Most of us read the Bible like it’s a magazine, flipping it open randomly each day and finding a few good verses. If we were to be honest with ourselves we’d say that we were intimidated by all the information and by all the things that we did not know. Or maybe you have the common thought, “I’m not a Bible scholar, so how can I study the Bible in depth?” You may think that about the book of Ephesians or the book of Revelation but the Lord gave the Bible for the common hungry person. I am confident you can understand every book of the Bible given the right time, energy, focus and hunger. You have 20-50 years to study the Bible before your die and then billions of years to study the Bible after you die. Just think of all the books of the Bible you could have depth in by the time you are 50, 60 or 70.
Here are a few easy ways to feed yourself on the Word of God:
1. Make a Plan
Choose a small book of the Bible that you are interested in and want to study first. A smaller book will seem less overwhelming for your first time than a larger book. Map out how much time you want to study it each day of the week and put it in your schedule. Most people do not get this far, so doing this is foundational. Map out each step of the process like I have below. Keep going until you are done. Writings things down will be the best way to steward what God gives you and it will help you organize your thoughts. Give yourself a few weeks or even a few months to get through one book. You may go faster or you may go slower than you thought.
2. History and Context of the Book
Use the internet or any bible resource to read a little bit about the book of the Bible. Find out when it was written, who it was written to, who wrote it and the purpose of the book. This will help you in your verse by verse study.
4. Read it again and again
Read the book of the bible in one sitting. It may take you 30minutes to an hour but read it all the way through to get the flow of the book and to familiarize your heart with the content. Do this a few times a day or a few times over the first week. You can never exhaust this step of the process. The Spirit will show you themes and trains of thought as you continue to read the book in one sitting.
5. Outline the Book
Now that you have read the book a few times, get out a computer or notepad and outline the book. The purpose of this step is to help yourself see the flow of the biblical author’s thought. Your outline may change over the next days, weeks and years. Start general and notice the breaks in thought, breaks in the storyline or breaks in themes. These breaks will be every few paragraphs. Title those sections. Then go back through and notice smaller breaks within each larger thought, story or theme and title those. These breaks will be every few verses.
Make your own title for each large and small section in a way that describes the section.
6. Verse By Verse Study
Go verse by verse and type thoughts, questions and prayers onto your laptop or notepad. You may have questions on a verse that are answered in other parts of the Bible. Find those verses and write them in your notes. Questions are the sign of hunger. God speaks the most when you have questions. Write things down for every verse. Go verse by verse until your are done for the day. It’s best if you take your time going through each one. Don’t feel the need to get a number of verses done each day, just use your scheduled time.
Take time with each verse to ask the Holy Spirit to teach you things. Pray prayers from John 14-16, “Teach me things Holy Spirit. Lead me into the truths of these verses. Reveal the heart of God and the plans of God to my mind and heart. Strengthen me with these truths.”
The Bible verses exist so we can talk to God about them, not so we can study them outside of God.
7. Themes, Topics and Character Studies
You may find some interesting bunny trails during your studies. Some themes, topics or Bible characters may stick out to you and you are free to study those things whenever you would like to. You may want to write those interests down so you can look at them after you’ve finished all the verses of the book. Or you may want to follow your hunger and spend a couple days reading more about those things in the Bible and making notes on them. For example, you could study the life of Peter, his failures and his successes, when you study 1 Peter. That may change the way you look at the books he wrote. Themes may stick out to you in the section or in the book and you could write a few paragraphs about it in your studies. You may notice biblical topics that interest you like the resurrection of the dead or the grace of God……..
8. Teach it
Find a friend, small group or spouse and tell them about what you’ve been studying. You can do this in formal ways or informal coffee times. Speaking things out, processing and teaching people is one of the best ways to gain more understanding. You will find out that YOU are your favorite teacher. Lead a small group and study the book you are studying or have studied.