Of all the questions I am asked, this is probably the one I hear most often, “how do you study the Bible?”.
In my last post I was hoping to encourage you to jump in and study the Word and to trust that you have all the tools you need to study. Today we’ll cover the practical and in the next post, we’ll talk about the spiritual aspects of Bible study.
|Must have tools for me.|
- Cut out some of the background noise – I’ll admit that I have been known to open my bible app to read while I’m riding the subway. I’ve gotten so engrossed I’ve missed my stop. Yes, I’m a word nerd but I don’t recommend getting lost in the NYC subway system. Instead, maybe create a comfy corner of your house, a great chair and grab a cup of coffee because some of the Bible reads like a daytime soap opera! The drama in King David’s life, as told in I and II Samuel, or Joseph’s journey from being the favored son to being sold into slavery to becoming favored in the eyes of Pharaoh to dealing with his brothers is wild! Sometimes it’s just too good to put the book down. So put the kids to bed, turn the TV off, silence your phone and read without distractions.
- Use a Bible that you can understand – If you are new to reading your Bible I don’t recommend grabbing your grandmother’s New King James Bible! I would recommend buying a bible you can understand, written in simple English like the New International Version (NIV), The New Living Translation (NLT) or The Message (MSG). You can sample translations online to see which style suits you best. I typically prefer the ESV and the Amplified for my personal study but I often look up several translations when I’m studying. If you’re ready to start studying independently then I would recommend a good Inductive Study Bible (that’s what I use when I’m studying). They are full of additional content. There are plenty out there to choose from. Tip: Visit https://www.biblegateway.com Type in your favorite verse or story and read it in several translations to see which style works best for you (Personal favorites: ESV, NLT, NIV, Amp, Msg)
- Where do I start? – If you’re new to reading the Bible you don’t want to start in the book of Revelation. Start with one of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). I personally recommend John but, for the record, Luke is my favorite writer. Seeing Jesus in His humanity, reading through the miracles and understanding the grace and mercy He demonstrated to the most unlikely candidates paints a clear picture of how I fit into God’s family. I saw reflections of me all throughout the gospels and helped me to accept and receive Jesus’s love for me. I was too harsh when I lived by “law” (I explain this in a previous post, click here to read it), I was like the “whitewashed tombs” Jesus despised. But I also saw myself in the woman at the well. Jesus knew all about me before I said a word and He welcomed and loved me with open arms even after I had disqualified myself. (How many of you have done that?) When my marriage was dead, He breathed fresh life into it just like when He called Lazarus out from his tomb and called that which was dead back to life. Reading about God’s love, understanding that it’s always been available for me makes it easier to receive His love and it gives me confidence in The One I serve. So I suggest you start by understanding the heart of God.
- Look for the 5W’s – read through the story and highlight the points you would look for when reading a news article. (This reminds me of my 5th grade social studies homework). This exercise has proven to be helpful for my study group and might help you get started as well. The added bonus in using this sheet is that over time you’ll have an organized journal outlining all the Bible stories you’ve read and what you’ve learned in the process. If you reread the same stories later on you might find that you have greater insight and understanding and the story might take on a whole new meaning for you.
- Updated: SOAP Method. The SOAP method simply describes the four steps to studying scriptures. Grab a notebook and a Bible and document four things. S: Scripture. Write down the verse(s) you’re reading. O: Observation. What’s happening, what do you see? A: Application. How is this relevant to your life today? What does God want to say to you? Warning? Promise? What is God revealing about His heart? P: Prayer. Write a prayer as you reflect on the verse. Your prayer can be as simple as you asking the Holy Spirit to help you change your mind. Asking Him to help you accept this truth, walk in the confidence of the promise, or help you make some adjustments so you’re heeding a warning. Here’s a link to more details about the SOAP method: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/tips/3-simple-steps-for-studying-the-bible.html
- Online Resources: Use some of the valuable references that are online (there’s so much available on the internet that doing thorough research on your own shouldn’t cost you hundreds of dollars). I use Bible gateway to read other translations or to read several Bible commentaries on a given text. I also found a Bible dictionary can be very helpful. My Godmother bought me one that I use regularly.
- Commentaries: This Christmas my mom bought me one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, Warren Wiersbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary. It’s so easy to read and full of great background information so it feels like I’m studying with my own personal teacher.
We are designed to thrive in community. You might want to start or join a study group or a small group. It’s always nice to have a group of people to share your questions and experience with and to encourage eachother as you study.
Be Still and KNOW,
You might also like this post: Part 2 – Practical aspects of Bible Study