine tree had a robust root structure that plunged deep into the desert soil to tap into underground water sources. Because of its deep roots, drought or sheering it off at the base posed little threat. It was incredibly difficult to eradicate once established. It would inevitably resurface.

Scripture talks about not allowing any bitterness to take root in our hearts because eradicating unforgiveness is incredibly difficult. It grows deep, watered by any offense that lies hidden in the soil of our hearts.

Left alone, unforgiveness will establish deep roots and produce bitter fruit that surfaces through angry thoughts, words, and deeds.

But there is more. Much more.

The Sycamine Tree and Unforgiveness

The spiritual parallels between unforgiveness and the properties of the sycamine tree are chilling.

Wood from the sycamine tree was the preferred material for building coffins and caskets.

Sycamine trees grew quickly and were readily available in many places. In fact, Egyptian archaeologists have discovered small boxes made from sycamine wood at the base of mummified sarcophagi. These sycamine boxes remained uncorrupted for at least 3,000 years.

Unforgiveness remains in us, corrupting our hearts and mind until we allow God access to eradicate it.

The sycamine tree was only pollinated by wasps.

The wasp stuck its stinger into the heart of the fruit to initiate the pollination process. The tree had to be “stung” in order to reproduce. Think of how many times you have heard someone say, “I’ve been stung by that person once, but I’m not going to be stung like that again!”

You can almost see the poison of unforgiveness pollinate every bitter word they utter. Can you hear the pounding of the casket maker’s hammers?

Finally, the sycamine tree was planted where two paths met.

Its large trunk and stout branches offered shade to travelers as they paused to decide which path to take. When you and I get hurt – emotionally, mentally, or spiritually – we stand at a crossroads.

We Have a Choice

We have the choice between the dark, burdensome spiritual death sentence of unforgiveness or the Son-drenched, freeing path of forgiveness. The choice really is ours.

As children of the living God, we must believe that the process of eradicating bitter roots is never a hopeless endeavor. Jesus told His disciples in Luke 17:6 that uprooting unforgiveness is possible if a person has the faith of a grain of mustard seed.

In Him is our only hope of freedom from destructive bitterness: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Since that gift of hope that the Apostle Paul talks about comes from God we have access to an abundant, unlimited supply of the poison’s antidote.

If you have ever signed a certificate of divorce, worn the label “divorced woman” or “divorced man”, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed to redeem us gives us new life – eternal life. He alone is our best friend. In the kingdom of God, we wear the label, “redeemed.”

Regardless of how deep the hurt or how long we have let it reside, it is never too late to surrender our unforgiveness to God for permanent eradication.

In God’s hands, the casket maker’s career is short-lived.

I have written an entire Bible study on Forgiveness that you can find here, as well as a book/Bible study on surviving the thriving after divorce here.

Forgiveness
Without This Ring by Donna Snow

{As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases. Photos are obtained from Unsplash.com}

Forgiving Adultery

He was supposed to be out with the army. That’s what 2 Samuel 11:1 says about King David.

But he decided to stay home.

He took a stroll along his rooftop and saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. And the rest, as they say, is history.

David lusted. Bathsheba succumbed. David ordered Bathsheba’s husband murdered so he could marry her. They had a child.

All seemed well. But God did not forget what took place. The price of David’s sin was the life of their child.

So much collateral damage from one person who thought he was above reproach, the law, or reprimand.

Are you and I any different?

Adultery plagues our world today. Whether you have been victimized by it or know a family member or friend who has suffered a wayward spouse, infidelity affects us all.

Infidelity frays the fabric of families.

Teachers feel the effects in their classrooms when kids act out or grades slip as they process the emotional hurricane caused by their parents’ divorces.

Pastors’ and counselors’ schedules stay full as they walk the victims of adultery toward God’s healing.

I don’t use the word victim lightly. That’s what adultery feels like.

The one person to whom you opened your heart, body, and mind decided on some level that you were insufficient. Whether that insufficiency stems from within or is persuaded from without, it decimates intimacy.

Adultery ranks among the top significant hurts that are the most difficult to forgive. But that’s not news. The real news is that “victim” is not our identity when we are in Christ.

And if we are in Christ, forgiveness is not optional. Ugh. Believe me, I understand how much that stinks to hear when you’re sleeping single in a double bed.

Forgiving the deep betrayal of adultery seems impossible. How do you even begin such a daunting process?

I asked that question several times. When our emotions are screaming for vengeance, entertaining thoughts of forgiveness seems impossible. But as God’s children, we do not operate in our own strength.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

If you’ve experienced adultery, you will feel weary and faint. But rely on HIS strength.

People question when I say, “Through gritted teeth, I asked God to help me forgive my ex-husband.” That’s because forgiveness is an intentional act of the will.

When I kept asking God to help me forgive my ex-husband instead of dwelling on his actions, God focused my thoughts on Him, not the hurt.

God sets our heart right when we focus on the Lord and surrender toxic emotions to Him. (Colossians 3:2, Proverbs 3:6).

So how do you walk toward forgiveness?

Begin with prayer. Pray for God to heal your shattered heart and mend your broken spirit. Over and over and over.

It may seem as if you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re worth such love. God says you are.

Healing takes endless hours poring through Scripture. The verses God used powerfully in my life during that time were Psalm 18:16–19.

No matter our hurt, its depth or its breadth, God rescues us. Why? Because “He delighted in me.” That’s it. No other credential necessary.

Your worth is not stained by those who hurt you.

Your lovability factor is not decreased by his or her actions.

You are completely and wholly loved by God regardless of external circumstances.

When we endure painful seasons, knowing that Christ is our strength gives purpose to our pain. God never wastes a hurt. He will use that brokenness for our good and His glory.

Forgiveness doesn’t let them off the hook. Forgiveness frees you from the narrative of hate.

Ask God to help you forgive your adulterous spouse.

Keep asking.

Not because God doesn’t hear you, but to keep your focus on Him.

Keep focused.

In Christ alone, you will find hope, healing, and the strength to forgive.

 

*This post is an excerpt from my new book, Forgiveness: Received From God, Extended to Others, available now.

Without This Ring by Donna Snow

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Extinguishing the Flames of Anger

When Demi Lovato’s album Unbroken released six years ago, the album title intrigued me.

At the time, I was struggling with anger following my divorce.

I don’t know much about Demi’s history or music, other than her incredible vocal range. I listened to the songs carefully to find out how she developed the album’s theme.

She wrote one of the songs to her dad, pleading for him to put down the alcohol and keep his selfish hands off his daughter. It broke my heart. How awful.

Suddenly the stories that circulated on the Internet over the years about Demi entering rehab for cutting and bulimia made sense. The powerless trying to regain control.

So what does this have to do with anger?

In the music video for that particular song, Demi demonstrates that she is using the power of success to overcome her painful past.

Paraphrased, Demi’s lyrics basically say, “Go ahead and try to tear me down, but I will rise from the ground like a skyscraper.”

It’s a popular mind-set in our culture that says, “If you hurt me, I don’t get angry and take revenge; I become successful to prove that you can’t hurt me anymore.”

However, such a mind-set is commonly driven by unresolved anger. We resolve to become indestructible skyscrapers, but have we dealt with what happened at the foundation?

God set the example by being slow to anger (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 30:5). Anger is a volatile emotion that must be handled with kid gloves.

One day during my divorce process, I telephoned my television cable provider to switch the service from both of our names to mine only.

The customer service representative could not seem to understand that my husband was unavailable to approve my request, even after telling her that my husband no longer lived in our home and would not be returning.

I reached the breaking point.

I shouted something about her being too deaf to hear and too dense to understand, slammed down the phone’s receiver, yanked the whole thing out of the wall, and threw it across the bedroom with all my might. It left a perfect, telephone-shaped hole in the sheet rock.

That was not a proud moment on many levels.

My over-the-top anger vividly taught me that anger can cause damage—literally. That day I asked God to remove those sharp, angry edges and begin the process of mending my heart.

I prayed for that poor customer service rep whose hair I set aflame and asked God’s forgiveness.

If you struggle with anger, it takes intentional time in prayer and God’s Word to remove it.

At one point during her video, Demi looks defiantly into the camera as if to say, “You tried to rip me down, but my sweetest revenge will be in-your-face success.”

That mind-set likely resonates with us at some level because all of us have been hurt. Whether someone betrayed a trust, shared a secret, or physically hurt us, we get it.

Sometimes we feel the need to prove that we can rise like a skyscraper above painful adversity.

But we will not find resurrection apart from Jesus.

Anger is appropriate if we’ve been hurt, but many of us take it further. Sometimes, we add coals of bitterness and resentment and stoke our anger with dreams of vengeance.

But the truth is that we never master the flame.

Fire doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t just scorch those who hurt you—it scorches you. Eventually, it will consume your life (Psalm 37:8).

Anger itself is not a sin. However, it may become sinful when excessive or prolonged.

When we hold on to anger and bitterness, the conflagration eventually destroys us from the inside out. Evil wins.

So how do we properly respond to our wounds when we are surrounded by an outrage-obsession culture?

We don’t resolve to throw telephones across the room or build skyscrapers.

We choose to forgive.

And only God gives us the strength for that hard task.

Forgiveness is the only way to extinguish the flames of anger and once again put your feet on the path toward joy.

Surrender your anger to God.

Let Him build a skyscraper of grace in your life, built on the foundation of forgiveness.

 

*This post is an excerpt from my new book, Forgiveness: Received from God, Extended to Others, available now.

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Revenge: Drop the Jawbone

Samson had an anger problem. Well, maybe he just never learned how to process anger well.

In Judges 15, an incident between Samson and his father-in-law eventually escalated into battles involving nations and the slaughter of thousands of innocent people.

All because of revenge.

When Samson returned home to his wife after a time away, he learned that his father-in-law (thinking Samson hated his wife) gave her to Samson’s companion. To add insult to injury, his father-in-law then offered his other daughter to Samson.

In a rage, Samson declared war on the Philistines (his father-in-law’s people) by torching their grain fields and olive orchards (Judges 15:1-5). The destruction affected the Philistines both economically and religiously, because they believed in gods of harvest, among others. In retaliatory revenge, the Philistines burned Samson’s wife and father-in-law to death (Judges 15:6). Ironic.

Samson vowed not to stop his rampage until he exacted revenge for his wife and father-in-law. He subsequently attacked and slaughtered many Philistines (Judges 15:7–8).

The Philistines retaliated by hunting down Samson, attacking the town of Lehi on the way. Three thousand men of Judah confronted the Philistines to ask why they were coming against them. When the Philistines named Samson as the culprit, the men of Judah found Samson and handed him over (Judges 15:9–13).

But Samson wasn’t finished. He picked up the jawbone of a donkey and killed one thousand men with it. One thousand men. All of this destruction and mayhem started with Samson, his father-in-law, and a goat.

Why are we so bent toward revenge? What is it that makes revenge alluring?

When it comes to revenge there are two basic types:

Active revenge: This kind of revenge moves aggressively toward our offenders. Perhaps a family member says something derogatory about your spouse. You immediately take offense and start telling the rest of the family about their many faults (whether secret or not). Active revenge always hurts far more people than we realize.

Passive revenge: This kind of revenge deceptively looks like forgiveness. Passive revenge does not move aggressively toward the offender, but takes the form of withholding, cold shoulders, or secretly celebrating when something negative happens to them. It is forgiveness lip service, not a genuine movement toward it.

Revenge tells God, “You’re in my seat.” When I choose to take revenge, I alone determine the severity of a person’s transgression, the proper method of punishment, and the time frame in which it needs to occur. Revenge inflates the ego because I alone determine that God is not moving fast enough or meting out what I believe is appropriate judgment. Consequently, I take matters into my own hands and execute judgment. Revenge means failing to entrust my wound to God’s justice.

Revenge always escalates. An offense can start with something as small as the rolling of eyes at someone’s behavior in a social setting. But it doesn’t end with reciprocated rolling eyes. It always escalates. Remember Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? The feud between the Capulets and the Montagues was “bred on an airy [misspoken] word.” Multiple civil brawls later, Romeo and Juliet died in their efforts to be together.

Revenge always inflames and creates an inflated ego that says, “I have the right to pay back the hurt they inflicted on me.” And back and forth it goes.

Forgiveness begins when you drop the jawbone.

When you find yourself in a situation where there is a nonstop back and forth, decide to put down the jawbone of revenge and back away. Forgiveness starts by refusing to participate in the game and stepping forward to end it.

Maybe we need to ask ourselves how much revenge is enough until we feel better? until our anger subsides?

The anger we feel from pain makes revenge seem logical. But anger can escalate quickly into rage and even hatred. Anger is an impossible blockade on the road toward forgiveness. That blockade can be removed only when we surrender the underlying pain to God for healing.

God takes our pain on Himself, so use God as the lightning rod for your anger. The psalmists did exactly that in Psalms 7; 10; 17; and 28. God alone is our avenger. Remember Job? There are dozens of places in the book where Job unloads his anger, frustration, and wounds onto God, along with a little sarcasm (Job 10:3). God can take all of those emotions and knows best how to handle them.

When someone wrongs us, instead of groping for a verbal weapon, reach for the Word of God: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance” (Ephesians 6:18).

Instead of hitting our enemy, we can hit our knees. We can pray earnestly for God to heal our pain, remove our anger, and work forgiveness in us so we can extend it wholeheartedly to those who hurt us.

Instead of feeding our hurt, we can feed our heart. Relentlessly confess, repent, lay your hurt at His Table, and receive His forgiveness that refreshes.

God alone is our righter of wrongs. The power or responsibility does not lie with us (Romans 12:19).

Forgiveness relinquishes all rights to punish our wounders and give them over to Christ. God is a God of justice as much as a God of love. Forgiveness does not mean that our wounders get off the hook; it recognizes that we are not the righteous judge of sin. That authority belongs to Christ alone.

Follow Jesus, not the path of revenge.

Drop the jawbone.

It stinks to high heaven.

Literally.

**The winner of the Forgiveness book release giveaway is CAROL ALBERTS!  I’ll reach out to you today, Carol. Congratulations and God’s blessings! **

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“Forgiveness” Book Release & Giveaway

   

These are the days when our culture seems to embrace rage. But we look around at the brokenness and perhaps we wonder … don’t we all need a whole lot more forgiveness?

We turn on the TV or scroll through social media and see drama-filled outrage over things that will be forgotten by dinner. And I can’t help but ask: why are we so angry? What cut our fuse so short that we’re constantly blasted and damaged?

Perhaps it’s time that we look each other in the eye and admit we need each other — that forgiveness paves a better way. A holier road.

But how do we handle the pain we can’t contain? those memories that track us down like blood hounds on a scent?

Maybe what overwhelms us the most is feeling like no one understands.

Been there, done that. Hence, this book.

Because rage will cage us unless we forgive.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to understand is forgiving is an act of giving: For God so loved — He gave. 

Forgiving gives life. Forgiveness restores freedom. Not for our offenders. For us.

I’ve lived the rage and know that forgiveness has radically transformed my life. When we trust Him, God can turn our anger into outrageous abundance.

After struggling and failing, and learning and growing, very slowly, I started to write. Does forgiveness make any sense in a raging world? In a raging heart?

Yes, it most certainly can.

And I didn’t even know if writing this made sense, so I reached out to people much wiser than I. They affirmed then, and they affirm now — if the world doesn’t see forgiveness from God’s people and among God’s people, they won’t see it at all.

I mean how can people learn if the examples are huddled and trembling behind locked doors like the disciples after Jesus was crucified?

So these wonderfully wise people, here’s what they said:

Turn these pages, immerse yourself in God’s comforting, refining Word, and walk with Donna away from the burden of bitterness and into the liberating lightness of forgiveness.” —Michelle DeRusha, author of Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

Readers will want to grab a journal to document the lessons and Bible verses the author encourages readers to write down, helping to imprint God’s truths.” —Jan Wendorf, Past LWML President

Donna…uses Scripture and beautiful language to remind us of the power of Jesus at work in us, making forgiveness in every relationship possible.” —Angie Goeke, author, musician, speaker

She recognizes the losses involved in forgiveness and she doesn’t shy away from calling out the lies and cultural myths that stand as barriers to forgiveness and freedom.” —Heidi Goehmann, author, speaker, deaconess

In this study Donna helps us better understand the forgiveness God lavishly offers to all through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and how He desires for us to live forgiven and forgiving lives. ” —Rev. John and Debra Heckmann, St. Paul Lutheran Church, The Grove, Texas

“I wasn’t aware of the unforgiveness packed deep in my heart. … As I read the book I was better equipped to break through the walls that were built in my heart.” —Mia Koehne, Singer/Songwriter, Host of Aspire Women’s Event Tour

So I hold this book out to you with hope-filled hands, praying that God uses it to open the cages of rage and usher in the freedom of forgiveness. And to celebrate…

I’m giving away a grand prize to one lucky subscriber:

  • Two signed copies of Forgiveness: Received From God, Extended to Others (one to keep, one to share)
  • A brand new Kindle e-reader: black, 6-inch, Wi-Fi enabled, glare-free touch screen
  • A set of four Scripture mugs to share coffee with your Forgiveness study group
  • A $25 Amazon gift card
  • Two sets of Forgiveness scripture cards

TO WIN:

  • Subscribe to this blog (look to the right)
  • Comment below and let me hear your thoughts on the topic of forgiveness
  • Share this book release link and tag me on your social media channels (each share generates an additional entry)

The winner will be announced on Tuesday’s regularly-scheduled blog post.

I pray that God uses Forgiveness in ways only He can fathom or imagine to transform our raging culture to a forgiving one. It’s such an honor to serve you, friends. Thank you.

Join me tonight for a Facebook livestream book launch celebration!