The following method is designed to help you discover the core message of a passage and experience Jesus in his Word. Whether you are new to the Bible or have read it a lot, this approach will open up the text in amazing ways. If you’re just reading through the Bible, looking at several chapters at once is best. But if you really want to study the text, we suggest working your way through one book just a chapter or half-chapter at a time. You may even want to linger in a passage, taking a few days to study it deeply.
Get Honest with God
Take time to think through what the last few days have been like for you. Share honestly with God what and how you are feeling as you approach your time with him. Share your struggles and joys. Ask him to speak to issues in your life from the passage you are about to study. Ask him to open your heart and mind to understand his Word. Then be ready to listen.
Enter the Text
- Read the passage carefully, and then write down or circle specific details that you notice, such as who is there, what is happening, when events are happening, where it’s all taking place, and how it’s happening.
- Circle or write down words, phrases, or ideas that are connected by repetition, contrast, or similarities; that go from the general to the particular; and/or that state a cause that leads to an effect.
- Put yourself into the passage. What do you see, smell, taste, and feel? Choose one of the characters and imagine yourself in their shoes. If you’re studying a letter or a section that lays out God’s laws for his people, imagine what it might have felt like to get the letter or hear the law read. If it is poetry, let the power of the poem and its images sweep over you.
- What questions does the passage raise in your mind? What words, phrases, or concepts don’t you understand? Does the passage turn in any unexpected ways? What intrigues you? Write these questions down.
Find Answers to Your Questions
Most questions about a passage can be answered by looking closely and repeatedly at the text itself. Think about how the passage would have sounded to the original audience. Look hard in the passage for insights into your questions. Also look at the context of the passage. What comes before it and after it? If you are studying a Gospel or another passage from the New Testament, is there any passage from the Old Testament that might relate to your passage and shed light on your questions?
One of the best ways to move toward answering your questions is to look for connections among the paragraphs. Is there a word, phrase, or idea that repeats? Is there a contrast? Is there a cause in one paragraph and the effect in another, or a string of similar words, phrases, or ideas that runs through a few paragraphs? Draw lines between the connected words or phrases to mark them. What is significant about these connections? What light do they shed on possible answers to your questions?
Look at the connections, paragraph titles, questions, and answers you have discovered. Step back and ask yourself: What is the core message of this passage? What is the author trying to say? Why is this passage or story here? Try to write this in one sentence.
Hear from God and Act Boldly
In what way is God speaking to your life from the passage? Is there a promise to trust, a command to obey, or an example to follow or avoid? Is there a deeper insight into God or your experience with God? What specific action are you going to take in response to what God is saying to you? Who will you share this with for accountability and encouragement?
Resource: Using a "Manuscript"