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Category Archives: How to Study the Bible

BIBLE STUDY – PART 5

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THE 5 W’S

Okay, you caught me.  This is essentially the same method of study as SOAPSTONE, but simpler.  I believe that SOAPSTONE allows for a more detailed perspective; but sometimes, simple is best.  So, you know the drill:  Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?  Apply these questions to the passage in the most appropriate or significant way.

Who is the passage about? Who is speaking? Also, who is listening?

What is the subject? Is it a problem? Is it a solution? What is the focus?

When is this taking place?  Time of day? Time in Bible? Time of year? Special Occasion? How is the time significant? In relation to what?

Where?  Where is this happening?  Who lives there?  What are their belief systems and cultures? How does this impact what is happening to them and around them?

Why?  Why is the person speaking? Why does the problem exist? Why are people interested?

How? How does this impact the people? the speaker? your life right now? How can this change you?

 

Bible Study – Part 4

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SOAPSTONE

I learned a lot about how to study the Bible from teaching literature for years. Essentially, it’s the same approach, but it works even better combined with prayer. People think studying God’s Word is mysterious and that they cannot grasp it.  That’s not true.  God’s Word is accessible to everyone–especially in this day and age when there are so many different translations. And God will always guide us by His Holy Spirit into His Truth.

Here is another method you can try using the acronym SOAPSTONE.

S – Speaker – Who is speaking?  What do you know about the speaker?  What details does he reveal about himself? What is his background? How is this important to his message?

O – Occasion – What is the time and place?  How does this affect the message?  How does it add meaning or understanding?

A – Audience – To whom is the scripture addressed?  Is this important? How does this affect the message.  For example, each of the four gospels is written to a different audience.  This is important to understand when comparing them because each audience has a different background and reference point.

P – Purpose – What is the speaker’s intent? What does he hope to accomplish?  Is the he informing, entertaining, inspiring, or persuading?  How is the audience responding to the message/purpose?

S – Subject – What is the subject of the message? What is he talking about?

Tone – Tone – What is the tone of the message?  What is the attitude toward the subject? What emotions are conveyed?  Is it instructive? Authoritative? comforting? Correcting?

What I like about this method of Bible study is it forces you to see the context.  And context is important when trying to apply God’s Word to our own lives.  Often we see the stories as without meaning to us because the setting is so different; however, we can find parallels in so many ways, if we allow ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit’s instruction.  After you have processed SOAPSTONE, think about how the passage as a whole and the truths it reveals apply to your own life.  Write them down so you can come back to them in the future.

Bible Study – SOAP – Part 3

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SOAP

Here’s a method of Bible study I learned recently. Though it is similar to something I taught in English, I had never seen this one before. I like it because it focuses on one verse at a time.

S stands for SCRIPTURE- Turn to your Bible reading for the day. Read until a particular verse stands out to you in some way. Stop there and begin analyzing using that one verse.

O stands for OBSERVATION – Write down as many things as you can about the verse.  What do you notice? What questions do you have?  Write down anything that comes to mind.

A stands for APPLICATION – Look at the observations you have made about the scripture and ask yourself how these things apply or could apply to your own life.  Be specific. What have you learned or can you learn from this verse?

P stands for PRAYER – Write down the application that you will apply to your life.  Then pray and ask God to help you accomplish that.  If you feel you didn’t find any specific thing to apply, ask God to reveal something to you.

This is a simple, straightforward method of study, but I have learned it can have powerful results.

Bible Study – Part 2 – Paraphrasing

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PSALM 36:7-12 (AMP) How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge and put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. 
          They relish and feast on the abundance of Your house; and You cause them to drink of the stream of Your pleasures.
          For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.
          O continue your loving kindness to those who know You, Your rightness (salvation) to the upright in heart.
          Let not the foot of pride overtake me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
          There the workers of iniquity fall and like prostrate; they are thrust down and shall not be able to rise.

One method of Bible study I have used often is just simple paraphrasing.  Writing is a good study tool no matter what the subject.  Writing Bible verses word for word can also help them penetrate your thoughts.  However, writing them in your own words causes you to think about what the words actually mean.  If forces you to look up words you don’t quite understand.  It provides insight into your own situation.  When I am paraphrasing, if I have thoughts that occur to me which are more an extension of the verse rather than part of the paraphrasing, I go ahead and include those.  I don’t censor what I am writing because often a nugget of truth will penetrate my consciousness, and I will realize that God has addressed something I have been questioning or praying about.

Writing a paraphrase is a good method to use on scriptures that at first seem cryptic.  I usually try to do this before I read other interpretations.  If I find my paraphrase is inaccurate, I can always go back and adjust it to my new understanding.  But even if I glean thoughts that are not directly related to the scripture at hand, if they are God’s truth (if they can be supported by other verses in Scripture), then they are just as valuable to me.  That was the case with the last two verses of this passage from Psalms.

God’s love is precious and constant.

His children can find refuge in His presence.  They can trust in His presence.

His children find that His house is a house of abundance.  They find great pleasure in and celebrate God’s abundant provision.

God provides His children refreshing drink from all that He has, sparing nothing, filling them to completeness.

His children acknowledge that God is the True Source of life and pleasure.  God’s light, wisdom, and truth allow His children to also perceive light, wisdom, and truth.

When God’s children feast at His table, His abundance fills more than their physical hunger.  His food gives everything needed to live a successful, fulfilled life that overflows with blessing.

Lord, please continue Your love and kindness to Your children—those those who truly know You and understand the abundance that is available at Your table.  Continue to provide Your righteousness to Your children (through Christ) so that we are fit to sit at Your table. (Only Your righteousness makes us fit for these benefits in the first place.)

Let us not be fooled by pride into thinking that we ourselves are responsible for any of this blessing.  Do not let evil thoughts of self-sufficiency drive us away or separate us from Your blessing and provision.

When we start thinking we can manage things on our own, we fall and fail miserably.  We fall so hard, we are not capable of getting ourselves up on our feet again.  (We can only stand when we are relying on You, Lord.)

I realize I have taken some liberties with the last two verses.  These verses more likely are David’s prayer to be protected from his enemies.  But when I was reading about God’s provision, it struck me how our own pride in thinking we can handle things ourselves is often the wicked or evil that makes us fall.  Proverbs 16:18 is very clear.  “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I hope you find paraphrasing a valuable method of Bible study.  I look forward to sharing more on this topic.

How to Study the Bible – Part 1

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I am not a Bible scholar or a pastor, and I am not formally trained in Bible study; but those things are not necessary to read the Bible and grow in your relationship with Jesus. I am an English teacher, and studying the Bible is like studying literature in many ways.  There are certain key things that you can do to get more out of your time with God.

Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who brings life and meaning to our understanding of God’s Word; but as we dig in and try to find deeper meaning, I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to us in deeper ways.

There is no one right way to study the Bible just as there is no one right way to read a book.  Some people read slowly and take apart every word and every nuance.  Others read quickly for overall meaning and then read again.  I have done both, but I usually just start out reading and see where the Spirit leads.

The following things are helpful if you want to become a student of the Bible.

  1. Choose a Bible that you are comfortable with, that you can understand. For a long time, I used the King James Version of the Bible.  It was what I had grown up with, and I love the sound of the language that many find old-fashioned.  It was more appealing to me than the updated versions, like the NIV.  But that’s me.  You should choose a Bible that works for you. Even choosing a children’s Bible is okay if that is what is comfortable to you.  The key here is to gain meaning, and the Holy Spirit can speak to us through God’s Word, regardless of the interpretation.
  1. Try to choose a Bible that has some study tips, history, or commentary right on the pages that you are reading. There are many Bibles like that available.  Two that are popular are the Fire Bible (Hendrickson Bible Publishers), which is an NIV translation, and the Everyday Bible by Joyce Meyer (FaithWords Publisher), which is the Amplified translation.  I wouldn’t recommend the Student version of the Fire Bible just because the print is so tiny.  The ASV Bible is another translation.  My husband likes this one.  I’m not sure of any specific study Bible with this translation. If you like the King James Version, the Open Bible (Thomas Nelson Publisher) is another good one.  I have that and used it exclusively for many years, but now I use the Everyday Bible.
  1. Don’t be intimidated. You can read and understand the Bible on your own. You just have to start. If you get a good study Bible, you don’t need a lot of other books. There are concordances and Bible history books available, but I would just start with God’s Word.
  1. Start simply. Get a highlighter, a journal or spiral notebook, and a pen.  Also, a smart phone can be helpful to look things up if you really get stuck. And you might want a dictionary, or you can use dictionary.com on your phone.
  1. If you want some specific passages to read daily, there are lots of devotional books available. I have been using Our Daily Bread for years.  You can have it delivered to your home every month or you can read it online.  But again, there are so many options available.  Just find one and begin. These can be a jumping off place for your Bible study.
  1. If you don’t want to be tied into a devotional book, just choose a book of the Bible to study. I wouldn’t read randomly every day. You want some order and context to your reading.  Choose one book at a time.  You can start at the beginning of the New Testament or choose a smaller New Testament book to start.  Or you can start at the beginning in Genesis.  It’s up to you.
  1. The last thing you need is a quiet place and a specific time. If you build a specific time of day for studying your Bible into your routine, you’ll be a lot more likely to stick with it.  Honestly, I struggled for years in accomplishing any meaningful Bible study.  I was relying on books and not digging in to God’s Word myself.  I found that when I began journaling and really looking at the Word on my own, it became much more interesting and a lot easier to keep committed to that daily personal time.

Gather your Bible and materials and stop back to read Part 2 of this series.

Until next time.