*These notes come from a talk I gave at Women of the Word in Los Gatos, CA. This group studies scripture at a pace of around 8 chapters each week.
What is the purpose of all Bible study? Beyond gathering data and increasing knowledge, our purpose is to know Christ and be transformed by Him. In our reading and studying, whether it is for ten minutes or for hours, we start with a prayer like God I am coming to Your word because I want to know You. Please open my eyes to spiritual truth and open my heart to friendship with You. Let my life be transformed by what You say.
Here are a few suggestions to help our studying:
- Repetition is our friend. The more times we can simply read the assigned chapters, the better our insights and study will be. Merely reading and combing through the chapters will drop fruit in our lap. If time to study is limited, I recommend reading through the assigned chapters and then rereading the one or two chapters that seemed most significant. Reading and rereading a group of 6-8 chapters at a time greatly increases comprehension compared to a single look.
- Make it a habit. Quietly sitting down to pray, read, and commit our day to God every day, even if it is only 15 minutes is more effective than an hour cramming on Tuesday night before a Wednesday group meeting. Here’s a rhythm that I live by: spend time with God every day, once a week (usually the weekend for me) I spend a longer time studying, once a month I take a Saturday morning to myself to pray and study about the issues that have been simmering in my mind that month. This is a time to go deeper with God. Then, once a year I take a spiritual retreat for two full days where I am alone with my Bible and a notebook. I am there to worship and get down to business with God. The vision for parenting, for marriage, identity, life direction and so on have been established in these retreats.
- Ask good questions. Here are two possible ways to study: as we read the chapters, ask the questionswhat does this passage reveal about God? What does it reveal about people? What does this passage reveal about the interaction between God and people? Or, another direction to take is to follow the pattern of observation, interpretation, application. This means first reading the chapters almost like literature and making observations throughout. For ex, these words or phrases are repeated, or these phrases are in contrast with those. This passage sounds similar to previous ones or it points to future events etc. After all observations are noted, then take time to interpret what is the significance of these words being repeated, or contrasted. What does this passage mean? Finally, after observing the text and interpreting it, ask how it can be applied. Is there something we should DO in response to this chapter or anything to emulate?
- Fatter is better. I know we all like a thinline Bible to carry around but a big fat study Bible is nice to have! At minimum, get a Bible that has cross references (every page should list all the other verses that use the same or similar words). I adore the Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible compiled by Jack Hayford. It has helpful maps, charts, cross references, and commentary. With my large print version it is thick as a brick but absolutely beautiful and helpful! Online, Bible HUB is a wonderful resource. After studying scripture for myself, I like to read all the com (commentary) on Bible HUB for the passages I either didn’t understand or was drawn to. Using these tools of a study Bible and an online commentary provide yet another layer to our interaction with scripture and thus deepen our understanding.
I’ve never met a dynamic Christ-follower who wasn’t a student of the Word. Hear it spoken, read and study it, memorize key verses, meditate on it and apply it. When we do this, our experience in relationship with Christ grows even sweeter and our impact in the world deepens. May God bless you this week dear friends. My Monthly Mashup is coming next week with some of my favorite products yet!