Does your mind wander when you read the Bible? Do you get stuck on lengthy legal explanations in Leviticus, or unfamiliar names in the genealogies of Numbers or 1 and 2 Chronicles? Try these four Bible study tips. These tips have helped me get more spiritual nourishment from the Bible, and add meaning to my daily devotional time with God.
I was hungry. I scooped up some hot lentil soup, and green salad in the market deli. Then I stepped over to the chip aisle to find some nutritious chips to chew on. A broad selection of kale chips in various flavors filled several of the shelves.
If you’ve never had it, kale is a leafy vegetable, similar to lettuce, but more dense with nutrients and fiber. Kale provides wonderful health benefits. But if you’ve eaten it, you know it can be a challenge to chew, and not particularly tasty. Eating kale the same way every day would become boring.
Eating the same food the same way every day, while sustaining, is monotonous. The joy of eating is lost, even though we need it for survival. This was the experience of the Hebrews in the desert, when God provided them with manna to sustain them on their forty-year journey to the promised land. They complained (Numbers 11).
Bible study doesn’t have to be boring or tedious.
A Christian without a daily dose of God’s Word is spiritually malnourished. No better material for energizing your spiritual life exists than the Bible. It’s impossible to remain a Christian without frequent exposure to the Bible. This is at least the spiritual meaning of Deuteronomy 8:3, as quoted by Jesus when rejecting the tempters enticement to transform stones into bread to satisfy His hunger after fasting 40 days:
“…Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” (NKJV)
When we recognize our spiritual malnourishment and hunger, and the spiritual health that we can gain from God’s Word, feeding on the Bible becomes less of a chore and more an act of survival. But, its benefits go beyond mere survival–the Bible is spiritual superfood that can sustain a life for eternity.
Here are 4 tips for making Bible study an enjoyable experience.
Before following any of these, always pray to invite God to open your eyes to a full understanding of His Word.
If Bible reading is new to you, or you’ve fought and failed to read from beginning to end, consider taking smaller bites. Put your effort into the quality of your reading rather than the quantity.
Research reveals that reading a printed book offers better retention and understanding for the reader, when compared to an ebook. If you’ve been reading the Bible on a computer, phone or tablet, and it’s just not sinking in, try cracking open a paper copy.
If you’ve been reading the King James Version (KJV) and getting lost in the unfamiliar vocabulary of seventeenth-century England, try reading from different translations. It can open up new understandings. The much revered and loved KJV has sustained the English-speaking church for centuries. However, just as people whose language is not English benefit from the Bible translated into their own language, those of us who don’t speak the Old English of the KJV can benefit from modern English translations. I like the English Standard Version for its literal approach to translation from the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible. I also like the New Living Translation for its use of conversational English, designed to convey the writer’s thoughts rather than exact words.
Read for understanding, by focusing on a few verses or a chapter at a time. The Bible promises that in doing this, and in comparing verse to verse, you will gain knowledge and understanding (Isaiah 28:9-10).
When you find a confusing verse, you can compare it to other verses on the same topic using one or more of these tools:
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the original Bible study tool, that serves as an index to enable comparison of verses that have the same word, or words. It’s available on the web for free and in print.
- e-Sword and MacSword, free but powerful computer software that automates Strong’s Concordance for searching and comparing Bible verses.
- Strong’s KJV, a simple but helpful iPhone and iPad app that automates Strong’s Concordance.
- MySword, a free Bible study Android app that also uses Strong’s.
Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Hearing the Word can be easily accomplished my reading it out loud. Speaker and blogger Keith Ferrin provides some useful tips for hearing the Bible. Keith also offers outstanding recitations of books of the Bible.
Faithcomesbyhearing.com is a non-profit foundation that distributes free audio Bibles around the world, in multiple languages. You may access their free audio Bibles on the web, or using their free Bible.is iOS and Android apps.
A variety of audio Bibles can also be purchased on Amazon.
Word-for-word dramatizations of the Bible can add a new dimension to your understanding of its meaning, as you see the words of the Bible acted out in context. These productions avoid dramatic license that can detract from the text as it reads. Here are the ones I know about:
The Jesus Film is based on the Gospel of Luke, but borrows from other gospels.
Some will take issue with the faithfulness of these productions to the true meaning of the Bible texts on which they are based, and may want to avoid watching these for that reason.
I find memorization not only allows God to write His Word on my heart, but opens the opportunity for new insights as I continuously repeat a text to engrave it in my mind. While memorization has been done for years using simple methods like flash cards, mobile device apps offer new ways of learning.
Fast.st offers the best flash card system I’ve seen. You can create and print your own flash cards using their online template or purchase sets from them. The purchased sets come with a vinyl sleeve that makes it easy to carry your memory verses in your pocket or purse.
Here are a couple of easy-to-use memorization apps. Both allow you to easily create your own memory verse lists.
- RememberMe available for iOS, Android and the web. It syncs across devices.
- Scripture Typer available for iOS, Android and the web. It syncs across devices.
What tips and tools do you find helpful in making Bible study a regular part of your daily devotions? Share your comments below.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.