Bible study is so important to the Christian life. While there are many methods of Bible study, if you’re looking for one that’s easy and effective for the New Year, I believe you’ll enjoy this Bible study plan by Kathy Howard.
Today, I’m sharing a guest post from Kathy:
The 4 R Method for Everyday Bible Study by Kathy Howard
I love to be in God’s Word regularly, so I need a Bible study method simple enough for every day. The method below is the basic framework I follow whether I’m studying a Bible book, selected passage, topic, word, or Bible character. This “study” method will not only help you understand the Bible, it will also help you apply God’s truth to your life today.
The 4 R Bible study method is a solid way to dig a little deeper into any biblical passage. This “inductive” method uses careful observation to discover what the passage says. Starting with observation, will help you more accurately interpret God’s meaning. Personal application is the last step and end goal.
You don’t need extra tools or resources. All you need is your Bible, a pen, a notebook or journal, and a humble, teachable attitude. The “R” repetition makes it memorable! You can take it anywhere!
- Have a plan– A reading plan will help with consistency and context cutting down on frustration with your daily time with God. It’s always easier to begin reading if you know where you’ll be reading when you open your Bible. (I have several free Bible reading plans on my website. Check out the Free Resources page! And… If you’d like some structure, encouragement and accountability in your daily Bible reading, check out the Facebook group I lead, “Reading the Bible Together.”)
- Read prayerfully– Before you begin, ask God to teach you. Ask Him to open your mind and heart to not only understand what you’re reading, but also to be willing to apply His truth to your life. Keep praying while you read! Ask God questions about what you’re reading. He wants you to understand.
- Read multiple times– God’s Word is packed with wonderful things. It’s easy to miss details and even deep spiritual truth with just one reading. Choose a Bible reading plan that has daily readings manageable enough to give you time to read the passage two or three times.
- Read in different translations – If you have time, reading in different translations will also increase understanding. (For help on translations, see “Why are There So Many Bible Translations?”)
2. RECORD (Observation)
Before you can understand what a passage means you must first know what it says. Be an observer. The ten observation tips below are not exhaustive, but they are a solid place to start. Record what you see in a journal, notebook, or margin of your Bible. You won’t spot everything in every passage. But your observation will help you do better Bible study. I use a journaling Bible with an extra-wide, lined journaling column. I make study notes there and I use a highlighting system to help me observe the passage. (For more on my highlighting method see “Bible Highlighting for More Effective Study.”)
- Truths about God– The Bible is first and foremost a book about God. He is everywhere – in every passage, on every page. It may be blatant or subtle, but He will be there. Looks for truths about His nature, His character, His ways, and His purposes.
- Key Words & Phrases– Repetition in God’s Word is not accidental. If you see words and phrases repeated, take note. God is trying to point to something important.
- Important facts– Mark any facts you see in the passage that will help you understand what’s happening. Things like people, places, numbers can be key to comprehension.
- Connecting or Transition Words – Words like “now, because, therefore, so, since, but” show a relationship, an explanation, or a cause and effect. When you see a connecting word, determine its purpose for being there.
- Questions and answers – We find this powerful teaching tool throughout the Bible. Jesus often asked questions and then fleshed out His answer. When you see a question in Scripture, be sure to look for the answer.
- Commands – The Bible is full of commands. Some are one-time commands for specific individuals at a specific time. Others are for all God’s people for all time.
- Lists – Watch for lists and groups that will help you understand a spiritual truth or topic. Mark things like characteristics, qualities, and reasons.
- Spiritual principles– Eternal principles impact our daily lives. These may be explicit or implicit in the text.
- Contrasts and comparisons – The Bible often compares and contrasts to show how people or things are alike or different. These literary tools can more clearly show the reader the way that pleases God.
- Word pictures – Similes and metaphors paints pictures that help us better understand spiritual truths.
3. REFLECT (Interpretation)
Look back over your recorded observations to help you recognize and understand God’s original meaning of the passage. God’s Word has one original meaning, but endless application. Don’t forget to consider the literary genre, historical context, literary context, and meta-narrative. (See “4 Guidelines to Help You Understand the Bible” for more help on these.)
4. RESPOND (Application)
Increased knowledge of God’s Word is never the end game. Application that leads to spiritual transformation is always our goal. So, once we’ve read and understood, ask God to show you how to apply these truths to your life. The acronym PROBE can help:
- Prayer – Is there something in the passage I can pray for myself or others?
- Repentance – Is there a sin or area of disobedience I need to confess and turned away from?
- Obedience – Is there an action I need to take or a decision I need to make?
- Believe – Is there something I need to believe about God?
- Express – Is there a praise or thanksgiving I need to voice to God?
For more on biblical mediation and to download a PROBE printable see “5 Probing Questions to Help You Meditate on Scripture.”)
This Bible study method will help you foster a delight for God’s Word that keeps you rooted and growing. My new devotional book, Deep-Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is structured around this 4 R method. This 40-day devotional will help you get in, delight in, and apply God’s Word. Learn how to interact with and respond to Scripture, not simply read it. The meaty, daily devotionals will increase your hunger for God’s Word, encourage spiritual growth and stability, and lay the groundwork for a life-long, spiritually-healthy habit.
What’s your favorite way to study the Bible?
A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the new “meaty” devotional Deep-Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark. She writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. She also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
It’s Your Turn
What about you? How are you studying the Bible? What helps you the most? I’d love to hear from you anytime. You can always write me through my contact page. Just fill out the basic name and address info, and then the e-mail will come to me. Your name or info is not shared with anyone.
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