Our culture has been moving more and more toward digital life, but with the advent of sheltering and quarantining due to COVID-19, every day brings new opportunities to connect, learn, and resource online, especially in the Bible study space. With this surge of digital studies, new online communities, and groups gathering digitally to go through a study together, the online spaces are suddenly saturated with great options to choose from.

Even before all of this, questions like, “Where should I start studying the Bible?” and “What’s the best thing to study next?” are very common concerns. Here are three actions to take to help you make a decision.

Consider this hierarchy for how to choose.

This is not meant to be a hard and fast rule, but just a series of questions you can ask yourself to help guide you to a Bible study that is a good fit for where you are right now.

  1. Where is God leading me/already speaking? Take some quiet moments to look and listen for where God is already leading you.
  2. What is my local church studying? Studying with “real-life” people you are committed to is always a great thing to prioritize. Even if the topic/study is not something you are most interested in. We lean so much from studying alongside one another.
  3. What have I not yet studied? Have a Bible study bucket list and lean in to the books of the Bible you’ve never studied before.
  4. What am I interested in? If, after going through the first three questions, you still are not sure simply go with what sounds fun to you!

Another big factor to keep in mind is to know where we are on the Bible Study Boulevard. Once we know where we are on our journey, that will help us choose the next best baby step.

Remember there is no bad choice if it gets you in the Word.

You may evaluate where you are and where God is leading and still have several studies to choose from. There are loads of great guides out there. Don’t turn this into a moral choice! Just pick one and dive in.

Don’t forget to think outside of the box.

The time we spend in front of the Bible is critical for our spiritual life. But it is not the only way we can get in the Word.

  • Bookend your day with time in the Word.
  • Utilize podcast sermon series’.
  • Listen to God’s Word throughout the day.
  • Engage in both topical and passage-driven studies (ones that go verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible or passage of Scripture).

This post is a summary of my conversation with Teri Lynne Underwood. You can catch the entire chat in the video below or watch in on Facebook.

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a women’s conference in my hometown in Southern California. Since my family relocated to Alabama a few weeks after I graduated from high school, it had been decades since I’d been in that town. I arrived a bit early to visit with family, catch coffee with a few high school friends, and wander around my old stomping grounds. It was an extremely emotional trip for me as I remembered the girl who grew up in that town and all God has done for her since then.

The conference was hosted at a church just a few miles from where I attended high school. During the break on Saturday, I drove my rental car over to the school campus so I could walk around campus a bit. It’s a small private school, and it was basically the same as I remembered it, with a few additions. The same small chapel stood where I used to hear God’s Word taught every Friday. The same beige lockers lined the outdoor hall of the high school wing. The same left-behind sweaters, assignments, and notebooks were strewn about, cluttering the hall. As I walked the hall, smiling as the memories flooded over me, one locker stopped me in my tracks.

On top of that locker was a Bible.

Scribbled on and dog-eared.

Pages torn and spine destroyed.

Abandoned until Monday.

Awaiting to be flippantly thrown into a backpack and brought to Bible class.

It looked just like mine had when I was there. It was being treated just like mine had been. And, most likely, the owner of that Bible lacks a love for their Bible just as I did. For so long I saw the Bible as just another textbook. A chore. A roadblock. A burden of guilt. As I type, I am weeping at the memory—that I ever had such a casual distain for the Word of God, that I forfeited so much time with Him and took on so much trouble without Him when I could have been enjoying the benefits of being a Happy Soul. Deep down, I had been re-named a Happy Soul. I could feel it. I knew there had to be something more but I had no idea how to obtain it. I didn’t know how to enact change. My view of God was off. I could follow the do’s and don’ts, but I didn’t know how to get closer to God himself. And I certainly didn’t love God’s Word.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Perhaps you are there right now. Your Bible may not be as physically neglected as the one I saw that Saturday afternoon, but it is neglected nonetheless. It gathers dust on a shelf, sits on the floorboard of your car throughout the week, or is lost somewhere in your bedroom. Or perhaps you are opening your Bible but are just going through the motions. You read. You check “read Bible” off your list. You close your Bible. You keep walking. There’s no attachment to the Word of God. No true closeness to God. There’s no awe and wonder. There’s no overwhelming love and feelings of delight. You’d rather be enjoying the next Netflix episode or clinging to your Facebook feed instead of spending time with God through His Word.

… Most of us don’t have a delighting problem. We delight in and enjoy many things just fine. God has created us for pleasure. Just think about it. God created our bodies to enjoy things! Eating food is primarily about keeping alive, yet we’ve been given taste buds and a variety of sweet and savory food to eat. Functionally speaking, sex is about keeping the human race going, yet God has wired male and female bodies to enjoy one another. There is no room for doubt: God created us to experience deep delight. 

… Jesus made this clear in a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. We don’t know her name, but we know that Jesus saw her at the well and knew her emptiness. It is likely that she’d been mistreated and cast aside most her life. As Jesus pursued her broken heart, he chatted with her about the well water: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life” (John 4:13–14). Not long after this encounter, while addressing the crowds of people, Jesus claimed, “I am the bread of life . . . No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35). Jesus taught that only He could satisfy our deepest desires. And the Bible shows us how to come to Jesus with our cravings. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38 ESV).

Our salvation brings a quenching to our soul that we will enjoy for eternity. But as we pursue to work out our salvation—as we resolve to make our internal identity become an external reality—we have to keep drawing from the well of the Word, which grants us the way to the One who can satisfy our souls. God’s Word gives us perspective, instructions, and parameters needed to navigate this sin-stained world. It is our protection. Our hope. Our guide. Our grace.

I have your decrees as a heritage forever;

indeed, they are the joy of my heart.

I am resolved to obey your statutes

to the very end. — Psalm 119:111–112


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

What’s your favorite translation of the Bible? My guess is that you are able to answer that question fairly easily, and you may have numerous, specific reasons for it.

There is no shortage of debate and discussion about the best Bible translation. Just this past month I encountered women (in a Christian Bible study space!) battering each other over their opinions about particular Bible translations. Like many social media “discussions” it escalated quickly as opinions were thrown back and forth, positioned as facts.

As I observed the conversation it was clear that each woman involved in the debate believed she was the only one in the right. Both expressed that she refused to “back down” and allow God’s Word to be watered down and tampered with.

Now, I’m all for holding to truth and guarding God’s Word, but it seems to me the line between God’s Word and the translations of man have become blurred.

GOD’S WORD IS INSPIRED. TRANSLATIONS AREN’T.

“By inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers that rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation [of God] or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[1]

Long ago, over a span of thousands of years, God spoke to mankind through the biblical authors: Moses, Paul, John, etc. Much time and traveling has occurred since the original and inspired penning of what we hold to today as God’s Word.

We don’t have any of the original documents written by these authors. The Bible we hold in our hands today is a canonized collection of our best reconstruction of the original writings. This reconstruction has then been interpreted from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into various languages. Every English translation is the result of the work of mankind to make the inspired Word of God more accessible to English-speaking people. The original Word of God is inspired. The translations are not.

Do I believe God guides and gifts members of a translation team? Absolutely. Are they doing God’s work? Indeed. But their translation efforts are not a direct inspiration from God. It is enabled and directed and blessed by the Spirit of God, but not inspired.

GOD’S WORD IS INERRANT. TRANSLATIONS AREN’T.

Along the same lines, these many translations are not perfect. That’s one reason why we have so many! Because there is more work that can be done to more accurately represent the original inerrant Word of God. Additionally, with every year that passes, there are more archaeological finds that bring new manuscripts and new historical pieces which help us understand the context better, which ultimately furthers translation efforts toward more and more accuracy.

THE FACT THAT WE HAVE ANY ENGLISH TRANSLATION IS A GIFT.

There are still many souls who are without a single verse in their language. The only copy of the Bible they have seen or heard of is in a different language than the one they speak. Let that sink in. What if the only Bible you had access to was one in French, or Portuguese, or Russian, or even the original languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic—would you be able to read it?

What a gift to be an English speaker and to hold an English translation in our hands!

THE FACT THAT WE HAVE MANY ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS IS A SIGN OF INCREDIBLE PRIVILEGE.

Choosing a good translation is an important task, but I fear we get way too wrapped up in choosing the best one, that we miss the reality of our incredible state of blessedness. Not only do we have a choice of which English translation to pick from, most of us probably have several Bibles on our shelves (not to mention at our fingertips through Bible apps.) While we fight over which translation we should be reading, there are souls without access to even one Bible to enjoy.

So the next time we encounter the debate about the best Bible translation, let’s keep these things in mind. May it remind us to praise the God who has spoken to us and has preserved His Word in such a way that it is available to us today.


[1] Erickson, Christian Theology

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

Growing up in California, we were taught what to do in case of earthquakes. Once I moved to Alabama, I had to learn what to do during the threat of a tornado. When we lived in Kentucky, we had to prepare for severe snowstorms. In Florida, it is hurricanes we hunker down for. With each of these threats, there are safeguards taken and supplies gathered. The goal is to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Whether it be bread and milk, gas and water, batteries and canned goods, firewood and extra blankets, each possibility for a natural disaster demands their own stockpiles. Just as it would be foolish to fail to prepare for a pending hurricane, we must not be fools when it comes to grief. The Happy Soul expects and prepares for it. The Happy Soul gears up for grief.

The unexpected loss of my brother James knocked the wind out of me for a while. But it didn’t take me down. I never once doubted the good character of God. It’s not that I understood His timing. It’s not that I didn’t ask why James had to struggle the way he did. It’s that I was driven more by what I knew to be true about God—that He is an all-knowing, all-loving, in-control God. But without this foundation—twenty years of studying God’s Word and stockpiling truth—my experience of James’s death most definitely would have been different.

The biblical truth we gather up when our soul is thriving is the nourishment our hearts will feed off of when we’re barely hanging on. This is a mark of the Happy Soul. Resiliency, no matter what comes her way. When the waves of grief pound her hard, it will be the firm and steadfast grip she already has on truth that will keep her from being tossed, tattered, and torn when tragedy strikes. This doesn’t mean she won’t question or weep or writhe in pain. But it does mean that—regardless of her circumstances—she will experience a peace that surpasses understanding, a joy indescribable, and a spiritual nearness to God even when every cell within her screams, “My God, my God. Why have you abandoned me?” When we have truth stored up within us, we can preach those truths to our hearts during the darkest of hours. Holding on to the truth He’s given us is how we keep our leaves from withering.

Our questions and doubts do not scare or offend God. He knows and understands our frailty and fallenness way more than we do. We don’t need to hide our questions from God, but we do need to recognize the bigger picture: the fact that we see in a mirror dimly and have limited knowledge of God and His beautiful ways. God is powerfully, perennially, and perfectly doing a million good works, of which our pain and sorrow are all encompassed. From this earthly view, we will never come close to beholding or understanding the marvelous, intricate, and one day perfectly complete work of God. We must hold a firm grip on the good character of God and His ability to work all our painful experiences together for His glory.

This is the resiliency we receive when our life is founded on who God is. Instead of being tossed around and victimized by the waves, we can hold on to hope through the storms. He never promises us that the storms will cease. He promises to hold us through the squall. The Happy Soul is not exempt from trouble, but the Happy Soul has the comfort of God to guide her through it. But we have to stay saturated by the Source in order to benefit from this strength. The Happy, resilient Soul is dependent on God’s provision.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.

Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Our ancestors trusted in you,

and you rescued them.

They cried out to you and were saved.

They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

Psalm 22:1–5 NLT


This is an excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul my new book from Bethany House Publishers.

This year is flying by! I can hardly believe that March is right around the corner. March is an exciting month for me and it kicks off with the 2020 Enjoy God’s Word Conference, March 5-7.

I LOVE this conference. It is an amazing time of diving into God’s Word with some stellar Bible teachers amidst a super-sweet Bible-girl community. Full of equipping and encouragement, we are going to walk away from this conference ready to enjoy God’s Word more and more everyday.

A stellar event like this held at a conference center would be at least $170 a ticket. On top of that, you have to drive or buy a plane ticket to get there, pay for a hotel room and expensive meals for the three days you’re away from home.

A ticket to the Enjoy God’s Word Online Conference is only $49.

Plus, you can watch all the sessions in your PJs. <– Might be one of my favorite things about this conference!

Learn all about the conference here.

Bonus Art Print

If you attend the 2020 online conference you get access to 12 stellar sessions March 5-6th, LIVE interaction with each speaker in our conference community group, a brand new How to Spend Time with God eCourse, plus a LIVE workshop on March 7th with me and Lara Williams geared toward helping you take your next step in your relationship with God. If you grab a ticket to the conference by 2/22 not only will you receive all the training and encouragement from the conference, but you will also get this stunning art print from Carmen Miller of The Biblical Creative!

Isn’t it gorgeous?! You can use it as a background image for your digital devices and/or print it out and place it in your favorite frame in hang in your hallway. I LOVE hanging Scripture in my home.

Big Book Bundle Giveaway Celebration

As if this isn’t enough, we’re celebrating with a giveaway! Many of our AMAZING speakers have contributed to this HUGE pack of goodies.

Help us spread the word about the conference for a chance to win some amazing books, Bible studies, and devotionals + a $20 coupon to the Bible Study Hub shop. Who’s excited?!?

 

It’s a downright fight for me to remember the reason for the season: celebrating Emmanuel, God with us. Amidst (what seems like) endless parties, shopping lists, and family gatherings, the season gearing up to Christmas Day is typically rushed and stressful. Beyond this busyness is a constant temptation to indulge. From grandma’s cooking to the latest and greatest gadget, the inclination of my heart and flesh to be gratified through toys and treats is given continual opportunity to think about self. My wants. My wishes. My will.

So, yes, busyness is a problem. Excessiveness and self-gratification, too. But the biggest hurdle in the way of celebrating and honoring Christ this Christmas is not primarily in the external distractions—it’s in my propensity to want what I want, how I want it, when I want it. I forget that life is not all about me. Christmas surely isn’t either. I must be intentional to remember that Christmas is, indeed, about Christ. It’s not primarily about celebrating time with family, making memories for the children in our lives, or showing love through gift-giving. Christmas is a celebration of Christ our Savior.

The actions you and I take during this Christmas season (and every other day of the year) are important. We exist to worship God. Yes, God has given us good gifts to enjoy, family to love, and a community to serve. But every party we attend, conversation we engage, and shopping trip we make ought to have an attitude of worship as the undercurrent. A desire to honor and glorify the God who sent His only Son for us should permeate our days. As we enter this Christmas season, let’s do so with a view toward worship and turn our hearts toward the glad tidings the coming of Christ bring to our souls.

p.s. If you are looking for a study to help you to just that—point your heart toward the significance of the coming of Christ, join me for this 12-day journey. Let’s set our gaze on Christ this Christmas!

Christmas Bible Study

December is buuuuuusy. This Christmas study will help you remember the reason for the season through a Christmas hymn and  two timely passages a day.

Learn more here.

 

Ok, so this in no way is going to be able to be comprehensive, but I get asked all the time about my favorite tools for Bible study, so here is my attempt to round up those resources into one place!

The ESV Study Bible

A solid study Bible is an excellent first step toward better Bible study. My favorite study Bible is the ESV Study Bible. I’ve had mine for at least a decade AND it came with the e-version which I use at least weekly. I love having this amazing resource at my fingertips! Read more about my the best Study Bible I own here.

best study bible

Staedtler Pens

In the same post as above, I touch on why I love these Steadtler pens. I love the color choices, especially, and they fit perfectly with my FLEX 3-6-9 method of Bible Study. Here you can see how I use these pens. Read more about the pens here.

DaySpring’s Illustrating Bible

I looooooove this Bible. I put off buying it for a full year, because it is certainly an investment. But I have not had one ounce of buyer’s remorse! I used birthday money and a coupon to grab it from DaySpring. It is also available on Amazon. Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! I wish I had purchased it sooner! I really, truly love everything about it.

 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:20-21

Why we need to study the book of Galatians

The book of Galatians is filled with truths about the gospel—the good news of what Jesus has done to redeem us so that we can enjoy His presence for eternity. At first glance, it may seem that talk of circumcision and the Law is not applicable to us, but the motivations and mistakes hidden behind the traps the churches in Galatia found themselves in, also abound today.

Here is an excerpt from the Galatians Study Pack, where we study Galatians together. I have daily coaching videos to help you start out on the right foot and understand the cultural background behind the words we see on the page. Indeed, the book of Galatians holds much for each of us today.

One huge key to living a Christian life

So if you and I are trying to become right by any other means than depending on Christ righteousness on our behalf, we are denying the crucifixion of Christ. We are saying, “Jesus what you did on the cross was pretty awesome but I’ll take it from here because I gotta get I gotta clean myself up.”

We gotta quit this notion that I gotta clean myself up before I can come to Christ. We’re never ever ever gonna be able to clean ourselves up enough to come to Christ. Ever.

We come to Christ because we are broken.

We come to Christ because we are dirty.

We come to Christ because we are unrighteous.

And what does He gives us? He gives us grace. He gives us mercy and he gives us our very righteousness.

Go look up 2 Corinthians 5:20. It says that, “He made Him—Jesus—who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of Christ.”

He takes on our sins and then gives us His perfect righteousness. That is the only way to true justification. That is the only way to true righteousness. It is a gift that is given to us. It is not earned.

Then, when we really get that we have been given the righteousness of Christ, it is amazing motivation to worship and honor the sacrifice of Christ with my life.

Because God has made me righteous, I choose to live a righteous life.

Because God has made me perfect, I choose to walk in holiness.

I mess it up all the time but when I mess up, I have to turn right back and keep my eyes on Jesus and remember that he is given me righteousness and then it fuels me right again to continue in righteous living.

See what’s going on here is that we have this internal, inward foundational truths about us as Christians. Jesus has made me righteous. Jesus has made you righteous. If you have trusted him for salvation, if you trusted him to take care of your sin problem, he’s done it. He’s taking care of your sin problem. Your sin has been paid for and now you have His righteousness. That is true of who you are at the deepest part of who you are. You are righteous.

And so our work here on earth is sanctification. We get to join in what God is doing to make those inward truths become external reality so that over time I look more and more like Jesus. That is the working out of our salvation.

We already have salvation. It is within us. We have been given everything we need to live a godly life. We get to spend
the rest of our life working those truths out since they become more and more and more true of our everyday living.

Galatians Bible Study

You can access the rest of this teaching video and jump into the Galatians Bible study pack. Through this customizable Bible study through Galatians, you will better understand the gospel and the freedom we have in Christ. Whether you are brand new to Bible study, or a seasoned veteran, this Bible study pack will help you take your next step toward better Bible study—even if you have a busy schedule. All from the comfort of your own home!

The Bible is not an easy read. Yet so many Christians approach the Bible as if they ought to be experts at what it contains. They believe that just by nature of being a Christian, Bible study should come naturally to them. I believed this lie for the longest time. I’m not sure I would have ever vocalized it as such, but my experience proved it. Instead of being a source of joy and delight, opening God’s Word was an activity filled with guilt and failure. It paralyzed me and left me feeling less-than for not having the amazing “quiet times” everyone else around me seemed to be having.

If you find yourself scratching your head when it comes time for Bible study, know that you are NOT alone. In fact, you are probably in the majority. But just because you’re in that boat doesn’t mean you have to stay there. The Bible is the primary way we can know God and the purpose He has for our lives. It is God’s revelation to us, His very words which tell us who He is and who we are because of Christ. It is a gift of grace, a treat to be enjoyed and savored. The Bible is filled with the spiritual nourishment our souls crave.

Here are 8 actions to take when you have no idea what you are reading:

1. PRAY.

2. ZOOM OUT AND GET THE BIG PICTURE.

3. BE SURE YOU ARE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

4. PHONE A FRIEND.

5. READ A COMMENTARY AND LISTEN TO A SERMON ON THE PASSAGE.

6. INVEST IN RESOURCES.

7. KEEP GOING.

8. REMIND YOURSELF OF THE END GOAL

Read more about each in my blog post over at LifeWay Voices.

I thought it would be fun to hear from YOU! I created these fun “stories” images you can upload and personalize on Facebook and/or Instagram stories. To download the images you can “drag and drop” them to your desktop or “tap and hold” to save to your device.

Be sure to use #enjoygodsword and tag me @thekatieorr and @enjoygodsword so I can see what you share!


Join us April 23-25, 2019 for this 3-day fully online Women’s Bible conference!