Reader’s Question: Bible Study

I receive questions from readers and young people in my life. Here’s one I’ve heard frequently as we begin the new year: What’s the best way to study scripture? Do you read the Bible through every year? Do you focus on topics or just let it fall open to a new page each day?

Christians read, study, and memorize the Bible to KNOW God. Sure, scripture can add all kinds of perks to our lives—wisdom, peacefulness, love, guidance—but the purpose of reading scripture is to encounter a living God and grow in fellowship with Him. The why behind the what truly matters. It’s easy to lose sight of why we study God’s word (to know Him) and begin focusing on our effort (which can bring shame or pride based on performance) or knowledge acquisition (becoming puffed up full of facts about God but devoid of friendship with God). If the Bible is God’s love letters to us, and if scripture truly is the instruction manual to life with Him, it makes sense to read it every day, while also studying, memorizing, and meditating on it.

WHY we read the Bible: “For, though God is a great king, it is not his wish to live at a distance from his subjects.  Rather the reverse: He made us with the intention that he and we might walk together forever in a love relationship. But such a relationship can exist only when the parties involved know something of each other.” (P. 110 Knowing God by J.I. Packer) 

HOW do we study? Simple! Set aside some time every day to meet with God through scripture reading, reflection, and prayer. Once a week, create margin for a longer, more concentrated time with Him. Monthly, set aside an entire morning or afternoon to bring life into focus before God and His word. Then, take an annual retreat just you, God, the Bible, and a journal.  I call this retreat my “mountain moving” session as God works transformation in my life. This natural rhythm of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly encounters with God builds a beautiful history with Him. It is merely a guideline—not a burden or chore. Do we miss some days? Sure! There’s no performance rating though, because our goal is simply fellowship with God!

WHAT is the structure of our Bible reading? I’ve gone years where I participated in church groups that were doing “fill in the blank” types of studies or rehashing the pastor’s sermons each week. These have the potential to breed immaturity and a weak foundation. Here’s what I like to do: read through the entire Bible using a bible reading plan every other year. Many plans and apps guide one to read the entire Bible through in a year (see http://www.mcheyne.info for example). I personally only like to do this every other year. On the alternate years I like to read at a much slower pace, choosing specific books in the Bible to do a deep dive, or specific topics that I want to research in the Word. This alternate year schedule offers greater flexibility and more prayerful, Holy Spirit directed study. Hopefully, you own a Bible in either the NASB, NIV, or NKJV versions with cross-references included. Anytime you need help understanding a verse, just search it on BibleHub.com

When I became a Christian at 16, I memorized Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”  His Word has been the joy of my heart all these years. I hope you will experience God’s goodness and His speaking voice through scripture today! Go to www.MargaretAllen.org to learn more.