three butterfly three pupas

Six Ways Studying and Applying the Bible Helps You Grow

A few years ago, I stumbled across a long-lost treasure when cleaning out our garage. I found it in a box labeled Kids Art Projects. It was a gold-painted mold of our little five-year old son’s hand. He had crafted the wee gem in kindergarten. Holding it in my hand, the thought struck me: What if our son’s now 18-year-old hand was still this small? We’d be so concerned!

God very much desires that we and those whom we serve and teach mature spiritually too (Ephesians 4:15).

small boy playing with toy trucks

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

So to help us grow our faith and the faith of those we teach, He has given us His Word, the Bible. And studying and applying the Bible, like maintaining a nutritious diet of good food, helps mature our faith.

Chuck Swindoll, in his book Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs, offers six ways that studying and applying the Bible helps us grow up spiritually:

  1. Studying and applying the Bible gives substance to our faith.
    Jesus taught His disciples the importance of building their faith on the solid rock of His Word rather than on the shifting sand of feelings or worldly wisdom (Matthew 7:24–27). When the storms of life come, and they will come, how better to have a faith firmly rooted in the truths of God, carefully laid in place through the discipline of study and Spirit-directed application.
  2. Studying and applying the Bible stabilizes us during times of testing.
    James wrote to life-weary Christians that “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2–3). Studying and applying God’s Word provides mainstays to keep our faith strong when winds of adversity blow. We don’t wobble in our faith, but, rather, we believe. And as we believe we lead more stable, effective lives.
  3. Studying and applying the Bible enables us to handle the Scriptures carefully and accurately.
    When the apostle Paul laid his ministry succession plan in place, he wrote to Timothy, his apprentice, and urged him to “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker—one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). That “hard work” Paul referred to is the hard work of searching and studying the Scriptures. When we understand the major themes and theological parameters of the Bible, we rely on biblical truth rather than on the current trends of the day to win our audiences and serve them spiritually nourishing meals.
  4. Studying and applying the Bible equips us to confront and detect error.
    When we are confronted with a passage of Scripture, we can understand it and interpret it on our own, rather than relying on someone else. As we grow in our spiritual understanding, we can more easily detect subtle errors and correct them with scriptural facts ensuring what we teach to others is accurate and biblical (1 John 4:1).
  5. Studying and applying the Bible strengthens our spiritual confidence.
    The more we grow in our knowledge and application of God’s Word, the more confident we become in articulating what we believe and serving spiritual nourishing meals. That helps us remain steady when absolute truth comes under assault from a culture bent on denying the existence of God and mocking anyone who would follow His ways (2 Corinthians 3:4–5).
  6. Studying and applying the Bible filters out our fears and superstitions.
    How easy it is for believers, especially those young in their faith, to respond in fear to life’s challenges. But when we have established a priority of studying God’s Word and allowing it to filter into our attitudes and our actions, and into our teaching, we can equip God’s people to avoid becoming irrational and superstitious (2 Timothy 1:7).

By the way, you can begin the process of studying and applying the Bible to your life today. Start with fifteen minutes in the morning or afternoon and allow it to increase over time. Make sure you have some great study resources, and pick up a copy of The Swindoll Study Bible to further guide your study.

You’re on your way to helping others grow up in their faith as you serve up the feast of truth from God’s Word!

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2016), 39–40.

Image by Unsplash

What’s on the Menu?

An Overview of the Bible: Your Full-Course Spiritual Meal for a Lifetime!

As you learn to search the Scriptures for yourself and prepare your own spiritual meals, we want you to know What’s on the Menu! Perhaps by the end of this overview of the Bible, you’ll start getting hungry for a spiritually nourishing and satisfying meal from the Scriptures—God’s life-altering smorgasbord of wisdom and direction.

French menu board

Image by PIxabay

The Menu

Hors d’oeuvres!

To get started, please sample some savory nuggets of information about the nature of God’s Word. The Bible is comprised of 66 individual books—some taking the form of personal letters, wide-sweeping chronicles of historical periods and masterfully composed grand narratives or stories that tell of God’s dealings with individuals, families, and whole nations throughout the course of time. Every word of every book of the Bible was breathed by God through His Holy Spirit, as human authors—40 of them!—wrote as the Spirit directed and inspired them to write. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he explained to his ministry apprentice, Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Bible is divided into two major sections: the Old Testament, a sweeping assortment of masterful writings that points to the coming main course, God’s promised Messiah, His Son, Jesus, and the New Testament, which reveals the fullness of Jesus as the Messiah through a colorful and deepened portrayal of his life and ministry and His ultimate purpose in redeeming the world from sin.

Interestingly, the books of the Bible are not arranged chronologically. That can bring a certain degree of confusion to someone just getting started in the searching the Scriptures process. So, it’s helpful to know that the Bible is arranged more like a buffet of meal options, where soups and salads are in one section, the main course meats and sides follow along in another section, with fruits, breads, and savory desserts coming closer to the end of the long, scrumptious buffet. Another way to understand it, as Chuck Swindoll suggests, is that “the Bible is put together much like a newspaper . . . all the news stories are placed in one section, the sports reports and statistics are put in another section, the business or lifestyle stories are grouped together in yet another section, and the want ads in another.”[ref]Charles R. Swindoll, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2016), 4.[/ref]

Likewise, in the Bible, the Old Testament opens with a section of books marking periods of ancient history—from Genesis to Esther. Following that group are the books of poetry and songs—from Job to Song of Solomon. The final spread of wonderful offerings in the last part of the Old Testament are the books of prophecy, from Isaiah to Malachi.

Similarly, the New Testament offers a range of savory options that together provide rich and satisfying spiritual meals. The Gospels, which include the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present the wonderful Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, followed by the book of Acts, a marvelous history of the birth and growth of His church (author is Luke).

What follows are the letters (whole meals in themselves!) divided into the letters of Paul, which include Romans through Philemon, and the general letters, or epistles, which include Hebrews through Jude. Finally comes Revelation, which is a book of prophecy.

Types of Books in the Bible[ref]Ibid, 5.[/ref]
The Old Testament The New Testament

Books of History

Books of Poetry
Job—Song of Solomon

Books of Prophecy

The Gospels

Book of History

The Letters

Book of Prophecy

All of this information is only preparation—like delectable hor d’oeuvres—to whet your appetite for a completely satisfying spiritual meal prepared from the Scriptures. Time for the second course!

Soup and Salad

Just as those tasty offerings of soup and salad precede the main course of a carefully prepared meal, so too, all the books of the Old Testament prepare us for the Main Course  which is Jesus, God’s Son, the promised Messiah. The aroma of Christ and His coming waft throughout the stories, narratives and pages of the Old Testament mouth-watering smells from a banquet kitchen, signaling to guests of something wonderful yet to come. From Genesis to Malachi, the Holy Spirit adds the flavor of Christ and His grace into every message, whetting the recipients’ palates for more.

First, are the books of history, presented at the opening of the Old Testament. Much of the material in this section of Scripture is presented in narrative form, that is, telling a story of God and His dealings with Creation. Also in this section, the first five books of the Bible, you will find the Ten Commandments and laws that God gave Israel to follow. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, then, are often referred to as the Law.

God desired a deep and faithful relationship with His prized creation—Adam and Eve, and all humanity. When that covenant of love was broken by sin (Genesis 3), God moved in grace and mercy to provide a way for all who would fall under sin’s curse, to be reconciled to Him.

The great stories embedded in the books of history convey that theme of God’s unconditional covenant love for His people, a certain promise of blessing for obedience to His commands, and spiritual peril for anyone who chose willfully to ignore Him.

Out of the books of history flow the books of poetry— the songs (the book of Psalms) and lyrical expressions (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) of kings and people prone to wander, yet protected by and oft drawn back to the everlasting shelter of a gracious, all-forgiving God (Psalm 84:1-7)!

This collection of Old Testament writings is also referred to as wisdom literature for its timeless truth given to impart wisdom to those who believe God and obey His Word.

What follows are the books of prophecy (Isaiah to Malachi). God’s people, either as individuals, or as an entire nation, sadly, at many times failed in their keeping of God’s commands. Therefore, God commissioned prophets to herald messages of stern warnings regarding the consequences of their continued disobedience. These words came seasoned with the bitter spices of God’s disappointment and wrath with the aim of bringing about Israel’s complete and unswerving repentance.

The Old Testament books Isaiah to Daniel comprise what has come to be known as the major prophets because they are significantly longer than the other books of prophecy. The shorter books of prophecy (there are 12) span from Hosea through Malachi and are for the most part confrontational in nature, as God uses these choice men to draw Israel back to Himself.

The books of prophecy are comprised of God’s words of warnings and His commands to the many kings that ruled over Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) and the surrounding pagan nations of that day.

The Old Testament closes (the end of Malachi) with an ominous unresolved tension, with God’s people having never fully turned from their errant and stubborn ways.

The table is set for the Main Course!

The Main Course

The Main Course is Jesus! He comes filled with grace and truth, and declaring Himself to be “the bread of life” (John 6:35) while promising to satisfy the enduring spiritual hunger of the human heart.

The table now beautifully set, the New Testament serves up the all-nourishing, totally satisfying message of Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. His birth, life, death and resurrection are portrayed, each with differing themes, in the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew, being a Jewish tax collector who followed Jesus, had a deep burden for his own people, so he emphasized Jesus as Messiah and the nature of His kingdom on earth. Mark, writing most likely during a time of intense persecution of Christians at the hand of Nero, focused primarily on the cost of discipleship, lifting beleaguered believers’ eyes to Jesus, whose suffering brought their salvation. Luke, also writing to a specific audience, focused his theme on the evidence that Jesus in fact was who He claimed to be by delivering an almost scientific, journalistic review of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection (Luke 1:3-4).

John’s gospel offers an inspiring, theologically complex, and captivating defense of the deity of Jesus, exquisitely portraying each episode of Christ’s miraculous deeds, with an implicit and impassioned aim: That you might believe (John 20:31)!

Don’t Forget the Sides!

Just as every magnificently served main course is accompanied by correspondingly appropriate side dishes, so the main message of the Gospels—Christ’s life, ministry, death and resurrection—comes fortified and served with a supporting menu of complimentary books, starting with one book of history, the book of Acts, written by Luke, followed by the letters of Paul, Romans through Philemon, and the general epistles, authored by various other apostles, including Peter, James, John, and Jude, the half-brother of Jesus. These letters include Hebrews (author unknown) through the book of Jude.

Each writer, with careful attention to expanding on and interpreting the words and works of Jesus, brings deeper meaning to His Gospel, applying it to the Christian life. With unlimited spiritual nutrients (applications), these books provide everything you need to mature in your faith, including how to trust that God is working all things for your good (Romans 8), how to love and serve your spouse (Ephesians 5), defend and stand firm against the strategies of the Devil (Ephesians 6), to win over worry in prayer (Philippians 4), to view yourself seated in heavenly places, where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Colossians 3), to eagerly await the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5), to maintain sound teaching, with a clear conscience and sincere faith (1 Timothy 1), to stand firm in the faith and come boldly to the throne of grace in prayer (Hebrews 4), to be a doer of the Word and not a mere hearer (James 1), to not be taken back by coming persecution (1 Peter 4), to bear one another’s burdens (1 John), and to snatch sinners from the flames of judgment, without yourself being burned (Jude 23).

What a wonderfully satisfying and rich spiritual meal is provided to all of us in the spread of the New Testament!

And there’s more . . .


The final course is the sweet revelation that in the end, Jesus is coming again! The final book in the Bible is the book of Revelation, a book of prophecy. Like the sweet culmination of a wonderfully enjoyed multi-course meal, Revelation concludes the Bible story with the sweet message of Christ’s return and the fulfillment of all God’s revelation. Written by John, exiled on the island of Patmos, this rich and image-filled book of prophecy promises eternal blessing for anyone who reads or listens to its truths.

So, how was it? Are you full? Has your appetite for more nourishment from God’s Word increased? Now that you know what’s on the menu, don’t waste any time trying your hand at preparing your own spiritually satisfying meals by searching the Scriptures for yourself! Make sure to get a copy of Chuck Swindoll’s book, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs.

Bon appetit!

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs(Carol Springs, IL: Tyndale House, 2016), 3–19.

assorted cookware set

Cooking with the Right Utensils

When Preparing Spiritual Meals, Make Sure You Have the Essential Utensils

Remember that time you got ticked off trying to find your favorite spice to make the party chili? Or when you racked your brain to recall where you last shelved that favorite casserole recipe?  Everyone knows that without all the just right ingredients and trusted utensils, the meal served up will lack not only in flavor, but also in nutritional value.

The same is true in Bible study. Who doesn’t remember the time you searched diligently for that perfect verse in the Bible and couldn’t find it? That was almost as bad as the day you decided to read a couple of chapters and got hung up on “Nazirite” . . . or scratched your head over “cubit.”

These are like hardened, glazed coverings that suddenly obscure our understanding of God’s truth. The ladle and spoon of good intentions simply will not provide the right mix and the most satisfying results. Better utensils than that are needed, believe me!

Listen, you don’t have to be a master chef to prepare a scrumptious spiritual meal from God’s Word . . . but you do need the right cooking utensils. These resources are basic to providing nourishing Bible studies. They will enable you to find most of the answers you need, and they are as easy to use as your favorite whisk! There are at least four you should have on hand.

bible study tools

Image by Pixabay

A Bible Concordance

It contains an alphabetical index of all the terms found in the Bible, and it comes in handy when you want to put your finger on a particular verse but can only remember a few words in it. It’s also invaluable if you want a complete list of all the verses using the same word.

The best concordances available are Robert Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible and James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. I must also add W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words for you who are serious students, wanting to learn the shades of meaning and theological implications of different New Testament terms.

A Bible Dictionary

It is more than a list of words and definitions. It’s like a one-volume encyclopedia, containing vital information on people, places, doctrines, customs, and cultural matters. I recommend either The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (well illustrated, scholarly but readable) or the New Bible Dictionary (contains longer articles on technical subjects).

A Bible Atlas

The most popular is Baker’s Bible Atlas. Another reliable one is The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, Revised Edition. If you can’t afford an atlas, at least purchase a good set of biblical maps. Also, you will want to have a copy of The Swindoll Study Bible, which also includes a four-color set of Bible maps, a concordance, Bible reading plans, and many other study helps at your fingertips.

A Bible Commentary

This is a single-volume book that offers comments and insights on every chapter in the Word of God. Hands down, my favorite is The Wycliffe Bible Commentary edited by Pfeiffer and Harrison. It is reliable and well arranged.

Don’t delay now. Get those essential utensils you need soon . . . and don’t let them get squirreled away in the back shelf of the pantry!

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs (Carol Springs, IL: Tyndale House, 2016), 59–61.