There was a time when going to women’s Bible study was the highlight of my week. I loved connecting with the women. I loved being inspired by the video sessions. Then we started homeschooling. I hung onto my early morning Bible study for a little while, until I realized it was too disruptive to our school time, and I had to give it up.
I grieved giving up the time with the ladies, but I knew I could still study my Bible at home. Not wanting to do a book by myself, I decided to just go “old school” like I was in Bible school. I would pick a book of the Bible. I would ready it through, quickly. I would write down notes. Then I would read through it a second time, this time stopping to pause and wonder. I would meditate on the verses, sometimes taking a day or two to memorize some. I would write down questions. When I got to the end of a book of the Bible, I’d pick a new one.
Learning How To Teach
At the same time, I learned about classical schooling as I taught my kids. I learned about relying on source texts rather than workbooks. I learned how strongly some people feel about “busy work” and “critical thinking.” What was impressed upon me as I started applying some of these thoughts to my own life, is that learning something new is easiest when we are curious. Children usually have excess curiosity and questions, which is why they learn so much in just one day.
Workbooks can give you information, but they don’t always foster curiosity. I understand, maybe this means I’m ruining any chance I’ll ever have for writing a Bible study, but I learned I don’t like workbooks, generally speaking. I like engaging with the text, asking questions in conversation, and searching out the answers.
In the mean time, I missed the ladies’ Bible study. I was praying for an opportunity to get back, and this year, it opened wide up. I got to be a part of the committee that picked our usual video study. I got to lead a group.
I was part of the committee that picked the video study for this year. I wanted to do a more inductive study, but I figured this would be a good place to start back, and honestly, I don’t have the time to do a ton of prep work right now for a deep, text-only study.
So we started the video, and we filled out our daily worksheets. Our small group women slowly started to get to know one another more personally. But several things rubbed me the wrong way. First, while it was a great Bible study teacher, she was from a different denomination from our church. I pointed out a few things that our church believes differently. I think I set us up from the beginning, to just be critical. However, what started from a place of critical thinking turned into a critical spirit. This critical spirit arouse in me and in our group, and yet, many things the Bible study video said were very encouraging too. Sometimes we had trouble following. Then we had our discussion questions, where we took turns saying what we “filled in the blank” during our homework/worksheet time.
After the 3rd week, I reached my limit. I felt like this Bible study group wasn’t what I thought it would be. I felt like I was going through the motions, and became afraid to say anything. There were awkward moments that I wasn’t sure how to resolve. I talked to one of our pastors about it, and he said that just because our group started it didn’t mean we had to finish it. If I wanted to do something else, I had the freedom to do that. He was very encouraging.
Since this was such a last minute decision, I decided we would study Hebrews as that’s what I’ve been studying at home for the last few months. I felt like I had some footing there to start me off, at least.
I bought one of these books for every lady in the study. It’s super simple. On one side is Scripture. On the other side is a blank page. These thin little books are for Bible study use, or just personal home use. You can use the blank page to draw, make notes, write observations, etc.
Around the same time, a friend of mine said her daughter-in-law passed to her this study method that was recommended by Martin Luther. I tried to track down which of his works this came from, and it was from a 40 page letter written in 1535 that he wrote to Peter the Barber after he asked Luther how he prays. (Obviously, Luther felt he needed to collect his vast thoughts on this topic, and make them non-academic and accessible for his barber.) He told the man how he usually “spends time with God.” This was before the terms “devotions” or “quiet time” were coined.
Although he used many words, some of which are pretty funny, the method that he prescribes is actually very simple.
This “LTCP” method is a summary someone wrote of his instructions to the barber. It was passed to me by a friend, who got it from her daughter-in-law, who got it from a retired pastor’s wife. I’ve modified the wording just a bit, but these are the instructions summarized:
When the Holy Spirit works through the Scriptures, the words point to Christ. Resist the temptation to make this about you and what you should do. Above all, Scriptures are about Christ and what He has done. What does it say about God and how does Christ reveal or fulfill this truth?
In light of this passage, what am I thankful for today? Let this be a time of thanksgiving, not a conversation where you speculate about what you “could” be thankful for, but rather, in light of this passage, for what am I thankful to God? Express your gratitude to the Lord.
In light of what God is saying to me through this passage, what do I need to confess to him today?
The purpose of confession is not to feel bad; nor is it to do better so I don’t need to confess so much tomorrow. Rather, confession is simply being honest with God about how much we continually need his mercy.
Remember to enjoy God’s mercy. Is there something in the passage that tells you that God is a merciful forgiving God? If not, speak a verse from elsewhere so you end this section by dwelling in the wonder of being forgiven.
As you look at what is revealed about God, His character, presence, purposes and promises, what might you pray for today?
This might be a prayer for yourself or for someone else. This is not a time to create a prayer list, but actually pray, “Lord, in light of what You’ve said…”
What happened when I switched studies mid-book, was I sat them all down and told them how I was struggling. I was struggling to talk. I didn’t know when I should correct her to our church teachings, and when to not. I didn’t know what to let go, and I wanted to celebrate the good things she said. Basically, I decided that the video study was becoming an actual distraction from the Bible study we were supposed to be doing. I handed out the beautiful new notebooks, along with a bookmark I had made and laminated for them to use in their journal. The bookmarks were just a short reference to how they could be interacting with the text daily, and also a sheet expanding each point for a longer reference.
I told them I wanted us to be curious. I told them I wanted us to ask all the questions. I said I wouldn’t know all the answers, but we will learn a lot just from starting there. So each day at home, we read the same chapter over and over again. We made notes on the blank page about something we learned, or struck us differently than before. We were to write down questions. To assist in our curiosity, I recommended we all down load the “Blue Letter Bible” app. This app gives multiple translations, and also a full concordance, Bible dictionary, and some commentaries. Basically, you can click on a verse, and it will give you the greek words, and their definitions. You can click on the greek word, and it goes deeper, and shows you all the verses that word is used that way. You can pull up all sorts of things to just “follow your curiosity.”
The women in my group have jumped all over this. The conversation has been vibrant. People who have never talked are now talking a lot.
One of them told me, “I love this because before, I felt like I didn’t know as much about the Bible as everyone else, and I didn’t want to say something stupid. I didn’t want to get an answer wrong. But I can ask questions, and see if I can find out the answer, and if not, bring it to study and we talk it out. It’s nice knowing that we all have questions, and we can help each other.”
Her comment made me think about the posture of a student: someone who expected to not know, but is there to know. It made me think of the pressure we put on people showing up at church to know the answers to fill in the blanks. People are curious, but don’t want to be made foolish. When all of us in the group took the humble position of a student, we could actually learn and discuss. We also got to know each other better as we saw how we each approached the passage, and why we asked the questions we asked.
I referenced Luther’s letter a bit that first day, where he encourages the barber to linger when the Holy Spirit prompts him. So what if you don’t read the whole chapter that day. Maybe you stop at a certain verse, and decide to memorize it. Maybe you want to just sit and think about that verse. Luther called it “letting your brain go for a walk” to just ponder what that means for awhile. The point is to interact with the scriptures. Pausing to think is better than just trudging through the whole thing each day.
During our discussion, we just read out verse by verse of the chapter we studied the previous week, and we talked about what we learned, and basically compared notes. We spent some time in prayer.
Then our study was done. I went home giddy. It took no preparation on my part, other than me doing the study alongside them, and asking questions. We actually could just hold a conversation on the Bible.
If you would like to download the LTCP method written above in a printable format, along with the quick-reference bookmarks that I made for my group, you can enter your email address and I’ll send it your way! You’ll also get a monthly devotional that I send out only to my email subscribers. It’s a bit more personal, and one of my favorite things to write.