How Do I Study the Bible
This weekend I attended an amazing conference put on by Lifeway Ministries featuring Priscilla Shirer. The first time I heard her speak was at the 2010 Impact National Conference. Her message on grace and the story of Jonah changed my life and I haven't looked back to the life I used to live since. However, listening to her speak, as well as many other Bible teachers - my pastors included - I wondered, where does she come up with this stuff?! I looked down at the scripture she taught from on Friday night in amazement like how did she grab all of that from this one verse. Saturday morning Priscilla gave us her "secret" to studying the Bible and told us that many of the topics and scriptures she teaches on have merely come out of the quiet time she spends with God and studying His word. She called them, the "5 P's of Bible Study". I thought I'd share them with you all if you, too, are having difficulty opening the Word of God and figuring out how to really meditate on the scriptures and discover the beauty of God's character.
Priscilla Shirer's Bible Study Tips:
1. Position yourself to hear from God. - This can be physically and mentally. Sometimes we need to find a place in our house that can allow us to escape the world around us and just enjoy being in His presence. It's okay if your quiet time (the place you have it or the length) is unconventional - some folks, including Priscilla, can only get solitude in their bathrooms; that's fine! It's not about quantity, it's about quality! We also need to come with an open mind and heart - expect God to reveal something to you. Don't just think of time with the Father as a waste of time.
The person who does not expect God to speak will never hear God speak ~ A.W. Tozer
2. Pore (ponder/meditate/consider) over the passage and paraphrase the major points. - Also, think about the season you are in and ask yourself how much scripture you can allow yourself to pore over. For instance, do you really have enough discipline to read the Bible in an entire year or should you focus on one book of the Bible for an entire year? There's nothing wrong with reading the entire Bible, but time constraints (i.e. 365 days) can require reading multiple chapters in a day and sometimes may cause us to miss key points - and Lord forbid if you miss one day; that's a ton of reading to catch up on!
3. Pull out the spiritual principles. - Look at the paraphrase you made and look for a command or attribute, etc. One thing that has helped me is asking myself: What does this scripture reveal about God? and What does this scripture reveal about man?
4. Pose the questions. - Turn those principles into questions about your life and write them down. It's in those moments when we ask questions that we are beginning to have a conversation with God. We, then, begin to hear and, prayerfully, conviction will take place. Conviction is a beautiful thing! It is at the moment of conviction that we can agree with the Holy Spirit so He can gather us back closely to the Father. Ain't nothing like good 'ol conviction to grow you and mature you in your relationship with the Lord!
5. Plan obedience and Pin down the date. - If you weren't making the grades you desired in school what would you do? Seek better study habits, find a tutor, get a study group going. If you gained some extra, unwanted weight what would you do? Get a workout partner, start Insanity (crazy people!), or begin eating healthier. The fact is, we come up with strategies to fix everything in our lives and we do these things with all diligence. The same should be for our walk with Christ! When we feel conviction we need to come up with a strategy of obedience to God.
Bonus Tips: Sometimes we may read something and wonder what it could have to do with our lives. Think about it: "So-and-so begot so-and-so, who begot so-and-so, who begot so-and-so, the Something-ite who married the Israelite of the Such-and-Such tribe in Jerusalem". I know it's tempting, but don't skip over these parts! The Bible is the living Word of God and everything serves its purpose!
There will also come times when we may read something and ask our questions, but you may not understand how that applies to your life today. God can give us a word in 2013 that may not make sense for another 10 years. For instance, I had heard the story of Jonah many times during my childhood, but when I heard Priscilla speak on it at the age of 20, it clicked - I have grace! I had to tell everybody and their mother about it! I had just "discovered" the gift of grace...10 years after accepting Christ as my Savior! Don't ask how that happened.
Last, the more you know God, the more clearly you can hear from God. And not just know about Him, but intimately know Him. There's a major difference between knowing facts about God - like the Pharisees did - and having an intimate relationship with God. Just like there's a difference between knowing about the president of the United States and actually knowing him - knowing who he is will not grant you access to eat dinner tonight with the Obama's anytime you feel like it; having a relationship/friendship/etc. with them will. The same goes for God, the Father - do you know Him? His character? His will? This way, when the enemy or your flesh tries to speak, you know it's not God!
I pray these tips will help you just as they've already begun to help me. The Bible is here for each of us to dive into and devour. We don't have to sit and wait in anticipation for our pastors each Sunday or for the next conference in your town with the popular Bible teachers. We have the living Word of God now! So dig in and get to know your Abba a little better!