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Practical Bible Study Tips


In the spirit of J.C. Ryle’s exhortations concerning Bible reading and study, I continually seek ways to improve my reading and study habits.

From J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion (chapter 5):

Let us resolve to “read the Bible more and more” every year we live. Let us try to get it rooted in our memories, and engraved into our hearts. Let us be thoroughly well provisioned with it against the voyage of death. Who knows but we may have a very stormy passage? Sight and hearing may fail us, and we may be in deep waters. Oh, to have the Word “hid in our hearts” in such an hour as that! (Psalm 119:11).

Let us resolve to be “more watchful over our Bible-reading” every year that we live. Let us be jealously careful about the time we give to it, and the manner that time is spent. Let us beware of omitting our daily reading without sufficient cause. Let us not be gaping, and yawning and dozing over our book, while we read. Let us read like a London merchant studying the city article in the Times—or like a wife reading a husband’s letter from a distant land. Let us be very careful that we never exalt any minister, or sermon, or book, or tract, or friend above the Word. Cursed be that book, or tract, or human counsel, which creeps in between us and the Bible, and hides the Bible from our eyes! Once more I say, let us be very watchful. The moment we open the Bible the devil sits down by our side. Oh, to read with a hungry spirit, and a simple desire for edification!

So here are some practical thoughts, from new study techniques I’ve tried recently:

  • Keep all study notes in a (portable) hardbound notebook.

Previously I only kept my notes on the computer, type-written form, at a computer I often use during the week. For a long time I simply added notes to a basic Wordpad text file, and more recently tried an electronic journal program, “Red Notebook.” But of course the computer isn’t always available at the moment I have the thought or study note — and this loses the immediacy. Writing notes down in multiple locations is also problematic — one notebook works, regardless of where I am.

So I’m finding that, just as the print copy (portable) Bible works better for reading than online Bible software, the hardbound notebook offers the same advantages.

  • During daily Bible reading, jot down verse references for interesting Bible passages

I’ve mentioned this before, but again find it helpful, especially when put in one location instead of various scraps of paper which I may or may not later transfer to a computer text file.

  • Go back and re-read previous notes. Follow-up with the specific verses and look up more information in commentaries.

With a notebook always available, it’s easy to glance back through the last few days of notes, when I have time to do further look-up, and to get blog ideas. My main study references now include the overall notes in the MacArthur Bible Commentary, as well as a complete online Bible commentary (all 66 books) from Thomas Constable — a great resource.

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