I am currently participating in a women’s Bible study on the book of Proverbs. This week our speaker, Karen Loritts, talked about the difference between devotions and bible study. Devotions are light, used to get our minds focused on spiritual things, like when we get up in the morning and have a glass of water or a cup of coffee to get our bodies charged.
Bible study, however, is a whole different matter. Studying a passage of Scripture requires focus and intensity as we take a deep look into what the Bible is saying. Returning to the wake-up routine analogy, it is only after we wake up a little bit that we become ready for some breakfast, a conversation, or more focused thinking.
Karen used the analogy:
Devotions are like an APPETIZER, designed to whet our appetite.
Bible study is the MEAL.
From there, I instantly tagged on…
Getting up to live out what I just learned is DESSERT.
What follows are further explanations of each step as I thought things through.
They are everywhere, books comprised of one page items usually based on a single verse that is printed on the top of the page. The entire devotion can occur without actually opening the pages of the Bible. Some are convicting and deep bite-sized messages (My Utmost for His Highest). Some are meaty (Pearls of Great Price, Diamonds in the Dust). Many are a compilation of uplifting and encouraging messages (Jesus Calling). I have several of such devotionals, including some daily devotions that come straight to my in-box (Neil Anderson).
There is nothing wrong with any of these materials, just don’t call them Bible study. (Each of the authors of such devotionals would concur.)
MEAL: Bible Study
Bible Study is when you take your time to look up definitions, circle common words in the section to make connections, journal thoughts, etc. This week I sat long with Proverbs 2 and had to ask myself some serious questions about the intensity of my pursuit of God and His wisdom.
I circled the action words in Proverbs 2:1-4.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures…
Pause here for a moment between bites.
I had to honestly assess if a video of my life would illustrate these words:
- receive (Does God’s word get absorbed and then lived, or does it stay in my Bible?)
- treasure up (Do I look like someone tucking precious jewelry into a safe place in my heart, or do I look rushed and careless?)
- making my ear attentive (Does my time with God look like I am trying to get away with Him, or do I expect to visit well with Him in distraction?)
- inclining my heart (Is my emotion involved, or just my head?)
- calling out, raising my voice (Is the intensity of my voice ever loud because I am desperate and urgent in spiritual matters?)
- seeking and searching as for hidden treasure (Am I leaned over, looking carefully and anticipating jewels of wisdom, or do I look tired and exhausted over my Bible?)
The circling was helpful. I wasn’t just reading. I was studying.
I also noticed IF was used many times. IF I am intent in my search for wisdom, THEN what?
You see, it is important to analyze how earnestly we seek wisdom because…
If (we do)…then verse 5 happens!
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5)
What verse 5 means is then expounded on in verses 6-22. Here are some nuggets. Go read for yourself! (No one can feed us. We need to feed ourselves.)
It seems clear that if we seek wisdom we become upright people and people of integrity. God then…
- gives wisdom (6)
- stores up wisdom for the upright (7)
- shields those who walk in integrity (7)
- guards the paths of justice (8)
- watches over our ways (8)
- guarantees wisdom will come into our hearts (10)
- makes sure discretion will watch over us (11)
- ensures understanding will guard us (11)
- delivers us from every way of evil (12)
- makes sure we walk in the way of the good (20)
- allows us to remain in the land (21)
My friends, this is sounding like a full- course-meal kind of life, isn’t it?
DESSERT: Get up and work (it) out.
If I leave all my knowledge at the table and don’t live out what I have learned, nothing sweet happens. First off, I myself am not sweet. My family will attest that on such days I am grumpy, joyless and faithless as I refuse to submit in obedience to all the little moments and decisions that would have let God shine. Second, my life is not sweet because I am blocking the full expression of God’s power through me. He doesn’t have full throttle room to heal relationships, change hearts, beckon people to Jesus, etc.
Let’s not only live on APPETIZERS. They don’t satisfy for the long-haul.
Let’s not live only live on MEALS. If all we do is eat, we become spiritually fat, not fit. Just as we need exercise to keep our physical bodies well, we need to work-out our knowledge of God each day.
Let’s live the full course meal every day, with DESSERT too!
Picture Explanation: Photos of the good meals my family and friends have shared, and gorgeous desserts. Most importantly, pictures of my Bible and devotional complete with pencil marks and coffee cup rings. These are signs that sometimes I have inclined my heart toward God and eaten some meals with Him.
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