Personal Bible study time usually comes in the morning before family Bible time. On those occasions when too many late nights result in late rising we have family Bible time on schedule and then we each try to fit our personal study time in as early in the morning as possible. For me this time alone with my Lord is when I receive nourishment and strength for the coming day, as well as, soul-searching and cleansing. It can also be a wonderful time of praise, thanksgiving and worship. Without it I languish spiritually for although family Bible time is very good, personal time alone with God is where the life is, from that life you take and share with others.
Why do we have personal Bible time? For discipline; for a regular set-aside time, to form the habit of a regular daily quiet time alone in God's presence. We all need each other "Encourage one another while it is still called today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." 1 Corinthians 10:12 It is altogether too easy to get up, rush off to work or errands, and never take time to be holy; never take time to be still and know that "I AM" God. It is a bad habit to get into and a hard habit to break. Even to those in "full time" Christian service, it is very easy to get so busy doing "things" for God that there is not time available for God. All the "things" get the priority and guess who gets pushed out? It was to Christians that John wrote "behold, I stand at the door and knock." Revelation 3:20 Bible time is a discipline. As families, we need to "encourage one another while it is still called today" Hebrews 3:13.
I find great joy in watching our young people grow up. Yes it is exciting to see them grow in wisdom and stature, but the best part is when they grow in favor with God. While they are young, their faith is often their parents' faith, but they will not always be under their parents' direction. How precious it is to see the older children transition into their own walk with God, not just "going through the motions".
A daily family Bible time(s) is excellent for moving a family into God's truth together. It promotes unity as we all study and question together, coming to a joint conclusion on a topic or passage. It is predominantly a teaching time with Scripture reading and memorization, as well as, prayer. This fellowship prepares us to face the day with its many and varied challenges.
Personal Bible time, on the other hand, is for intimate fellowship alone with God. It is here we draw close to Him in praise and worship. It is here on our knees that we learn His heart. It is here in His Word that we are instructed, chastened and given fresh guidance for the day. Sitting at His feet grows us up like nothing else can. It is the life blood of the Christian life for we are fed and sustained here or we starve.
Personal Bible time started for many of us with looking at a Bible story picture book. After we learn to read, we progress to reading the Word, in time that develops into deeper forms of study, meditation, journaling, cross referencing and the like. Each person cultivates their own style and is free to pursue it and read wherever they like in the Scriptures.
What follows are some examples of the techniques employed during our personal Bible times.
I suppose my favorite Bible study method is to take a life situation (a real one) and search the Scriptures to find God's answer. James wrote "If any of you lack wisdom, let Him ask of God " James 1:5 Proverbs lends itself to this method easily.
I have used a variety of Bible study methods over the years. By far, the most fruitful ones have involved journaling. As I read a portion each day, I journal questions and lessons learned. Often yesterday's question is answered in today's reading. The act of writing out my questions and lessons helps to clarify my thinking and solidify my ideas.
A slight variation of this is a topical study. Here I write out a portion of Scripture on my topic then journal questions and lessons. After I progress through all the appropriate portions, I journal a summary of what I learned and what is still open to question. This can be a powerful tool when seeking wisdom on a topic.
I enjoy using an Interlinear Bible or a Bible with Strong's numbers while reading. This allows me to get a fuller meaning of the words. Recently I have been using e-Sword for study because an electronic tool removes the time it takes to look up the meanings of each word. Another advantage to looking up definitions in Strong's, or a lexicon is that you can quickly check other verses that use the same original word.
One Bible study technique that I find very helpful is a form of topical study. Upon choosing my topic, (we will use abiding as our example) I find and write out all the verses that relate to the issue. I will often look up what the main word means and write it out. Then I take that large list of verses on my topic and begin asking questions and breaking the verses up into groups. For example, who do we abide in? Followed by the list of verse that tell us. What are the consequences of not abiding? Again a list of verse. What is the reward for abiding? How do we know if we are abiding? And so on. I then summarize what each group of verses specifies and answer in my own words what each of the questions ask. Finally I write a conclusion to the entire study, how it relates to me and how I can apply it in my own life. It's really a great way to learn and tie the pieces together. Writing it all out forces me to bring my thoughts together and come to a conclusion. I also have it available to read later. I find this very helpful!
To see how applicable the Bible is to every area of life has, and continues to fascinate me. The more I read the Bible the more truth and applicability I discover. I think my strong interest in the Bible has been planted and cultivated by the love and honor for God's Word, which I have observed in my parents. Usually I take on one book at a time. My tendency is to read through the book rather slowly. While I like to concentrate on one topic at a time, this can prove difficult since there are always far too many topics. Some are just of interest to me while others are very important to some issue in my life. One reason to study the Bible is to give our minds the truth to oppose the worldview of the books and people with whom we have contact. As I read, I keep a notebook. In it I reference verses both in the book I am studying and any other verses that I think of or look up in regard to my topic. Next to each reference I will write out a few personal thoughts on the issue. There is a huge amount of variability in this method. When I prayerfully look at what I am reading, I have been surprised at how every other verse seems applicable to the issue I have in hand. I am not good at staying focused, however I have really benefited from this flexible method of Bible study.
There are many ways to read your Bible. The Bible study technique that I use most frequently is to read slowly through a portion, one phrase, one thought at a time, praying over it, asking the Lord to open my heart to the truths of His Word. As I read the phrase over and over, I pray that He would reveal to me how it relates to my life; how my life is not aligned with His Word, how these truths would change my life, how I have seen them portrayed in others. As I pray and read He often convicts me of sin in my life that I need to make right and of attitudes and ideas that pervade my life and yet are not in accordance with His will. This Bible study takes time. In order to turn my heart to Him and truly seek the Spirit's guidance, I must spend a goodly portion of time before Him. I must remember that I cannot understand His Word by my own fleshly wisdom, for spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Instead I must remain quiet and allow Him to explain His Word to my heart. I am reminded of Phil. 2: 13 which says, "For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure." I, myself, do not even desire (will) to do His good pleasure, and I certainly cannot accomplish (do) it myself. It is God's work within me and I praise Him.
One Bible study that I have used many times is a word search study where I look up all the places a specific word shows up in the Bible, using a Concordance. I have also found this type of search to be helpful in a topical study when there are specific words that are closely intertwined with that topic. I use a Concordance a lot with the Bible studies that I do. I like this Bible study method because it can give an overview of what many different portions of the Bible have to say on a given topic. It can be very simple or detailed, depending on what exactly I am studying and why.
I once did a topical Bible study in Proverbs on the fear of the Lord. I read through Proverbs carefully writing out each verse that said what the fear of the Lord is. After reaching the end of Proverbs, I read through it again, just to make sure that I had not missed any verse on the first reading. Then on the end I added a few verses that were from other books yet applied to my study. When all this was finished, I typed it into the computer. This ended my study on the fear of the Lord in Proverbs.
For personal Bible time I usually just read, depending on how much time I have determines how many chapters I read. I have been reading through the Old Testament, now I am ready for Proverbs.
For personal Bible time, I also memorize portions of Scripture. I am working on Romans 6 by myself and 1John with the family. We have finished chapter one and have almost finished chapter two. I like to memorize.
When I have my personal Bible time, I read as many chapters as I can in the book of the Bible that I'm at. I do this before family Bible time. I started in Genesis and have been reading right through. Now I am in Ezekiel.
For my Bible time I look at my Bible story book. It has lots of pictures in it. I really like it because I don't have to be able read, the pictures tell the stories all by themselves. Jeremiah and Zechariah both had a Bible story book just like mine when they were little but they used theirs all up so I got a new one.
I remember really enjoying the illustrated Bible when I was first learning to read because it has so many illustrations so even if I could not read some of the longer words, I could still follow the story.
Another challenge I completed was to read through the Bible in a month. This was difficult as I did not read very fast at the time. I did make it through and had my first Bible overview. Since that time I don't think I have read all the way through in consecutive order, but I have read each book and paid a lot more attention to the meaning and the details of what I was reading.
I have personally found transcribing Scripture to be a wonderful devotional activity. As you slowly write out each word and phrase you have time to question and meditate on the meaning. This technique has helped me to grasp an overview of the topics covered in each book as well as their flow and relatedness. I use an inexpensive spiral bound notebook, which will hold about four short Epistles. I use my best handwriting and only add a paragraph per day.
In my personal devotions I sometimes sing both Scriptures and hymns. I find singing helps me slow down and be still a prerequisite for meeting with the Lord. Song also helps focus my soul on the spiritual thus short-circuiting soulish behavior intellectualizing my time in the word or functioning out of my emotions. Song is also a wonderful medium of worship and praise of which our Lord is worthy.
Devotional reading can be very helpful in moving our minds from the analytical to the worshipful. We are not discussing deep Bible studies here, but rather devotional time to fellowship with our Lord. Our goal is to know Him intimately. Devotional writings can help hedge us in to relationship building and away from Bible exegesis. There is a place for that, but it is not here. Here we want to meet with the Lover of our souls Jesus Christ.
All these Bible study methods are good and profitable, yet there is a caution. We must always remember the goal. Our purpose to study the Word is not to feed the mind knowledge puffeth up but rather to cultivate relationship with our Lord. We must guard against study for knowledge sake though knowledge is not in itself evil; and we must seek the Lord with a pure and humble heart. When we seek this way we come into His presence and commune with Him. We are humbled and worship Him. Then it is He teaches us and leads us into all truth. So if we seek Him we get both an intimate relationship with our Creator and knowledge mixed with faith. Isnt that just like our Lord, to add a double blessing for choosing the best over the good?! Seek Him while He may be found and you will be found by Him.
Personal Bible time grows and matures as the individual grows and matures. When I learned to read, I was presented with my very own Bible. I simply loved to read and read in that Bible, nothing more just read. Then Mom introduced me to writing Scripture out verse by verse so I studiously transcribed first, second and third John, Jude and Revelations. At the age of eight or nine, I don't remember getting much from it but then perhaps I got more than I realize, if nothing else it introduced me to the fact that it isn't enough to just read full tilt through the Word. Around the age of eleven, I was given a little tract by George Muller about how to have personal Bible time with the Lord, that was very good exposure to meditating upon God's Word and finding a verse to think on throughout the day. Since then I have also moved into the realm of cross referencing, as well as, underlining or highlighting particular portions. (I like to highlight in my Bible very lightly so that the color does not draw attention to itself and to use a ruler so
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Tit 2:13, 14)
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