Monday, April 4, 2016

Understanding How to Study the Bible: Bible Study Tools

I am frequently asked what methods I use to study the Bible.  It seems many are amazed at the things I see within the pages of Scripture and frustrated that they can't do the same.  "So how do you do it?" they ask.  "You see things that I don't.  I do well just to get through my daily reading and pay attention to the words that are there."  Trust me, I've been there.

Let me begin by saying that there is nothing special about me or the way that I study the Bible.  Furthermore, the Scripture is quite plain when it says that the Bible is of no private interpretation.  In other words, the things that I see can be seen by anyone.  They're not reserved for only me.  The fact of the matter is that, unlike many, I was raised and brought up in a Christian home.  I attended Christian school all my life and a Christian Bible College where I was trained to rightly divide the Word of God.  Beyond that, the Lord has allowed me to teach the Bible to various age groups and then to share His message through my writings and speaking engagements.  In other words, I've had a lot of exposure to the Bible, and for that reason, certain areas of study may come to me more easily than they come to you.

That being said, I would like to satisfy this thread of curiosity and give you an in-depth look at my Bible study habits.  Maybe you'll find some things that will bring alive your own study time.  But, if I accomplish nothing else, I hope you'll get a taste for how precious and exciting personal study time with the Lord can be.  Let's get started!

First off, let's talk about some of the tools that you can use to enhance your Bible study.  For starters, obviously, you'll need a Bible.  There are many versions of the Bible on the market today, and I am not going to presume to tell you which version you should or should not be using.  I will tell you that I personally use the King James Version (which you'll notice is the only version I use in all of my writings).  The reason I use this version is because I feel it is the closest translation of the original Biblical texts.  Many other versions leave out the blood of Christ, the virgin birth and/or other key doctrinal factors that are pillars of the Christian faith.  Please understand me, I am not saying that the other versions are wrong.  I'm merely telling you what I use and why.  The version that you use is between you and the Lord, but I do recommend that you ask yourself why you use the version you use (even if it is the KJV).  After all, "because my preacher does" is not a good answer.  Use what the Lord tells you to use, but know why you're using it.  Make sense?

Second, don't be afraid of a good old dictionary, particularly a Bible dictionary.  Let's face it, there are words and phrases in the Bible that don't make a lick of sense to us.  For example, in the detailed plans for Solomon's temple, the Bible repeatedly mentions the "chapiters."  I don't know about you, but I've never seen or heard that word outside of my Bible reading.  So, what does it mean?  Instead of continuing the reading of the Bible passage when you don't understand what something means, stop and look it up.  (BTW, a chapiter is the ornamental head or cap of a pillar.)  The reason I recommend a Bible dictionary over a regular one is because many of the meanings have changed over the years, and Bible dictionaries take that into account.

Third, don't be afraid of technology.  We use our phones and tablets for everything else under the sun, so what's keeping us from using them during our Bible study time.  There are amazing Bible study apps that are free of charge.  My favorite is YouVersion.  This app allows you to read the Bible (in any version), set up reading plans, highlight favorite passages, and it will even read the Bible to you if you're more of an auditory learner.  The YouVersion app has a huge selection of reading plans that can help you choose what works best for you.  Some are long while others are short.  Some allow you to read the Bible through in a year while others focus on just a few books.  The choices are boundless, and it's all free!

Another of my favorite apps is the Blue Letter Bible app.  Like the YouVersion app, this one allows you to read and search through the Bible, but it also contains a host of other useful tools such as Bible dictionaries, commentaries, Strong's Concordance and the like.  This app makes it so easy to study the Bible without the use of any other tool because it's all in one.  Click on a word to find out its definition, Hebrew spelling and pronunciation, and even where else in the Bible the word is used.  You may not need or want all of this information, but that's what's so great about it.  Use what you want; ignore what you don't.  The point is to understand what you're reading so that it can help you and change your life.

Lastly, I recommend using a journal during your Bible study time, but I intend to cover this topic in depth on another day, so for now, I'll simply add it to the list of helpful tools.

There you have it!  You don't have to have a fancy library or a doctorate degree in theology.  In fact, if you intend to do your Bible reading on your mobile device, it can meet all the needs I've listed here.  Lord willing, tomorrow will go into some greater detail about what to do with these tools and how to get in the Word in such a way that the Word, in turn, gets in you!

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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