Bible Study Methods (Part 4)

This entry was previously published by me on another blog. Due to its relevance, I have included it here.

Hello.  I feel a bit like I’m returning to an old friend in this blog. I missed it while I was away. I hope you haven’t thought I was abandoning the blog while I was away. I wasn’t. I guess I was doing some serious soul-searching about this little corner of the Blog Universe, and I feel compelled to continue in it today. I hope this is some small blessing to you as this entry unfolds. I know I’m going to be looking for my socks again by the end of it, and I’m grateful to Him for that!

So, you were wondering, perhaps, if I was going to share another study method? Yes, ma’ams, I am!  :’D

Topical Study Method

Often I find myself in need of wisdom or comfort or equipping in a particular area. Or, I may be curious about God’s heart on a subject. Maybe I’m just looking for what the Bible has to say about something I’m contemplating for some reason. Whatever the case may be, I am seeking a greater pool of knowledge or wisdom, a sort of survey if you will, in the Bible as a whole.

Many of you may be familiar with various tools to accomplish this task. It’s even easier now that we have technology at our fingertips. I can mosey over to Crosswalk.com and use their search engine. I might even choose some of the various translations for a little “spice” to my usual NIV Scripture du Jour. In fact, you can set up an account with Crosswalk so you have your Bible preferences set when you return the next time. A search is easy as pie, and faster than flipping pages. Though, I still prefer my trusty portable Sword of the Spirit most of the time.  ;’)

So, a simple example would be something I was planning on studying tonight. If you’ve seen a recent post of mine, you know I am struggling in the area of contentment. You’ll be happy to know that plugging in the word content at Crosswalk yields approximately 6 pages of references containing that word. (That might keep me going for some time, eh?) The word contentment has 39 references. I might choose that particular selection for the simple reason that it would be less time-consuming. I’m sure God will be fine with whichever choice I make, but I will pray to see how He is leading me during the time that I have. If He wishes to take a long approach over several days, weeks, or months, so be it.

I like this method for several reasons. This is one very fast way for me to get into the Word and find verses for Scripture memory or study. In either case, I am submitting myself to His leading on which verses to study. I would never say it’s the only way to study, but it can be refreshing or effective in my life at times.

I listed Crosswalk.com as a quick online example, but there are other ways to accomplish this. A Strong’s Concordance will serve this type of study well, and you could introduce Hebrew and Greek word studies from that single reference. My favorite book of all time was my Topical Study of the Bible by Elwell. You can use other downloadable tools such as e-sword.net. I’m sure others could list many others. Whichever tool you use, you can make this as simple or complex as you like. (I’ve been known to pull out several reference books at times, but it’s not my everyday study habit.)

Careful now! There are a few dangers in this method I need to share with you. There are temptations we might have when using this method, and we need to know that and thwart them.  Here are just three that roll off my fingertips at the moment.

You might be tempted to isolate passages of Scripture, ignoring the context in which they are written. This is probably the largest danger we face. When we take verses out of context, we are able to make the Bible say whatever we’d like it to say. Remember to consider who the author is, who the audience is, and the context in which the communication was being made. Read around verses, both before and after, to be sure you know what you’re reading.

You might be tempted to string together verses to create a “case” for something which Scripture never intended. Enough verses put together selectively can potentially make a good argument for certain things. Out of context, it’s even easier. Let’s be sure we are in context, and we’re looking at enough verses to be able to seek the heart and will of God in these verses.

You might be tempted to put a bit of “yourself” in a study like this. Picking and choosing and hearing only what you want to hear is possible. (I’ve done it.) Can I suggest that, again, before we study at all…seek Him! Ask the Holy Spirit to be your Teacher and Counselor. But, also be willing to be teachable in these moments. The teachable spirit is critical in study. Otherwise, our times in the Word are likely to be empty or frustrating or ineffective.

Feel free to share about this method if you’ve used it in the past, or if you attempt it for the first time this week!

May you be richly blessed with fresh wind in your quiet times this week!

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