Five Keys To Studying the Bible Effectively
From an early age the Bible was an object of reverence for me. Growing up with a single mom we lived with my grandparents, her parents for a while. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a very devout Christian and helped start our local Nazarene church. I honestly cannot remember a time when He was not taking us to church.
I remember in their house they had that gigantic Holy Bible that sat on their coffee table for all to see. And Lord help you if you placed something on it. That was a big no-no and still is to this day with my mother. In the mornings if I were to wake up early I would find my grandmother and grandfather at the kitchen table, eating cream of wheat, a grapefruit and studying their Bible. Now, they didn’t have spreadsheets, or commentaries, or theological notes sprawled out everywhere. They read the Word and discussed it very simply. The pages of their war-torn King James Version Bible were frayed and marked and could be seen as tattered. Proof that their Bible had been used for what it was meant for.
I received my first Bible when I was eleven years old. It was a King James Version. And I still have it. But if you were to look at it today, it would almost seem brand new. No frayed pages, no real marks or signs of reading. At this point in my life, my mother had remarried and we had moved away from my grandparents. My dad’s family went to a United Church of Christ which was huge compared to my other grandparent’s church. We had Sunday School, during normal service, but it was mostly a five-minute lesson and then play time or craft time.
As I grew older I grew farther away from God. Not on purpose, more so because church wasn’t a constant nor was God put at the forefront in our everyday lives. My seventh grade year in Jr. High School I wanted to be on the basketball team so I went to tryouts. Every day I prayed to God to let me on the team. But, I was cut. I was so hurt that I asked for this and God didn’t make it happen that I turned away from God even more. The only time I attended a church or cracked a Bible was for Easter, Christmas or Mother’s Day. My sophomore year in high school I started hanging out with a few guys that claimed to be Christians and they invited me to go on Spring Break with them. I’ll skip giving you the details of the trip, but I came away with a new sense of Christianity. They explained to me that it was okay to make mistakes and that it was more than a religion. This was about a relationship with a kind and caring and loving Father. My mind was blown.
Even though I was baptized (sprinkled) when I was eight years old, one year after that trip, I made the decision to invite Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior and was baptized (dunked) on my own accord. I started attending church services with my friends and learned so much through attending church not only on Sunday, but Wednesday night as well as youth group outings. I learned more about the Bible and God in the three years of high school than I ever did throughout my years before this point.
After high school I decided to go into ministry and with that attended Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary, now Cincinnati Christian University. While in college I interned at a few churches, led a few small groups and eventually graduated with an Associates in Psychology and a Bachelor’s in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. I became a part time youth pastor at a few churches, led small groups and eventually became a full time youth pastor. Led more small groups and preached every once in a while.
Along the way I met Godlier people that guided me and pushed me to learn how to study the Bible more in-depth than ever before. They showed me different tools to use to help me understand what the Bible was really communicating. Over the years I have read many books on Bible Study or that break down what the author feels the Bible or a particular chapter or part of the Bible is saying.
Now, I have told you all of this to help you understand that studying the Bible is not an exact science. Everyone has their own way of doing so. Those who study the Bible are not without fault and are in no way perfect. But that are trying to engage in God's word on a regular basis. I am writing this blog to give you what I feel are the keys of how to study the Bible effectively.
Chose a Bible that is right for you. There are several different versions. Some will tell you that there are certain translations that are the true Word of God, for example; King James Version (KJV), New International Version-1984 edition (NIV), some are okay with the 2011 version. There is the New American Standard Bible (NASB), as well as the English Standard Version (ESV). There are so many translations of the Bible that it is hard to count how many. You need to choose which is best for you. For me it is the NASB. I have had many professors that used it during college. It’s relatively easy to read as well.
There are also chain reference Bibles, Study Bibles, wide-margin Bibles, and all kinds of other ones.I
myself have over 30 different translations or versions of the Bible.I like to compare and contrast.When traveling I take a smaller Bible with me.At home I use a Study Bible that has notes at the bottom of
every page that helps break down the scripture to help the reader understand more.It also provides
references to other scripture verses to point out where and when that particular scripture could be
found in other places in the Bible.
There are several Bible apps available for your phone, tablets, and your desktop too.Most of the apps out there provide different translations so you can essentially read the same verse several different ways.
2. Once you have chosen a Bible that is a good fit for you, decide how you would like to study the Bible. Some read the Bible from the beginning to the end. I personally don’t recommend this. It’s hard. I’m not saying that it’s not important to read the entire Bible. You should, however there are some parts
that are a little tedious to get through.
Some read about the main characters in the Bible. I won’t go into that right now, because I may have a different opinion as to who those characters are. And let me reiterate. By characters I mean real men and women that forged our belief system into what it is today. Not some made up person to
manipulate the reader.
Others read or go through the Bible by topic. Love, Laws of the Old Testament, what is Sin,
Forgiveness and so on. This is where I would start. In the back of most Bibles is a list of different
topics called a Concordance. Here you can look up a topic and it will tell you the name of the book it is located in as well as the chapter and verse.
There is no rule stating you have to stick to one way or another. It’s just good to have a plan.
3. You have decided how you are going to study. Let’s talk about some tools that will help you with your study time. There are commentaries, maps, charts, dvds, books and of course other group Bible
studies that you can become a part of. Of course you can always confide in your pastor or take
classes at your local Christian College to gain more knowledge.
4. So you have determined what type of Bible you are going to use, you know the path of study you are
going to take, you have the tools to help you learn more and help with understanding. What now?
How much time are you going to devote to your study? Start small. Give yourself at least 10 minutes. As you grow, feel free to expand your time with God. It’ll be awesome!
5. The last key to having an effective Bible study is doing it! Start. Don’t wait for a particular day. Now, as you go through your study write down what you are learning. Keep a journal. Your purpose for
studying the Bible is not to just observe what you are reading, knowing the who, what, when, where,
why, and how, but to interpret it and apply it to your every day life. Write down questions and follow up with them. Go to your commentary or your pastor and get the answers to questions. More
importantly when you have finished your study for the day go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to
help you apply what you have read and learned during your study time to your life.
Don’t get discouraged!There will be days you don’t feel like doing your study.Or maybe you wake up late and aren’t able to complete your study that day. Even though we don’t have the promise of
tomorrow, it is more than likely that tomorrow will come, so you can always pick up where you left
off. Also, you will go through seasons of forgetting or just not doing your study.Life happens and you are only human.Take a breath.Say a prayer to the Lord to help you get back up on the horse and start your study again.
Here is a side note. As I mentioned before there are a few Bible apps/ websites out there to help with your studying. The two that I would recommend most and that I know have apps for your phone are www.biblegateway.com and www.bible.com (You Version). Both have devotional and reading plans that you can partake in. I use You Version and I have it set up to email me every day at a specific time to remind me to take part in my reading plan and devotions.
I hope these five steps have helped you in your quest to start studying the Bible. Whether you are starting a study for the first time or getting back to it I pray that you would open your mind and heart to what the Lord would like to reveal to you during your study time. Listen and be open to His Word.