Have you ever started the year with one of those “Read the Bible through in a year” checklists? I don’t know how many times I have and I have to admit they are more of a detriment than a help to me. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not knocking daily Bible reading by any means, but I am a “list person” and it was becoming too easy for me to just read my daily assignment and check it off my list. Done. But what did I learn? Did I take the time to dig deep into the reading for that day? Did I meditate on any of the verses that I read? Did I hide them in my heart? I realized that there is a big difference between just reading the Bible as opposed to studying the Bible and I needed to make some changes as to how I approached the Word of God.
Reading the Bible is always a good thing; however, if we are to grow spiritually, we must become serious students of the Bible. Sometimes, people don’t study their Bibles because they simply don’t know what to do beyond just reading it. Here are some tips I would like to share with you that have helped me in my personal Bible study and that I pray will help you as well:
- Tools – When you sit down to study, there are certain tools and study aids that you should have on hand to enhance and enrich your study. Have a pen for Bible marking and taking notes. Keep a notebook for word definitions, charts, notes, etc. Have access to a good concordance, Bible dictionary, atlas, and commentaries. These can be literal books or a good Bible program on the computer such as Swordsearcher or Logos.
- Thoughtful reading – As you read the text or chapter in your Bible, read slowly and carefully, being mindful of what you are reading. If you run across a word that you don’t know the meaning of, look it up and copy it in your notebook. If there are cross references listed, look them up to give you a broader picture and understanding of what you are reading. If you are studying the divided kingdom or genealogies, make a chart in your notebook to have a visual reference at hand. Record important dates. When you run across any geographical locations, take the time to locate them in a Bible atlas. Better yet, print out some blank maps and plot the locations, keeping the maps in your notebook. All of this attention to detail will give you a deeper, more thoughtful understanding of your reading.
- Dig Deeper – Sometimes you will run across a subject that you will want to learn more about or that will help shed more light on what you are reading. Do some research on the subject and take notes on what you learn. For example, when you open the New Testament, you start reading about the Pharisees and Sadducees. Doing some research about these two religious groups will help you have a better understanding of their interaction with Jesus, his disciples, and the Jewish people. This is where some of the tools listed above such as a Bible dictionary and commentaries can come in handy. If you are digging deeper into the meaning of a particular verse or passage, you may want to consult several commentaries. Sometimes you will find a general consensus about the meaning or a historical or cultural reference. Other times you will find many differing opinions and will not be able to find a conclusive answer, but you may have given yourself some food for thought.
- Memorize and Meditate – This is sometimes difficult to do because it doesn’t come easy. This takes time and effort but is so worth it. There are many benefits to memorizing scripture, but the Psalmist gave one of the best reasons in Psalm 119:11 when he said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Jesus used scripture to fight temptation and the Word is our sword in our fight against Satan as well. We need to treasure up God’s Word in our hearts. Once a verse or passage is memorized, take the time to meditate on it throughout the day. Think about what it means and how it related to the time it was written and how it applies to you now. Dwell on how it convicts you or encourages you.
- Pray – My husband recently gave a devotional talk about prayer in our Bible study. It was called, “Bathe your Bible study in prayer”. He encouraged us to pray before, during, and after our Bible study. What should we pray for in Bible study?
- Insight – We need to ask God to help us remove any preconceived notions or roadblocks we may have to His Word and have an open mind willing to learn.
- Forgiveness – The Bible serves as a mirror, exposing us as to what we are really like. We need to confess the sins that are exposed through our study of the Word and ask forgiveness.
- Courage – Finally, we should ask the Lord for courage to make any changes in our life that we know are necessary after being confronted with them through Bible study.
All of these tips are helpful for adults, but I also encourage you to teach them to your children as they grow and help them utilize them daily. All of these tips are features in our Growing Up in God’s Word Bible Curriculum for kids because we want to not only foster a love of the Bible in our children but also an ability to study the Bible in depth which will produce spiritual growth in their lives.
Serious Bible study is not easy. It takes time and effort. It requires an open mind as well as one willing to think deeply. It requires an open heart, yielded to God and His will. It requires humility and honesty. Most of all, it requires a love for God and His Word above all else. “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. ” Psalm 119:35
Whether it is personal Bible study or family Bible study, open your heart and mind to God’s teaching, use the tools you need to thoughtfully read God’s Word, dig deep in it, meditate on it and memorize it, and pray over it. May God bless you richly as you study His Word.