Where Do I Start?
The old adage, “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail,” is especially true when trying to develop a personal Bible study and devotion time. It doesn’t need to be a detailed or complicated plan, just a loose guide to help keep you on track. There’s not one right way to do this. Different personality types will be drawn to different methods, systems, or tools. Regardless of your temperament, regular time in God’s Word will prove to be life-changing.
Ephesians 4:16 says, “Grow and build yourself up…” God wants His people to step up and take some responsibility instead of depending on others to feed them spiritually. I’ll offer some suggestions but you can tweak them to fit your preferences. It may take some trial and error and you may want to change things up from season to season. Just start!
Where to start?
Ask God. You might be drawn to a book of the Bible after hearing a sermon or a podcast or a song — follow that lead. If you don’t sense any direction, start with one of the gospels. There’s wisdom in spending time in the gospels. We need to watch Jesus, hear His words, keep falling in love with Him. Some people think the gospels are “JV” material and that studying the deep theology in Paul’s letters is for the mature. I beg to differ. Get a front row seat and watch the Master. Start with Mark (the shortest gospel and most action-packed) or Luke (the only gospel written by a Gentile for a non-Jewish audience).
If you’d rather start with a shorter book, try Philippians, James or 1 John. You can’t go wrong! The main thing is to pick one and go straight through the book, taking a small passage or paragraph at a time. (Details coming in next post.)
There are two methods I would not recommend for personal study.
1. The Flip and Point Method
You are looking for help with a problem, so you flip open the Bible, close your eyes and land your finger on the page. This is not a good plan. This is how cults start because it is easy to take words out of context and make the Bible say anything you want. For instance, if your finger lands on Matthew 27:5 (“Judas went out and hanged himself”) and then for a second swipe at it, you land on Luke 10:37 (“Go and do likewise”), you could make a case for something the Bible doesn’t actually say. Context is key. Stay put in the same book for a while. Soak in it, savor it, take your time.
2. The Read Through the Bible in a Year Method
There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible from cover to cover. It’s just not conducive to lingering over passages and it’s hard to engage with the scripture at the pace required to get through it in one year. This is not a race. Take a long term view. Read slowly and deliberately. Volume doesn’t equal blessing. God want us to enjoy this!
Next: How to Have a Bible Party, part 3
My Best Tip for Staying Consistent
My 3 Step Method: Read, Receive, Respond