When digging into scripture it is always vital that you know the location, time and references being made. Look for key words that repeated over and again.This helps in correlating the whole passage. Bible study should be methodical. A "Methodical Bible study is concerned with the proper path to be taken in order to arrive at Scriptural truth." (Methodical Bible Study, Robert Traina)
So what does all that mean? Simply put that the path is taking certain steps in a certain manner to guarantee certain results. The product is a first hand exposure to the Word of God. We do this by following a process: Observation, Interpretation, Correlation and Application.
Here are a few truths for you to focus on:
Truth #1: The more time you spend in observation the less time you spend in interpretation.
Truth #2: The less time you spend in observation the more time and mistakes you make in interpretation
Problem: We are a culture that is in such a hurry that we want to breeze right past the work aspect and get to the answers and solutions first, without regard to the process. Bible Study should be methodical with a view to receptivity and reproduction. You must be mature and if you want to be effective in public, you must be effective in private. You need first hand exposure to the Word of God in your private life and public life.
So what do you gain from Bible Study:
1. It enables us to think for ourselves.
2. It prepares us to evaluate the thoughts of others
3. It will give us the joy of personal discovery
4. It will enable you to fall in love with the Author.
So how do you become an observer of God's Word? Well for starters you can start looking to see what is really in being given to you when you read.
You do this by Observing the bible, make observation. What can you see, not interpretation, not meaning and application...observation only. Pay attention to pronouns (you, my), conjunctions, etc. Remember in observations, you never ask a question.
Example: Read Acts 1:8 only. Do not look at any other verses before or after and make observations: Try to get at least 20. I'll help get you started and see how many you can add to mine:
I can observe that....
1. someone is going to receive power
2. I do not know who "you" is
3. I do not know if "you" is singular or plural
4. Future tense is given in "you shall"
5. Reference to Deity "Me" is a pronoun
6. Cause and effect is present: Something will occur when something else occurs
7. Future tense "will" is used
8. Time is references with "when" as a temporal word
9. "and" is used 4 times (word frequency is important)
10. The Holy Spirit will come upon someone
11. commands are given "you shall"
You get the idea. It's alot harder than you think. We are so programmed to make interpretations before we make observations that we jump past the first part of an effective bible study. Merrily to be patient and observe the word of God. If you want to be a good observer of Gods word, them you must first learn to be a good reader! How you approach this makes all the difference in the world and how you will read. If you approach any book just to learn facts and figures it will not sustain you for the long haul. You need to learn to approach Gods Word to find out how its going to change me life! Its a resource manual for living! A letter from someone written to you! When you get a letter from someone you love and care about you simply do not breeze over it and then toss it out and never think of it again. You read it over and over, looking for little clues to what is being said. Underlining meanings, the TRUTH! Think back to when you were in middle school or high school and you would exchange notes with the man or woman you loved. You would read that note over and again, until you had it memorized. You wanted to know how the other person felt, what they were thinking, were they were, how there life was, you wanted to know everything you could and you were consumed with them, That is how we need to approach the Word of God, with that same all consuming fire and passion. After all He loves you and cares more about you than anyone else in this world. So much so that He sent his son to die for you! So how do you become a better reader? Well first off you read the same thing repeatedly. Just like you do when you get a note from a loved one.You read it thoughtfully- engaging with the writer. Patiently letting the word of God sit and simmer in you. All the while looking selectively at the words -who, what, when, where, why and how.
What is the chapter about?
Who are the main characters?
When do the events or teaching take place?
Where does this happen?
Why is this being said or done?
How did it happen?
You read prayerfully! Open the book and pray before your study to God asking Him to "help you understand what I am about to read. Speak to me today!" Read reflectively. Looking for clues as to what is going on in the text. Finally, read with a purpose-how is this going to change and impact my life!
You can find more on how to read effectively by looking into a couple of books I love:
1. How to read a book-Martimer J Adlert and Charles Von Doren
2. 10 Days to Faster Reading- Princeton Institute o and Abby Marks Bele