Here are some suggestions (NOT RULES) you may be able to use in your Bible study. This is how I study the Bible. Basically, it’s about the same effective approach someone would use in investigative journalism.
I ask questions, A LOT of questions! ”The six W’s,” i.e. Who? What? When? Where? Why? and (w)how? The w is silent! Just kiddin’! +
When a question is asked, simply answer it. Sometimes a question is asked in such a way it presupposes the only sensible answer. For example: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” What is the obvious answer? Say it out loud. And don’t forget it. Or this:“Shall not the Judge of the Earth do right?” Yes. Of course He will. Answer the question. +
If you don’t know what a word means, look it up. Use your English dictionary. Use a Bible dictionary. If the meaning isn’t vivid or clear, check for synonyms. And antonyms (Sometimes you can determine more clearly what something IS by determining what it IS NOT.). +
Try to compare what you are studying (Whether it’s a word or an idea) with what is stated elsewhere in the Bible and what you’ve observed in your own experience. Since God is consistent, I believe He will always take the same position on principles. He doesn’t talk out of both sides of His mouth. He doesn’t stutter. He isn’t capricious or whimsical. He doesn’t “re-invent the wheel” over and over again. Einstein said: “God doesn’t play dice.” When He deals with one of His children in a certain circumstance that is how He will always deal with all His children everywhere and every time. +
Use common sense. God is not stupid. He does not expect us to be. +
Ask questions: Who is speaking? To whom? What are the surrounding circumstances? What did it mean then? What difference did it make then? What difference does it make now? What application can I make in my own life? Today? Why? What, when? Where? Dialogue with God. Talk with Him. And Listen with your heart to what He says. God’s commands should be obeyed. His warnings should be heeded. +
Pray. And ask for guidance and understanding. No one understands any book better than the author does. I believe we can never know or understand the Mind of God unless and until He reveals that to us.
I use my imagination. I try to think what was going on at the time the words were spoken or written; and try to view some of the messages as though I were hearing them for the first time. The people in these stories were real flesh, bone and blood. They felt pretty much like we do, even though they dressed differently and didn’t drive air conditioned automobiles or wear designer jeans. They laughed at things that were funny and had the same pain we have in bad times. Don’t just breeze by or glance. Gaze. Think. Ponder. Wonder! Let the book come alive! Don’t use worn out words and cliches.
Think. I try to be disciplined (the similarity of “discipline” and “disciple” is not a coincidence. The words are not distant cousins. They’re next of kin!), Be intelligent and diligent. Be patient. Don’t expect everything to happen immediately. Growth is a slow, sometimes painful, most often unobservable process. And it takes longer to grow and oak than it takes to grow a mushroom. Give God some time . . . that is sometimes the key to understanding any discipline or unlocking a mystery. Take time.
Meditate. Think. Don’t be in such a hurry! “Wait on the Lord,” is good advice once offered by another wise man.
Now, here are Some Tools that should be helpful: a good English Dictionary, Bible Dictionary, Concordance, Commentary. A Synopsis of the Gospels (don’t worry about that. I’ll explain later.). I find it helpful to read the same sections of Scripture in several different translations or paraphrases. I’ve also found it helpful to own a parallel version of the New Testament (all four Gospel accounts posted side by side with an attempt to set incidents in chronological order or sequence.) A notebook and pen. Keep a record of your thoughts and conclusions. You might surprise yourself when you go back and re-consider the insights you’ve gained. Say things in your words. Don’t worry about being ‘eloquent.” Just record what you think. Don’t overlook the value of writing something down or saying what you think out loud. That’s good for YOU. In praying, for instance, I don’t really have to say something out loud for God to understand what I’m thinking. It is for MY benefit that I say it aloud or write it down. When I verbalize something, it helps me to bring it into clear focus. I’m able to understand it better if I can see it as well as hear it. And I also have a better chance of remembering it than if it were just a fleeting thought.
If you stay with me in this venture, please understand it’s a journey and not a destination. I don’t pretend to be a “Scholar.” I do claim to be a student and would like to be a devoted and obedient servant of the living God. If my hope is realized,everyone involved will be learning. Everyone will be teaching. I’m not trying to start a club or a Church. I’m on a journey and welcome your comments and suggest a time limit on our examination of any particular part of the Scripture. When we reach that point, we quit for the time being. I hope this will truly be a joint effort, and that everyone gets involved.
If you have Scriptures you’ve found helpful, or would like to examine more closely, I’m going to try to be open to that as much as possible. There will be no need to continue the study, it if it isn’t productive or instructive.
I cannot guarantee that it will not be difficult. I can guarantee that if you apply your best efforts toward a truly worthwhile goal, the rewards will more than justify the effort you invest. If I become boring, please be patient with me. I’ll do my best to avoid that pitfall, but we may be examining some truths that will be unavoidably painful.If you’re still with me, I’m grateful. I appreciate and respect your time and involvement and will always be doing my best to make these studies worth your while. Please pray for me as you have opportunity and as this project comes to mind. The next posting will be our first assignment. It is, quite simply, Psalm 19:14. I’ll put some questions up in the next couple of days. Before you hear what I’m thinking. . . or what anyone else says or thinks about the prayer. . . check it out for yourself. And think about what it means. Then we’ll compare notes.