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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Steps to Effective Bible Study (Part 1)

In review of Psalm 119:18 it says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

Bottom Line:
Open my eyes that I may discover the wonderful truths in your Word.

What this means to me:
I ask God to keep my mind open so that I can discover the wonderful truths that are revealed in his word.

Any study of God’s word requires not just reading it, but putting it into practice. Be even this requires a willingness to get into studying the Word in the first place. Today’s verse says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18 ESV).

God has much he wants to show me, but I must be willing to look into his Word with open eyes and mind. What I’m learning is that effective Bible study, has five parts. The first two are:

1. Ask the right questions. Learning to study the Bible is learning to ask good questions from the text. There’s no limit to how many questions that can be asked of the Bible, because there’s no limit to its wisdom and insight. The deeper I can dig, the more gold I’m likely to find. Asking questions of the text while I’m reading helps me to look at the text through a whole new set of eyes. In this manner, every time I pick up God’s Word to study it, new truths will jump out.

2. Write down my observations. I should never study the Bible without pen and paper in hand (or in my case keyboard). When I ask questions and find answers, I am to write down what I learn. I can read the Bible without writing something down, but I can’t study it.

Dawson Trotman, who was the founder of the Navigators ministry, used to say, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” In other words, if you can’t say it and you can’t write it, then you haven’t really thought about it. Even if you don’t see anything in the verse, the suggestion is to just write down that you don’t see anything. Often the act of writing that down alone will potentially open up new thoughts.

Location, method and what I do with it is also important. When it comes time to my actual study part of my quiet time, I have chosen to do it at a Starbucks near my office. I enjoy my first cup of coffee and enter into my study. This can be a bit distracting, especially if it’s really busy, but for the most part I’m able to focus and enjoy my time. I’m often able to get answers by looking at different translations or studying notes from other trusted individuals. At times I’ll even take some difficult ones to close friends or my pastor. I’ve been in the habit of posting my quiet time insights into my personal blog. This is more for me to easily search my notes/comments from any place that has Internet access. I can also point others to specific web links. In addition, I’ve been able to share my insights in any one-on-one sessions or group meetings with others. For my quiet times, I use a combination of devotionals from Rick Warren’s “Daily Hope” (for the daily verses), (so that I can look at multiple translations simultaneously), Youversion for individual verses and google docs / blogger for recording my insights.