Monday, January 20, 2014

Studying Up

We don't have exactly one way to study the Bible, and GOD doesn't point us in any one direction. HE does give us two important considerations:

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV): "For the word of GOD is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV): "All Scripture is GOD-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of GOD may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

In the stacks of Grandfather Francis' prayers, I found a neatly-typewritten note: "HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE." It offers several suggestions, although devoid of explanations:

Specific Methods of Bible Study-----

1. Bible Study of Bible Books

2. Bible Study of Bible Chapters

3. Bible Study of Bible Paragraphs

4. Bible Study of Minute Parts of Scripture

5. Bible Study of Bible Doctrine

6. Bible Study of Bible Biographies

7. Bible Study of Bible Prayers

8. Bible Study of Bible Miracles

9. Bible Study of Bible Parables

10. Bible Study of Bible Poetry

Method #1 is the way many people approach the Bible. It's what I use, because I try to read through the entire Bible in about 12-13 months time. A lot of people try to do it in a year, but don't rush yourself if you want to take longer. GOD doesn't give us a timeline or a deadline. I will advise you of three things that will make it easier. Remember, these are my opinions, not anything more:

1) Get a study Bible. I prefer the "Life Application Bible" series, which are available in several different translations. For new Christians, you may even find a Bible for teenagers is more relevant to where you are in your spiritual maturity.

2) Try different translations. A lot of people like NIV, which is easy to read. NASB is the most literal translation you can get, but a lot harder to read. A lot of people like "The Message" because it uses highly contemporary language and places Biblical locations in context with today's world. Paraphrase Bibles like the "Good News Bible" and "The Living Bible" can help if you're reading through a second time and want a fresh perspective. "The Book" which came out in the 1980's is also pretty easy to read.

3) Don't feel like you have to read from beginning to end. You can start wherever you want and end wherever you want. And let's face it, the books of Leviticus and Numbers can be quite a slog with all that Old Testament law. Some chapters are better for scholarly study than reading for learning how to live for GOD, so you may end up skimming them to get the general gist.

At the bottom of that typewritten page is an important takeaway:

The single most important part of Bible study, having taken care of the objective reading and study, is the personal application. Each time we read the Bible, a personal decision is called for, and the end of each time of Bible study should be a personal meeting with the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Or simply put, prayer.

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