The preparations are all finished. You’ve got a cozy little nook waiting for you, a chunk of time blocked out just for this, essential supplies at the ready, an alert mind, and a soft heart. Now what?
We took our time getting settled because I wanted the process of preliminaries to be as non-scary as possible. Now that we’ve arrived at the starting line, I’d like to offer a wide assortment of ideas to get your creative energy flowing.
This, friends, is where the rubber meets the road, where your Bible gets split open so it can spill into all those secret places in your life and give you the ultimate makeover. So without further ado, here is the first half of thirty ways to engage with Scripture. Go crazy (even if it’s just for five minutes a day to break the ice).
1. Read through the Word like you would a novel you can’t put down. Take it to bed with you, stuff it in your bag for coffee breaks, let it play on the commute to work. Just get through it from cover to cover. (I’d recommend throwing a little party for yourself after the particularly hard/dry bits of names and laws.) The Message translation is great for this, but any translation you can understand will do.
2. Try the God-Follower method. Read a chunk a day—maybe a story or a chapter—and ask two questions: What does this tell me about God? What does this tell me about how to follow God?
3. Conduct a word study. Choose a term to focus on, like love or mercy or forgiveness, and then search for all the verses that include it. Combing through everything the Bible says about a single word helps reorient our definitions from culturally acceptable notions to what God originally intended, stuffing worn-out concepts with new life and vigor. (I like biblegateway.com for this practice.)
4. Read it with a book or commentary. If you’re wanting to camp out in, say, Job, find a good Lifeway study to accompany you (perhaps Job by Lisa Harper) to come at it from a different point of view. For a broader perspective, try How to Read the Bible Book by Book or How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. And commentaries, always a nice resource, span from beginner-friendly to examining the original languages in depth. Ask your pastor which ones he’d recommend for you.
5. Read it with a devotional or sermon. When a passage goes radioactive, sit in it with someone else who’s fallen in love with those words. Devotionals can be great for getting truth into the everyday stuff of life, and hearing the same text taught by different solid preachers can blow it wide open for you. I could listen to Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, and Mark Driscoll* all day.
6. Observation, interpretation, application: the quick-and-dirty definition of inductive study. To observe, ask and answer every question you can think of about the text—who wrote it, why, when, where, etc. Then move to interpretation, discovering what it meant to the original audience. Use a good study Bible and a commentary for help on this step. Application is gleaning all the possible nuggets about how to infuse your life with the truth found in the passage.
7. Meditate on one Scripture for a week. Keep your mind circling back to it every chance you get (especially first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but during meals and in the shower and driving in the car are good, too). Ponder the implications of taking your one chunk seriously in various aspects of your reality. Write it down in different translations. Savor each word. Let it saturate your soul.
8. Journal. This is basically dumping your heart and mind onto paper, revolving around a text of Scripture. I often work better with a pen in my hand than stuck in my head or trying to find the right words with my mouth. Wrestling concepts, jotting down questions, and joyfully surrendering will leave a trail of ink like breadcrumbs you can use to find your way back or to pick up where you left off. Plus it’s fun to review your growth as you go.
9. Memorize. We put our brains to work all. the. time. to remember facts, figures, procedures, and random stuff. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. Use your personal wiring to hack Scripture memory. If nothing else, do a quick search on Pinterest and find three memorizing tricks to try. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts allows it to come bubbling up to the surface when we need it most.
10. Get creative. Let the day’s passage inspire a watercolor painting, a crayon drawing, a work of clay, a new recipe, a playlist, whatever your medium of choice. Consider how you could unleash the artistic power God put in you with this specific text as a launchpad. Write a letter to the Apostle Paul. Design Esther’s wedding dress. List out the smells you’d notice on the ark. Identify a piece of pop culture—a song, a movie, a commercial—that illustrates part of the text. The farther outside the box you think here, the better. Give yourself permission to play.
11. Go on a Word hike. Grab your Bible (an audio version works just fine) and enjoy a walk with God. Listen as you stretch your legs or find a scenic spot to stop and read. Pairing the Creator and His creation can facilitate all kinds of new experiences, and kinesthetic learners naturally attach movement to information.
12. Turn Scripture into prayer. Change the pronouns to direct the passage upward, like transforming “The Lord is my shepherd” into “God, You’re my shepherd.” Or use the ACTS acronym, telling Jesus how a text leads you to adore Him, what it’s prompting you to confess, where you can thank Him, and any supplication that follows (making requests for yourself and others).
13. Perform a cross-reference hunt. Ever wonder what those little letters in your study Bible mean as you’re reading along, the ones clumped together on the side or at the bottom of the page? They’re cross-references. You could say they’re close relatives to your text, but they’ll spin you out in all kinds of interesting directions, unfolding like layers of an onion. Read the day’s passage, then follow the cross-references to see how they illuminate and expand your understanding. (If you want to go really crazy, follow the cross-references for the cross-references and keep hunting as long as you like.)
14. Read out loud. There’s something about engaging your eyes, your ears, and your voice simultaneously that adds a unique richness to the Bible. While absorbing Scripture silently is fine, this is a way of combatting the onslaught of negative influences you hear on a daily basis. You’re choosing to fill your own senses with truth and beauty. You’re deciding to speak life over and into your own heart. If you’ve got little ones around, all the better—they can watch you fight for the kingdom to come within the four walls of your home. What a fantastic legacy!
15. Study in community. Gather a group of friends to study the same thing on the same day, checking in with one another about what you’re learning and how you’re growing. This can happen in person, via text, or online. If you’re at a loss as to whom you could invite along, jump into a pre-made community either in your town (like a church small group) or on the interwebs (She Reads Truth is a lovely place to start).
*Don’t hate. The man takes teaching Scripture seriously and is never boring. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, carry on.