I did not grow up reading the Bible. I had one, but I don't remember doing anything other than paging through it to see the pictures - it was a Precious Moments Bible. I went to church every Sunday and taught Sunday school to elementary kids, but other than the major stories I didn't know the Bible at all.
I gave my life to Christ in college and dove in the best I could. But so much of it went far above what I could handle. Trying to read straight through as a new Christian is not easy! Thankfully someone told me to start with the New Testament instead and things went much better for me! But I still didn't have a deep understanding of scripture. I wanted to not only read it but have it come alive to me. I wanted to read it the way it was meant to be read, not simply glossed over.
Over the years I've done a huge amount of different studies but the ones that stuck with me the longest and taught me the most are those that challenge me to dig in deeper, often verse by verse. The studies that view the Bible as a whole and use it all to tell the full story, rather than focusing on a small section of scripture that can sometimes be pulled out of context. It's important to remember that while Scripture is alive and always able to teach in any time period it's also vital to look at the history of when, why, and to whom it was written. By studying the Bible with this lens it can come alive in a whole new way!
For the last week or two I've been working through a new study, Awaken Faith by Ellen Hopkins. Ellen is the founder of Scripture Confident Living where she shares works to encourage women to study the Bible with confidence. She offers studies, courses, and so much more, all for the beginning believer to those mature in their faith. I am incredibly grateful for women like Ellen that have the ability to help open the Scriptures in such an accessible way!
During my quiet time in the morning I've been working on two different things: writing out the Gospel of John, and Awaken Faith. Both are incredibly powerful ways to study the Bible but I must say, at least right now, I am probably getting more out of my time in Awaken Faith. Maybe it's because I have questions prompting me to go deeper and look at other portions of scripture at the same time, maybe it's because I wanted to read and dive in so I could make sure I was sharing an accurate review with all of you, but whatever it is, this study is phenomenal.
So, after all that hype of how awesome this book is, I should probably tell y'all what exactly makes it so awesome!
5 ways Awaken Faith will grow your faith
1. You will study the context & history of the letter
The letters in the Bible were written by specific people, for a specific audience, during specific circumstances and for a specific purpose. By understanding all those parts and how they fit together means you will have a greater understanding of the message in the letter.
For instance, the book of James was written by the brother of Jesus, who was at the time an elder in the church of Jerusalem. The church was scattering due to the persecution they were facing from Saul. James wanted to offer encouragement - "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" James 1:2 - but also give instruction on what it really means to live as a Christian - "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors." James 2:8-9.
The letters in the Bible were written by specific people, for a specific audience, during specific circumstances and for a specific purpose.
2. You will study to apply God's word
What good is reading the Bible if we walk away and never put what we've read into practice? James even addresses this at the beginning of his lettter!
Bam, right there. We need to be doing as much as we are reading. When we read about helping the poor we should be looking for ways to make it happen. When we read about loving our neighbors as ourselves we should go and do it. It's not enough to read the words! Ellen includes a whole section in her study about discovering the callings and commands in the Word and how to practically apply those TODAY.
3. You will pull from the rest of the Bible
The whole Bible works together to tell one incredible story of how much God loves us. We can't simply pull out one book, chapter, or verse without acknowledging that it is part of a larger story. In James we look at other people of faith that are mentioned and see how they lived out their faith in real ways. We search out other books that talk about wisdom. We look at Proverbs, Psalms, Genesis, Titus, and so many more to gain a greater understanding of God's Word. So fantastic!
The whole Bible works together to tell one incredible story of how much God loves us. We can't simply pull out one book, chapter, or verse without acknowledging that it is part of a larger story.
4. You will contemplate "Awaken Your Faith" questions
Scattered throughout the chapters are little boxes with questions to ask yourself relating to the current topic. They don't need to be answered on paper like the study questions but are meant for reflection and as a way to see where you might need to challenge yourself. For instance, if you asked yourself, "What do you do to care for those who lack resources?" would you have an answer? Well, I know that question gave me pause as I know we could be doing so much better!
5. You will learn how to study all the Epistles with this technique
That's right! The same way you work through James in this study can be used to study all the other letters of the Bible. At the beginning of each chapter Ellen lays out how to get the most of out the study and what you should be working towards in the chapter. You have to begin with the foundation - author, audience, historical context - before you can move on to deeper studies. While the individual questions in the study won't work for other letters they provide a framework for how to pull apart the verses and get to the core of the message we need to learn.
Are you ready to dive deeper into the book of James and grow in your faith? Awaken Faith is available TODAY! You can grab a physical copy here from Amazon or you can get your digital copy directly from Scripture Confident Living.