Bible Study, Spiritual Disciplines

Hearing vs. Remembering: A Matter of Time and Attention

Taking the time to listen to what both God and your earthly boss have to say is a fantastic step in the right direction. Unfortunately, all of those hours are worthless if you can’t later recall what was said and put it into practice. Few things are quite as embarrassing as performing a task poorly or incorrectly because you weren’t actually paying attention to the directions being given.

If you’ve ever frozen on a test, you know exactly how this feels. It’s crunch time and, despite the many hours you’ve dedicated to reviewing flash cards, taking lecture notes, and faithfully attending your study group, you simply aren’t prepared. You’ve heard the answers before, but hearing them wasn’t enough. You need to remember them. And you don’t. Your body was present, but your mind was somewhere else and your grades will soon reflect this reality.

The truth is that spending hours reading a textbook, the Employee Handbook, or God’s Word often gives us a keen sense of accomplishment. We can quantify the number of hours spent and the pages read. Such success may even lead us to surmise that we’re reasonably diligent students, employees, or disciples of Christ. (After all, who actually reads any of these books in their entirety?) But this diligence isn’t enough to guarantee a good grade. Time, alone, doesn’t ensure that we’ll remember what we read when we’re put to the test.

The writers of the Bible recognized this and advised both the House of Israel and the Christian believers to devote themselves to those things which would help them remember God’s instructions. In Deuteronomy 6:7-8, the Israelites are commanded to, “teach them [God’s instructions] diligently to your sons and talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (NASB) And in 2 Timothy 2:15, the Apostle Paul advises his young student to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV) (See Psalm 119; Proverbs 22:17, 23:12; Ecclesiastes 7:25; and 2 Peter 1:5-8 for a few more examples.)

The truth is, if you’re going to be an “A” student, you need to study and this involves more than just the consumption of information. Diligent study requires not just time, but attention. And in a good study program a large part of both are devoted to memorization. Next week, we’ll take a look at this vital skill, but for now, feel free to share your own thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

Bible Study, Spiritual Disciplines

An Introduction to Bible Study

Most facilities in this day and age have some sort of emergency policy posted where the employees can see it. On a brightly colored map of the store, management has marked out exit routes and outlined how and to where employees are to evacuate the customers if, for example, the soda machine decides to spontaneously combust.

While it may be tempting to overlook this unimposing map and its attached policies, the day may come when they are needed. Can you imagine the chaos which would ensue if every employee, instead of knowing the procedure by heart, suddenly had to dash to the nearest wall chart and figure out what to do next?

Unfortunately, many times as Christians, we take the same attitude towards God’s Word that we do towards that underused emergency policy: we don’t bother with it until there’s a desperate need. The result is total chaos.

Admittedly, the Bible is somewhat larger than that wall chart (by about 1,499 pages depending upon the translation you use). The unfortunate reality is that we frequently become so intimidated by its size that we often give up on reading it before even making a reasonable stab at it. What follows here are some helpful hints which I hope will render the study of Scripture a less than terrifying part of your regular routine:

1. Start easy. While reading through the Bible in a year is an admirable goal (it takes about three and an half chapters a day), if you aren’t already used to devoting that much time to its pages, you can find yourself combating a world of frustration. Instead, commit to a single chapter each day. Even the longest (Psalm 119) shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes and, if it does, just cut it in half. God isn’t as concerned about the number of pages we read as He is about the way we read. Are we truly seeking to know His Will and apply it to our lives?  If we are, then even a few verses a day will win Heaven’s applause.

2. Start easy… really easy. The Bible isn’t actually a single book, but sixty-six shorter ones and, while it may be appealing to read it as a whole, for many people starting in Genesis just isn’t that reasonable. Start with the single chapter books and work your way up to the longer ones. And don’t forget to keep a record of your progress.

3. If you possess a good study Bible, take the time to read both the study hints and the cross references. Yes, this takes a little more time than a straight forward reading of Scripture, but you’ll be surprised at how much light these little footnotes can shed upon the meaning and modern application of an ancient, foreign text!

4. Give yourself a visual cue. Experts say that it takes the average person 14 days to form a habit. In order to make Bible reading a regular part of your life, you need to remember to do it in the first place. For the first 14 days or maybe more, make sure to set your Bible someplace where you will see it regularly. If you want to read in the evening, set it atop your pillow after you make your bed for the day. If you want to read in the morning, set it out beneath your favorite coffee mug. Put it somewhere that you’ll see it and you’ll remember to read it.

5. Don’t get discouraged. Many Christians act as if forgetting a day of study is the equivalent to tumbling back down a mountain that took them forever to climb. I know because I’ve been there; I’ve probably re-read Genesis more times than any woman alive! Try to view Scripture reading as a racecourse rather than a trek up the Himalayas. If you fall down half-way through, you don’t go back to the starting blocks, you just get up and keep going. Remember, the goal isn’t to set a record, but to begin to understand what God says through His Word.

Next week, we’ll take a broader look at the issue of “time management” and explore some ways in which a schedule that really is overbooked can be altered to help us make time to truly listen to God. Meanwhile, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

Bible Study, Spiritual Disciplines

Finding Time to Listen: A Lesson in Time Management

Like the big red “X” on a treasure map which indicates that “You Are Here,” the search for genuine satisfaction in the workplace (and everywhere else) begins with God’s written Word.  When we listen carefully and follow the path laid out within its pages, we find the treasure we seek.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, this is where the difficulty truly begins. While we deeply desire the fulfillment which accompanies a relationship with God, finding time to develop that relationship is a struggle. Between school, drama team, basketball, grocery shopping, and our job(s), we barely have time to breathe… let alone actually sit down and read the Bible! It’s not that we lack interest or dedication, but rather that we lack time.

Learning to balance this particularly limited resource can be a challenge for even the most mature of believers. Fortunately, there is nothing in the Scripture that says we have to read lengthy passages in a single sitting or immerse ourselves in an in-depth study of the book of Revelation. God is looking for our attention, not brilliant acts of scholarly prowess. The result is that a commitment of few minutes a day is all that is necessary to form a habit that will benefit you for a lifetime.

If you aren’t sure where to start with this habit, here are a few ideas:

  • Connect with an online reading program like YouVersion or Through the Word to help you remember to read the Bible daily. Select the devotion or reading plan which best fits your busy schedule and join with a community of believers who are also working to develop a more intimate relationship with God.
  • Set aside a specific time to read. To get the most from a regular devotional habit, you need to be able to pray about and carefully consider the text. Choose a time for your study when you won’t be distracted or will, at least, be less distracted than the rest of the time. (Keep in mind that this may not be the same from summer to winter, week to week, or even day to day. You may require a different program for different seasons, but keep in mind that the more varied that program becomes, the more difficult it will be to remember.)
  • Set aside a specific place to read. Pick a location that will allow you to focus on what you’re reading and use it as your “reading refuge”.
  • If you really don’t have time to read (or a good place to read), consider an alternative like audio Bible disks or a daily podcast that can be listened to through headphones. (You’ll find a few of my favorite programs at the following links: Daily Audio Bible, Our Daily Bread, and Early Light.)

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few more ideas to help you establish a habit of listening to God through His Word. For now, feel free to share your own time management tips and tricks in the comment box below.

Bible Study, iPod Apps, Missions Monday, Resources, Spiritual Disciplines, The iPod Evangelist

Wave Study Bible

It doesn’t take long to discover that not every Bible app available through the iTunes store is truly useful… or easy to use.  If you’ve gotten tired of downloading programs only to find that you need an internet connection to make best use of them or discover that the text of the Scripture is overwhelmed by excessive commentary, then the Wave Study Bible is for you!

Simple and intuitive, the Wave Study Bible provides you with a convenient way to go in depth as you compare Scripture translations side-by-side.  The app comes preloaded with the King James, the Greek New Testament, the New English Translation, and the GOD’s WORD translation (other translations are available for purchase).  Transition from one version to the next with a simple swipe of the screen.

See a word you want to study deeper?  Tap it and you’ll be granted access to the app’s lexicon – a wealth of information on Hebrew and Greek word-origins that’s guaranteed to help clarify the meaning of those tricky passages.

Concerned about trying to find the right passage in a hurry?  Tired of trying to correctly spell “Revelation” with that teeny-tiny keyboard?  The Wave Study Bible utilizes scroll system instead – allowing you to select your book, chapter, and verse with a slide of your finger!

Perhaps the best feature of this app, though, is its easy-to-view font.  Placed against a vibrant background, the passage you select is highlighted for easier viewing.  A quick pinch of the screen reduces font size while the opposite motion expands it, making the text easy-to-read regardless of the quality of the ambient light or your own visual limitations!

A simple app, the Wave Study Bible is sure to be one of your favorites!

Bible Study, Missions Monday, Spiritual Disciplines, Study Helps, The iPod Evangelist

Through the Word

James 1:23-25 reminds us that, “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”  (NASB)  Obviously, the first step to doing is remembering… and for most of us, remembering requires focused study.  That why, this week, we’re featuring the ministry of “Through the Word” – a group of pastor’s dedicated to helping Christians develop a daily habit of study and thoughtful application.

Each day, Through the Word posts a 10 minute audio guide focused on a single chapter of Scripture.  These guides aren’t a deep Bible commentary, but they do help prepare listeners to carefully consider the lessons to be learned as they read the day’s passage.  Users are then encouraged to follow up both the audio material and the printed Word with time spent in contemplation and fellowship with God.

Download the Android or IOS app and you’ll be provided with a special forum for recording your thoughts on the day’s passage and tracking your progress as you read God’s Word.   Take notes on your favorite verses from the day’s reading, record messages that God has shared with you, and write out your plans for putting them into action in your daily life.  There’s even a place to store your Scripture-prompted prayers!  And if you don’t like typing out your observations, the app gives you an opportunity to make voice recordings, instead!

Looking to start with a specific book?  Check out the Bible section of the website and you’ll have the opportunity to begin your journey anywhere you please!  Get started today and become a doer of the word, not just a hearer!