This post was inspired by the “How To Study Your Bible” series here. I love it:)
It took years for me to find a satisfying, maturing Bible study system.
I began my current venture by reading a chapter, praying, and then starting or ending the day—which was a good start, but it wasn’t long before I was hungering for some deeper quality time with my Father in heaven.
Then I added a devotional to my routine. It was a one-year, page-a-day type devotional called Evenings with Tozer, found amongst a sea of books in a local thrift store. I’m still going through it now and am loving every minute of this theologian’s insight. But I still wanted something more, even though my time was precious.
I think what really redefined my personal Bible study was a simple blank journal my grandmother gave me a few months ago. If there’s anything I absolutely despise, it’s a blank journal…mainly because I keep them blank too long. But this gift inspired me to change that. I’d always been looking for some way, some mode to communicate with and gain wisdom from my Creator that would satisfy my demands for depth and time. This seemed like it would help, and it did.
Below is the journaling method I’ve developed for my personal Bible study. Though it has its flaws, I’ve found it to be highly adaptable, fulfilling, and challenging to my spiritual growth. I hope more than ever that, if you are looking for a way to know your Savior more intimately, this post will aid you on your journey.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” ~Hebrews 4:12, NKJV
Reading the Scriptures
This first part of Bible study should be the one to which we give the most time: actually reading what God has to say. Usually I read one chapter at a time—I’ve found that system to have a good balance of quality and quantity—but the journaling method I employ can work for any length of Scripture study.
- Prayer | I don’t usually write my prayers, but communion with God in this manner is simply integral to the time you spend with the heavenly Father. Either I do not acknowledge my dependence on Him and try to study on my own or I bow in humility and lean on Him for guidance throughout my study. In my experience, a Bible study permeated by prayer always bears the most fruit.
- Main Happenings | Under “Main Happenings,” I write down what is going on in the chapter. Some Bibles have headings for each new section of Scripture within the chapter; I like to write these down so I can remember the context in which the words were written.
- Key Passages | Under “Key Passages,” I write the references for the verses that stick out to me, either because they summarize the chapter’s content, teach me something new, or remind me of something I’d forgotten. It also helps to underline these verses as you read.
- Meditations | Underneath the references in “Key Passages,” I write what God speaks to my heart as I read the chapter. When I begin with prayer, I usually have a lot to write in this part. Sometimes, though, if I want to “dig deeper,” I like reading David Guzik’s study guides on the Blue Letter Bible app. Jon Courson is another excellent commentator to reference.
Here’s a brief example from my journal of what this method looks like, without the stuff I copied down from David Guzik (note that the “Main Happenings” are the headers in my study Bible):
Esther 6 | Open Bible (in NASB)
Main Happenings: –The King Plans to Honor Mordecai –Human Must Honor Mordecai
Key Passages: Esther 6:6, 12-13
- We are not unlike Haman. Our first reaction, whenever asked a question, always stems from a selfish mindset. We always think of ourselves first.
- Mordecai’s reaction to the honor is exemplary—he simply resumes his daily life, humbly, as if nothing had happened. Haman’s pride, however, gave him an extreme reaction to the embarrassing irony he’d experienced.
- In verse 13, Zeresh and the wise men unknowingly foreshadow the conclusion of Esther, almost similar to what Caiaphas did in John 11:45-53 .
Understanding the Scriptures
After I read and study a chapter of Scripture, I like to read a devotional for a bit. Looking back at others’ insight into Scripture helps me to see the Word from a broader, more mature perspective. Nevertheless, if you’d like to go this route, I’d suggest you exercise caution.
If you’ve ever spent much time at the Christian bookstore, you know that some devotionals are much more sound and God-focused than others (here’s an excellent article on that and Christian books in general). Having said that, before you buy a devotional, please do some research on the author and what he or she has previously written. These can be a great help, but they can also be a great spiritual hindrance if unwisely purchased. Below are some devotionals that I believe are sound and beneficial to the Christian walk:
- Mornings/Evenings with Tozer by A.W. Tozer
- Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon
- Grace for Today by John MacArthur
- Focusing on God: 31 Days of God’s Glory and Grace by Frank Hamrick
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
Applying the Scriptures
After I read my devotions, I like to pray again, thanking God for His guidance. Bible study is always the most important, most fulfilling part of my day, and it’s in no measure due to the credit of whatever intelligence or spiritual maturity I have. Always, always, always take the time to credit God, and you won’t go wrong in sharing His message.
I’d also encourage you to pray for God to guide you continually. Do not just rely on the words you read that morning—you won’t remember it all, anyway. You will have grown in the best way possible, of course, but it’s also imperative that you pray for God to bring His words to your mind throughout the day. Converse with Him. Show Him that you’re reading the Bible to know His glory and not to know your own. Then set out to follow in His footsteps.
Though it will be hard, it will be worth it—and you can do it.
March 10, 2018
P.S. I’ve heard of many Bible study methods in my life, so though I have not plagiarized anything to my knowledge, please consider that others may have similar ideas.