Let me explain.
FOR GENERAL STUDY
I want to know the Bible--I often get asked how I know the Bible so well. How I know what is in it and what it says. Simple. I read it. Every year for several years, I made it a point to read 30 minutes a day. Started in Genesis and worked my way through Revelation. No fancy reading plan, just starting at page 1 and working my way to the end. Easy. I like easy.
I also found out I could read 3 chapters a day and finish the Bible in a year. I also found I missed some days, but no problem because there is Psalms! Psalm 119 is day on its own, but so many of those can be read together that missed days can easily be made up. I also found taking my Bible to things that would require my time worked well, too. A chapter here or there adds up. Far easier now to do with the apps on the phone, too. If you just want to know what is in the Bible, read it.
What kind of Bible? "Regular or Chronological"?--Yes. I don't like the chronological Bibles because I'm a goal oriented person. I like to easily break things up into pieces and finish those pieces. Chapters and books let me do that. I see the progress I'm making. Easy. Chronological Bibles are like the never ending page of a Nook. You just read and read and read, and how do you know when you're done? Read a certain number of pages, maybe? Now, the perk of chronological Bibles is the big picture. You can actually see how all the parts fit together. This is THE great thing for some folks. I love that. I love that we have the choice. I love that whichever you choose, you will learn the Bible when you just read it. You want to know it better? Read it again. And again. And again. :-)
Which version? -- Yes. Okay. Not all versions are the same, and I don't want to get into translation trash talking, so I'll just give you a general overview. I use the NIV mostly. I like it. Easy to understand. BUT, it does not have all the text the New King James Version has, and some things left out are important in my opinion. The Message is a VERY loose interpretation, more like a storybook. The Amplified gives a wealth of deep word meanings, but I find it can be hard to read through all the explanations and word meanings, but if I am really trying to understand a passage, it is a good resource. In my opinion, if you are simply reading for an overview, the NIV, NKJV, or American Standard are good.
When my dad died, my mom gave me his Bibles. He had one of every translation out at the time. One time I asked him why he had so many, and he said he realized at some point he was no longer really reading what the Bible said but reading what he had always known it to say. He read different translations to force him out of his rut. It made him see things differently, allowed him to see what he had never seen before. I use the same tactic now when I study specific passages. It allows me to see what I might not had seen before.
FOR SPECIFIC STUDY
What Should I Study--There really are two simple ways to find topics:
1. Have them given to you. A friend of mine told me he goes to his Sunday school to get topics he can study on his own. In fact, he thought that might be the whole reason he even goes. He thought this was more sensible then going through an alphabetized book on biblical subjects because it mixed things up, and he didn't have to wait until the end for the words that started with the "latter letters". True, but really, it is the same thing. Someone else is assigning the topics. The good thing he is learning about those topics, and when he needs the information, he'll have it. The negative is the topic may not relate to his life right now.
2. Study what is relevant. What are you dealing with right now? Study that. For instance, I'm the single mom of two teenagers. They are good kids, but they are kids. I know the kind of adults I want them to be, so I go to the Bible for guidance. Only I don't read about the rod and the spoiled brat. I read about being a good leader, an example of godly character, a place they know they are safe, a person of vision who embraces that they are God's first and mine second. I pray for wisdom, for them to have grace to forgive me when I mess up, for me to be humble and ask forgiveness, for me to be an example of who they need to be both in being strong and weak.
I'm having some problems with some authorities who have power over a project I've been asked to lead. So, I've been studying leadership again. What makes a good leader. Characteristics of a good leader. What it means to be humble. What it means to be a servant leader like Jesus. I'm praying for God to lead them. I'm also asking Him to lead me and give me wisdom, and I'm making things easier for Him by being in the Word studying how to honor the leaders over me and flourish when others' have power. It sounds simple, but being a leader is very complex. It requires patience, love, compassion, accountability, humility, honor, truthfulness, respect for others, valuing others. I study all of those things.
What is relevant to you? Marriage? Being a good spouse? Work? Handling a bad work environment well? Sickness? Healing? Grace? Self-forgiveness? Whatever you are praying about this morning is probably a good place to start studying what God has to say about it. It is far easier for God to fix something when we are acting in agreement with Him and His concepts than when we are sabotaging ourselves and His efforts to fix us.
Word study -- So much richness is lost when important concepts are put into the vernacular because, let's be honest, we live in a society that does not value real mean of words. We gloss over them with general meanings, which is really our interpretation of the term or concept. If we truly want to understand the Bible and what God is saying, we need to look at real word meaning. Loose translations allows us to read what we want to read or what we've always read. I have found word study makes me take responsibility for what is really being said. One of my favorite resources for this is a Key Word Study Bible.
Concept study -- I also take time to really dig into one concept. I will use a program like BibleGateway.com and search for all the verses on something, like grace, and copy all of those to a Word document. I start reading from top to bottom. What is grace? What is the benefit? How do I get it? What is my part? What does it mean by it is a gift? I saturate myself in that concept until I feel like I understand it and can absorb it correctly into my belief system and apply it to my life. My goal isn't necessarily to get it "perfect", but I get a strong foundation that the Lord can come back and work on later and adjust as He needs to. This may take days or weeks or sometimes months, like my study of the armor of God, but it is good, rich stuff.
Specific passage studies -- These include word study and background study. To do this, notes in a study Bible are good. I tend to compare them from a few different Bibles to avoid getting the personal filter problems that can arise from one author or theological group. Knowing the writer, who he was writing to, why he was writing, and such are important. ALWAYS take the passage in context.
Books of the Bible study -- I've tried this, but it doesn't work for me. I've found I could spend a lifetimes studying any given book of the Bible. It is just that rich. I know folks who do this though, and it is good for them. The spiritual revelation and growth is obvious. If this is what you are lead to do, jump in and do it!
Other "stuff" -- Here is the fact. I did not learn the Bible from a preacher or a study book or a class or a DVD series. I learned the Bible from the Bible. Now I've learned from pastors, study books, classes, and various teachers, but they added to what I knew and deepened my understanding. They did not build my foundation. Studying the Word did. They only built onto what the Lord laid in me through my study and seeking Him.
Be a Berean -- The Bereans are only mentioned once in the Bible, but their example should be one for all of us to follow.
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,
for they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
I do not believe in following blindly. That is how Holocausts and David Karesh situations happen. Here the Apostle Paul's words are being tested. Do they line up with the Word? Is he taking anything out of context? Leaving anything important out that might contradict what he wants them to believe? He seemed solid, but how would they know...unless they tested what he said? Be a Berean.
Put into practice what you read and learn. It doesn't matter if I study how to be a great leader and spout passages on the outcome of great leaders or blessings of God as a result of godly character if I don't really live that.
KNOWING the right thing to do is meaningless.
DOING the right thing is what makes the difference.
Knowing the Bible isn't enough.
LIVING the Bible is what will change your life.
You don't have to know the whole Bible to start making huge change. Start with one thing. Take one concept and ask the Lord, "How do I apply this?"
Maybe start by giving grace. Give grace to the person trying to squeeze into your lane at the last minute. If nothing else, it keeps you from feeding a frustrating morning.
Give grace to the wait staff that brought you the steak cooked the wrong way.
Give grace to your spouse who didn't get it all right today.
Give grace to yourself. You are a work in progress. Let yourself see the progress, not just what you need to work on.
Maybe start with forgiveness.
Accepting God forgives you.
Giving forgiveness to others.
Forgiving those who hurt you today...those who hurt you a decade ago.
Forgive yourself. Jesus came to set the captives free. He never intended for you to keep wearing your prison clothes.
One thing. Really applying one biblical concept can alter your life so radically you crave the rest. Seeing one piece of the Bible really make a difference can catapult you into wanting to learn everything in it. What makes me so sure? Let's just say I don't keep reading it and studying it because I love the book of Leviticus. When you read it, you'll understand. :-)