Practical Habits for Bible Study
In addition to the “mechanics” of effective study, it is helpful to think also along the lines of study habits. I would like to offer some suggestions that have been helpful to me across the years.
(1) If at all possible, create for yourself a special “study” in your home. In a spare room, the attic, the basement, etc. — find yourself a “study nook” that can be yours. Furnish it with a comfortable chair, a desk, good lighting, and some book shelves. Make it your special place and plan to visit it regularly on certain days of the week (e.g., an hour each morning before work time).
Early morning is really the most ideal time for study. Discipline yourself to get in the habit of regular study.
This is a difficult chore. If one is not preaching, teaching a class, or engaged in some activity that demands research, it is hard to carve out the time — particularly if it is a labor, rather than a love. But if one gets into the study mode, virtually every day, it will pay rich dividends — not only in his personal life, but in qualifying him to help others.
In addition to devotional reading in the Bible itself, for example, one might select a popular (as opposed to technical) commentary that he will read through in the coming year. I try to keep a good book handy to read whenever I have a spare moment away from regular duties. For instance, if I know I am going to have to spend time in the doctor’s waiting room, rather than browsing magazines, I may take a book with me.
(2) Every Christian should build at least a modest library of good books. Handy tools, such as a complete concordance, a Bible atlas, some biblical dictionaries or encyclopedias, a few good commentaries, some volumes on Christian evidences, church history, etc., are vital for a well-rounded range of knowledge. One should subscribe to at least a couple good brotherhood periodicals — those that teach (as opposed to merely haranguing).
(3) Study the Scriptures from several different vantage points. Survey biblical books. Galatians falls into three natural divisions:
Personal – A Defense of Paul’s Credibility (1-2);
Doctrinal – Justification through the Gospel (3-4);
Practical – Walking by the Spirit (5-6).
Explore the biographical data of great Bible characters. Articles in Bible dictionaries (e.g., The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary) on Abraham, Joseph, Jesus, and Paul will enrich your life. Learn to do “word studies.” Words are the vehicles of intelligent communication. Even the non-specialist can learn something of the treasures of the original languages of the Bible.
(4) In this day of mobility, a good student can take advantage of good Bible lectureships by listening to tapes as he drives about from place-to-place. It is important to utilize every possible opportunity to learn God’s word. The Christian who is ever learning will become a valuable resource to the congregation of which he or she is a member.
I’m a note taker. It helps me concentrate, think, learn, and apply what I’m hearing. I’m also a doodler. But mainly I’m unorganized and lose those notes or never look at them again. UNTIL, I found a new way to take notes! A new way that keeps them organized, together, and all in one place.
A Do It Yourself Legacy Bible Journal!
I’ve been using it for a few months now and am so excited to say that it really DOES work and makes me so excited to go to church and learn more and fill more pages! I can’t tell you the difference this organized way has made in my Bible study times, meetings with our mentors, books I’m reading, and Sunday morning services.
So I’ll jump right in on how to set it up for yourself. I’m so excited for you to try this!
First, I grabbed a simple, cheap (under $2) composition notebook. Get one you really like. I wasn’t sure that I would like this system, so I just used a wide ruled, ugly covered one I had laying around (wish I had gotten a college ruled one with a pretty cover).
Don’t be like me. Find one you’ll love (though I’ve grown to love it so much and I’ll probably recover it at some point anyway).
**Important: on the inside cover, be sure to add your name and phone number. I know even though I’m only at the beginning of filling in the pages, if I ever lost or misplaced this book, I would be so upset! Be sure to add this on the inside of the front cover!**
Now you’re going to make your Table of Contents. Leave at least the first 5-6 pages blank for this. I listed everything in the Bible I wanted to know more about that I could think of. I wrote them on a different piece of paper, and tried to alphabetize, but since then have added many more on to the end of the list, so it’s not that important to alphabetize.
You’ll have lots of unused lines on those pages. That’s good. You’ll soon fill them up….
(I’ve since updated –glued a new page over this one–to have a line down the middle and TWO rows of topics and pages. I like it MUCH better. See here for my new table of contents list.)
Then, you’re going to skip those first five to six table of contents pages and start numbering every single page (front and back) of the notebook. I just put a small number in the bottom corner of each page. Every single one. (Nice activity to do while watching your favorite show or listening to the latest Dave Ramsey podcast.)
And, that’s basically all you need to do for the set up. Now the fun begins! Now you get to keep this notebook with you everywhere. With your current Bible Study, at church, everywhere!
I’m loving that instead of just taking notes on that specific sermon, that I can never find when I need anyway, I put the information that applies to whatever the pastor is going over on the page that is appropriate.
I have pages for specific Bible characters that I want to know more about… especially because my Bible history is so weak. I only know a handful of the really popular people of the Bible, and want to know MORE!
When our pastor was going over the book of Proverbs, I made a new page for some of them, but some of them fit on other pages I had already made (anger, anxiety, etc).
Then there was a sermon that we listened to that brought up another character that I had forgotten about, so I added him to the Table of Contents and started a page just for him. What a blessing to add to my knowledge of more and more people of the Bible! There are many, many blank pages that I have yet to fill in. But that’s kind of exciting to me. I always have SOMETHING to study. Something to learn more about!
I’m excited that I don’t need a guided Bible Study book all the time, I’m able to search the scriptures myself for whatever topic I have at hand next. I can’t tell you enough, how much this system has simplified, streamlined, and helped my Bible study time and growth. It’s so fun to pull my notebook out and add bits of information here and there to a page.
Sometimes I add only one sentence, or just a thought that was brought up in a book I’m reading, or something I’ve heard. Sometimes it’s a whole page or more. And, what a legacy this will be as I fill page after page with God’s truth. As long as I’m here on this earth, I’ll keep filling up pages with what I’m learning to pass along as a legacy to my children of what a great spiritual heritage they have in Christ.
Table of Contents/Topics… May want to use pencil (for those OCD people) or just forget about alphabetical order (if you can) :)