A common approach to studying the Bible is the Inductive Method. The goal is to draw out and rightly interpret a passage, not read into it or force our own meaning into it. While people use various words or acronyms to explain steps in the Inductive Method, the most simple is Observation-Interpretation-Application. In this post, I’ll provide suggested questions for learning how to make observations in a passage of the Bible. The observation stage asks, “What do I see?”
A key part of understanding what we read is to read the Bible reflectively. The questions below are not exhaustive, but they provide a framework of Look, Understand, Apply, and Pray to guide your reading. Find ways that help you study and apply God’s Word. Take notes; write down thoughts and prayers; ask questions; chew on or meditate on what you see; and ask a friend or use a good Study Bible or commentary if something doesn’t make sense.
We all need encouragement to read the Bible regularly. Maybe one thing that’s kept you from consistent Bible reading is not knowing what to read or where to turn. The nice thing about a reading plan is it provides a starting point. It takes out the question, “What should I red today?”
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Martyn Lloyd Jones
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Growing in Christ includes putting off sinful behaviors and putting on Christ-like ones, but it begins with battling at the levels of the heart (desires) and mind (thinking). The two are inseparable (Matt. 15:18-19). The heart leads our head down certain ways of thinking, and our wrong thinking reinforces wrong desires.
In addition to “no shave November” there are other challenges you might take on in this month. A couple personal ones are saying yes to pumpkin anything and downing as much Thanksgiving Blend coffee from Starbucks as possible (while it’s around). It’s a month of food and feasting, and that is certainly something I can give thanks for with a full heart (and stomach)!
One joy of studying the Word rather than giving it a cursory reading is all the truth that starts to pop. Read through anything quickly and little will stand out. Read things slowly and thoughtfully, and you’ll experience reading in a whole new way. One thing slowing down forces us to do is to ask questions about the Bible. What does a word mean? Why did the writer use that sentence order or repeat that phrase several times? Where else from Scripture might they be drawing from? If we pause to chew on one word, one promise, one truth, or one phrase, we’re much more likely to be gripped by it and do something with it.
“If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” John Owen
Continuing the series of posts on Bible meditation, I wanted to list some practical ideas for how to do it. While meditation can be a result of reflecting on something in creation, life experiences, conversations, our future in eternity, or other things, we’ll focus on meditating on Scripture.
First, let’s define Bible meditation.
“Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it effectually upon the heart.” Thomas Hooker
“Deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.” Don Whitney
I define bible meditation as reflecting on biblical truths so they burrow themselves into our minds and affections. Meditation means absorbing God’s truths and promises through a purposeful reflection on them.
“A Christian without meditation is like a soldier without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation, the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory slippery, and without meditation all is lost.” Thomas Watson
Starting on September 9th, I’ll teach a four-week class on Bible meditation. I’ve taught classes on Bible study–which are important–but I believe a missing link between reading the Bible and it landing on us with staying power is meditation.
On Sunday, our church passed out a 40 Days of Prayer & Reading to takes us through the book of Acts together. Each day provides a section of Acts to read and one thing to pray over. It’s a small step in helping people get into the Word consistently, intentionally, and prayerfully. (You’ll notice the text sizes start short and get longer as we walk before we run.) What sorts of questions should we ask when reading the Bible?