Someone recently asked me how I study the Bible, which isn’t normally something I think about, but rather just do. I thought it was a fascinating question and wanted to share my findings with all of you.
As I pondered this question and wrote down the different tools I use, I realized there are two key things that are foundational and interwoven throughout them all: The Purpose and Prayer.
Every time I approach the Bible the purpose is to know God more intimately and accurately. It’s not to acquire more knowledge, but rather, to know, understand, and fall more deeply in love with Jesus. If you lose sight of this purpose, Bible study can become a chore and drudgery, rather than the life giving, powerful, transformative and intimate experience it is supposed to be.
There was this one time I had all these things on my spiritual to-do list. Read this devotional, finish that Bible study, read the daily Bible plan, pray for 30 minutes… I was feeling overwhelmed by all the things I had to do. I felt God say to me, “Why are you doing all of these things Tesia?” I said, “To be with You, to encounter Your presence.” He said, “Then why don’t you just be with Me?” I stopped what I was doing, took my cup of coffee, and went and sat outside on the balcony. No Bible. No journal. Just me and Jesus. It was one of the most intimate times with the Lord, and one that has marked my walk with Him. It is always better to be in the presence of the Lord, to sit at His feet and glean from Him, than to “do” all the things you think are necessary in order to please Him. After all, we are human beings, not human doings.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:38-42
Some of the most intimate times between a husband and wife are not when they are around others, or busy doing things, but rather, just being in each other’s presence. Sitting and sharing hearts, holding each other close, being together. Some of the most intimate times I have had with Jesus are when I am sitting and waiting on Him. Desiring His presence above all else. It is in these quiet moments He can speak directly to my heart, be it conviction or comfort, and I receive from Him.
“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalms 46:10
Prayer is essential to Bible study. With all the different tools that I am going to present, the common thread is prayer. I pray before and during every single one of them. I pray for God to lead me and guide me. I pray for God to reveal everything that He wants to reveal to me. I pray for God to speak to me. I pray for God to open my eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to learn and receive all that He wants to teach me and show me; to open my mind to understand the Scriptures. The purpose of drawing near to God is at the forefront of my heart and mind. It’s why I study at all, to know Jesus better. To let Him change me and transform me.
There have been many times in my life I have thought if I just had more time I could study this or that topic out, and then I could know and be prepared. God told me once that if I had all the time in the world to study, I still wouldn’t know everything about God or the Bible. What I really need is for Him to lead me to what I need to know, when I need to know it. The information that is pertinent or relevant to my life now is so much more powerful than just Bible knowledge, because it can be applied. And application is essential for transformation, which is part of the purpose of Bible study.
Journaling has been a constant in my life since I came to Christ. It connects me to the heart of God and is something I do nearly daily, even if it is just a few sentences. I don’t know why, but I think there is something so romantic about putting a pen to paper. My journal entries are my love letters to God. It’s the place where I pour out my heart to Him. A place where I can be totally honest. A safe space for just me and Jesus. Handwriting is slower and takes time. As I write, I have to think about what I am actually trying to articulate. It also gives space for God to speak to me and answer my questions or wonderings while I am still writing. Often I will write something, put the pen down, sit, wait, and then write something more as I hear God speak to me. Or He will lead me to a passage of Scripture and I will write down one or two verses that are speaking to me.
Journal entries are a record. They are a powerful tool that God uses to remind me of His faithfulness and transformation in my life. Many times as I have leafed through old entries, I find myself praising God for what He has done. I see answered prayer, growth, and miraculous movements of God. I am reminded of lessons He once taught me that are still relevant today. My faith is bolstered, I am encouraged and even more in love with Jesus when I look back and see all the ways He has been working in my life.
A Journal is supposed to be your space. There is no right or wrong. Have freedom, get creative. Draw, write, make lists, write paragraphs, create word pictures. Use the pages however you feel led. Ultimately, their purpose is to be a place for you to pour out your heart and get to God.
A word study is topical. If God is trying to teach me something about a certain topic, I will look up the word first in the dictionary, then in the thesaurus, then Google “verses on/about ________.” I will look for a list of verses so I can get directly what God is saying in His word about the topic, rather than what God said to someone else. I will read through the verses and pick a few that really stand out to me. Sometimes I will read those in context to get a fuller picture. Often I see other common themes or patterns and I will go deeper into the study on those. For example, the first word I did this with was “heart.” I learned that the heart is the center of the personality, and the personality is part of identity. I ended up going into a deeper study on identity and finding our identity in Christ. The old creation and the new creation. It was extremely beneficial and foundational. The important thing is to let God guide you. I am always praying that God would lead me to the right resources and show me what He wants to show me. If I am really going in depth in the study I will read blog posts or watch Youtube videos at some point, but I always start with God’s word. I want to hear God speaking directly to me. And the reason I look the word up in the dictionary and thesaurus first is so that I can search for similar words pertaining to the same topic in the Bible.
A passage study is just that. Taking a passage of Scripture and studying it directly. A passage can range anywhere from three verses to a whole chapter. I find that I get the most out of it and can go more in depth when the passage is under 20 verses.
I will write down:
-WHAT stood out to me
-WHY it stood out to me
-Correlating verses that come to mind
-Any questions that come to mind. (For example from 1 Peter 1:1-9, “What does it mean to live with grace and peace multiplied to me or in abundance?” “What is stealing my joy and peace?”)
-Anything else I feel like writing down in the moment. Either reflection, summary, correlating scripture, anything at all really. As long as it is relevant.
I have a separate notebook specifically for more in depth study apart from my journal. I will do light Bible study in my journal, but that is more of a conversational notebook. Having a separate notebook for Bible study makes it easier for me to go back and reference, as well as to have a more studious mindset.
I like to read the passage in different translations. My favorite to study out of is the Amplified Classic (AMPC). It has cross references and explains the terms in more detail. At times it can feel like reading a dictionary, which I LOVE! Because I love words. But often, if I find myself unable to understand something in a passage, I’ll read it in the Amplified and it will explain my very question.
Common Places I Hang Out In The Bible
The Psalms, The Gospels, The Little Epistles, Revelation
I love the Psalms because they are poetic and written like prayers my heart can pray directly to God. Often what my heart wants to utter is expressed in the Psalms. I like that I can read any Psalm any day and have it speak to me.
I read the Gospels regularly because that’s where you’ll find Jesus. He is my Savior and I want to know Him intimately.
I often find myself in Ephesians through 2 Thessalonians. Those little epistles are rich in doctrine, edification, and encouragement. I especially love Philippians.
Other Tools I Use
Application is essential for transformation. The reason we study the Bible is to know God and be transformed by God. In order to not forget what God is teaching me, there are a few different tools I use to keep it at the forefront of my mind.
Cell Phone Background
I have an editing app called “Go Daddy Studio.” Often I will choose a verse or two that are speaking to me, or relevant to what I just studied, and make it the background on my phone. I look at my phone so many times in a day it is a constant reminder of truth, and hope of transformation.
Notecards Around My House
I will put up notecards with verses written on them around the common use places in my house; bathroom mirror, kitchen sink, refrigerator. Anywhere that I will see them multiple times a day. It also reinforces truth and reminds me of what God is teaching and showing me.
Listening To The Bible
It may sound simple, but once I discovered I could listen to the Bible it revolutionized my life. I listen while in the shower, doing the dishes, taking a walk, folding laundry, driving, falling asleep, or cooking. Feeding on the word of God during these activities gets it in me more than just sitting and studying. God has often brought something to remembrance that, at the time, I wasn’t totally paying attention to but I know I heard, and used it in the present moment.
List Of What God Is Teaching/Speaking To Me In My Phone
Kind of like a second journal, but more note taking style, I will jot down different things that God is teaching me or showing me. Often I see reoccurring patterns or themes. I have a folder in my notes and I will create a note for the week. I will write down brief thoughts of what God is teaching me. Sometimes there is only one thing in the week and sometimes there are multiple things on multiple days. Again, it helps me to look back over the week and see what God has done or what He is showing me. It also helps me to see the overarching themes or areas of my life God is teaching me about or growing me in. The act of writing it down helps me remember, and it serves as a tool that ushers in praise and thanksgiving as I look back on it.
Scripture Memory While Walking
The first longer passage of scripture I memorized was Psalm 34. I discovered memorizing while walking because I was doing a music fast, so I could no longer listen to music on my walks. During the fast I felt like God was saying I didn’t worship Him enough or know how to worship Him without music. The first verse of Psalm 34 is, “I will extol the Lord at all times, His praise will always be on my lips.” I thought it would be a good passage to memorize and meditate on. Memorizing that Psalm was actually fun for me and I found myself wanting to do more scripture memory. I find that memorizing while walking is an efficient use of time, makes the walk go by quickly, and is all around more enjoyable.
I have found that these are some things that work best for me. I enjoy Bible study. I am eager to open God’s word and spend intimate quality time with Jesus. I actually find myself in a place of lack if I don’t have it! Find what works best for you. Find something you like and is enjoyable for you. Study what is relevant to your life. Pick something that interests you and you want to go more in depth on. Find a quiet place, or pretty location. Then you will be drawn to study rather than forced to do it. Love and desire will drive you rather than discipline and duty.
I pray this blesses you and you find yourself digging into God’s Word in new ways and with renewed joy, hope, and eager anticipation!