05 October 2010

Teaching: Bible Study

(As with all of the posts in the RFP Teaching series, it's important to remember that while I'm trying to share my knowledge with you, I by no means consider myself the be-all end-all of anything I know how to do. Just hoping some ideas and tips that I use can help you, too!)

First, let's be honest.

Who thinks that everything in the bible is simple and easy to understand at first glance? You don't? Good, me neither.

Studying your bible doesn't have to be a laborious affair with multiple translations or years of theological knowledge under your belt. But sometimes, verses just don't make sense the first time around. In light of that, I thought I would share a few things that I do to try and understand what God has to say to me a little easier.

Let's start at the very beginning:

Translation: Though you will obviously need a bible to study it, the important thing here is to buy a translation that you can read and understand well enough. I loved my NIV for as long I can remember, but then I recieved a copy of the God's Word translation, and for just plain reading, it's phenomenal. If you aren't sure, ask for recommendations from friends, or just pick one and go with it!

Then, 3 steps:

Reading: Before you get down to the nuts and bolts of the verse or section you are reading, read the entire section from beginning to end once. Sometimes, when you start by breaking a section or verse down, you miss the bigger meaning, and it can leave you confused. Don't worry if you don't get anything big from this: it also serves to give some context, background, to your study.

Rewrite: When there is a sentence or phrase that I get stuck on, I rewrite it in my own handwriting. Just copy it down. This is especially helpful for things like Psalms or Proverbs where there is a lot of content written in verse. A lot of the time, just rewriting it makes the sentence structure suddenly clear to me, and what seemed backwards just clicks.

Define: As much as context and rereading can tell you, sometimes, you have to get down and dirty with the dictionary. Often, the way I define a word will change, because I had one meaning in my head and that differed with the word that I found in the bible (and then double-checked in the dictionary). If that still has you stuck on a word, ask, uh... your local bible scholar?

For the first time, I've prayed for God to lead me through a study, and honestly, I've been getting so much out of each and every verse its unbelievable. That's my last recommendation: pray about it.

So here's a challenge: take your own study methods, take mine or take someone elses and study something. Did you like it, do you understand the verse better? Tell me about it!

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