As Christmas comes around this year, things are a bit different. Having our usual gatherings is more difficult, if not impossible. Flying the family down to Florida or flying back home to visit may not be an option. And even as we’re supposed to be in high spirits for the season, it’s difficult not to reflect on the challenges and losses we’ve collectively experienced this year.
Since this year is already so different, perhaps you can finish it by taking a different, more reflective approach to Christmas. Try to remember the “reason for the season” by acquainting—or reacquainting—yourself with the Bible in the run-up to the holidays. But merely reading the Bible is not the same as studying the Bible. Don’t just skim the pages and breeze through the begats. Try to get the most out of reading so that you can apply its lessons to your life.
There are so many different techniques to study the Bible to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites—some easier, some harder, but all of them spiritually nourishing.
The sword method uses the image of a sword held in the hand and pointed toward the sky to represent Bible study. The sword, which draws a line between a person and the heavens, diagrams six key questions along its edges, its point, and the hand that grasps the sword. The questions ask you to examine sin, promise, example, and command as well as ask what each chapter teaches about God and people.
Approaching each chapter with such a long list of questions may appear daunting. Maybe every question isn’t readily applicable to every reading. The inductive method of Bible study asks the reader to observe, interpret, and apply selected passages. This entails closely understanding key components of storytelling such as characters, setting, and conflict. From there, ask the question you remember asking in high school math: “How do I use this in real life?” With any luck, the answer will be clearer than it was in calculus.
Not to worry: the SOAP method has nothing to do with washing your mouth out with soap. Rather, SOAP is an acronym for scripture, observation, application, prayer. The SOAP method is similar to the inductive method, but with the addition of a closing prayer to finalize each study session. Writing key verses as you read can help you observe and apply passages as well.
Some of these study methods can feel an awful lot like homework, and maybe you feel that your homework days are done. Perhaps a more freeform approach to Bible study is right for you. Simply take notes on the Bible as you read and keep a journal of your thoughts, observations, and feelings as you read. Work through questions you have about the text and about yourself, and feel free to creatively and actively engage with what you read. Journaling can even take the form of art.
Whether you make it a Christmas gift to yourself or a New Year’s resolution, choose one of these different techniques to study the Bible and embark upon a program of spiritual growth in these challenging times.