Unfolding the Word of God gives light is the promise we read in Psalm 119:130, yet for many of us it can feel daunting to unfold the Word for ourselves.
Whether you have spent years in workbook studies or have just begun this walk with Jesus, knowing how to study the Bible for yourself is crucial to your relationship and intimacy with Jesus. Putting ourselves under the teaching and guidance of wise, godly teachers and pastors is important and necessary. But being able to rightly divide the Word of God for ourselves is how we tether our hearts in the midst of this tangled world.
TEND is a simplified, inductive method of tending my soul. Through consistent time and intentional effort, the garden of our soul begins to bear fruit at the hand of the Gardener.
TEND your soul
The goal of tending your soul is not to get through a book of the Bible or to check off that you had your quiet time. The goal is to know God better and respond to His Word little by little with consistency and by His spirit’s leading.
Using the TEND method, I begin with the first verse of the book of the Bible I am going to be spending time in. Prior even to that, I read through the entire book in one sitting, if possible. I also take notice of the genre, the author of that book, and the audience. This all adds to the context.
Wherever God is leading you, maybe through a Psalm or through the book of Ruth (as I did in my podcast) or the gospel of John; start by reading through it then plan to use the TEND method to begin unfolding the light therein.
Take Time to Pray
As we come to the Bible we want to begin with prayer. This does not have to be elaborate or even a time to bring your list of requests before God. Just a simple pause to breath, acknowledge God’s presence with you and asking Him to open the eyes of your heart to the wonderful things in His Word, as Psalm 119:18 says.
Examine the Scripture
After we ask the Spirit of God to open our eyes, we want to open our Bible to the verses we are tending through. It is important to keep context in mind when we are unfolding the Words of Scripture.
Then as I sit down each day, I pray and examine the next 1-3 verses that I am tending through. In this step, I write out the verses, every word, carefully, slowing down to pay attention. Then I write the text down, as it is in my Bible, in response. I examine the subject, the verb, the verb tense used, what’s happening in the passage. I ask myself what does this say? I slow down to process and consider what is happening here.
This is simple and straightforward, but important because it helps is really examine and pay attention to the text without putting words in God’s mouth.
Notice the Lessons
Once I have written the verses in my journal and carefully examined them then I ask God to show me what they mean. Ask yourself first what is this teaching about God? The Bible is primarily about God not about us. So we want to be careful not to read our own lives into the passage but rather see what the passage is teaching us about God and His character and His heart. Beginning by seeking to know God through these verses helps us to have eyes to see Him. When characteristic or name of God stands out, I write that down.
I then ask myself what lesson is being taught here? It helps to consider a few questions of the text and writing the lesson in a “we” format. This helps us to keep the lesson general, not yet applying it to our personal life. You can ask yourself, is there a sin evident here? Is there a promise to claim? Is there an action to mimic? Is there a command to obey in these verses? Or is there an example to follow or not to follow? This helps me come to a “we are to or not to…” type of lesson. When God shows me the lesson, I then write that down too.
Once I have noticed the lessons about God and what is being taught, then I move to the final step.
Do what it says
We cannot overstate the need to respond to God’s Word. James 1 teaches us that when we are hearers of the Word only and not doing what it says, we deceive ourselves. Filling our minds with head knowledge does nothing for our intimacy with God or growth in Christlikeness. But when we respond to the lessons He is teaching us and apply them to our specific circumstances, we will grow and change little by little, day by day.
Once we have our lesson, we turn that lesson into a question we can respond to. We can respond to the character of God we saw by writing “since God is___, then I can respond___.” Then the spiritual lesson that stood out to us we can turn into a “how” question as we consider the implications of that lesson in our own life, relationships, and circumstances.
Michael Hyatt implemented a great system of goal setting that also applies well for Bible application. It’s called the SMART approach. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. So when we turn our lesson into a question then we want to respond to the question with the SMART approach.
Answer the question that you turned the lesson into, with application to your own life that is specific to your situation, a measurable response, something you can do or attain today or soon and realistically for today or this week. Aim small, the goal is a measured response that allows the Holy Spirit to grow us little by little. If God asking you to text someone? Pray for someone? Encourage a spouse, forgive a friend, or praise Him in response? Write that down then do it.
Our main response ought to be a response of gratitude for knowing God a bit more today and responding like Jesus into a situation we couldn’t have otherwise. Leaning on the Lord is part of the gift of walking with Him. Just as tomato plants lean harder onto the cage around them as they bear fruit, our growth will find us needing Jesus more and leaning greater on Him. Through the TEND method we will begin to live that out in the soil of our real life.
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