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How to Read the Bible Devotionally Pt.Ⅱ

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Now that we have sufficiently covered the Minimalist Method in part one let us now consider how to best maximize our time spent in God\’s word. For our purposes here we focus on Study Bibles and Journaling. 

First, consider the Study Bible: As the name suggests it is a Bible with various notes to help the reader understand what it is they are reading. The Study Bible will generally include an introductory page on each book of the Bible that explains who wrote that particular book, when they wrote it, why they wrote it, and to whom they wrote. On the proceeding pages, there will be verse notes on concepts, doctrine, words, or actions found in that chapter. 

In my time since I\’ve become a Christian, there has been quite the explosion of Study Bibles; and they don\’t seem to be going anywhere any day soon. When considering which Study Bible to purchase it is important to remember that our goal of reading devotionally is to grow in Christlikeness. With this in mind consider the following when deciding what to purchase: 

  1. Is this a translation that I can read and understand?

  2. Do I know (or had I heard of) any of the authors, editors, contributors to this Study Bible? And do they teach good and sound doctrine?

  3. Are the study notes clear and understandable?

  4. Do the study notes seem to focus more on me or God?

Of course, there are more questions to be considered (like what\’s the price tag say?). But for now, let us assume you have a good Study Bible on hand; the question now is: \”How do I (properly) use this?\” In my experience, most Study Bibles will have a section in the preface on this exact question; thus you would follow the publisher\’s advice in regards to our question. Also, consider this:

  1. When you are reading your Study Bible do you allow your eyes to gloss the text or the study notes?

  2. Do you see and understand how the publisher came to that particular understanding/explanation/insight of the text?

  3. Are you periodically pausing in your reading to reflect on the implications and applications of the text and study notes? 

As great as Study Bibles are I do feel it wise to give a word of caution in regards to them. With all their knowledge and insight, they can easily take you up to God on the Mountaintop quite easily; however, be sure you do not fall off that Mountain by the steep and deadly cliff called Pride. By this, I mean to say honestly ask yourself, \”Do these notes lead me to be prideful of myself/my knowledge? Or are they actually producing in me more Christlikeness?\” Should you ever find yourself falling down the cliff of pride the wings of humble and contrite prayer to God will be more than enough to carry you back to safe, stable ground. 

Now, consider Maximization in regards to Journaling. Journaling has many different forms but, in general, it is you + God + His word + your journal/notebook (so that you may better focus your prayer time or consideration of the text itself). I\’m sure there are literally 100 different Bible journaling methods out there and I don\’t know which one(s) you all use. So, for those reasons, I will be fairly brief and broad so that this may have some application for you. Consider these questions:

  1. When you journal is it in a quiet and comfortable space?

  2. Do your journaling notes mostly focus on you or God?

  3. Are your journaling notes related to the text you just read? 

  4. Do your journaling notes help you to understand or apply the text to your life? 

  5. Is your journaling mixed with devotion (applying the text) and doctrine (understanding the text)?

Again, I am being brief and broad here. However, you may use your Journal to ensure that it is meaningful, honest, and joyous for you as well as constant over the long-term.

Now let us consider the final point on Supplements. Of course, there is quite a lot of liberty in what supplements a Christian chooses to make use of; however, they can not, and should never, replace or supersede our time simply being with the Lord and His word. To be perfectly honest, I don\’t have the slightest clue what regular Christians commonly use to supplement their devotionally reading. That said, I know there are many books, or booklets, available on the market nowadays that are explicitly written and published to be used as supplements. I would advise caution should you choose to use one of those devotional books. (This is in no way a condemnation of them; merely a word of practical wisdom on the subject). 

In brief, those devotional books are rarely written to teach, reproof, correct, or train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) and almost never touch on any matters regarding good and sound doctrine. If you wish to supplement your devotional Bible reading I, personally, would suggest a book on a good and sound doctrine; perhaps something like the great Puritan Thomas Watson\’s The Doctrine of Repentance or Dr. R.C. Sproul\’s Knowing Scripture or Charles Spurgeon On God. I recommend a more theological book over a devotional book because they will help you to better see, understand and savor God and all that He is for you, and from that knowledge/truth your heart will be far more stirred to worship than most any devotional book on the market today. 

One more note on supplements, should you decided to make use of them; whatever you decide to use do ensure that 1) you can be constant in using them and that 2) they will lead you closer to Christ.

Recommended Resources that might be helpful to you as they were me:

  1. 6 Questions to Ask When Studying the Bible in A Group

  2. 5 Ways to Flourish in Journaling

(Optional) Discussion Questions:

  1. I realize I was fairly brief in this section. Do you feel that anything was missed/should have been covered more?

  2. Have you ever felt prideful because of your Study Bible? If so, how did you go about growing in love/humility? 

  3. Have you ever used Journaling as apart of your Devotionals? If so, (insofar as you\’re comfortable) would you share one of your insights or share a story of how Journaling helped you to understand a passage? 

  4. Have you ever used a \”devotional book\”? If so, what was it? And in what way did it help you grow?  


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