It’s kind of scary and overwhelming when you first decide to start studying the Bible. What exactly do you need? Do you need one of those yellow / red Bible dry highlighters you always see in CBD? Do you just need the Holy Spirit and thus have to pray for Him? Do you need a degree in Bible? What exactly do you need for starting your personal Bible studies?
I’ve spoken to other people about this. Some say “My Bible and Strong’s” with a satisfied grin. Other’s say “My Bible and A Good Commentary” while patting their William McDonald commentary. Other’s say “A Good Program” while loading their trusty Libronix library. Sometimes you get the sense that if you don’t spend at least $500 dollars your Bible study will be heretical or useless at best.
For any study (not just the STOP method) you’ll need a Bible. It would be nice to have a study Bible that gives you a lot of good references in the middle column (or margin) and it would also be nice if the Bible margins were wider than three-quarters of an inch but those are all mini-technical details for your Bible shopping. If you want it electronically, here’s a link to a good one (e-sword) but by all means pick whatever is comfortable for you. ESV, HCSB, NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV—do it! This is a fundamental tool to any serous Bible study.
You will also need time and that would mean making space on your schedule. You do it for food, you do it for sleep, and you do it for work—do it for Bible Study. It might be a good idea to start off small, by taking a half hour on Sunday afternoon after lunch (or dinner if you call it that on Sunday noon) and nap. Work up to a proper time block, but start off with making some time.
You need to pray before that study time. Asking God to give you understanding in what He has said is vital. Not just because He said it or because you’re trying to get some extra points on knowledge from the Author—but because the overarching purpose of study is relational. Prayer gives us the foundational preliminary bending of our hearts and minds to make us acutely aware that we are studying to get closer to God.
You need to read the Bible outside of your study time. If you use the toilet (all of you do) that’s five to ten minutes of reading time (depending). If you take public transportation to work that’s at least fifteen minutes of solid reading time. If you take lunch at work, carry a Bible with you. If you drive, buy the Bible on mp3’s and put it on a cd or your ipod. Saturate yourself in reading the Bible to supplement your study (too many people think that reading the Bible means that you’re studying it) and your devotionals (meditating on the Lord day and night).
You will need something to take notes with: be it a pen, a computer, blood—whatever but it should be a tactile recording (as in not a voice recorder). You need some sort of implement to transcribe thoughts unless you are that low percentage of the population that has photographic memory and even then take notes anyway. As such you will also need a place to store your notes be it a blog, a folder on your computer, a notebook, a file cabinet—whatever. You may never look at the notes again but that’s not the point: the point is that note taking is part and parcel with this learning method as is reading and even (sometimes) out loud. That way if you’re using multiple senses like seeing (for reading) hearing (when reading out loud) and touch (writing) you are putting tangibility to memory. For example you don’t just remember chicken because of the look of it—but because of how it tastes like, how it smells like when it’s approaching its yummy stage, how it looks like when you pull it out of the oven and how it feels like when it pulls easily apart.
Last, but not least, you will need dedication. This is no small task that you are about to undertake yet it is the first step to having a heart set on God, a yearning to act on His Word and a need to tell others what you’ve learned. In fact, I would put those things on your list under Dedication for the STOP method. Like in Ezra 7:10 you must set your heart to study God’s Word (which means praying to God, making the time, getting the essentials, aiming to do this), personally practice it (which means actively applying what you learn, adjusting your life, walking properly) and subsequently teach someone else—no matter your age or sex (which means telling someone, sharing with them what you’ve learned and exemplified by what you’re living).
Next time we’ll discuss an overview of the actual method. Here’s the rest of the series.