Reader’s Question: What are Your Habits Surrounding Scripture Study?

*These notes come from a talk I gave at Women of the Word in Los Gatos, CA. This group studies scripture at a pace of around 8 chapters each week.

What is the purpose of all Bible study? Beyond gathering data and increasing knowledge, our purpose is to know Christ and be transformed by Him. In our reading and studying, whether it is for ten minutes or for hours, we start with a prayer like God I am coming to Your word because I want to know You. Please open my eyes to spiritual truth and open my heart to friendship with You. Let my life be transformed by what You say.

Here are a few suggestions to help our studying:

  1. Repetition is our friend. The more times we can simply read the assigned chapters, the better our insights and study will be. Merely reading and combing through the chapters will drop fruit in our lap. If time to study is limited, I recommend reading through the assigned chapters and then rereading the one or two chapters that seemed most significant. Reading and rereading a group of 6-8 chapters at a time greatly increases comprehension compared to a single look. 
  2. Make it a habit. Quietly sitting down to pray, read, and commit our day to God every day, even if it is only 15 minutes is more effective than an hour cramming on Tuesday night before a Wednesday group meeting. Here’s a rhythm that I live by: spend time with God every day, once a week (usually the weekend for me) I spend a longer time studying, once a month I take a Saturday morning to myself to pray and study about the issues that have been simmering in my mind that month. This is a time to go deeper with God. Then, once a year I take a spiritual retreat for two full days where I am alone with my Bible and a notebook. I am there to worship and get down to business with God. The vision for parenting, for marriage, identity, life direction and so on have been established in these retreats. 
  3. Ask good questions. Here are two possible ways to study: as we read the chapters, ask the questionswhat does this passage reveal about God? What does it reveal about people? What does this passage reveal about the interaction between God and people? Or, another direction to take is to follow the pattern of observation, interpretation, application. This means first reading the chapters almost like literature and making observations throughout. For ex, these words or phrases are repeated, or these phrases are in contrast with those. This passage sounds similar to previous ones or it points to future events etc. After all observations are noted, then take time to interpret what is the significance of these words being repeated, or contrasted. What does this passage mean? Finally, after observing the text and interpreting it, ask how it can be applied. Is there something we should DO in response to this chapter or anything to emulate?
  4. Fatter is better. I know we all like a thinline Bible to carry around but a big fat study Bible is nice to have! At minimum, get a Bible that has cross references (every page should list all the other verses that use the same or similar words). I adore the Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible compiled by Jack Hayford. It has helpful maps, charts, cross references, and commentary. With my large print version it is thick as a brick but absolutely beautiful and helpful! Online, Bible HUB is a wonderful resource. After studying scripture for myself, I like to read all the com (commentary) on Bible HUB for the passages I either didn’t understand or was drawn to. Using these tools of a study Bible and an online commentary provide yet another layer to our interaction with scripture and thus deepen our understanding.

I’ve never met a dynamic Christ-follower who wasn’t a student of the Word. Hear it spoken, read and study it, memorize key verses, meditate on it and apply it. When we do this, our experience in relationship with Christ grows even sweeter and our impact in the world deepens. May God bless you this week dear friends. My Monthly Mashup is coming next week with some of my favorite products yet!


Reader’s Question: Bible Study

I receive questions from readers and young people in my life. Here’s one I’ve heard frequently as we begin the new year: What’s the best way to study scripture? Do you read the Bible through every year? Do you focus on topics or just let it fall open to a new page each day?

Christians read, study, and memorize the Bible to KNOW God. Sure, scripture can add all kinds of perks to our lives—wisdom, peacefulness, love, guidance—but the purpose of reading scripture is to encounter a living God and grow in fellowship with Him. The why behind the what truly matters. It’s easy to lose sight of why we study God’s word (to know Him) and begin focusing on our effort (which can bring shame or pride based on performance) or knowledge acquisition (becoming puffed up full of facts about God but devoid of friendship with God). If the Bible is God’s love letters to us, and if scripture truly is the instruction manual to life with Him, it makes sense to read it every day, while also studying, memorizing, and meditating on it.

WHY we read the Bible: “For, though God is a great king, it is not his wish to live at a distance from his subjects.  Rather the reverse: He made us with the intention that he and we might walk together forever in a love relationship. But such a relationship can exist only when the parties involved know something of each other.” (P. 110 Knowing God by J.I. Packer) 

HOW do we study? Simple! Set aside some time every day to meet with God through scripture reading, reflection, and prayer. Once a week, create margin for a longer, more concentrated time with Him. Monthly, set aside an entire morning or afternoon to bring life into focus before God and His word. Then, take an annual retreat just you, God, the Bible, and a journal.  I call this retreat my “mountain moving” session as God works transformation in my life. This natural rhythm of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly encounters with God builds a beautiful history with Him. It is merely a guideline—not a burden or chore. Do we miss some days? Sure! There’s no performance rating though, because our goal is simply fellowship with God!

WHAT is the structure of our Bible reading? I’ve gone years where I participated in church groups that were doing “fill in the blank” types of studies or rehashing the pastor’s sermons each week. These have the potential to breed immaturity and a weak foundation. Here’s what I like to do: read through the entire Bible using a bible reading plan every other year. Many plans and apps guide one to read the entire Bible through in a year (see http://www.mcheyne.info for example). I personally only like to do this every other year. On the alternate years I like to read at a much slower pace, choosing specific books in the Bible to do a deep dive, or specific topics that I want to research in the Word. This alternate year schedule offers greater flexibility and more prayerful, Holy Spirit directed study. Hopefully, you own a Bible in either the NASB, NIV, or NKJV versions with cross-references included. Anytime you need help understanding a verse, just search it on BibleHub.com

When I became a Christian at 16, I memorized Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”  His Word has been the joy of my heart all these years. I hope you will experience God’s goodness and His speaking voice through scripture today! Go to www.MargaretAllen.org to learn more.



Every now and then in life we get a glimpse of the broader picture that we are in: the people who shaped our lives as well as the ones we are pouring into now. This week I reconnected with influential people from my past and honestly, it humbled me. I visited with two of my mentors: Judy, my Sunday school teacher when I was a brand-new Christian in high school, and Jim, the pastor who fought against denominational precedents for women to secure my licensing as a minister. These two invested in me at a time in my development as a human being that would cause even the most hopeful to doubt. But they walked the walk; they demonstrated to me a powerfully grounded and guided life in Christ. The fruit from these two saints, walking faithfully with God into their 80’s, will never be fully known this side of heaven.

In the middle of our dinner, Judy’s iPhone alarm sounded. At eight o’clock every night her family stops to pray for our country. We all joined hands and prayed for a while and then seamlessly continued dinner. Judy delivers food and prayer each week to women she laughingly calls “old people” (she is just a few years younger). Every morning Jim prays over the phone and discusses scripture with his grandson in the military. Jim pastored a church until a stroke reduced his health this year. For both Judy and Jim, their lives are filled with serving the poor, sharing the good news of salvation in Christ, fighting injustice, and re-presenting Jesus in their daily life.

Faithfulness. Consistency. Serving. I know they aren’t very sexy concepts in a time where we are all looking for three easy steps to Zen. Showing up, matters. This walk with God is not a sprint. It is a lifetime of small and large choices. It’s choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus every day to listen and to learn. It’s setting an alarm to pray for our nation, our community, our family. It’s loving the person in front of you, no matter what their politics, orientation, or Covid compliancy. It’s turning away from all our media distractions and actually investing in the two things that are eternal: people and the presence of God.

Here’s my prayer this week, and it’s as raw and vulnerable as can be:

Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:4-7)

My friend, what decisions are you bringing before God today? Are you walking a faith-filled Christian life? May He show you His ways and teach you His paths. May God bless you and increase your influence. May He shine through your faithfulness and serving. May God bless you and give you peace.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you are looking for resources for yourself, or for a group study, check out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love and compassion. You can find it at www.MargaretAllen.org or Amazon.