Here I’ve set out 10 ways to get more out of the Bible. I’ve gleaned these from personal experience as well as older and wiser Christians. While I’m still struggling, these tips have helped me learn more from the scriptures, rather than glazing over or forgetting what I’ve “studied” ten minutes after closing the book.
- Dedicate to Daily Study: Reading scripture has to be a priority and a habit, or it will inevitably slip down the to-do list. Yesterday I made phone calls, played around with my new Nexus 7, exercised, and then remembered my morning devotions at about 3:30 PM. When I finally plopped down with my Bible I felt burned out. If I just think it would be nice to read some scripture, that won't be enough. I've got to make a concrete resolution, set myself a goal, and then strive to meet it. The daily discipline of getting out a devotional book, writing notes, and spending a few minutes in prayer has been good for me. It would help if I could always do it at the same time of day—but I’m working on that.
- Get God’s Word Firsthand: It can be unwise—or downright dangerous—to delve into books about the Bible without a firm grounding in the Bible itself. Who knows what you're being spoon-fed if you haven't studied the real, unfiltered thing? Sure, it's easier to take someone else's word for it, but Paul praised the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” If you haven’t yet read the Bible through in its entirety, I would encourage you to do so now. I highly recommend reading through the Bible in a year.
- Devotions and Commentaries: On the flipside of #2, giants of the faith have so much to offer us. Reading works by Elizabeth Elliot, C.S. Lewis, James Dobson, Eric and Leslie Ludy, Ravi Zacharias, Max Lucado and many others can revolutionize your perspective on verses you’ve been reading your whole life! Lately I've been loving The Indwelling Life of Christ by Major W. Ian Thomas.
- Feed Constantly: Sometimes it takes an inundation of scripture to break through the absorbing chaos of everyday life. If you fill your day with spiritual books, newsletters, blogs (like this one!), films, and music, you’ll find yourself digging deeper than you’d ever dreamed. This also gives you the benefit of other perspectives. For example, I'm from conservative background but I regularly listen to podcasts from a more charismatic church. Seeing scripture from another perspective has expanded my spiritual horizons, and drawn me closer to the Lord.
- Write It Down: For tactile learners and writers, this could make a huge difference in your Bible study. Take notes during sermons, keep a scripture journal where you can record insights, or write notes in the margins (I love the freedom of my wide margin Bible, where I have room to scribble down thoughts right beside the verses).
- Try Bite-Size: Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a habit of concentrating on small doses of scripture. He gave his seminary students 12 verses to study for six days, half an hour a day. They weren’t allowed to use commentaries or read the verses in their original languages. The point was to deal with the scripture as if it were God’s words spoken directly to them. I have studied a single verse for 15 minutes, taking notes along the way, and found it surprisingly rewarding. Maybe you just take five or ten minutes, but try it out and see what you discover.
- Know Your Roots: Learning the definition of biblical words in their original language could change how you see them forever. A free resource like Strong's Concordance can reveal amazing facets in the simplest Greek and Hebrew words. You might also get a book about life in Bible times, to better understand parables, illustrations, and cultural oddities. Why were city gates significant? What was unique about the cedars of Lebanon? My NIV Quest Study Bible has answered many an itching question.
- Partner With Others: The Christian walk really is about relationships. If you have some likeminded friends, family, or church members, you might consider joining or creating a group Bible study. I’ve found that sometimes my deepest fears and questions are cleared up just by talking them out with someone else.
- Memorize It: By internalizing God's Word to the level of memorization, we’re able to whip it out when we need it most. Mary Kate has given some great suggestions in her post, "5 Ways to Memorize Scripture."
I know that there are many, many more techniques.
How do you get the most out of your Bible study?