I am always looking for new ways to read and study my Bible. If you search online, there are a million different techniques, but I think, at least individually, Bible study should be personal and intimate. What works for me might not work for you, and that’s okay.
I recently discovered Inductive Bible Study (IBS) and I have to be honest, it overwhelmed me. The abundance of colors and symbols used to mark passages of Scripture is unbelievable. I love coloring and doodling in my Bible, but I can’t remember all the rules!
Maybe I’m too harsh and strict with rules and specific processes, instead of reading God’s Word and letting Him speak to me through the verses. Perhaps I’m getting caught up in technicalities instead of digging deeper into the spiritual realm of intimacy with God. In plain terms, I got overwhelmed because I made IBS too complicated.
So I tossed out the majority of the “rules” and dived right in to Scripture. During the month of July, I’m doing the #ProverbsChallenge where I will read one chapter a day. Proverbs is actually a popular place to start if you’re new to Inductive Study.
- Bible (mine is the NRSV Wesley Study Bible)
- Colored Pencils
- Micron Pens
- Journal / Notebook and pen
- Read entire passage of Scripture. Since I’m reading one chapter of Proverbs a day during the month of July, I read Chapter 2.
- If you need a better understanding of characters, context, topic, etc., read the passage a second time.
- Using a BLUE COLORED PENCIL, read the passage again and shade every word that identifies God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, including pronouns (he, him, his).
- With a YELLOW COLORED PENCIL, shade every word or phrase that eludes to righteous living, positive qualities, or attributes that are pleasing to God.
- With a RED COLOR PENCIL, shade every word or phrase that is negative, relates to evil, or distracts you from living a holy, righteous life.
- With a GREEN PEN, mark words, lines, or passages of Scripture that affirm your faith, provide assurance, or give you security about God’s steadfast protection.
- With a RED PEN, mark words, lines, or passage that warn you of danger or references to negativity.
- With a BLUE PEN, write general notes, thoughts, or reactions to words, lines, and passages of Scripture.
- Using a YELLOW COLORED PENCIL or PINK COLORED PENCIL, highlight words, phrases, or profound statements in the notes located at the bottom of each page as it relates to the Scripture you’re studying.
- Journal or note your OBSERVATIONS, INTERPRETATIONS, and APPLICATION of the selected Scripture.
For ease of explanation, take a look at my Bible and Proverbs 2:
To start, I colored every Lord, God, he, and his in BLUE. There, that was easy!
Next, I colored every positive quality or attribute in YELLOW. Words and phrases such as: treasure up my commandments, insight, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, justice, equity, innocent, and walk in the way of the good. I also shaded words, phrases, and entire passages that were pertinent or important for me to remember in the margins.
Words, phrases, or passages that were negative, destructive, or spoke of evil behavior, I colored RED. Such as the way of evil, paths are crooked, never come back, and treacherous.
Finally, I made notes in the margins about God’s faithfulness, steadfast love, and assurance in GREEN; warnings or things to avoid in RED; and general ideas, notes, and reflections in BLUE ink.
This entire mark-up process took me less than 20 minutes.
Now for the more in-depth processing and application of Scripture, let’s ask three important methods and questions:
OBSERVATION // What does the passage say?
Solomon, son of David and king of Israel, addresses the reader as “My child.”
Two important words: IF and THEN.
There is no limit on God’s abundance. He gives freely and willingly.
The path of evil is crooked.
Be cautious of bad influences – people and things!
INTERPRETATION // What does the passage mean?
I am a beloved child of God.
*IF* requires a command or provides instruction; whereas *THEN* is our reward for obediently reacting or responding to the command.
The road to selfish desires and earthly abundance is wide, there are opportunities for indulgence at every crooked turn, but the path towards godliness and righteousness is straight and narrow.
APPLICATION // How do I apply the passage to my life?
Remember WHO YOU ARE and WHOSE YOU ARE.
Don’t put God inside a box or put limits on Him. You cannot out give God; nothing is impossible for Him.
God’s requests (IF statements) require an immediate response. If I respond accordingly (THEN statements), then I will grow in understanding of God and his ways.
“Loose women” is a sexist way of saying sinful behavior is unacceptable and leads to a life of destruction and heartache.
“Loose women” is whatever separates us from having an intimate relationship with God. It distracts us from living holy, righteous, faithful, just, and fruitful lives in His name. For me, my “loose women” is food. For someone else, it might be pornography, gambling, or an extramarital affair. Whatever “it” is that distracts or leads you away from God, it will lead to death.
We can choose light or dark, life or death, but we have to make the choice for ourselves.
Have I helped you or confused you?! Hopefully, I have introduced an innovative approach to studying Scripture on a deeper, more intimate level. Inductive study goes beyond the words printed on a page and helps you realize how important language and context really is to the story and what lesson(s) God is teaching.
Inductive study does not have to be time-consuming either. This process, from marking Scripture to assessing the three methods, took me about an hour but I divided it into two 30-minute chunks. This morning, before Husband or Kamden woke up, I read and marked Proverbs 2. This afternoon, when Kamden was napping, I read the passage again and wrote my responses to the three methods and questions in my journal.
If you’re interested and want to try IBS for yourself, check out this free printable from Precept Ministries.
Most importantly, don’t rush through Scripture. Pick and small chapter or short passage and practice the IBS process. Even if you don’t use specific colors or symbols, make your study time reflective and productive. Make it your own! My goal this month, at the very least, is to read one chapter of Proverbs a day and mark the passage with colored pencils and pens. Then, if I have extra time, I will journal my thoughts and responses to the three methods: Observation, Interpretation, and Application.
At the very least, join me in the #ProverbsChallenge and read one chapter a day. Anybody can do it and you can even read Scripture on your computer, tablet, or smart phone with BibleGateway.com. I especially love this site because I can reference many different translations without buying a dozen Bibles. Which reminds me, I’m in the market for another Study Bible because I can hardly read the printed words in my NRSV Wesley Bible. Obviously I’ve been writing, doodling, and coloring a lot!