I've had several ladies ask me lately "how do I study the Bible?"; "how do I dig deeper into the Word on my own?" I can't even begin to tell you how much it thrills my soul to see women with a hunger and desire to dig deeper into God's Word on their own. Why? Because it was and still is His Word that transforms my life daily.
There are many different ways, plans, and/or methods that can be used as guide as you begin studying God's Word on your own. Some, I think, are better than others, but all are meant to be used as a GUIDE. As you study God's Word it's so very important that you allow Him to be your main guide and teacher.
Today, I'd like to share with you what I have found through the years that works best for me. I have taken ideas and formats from many different sources and put them together to use as my own personal "Bible Study Guide."
Before we begin I do want to say that I believe Bible Study and Quiet Time to be two totally different things. Quiet time for me, is a more intimate, personal, relational time with the Lord. This is a time for me to meditate upon Scripture, pray, and journal. During my quiet time I may use a devotion book like Daily Light or a Bible reading plan. Although my quiet times may last for an extended amount of time, I'm not digging in commentaries, lexicons, books, or dictionaries; I'm simply sitting at the foot of the cross allowing the Lord to speak to my heart. For more on how to have a "Quiet Time" click here.
What does it mean to do "Bible study"? Webster's dictionary defines "study" in the following way: to engage in study; to undertake formal study of a subject; to read in detail especially with the intention of learning; to consider attentively or in detail. When you and I approach Bible study we are to do so with the mindset and heart set of literally engaging the very details of God's Word with the intended purpose of learning more about who He is and how we are to live are lives. Bible study is an in depth, fact finding research of God's Word.
In beginning a personal Bible study I first pray asking the Lord to show me what it is He wants me to study through- a particular book of the Bible, a certain passage of Scripture, a particular character, an area in my life where I seem to be struggling, etc. Sometimes I very quickly receive direction from Him, other times it may take several days, maybe even weeks; no matter how long it takes, it is important to seek His direction for your study.
Once I have clear direction from the Lord I begin gathering the tools I will need to dig deeper into His Word. Some of my very favorite tools are:
~John MacArthur Study Bible
~Expositor's Bible Commentaries
~Bible Knowledge Commentaries
~Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
~Holman Bible Dictionary
~The Complete Word Study Old Testament and New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates
And of course you will need a notebook, pens and highlighters, and index cards.
There are many other dictionaries, commentaries, and books that I use; above are just a few of my favorites. You don't have to buy all these books if you don't want to; many of them can be found online for free. I have downloaded E-Sword onto my computer. This program has many different components- most are free, others have a very minimal charge compared to what you would pay at a bookstore. I highly recommend it!
Now, to dig in. Because I have recently studied through the book of James, I will use it as our example of how I dig deeper into the Word.
The book of James is made up of five chapters. There is no way you could study through five chapters all at the same time so what do you do? You go chapter by chapter. When you look at each chapter, you'll notice they contain fifteen or more verses. Should you try to tackle all the verses in one day? For me, I accomplish more if I break down each chapter into sections. How do I do that you ask? Most Bibles have sub-headings throughout each chapter; use this verse breakdown as your guide. I have broken James chapter 1 down into three sections: James 1:1-12; James 1:13-18; James 1:19-27.
Today, I'm going to stop here. I've given you a lot and I want you to have time to take it all in. I pray that the information I have shared thus far is clear and understandable to you. Keep in mind, as you study you will develop your own style and method. Please don't let this overwhelm you. I encourage you to begin by taking baby steps. With each step you take you WILL go farther and deeper into God's Word. Tomorrow I'll share with you step by step what I have done with James 1:1-12. Until then, start now praying about what God would have you study.