Anatomy and physiology was fascinating to me, until the day we walked into the lab and had to dissect a cat. I remember thinking, “Nope.” I sat shamefully and watched my lab team in horror, as they slowly peeled back the layers of that cat and pulled out its insides. My apologies to the friends who did all of the work while I sat there–nose wrinkled and mouth dropped open in disbelief, trying not to gag.
In the next lab class we had a test to identify the parts of the cat. When I walked into the lab, there were metal trays spread out on every table, each with a piece of cat in it. (My apologies to all of you cat lovers out there.) My ignorance was ludicrous, to the point that it still makes me laugh, although at the time I felt like my life was pretty much over that day. I knew nothing. (Shocker.) I walked around the room and randomly guessed what each of the innards was.
“Liver,” I wrote in one blank. (Maybe it was a liver? Or a spleen or a lung or a bladder? Do cats have spleens?)
Somehow I still passed that class and, in great irony, later became an excellent medical transcriptionist for a decade. Turns out that you can get paid for knowing how to spell “liver,” even if you don’t know what one looks like.
All that to say, I’m guessing you may have had a similar experience with Bible study.
The Bible. I mean, what’s so hard about that? Just open it up and read it, right?
But maybe, in your honest heart, you feel understanding the Bible is about as doable as dissecting a cat and then knowing what all the parts are for a test. I hear you. I mean, I really get it.
I’m thinking back to that group of girls who did the work in the lab that day. They dived into the lab assignment, got their hands dirty, and figured out what they needed to know. They’re the ones who walked into the test and knew what all of the body parts were.
The same is true for Bible study.
The people who learn the skills to open up the Bible and take it apart are the ones who learn and grow.
They are the ones who understand the words on the page and start to know God and feel comfortable in relationship with him.
I know you want that kind of knowledge for yourself.
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Here are two tips to get you started.
1. Look at repeated words when you read your Bible.
When an author repeats the same word within a passage or within a book, you know it must be an extremely important idea in his mind. Just seeing this repetition will bring clarity to what you’re reading. For example, in Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV), Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Dissect these two verses by noticing that “gate” is mentioned three times. Jesus is obviously very concerned about this gate idea, if he keeps saying the word.
2. Make a chart to compare repeated words.
If you read those words of Jesus again, you see he’s talking about two gates. Grab a piece of paper and make a contrasting chart of these two gates. As you make this chart, it will become clear that the two gates are very different and lead to extremely different places. You’ll start to see why Jesus is clarifying which gate people need to choose. Making a chart like this, if the passage lends itself to it, is a way to sort information, which will help you understand better what you’re reading and thus understand better who God is and what is important to him.
Do you see how simple this is? With tools like these, you can understand the Bible.
As you move in close to God he promises he will move in close to you.
I’ve written a book for you with more tips just like these. Moving in Close is a book of 52 Bible study skills that will help you open up the Bible, for yourself, and understand what you read there. The chapters are short, because my heart is soft for the women who are trying to do all the things but who still desperately want to have a close relationship with God. I’ve made the study tips simple, so that you can dive in and get your hands dirty, without feeling totally overwhelmed like I did that day in anatomy and physiology lab.
I want to help you dissect the Bible and look at the pieces.
Because you don’t want to feel like I did during that lab test. You don’t want to walk around trying to pretend like you get it when you really don’t.
You want to feel successful and knowledgeable about the words on the page and have a growing relationship with the Author who wrote them.