Helpful Tips, Tools & Methodology
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)
Before we tackle any kind of bible study it is important to ask for help. The Bible is an ancient book that has been translated forward so it’s inherently confusing and daunting but Jesus can speak through his words and the work of the Holy Spirit directly to us. So we want to pray as we begin that we can hear what Jesus wants to say to us, through the Holy Spirit. A helpful quick prayer is,
“God help me to understand what I am about to read.”
Let’s look at some tips and methodologies.
Devotional Reading vs Bible Study
It is also important to acknowledge what kind of reading you are about to embark upon. There are multiple ways and styles of reading the bible which requires different postures, tactics, and approaches.
Devotional reading is generally a daily practice of consuming the Bible. It is a simple idea that acknowledges the Bible as food for our lives, spiritual nourishment for our daily pursuit of health. Devotional reading is a practice of reading scripture, no matter the translation, no matter the amount. It’s just a habit Christians pursue like tying one’s shoes before a run or brushing teeth. It’s crucial for your spiritual health. It’s necessary and highly recommended for a healthy mind, a healthy heart, and a positive outlook.
Currently, I am reading through Psalms and Proverbs with the YouVersion Bible App. This daily Bible reading plan is scheduled to take me all of 2020 and is supposed to give me multiple readings through Psalms and Proverbs. I’ve been highlighting certain verses as I go along and it’s been intriguing. I’m now on my second pass through Psalms and I can see how I highlighted different things on my first time through. Different scriptures are jumping out at me because of my current context and settings. That’s because the word of God is living and active and the Holy Spirit is showing me new truths.
I want to be clear that this also happens in other books too, other movies and songs, etc. The Holy Spirit uses multiple methods to speak to us, which is why I believe it is important to be consuming the Bible daily.
Bible study is different than devotional reading. It’s a more purposeful and active searching of scripture. It requires more thought, more time, and more creativity. It’s the difference between reading a novel for school and reading a great book for personal enjoyment. Both are important for our success in life but one is generally harder to do and requires more motivation to tackle. Bible study is generally something you do to tackle a question, discover a deeper truth, or unravel a mystery.
Bible Study Methods
Now that I have clarified the distinctions and given a very quick overview the rest of this post is about bible study, not devotional reading.
When I am studying the Bible I generally rely on 3 things, a physical bible, the YouVersion Bible App, and Google. In that order. I use my physical Bible so that I can underline and feel the pages. It also helps me to visually to know how far into the book I am visually. I use the YouVersion App for its powerful search function and it’s the ability to quickly jump between translations. I use Google if I need to access online concordances, articles, and blog posts. I use them in that order because I recognize that if I start with Google I can get bogged down pretty quickly in man’s opinions on what God is saying before trying to discern for myself what God is saying.
Verse by Verse, Chapter by Chapter
A simple way to begin studying the Bible is to simply find a passage that speaks to you and read it slowly, verse by verse to see if anything jumps out to you or means anything special to you. This process will remind you of reading comprehension in English class in high school. Which is exactly what this is. When reading verses or passages make sure to pay attention to any footnotes or references. Write down anything you feel is important for you to know about this.
If you are not sure where to start I often recommend the words of Jesus, in the book of John. If you are using a red-letter Bible it will help you to identify those quickly.
History and Context
History and context are crucial when studying the Bible. It helps us to understand that these words were first written to an original audience. Although they can and do often apply to us, in a way, they were originally written for someone else. You can often find out a simple history by reading the notes at the front of the book in most study Bibles. Or you can Google it.
Behind the words
One of the things I love to do is to see if there is any correlation between the New Testament writings and the Old Testament. Often you can find this by following the footnotes and references or by copying the sentence into the YouVersion App search engine and seeing if any other verses pop up. It’s intriguing how much of the New Testament is quoting from Old Testament authors. Remember this is a book that spans 1500 years of writing, from at least 40 different authors. When I discover a connection I get that same feeling that happens when I discover a puzzle piece or a math problem that has been bugging me.
The Struggle is real…
One of the hard things about bible study is that it can be time-consuming and feel like a bottomless pit. That’s because there is always more truth to be discovered. It’s a beautiful pursuit that can be very rewarding. Bible study can be a personal activity but sometimes it helps to tackle it with friends. Different perspectives are helpful when uncovering truth. Don’t get bogged down, it’s ok to dig for a bit in one area, come up for air, and then head in a completely different direction. Keep asking questions, keep discovering, keep praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal more truth to you.
Remember, Bible study is about discovering more about who God is, who we are in Him, and discovering how to live in light of knowing the previous. In short, we read and study to listen and obey!
For more around the discipline of Bible study and practices, such as S.O.A.P. and Lectio Divina, check out Week 8 of the Abide Pack here!
About the Author: chet kennedy
Chet Kennedy is the Executive Director of Chamisall, a Christian summer camp and retreat centre located outside of Calgary, Alberta. He has over 20 years of youth ministry experience. His ministry experience includes both the small-town context and he spent 15 years on staff here at Beulah. Chet is a gifted communicator who uses storytelling to help audiences understand the truths of scripture as he reads from his analog bible. He loves to talk about God, his family, and apple products. Chet’s first book, Broken Mortals: A Journey of Hope, is available on Amazon.