It can be easy to allow our emotions to dictate how often we dig into God’s Word. We fall into this pattern of thinking that tells us we should only crack open our Bible when we “feel” like it. On the other hand, we also fall into thinking convincing us, “As a Christian, I will always ‘feel’ like reading my Bible.”While I don’t always “feel” like reading my Bible, I am called by Scripture to treasure the Word of God (Ps. 119, Jer. 15:16). If we look at the Word as a treasure to us, it will cause us to handle it differently.
I love thinking of Bible study as digging for treasure. When I do, it causes me to think through three things: proper tools, the act of digging, and reflecting on the value of the treasure I find. My hope is to give you a place to start when it comes to reading your Bible and how you can begin exposing yourself to God’s Word regularly.
Bringing the right tools
If I’m going to dig for treasure using my hands, I’m not going to get as far as the guy with a shovel. That same shovel, on the other hand, may only get me so far when the situation calls me to use a jackhammer. All I’m saying is that when it comes to opening our Bibles, we need to consider using the right tools. Here are a few tools I like to use…
Translations: In the English language, we have been blessed to have a variety of quality Bible translations. When it comes to Bible translations, we may not know where to start or how to use them. Depending on the scenario, I may go to multiple trustworthy translations. My two favorites are the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the Lexham English Bible (LEB). Some of my favorite translations aside from these are the ESV, NASB, NIV84, and the NLT. When I study a passage in depth, I like to look in multiple translations with the hope of gaining a deeper understanding through each of them.
Study Bibles/Commentaries: I always like to spend time in the passage on my own before I ever run to a commentary or study Bible. This forces me to seek God in prayer as I wrestle with the truth on my own before going to others for help. As I pray, read, and journal (yes, I journal…you should too), God begins to reveal things to me through his Word leading me to adore him, confess sin to him, ask him for help in certain areas the text exposes, and express gratitude to him. Once I get here and want to see how other faithful believers have interpreted the text I’m in, I go to a commentary or study Bible. I do this is because it’s not about what I feel or think the text means, it’s about what it actually means to the author who wrote it down. I need to check my interpretive work to see if I’m going the right direction, or if I’m way off in what I think a text means (this process is quite humbling). My two favorite study Bibles are the Gospel Transformation Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible. Commentaries are a little more tricky because there’s so many of them. I’d encourage you to check out bestcommentaries.com and look at the commentaries on the book you’re in. It’s best to purchase commentaries individually (book by book) rather than by series (whole Bible commentary series). Each series is strong and weak in certain areas. If you build from multiple series’ strengths, you can build a well-rounded library of commentaries and spend less money doing it.
Logos Bible Software: The swiss army knife of tools. I use this almost every day and it has come to be my favorite. This is by far the most phenomenal resource to help with Bible study. This basically compiles an entire library of resources and tools for you including multiple Bible translations, commentaries, original language tools (for those wanting to learn about the biblical languages), and loads of other resources (Bible dictionaries, concordances, maps, media, etc.). It’s not cheap, but any financial investment made here is completely worth it. The software is a lot to navigate through and if you need help with it, I’d love to help. Danny Zacharias also has a very helpful training course offered through udemy.com on using Logos.
Digging for Treasure
Now that we have the right tools, we can get to the process of digging. Wrapped throughout my entire approach to Bible study is a posture of prayer and dependence. God wrote this and so I must ask him to open my eyes to show me the treasures of his Word (Ps. 119:18). Prayer is not a “stage” in Bible study, it is weaved throughout the process. As I spend time reading and re-reading the text, I take pens and mark up my Bible. I look for things that are…
Emphasized: I use red and green pens looking for things that are emphasized. I look for purpose statements (so that, etc.), key verbs (active or passive), things that are repeated (green) throughout a passage (like all the times God refers to Moses as being “sent” in Exodus 3)
Connected: I take purple and mark things that connect to one another. I look for words like therefore, but, or for. I also look for things like cause/effect, or the means of something (the text states something and the means it came about).
Compared: The color pink is used to mark things the text compares. Metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and anything with the word “like” in it. I also use pink heavily in things like parables which are stories Jesus tells to illustrate a truth.
Contrasted: The favorite word for this is “but”. Typically when you see the word “but”, something is being contrasted. I use the color brown to mark these up.
Communicated: Blue is the final color I use to mark up my Bible. I use it to help me locate things the author is communicating regarding their intentions, emotions, or current experience. You see this a lot in Paul’s letters as he talks of his “longing” to see people or him being “in chains” (this shows us he’s in prison).
Reflecting on the value
What good is a treasure if we can’t determine the value of it? This is the purpose for the final leg of my time in the Word. For this, I do two things, journaling, and sharing.
Journaling: Everything up to this point has been pretty content driven. I’m trying to “see” what the text says and “understand” what it actually means. These two things are great, but if we don’t apply it to our lives we have lost sight of the true purpose of reading our Bibles. Journaling is an opportunity to reflect on a text and its prescriptive value for my life. How do I relate to the author or audience of the text? What is God calling me to do? What is God calling me to believe? What truth do I know that needs to be reinforced? All these are questions I wrestle with as I journal.
Sharing: We must not be a people who study the Bible in isolation. We miss the richness of what God has called us to in community with other believers if we never share our insights with others and hear how God is shaping others in their time with God in his Word. Besides, studying the Bible WITH people is way more fun than doing it by yourself. We have this bad habit of getting together as believers and talking about everything but Jesus (sports, weather, family, etc.) The point of our seeing, learning, and applying is always to get to the point of sharing it with the people in our life. Our families and friends are people God has placed in our lives to share this with. Also, talking about how God is shaping you in his Word is a great way to answer the common question of “How are you?” we love to ask on Sunday mornings.
So, there you have it. Some practical things to do when it comes to opening your Bible and why I do it this way. Here’s the deal, we are all different. While we will not all be the same in how we study our Bibles, there needs to be much we have in common if we are doing it well. Take what works for you, throw the rest away. I hope something in here is helpful.
Some resources for you
Logos Bible Software– The purchasing options for Logos Bible software. I recommend beginning with the Standard Starter or Standard Bronze base packages.
Logos Training– Easy to follow training on how to navigate and master Logos Bible Software
Best Commentaries– A website dedicated to consolidating info regarding great commentaries and where to find them!
Micron Pens– The pens I mark up my Bible with.
Leuchtturm1917– The journal I use to reflect on my daily Bible reading.