How I Study the Bible

Short post today on my personal Bible study method:

  • I read one Psalm, one chapter from the Old Testament and one chapter from the New Testament in order. So your plan would begin with Psalm 1, Genesis 1, Matthew 1.
  • There are 779 chapters in the OT (not counting the Psalms, which have 150) and there are 260 chapters in the NT. This means that by the time I read through the entire Bible once I have read the OT once, the NT three times, and the Psalms five times. Given the significance of the Psalms to the worship of God’s people (you could view the Psalms as Israel’s “hymnal”) and the significance of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) for understanding the Christ-centered life, this is an helpful ratio for my spiritual formation.
  • After reading my three chapters I write no more than a paragraph of summary – something I learned from the text, a thought prompted by my reading, or how the text interacts with my mood that day.
  • Particularly important to me is the way that the three chapters are unified thematically. All Scripture is about God’s redemptive plan and his commitment to bring light from darkness. My paragraph of writing almost always includes the way the three chapters I read serve this theme.
  • After reading I spend time in thanksgiving and prayer for those who have asked me to pray for them.

My favorite coupling of texts: Matthew and the minor prophets. Longing for a king then the fulfillment of that hope in the Gospel most focused on the Kingdom of Christ. That was lovely. Close second: Amos and Revelation.

This method of study keeps me well-rounded and avoids getting bogged down in difficult areas of Scripture. I remember, for instance, the way that Paul’s epistles were a breather for me after a particularly long section of historical narrative in the OT, and the Psalms kept me grounded in thanksgiving during my reading of the Levitical order. Alternately, the Minor Prophets reminded me at the proper times of God’s care for the poor and hatred of injustice when I found myself losing focus in the repetitive themes of the Psalms of Ascent.

The reason I restrict my journaling to one paragraph is that concision forces me to think more deeply about themes and avoid long and aimless rambling. You may need the rambling, I need to reign it in – since I talk for a living! I also feel less intimidated by the task of Bible Study.

Next week: my pattern of personal worship


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