If you’re like me, you find it way too easy to become lax in your Bible Study time and effort. Here are 7 actionable ways to improve on your most important appointment of the day.
1. Pick (Or Design) A Bible Study Reading Plan
Being intentional about reading scripture is critical to both covering valuable ground and retention of the content. Write out your plan and keep it in your Bible or on your mobile device. For example, if you would like to study the gospel of John, decide how much you are going to read each day and what tools you will use to study it. Maybe you like to use a commentary, some sort of visual device to break down each section, or simply create an outline. Regardless of what you would like to use, it is remarkably helpful to know how you are going to take action as you dive into God’s word.
Use A Journal
This may seem elementary, but it is an extremely effective tool, particularly if you are studying a specific book, topic, or series of texts. It’s nice to be able to write down thoughts or questions as you go. As you study, record the date, the text reference, and the main ideas of the text covered. Then fill in with contextual observations and other concepts for later research or answers. This is also a great place to record your prayer time. It’s a wonderful blessing to go back in your personal archives and see how God has answered prayers and has grown you during your study time.
In some instances of scripture, especially with lists, it is helpful to utilize visual manipulatives to better understand or draw from a scripture. A “t-chart,” for example, can be incredibly versatile in writing what love is, vs. what it isn’t in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Or, you can use it to write what God does vs. what our need is in the 23rd Psalm. It’s your journal; do everything you can to wrap your mind around a teaching. After all, it’s God’s word. Even if we will never understand a concept fully, we should still try to glean everything we can. No one said the way we go about understanding more had to be visually pleasing in our personal memoirs.
Pray The Scripture
This will probably feel awkward at first. But one of the most powerful praying men I’ve met always began his prayer with echoing a Psalm that resonated with him at that particular moment. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to the cries of the human heart, and many times, God’s word itself can articulate those cries or joys far better than we can. It helps us align with the will of God in our prayer, and is centering for our spirit to automatically recite the Words of scripture when we begin communing with God in prayer.
Schedule Your Appointment… and Keep It!
Psychology has taught us that our subconscious mind knows no difference between scheduling a doctor’s appointment and scheduling time with the word of God open before us. This is especially important for those of us that are not consistent in our study. The point is, it’s an appointment on our calendar and we ought to treat it as such. Choose a time of the day that will allow for focused work. You may be a morning person that can pour a cup of coffee at 4a.m. and do your best work. Or, 4a.m. may sound like a nonexistent and potentially evil thing from another galaxy. That’s okay. Find a time that fits, and that you can keep. But remember, many of the greatest minds of history used the fresh hours of the morning to do some of their best work. Use the way God has created us to put your best effort into studying His word.
Use Supplemental Reading
Often, supplemental reading can be the best inspiration for studying scripture. It can also help us in designing our reading plan. A simple Christian book search could be a jump starter to a fresh new venture in your spiritual growth through God’s word. Want to get beyond the notes of your study Bible? I recommend beginning with two things, a Bible Dictionary and Concordance. From there, branch out to commentaries.
Write Down Your Takeaways and Apply
One way our minds work more effectively is for us to write down the things that are contained in it. Writing down the takeaways from a time of study and treating it as an “inbox” type task for application will allow us to become “doers of the word and not hearers only.” We will see the value of God’s word playing itself out right before us as we are obedient to the Spirit’s leading. Whatever you gain from the word as you study, do everything you can to remember and apply.
Enjoy your time in personal worship before the Lord. Be intentional. Grow.