My name is Cam. As we walk together on this journey, we will discover how to avoid many of the common challenges that people, myself included, have faced when studying the Bible.
There isn’t a great way for me to know where you are at on your journey as I am recording this, however effective Bible study has some key foundational elements — I call them the four foundational stones — and these four stones are the keys to a great Bible study experience! The focus of this video will be to share the first, and in my mind the most important, foundation stone with you. I learned about the importance behind this first stone when I began studying several years ago, because on my journey into deeper Bible study, I kept running into three big traps that challenged my commitment to make Bible study a priority in my life.
However before we dive into what the three traps that I faced, and how I rose to the challenges of each, let me share briefly with you where I began, and what pushed me further into Bible study.
I was raised in a good Christian home, and though there were challenges that we faced along the way (like my parents divorcing), I was blessed in many ways. One of the ways that I was blessed was that I attended Christian schools from Kindergarten through graduating college.
During those seventeen years of schooling, I learned practically everything I could ever want to know about the Bible, however what I realize now is that during all that time, what I learned were facts about the Bible, doctrines and systems of beliefs that the Bible supports, and a lot of great “information.”
But what I didn’t learn was the “relationship” aspect of the Christian faith. Feeling as though there was something missing in my life spiritually, I began reading and studying. I picked up numerous devotionals, and they didn’t seem to satisfy the longing in my heart. I then turned my attention towards the Bible itself and found a ton of daily reading plans, and over the course of several years, I read through the Bible at least twice from cover to cover. However, the longing still remained.
This is when I realized that devotionals could only take me as far as the author had gotten, and while most authors were older (and assumedly wiser) than I was, I felt as though God might have something more for my life than He had for theirs. I also came to the conclusion that daily reading plans also fell short as well, because there was the motivation and temptation to rush through each day’s section. I can say that I did grow spiritually by reading the Bible from cover to cover, however too often I found myself skimming passages that were boring, and skimming other sections if I was in a rush.
It was during this time that I read a verse I had seen many times before, but it hit me differently when I read it this time. This passage transformed my focus on Bible study, and it is found in Matthew, chapter 7, starting with verse 21.
Let’s read it together as we begin:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
This passage scared me to death when I read it that morning — and it still makes me a little uneasy at times — because it told me about a group of people who honestly think they are on the path towards Heaven — and by the list of things they share about themselves, they seemed to have placed Jesus at the center of their lives. However, they end up missing Heaven completely. How could that happen? Especially when, Jesus tells us that those who ‘do’ the will of God in Heaven will be saved, and these people prophesied, performed miracles, and cast out demons in Jesus’ name.
That morning, I realized that in this passage, we have a group of doers who think they have salvation figured out, but they miss *the* key thing they should have been doing, and it costs them their salvation. They are doing a lot of great things, but they have missed the one thing that matters more than anything else.
Jesus calls the people who don’t make it ‘practicers of lawlessness’ which implies that those who are saved are living to the standard set by the law.
Wait, aren’t we living in the ‘grace era’?
Wasn’t the law only for the Israelites in the Old Testament?
Are you trying to suggest that I must try to figure out how to prove myself before God, that my salvation is based on what I do, and that I have not really been saved?
These are the questions I had when I began—and believe me, they did not sit well with other parts of the Bible. The Bible is suppose to present a unified picture of salvation, but this sounds like works when I know from many other places that salvation is through faith.
This was where I began, and because this passage pointed out clearly that there was a group of people who looked great outwardly but were lost inwardly, I knew that this would be something I would need to dig into personally, because the possibility existed that if I chose to take an author or pastor’s word about what this passage means, they might be mistaken and be included in the group of people who didn’t make it.
I realized that I would need to study into this passage myself.
I made the commitment to begin to study the Bible each day, and I quickly learned that it ‘sounds’ way easier than it is to ‘do’.
Soon after making the commitment to dig into the Bible, I learned about three big traps that catch people when they are starting out. The common theme behind all three of these traps is that they all have to do with the time that I chose to study. The first and most important foundation stone we must set when beginning Bible study is choosing the right time to study in, and the block of time must have three key characteristics in order to avoid the three big time traps.
The first big time trap that I fell into was having an inconsistent time each day. When I tried to fit Bible study into an open slot that was not consistent, other things always pushed it around and crowded it out of my
For me, this trap was pretty easy to climb out of, at least at first, because when I started, I was single and could set my own schedule. When I realized I needed a consistent time, I was able to schedule it easily.
However, after getting married, I needed to find a new consistent time that fit with two people’s schedules and not just mine.
Setting a consistent time to study each day is a big thing when building a new habit, and I learned its importance when facing the second big time trap.
The second big time trap I fell into was picking the wrong time of day to study. As I mentioned earlier, when I made the commitment to study the Bible each day, I was single, and I also worked the second shift—which meant that I would get off of work at around 2am every morning. The time that I picked to study was when I got home and right before going to bed.
This regular time worked well for me, but as my life changed and I got married, this time became less than ideal. As I remember the situation, I fell into this trap because work shifted my hours shortly after getting married to a regular day shift.
This change was excellent for every area of my life–except my Bible study time. Two A M is a great time for me to study–but not when I have to be up and at work at 7:30 every morning. Nine P M is not as great because it was right in the middle of my wife and I’s ‘getting ready to go to sleep’ time, and more often than not, I was too tired to keep my eyes open to study.
I learned that while I am on a day shift, I have less time conflicts if I get up early–and when shifting my schedule to make morning Bible study work, I had to accommodate for my love of the snooze button on my alarm clock.
The evening might be the best time for you with the fewest conflicts, or you may be like me and find that the morning is a better time and easier to be consistent. Either way, make sure to choose the best time of day for you. The best time to study each day is a time when you are alert and able to focus on what you are studying. Choosing the right time of day is how to avoid falling into the second big time trap.
The third big time trap that we all will fall into at some point is having the wrong length of time set aside for Bible study. We can fall into this trap by either scheduling too little time or by scheduling too much time.
If we schedule too little time, we will consistently feel rushed when studying, If we schedule too much time, we are likely to become bored or easily distracted when there is more time leftover than we have material to cover.
When I was single, worked late into the nights, and studied at 2 A M before going to bed, this was never a problem—because I never needed to set an alarm to get up—and I had lots of flexibility in my late mornings once I did wake up. If the Bible study took a little longer at night, I could sleep in and be OK.
I definitely fell into this trap when my schedule shifted though. When I realized I needed to get up earlier to study in the mornings, I ran into the problem of how much earlier should I get up? Also, how much additional time must I add because I like to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock?
These unknowns definitely affected my Bible study time each day because on some days the Bible study took more time than I had, and on some other mornings, I hit the snooze button more than usual, and between these two things, my study time often felt rushed.
At some point, everyone who is consistent with Bible study will face the realization that they have not given themselves enough time.
This is a huge trap, because we feel guilty when it feels like we are cutting God off because life is calling. The right time to study should have the flexibility to expand if needed. For me, this meant having to set my alarm for even earlier than I had been.
The other side of this trap is what catches many people when they are first starting out. Perhaps we hear a preacher or read an author who says that they spend a whole hour studying their Bible each day. Eager to get the same results, we set the same block of time as they did and start studying.
However, most Bible studies are not written to take that long, and without a plan to fill the hour of time, we get bored, our mind wanders, and perhaps we may even begin to feel like God is silent. This leads to discouragement and we feel left out because we are not having the same success as the person who inspired us.
Some people who began with an unrealistic length of time might try to shrink their block of time, but the danger when making this move is when to stop shrinking the time. More often than not, eventually other things will crowd out the Bible study time until it is non-existent.
I have fallen into this time trap — both having too long of a block of time, and too short of a block of time — as I have tried different studies and different methods of studying the Bible, because each method I used was designed for a different length of time.
So how much time is the right amount of time? This really varies for everyone, and for every study, but the key to avoiding this third big trap is to choose a block of time that is flexible, and can be expanded when needed.
Here’s what it looked like for me. I began by getting up 30 minutes earlier each day — well, honestly, it was more like 20 minutes after my snooze button took over.
I spent the twenty minutes reading the daily sections out of a one-year Bible reading plan.
This was great for a while, but every so often, I would run into a boring passage where my mind would wander, or a fascinating verse that I wanted to reread and learn more about. This latter problem would push up against the end of my study time and after this had happened several times, I knew I needed to get up even earlier, so I set my alarm for 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes earlier.
As always, some of that was eaten up by the snooze button, but because there was flexibility in how early I could get up, I was able to expand my block of time.
As time progressed, I also was able to discipline myself to not hit the snooze button as often and that allowed for some additional ‘extra’ time as well.
Eventually, between the different Bible study methods that I tried, and by allowing myself the flexibility to grow the length of time, my Bible studies did reach about 1 hour in length, but this was from slowly growing the time and not trying to jump into it.
Choosing the best time to study is the key to avoiding the three biggest time traps. We know that picking the *best* time for us is unique to each of us, and the *best* time for us might change as our life does.
However, the best time, or at least a great time when starting our study habit, will have the following three characteristics to help us avoid the traps we talked about:
- One. The right time will be consistently available, and we will be consistent with the time that we choose. This will keep us from falling into the trap of things crowding out our time in the Bible as ‘life happens’.
- Two. The right time will be a time that we can be alert and able to focus. It does us no good to be falling asleep or distracted while studying. Some people try to claim that they are studying by ‘osmosis’ with the Bible open on their chest after they have fallen asleep while reading, but I can promise you that this ‘type’ of Bible study doesn’t improve or even change your life for the better. By picking the right time, we are able to be ready for God if He wants to share something with us.
- Three. The right time will be the right length of time — or at the very least, a block of time that we can shrink or expanded if necessary, but mainly a block of time that doesn’t cause us to be discouraged if we don’t ‘fill it up’.
If a week of studying doesn’t take the whole length of time, we are able to be flexible, but we don’t prematurely adjust our study time and then fall into the trap of our block of time being wrong.
I hope that you now have a better idea on choosing the best time possible to study and you can now set the first foundational stone into place after committing to regular Bible Study.
For some people, this might be easy to do because you already have built in a block of time each day for your devotional or Bible reading, and can use that block of time for your studying. However, this can be one of the most challenging foundational stones for those who don’t have a regular time set, because finding or making the time to study is difficult –– especially if you are adjusting your sleeping hours as your way to make the time.
Before continuing to the next video, please leave any comments, questions, or other thoughts while they are still fresh in your mind below by expanding the comments section right under this video. Using the comment box, you’ll be able to let me know what you thought of this video, and in case I missed anything that I should have shared, you can add it in the comments for all to read!
In addition to any other comments, would you answer the following response question: What time of day do you study in? If you haven’t started study yet, then what time of day are you planning to start studying in?
By sharing when you study, you can help those who are unsure about when they should study, and while everyone is unique, your response might inspire them of a great time they could study in!
Thank you in advance for sharing!
In the next video, we will move our focus onto the next key foundation stone and we’ll learn the three most important ways to help you enjoy your study time each day. When you’re ready to learn more, and after leaving your feedback below, I’ll be waiting for you in the next video!