Honestly when I started this “Sunday School” I set out as a goal to do some devotionals. I’m finding ideas hard to come by. I don’t want to just give my thoughts, I want to provide the Biblical references behind it. Its easy to dump opinion, much harder to tie it into the Bible and have enough material for a blog.
I’ll defend myself a bit by saying I do post a daily verse on Facebook and often times will comment on it. But reposting those in a blog isn’t going to make a very good blog. I’m thinking maybe I could gather a month of them and do a “Sunday School: Facebook Droppings” blog. That could cover one week of the month of “Sunday School” blogs.
What I decided to do today is share my method of Bible study with you. Keep in mind this isn’t being shared as a standard to aspire to. It may not be a high enough standard even. The important thing is to study the Bible and to grow and expand that study. Its your relationship with God and God will lead you in what you are to do.
For my study I use 3 translations*:
* More info about these versions can be found on my blog that discussed the ESV Study Bible. This is just the highlights.
New King James Version: The NKJV isn’t exactly just the King James with the thees, thous and puffeths taken out but it is the continuation of the KJV heritage as they used the same manuscripts the original KJV used and strives to balance accuracy, readability (17th century English folks could read the KJV just fine if they could read at all) and poetry. Its my primary translation. I use a NKJV Study Bible.
English Standard Version: Another literal translation similar to the NKJV. It does use the earlier written but later discovered manuscripts the NKJV does not use and the original KJV could not use (because they hadn’t discovered them yet). I still prefer the NKJV but this is a good second literal translation.
New Living Translation: This is a “dynamic” translation which translates the thoughts of the writers as opposed to the actual words. Some are wary of these translations. Others love them. I’m in the middle. I would never rely solely on a “dynamic” translation but reading one can be very helpful. The NLT is highly regarded as a very readable, accurate dynamic translation.
I select the book I’m going to study. I try to balance the Old Testament and the New Testament. Its very easy to just study the NT, its easier to read and more direct. But the OT is very important and I feel I must have a “balanced diet” as it were (my food diet certainly isn’t balanced). The toughest part is studying books like Jeremiah (my current book) since at the pace of one chapter a day I’ll be at it for two months.
Once the book is selected I usually spend a day previewing it. That means I’ll read the study Bible introductions and I’ll read the whole book (for NT letters) or sections (for longer books like Jeremiah). While I will continue doing that for NT letters and such I’m not sure if I’ll do it for other books. Not sure how much value is in reading a whole book that spans a long swath of time (as opposed to a letter which is written as a whole in one sitting or a few sittings).
On most days I’ll focus on a chapter a day. My study can be divided into three parts: previewing, reading, writing.
Previewing: This means I read through the study notes. I read the verse then the note. I flip between doing it before I read or after I read the chapter (which would make this part reviewing). In any case I read the study notes and the verses they are explaining. This helps with important concepts, traditions and meanings. This is especially important for the more literal translations.
Reading: I read the chapter. OUT LOUD. Why you ask? Because I engage my hearing as well as my sight and I can’t glance or skip over anything.
Writing: This is where I analyze the chapter. I do this after reading two translations (the NLT and NKJV in that order currently). There are five parts to the writing:
Key Verse: the verse that stood out. This is the verse I post on Facebook (occasionally I add other verses to my post for context).
Summary: After trying this I know how hard it is for my students to summarize. The idea is to get the basic ideas of the chapter expressed in 3 or so sentences.
Analysis: I don’t usually analyze the whole chapter. Rather I pick a key concept and look at it. For example when I studied Jeremiah 3 yesterday and analyzed God’s invitation for the Israelites to return, writing down the important ideas and the verses they are found in.
PA (Personal Application) – I answer the question “What did I get out of the chapter?”; “What does it mean to me?”; and most importantly “How should my behavior change as the result of what I learned?”.
2DO (Second Day Observations) – This is where the ESV (the third translation comes in). I preview and read just like I described above the chapter I studied the day before in the ESV. I review the writing I did the day before and I make whatever observation comes to me. By reading it a second day I hope I’m improving my understanding of the chapter (and the notes I wrote, notes are meant to be read too).
I developed this method at the beginning of this summer though I was doing many of the things before. I expanded from 2 to 3 translations and refined the writing aspect. I considered posting the notes I took for Saturday but its almost 3 in the morning. I’ll save that for part 2 next week (or later if something inspires me).
Just to be clear this isn’t for everybody. I think this suits me and my personality type and I revise it occasionally. I like to write (hence the blog). If you like to draw or write poetry perhaps that would be a way to help you with your understanding of Scripture. Perhaps a song or skit might work (the skit might not be practical). If you are hyper social discuss it (we all should but especially social people who process and learn by socializing more than the average person) In any case you and most of all the God who created you knows what makes you tick. This is one example, use whatever helps trash whatever doesn’t.
Most of all, read the Book, don’t wait for the movie. Thanks for reading.