Devotions and Study Materials are excellent tools that provide commentary to aid us in our study of God's Word. But sometimes we must place even the most insightful and intellectual of those guides on the nightstand and simply pick up the Word of God.
Now, I write with bias. Perhaps it's my age or plain stubbornness, but when I think about digging deep into His Word, I think about my big ole, leather bound book and not an electronic. There is comfort among the highlights, page markers, and ink. And while these treasures are also found on my app, I am so glad I have my grandmother's own leather bound Bible with me, with all her scribblings, underlines, notes and obituaries tucked in the pages and sharing tiny pieces of her. I'm glad she didn't have an app for that.
Perhaps one day, my grandchildren will cherish the bibles passed on to them and wonder why I underlined and highlighted all the passages on stress and anger.
I heard a statistic the other day that said that 40+ percent of Americans who claim Christianity as their religion have only read a few passages of the bible. This is alarming. But it is within our control to change because I suspect many people just don't know where to start. And if they do get a start, they begin to have more questions than answers.
But after we read the bible, enjoy its stories and glean lessons from its wisdom, we hunger for more. Not more outside of what the bible can teach us, but more of lies within. Consider these five approaches to deepening your study of The Holy Bible. If you have a journal, be sure and grab it - writing as you reflect and meditate on His Word can aid you in the future.
Before beginning any study of the scriptures, pray. Ask God to lead you in your study and not let you misinterpret or take out of context, any verse or chapter. Invite the Holy Spirit to your worship.
Inductive Method - Choose a verse or subset within a chapter to draw some conclusions.
a) Observe - who is the author (can usually be found in the introduction to the Book or, if a letter, the author will often identify themselves). Who is the intended audience? What was going on in the city, region or time period?
b) Interpret - how would you paraphrase this verse (without changing any of its meaning). What is the clothing and architecture of the time? Are there words within the text you do not understand? Look them up!
c) Application - What can you do differently as a result of what you learned?
Word for Word - Great for shorter verses or verses that seem over familiar to you. This method helps to bring fresh perspective to individual words. Take each word in the verse and write them, one at a time on the page. For each word, write down synonyms, feelings, symbolism, examples. Here is one example:
Breath - life giving, physical and spiritual connotations, the inhale and the exhale contribute to different necessary functions within the body and the earth, every living human does it, regardless of their beliefs, social upbringing, education, etc.
Chapter Summary - Read a chapter over and over. Praying over the chapter in between. Stick with the same chapter for a week or even two. Then ask:
a) What are the people doing in this chapter? Who is the protagonist? Antagonist? What are the people trying to accomplish?
b) What lesson are the people supposed to learn? Why are the not learning the lesson? What stands in their way?
c) Do you face these same challenges? How are your struggles similar or different?
d) What key verses do you want to highlight or memorize?
Concordance Method - Select a word or topic from the concordance and study every verse listed for it (or at least five of them). Then answer these questions:
a) What themes jump out at you? Are there universal connections in these verses?
b) What are the major differences?
c) Set a timer for five minutes. Close your eyes and pray for wisdom regarding these topic. Then be still and listen for another five. Journal what came to mind during your thoughts and quiet time.
Lectio Divina - Reading the Divine
a) Pray - Ask the holy spirit to be with you during your entire reading.
b) Read the passage a few times. Be repetitive - don't stop, just read it over and over.
c) Meditate - reflect on how this passage speaks to you.
d) Pray again - ask the holy spirit to keep you on track and not let your mind wander or to misinterpret the scriptures in any way.
e) Contemplate - Focus on Christ. Not on your feelings, but on who He is and our relationship with him.
f) Receive - Receive the peace of Jesus - not because it makes you feel good, but because you love him and accept the grace of our Father through the blood of Jesus. Let Jesus nourish your heart!
g) Respond - Surrender your will to his perfect will. Be intentional about getting rid of what stands in the way of you and your relationship with Christ. What are your confessions to him today? What steps specifically will you take to repent?
Whew! These methods have been around for ages and ages. The word of God is so precious and our love for Jesus can be shown in our study and love of it. I believe two of the most powerful verses in the bible are these: John 1:1-2 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (NKJV)
What a powerful invitation deepen our relationship with Christ through the Word. Will you join me?