Yesterday on social media I shared a little tip that has helped my Bible study: printing out the book of the Bible I'm reading so I can write notes onto the pages. Honestly, I didn't expect that post to get nary a like, but it did. So I thought I'd share how I approach my personal Bible study time.
Here's my approach to Bible study:
1. Open the Scriptures Prayerfully and Humbly: I pray for the eyes of my understanding to be enlightened. The Bible is a historical, factual book, but, above all else, it is a book about God and who He is. I can't possibly fathom all that God is, so I come in knowing that there will always be more to learn about the Bible and God....always. I remember a pastor of mine saying that an older pastor well into his elderly years said he was still getting revelation on a verse of scripture after decades of teaching the Bible. We will never exhaust its knowledge.
2. Print out a copy of the Bible: This has been a great tool for me instead of marking up my Bible. I circle recurring words and themes. Ask questions. Mark definitions and note revelation or questions that pop up as I'm reading. Loose-leaf, hole-punched Bibles are sold online, but I've found it cheaper to just cut and paste into a Word document. Bible Gateway even lets you remove title headings and verses which makes reading easier.
And I just read the Bible only. When most people say they're studying the Bible, what they're really doing is studying a book someone else has written about their study of the Bible. Not a bad thing, but it certainly shouldn't be the only source of gaining knowledge of the Word.
3. Choose a method of study: You may choose to do a topical study. A word study. A character study or read a whole book of the Bible. Whatever it is, stick to it and don't jump around during a single study period. My favorite is to study a whole book of the Bible using the Inductive Study method. Inductive study using investigative tools to gather information about the Bible: Observation (taking in all the facts about the text taking into consideration its context), Interpretation (figuring out what the text is saying & keeping in mind there is only one correct interpretation), Application (lessons for my life).
Keep in mind that there are 11 categories of culture that need to be taken into consideration when reading the Bible. They are:
political * religious * economic * legal * agricultural * architectural
* clothing * domestic * geographical * military * social
The Bible was written in the framework of another time. So though it's spiritual significance is timeless, it was written within the boundaries of culture and should be read with that in mind.
4. Gather "excavation" tools: As I dig deeper in the Word through Bible study. I find it's good to have a Bible dictionary (I especially like looking up name meanings), commentary, encyclopedia, maps (I've just recently started using maps & it I'm finding it gives a frame of reference) and concordance on hand. I admit, I'm a Strong's concordance junkie. I love to look up the origin of words. And be sure to cross-reference; it's the best way to see how the Bible is woven together as one big tapestry. Need help finding tools? This link has a list of basic resources.
5. Separate Bible study and devotion time: For me, Bible study is studying as a student would to gain knowledge for a class. I block out an hour in the evenings after the kids are sleep and I just pore over the scriptures. Often things get so good, I end up staying up too late! In the morning I have devotion time where I dedicate a shorter period of time to reading passages of scripture and praying so that God can speak to my heart for the day.
I should add that getting a Bible version that is easy reading for you is key. I recently switched from the KJV to the ESV because I wanted a greater ease of reading and the ESV is a word-for-word translation rather than a thought for thought translation like the NIV, NAB, NLT and Bibles. I also gave up the Message Bible for Bible Study because it's a paraphrase rather than a translation. Here's a handy list of Bible translations and types.
What are your tips for Bible Study? And what are you studying now? I'd love to hear how you study!