onelife7 asked: How do you know where or what to study in the Bible?
As much as I would like to say I have a process for studying the Bible, most of the time I just read without consulting anything else. Then again, I’ve had a few Bible classes in college and I read some books about Biblical history and culture, so I’m familiar with the general background behind most passages.
Normally, I work my way through a book over a couple weeks or months (especially if it’s longer) by reading a couple chapters a day. Usually I’ll pick a book that focuses on stuff I’ve thought about a lot or things I need to be reminded about in my life. On top of this reading, I tend to flip to Psalms, Proverbs, and a couple of letters (Ephesians, Philippians, and 1 John) when I need advice or encouragement. I like to call these books the “Greatest Hits” in my Bible because they always have something I need to hear and those letters were the first to fall out of the spine!
Looking back at what I have done in the past, here’s a few suggestions I have for organizing your study:
- Get a good study Bible or at least a Bible with introductions to each book. You’ll get the background you need without having to read a commentary or Biblical history book. As far as translations go, I’d say stick to NIV, NLT, or ESV. Those three have slight differences in wording, but any study Bible of those translations will have a lot of background.
- Find a book to guide your study. Even if its just a devotional, you’ll get reinforcement of what you read in Scripture and some interpretation. I stopped reading most of Rob Bell’s stuff years ago, but his book Jesus Wants To Save Christians remains of my favorite presentations of narrative theology (the “story” of the Bible).
- If you use Bell’s book, then start by reading the Pentateuch with it (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy). You can skip Numbers if you’d like or just glance through it, but the first three books are critical to understanding the historical development of Israel and setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament and New Testament.
- Find parallels between the Old and New Testaments and between books. For instance, much of the events in Exodus are paralleled in Acts (emphasizing a new covenant has been formed). In addition, the events of Luke and Acts are similar to highlight that the work of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit are the same.
- Write, highlight, and wear out that Bible! Write in the margins, highlight, journal, and do whatever you need to let the words you’re reading sink in and connect to your life. Find a time to read everyday and carry a Bible everywhere if you’re not sure you can find a consistent time. Like Charles Spurgeon said, “A worn out Bible is the sign of a person who is not.”
- Pray about what you’re reading and ask God to bless your time reading. Prepare yourself for reading with a prayer. Pick out what spoke to you most and thank God for it. Pray for the words you read to be reflected in your life. Pray, pray, and pray some more.
Thanks for the question! Hope this helps!
God has an odd sense of humor. He lets events transpire and people come into our lives, then allows them to fall away. He speaks and stays silent at the strangest times. As much as we try to hold on or take control, we just have to surrender. Because at the end of it all, God leads us to joy and the humor which seemed so odd leaves us laughing.
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