An Introduction to Bible Study

21 Feb

Most facilities in this day and age have some sort of emergency policy posted where the employees can see it. On a brightly colored map of the store, management has marked out exit routes and outlined how and to where employees are to evacuate the customers if, for example, the soda machine decides to spontaneously combust.

While it may be tempting to overlook this unimposing map and its attached policies, the day may come when they are needed. Can you imagine the chaos which would ensue if every employee, instead of knowing the procedure by heart, suddenly had to dash to the nearest wall chart and figure out what to do next?

Unfortunately, many times as Christians, we take the same attitude towards God’s Word that we do towards that underused emergency policy: we don’t bother with it until there’s a desperate need. The result is total chaos.

Admittedly, the Bible is somewhat larger than that wall chart (by about 1,499 pages depending upon the translation you use). The unfortunate reality is that we frequently become so intimidated by its size that we often give up on reading it before even making a reasonable stab at it. What follows here are some helpful hints which I hope will render the study of Scripture a less than terrifying part of your regular routine:

1. Start easy. While reading through the Bible in a year is an admirable goal (it takes about three and an half chapters a day), if you aren’t already used to devoting that much time to its pages, you can find yourself combating a world of frustration. Instead, commit to a single chapter each day. Even the longest (Psalm 119) shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes and, if it does, just cut it in half. God isn’t as concerned about the number of pages we read as He is about the way we read. Are we truly seeking to know His Will and apply it to our lives?  If we are, then even a few verses a day will win Heaven’s applause.

2. Start easy… really easy. The Bible isn’t actually a single book, but sixty-six shorter ones and, while it may be appealing to read it as a whole, for many people starting in Genesis just isn’t that reasonable. Start with the single chapter books and work your way up to the longer ones. And don’t forget to keep a record of your progress.

3. If you possess a good study Bible, take the time to read both the study hints and the cross references. Yes, this takes a little more time than a straight forward reading of Scripture, but you’ll be surprised at how much light these little footnotes can shed upon the meaning and modern application of an ancient, foreign text!

4. Give yourself a visual cue. Experts say that it takes the average person 14 days to form a habit. In order to make Bible reading a regular part of your life, you need to remember to do it in the first place. For the first 14 days or maybe more, make sure to set your Bible someplace where you will see it regularly. If you want to read in the evening, set it atop your pillow after you make your bed for the day. If you want to read in the morning, set it out beneath your favorite coffee mug. Put it somewhere that you’ll see it and you’ll remember to read it.

5. Don’t get discouraged. Many Christians act as if forgetting a day of study is the equivalent to tumbling back down a mountain that took them forever to climb. I know because I’ve been there; I’ve probably re-read Genesis more times than any woman alive! Try to view Scripture reading as a racecourse rather than a trek up the Himalayas. If you fall down half-way through, you don’t go back to the starting blocks, you just get up and keep going. Remember, the goal isn’t to set a record, but to begin to understand what God says through His Word.

Next week, we’ll take a broader look at the issue of “time management” and explore some ways in which a schedule that really is overbooked can be altered to help us make time to truly listen to God. Meanwhile, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

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