In the United States we’ve become experts at simplifying the Bible – we pride ourselves on 20 minute sermons, we prefer the message Bible to “better understand” it, and our Christian stores have shelves upon shelves of books to guide our spiritual life and walk us through reading the Scriptures. And, there is nothing wrong with this, necessarily. It’s just that too often we become to dependent on these crutches to lead us through life.
When a lovely reader, Belle, asked me to share how I do my daily Bible study, I agreed, but inside I had my doubts – I’m not a pastor, missionary, or even a youth leader. Neither am I a best-selling Christian author or Christian college trained. Nor do I have a lifetime of experience and wisdom to guide me in answering these questions. I’m a twenty-something Christian trying to figure out how to live a Godly life full of faith, love and joy – although I may not have all the qualifications of those authors and ministers, I actually have something greater to guide me through my Bible reading – the Holy Spirit. Now, it’s not to say that those authors, speakers and pastors don’t know what they’re talking about – I know many of them are used by God to share His truth, but I also know a few that are false prophets. So, although these published study guides and other study tools are useful in your Bible study, make sure you’re led first and foremost by the Holy Spirit so you can tell the right from the wrong.
How do I do my daily Bible study?
Personally, I read the New King James Version – my Bible doesn’t come with any sort of study aids other than a page before each book explaining the concept of the book and the time it was written in – usually no more than 3-4 lines. I am currently trying to read through the entire Bible this year, so I follow a schedule provided by my Bible which has me reading 2-3 chapters out of the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament each day.
Here are five ways I enhance my Bible study time:
- Prayer. This is an absolute must in Bible study. Every time, before I read my Bible I pray for guidance and understanding. I ask God to open His truths and soften my heart to accept His wisdom with obedience and faith. Even as I read, if something troubles my heart or I don’t understand something, I pray for understanding – sometimes God answers right away, other times He shows me much later through another passage, person or sermon – He knows when you’re ready to learn and live something new.
- Know the context. Before you read a passage, make sure you know where it’s coming from – was it written before or after Christ came to Earth? Who was it written by? Whom was it written for? Why was it written? During the period it was written in, what else was happening in the world? Many Bibles provide this context in the introduction of each book or in the notes/index at the back. Other times, it helps to research it via the Internet or other study aids referenced above. For example, when I was reading Deuteronomy, I learned that it was written as Moses’ farewell speech before the tribes entered the Promised Land and wasn’t found until 621 B.C. in a temple during the reign of Josiah, sparking a great religious reform. It reviews God’s acts of salvation and focuses on how to make old traditions relevant for a new time. Knowing even this much background, I began to look at it differently – no longer was it a stuffy Old Testament book about people who have long been dead wandering the desert. Instead, it was a way to apply timeless lessons from God to my life today, in the 21st century. The historic events became a fascinating backdrop to beautiful words of promise from God that exist beyond time, traditions and cultures.
- Devour the word. Confession: Some days, I read the Bible just to check it off my list. I may highlight an interesting verse or two, maybe even learn something new, but I don’t truly grow in Christ in those moments. The times I learn most from reading Scriptures is when I read every word as if it’s God speaking directly to me – treasuring each word and phrase by re-reading passages, highlighting, making notes and above all mulling it over. Focus your entire attention on what you’re reading – put away the phone, computer, food and anything else that could possibly distract you. Find a place in your home and make it your reading nook – the place where your brain automatically knows that it’s God time.
- Take it all apart. Take Deuteronomy 18:9: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.” A short verse and it seems pretty straightforward, but when I read this, the Spirit urged me to stop and take it apart until I truly understood the meaning. First I started by looking up the word abomination in the dictionary to clarify the meaning and here is what I found: intense aversion or loathing; a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc.. First off, what a strong word – the definition practically oozes evil, this probably means that God is trying to say very strongly how much He dislikes something. But, let’s start at the beginning of the verse: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you…” In context of this book, this land is the promised land which was at the time inhabited by evil doers – there are several chapters before this one where God talks about the behavior of these people. But, I am obviously not entering the Promised Land right now, so who cares, right? Wrong. In these situations, I ask myself, “How can I apply this to my world today?” Well, I am an immigrant so that’s one new land I entered with it’s own customs and cultures. But, on a deeper level, I am a visitor on Earth, because the Bible says that we are mere guests here for a minute and gone the next and that our home is in Heaven, not on this planet. So, aren’t I then entering a new land, unlike my home with God? Most definitely! Next, God says, “you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.” Pay attention to that phrasing – you shall not learn to follow – Moses could have said do not follow, it’s much more straightforward and to the point. But he warns against learning, because if you think about it, it’s the root of all actions, habits and thoughts. Once you learn something, it’s very hard to un-learn it. I can easily follow a leader (pun intended!) and then stop if I need to. But, if I’ve learned to always follow the leader, it’s ingrained in me so much so that it would make it near impossible to go against my education. So, here, God warns against a deeper evil and the power of an intimate knowledge of sin. Finally, we’ve already learned the meaning of abomination, so putting it all together, we learn that today, we have to be careful not to learn the ways of this Earth, because God despises them. Powerful, right?
- Write it all down. I always keep my journal next to me to write down all the things God is teaching me that day, because most of the time, I may remember the lesson for a few days, but sooner or later it begins to fade. I love flipping through my notes and vividly remembering the moment God showed me something. Sometimes, I write it all out in great detail (mostly because it’s so amazing, I just can’t stop, I have to write it all out). Other times, I jot down bullet points, key words or even draw a sketch, whatever stands out to me most. Play around with this step to see what best works for you!
This sounds time-consuming, but it’s supposed to be that way! In Joshua 1:8, it is written:
“This Book of Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
We should be meditating on God’s word all the time – 24/7, 365 days a year. So, take it slow – read one chapter a day or even one verse a day and spend hours thinking and praying about it. It’s where you’ll discover the secrets of the most powerful King of Kings.
The Bible has everything you need to know and study neatly written in its pages – you don’t need a pastor, a study guide or even a Christian college education. Yes, they’re helpful, but focus on just reading the Bible every day with faith – pray for wisdom and let it all seep deep into your heart. Trust that God knows exactly what to teach you every day – it’s truly amazing.
How do YOU study the Bible?