How to Study the Bible: The Verse Brainstorming Method


Today I want to share another method for digging into Bible verses that I discovered a while ago. I used it for a good chunk of time recently before switching to another method, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it again (I change my routines up often).

I first got the idea for this method when reading Tim Keller’s book Hidden Christmas. In the book, he tells the story of a conference he went to where the speaker instructed them to write down at least thirty things they could learn from Mark 1:17, listing things for a whole thirty minutes even if it seemed there was nothing else to possibly write. It sounded intriguing, and so I decided to try it.

And every single time I picked a verse and spent long enough writing things down, I made some kind of breakthrough discovery in my understanding of the verse, something I would never have gotten out of a ten-minute study. It made me realize that the majority of the time, I don’t go nearly deep enough in my Bible studies. So today I want to share this method with you.

The Method

I’m not going to do an example, because this is a very straightforward method that would be hard to demonstrate thoroughly in a blog post. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a verse.
  2. Choose an amount of time (thirty minutes recommended) to write things down. Choose this before you start so you won’t be tempted to stop whenever you think you’ve run out of things to write!
  3. Write down everything you learn from the verse. Continue writing things down until your time is up (I promise there’s always more to say).

That’s all! Really simple, but the extended amount of time forces you to pay a lot more attention and care to what you’re reading, to dig for definitions of specific words, historical context, Biblical context, application points, etc. Think of it as a brainstorming session, where you jot down absolutely everything that comes to mind. Depending on your handwriting and speed, you should be able to fill 2-3 pages of a notebook easily.

You’ll probably be surprised at the really good insights that start to show up 15-20 minutes into the session (so don’t give up early!).

When to Use It

If you’re in a dry season in your Christian walk, or you’re starting to feel like you’re not getting anything out of your devotions, this is a great method to help you reignite the spark and make some new discoveries about what you’re reading. It’s especially great to use for studying those familiar or cliche verses that we’ve all seen so often we’ve forgotten what they really mean.

When Not to Use It

If you don’t have the time to commit at least twenty minutes (and thirty is better…or even more) then this method probably isn’t the right choice. I would recommend the  SOAP method I shared last week to study a verse in a rush.

But if you have the time (and even if you have to make the time) this is an amazing method to try! It takes some diligence and patience, but it’s totally worth it for the insights you’ll gain.

What do you think? Have you ever tried this, or will you try it now? How else do you like to study verses? Share in the comments! 

love, grace


How to Study the Bible: The SOAP Method


In the last two posts in this series, I shared two methods for studying long passages of Scripture to get an overview of their meaning in context. If you missed those, check them out here and here. Today I want to move on, and focus on the first of two methods for breaking down individual verses.

I want to note that there is a place for both things in the Christian life, and one is not better than another. Studying larger passages helps us get a sense of the context and scope of what we’re reading about, to see the full story and the broader sweep of God’s plan. But there’s also a lot to learn from taking a microscope to a particular verse, getting down into the details, and this method, one that I’ve seen on Pinterest many times (I didn’t make it up!), is a simple one that will help you do just that.

The Method

  1. S: Scripture. Choose a verse and copy it down word-for-word.
  2. O: Observation. Write a few sentences about the meaning of the verse.
  3. A: Application. Write a few sentences about how the verse’s meaning applies to your life.
  4. P: Prayer. Write out a quick prayer relating to the verse.

For an example, let’s use 1 John 2:17.

S: “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 

O: Everything that people chase after outside of God’s will is temporary and ultimately meaningless. This world will go by like a flash, and trying to find meaning only in the things of the world is a fruitless pursuit. We find purpose and meaning in our lives by knowing God’s will and living it out. He has provided a way to eternal life, that allows us to bypass the temporary nature of the world.

A: There’s no reason to wish for things that I can’t or don’t have. I have God, and that’s enough – being able to live “freely”, do things the Bible forbids, or seek entirely after worldly things would never make me as happy as I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it would.

P: Lord, help me to remember this verse when everything around me is glittering temptingly. Help me to remember that pursuing Your best for my life is the only way to happiness, and to see worldly things as temporary and fading.

When to Use It

This method is great when you don’t have a lot of time for Bible study. It doesn’t require you to do a lot of reading – you can read 3 or 4 verses and then choose one to focus on. It’s a quick and simple way to cover the important points.

When Not to Use It

Honestly, anytime you want to study a verse, this a great method to come back to. You can adjust it to be as quick or as deep as you want: the Observation section could take two minutes or it could take twenty. You could write out a two-sentence prayer or a two-page prayer. There really isn’t a time that this method can’t be adapted to fit your needs.

Next week, I’ll share another method that I started using recently to study verses that’s a little more time-consuming and naturally goes a lot deeper.

What do you think? Have you tried this method? Do you like it? What are your favorite ways to study individual Bible verses? Leave a comment and let me know! 

love, grace

Read more:

4 Reasons to Read the Bible

Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

How to Study the Bible: The In ‘n’ Out Method


Last week, I began an exploration of various ways to study the Bible. The first was the linear method, a very straightforward and adaptable structure that you can shift to your time constraints and study needs.

But some of you might want a method that has a bit more structure and guidance, so today I’m sharing what I’ve dubbed the In ‘n’ Out method. This is a way of studying a passage that allows you to see both the context of when it was written and how it applies to you today.

(I have no idea where I first heard of this, or if I made it up, or mashed a bunch of methods together. If you know the source, please let me know!)

The Method

  1. Choose a set of verses, either a chapter or a section of a chapter.
  2. To summarize the passage, write out the answers to the basic questions, in terms of the passage’s literal context: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These should be super short; a couple of words or a sentence is all you need.
  3. Next, zoom out, and think about what it teaches for Christians in general.
  4. Then, zoom back in, thinking about how it applies to your particular Christian life.

Let’s use Hebrews 11:13-16 as an example.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

First of all, answer the basic summary questions. You may have to look at the verses surrounding your chosen passage; I’m working from the first twelve verses of Hebrews 11 as well as the selected passage.

  • Who? The saints of the Old Testament.
  • What? Their faith and hope for heaven.
  • When? The time before Christ.
  • Where? All over the earth.
  • Why? Because God promised them a Messiah and eternal life.
  • How? By trusting those promises, even though they hadn’t seen them.

Then, take that very specific-to-the-context summary, and extend it into a few sentences about what this means for the entire church.

The essence of the Christian life is trusting God and believing in His promises, even if it is not clear how or when they will be fulfilled. In this age, we know that the promise of Christ has been fulfilled, but we are still awaiting heaven; we know that we are sojourners in the world, just passing through, and ought to always have that in mind.

Finally, take the general summary, and make it specific again with how it pertains to you. Even for the same passage, this could look very different from person to person, depending on your circumstances. But here’s an example:

I shouldn’t cling too closely to worldly things. Ultimately, I have a hope that is far greater than anything the world can give me, and so I need to hold my possessions and successes with a loose grip, willing to cast everything on God and go wherever he asks me to.

When to Use It

This works well when you want to study a passage thoroughly, yet quickly. It ensures that you aren’t focusing too much on application with no textual understanding, or textual knowledge with no application, both of which are easy to fall into.

When Not to Use It

Like the Linear Study method, this is designed to get a sweeping overview of a long passage, and not to go in-depth on the details. So like I said before, if you really want to go deep, this may not be what you’re looking for.

It’s also possible that you might have to research some historical context to get the answers to those summary questions, and if you don’t have the time or patience for that, this might not be for you. But I would encourage you to try it before giving up! Don’t underestimate the value of learning Biblical history. Plus, if you have a study Bible, most likely all of the information you need will be easily accessible in those notes.

In general, this is a very useful method if you want to study a large chunk of Scripture and need something more guided or more thorough than last week’s.

Next week, I’ll share a way to focus more deeply on particular verses, so look out for that!

Do you happen to know the source of this method, or did I actually make it up? Have you tried it, or will you try it? Share in the comments!

love, grace


How to Study the Bible: The Linear Method


A very long time ago, I posted 4 Reasons to Read the Bible. It was supposed to be the beginning of a Bible reading series, which got temporarily derailed when I had to go on an unplanned hiatus. But even though it’s been nearly four months since the first post, I don’t want to give up on it, so here…at last…is the next post in the “series”.

One of the biggest problems many people have with Bible reading is knowing how to do it. Are we just supposed to sit down and read? How do we get the most out of it?

The answer, usually, is studying in some way. Rather than just reading a passage and being done for the day, it’s good to dig deeper into a verse or a section.

Knowing how to do that can be a challenge, though. I’ve experimented with many different methods over the years, and for the next few months, I’m going to share some of those methods, explaining how they work and going through examples.  I hope that this can help you find a method that works for you, in whatever season you’re in.

Today: what I’m calling the Linear Study method. 

The Method

This is a pretty standard way to study a passage. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a set of verses, either a chapter or a section of a chapter.
  2. Work through your chosen section in order. Write out the main points, and make a note of the verses that contain those points, as well as any additional thoughts that come to mind.
  3. At the end, write a quick summary of the passage’s overall meaning, to tie everything together.

For an example, let’s use 1 Timothy 1:12-17:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

So first, work through it in order, writing out the main points. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Paul is thankful that by God’s mercy and grace, he was transformed from evil to abundant faith and love (12-14).
  2. Jesus came to save us, and the Christian life requires full acceptance of that truth (15).
  3. Paul is an example of the statement in verse 15: he was a terrible sinner, but in his salvation, he was an example to the world of how much Jesus loves us and wants to rescue us (16).
  4. These truths, of Paul’s salvation and of our salvation, are ultimately so that the world will praise and bring glory to God (17).

(As you can see, sometimes four or five verses will condense into one point, and other times each verse is so dense that it has to have a separate point. Also, notice that the points aren’t super in-depth; they note the main, central meaning of the passage, leaving out the smaller details.)

Then, taking those four points, I’ll write a summary of what the passage’s main theme is:

God, for his glory, offers free salvation through Jesus Christ. This can be received by anyone, no matter their past, as Paul is an example of. This truth is the central truth of the Christian life and we should seek to fully accept and trust in it.

When to Use It

While it’s good to study individual verses in detail, of course, it’s also important to spend time looking at bigger chunks to make sure you’re studying everything in context. This method is especially good for those longer passages since it helps you condense the meaning and connect all of the individual verses into one whole.

When Not to Use It

Like I said above, it is good to study individual verses in more detail, and with this method, there are always details that will get glossed over. So if you’re looking to go into deep detail with your Bible study, this might not be the method for you.

It is worth noting, though, that once you’re comfortable you can start adding more thoughts and notes within each main point, and go as in-depth as you would like. It just doesn’t lend itself to that as naturally as some of the other methods I’ll share.

Overall, this method is easy, straightforward, and ensures that you won’t miss any of the major ideas a passage holds. If you’re at a loss for where to start studying your Bible, this is a perfect method to use. It doesn’t take too much time, and works for any passage, anywhere in the Bible.

Next time, I’ll share another way to study passages that is slightly more specific and guided than this one, so if that’s what you’re looking for, stay tuned! 

In the meantime, let me know if you’ve tried this, and what methods you use to study a longer passage of Scripture! I’m always looking for more ideas. 

love, grace


From the Archives: 4 Ways to Avoid Holiday Letdown

holiday letdown edited.jpg

This weekend, I’ll be very busy Nutcracker-ing. (Is that a verb? It is now.) I’ll return next week with a regularly scheduled post, but for now enjoy this holiday post I originally published in 2015. 

Christmas is almost upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you’re getting very excited about it!

But even as we hype ourselves up for the wonderful morning, we also expect the letdown when everything is over. You know the feeling: the presents are opened, there isn’t anything left to do, and you start feeling disappointed, sad, or frustrated that it’s all over.

How can we avoid this holiday letdown and spend more time focusing on the true joy that Christmas is supposed to bring? Here are four things you can do to help prevent and offset those feelings of disappointment.

1. Don’t build up unrealistic expectations.

We are all prone to building up and anticipating Christmas much more than we actually should be. We hype up the gift part of it so much and expect everything to be perfect and wonderful for the entire day.

This is dangerous; don’t allow yourself to imagine Christmas being perfect. The world is still fallen on Christmas, the presents don’t last forever, and things will not be magically perfect on the twenty-fifth of December. Don’t imagine it that way.

2. Make God the center from the start of the day. 

If you wake up before your siblings or have to wait for your parents to get ready in the morning, spend that time before you open gifts reading the Christmas story in your Bible and praying that God would give you the right heart during the day’s festivities.

This will help remind you of the purpose of the day before the gift-unwrapping starts. And even if you don’t have time to read your Bible beforehand, you can still say a quick prayer to yourself to help center your mind on God.

3. Focus on the right things while opening gifts. 

While you are opening gifts, take your time. Don’t rush through it. Focus on enjoying the delight of others when they receive the things you picked out for them. Focus on appreciating each gift that you open. Take it slowly and keep yourself in a generous and thankful mindset.

4. When the presents are gone, spend time in the Word. 

The letdown usually hits in the time between the end of gift-opening and the next order of business for the day. You are just sitting around staring at the piles of gifts that have all been opened, waiting for whatever happens next.

Avoid this by immediately spending some time reading your Bible or a devotional and praying after all of the gifts have been opened. Thank God for the blessings He has given you and refocus yourself on the greatest Gift of all: Christ Himself.

Will you try these strategies? Have you experienced letdown in the past? How else have you dealt with it? 

love, grace


4 Reasons to Read the Bible

bible reading series1

We’ve all been told many times that to be good Christians, we should read our Bibles. But have you ever actually thought about why?

Well, duh, you say, rolling your eyes, it’s the Bible, Grace. Obviously we have to read it if we’re Christians.

But so often, we read it without really knowing what the point is, why it’s important, and what we’re trying to get out of it. We wander aimlessly through the pages, looking for that “spiritual growth” we’re supposed to find if we read for fifteen minutes every day. But without a clear purpose, growth is hard to come by. We need to know what the Bible is, what it is for, and how we can truly get the most out of it.

We’ll talk about the “how” part later. But for now, let’s talk about the “what for” part. Why should we read our Bibles? What is, truly, the purpose of it?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 sums it up best:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

From that verse, here are four reasons to read your Bible.

1. Scripture is God’s literal Word to us.

First of all, the most obvious reason. The God of the universe gave us a book of truth. Why wouldn’t you want to read that?

The Bible is not just a human book summarizing the history of the Christian faith and the dos and don’ts of the Christian life. Everything the Bible holds is God’s truth, breathed out for us to use. Hebrews 4:12 puts it this way:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Every time we read the Bible, God is working through the power of His Holy Spirit, opening our eyes and our hearts, teaching and training and correcting and inspiring. Fundamentally, the Bible is an amazing gift, and to neglect it is to neglect the one thing that will help your Christian walk the most.

2. Scripture shows us our sin and our need for a Savior.

So what, specifically, does the Bible show us and teach us? First: it reveals our sin in all of its ugliness. As we read God’s law, and see what He requires for a righteous life, we see all the ways in which we fail to measure up.

This does away with conceit and shows us our need for Christ. There is no way, after reading the Bible, that we can delude ourselves into thinking we are “good people”. And so we come away humbled and ready to accept the salvation that God requires, leaning on Him, knowing that on our own we could never live a truly upright life.

3. Scripture shows us who God is and what He has done.

As we read the Bible, we are humbled. We see ourselves for who we are. But we also see God for who He is.

The entire Bible is the saga of a people who rebelled and a God who loved them anyway, so much that He sent His Son to die. The more we see our sin, the more we realize the wonder of salvation, and the wonder of God’s love. Through the Bible, we come to love God more and more, as we learn more and more about His love for us.

We also learn about His character. God is so complex, and the best way to know Him better is by reading the Bible. Every time you read about God, you will learn something new about who He is.

4. Scripture shows us how to live a godly life.

And finally, once we have seen our sin and God’s love, and once we accept salvation, the Bible gives us a blueprint for our lives. Because while we will never be able to perfectly measure up to the righteousness God requires, through His work of sanctification we begin to change, growing more and more like Christ.

The Christian life is a hard walk, and the Bible is the guidebook. It is there for us to go back to again and again, seeking the way we should go in every situation. We should be familiar with it from cover to cover, learning to base our entire life upon the truth it contains.

If you’ve never read your Bible, or if this overwhelms you, don’t worry! This is the beginning of a new series I’m going to do on Bible reading. Next week we’ll start getting into the practical details, so stay tuned for that, and let me know if you have any questions I can address during the series!

What do you think? Do you read your Bible regularly? How have you seen these four benefits play out in your own life? 

love, grace

Read more:

Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

24 Resolution Ideas for Christian Teens

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy


Three Habits to Cultivate Now (+giveaway winner!)


I’m so excited to announce that the winner of my very first giveaway is Jazzy Belle! Congrats! Please use the Contact form to send me your address sometime in the next few days, and I’ll mail you your goodies! 

For me, a new school year has always been my favorite time to set goals for myself, even more so than January. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to come one step closer to the person who you were made to be.

But if you try to change everything about yourself overnight, it won’t last (trust me). The better method is to slowly, patiently cultivate some new habits, making some small but lasting changes that will have an impact on your whole life. Focus on a few areas where you know you could improve, a few things that will have a positive effect on your physical, mental, or spiritual health as you move forward in life.

If you’re stumped, here are three habits that would be especially good to cultivate while you’re a teenager.

1. Memorizing Scripture.

This is one of those things that will only get harder as you get older (or so I hear…). So take advantage of your young brain and memorize chunks of the Bible now to comfort, encourage, and inspire you when things get tough down the road.

If you have no idea how to begin, here are a few great resources to help:

2. Attending church every week.

For some of you, this is a no-brainer. On Sundays, your families get up and go to church; it’s just what you do. Even though this might be something you’ve done for as long as you can remember, make sure to actually think about why you do it, to own the practice for yourself, so that when you’re on your own it will still be a weekly habit.

And if your family doesn’t go to church every week, it should still be a priority for you to find a church family and a way to get there on Sundays! There is no greater gift that God has given us than the church, and regular fellowship with other believers is one of the most essential aspects of the Christian life. Rooting yourself in a Christian community, no matter where in the world you end up over the course of your life, will be one of the best things you can do for your spiritual health.

3. Setting aside regular time to read.

Reading for school doesn’t count in this category – I’m encouraging you to read books that you choose! Whether that’s fantasy novels, biographies, or Christian nonfiction, regularly reading outside of your assigned books is a much more productive use of your time than always watching TV or scrolling through social media. Some of that is fine, of course, but reading helps stimulate your brain and your creativity. Getting in the habit of always having a book on hand now, as a teenager, means you’ll probably read a lot of really great books in the years to come!

To get started, check out these previous posts:

And if you’re looking for more recommendations, I’ve done lots of book reviews, so browse through some of those for ideas!


I’m not going to claim that these three habits will totally change your life. But each of them will have a small, positive impact that will ultimately last longer and have a greater effect on your well-being than all of those superficial, overnight changes that disappear in a month.

Don’t feel like you have to “remake yourself” this school year – start small, and gradually you will build a life to be proud of.

What do you think? Are you already cultivating any of these habits? What habits do you want to add to your life this school year? Share in the comments! 

A final note before I go: School starts for me on Monday, so I’ll be switching back to my weekly Saturday posts. I love posting more often when I can, but weekly posting is always the most realistic schedule for me during the school year! 

love, grace

Read more:

24 Resolution Ideas for Christian Teens

Why You Need to Overcome Procrastination

4 Time Management Tips


Stop Waiting for Friday

Hi everyone! Today I’m so excited to bring you a guest post from the wonderful Miriam at Crafted by Christ.  Be sure to subscribe to her blog! She has wonderful insights on Christianity, life, and being a teenager, and I’m honored to exchange posts with her. 

It was the most boring month of my life.

In May of 2016, at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I had nothing to do but anticipate the future. The end of that month began the whirlwind of working and taking college classes that I am still caught up in today. But this was the beginning of the month, and all I could do was imagine what my life would be like after I started my first job while simultaneously taking classes for dual credit at the local university. So, day after day I went through the motions of my uneventful school days, impatiently waiting for my life to begin.

But one day, it dawned on me—here I was, sitting around waiting for life to “start,” when God purposely gave me this time to prepare me for what was next. I asked Him what He wanted me to do with these few short weeks of waiting. He led me to this poem, which I promptly copied into my journal, adding my own personal applications:

“Stop waiting for Friday,

for summer, for someone to fall in love with you, for life.

Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you’re in now.”

[God’s will is for you to thrive in waiting. He has given you this time of waiting for a purpose. Take advantage of it]


What did God want me to do with this time? He wanted me to learn how to thrive.

No matter how much we deny it, the school year is coming upon us very quickly. In the summer, we tend to have a little bit more time to spare, even for those of us with jobs. Making time for Christ is hard during the school year when our schedules are full to the max. So why not use the time we have now to build healthy habits that help us thrive during the coming weeks?

But what are the characteristics of a thriving Christian? Here are just a few that I have learned since those weeks of waiting back in 2016.

⦁ Someone who prioritizes God’s Word.

The only way for any healthy tree to grow and thrive is to have a solid root system. The same goes for Christians. Nothing is more important for a believer than spending daily, quiet time with God. Reading the Bible and praying are the food and water that every Christian must have to stay strong and healthy. Without these things, you and I will never grow. Use these last few weeks of summer to develop a time and place every day to read the Bible and pray. You will never, ever regret it.

⦁ Someone who puts others first.

We are each so overwhelmingly selfish. This is something that I have been struggling against a lot this summer. To combat this sin, I challenge myself to purposely do one completely selfless thing every day. By doing this, I hope to make selflessness a habit. I am failing miserably at this, so I intend to use my last few weeks of summer to develop an attitude of selflessness.

⦁ Someone who lives in the now.

Some days when I am at work, I am doing all that I can to survive my shift so that I can go home, sleep, and do it all over again the next day. But should our lives really be like this? Just going through the motions is not thriving. To be a thriving Christian, I must intentionally live in the here and now. Sometimes that will mean forcing myself to smile. At work, I do this by praying for my customers and co-workers and humming worship music while I perform monotonous tasks. Each moment is a gift from God, so I want to use it for His glory.

The days of summer are dwindling quickly. Are we just going to let them aimlessly slip through our fingers, or are we going to seize these days, using them to develop habits that we can carry with us throughout the school year and the rest of our lives?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be the type of Christian that thrives. I am going to use these last few weeks of summer to their fullest to glorify my Creator. Will you join me?

Click here to read my post over on Miriam’s blog, about making God a priority during the school year. 

Share in the comments below: What are you doing to live this last little phase of summer to the fullest? How are you learning how to thrive in your own life? 


Another Way to Think About the Christian Life

I wrote a post about works vs. grace a long time ago: Why Be Good if Jesus Died?

Today I want to elaborate on everything I said in that post, and use an illustration that will hopefully help you understand this concept even better. I know that it really helped me.

Because this can be a tough thing to get- if we aren’t saved by our works, why do we then have to live in holiness? What’s the point? If God forgives sin, why do we have to fight against it? Obviously it’s a complicated question with a lot of facets, but here is one way to think about it.

Leviticus talks about several different types of offerings. One is the guilt offering. This was an offering given when someone broke God’s law, in order to cleanse them and restore them to favor with God.

Another type of offerings were thank offerings. These were given to God from gratitude for the many blessings He had provided.

Think of your good works as offerings to God, something that you give Him. As guilt offerings, they will always be temporary and inadequate, just like the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

The good news is that those sacrifices were symbolic of Christ, as I talked about in this post. Each sacrifice was temporary, a shedding of blood to pay for the sins of the people. And then Christ came, and paid the ultimate sacrifice, and His was not temporary. It was eternal. And we have nothing else to do to earn salvation. It is finished. He was the ultimate guilt offering.

But our good works are still offerings. In Christ, they become thank offerings, something that we give to God because of who He is and what He has done, a way of thanking Him for all of His blessings. When we get to know God, we want to please Him. We owe so much to Him for the salvation we have from Christ, and so we seek to live in a way that honors Him because we know He deserves it.

The catch? Both of these lives will look the same on the outside. Whether you are living your life as a guilt offering or a thank offering, the outward form will be pretty much the same. It’s about your heart, your motivation. Are you trying to earn your way to heaven, to pay for your own sins by doing good things? Or are you trusting in God’s salvation and doing your best to live in a way that shows how much you love Him?

What do you think? Do you like this way of thinking about it? How else have you wrestled with this concept? Share in the comments! 

love, grace


Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

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The Old Testament is so important for us to read if we are to grow as Christians. I hope that in this series I’ve convinced you of that with my few examples (sacrificesworshipsocial justice), but there is so much more to learn! That’s why I want to encourage you to get into the Old Testament yourself, to dig deep and seek to understand and appreciate this often-overlooked part of Scripture.

Here are four tips to help you:

1. Pray for guidance and understanding.

Prayer is always a good idea when you read the Bible, since you won’t be able to understand anything without the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart. But it’s especially important when you’re struggling to understand something.

Pray that God would open your eyes to see how the Old Testament, especially the law books, apply to you. Pray that He would teach you through them, teach you about Himself and about the gospel and about the Christian life. Pray that He would help you to understand the parts that you just can’t get through.

2. Don’t read too much at once.

If you read too quickly, skimming through the “boring” parts, you won’t get anything out of it. Don’t try to read more than a chapter or two at a time, and really focus your attention on that chapter or two. The less you read, the more time you have to think about each part of what you read, and being thoughtful as you read the Old Testament is incredibly important.

3. Make notes, journal, or something…don’t just read.

If you’re having trouble being thoughtful, write things down!

My understanding of the Old Testament shifted dramatically when I started reading with pencil in hand. The physical act of making notes and writing down my thoughts got me out of skimming mode and into thinking mode relatively quickly. You can write directly in your Bible (what I do), or use a separate notebook or journal. Whatever you choose to do, writing down the things you are learning will prime your brain to learn even more.

4. Look for application in everything.

And what are you supposed to be thinking about? Applications. Whenever you read the Old Testament, think about how it applies to you. What can you learn about God that will affect how you worship Him? What can you learn about yourself that will affect how you live? How does what you are reading connect with the New Testament, with the gospels? Why did God include this particular chapter in the Bible?

Everything in the Bible is there for a reason, and there is always something you can learn from any section. Read slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, and search for the purpose of the text. In doing so you will discover the beauty of the Old Testament.

What do you think? How have you been able to find meaning in the Old Testament? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace