Have you ever found yourself so busy doing ministry that the only time you study your Bible is when you have a lesson to prepare? It's easy to slide into that habit. But in a way, that's like preparing a meal but never eating. Sometimes we need to just let God's Word feed us, without worrying about how we will nourish others. We need to engage in study just for the purpose of building our relationship with Jesus.

The spiritual practice of study and reflection on God's Word is one of the most life-giving and practical of all the disciplines. Most of us admit we do not have this life fully figured out—we need wisdom, and the Bible is full of it. So often we're perplexed by life but don't access the wisdom that may be sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Some of the wisdom lies right on the surface: love one another, for example. Other treasures lie deeper within. Deeper study takes us to more profound understanding.

Being consistent about a time to read each day is much more important than which time of day you pick. If you are not a morning person, be assured there is nothing more holy about getting up early to read your Bible. But make it a daily habit, and try to be consistent.

Before you study, pray and ask God to reveal truth to you—not just about what it means, but about how you should apply it to your life.

Read a short passage. Notice any words or phrases that stand out to you, or that you are curious about. Ask God to speak to you through his Word, and if something comes to mind, allow yourself to have a conversation with God about it. You don't have to hurry!

For example, let's take a look at studying just one short passage: 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here's what it says:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (NIV).

We know that this verse was part of a letter written by Paul to the young man he mentored, Timothy. It states what is true of Scripture—it's not something made up, but truth inspired by God, and it's not just interesting, it's useful. Its truth equips us for action—for good works.

The Bible trains us in righteousness. If we have to train for it, we're not automatically righteous, or good. We need to learn how to be righteous, and we can improve at it. That's good news!

But let's focus in on an intriguing word, and dig deeper. The word "God-breathed" is not one you see often—in fact, it's not used anywhere else in the Bible. Using a concordance, we can look up that word to see where else it is found in Scripture. We can also look up other versions, on a site like www.biblegateway.com , which has about a dozen English translations. Sometimes just reading how different translators have rendered a verse will give us insight into its meaning.

What did it mean in the original language?

If you look up the verse on a site like www.blueletterbible.org (a very helpful resource), and click "show Strong's" when reading the KJV, it will show you a number after each word or phrase. That number links to a Bible dictionary, which shows you the Greek word translated by that word or phrase, along with all the other verses in the Bible that use that same Greek word (even if they are translated by other English words).

In this case, the Greek word is theopneustos. On that same page of blueletterbible.org, you see the root words of theopneustos, along with every other use of the same Greek word. It shows that this is the only time this word occurs in the New Testament. Yet his word comes from words we see often in Scripture: theo (God) and pneustos, which comes from pneo, which is typically translated to blow, (as wind does). This is related to the word pneuma, which means breath, wind, or spirit. Jesus used this word to describe both wind and the Holy Spirit, in John 3:8 (NLT): "Just as you can hear the wind (pneuma) but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit" (pneuma).

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