Bible Study Tools for the New Year

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Reading the Bible can be hard—I even wrote a whole series on how hard it can be—but there are plenty of ways you can make it a little easier. Below are four ways you can address the specific desires you may have for your Bible reading:

If you’re wanting to get more reading done faster:

Start listening to the Bible on audio. If you’re spending your time driving to work listening to music or nothing at all, this should be a no-brainer. If you’re listening to a podcast, then the decision might be a little bit harder—but seeing as Serial, Season 3 isn’t coming out for a while, you should be all right.

There are several places you can find recordings to listen to, including the popular YouVersion Bible app. In addition to that, I’d recommend using the BibleGateway app since you can also pull up their website from your desktop. If you haven’t listened to the smoldering voice of Max McLean read the 10 Commandments to you on your way to work, you’ve been wasting your time.

If you’re wanting to commit your reading to memory:

Start writing it down. One of my favorite classes I ever took was Middle School Bible with Mr. Campbell. In that class, we had weekly quizzes where we had to write out an ever-growing portion of John 1, “In the beginning was the Word….” Each week, my class learned a little more of that beautiful passage, engraining it in our minds forever. And though that was over ten years ago, I can still recite over half of that chapter from heart.

If you choose to pursue this method, frequency is key. You have to constantly expose yourself to your chosen verses—preferably something lengthy—in order to brand it on your brain. This method also means that you won’t often be able to move on to other Scripture. You stay in one place until you’ve got it—and even then, you need to go back occasionally just to make sure you still have it. It’s quality over quantity.

If you’re wanting to better understand your readings:

Start reading with a commentary in your hand. This is something that a lot more people need to do and with higher quality commentaries. In fact, much of the quality of this exercise comes from the quality of commentary you use. Avoid the free ones you can find online or that come with devotional questions (though the latter can be useful at other times).

Unless you have some background in biblical studies, avoid the more advanced commentaries like Anchor Yale or Baker Exegetical; instead, look for a good middle ground commentary like the NIV Application series or World Biblical Commentaries. If it’s worth reading, you can probably find it at a university or church’s library.

If you’re wanting to grow more spiritually from your reading:

Start praying the words of Scripture. This has been a central practice throughout Christian history for the saints who have chosen to be shaped by the words of God. Praying the words of Scripture is nowhere else more central than in the practice of Lectio Divina.

The discipline of Lectio Divina, meaning “Divine Reading,” dates back in part to men like Origen, Ambrose, and Augustine and was formalized by the Carthusian monk Guigo II centuries later. However, the practice came into vogue around 1965, after the Second Vatican Council emphasized the fourfold practice for studying the Bible, not only by the monastics but also for the laity.

Lectio Divina, as mentioned, has four parts: reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. These stages have often been understood in terms of “feasting on the Word”one: first takes a bite (read), then chews on it (meditate), savors its essence (pray), and finally digests it and makes it a part of their body (contemplate).

 

I hope these practices are of some benefit to you, as many have been to me in the past. No matter one’s understanding of how to interpret the Bible, the Christian faith has always agreed that the Holy Scriptures are central to the human’s development as a child of God. Any way that we can encourage that growth will be blessed by the Father above.

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