Ten Suggestions for Better Personal Bible Study

  1. Get an easy to read, up-to-date translation of the Bible. I use the NIV but also lean on the ESV and enjoy the New Living Translation as a supplement.
  2. Don’t think of Bible study as an academic discipline but as a personal conversation. Here’s the way I look at it. I believe there is a God who created this universe, who is intelligent, and who knows how to communicate with His creation. I believe He knew the most permanent and transferable communication would be to inscribe His message in a Book. Within the covers of this Book is everything we need to know about living a good life. Within the covers of this Book is the explanation of our past and the promise of our future. Within the covers of this Book are the instructions for how to walk and talk and live with confidence and purpose. It’s a book deep enough to study for a lifetime, but short enough to hold in our hands. And when I sit down with an open Bible, it’s not an academic exercise; it’s a matter of letting my Creator show me what He wants me to know for this day. It’s as though Jesus Himself were sitting beside me talking with me. Think of it like that.
  3. Read the Bible methodically. Start where you left off yesterday. If you read Matthew 1 today, read Matthew 2 tomorrow. Select a book in the Bible – maybe Proverbs or Philippians – and read progressively through it.
  4. Sometimes read the Bible in large chunks. You can read through the Gospel of Matthew in less than an hour—less time than it takes to watch your favorite television drama. You can read the book of James in seven minutes. So sometimes read the Bible in large sections in order to get an overall understanding of the content.
  5. Sometimes read the Bible in small chunks. Sometimes in my daily Bible reading, I don’t even get through one verse. Sometimes just a word or phrase or sentence will be all the nourishment I need for my soul for that day. So I just pick up my reading at the same place tomorrow.
  6. Take notes when you read. Underline the verses that most speak to you. Circle verses that you want to memorize. Put question marks beside the verses you don’t understand. If you have a little notebook, try writing out a verse or diagramming it like you did in high school grammar class. Make a list of the things mentioned in the verse.
  7. Consult notes when you read. I keep two study Bibles at my desk. One is John MacArthur’s Study Bible and the other is the ESV Study Bible, which is my favorite. Each one has helpful study notes on every page that helps me understand the background of the books of the Bible and the best explanation for difficult verses. If I’m confused about the passage, I consult the notes in my study Bible.
  8. Combine Bible study with your prayer time and spend a few minutes at the same basic time every day. Find the quietest place you can find, preferably with a little desk or table, and devote five or ten or fifteen minutes, or half an hour, to this wonderful experience. Do it until it becomes a blessed habit in your life.
  9. If you don’t get much out of your Bible study one day, don’t get discouraged; just start again tomorrow. And if you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up; but make sure you don’t miss two days in a row.
  10. Attend a church that offers an expositional pulpit ministry.

For my entire message on this subject, click here.