Now that we know how vital it is to have a healthy Daily Walk with the Lord, I wanted to go into some strategies on how to better communicate with God. Remember that the primary means in which God speaks to us is through the Scripture. If we are going to hear Him properly, we must learn how to study the Bible.
BIBLE STUDY BASICS
There are several simple steps for improving your study of God’s word.
Begin with a short prayer to prepare your heart and spirit for communicating with the Lord.
I will always and forever recommend that you use a King James Version. You can ask for understanding in your opening prayer if you feel the language is too difficult (it really isn’t if you study the Book as you should).
Treat every word as particular and literal and believe every word is true and has a purpose. You must also learn to rightly divide (2 Timothy 2:15) – “all the Bible is written FOR you, but NOT TO or ABOUT you.” Ask who is speaking? To whom are they speaking? About what are they speaking? When were they speaking? The answers will inform you better whether it is a passage for the Jews or for the Christian and to which age (or dispensation) does it refer.
I would also recommend that you read a physical Bible with no references on your first read through of the Bible. The second time, you can possibly add in a reference Bible/concordance/etc. A Bible app works in a pinch, but should not be used for daily Bible reading, especially early on.
Another important aspect of your daily study is to keep a defined reading schedule. Read your Bible around the same time of day, EVERY day. You should also keep track of what you are studying. This helps when doing a topic/word study and it helps keep track of your place in the Bible.
Do not be afraid to keep a notebook for truths, insights, and questions that might arise. Underline or highlight key verses and/or phrases in your Bible. This is not desecration of the text, and it can be valuable as you read through the Book more than once.
Treat the Bible as a personal letter from God. The Book is how God speaks to you. You can insert your name into a number of verses, and make it more personal. Take John 3:16 for example: “For God so loved [Alex], that he gave his only begotten son, that [if Alex] believeth in him [Alex] should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Try it with your own name and receive an awesome spiritual blessing.
Another tip is to use Scripture to interpret or define Scripture. This works especially well when you cross reference using a concordance. You should also try to better understand the principle of first mention, which states that a word retains its meaning throughout the Bible according to its original context.
Once you get these basic strategies down, be sure to obey the word of God no matter what. This is easier said than done, but it will get easier as you experience true spiritual growth.
And finally, reach out to others for assistance. This can include your pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or any solid, Biblical Christian that you can find.
Personal and Family Bible Study
The Christian should be engaged in both personal and family Bible study as part of your daily walk. Keep in mind that there are some differences in how these are conducted.
In your personal study, you want to find a quiet location, like a prayer closet or some other private space. You need a consistent time. I prefer the morning before breakfast, so I know I am feeding my spirit before my body. Types of personal study can include an annual cover-to-cover read through of the Bible, a word study, topical study, or some other area of interest for you.
I have also found it best to structure Bible study in three sections, 1. Bible reading/study, 2. Meditation, and 3. Prayer. Of course, you can have multiple prayer sessions throughout, but you should certainly meditate after spending time in Scripture.
For a family Bible study, your location should be a common area. You need a consistent time of day – perhaps evening after dinner, because you can use your dinner time to discuss what happened throughout the day. Types of study can be similar to personal study – you can do a read through and topical and word studies. You can also do a verse by verse study or use a devotional (remember to have one that is kid friendly if you have children). My family has been reading through a Bible commentary together. My kids also work on their weekly memory verses and are encouraged to read a chapter of the Bible each day and bring a verse with them to discuss during study time.
Again, a threefold structure works best. My family uses 1. Bible/devotional reading, 2. Discussion, and 3. Prayer requests/prayer.
Bible Study Types
The easiest type of a consistent Bible plan is through an annual reading. I use an annual reading plan on my Bible app and label the days next to the chapter headings in my study Bible. I even track my daily reading on the app, and it is a good resource for tracking how many times I have read through my Bible over the years. One year, I doubled the days so I read it twice in a year.
Some people read 5-10 chapters a day (Psalm 119 is a day in itself). Some read entire books of the Bible in a day. Some read one chapter of Proverbs – some in ADDITION to their other reading. Some read one chapter from the OT and one from the NT each day The variations are endless. It is okay if you don’t read the entire Book within 365 days, just read something every day and work your way up.
The second type is a topical study, where you look up verses that deal with certain topics. These can include love, sin, prophecy, judgments, parenting, marriage, anxiety, and so many more. Again, Bible apps can be quite helpful for this type of study.
Third is a word study. This is similar to a topical study, but it can be even more specific. I have found it is easiest to look up a word in a concordance (Blue Letter Bible is a good online resource). Check the first mention to define its contextual use throughout the Book, then compare and contrast its use throughout Scripture. Ask questions like does it change between testaments or dispensations? Can there be more than one use for a word?
Always remember: context, context, context.
Another valuable study type is Biblical numerics. Here are some examples to look for throughout Scripture and consider their corresponding meanings:
One – Unity/Beginnings
Two – Union/Division/witnesses
Three – Resurrection/Divine Completeness; The trinity
Four – creation/the world
Five – grace (or death). Both words have five letters. I see both arguments, and the two are connected for the Christian, because grace is given through Christ’s death.
Six – man (specifically weakness). 666 is the number of a man (Antichrist)
Seven – Completion
Eight – New beginnings
The numbers with meanings keep going, but you get the idea. Most of the time, you can do a word search on the numbers and see how they are used throughout Scripture.
One of my favorite types of study is typology. Clarence Larkin defined Biblical “types” as, “Old Testament “Types” are but “SHADOWS.” But there cannot be a “shadow” without some “REAL THING” to make it. And a “shadow” is not the “very image of the thing,” for a shadow is out of proportion, and is an imperfect representation of the thing it reveals. So the Old Testament Types are “shadows” in the sense that they are not the “Real Thing,” and are but imperfect revelations of it.”
This means that types are not exact copies, but you can see similarities between the types. For example, Adam, Joseph, and David are all types of Christ. They are all sinners, but they share a number of attributes with the Savior. On the other hand, Cain, Nimrod, Saul, and Nebuchadnezzar are types of Antichrist, despite the latter finding faith in Daniel 4.
You can also do a study on specific people to help with inspiration on how to (or how not to) behave and believe. You can also compare how men like Paul, Peter, and David dealt with similar issues that you might have. Of course, as Christians, we should model ourselves after Jesus Christ. How better to do that than doing a study on His life?
Similarly, you can also do a study on different characteristics or roles. What does the Bible say about goodness, kindness, meekness, or righteousness? How should we better become a parent, spouse, child, employee, employer, pastor or deacon, missionary, and Christian? Find the verses that discuss these or any other characteristic/role and work on being an ideal version of yourself.
Another study of value deals with locations. For instance, Egypt is a type of the world (there’s that typology!). Antioch is where the followers of Christ were first called “Christians.” Interestingly enough, both of these can be arguments for manuscript evidence (KJV comes from Antioch, other translations from Alexandria, Egypt).
One of the biggest reasons why Christians fall into cults and false doctrines is the lack of understanding dispensations, so they often confuse passages meant for Jews with those meant for church age Christians.
There are seven commonly agreed upon dispensations:
- Innocence – Adam
- Conscience – Post-Eden to Flood
- Human government – Noah to Abraham
- Promise – Abraham to Moses
- Law – Moses (Ten Commandments) to Christ
- Grace – Christ through Tribulation
- Millennium – the Millennial Reign
There are an additional three, the Pre-Adamic earth, the Tribulation, and Eternity – though these are not entirely agreed upon.
The final study I want to mention is the study of doctrines (mostly found in the Pauline Epistles). In order to improve our understanding of Christian doctrines, we should learn about salvation – grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), the Godhead/Trinity (1 John 5:7 in the KJV; not in other many versions), baptism (Romans 6: 3-6), dispensationalism (Eph. 3:2), preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15), and many more.
Employ these strategies, and there is no end to the amount of knowledge and understanding of Scripture that you can acquire, especially if you remember what I said previously and believe your Bible with all your heart.
Now that you are prepared to receive the messages that God sends to us through His word, we should also better understand how to send messages to Him. That is why the next and final installment of this series will deal with prayer basics. Be sure to check it out.