Hello there! I’m excited to share this relatable, practical guest post by Bible study blogger Hallie Liening. Her mission to equip women to read the Word is dear to my own heart, and I hope you find her tips helpful. There is so much to be known about our incredible God in His Word, so let’s dig in!
I remember my first day of class at Bible school like it was yesterday—because it was the day I discovered that I could actually study the Bible for myself.
My experience with the Bible up to that point had been frustrating. I knew this Book was supposed to be the most important one I could ever read—and yet when I opened it up, I struggled to mine for its treasures in any effective way. I felt doomed to forever depend on the words of pastors and teachers to help me make sense of God’s.
If you have ever been in that place with me, or if you just sense that your personal Bible study could be deeper, I have some life-changing news: you can study the Bible for yourself. And you don’t have to go to seminary or learn Hebrew to do it!
You can begin with just a few practical steps that will shift your perspective and prepare your heart to dig deep into the riches of the Word.
Start with the whole story.
The Bible is a story. Specifically, it is the story of who God is.The Bible is the story of who God is, and we should read it that way - not in random pieces but as a full, redemptive narrative. Click To Tweet
Most of us are used to consuming the Bible in small chunks of various books, depending on where today’s sermon or quiet time takes us. But you don’t read a story by skipping around from chapter to chapter—you start at the beginning, and read it as a whole.
And when you become familiar with the story arc contained in the Bible, you have the power to study every single book of the Bible from a place of understanding the larger narrative.
Why is this important? Because you won’t interpret Exodus accurately if you don’t know where the story began. You won’t understand the teachings of Christ in the Gospels if you don’t have a grasp of Israel’s Old Testament history. You’ll be lost (and probably afraid or depressed) in Revelation if you aren’t aware of the epic spiritual saga that preceded it. The first step to in-depth study is simply this: Know the Word!
I personally make it a practice to read through the whole Bible in the first six months of each year. This keeps the story fresh in my mind so that as I’m studying different passages, books, or verses, I can be alert to how they fit intricately into the whole, and watch for the ways God’s character is revealed.
Identify the genre of literature you’re studying.
Though the Bible is a cohesive story, it is simultaneously a library of sixty-six different books. And like any library, it contains more than one genre of literature—including narrative, law, prophecy, wisdom/poetry, and epistle.
We naturally approach a textbook differently than we would a novel. Our expectations are different: We look to learn something new in almost every sentence of a textbook, while a novel might send us away with just one or two big-picture ideas. We’ll read a textbook slower and possibly take notes to keep track of what we learn, but we can fly through a fictional tale without too much attention to detail.
The same principle applies to the genres of Biblical literature. Not all the books of the Bible are intended to teach or command in every verse—some just inspire us to consider one big question, or lead us into worship, or give us a glimpse into God’s past or future work. They should all be handled a little bit differently.
Not sure which books fall into which genre? Here’s a handy printable cheat sheet, with a few bonus hints on how to approach each type! Just click the image below to download it for FREE!
Search for timeless truths.
Whichever genre of literature you land in, your goal should be the same: to search the Scriptures for timeless truths.
These can be found in every book of the Bible. They are not necessarily commands, nor are they necessarily promises; rather, they are principles for living that have been time-tested and consistently point to God’s character.
You can find these fairly easily by asking three quick questions every time you read the Bible:
- What does this (verse, passage, chapter, book) show me about who God is? Note specific verse references if possible.
- What does this (verse, passage, chapter, book) show me about who I am in light of who He is? Note specific verse references if possible.
- How should I then respond?
For example, if I apply these questions to Psalm 23, here are some of the answers I might come up with:
- God is my Shepherd (v. 1). He provides for me (vv. 1b-2), protects me (v. 4), and walks with me (v. 3).
- I am God’s lamb: I am small and in need of Him at all times. On my own, I’m defenseless and weak. (vv. 1-6)
- Therefore, God is deserving of my worship, obedience, submission, and faith. I can release my anxiety into His keeping.
I can test any of these principles against Scripture, human history, and personal experience, and find that they remain true.
Let’s dig deep – commit to a reading plan!
The psalmist said,
You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word. Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments. . . . The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
– Psalm 119:65-66, 72 (NASB)
What a delight it is when we are able to say the same! The riches of the Word are there for us to mine, better than silver and gold.
If you’re looking for a community to dig deep with in 2018, I invite you to join my Bible180 challenge. It’s the same chronological reading plan and study resources that I use annually to immerse myself in the story of the Bible, and it’s even better with the encouragement and accountability of a group! We begin on January 1, so make sure you get your spot.