How do you study the bible?
This is how I personally read the Bible:
I get in my booster chair, put on my bib that says “I’m Jacob, You’re Esau,” anoint myself with Crisco, wear some MMA headgear and 3D glasses, turn on Ride of the Valkyries, open to any place in the Bible using the ceiling fan, switch to that song from 2001 Space Odyssey, wait for the fire-dove of the Lord to rip through my ceiling (which should be happening weekly in your prayer meetings), and read out loud in a Welsh English accent until I pass out from epic Holy Spirit convulsions.
Actually, I think I will try that.
I know there’s a lot of pressure in reading the Bible, particularly:
– Make sure I’m reading it correctly with scholarly training
– Understand the history and context of ye ancient days
– Get the original Hebrew and Greek languages because … the pastor did it
– Shut off all distractions, turn off my cell phone and my baby
– Read with a genuine sincere honest spirit (but my pastor just said total depravity …?)
– Pray with an urgent fervent burning heart at all times
– Beg the Holy Spirit for revival and transformation and convulsions
– Apply to myself first before applying to that girl at work
– Beg for forgiveness that I didn’t follow this one about shaving my beard
– Trust God that He knows what He’s doing in this weird section about incest
– Read it only during the most active time of my day (which is never)
You know what though?
Just read it bro. I think the modern church has taught us we should all expect a face-melting confrontation with God every time we open The Holy Scriptures, but that sounds like that thing called legalism. While all these little rules could be helpful, just read the dang thing.
There are times — more than I’d like to admit — where I read the Bible and nothing much happens. I ask God to reveal Himself, but I get distracted, miss chunks of it, forget what I read, set it down and move on. I feel terribly guilty, as if maybe I don’t really have the Spirit indwelling in me or I’ve done something wrong or I didn’t confess all “secret sins.”
But I keep reading it almost everyday, as much as I can, even when I’m tired or busy. I highlight verses, I pause and think occasionally, without much emotion or grandeur. And you know: without even me really knowing it, the Scriptures are becoming a part of me. I remember passages I read weeks ago suddenly pop up and inform my decisions. Sometimes I don’t even recall the passage: I just know what God would have me do because I’m familiar with His Word. And I keep reading. I’ve read it three times now and you know: I get more and more excited to read it again. Stay with it.
This is, by the way, NOT some mystical magic spell to just read it and cross your fingers and hope for rain. This is our human frailty trying to comprehend a divinely scribed text from God which had to use broken human language so that our spiritual fractures would be filled, and while there have been amazing leaps of spiritual explosion where I get face-rocking epiphanies, other times it’s as ordinary as being patient one more day.
It’s as mundane as calling a friend and encouraging them. It’s as simple as thanking God for this beautiful day and for His wonderful Son. And like Matthew 7, I am building my house on rock so when the storms come, I can stand. If you’ve been digging into Scripture, you’ll surprise yourself with your biblical knowledge when the hard times roll.
Yes, get a good Study Bible. Get in some classes and a small group. Buy a decent commentary. Maybe a checklist. Learn some of the history, grammar, context, the overall arc. But just read it. Be thankful when your heart lights up and you fall to your knees and your eyes explode. But also be thankful for the still small voice of His Word that pushes you one more step towards Him.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. — 2 Corinthians 4:16
Also check out:
– The awesome podcast Ancient and New answers this question in Episode 4 Plus about devotionals.