I can first remember trying to read my Bible. It was a King James Version that my precious grandmother gave me. I would start where you should start in all books. At the very beginning and though I did not understand much of what I read, I kept trudging through best I could…until I hit Leviticus. I would lose my steam in frustration and wonder why the Bible was so hard to read.
You see I really wanted to understand what I was reading, to know more about God, but like some people I felt lost reading the Bible. It wasn’t until I picked up a NIV Bible and was told that I could start anywhere in the Bible or even in the New Testament that I started to understand more of what I was reading. I then progressed even further when I was taught that the books in the Bible contain different types of literature, all with different purposes. Well, that sure was good to know and explained why the jump from Exodus (mostly narrative) to Leviticus (law) was so challenging. See Leviticus wasn’t going to be a drama filled story, but rather was a book of law meant to point of God’s holiness and our lack thereof.
My next jump in Biblical understanding came when I sat in my first Bible study where we read the passage out loud and discussed it. It amazed me how a public reading of the Word with others brought new illumination to my mind. It was also fascinating how different people gathered different revelations from the same passage. It was in one of these group settings that someone shared that the whole Bible was linked together by the red thread of Jesus and that like Leviticus, the whole Bible is pointing the holiness of God, our lack of holiness and therefore our need for a savior Jesus. Boom, these epiphanies were so helpful, but they certainly did not all come at once.
It is worth noting however, that what made the Bible click more than anything was truly surrendering my life to Christ. I believe the Holy Spirit brought me an ability to really start to see and dig into the Word in a way I had never done before. Even to this day, as I sit to read the Bible I get the most out of it when I first ask the Holy Spirit to open my mind to what He wants me to see and learn.
And so as I share my favorite Bible resources with you I stand by my belief that all you really need is your Bible and some scratch paper to have an amazing experience in the Word. The Word is ALIVE and ACTIVE and if we ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, open our eyes to the Word and help us understand, with time I believe he will.
Even still, the resources I am sharing below are what I use most often in my pursuit to little by little dig further into the Word. Our journey to learn our Bibles and to know our God is never over. Our steps, little ah-ha moments and deeper revelations come in time and in pursuit of knowing our God more.
My hope is that perhaps one of these resources will help you take the next step in your journey to love Jesus more. It was said best by Jen Wilkin, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” We must use our mind to know and love God more and these resources are a great place to start for that journey.
CSB Reference Bible and Journal
I love my Study Bible. I might love my Study Bible a bit too much, because the reality is when I reach a spot in the Word that is hard to understand, a Study Bible will offer an answer without me having to do much digging. I believe that is why a mentor of mine encouraged me to do most of my Bible reading from a Bible with cross references, BUT no commentary at the bottom like a Study Bible offers.
I believe that my mentor suggested this to help me strengthen my digging muscles. A Study Bible certainly has it’s place, but at the end of the day the commentary at the bottom of the page in a Study Bible is written by a person and is not the inspired word of God.
Even though understanding the Word can be difficult, there is something beautiful that can be birthed from sitting in the tension of not understanding a passage right away. That tension forces me to re-read the passage, pray through it, ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand, to write out my questions and why it is so confusing to me, to come back to it another day or to use the cross-references like a good researcher. The cross-references are handy to see where a key word or theme is used elsewhere in Scripture.
A basic journal or notebook has also been an invaluable tool while studying the word. Taking notes on what stands out in the passage or writing a summary in one’s own words can be a powerful way to start to digest and even remember the passage. I really like these moleskin journals and I have used many over the years, but you will also find me using a cheap notebook from recycled paper from Target at times too. The goal is just to be reading and then processing what I have read, as often as possible. And this processing of the Word is aided by physically writing down what the Holy Spirit brings to your attention. Journaling brings about a powerhouse of revelation in the Word, otherwise I find it easy to read a passage and not engage with it enough to really remember exactly what I was reading.
ESV and CSB Study Bible
Whenever I am starting a new book of the Bible, my Study Bible is the first place I go to find out the Who, What, When, Where and Why. At the front of every book, it is going to talk about the background information that will be invaluable to trying to understand what genre that book is, who wrote it, who the audience of the book is and why it may have been written. Also, you will find key parts of history that may have been happening at the time and places where the book was written, as well as maps of the region, routes, charts or diagrams that can add color to what is happening in the book. Without understanding these key components we might be tempted to read the book for just what it is saying to us today, instead of first what God was saying to the people then. Jen Wilkin does a deep dive into why all of this is important in Women of the Word, which I talk about below.
Another reason, these two Study Bibles have been incredible resources for me is when I am trying to get unstuck in the Word. After re-reading a passage, journaling through it and even using my cross-references, I will then try to see what the Study Bible will say about that passage. It is so helpful to see other points of view or extra background information that may be found in the bottom part of the Study Bible.
Women of the Word
Honestly, it is a tragedy that Jen Wilkin titles this book Women of the Word, because I know a couple of men pastors who say that this is the best book they have read of how to easily start studying your Bible. In fact, the first time I heard about this book was at a Parent’s Discipleship Resource Night where my church was trying to help equip parents on how they can first dig into the Word themselves, because we can’t give our kids what we don’t already possess. The pastor’s whole talk was built out of this book and he encouraged everyone there that night (even men) to read pick up a copy of this book.
This book is both a fun quick read and the resource I come back to time and time again. I have a feeling I will never put this book away for good and I can’t recommend it enough to every person who wants to use their Bible to know and love Jesus more.
Writing the out the Word has been a way for me to slow down and soak up the truth’s of God’s Word in a new and fresh way. I remember the only homework my 7th grade history teacher ever gave us was to recopy our notes from class. I was always surprised little I then needed to study for her tests. Writing or recopying is certainly another layer of learning and helps dots connect in our mind. There is an old proverb that says ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves when passing over the lips and through the finger tips’ and I do believe I have seen that to be true in my life, especially as I write out the Word.
A Journible is tool for writing out the Word using a hard backed book that gives you a space to write every verse on the lefthand side of the page and gives you a place for notes on the right side of the page. I wish that the Journibles were a bit more feminine looking, but they truly are such a wonderful resource. If you just can’t get past their covers, another good option are the Illuminated Scripture Journals seen below. They are a better resources for keeping your notes than they are for sheerly recopying the word. They simply do not give the room needed to write the whole book out, but they are cheaper and definitely beautiful to look at.
If you have never tried to write out the word, you don’t have to recopy a whole book, but rather you could start by simply recopying a passage or a chapter from the Bible into a journal. Some good ideas might be: Psalm 19 or 29, Isaiah 40, or John 1.
However, if you are ready for the challenge of doing a whole book we have written out both the book of John and Philippians here at Girl, Teach Me. You can find more on this topic under the Getting in the Word section.
Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries
These commentaries are not a word-for-word breakdown of the Bible, but rather helpful thoughts on how the content of that book connects back to Jesus. They are written by a collaboration of authors and the authors even change based upon which book of the Bible that CCE is based on. I try not to read these until I have really grappled with the passage myself. These are Bible scholars thoughts on the passage and cannot replace the personal revelation that God has for you and me from His word. Yet, I find that these commentaries help to round out my understanding on a certain passage that is similar to being in a book club with friends where the “joy shared is a joy doubled.” I just can’t say enough good things about the Christ-Centered Exposition series and I am grateful for all the ways it has showed me that the whole Bible is connected by the red thread of Jesus.