Bible study should not be a dry and boring exercise. Connecting vitally with the Word leads to a vital connection with God, and our Father wants to powerfully speak to you as you engage with His Word.
Here are six simple keys to connect with the Bible during your study times.
NUMBER 1: Mark your Bible!
Ask questions of the scripture, Dig until you find answers. Place a demand on the Holy Ghost in His role as Teacher, knowing that it the hungry who are fed, and those who seek that experience the joy of finding! The lazy and flippant lose even that which they have;
Underline, highlight, use different colours for different themes to make your searches easier. Don’t be afraid to mark your Bible in meaningful ways. Create your own cross-references in the spaces between verses.
Connect related scriptures and ideas, even across pages. In this way you begin to engage with the text, and, dare I say, begin to develop a ‘personal relationship’, not just a distant admiration or polite acceptance!
And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away [by force],”Mark 4:24-25 AMPLIFIED
Be vigorous. Take your place as a king and priest in God’s Kingdom.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”Proverbs 25:2 NKJV
2. Look it up, Speak it out, Write it down!
This key is one that has probably helped me more than any other. It helps you to retain scriptures, it helps you to negotiate your Bible with ease and skill, it engages the mind with what is being studied, it commands the body to concentrate on what the spirit is focused on.
These are great ways to store the Word in your mind and heart for future use. You must make scripture your own. As long as it stays as ‘someone else’s revelation’, when the pressure comes on, it won’t be firmly rooted in your own heart for the Holy Ghost to retrieve and give you as the weapon to overcome. The Holy Spirit can only ‘bring to remembrance’ those things that you have put there to retrieve.
One time I spent several months studying some of Kenneth Hagin’s material. Hagin taught ‘faith’ for many, many years. If you do know him, you will not be surprised to hear that most of my study was based around the scripture found in Mark chapter 11, verses 22-24;
Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”Mark 11:22-24
I studied a small portion of Dr Hagin’s books every day, alongside other texts. During those months I must have looked up, spoken out and written down that scripture hundreds of times! The temptation was always there to say or think, “I know that”, but friend, until the mountain moves, and I get all those whatsoevers I am desiring and praying for every time, it is obvious that I do not know that scripture in its fulness!
Obviously, writing out in full every scripture that we come across is not realistic, but in certain circumstances, and during our set study times, it provides an excellent and simple avenue for God’s Word to find root in our thinking. Try it.
3. Refer to Different Versions of the Bible
As you probably know, there are many different translations of the Bible available. Sometimes this can prove a little confusing. Which one is the best? Why do we need so many? They range from freely rendered paraphrases like Eugene Peterson’s ‘The Message’ to the literally translated 16th Century classic, the King James Version, or the more modern New International Version.
In Bible translation there are basically two schools of thought:
- Translation – taken directly from the actual words of the original documents.
- Paraphrase – The texts are taken broadly, idea by idea, and presented in easy to understand language. These do not always remain accurate to the original language texts.
Translation Methodology also falls into two main categories.
“Verbal or ‘Literal’ Equivalency”
Literal word for word translations (Example: King James Version, New American Standard)
Involves some degree of interpretation, where the translator tries to present what he thinks the writer is trying to tell us, whilst aiming to stay true to the original text. A cornerstone of dynamic equivalency is its goal of translating ideas rather than words.
This methodology has become by far the most popular in recent decades. In English, popular dynamic equivalency versions include the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and The New Testament in Modern English by J B Phillips.
Some contend that dynamic equivalency can divert the meaning of scripture, because it involves the attempts of fallible men to interpret what they consider to be the meaning of any given passage.
Dr Ryken, in “The Word of God in English”, points out: “if it is possible to translate more accurately by abandoning the words of the original for its ideas, why do the dynamic equivalent translations end up in such disagreement with each other?.”
Supporters of dynamic equivalency, however, point out its ability to provide the modern reader with a clearer understanding of what otherwise may remain obscure and incomprehensible. It is indeed true that the New Testament in particular was not written as an intellectual or exalted form of literature, but very much in the common language of those to whom it was addressed.
Dynamic equivalence is not a paraphrase. Dynamic equivalence applies to individual words or phrases, not whole sentences and paragraphs as in a paraphrase.
A paraphrase goes beyond just taking certain words and translating them dynamically, to taking entire thoughts and paragraphs into modern language. Popular paraphrases include Today’s English Version (Good News for Modern Man), the Living Bible, the Contemporary English Version, and The Message.
Paraphrased Bibles cannot be used for serious Bible Study because they do not maintain textual accuracy, and therefore cannot be relied upon to be entirely trustworthy in their interpretations. Their limited use for personal reading and edification, and to enhance study of accepted translations, can be helpful however.
Serious Bible students should have at least one good translation as an integral part of their Bible studies. A translation is more trustworthy than a paraphrase if you are looking to grasp the original words of the men who penned the scriptures. We would recommend either the King James, New King James, or New American Standard as some of the most accurate. Certain flaws in dynamic equivalency make other popular texts such as the NIV and NLT less dependable.
It is a good idea to have several different translations and paraphrases in your library, so you can enjoy the rich resource that they offer to any serious researcher. Many Bible software programs offer an extensive library of different versions and translations, and provide an easy route to quickly compare them with one another.
A Simple Study Method
A great method of study, particularly verse-by-verse study, is to simply look up the same scriptures in different versions of the Bible.
This is so easy and very rewarding, and the best thing is that you don’t have to be a professor to do it! Often something as simple as this is all it takes to open our mind to new revelation as each version can shed a different light on familiar scriptures.
Examples of drawing riches from different Bible Translations
Example 1: 2 Timothy 4:2 using the KJV and the Amplified
The King James translates 2 Timothy 4:2 this way:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”King James Version
Now, if you own an Amplified Bible, turn to the same scripture. The beginning of that scripture in Timothy is translated: “Herald and preach the Word!”
Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.”AMPLIFIED BIBLE
Instead of simply saying ‘preach’, the Amplified urges us also to ‘Herald!’. Herald who? As the Amplified makes clear with its capitalizing of the word ‘Word’, we are to herald ‘The Word’ Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ!
The word ‘herald’ in the Oxford English dictionary includes these two ideas, among others:
“…To proclaim the approach of …To usher in.”
Can you follow how exciting this method of study can be? Using only two versions of the Bible and an English dictionary, we have gone from the merely ‘preaching the word’ to acting as a forerunner, announcing the immanent approach of the Lord Jesus Christ. And not only does our preaching herald His return, it also ‘ushers in’ His presence here and now! Surely this is the purpose of preaching!
Example 2: Colossians 3:1-2 using the NKJV and the NLT
Turn in your Bible to Colossians 3:1-2. The NKJV renders it:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”New King James Version
Now look at the same paragraph in the popular New Living Translation:
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.” (emphasis added)New Living Translation
Isn’t that beautiful?
“Let heaven fill your thoughts”
“Set your sights on the realities of heaven.”
I love that! This kind of discovery in the Word makes me want to jump and shout, “Hallelujah!”, right there in my study. In fact, that is exactly what I do. I have a Holy Ghost party right there as I spend time with God in His Word.
After all, if people go to a feast, there is usually a great deal of drinking, dancing and shouting goes on. Why should it be any different at God’s banqueting table?
A word of warning
We must be careful not to build elaborate doctrines based on a particular rendering or translation of a portion of scripture. Always allow scripture to interpret scripture, and remember, only the original Hebrew and Greek texts are the actual words that God inspired His prophets to record. We must be careful not to deify a particular English translation, remembering that every translation, however good, by its very nature, will contain some discrepancies and mistranslations.
4. Faith Comes By Hearing
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”Romans 10:17
It is interesting to note that faith does not come by the Word of God, rather ‘hearing’ does. Faith comes when we hear the Living Word, the Lord Jesus, speak by the Holy Spirit to our spirit. Our time in the Word tunes our ear to hear His voice, excluding the multitude of other voices scrabbling for our attention. Through the written ‘logos’ (word) we sensitise our hearts to hear the Living ‘Logos’ (Word), Jesus Christ. John chapter 1 makes it clear Who the Living Word is. (John 1:1-3)
Take a few minutes to consider different ways that we can open opportunities to ‘hear’ God’s Word.
“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”Psalms 119:130 NKJV
What are some ways you can give entrance to the Word (ie: “hear” the Word)?
Suggestions: Read the scriptures aloud, listen to the scriptures or preaching/teaching on CD, take opportunities to discuss the scriptures with friends, listen to the scriptures on CD as you sleep, listen to CD’s as you travel in the car, carry a pocket Bible with you and grab opportune moments to read portions…
Related to this key is the whole process of meditation on the Word.
The Hebrew word for meditate means “to turn-over in the mind, to mutter, to imagine, pondering the meaning of.”
It includes the following ideas: “to ponder, i.e. (by implication) converse (with oneself, and hence, aloud) or (transitively) utter:—commune, complain, meditate, muse, pray, speak, talk (with).” [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance]
One way that I have made meditation in scripture a part of my daily life is to stick a short scripture to my computer monitor at work. I then read it quietly over and again throughout the day, attempting to memorise it and draw from it it’s fullest meaning.
This practice allows God to ‘paint’ a picture of the truth you are pondering on the canvas of your imagination. You see yourself living it! Look through the gospels and see how many times Jesus begins His teaching with the word, “Behold”. What does “behold” mean? It means “Look at this!”, “See this with the eye of faith!”, “Use your imagination and picture what I am saying!”
Someone once wrote,
It’s like a cow bringing the same food back up and chewing it again and again until all the juice is squeezed out of it.
Larry Kreider, in his brilliant series Biblical Foundations (‘The New Way of Living’ ) says this concerning Biblical meditation:
“There is a big difference between the meditation practiced by Hindu gurus, and meditating on the Word of God. Various cults instruct their followers to empty their minds and meditate. This opens them up to demon spirits. The Scriptures encourage us to fill our minds with (meditate on) the Word of God! As we do so, the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God in our minds and we are changed. The Word become a vital part of our lives.”
5. Provide focus for your study
It is important that we provide purposeful direction to our studies. It is not only our spirit that feeds, but our mind must also derive satisfaction from our times of fellowship with God and His Word. One way to encourage this is to create a mental framework through which we consider what we are reading.
These can include:
- Specific topical studies along a certain line
- Asking definite questions of what we are reading
- Look for common themes, things that are similarities and contrasts, repetitions, specific promises and commands
- Focusing our studies in areas that are relevant to our present situation, or in areas that God is specifically talking to us about at a given time.
- Create an environment conducive to learning
i. Specific Topical focus
We will take the book of Proverbs as our example. Let’s say that you have determined to read through the entire book of Proverbs. To maximise your reading however, try something like this;
- Read through Proverbs underlining every scripture that applies to wisdom and understanding.
- Read through Proverbs underlining everything that speaks about the words of our mouth.
- Read through the book of Proverbs underlining every Proverb which talks about the righteous (keeping in mind that we are now the ‘righteousness of God in Christ Jesus’, so they apply to us).
Already you will have read the whole book of Proverbs 3 times. Each time your mind is anchored on the subject you have chosen, so remains concentrated on what is being read.
Without focus our mind wanders. Our best intentions can be hindered by a short attention span. In this way, we merely help our mind along the road by providing touchstones that it can look for. Without a goal, we often cast off restraint. With a goal set before us, we give our best shot to reach it.
This principle can be applied to entire books, single chapters or any portion of scripture you are considering. Here are some ideas:
- The subject of ‘believing’ or ‘belief’ through the book of John.
- The reaction of different people to Jesus through the book of Mark.
- The action of the Holy Spirit, or the use of the name of Jesus through the book of Acts.
- Characteristics of good kings and bad kings through the books of Kings and Chronicles.
ii. Ask questions of Scripture
Children ask questions all the time. As we approach scripture, we should come with this heart of childlike simplicity and inquisition.
Who is speaking? Who are they speaking to? Who are they speaking about? Who is this promise made to? Who is expected to obey this command? Etc…
What is being said here in simple terms? What does this mean to me? What is he/she doing/saying/meaning? What kind of reaction did this action provoke? Etc…
Where did they come from? Where is he/she going to? Where is this city/town? Where is this event occurring? Etc…
When did this happen? When are they intending to come/go? When am I in a similar position to this character? When can I apply this truth in my life? Etc…
Why did he/she say or do that? Why do they react this way? Why did God record this story in scripture? Why is this Truth not working in my life and how can I change so it does? Etc…
How does this apply to my life? How does he/she do what he/she does? How can I be more like this character in scripture? How can I avoid the pitfalls that this person fell into? etc
iii. Look for common themes, things that are similarities and contrasts, repetitions, specific promises and commands
As you comb the scriptures in this way, also look out for common themes and ideas, similarities and differences, repetition, promises made by God (and the conditions for those promises to be fulfilled) and commands made by God.
A great example of repetition, similarities and differences is found in the book of Colossians. Here’s a quick exercise for you. Read through Colossians and list the following things:
A. The things we are urged to ‘put on’ and ‘put off’.
B. The things we are to ‘to let’ happen in our lives.
C. The things we are ‘to do’ and ‘not to do’
iv. Focus your studies on areas relevant to your present situation, and apply what you learn.
If there is an anointing present at a particular time, leading you to look at and consider a particular subject/book/character etc, give yourself to it while the light is on. If the light is shining in that area lap it up, because pretty soon it may be shining somewhere else and you’ve lost an opportunity for revelation.
Say for example, you just can’t get away from healing scriptures. Every time you pick up your Bible you are drawn to those scriptures that speak of God’s will and power to heal. Buy books about healing; listen to tapes by men who move in the healing anointing and gifts. Give yourself wholly.
iv. Create an environment conductive to learning
Put more simply, this means sit at a desk or table, not in your favourite lounge chair with the TV on. More will be achieved in 15 minutes of serious study than 40 minutes of half-hearted reading. There is something about creating a studious environment, with all the materials that you need (pens, books, note paper etc), that encourages the mind to obtain and retain more from our times in the Scripture.
6. Follow, use and mark Cross-References in your Bibles
One of the features of many study Bibles is a system of cross-references. These connect similar or parallel portions of scripture. They allow you to follow a theme or subject through the scriptures.
I start at Genesis Chapter 1 and read verses 1-16.
Verse 16 references Psalm 136:8 so I turn there and begin to read Psalm 136 from beginning to end.
In verse 5 it says that God by wisdom created the heavens, and this verse is referenced to Jeremiah 51:15. My curiosity takes me there.
The awesome declarations of verses 15-16 in Jeremiah 51 lead me to consider the greatness and majesty of God.
I take the reference in verse 15 to Job 9:8 and walk over there. And so on.
Another good thing to do is write your own cross-references in the margins of your own Bible. As you come across scriptures that are linked, mark it for future use.
The ‘Treasury of Scripture Knowledge’ available in bookshops or as part of many popular computer Bible software packages contains extensive cross-references for almost every passage of scripture.