Andrew Hughes | Category: Bible Study
A couple weeks ago, we highlighted a number of Bible reading plans that you could use for the coming year. In this post, I'd like to just offer a few different methods of reading and studying your Bible if you need a fresh approach to reading this year.
1. Read through the whole Bible.
If you've never read through the whole Bible, consider one these options. Whether you make it through in a year isn't important. You could just make a 2 or 3 year goal to cover the whole Bible. There may be parts of the Bible you've never read!
2. Read from a hymnal.
Wait. I thought this was about Bible study? It is! Grab an old hymnal and read through a song or two each time before reading your Bible. It can be a fresh, devotional way to wake yourself up mentally and spiritually. Songs and hymns that direct your mind to the Scripture can be an excellent source of Bible study and application themselves.
3. Read from a commentary.
Maybe you'd like to go deeper in the letter to the Philippians or you have no idea what Nahum is really about. Grab a good commentary and read along in your Bible study. Check out this website for a great listing of the top commentaries on each book of the Bible.
4. Listen to the Bible.
Maybe you also resolved to exercise more this year; so maybe listening to the Bible while you jog or walk would be a good way to use that time? Or maybe you just have a hard time reading because your eyes are bad or you get headaches quickly. Try listening to the Bible. There are many free audio Bibles available online, so just pull up Google and search away! The Bible App already has a number of their translations available in audio format as well.
5. Don't use a study Bible.
In college, one of the most useful exercises one of my professors made us do, as a class, was to put away commentaries and study Bible notes and just get out a plain Bible. We then had to read books of the Bible that might be challenging to interpret, like the book of Joel, and simply write down our observations and interpret the text on our own.
One of the dangers of a Study Bible is that it can short-circuit learning and critical thinking. What often happens is that immediately after we read a verse or section, before we've contemplated the passage (noting your questions and observations, connecting dots with other passages, wrestling with difficult verses and thoughts in the text) on our own, we quickly jump down to the notes to "see what it means." Now don't get me wrong. Notes are very helpful and can guide you when you're lost. But your study will be far more rewarding if you take the take to think through the text on your own. Don't rush. The conclusions you arrive at will then be something you own, not something owned by a "Bible scholar" in the footnotes. You might find out you didn't really need the notes because you were able to figure it out on your own. Or you might find that you disagree with the the notes. Either way, notes are there to help fill in gaps after you have done the homework and thinking yourself. So consider, grabbing that plain-jane Bible off the shelf and putting the Study Bible away this year.
6. Read from a devotional or prayer book.
A prayer book like The Valley of Vision or any devotional book can be a useful way to lead into Bible reading. Sometimes you just need your senses awakened (if you're reading in the morning) and a few pages of devotional thought or prayer can get your mind moving.
7. Don't pray first.
George Mueller recommended reading the Bible before praying because of the tendency of the mind wandering during prayer. He states the following: "The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, was to being to meditate on the Word of God; searching as it were, in every verse, to get a blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer." (The Autobiography of George Mueller)
8. Pray through the Psalms.
Don Whitney, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recommends praying through Scripture and specifically the Psalms as a way to re-invigorate your prayer life. Check out his resource on this topic here.
9. Start journaling.
You might see the word "journal" and think "teenage diary." But journaling can take many forms. You can certainly journal about the events of life, hardships and joys. But if you're not journaling at all, consider grabbing a notebook and pen and writing down a few observations each day you read your Bible. This can greatly facilitate learning and comprehension of what you are reading. Making yourself write something down, even if it's just a question on something you don't understand, will help make sure you are taking in what you are reading. While we don't need to be a Jonathan Edwards, we can learn from individuals like him who have written prolifically over history. Iain Murray states the following in his biography on Edwards: "He always read with pen in hand, his notebooks open to record extracts or references, or, more often, to put down his own thoughts." (Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography). So pick up a pen and try writing. You never know what type of blessing those notes might be to your family one day if they read them.
10. Use an unfamiliar translation.
A different translation is a great way to see the text from a new angle. I had been reading from the ESV for a number of years, so for the last year I have been reading from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. If you're feeling "used" to a translation, try out a different one for a little while for a fresh perspective on the text.
11. Read slowly.
If you like to read large sections at a time, ploughing through the Bible 5 times a year, consider slowing down this year and reading shorter sections, digging into a chapter or just a few verses and see what you might mine out!
12. Read widely.
If you like to read slowly and mine the text, consider backing out a little and reading large sections- multiple chapters at once or even entire books in one sitting. If you read too slowly or only slowly, you can "miss the forest for the trees" and get bogged down.
13. Read the Old Testament.
If you only read the New Testament because the Old Testament doesn't really make sense to you or you feel like it doesn't really apply to you at all, just read it anyway! Remember that the Old Testament is all pointing to the same Gospel and the same Jesus of the New Testament. And the better you can begin to grasp the Old Testament, the fuller your understanding of the New Testament will become. Along the way, consider checking out these two books by Gordon Fee to assist in better understanding how to read the whole Bible.
So, what are some other methods you have found useful to facilitate Bible reading and study? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear!
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