Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Practical Bible study tips

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Someone asked me recently how I manage to have a regular Bible study. She's wanted to and struggled to for years and still isn't quite making it happen. Of course, part of the answer is to simply sit down and do it, not concerning yourself with whether it's "correct" or not. But there is more to it than that.
1. Build it into your schedule. It doesn't matter what study tips you plan to follow or how eagerly you want to do it if there's no room in your schedule to make it happen. Start small (5-20 minutes) as it is better to squeeze 5 minutes every day into a busy schedule than to skip reading the Bible altogether because you don't have what you think is the ideal amount of time.
2. Keep your expectations reasonable. Everyone learning a new skill begins at the starting line. No one begins at the advanced level, or even at the intermediate level. Treat your Bible study as a new skill and allow yourself to stumble along the way.
3. Choose a single book in the Bible. When I was first trying out the new habit of studying Scripture, I was given instruction on how to do a topical study. That information is useful when you're struggling with a particular area of your life, but it's not really a daily tool for studying Scripture. To make Bible study a regular part of your routine, pick out one book that you will read from beginning to end. One of the Gospels or an Old Testament historical book (Jonah, Genesis) is useful if you want a short story to read through every day. One of the New Testament letters or OT prophets (Isaiah, Joel) might be helpful if you want to actually study (i.e. work at understanding) what the Bible says. Psalms is good if you want your study to lead you into worship.
4. Take your time. Read one small portion every day. One small selection in the Gospel, one short Psalm or part of a Psalm, 1-10 verses in a Letter. You don't have a deadline. This is a process, not a race to finish.
5. Begin with prayer. Ask the Lord to teach you one thing each day. It might be the same thing every day, for awhile. Really, the purpose of a Bible study is to give the Lord the opportunity to speak to you. So let Him. Let Him bring connections to mind between what you're reading and other passages in the Bible, or recent events, or last Sunday's church service. Pray first, then read, then ask what that passage means to you today.
6. Obey the little nudges. You asked the Lord to speak to you through your reading of His Word; now you'd better follow through and respond to what He said. Don't ignore Him. Some ways He has spoken to me: another Scripture citation came to mind, so I looked it up and read that passage. A verse or song came to mind that I had to google to find the citation so I could look it up. A suggestion that maybe I should end a little early today so I could serve someone in my family (ignore a suggestion to end a little early to eat that last piece of cake...That's not from God.). An idea for changing up my prayer time. A feeling of gratitude for blessings received from the Lord. The realization that I truly do have time to love someone in a particular way, if I just shorten my selfish free time (a little less tv, not so many books, giving up that unnecessary activity).
This is just the beginning, of course. After all, that's where everyone starts when learning a new skill. Give yourself permission to start at the beginning and grow slowly from there. If you're serious about wanting to study the Bible, are willing to spend a sizable chunk of time every day for a season to do so, and want more step-by-step instructions on how, I have found instruction in the inductive Bible study method by Kay Arthur to be helpful. She has written numerous books about studying the Bible spelling out how to use this one method of Bible study, for adults and children. Even if you use this method for only a month or two, it will probably deepen and transform your reading of Scripture for the rest of your life.
Linked with Encourage One Another Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Fellowship Friday, Modest Monday


  1. These are as practical as they are wise. I especially like the suggestion to pay attention to those nudges. We should always obey as we read!

    1. Thank you! Yes, we should always obey the nudges we receive from the Lord!