Friday, July 07, 2006

Guest Blogger: Mary Byers

Opening God's Word (Excerpt from THE MOTHER LOAD)
by Mary Byers

Remember in grade school when you were asked to write a paper about a “historical figure”? I wrote mine about Susan B. Anthony, who played an important role in securing the right to vote for women. (I picked her because I was appalled that there had ever been a period in the history of this country when women couldn’t vote. The thought still makes me shake my head in sadness and disbelief !)

Because I knew little about Susan Anthony, part of completing my assignment meant a trip to the library to learn what I could about her. As I compiled facts and figures, a picture began to emerge. This picture formed my image and understanding of this complex woman, giving me great appreciation for the sacrifices she made so that I can cast my vote on election day.

We can apply the same principles of research to learn more about God, his Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The Bible is one of our most effective methods of researching our faith. It paints a picture of our salvation, shares the stories of the early heroes of faith, reveals the nature of the Trinity, and provides excellent advice for dealing with life’s ups and downs.

I personally practice three different methods of Bible study.

The first is organized study, either alone or with others. This requires a Bible study guide—and the willingness to make time on my calendar to complete the work. Currently, I’m part of two women’s study groups. One meets once a month, and one meets every Monday morning during the school year. We study different topics throughout the year, all with the goal of knowing God more fully. In addition to studying with others, I usually have an independent study I’m working on. Group study allows me to benefit from the insights of others, while independent study allows me to focus on a topic that may only be of interest to me.

The second type of study I’m involved in is a reading study. This is where I select a book of the Bible to read from beginning to end. No study guide is required. I read, work to understand what I’ve read, and then try to draw practical applications for my daily life.

The third study I do is random study. I simply sit down with my Bible, set it on its edge, let it open randomly, and begin reading where the page falls open. Often, I’m blessed by the words I read, even though they were arbitrarily selected. Or were they? I believe that God often uses the seemingly random in our lives to get message to us. This method of study has been beneficial to me in the stormy, painful periods of my life when I’m gripped by desperation or fear and not mindful enough to be able to sit down and do a more methodical study.

Recently, I was feeling rather distant from God and lonely in my role as a mother. Bemoaning the fact that I was surrounded by people, yet still feeling alone, I let my Bible “randomly” fall open and began reading Psalm 139. Though the latter part of this psalm was familiar to me, the beginning was not. Here’s what I read in the midst of my loneliness:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast (verses 7-10).

As I read, my loneliness melted away. I’ve since committed this verse to memory so that it will be handy the next time I start feeling alone.

Though the Bible is static, the impact it has on readers is not. I can read the same passage during three different periods in my life—and get three different lessons out of it. Or I’ve seen different people in the same group benefit from the same message in different ways. That’s the power of the Word. It meets us where we are and provides what we need when we need it. The irony is that the book must be opened before its power can work for you.

If you’re not currently studying the Bible on a regular basis, find a time when you can spend a few minutes reading it. I started with a set amount of time one morning a week and have worked up from there. The important thing is that you get started. If you’ve never read the Bible before, I suggest starting with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. It’s a good place to get a glimpse of Jesus. Then, ask God for guidance on where to go from there.

© 2005 Mary M. Byers The contents on this page are copyrighted. Unlawful use of this content, without prior permission of both the copyright owner and/or the owner of this site, is illegal and punishable by law.

Mary Byers is a professional speaker and freelance writer. She’s a frequent media guest on women’s topics and is a former advertising director and senior level association manager. She lives with her husband and their two youngest children in Illinois. http://www.themotherload.net

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