Thursday, December 28, 2023

12 - Verse-by-Verse Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Look at a verse of the Bible asking 5 questions; a quick Bible study method to use on occasion.

Series note: This is the last post at the end of 12 weeks where we featured summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

A quick donut

Recently a friend and I had only a few minutes to grab a bite of lunch. We did something really crazy. We stopped at a donut shop.

A quick burger or peanut butter sandwich is not a nutritious meal. But in a pinch it provides energy. Like a donut!

Feasting on the Word is important, but sometimes studying a verse or a short section of Scripture provides quick spiritual nourishment. This does not nullify the value to study Biblical context and dig in to the Bible. But it can spiritually energize your day.

Verse-by Verse Analysis Bible Study Method

This method lets you take a passage of Scripture and look at it verse-by-verse, mulling it over, checking cross references, and finding personal application by five simple steps.

You can tailor it to your need at the moment, going at the pace you desire. This method can also be useful in an advanced study of a topic.

Tools needed

  • A Study Bible
  • A Concordance and Bible Dictionary

Five Simple Steps

1. Write the verse into a personal paraphrase. Put it into your own words.

2. List some questions, answers and observations. Make observations within the verse. Write questions you might have, and answers or advice it gives.

3. Find some cross-references. You may know some cross references, have it in your study Bible or you may use a concordance.

4. Record any insights you get from the verse. These might be something you see right away, or might come from further reflection and meditation. Think creatively.

5. Write a brief personal application. Consider a devotional thought or two that comes to your mind from this verse. Make an application that is practical, personal and tangible to your life.

The Verse-by-Verse Analysis Form

Rick Warren has created a form for each one of these 12 studies. There is a website that shows all of them. Here is the link to that page.  For this method he suggestions 6 columns, and make the chart for each verse you plan to study in sequence.  I made this in the landscape mode.

Rick Warren gives an example table in his book using I Timothy 1:1 and suggests starting in I Timothy.

This concludes our review of the 12 Bible Study Methods from Rick Warren in his book, Bible Study Methods: Twelve ways you can unlock God’s Word.

The Introduction and Appendices have a lot more practical information on Bible Study.

You can find the book in PDF form here. You can buy it from Amazon here

What's up next?

In the new year Scripture Spy will give you a weekly look at different tools you can use for personal Bible study. We will look at different kinds of Bibles, study Bibles, concordances, the Bible Atlas, commentaries, and so on. Even tools to understand delving in to a better understanding of Hebrew and Greek words will be touched on. 

So stay tuned!  

Please consider getting on the weekly emailing as a link with a preview of the topic of the week. Sorry Google blogger platform no longer provides a click to follow a blog. You must send an email  (even a blank one) to and you will be added to the emailing.  

You can opt out anytime. Click here

Previous post from the series: Book Synthesis Bible Study Method
Previous post: Out of Darkness: Christmas Meditation
Up next: Using Bible Tools



1. What has impressed you or taught you reading through these reviews?

2. Have you tried some of these methods? Would you like to start the New Year with a plan to study the Bible more using one of these methods? What makes you hesitate?

3. Take some time to pray for a hunger for God’s Word.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Live the Light: Christmas Meditation

Big Idea: Jesus' birth into the world represents the light of God coming into a world of darkness; we as Christians should live as people of the light.

Out of Darkness

If you ever toured a cave, probably the guide turned off the lights for a few seconds. I remember not seeing my hand 2 inches from my face.

Darkness can be an oppressive, frightening thing.

Separated from Day One

The Bible says a lot about light and darkness, from day one.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. Genesis 1:3-5 NLT

It is a fascinating and lengthy topical study to look at light and darkness in the Bible.

Darkness is hard for humans. We stumble and find tasks difficult. Strange noises are frightening and even ominous. Though like the blind, one can become accustomed to it and compensate.

Light shining into darkness

God saw that the light was good (Genesis 1:4). But in the history of the earth, people have lived in a world of darkness and even found it normal.

How delightful when light breaks through the darkness. A Messianic prophesy says:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2.

Light in the face of Christ

The coming of the Son of God, the Christ, into the world is our Christmas celebration. It is His light that penetrates our darkness. The Apostle Paul tells it so well.

For God, who said “Let there be light in the darkness” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT

I love that verse. To know the glory of God, looking to Jesus!

Paul also says to the first century believers,

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! Ephesians 5:8

Live the Light

This Christmas from the lights on the tree, homes decorated and even the backlight of your phone, remember the value of light.

Meditate on what it means to live as people of light.

Live the light.


Previous: Book Synthesis Bible Study Method
Up next: Verse by Verse Bible Study Method


1. What happens in the light? What are things you can do more easily in light?

2. What might it mean that Christians are people of the light?

3. What might you do differently in your life if you consider living as a person of the light?

Thursday, December 21, 2023

11 - Book Synthesis Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method synthetic in nature, bringing together the elements we separated by chapter and looking at it as a whole, with better understanding of the parts.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

Our Car’s Engine in Pieces

Early in our marriage, our family car had serious engine trouble. A local garage gave us a good quote for repair.

Getting no word on the car, my husband stopped by the repair shop only to discover our car was suspended on high and all the parts of the engine were spread all over the floor.

The car never ran the same again.

Book Synthesis Bible Study Method

Rick Warren describes the Book Synthesis Method as the third part of the last 2 methods we have looked at (Book Survey and Chapter Analysis). We’ve looked closely at it, took it apart to see its parts and how it fits together. Now we can put it all back together and look at the whole more closely.

It is like taking the car apart and putting it back together with a much greater understanding of how it runs.

The word for synthetic in Greek means “putting together.” It is the opposite of analytic, which means “taking apart.”

It is important in Bible study to always remember its context and see the whole picture.

Simple Steps on doing a Book Synthesis

Please keep your last two chapter’s notes close at hand. You should refer to them often now.

1. Re-read the book. Read it several times in various translations, rapidly. Try to read the whole book in one sitting.

2. Write out a detailed final outline. Compare the horizontal chart you made for the Chapter Survey (lesson 9), and your outline at that time. Compare with your chapter headings from Chapter Analysis.

3 Write down a descriptive book title. From your horizontal chart and your final detailed outline, plus chapter titles, consider an original concise title that describes what the book is about.

4. Make a summary of your insights. Review and compare the concluding thoughts when you look at chapter analysis. List them from reviewing your notes and recent readings.

5. Write out a personal application. Review all the chapter by chapter applications you noted. Also write down any new insights for application that you see. You may want to refer now to Chapter 1 on the Devotional Method.

6. Share the results of your study with others. Bible study should not just be for your own insight and understanding, but also to build others up and have opportunity to share their thoughts with you.

You can find more information and the form for the Book Synthesis Method here.

When I was a teen I went on a Teen Missions, Intl. mission trip to help put up a church building in South America. We were encouraged to memorize this verse.

At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm. Neh. 4:6.

When we look at the whole of the book of Nehemiah we see the people of God coming back after Exile to rebuild Jerusalem. There was opposition but they worked together and protected each other. They learned where the walls should go and the history of the place. And they accomplished a great work. In the same way, it is hard work to study the Bible. Especially when you do all of this intense work. But it is worth it when you go at it with a will to work.

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Book Synthesis Method including the basic form.  

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Work with enthusiasm in the study of the Bible. It is worth the effort!


Previous: Chapter Analysis Bible Study Method
Up next: Out of Darkness: Christmas Meditation


1. Does the car analogy work for you about taking something apart and putting it back together again with a great understanding how it works? Do you have another illustration from your life experience of something you get to know only when you work with it?

2. How might this understanding of putting the Word of God back together with a better perceptive of the parts make sense to help you know it and appreciate it better for your life?


Thursday, December 14, 2023

10 - Chapter Analysis Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that focuses in how to analyze each of the chapters in a book of the Bible

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

Narrowing the Telescope

Last year I got a travel scope for my husband for Christmas. It is supposed to zero in on wildlife or the terrain when travelling. However neither of us has easily gotten the hang of it. It takes practice.

Rick Warren’s book of Bible Study Methods has taken us from broad topics to book surveys. Now he shows how to look at a book more closely to examine the content chapter by chapter. It also takes practice.

Why do a Chapter Analysis?

This method to examine and understand the nature of a book of the Bible and then review and dig into the chapter content is a methodical, valuable way to understand God’s Word.

I learned this method from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. When I got to seminary I noticed I could dig into the Word better than others in my class.

Personal deep Bible study is possible for anyone whether they go to Bible college and seminary or not.

Diligent Bible study with prayer, aided by the Holy Spirit is the way.

Simple Steps for a Chapter Analysis

1. Write out a chapter summary. Read the chapter several times making general observations. Summarize.

  • Paraphrase it.
  • Outline it.
  • Rewrite it in simple short sentences.
  • Title each chapter

2. List your observations. You want to saturate yourself with the contents.

Why we often overlook things according to Rick Warren.

  • We rush through the passage
  • We don’t write down observations
  • We give up too soon

So ask good questions using the skills you have been learning. Make lists. Write down all your observations.

3. Ask interpretive questions. You want to get at the meaning so ask questions with “what” or “why.” Write down all your thoughts on it. List the difficulties.

Start finding meaning of the text.

  • Check the context
  • Define the words and phrases used
  • Study the grammar and structure of the sentences
  • Compare several translations of the text
  • Study the background of the text
  • Compare your text with other passages of Scripture
  • Consult a commentary (as a last resort)

4. Correlate your chapter with other scriptures. Look for cross references.

Rick Warren quotes a principle of interpretation that says “ The Bible interprets itself; Scripture best explains Scripture.”

Steps in cross-references

  • Look for cross-references with the same book
  • Compare statements in other writings by the same author
  • Compare with other books in the same testament
  • Compare cross references from the whole Bible
  • Types of cross-references
  • The pure cross-reference – almost exact
  • The illustrative cross-reference – illustrates it
  • The contrasting cross-reference – seems opposite
Caution: check the context of cross-references as it may not be what you think.

5. List some possible applications. Just list them at this time.

6. Write down some concluding thoughts. Go back over the first 5 steps and write some concluding thoughts. New observations, interpretations, theme or topic of interest for the future, word possibilities for a word study. There is a lot to affirm here.

7. Write out one application. Choose one to write out and consider practicing this week. Make it relevant to the present.

The Chapter Analysis Form

Fill in the reference for your chapter. Apply a title. Summarize the chapter (step one). Write observations. Write concluding thoughts. Write down the application.

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Chapter Analysis Method including the basic form. 

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 NIV

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Book Survey Bible Study Method
Up next: Book Synthesis Bible Study Method


1. By now you realize studying a book of the Bible like this takes time.

How long per day are you willing and able to devote to study the word? You do not need to do one chapter in one sitting. You can still study like this even if you devote only 10 or 20 minutes a day to it. So, how much time can you devote?

2. Think about the things that might interfere with your quiet time in the Word? How might you limit the interruptions? When or where is the best time and place for you?

Thursday, December 7, 2023

9 – Book Survey Bible Study Method


Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that directs you towards a overall telescopic view of a book of the Bible.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

This method is the first of three providing a detailed study of a book of the Bible.

Bird’s Eye View of a Book

My first time to New York, our flight path took us over Manhattan. I cooed at the Empire State Building and other landmarks I could identify. I saw New York as a bird’s eye view.

Later when I moved to Manhattan, I got to know all the subways and bus routes. On Fifth Avenue my head strained up viewing the tall buildings.

The Book Survey Bible Study Method

This Bible study method is about getting a bird’s-eye view of a book. It reveals the shape and purpose of the book. It is a general view rather than a detailed view.

This is important because it shows how each part of the book relates to the other parts.

It involves a number of readings through the book with questions that will draw out the purpose, theme structure and content.

It is too easy, and erroneous, to take a few verses out of context. We need a balanced view of God’s Word in its’ wholeness.

Three phases developed by the Navigators

The book survey is the first of three steps developed by the ministry called the Navigators giving us a solid understanding of a single book of the Bible.
  • Survey — get a bird’s-eye view of the book.
  • Analysis — study everything in each chapter in detail.
  • Synthesis — put it back together again and draw some conclusions.

Tools needed:

Study Bible
Several contemporary translations
Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia
Bible handbook
Other background related tools may be useful also as mentioned in the last chapter.

Realize that Bible surveys on a book, and commentaries, represent opinions and thus different theological views at times. This is why it is so important to examine the Bible for yourself as primary, and then consult the opinions of others.

Steps for doing a Book Background Study

1. Read the book. Do not consult surveys, handbooks or commentaries at this point.
  • Read the book through in one sitting (break up long books like Psalms and Isaiah)
  • Read through the book in a recent translation.
  • Read it rapidly and ignore chapter divisions (these were not in the original copies)
  • Read the book repeatedly
  • Read through the book without referring to commentaries or someone’s notes
  • Read through the book prayerfully
  • Read through the book with a pen or pencil in hand.
2. Make notes on what you read
  • Category (poetry, history, prophecy…)
  • First impressions. Do you see a purpose coming through?
  • Key Words. Are there significant words the writer uses a lot?
  • Key Verse. Does a significant key verse jump out at you, showing the main thought?
  • Literary Style. (Narrative, drama, poem, letter…)
  • Emotional tone. (Angry, sad, happy, worried…) How does it make you feel?
  • Main Theme(s). What is being said? What seems to be the emphasis?
  • Structure of the book. Are there obvious divisions?
  • Major People. Who are the people mentioned most?
3. Do a background study. Look at the text itself first. Then check other tools.
  • What can I learn about the writer?
  • When was the book written?
  • To whom was the book written? Who were they? Who was he? Who was she?
  • Why was the book written?
  • What other background information sheds light on this book?
  • What is the place of this book in the Bible?
  • What are the geographic locations mentioned in the book? Where are they?
4. Make a horizontal chart of the book’s contents (Bible, ruler, 8 1/2”x11” page)
  • Make vertical column for each chapter in the book (may need more than one page)
  • Read the book again finding major divisions and noting on top
  • Read the book again creating a title for each chapter
  • Read the book once more by paragraphs making paragraph titles

5. Make a tentative outline of the book
  • Refer to the horizontal chart to help make the outline
  • Outline from major divisions to minor divisions
  • Use paragraph divisions for outline clues
  • Compare yours with other outlines you may find in a study bible or reference book
6. Write out a personal application

Consider the impressions of all you have looked at. What is one thing the Lord spoke to you about during your study? Write a personal application to it.

Rick Warren suggests these potential places to start:

1 Thessalonians • 1 John • Philippians • 2 Timothy • Ephesians • Mark • Romans • Habakkuk

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Book Survey Method with the basic form at this webpage. HERE.

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Book Background Bible Study Method
Up next: Chapter Analysis Bible Study Method


1. Are you an analytical personality or an artistic personality? Would this method be easy or hard for you to do?

2. What benefit might you find in doing this kind of study?

Thursday, November 30, 2023

8 - Book Background Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that guides you to research the background of a book of the Bible, taking into consideration the geography, culture, world events and key characters regarding that particular book of the Bible.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

Getting to know a place

I love to travel, learning about different cultures and lifestyles. Half the fun is preparing. I check travel books from the library, look at maps online, learn about the customs and politics of the area, and check out local foods.

In the same way, when we want to understand a book of the Bible we should get to know the place a little. 

Where did the book take place? 
What time period was it? 
Who were the political powers and what were the customs of the day.

Check out a book at the local library or borrow one from your pastor. Look at maps online. Research any archeological findings on the time period. Find out what you can about how they lived, worked and ate.

To understand the Bible better, it helps to understand the context. Try to put yourself in their place and ask yourself how God revealed Himself to them and worked in their midst.

This is invaluable to applying God’s message to our setting today. 

Tools needed:

Usually the Bible is our primary source. This study is dependent on Bible tools. Your study Bible will have some notes and maps.

A Bible Dictionary
A Bible Handbook
A Bible Atlas

Other books about the Bible times are also valuable. Scripture Spy notes that there are a lot more tools online regarding our needs to do this study also.


Steps for doing a Book Background Study

1. Choose the subject or book of the Bible.

2. List your reference tools.

3. Obtain insights from geography. Check out Biblical lands topography, water sources, cities, borders. Ask about neighboring countries that had an influence.

4. Get insights from history. Find a good timeline of Bible times. Familiarize yourself with who was in power, and what kind of hold they had. What was going on in the world then? Where was the Jewish nation in history? In the New Testament what was happening to the emerging church?

5. Discover some insights from culture.

Types of clothing people wore • Professions and trades in biblical times • Music in the Bible • Architectural styles in the Near East • Manners and customs in Scripture • Recreation in ancient times • Family life in the Middle East • Art in the Bible • Languages and literature of surrounding nations • Religious ceremonies in Israel and among pagan neighbors • False religions of the area • Weapons and tools used by the people

6. Research insights from the political environment. As you discover political powers that had an influence, look up their leaders. King Nebuchadnezzar. Caesar. etc.

7. Summarize your research. Review what you’ve studied as answer these 2 questions.
  • How does this background information help me understand better what I am studying?
  • What influence did any of these factors have on the subject (or book) that I am studying?
8. Write out a personal application. This may feel awkward, but reflect on what you know so far of the book of the Bible in question, and ask how this information sheds more appreciate for what the author wrote. Is there something you can relate to?

Books or Subjects to consider:

The book of Philippians, Colossians, Ruth.
You could make a sub-group your study, such as Pharisees and Sadducees, or the Romans in Palestine.

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page for Book Background on Warren’s Biographical Method. A form is also there. 

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word
Previous: Nine Strange Thanksgiving Moments in the Bible
Up next: Book Survey Bible Study Method


1. Where might I find some tools to use for my research? Who might I ask? How might an internet search help?

2. What background information do I think might be helpful for understanding the Bible better?


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Nine Surprising Thanksgiving Moments in the Bible

The big idea: Giving thanks in hardship was how our Thanksgiving day was born. It made me think of 9 strange occasions of thanks in the Bible.

America’s Thanksgiving Declared During War

Give thanks even when it hurts.

That has been modeled for us in America. The first time of giving thanks was ordered was in the middle of the Revolutionary War in 1777, after the Battle of Saratoga.

In November of 1789 George Washington declared a national day of Thanksgiving reflecting on the birth of this new nation.

In November of 1863 in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving should be declared a national holiday.

9 surprising Thanksgiving moments in the Bible

1. King David in pain

But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.  I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgivingPsalm 69:29-30 NIV

2. Though ruin was coming

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:3 NIV

Isaiah saw the destruction for God’s people but he anticipated God’s compassion in the midst of all the destruction and loss they would surely experience.

3. Rebuilding 70 years after total destruction

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Ezra 3:11 NIV

This is a great story. (Ezra 10-13) This thanksgiving moment occurs when they have laid the foundation of their temple after all these years. People laugh and cry.

4. When giving thanks risks death

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10 NIV

This is when Daniel goes to the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6). It is all because the Persian King declared anyone who petitions anyone other than him be sentenced to death. Never stop thanking God no matter what.

5. During a 2 week storm at sea

 "Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”  After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. Acts 27:34-35 NIV

Paul was travelling the Mediterranean by ship and the storm was so bad no one could eat for 2 weeks. They were sure the ship would splinter to pieces (Acts 27).

6. Facing hardship, persecution and death in ministry

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Cor 1: 10-11 NIV

This is thanks in anticipation for what God WILL do, like Isaiah 51:3

7. Instead of obscenities and vulgar joking

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4 NIV

Paul was telling the Corinthians in a foul mouthed culture how to act as Christians. Prone to swearing? Say thanks to God instead.

8. Thank God for evil leaders

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. I Timothy 2:1-2 NIV

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy it was the mid-60s A.D. The Roman World was ruled by Emperor Nero who took delight in torturing people. He even poisoned his own mother. Many Christians were burned to death or thrown to lions at his command.

9. In the End Times

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. Rev 11:17 NIV

In the middle of mayhem on earth, thanks is being given. Another example of anticipation that God will make all things right.

Our world has a lot of angst. There are wars of atrocities. Random acts of violence. Foul movies and TV shows. Polar positions against every idea fed by social media laced with fear and anger. Politics? Oh boy.

In the midst of all of that, give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18). Rise above the mayhem and lift up your eyes to the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The usual post in this series will be posted next Thursday on Rick Warren’s Book Survey Bible Study Method. In the midst of everything take time to learn how to feast on God's Word. 

If you’d like to get the Scripture Spy blog in an email, subscribe by writing to me at

Scripture Spy on Bible Study Methods 

Previous: Word Study Bible Study Method
Up next: Book Background Bible Study Method



1. What is something you can give thanks for today, though it might be a little hard to say it.

2. When have you been in a difficult situations and you were reminded, in your spirit or by someone else, to give thanks?

Thursday, November 16, 2023

7 - Word Study Bible Study Method

 Big Idea: Introduction to the Word Study Bible study method guides one to examine the use of significant words found frequently in the Bible, exploring their usage in its original language and in the Biblical context.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

The Word Study Bible Study Method

Our kids have always loved word plays like anagrams, cryptograms and word scrambles. They are much better at it than I am.

Words are fascinating and words matter. They are at the core of good communication.

The importance of studying words in the Bible

There are words in the Bible that occur frequently with key ideas associated with them. Words like grace, and faith. To ignore their meaning or be unclear about what it says hinders our better understanding of God’s message to us.

The study of words related to key ideas will unlock a deeper understanding of the Bible. A correct interpretation of biblical truths is based on understanding the words.

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5

Of course the Bible was written originally in primarily Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament). Bible translation into other languages (like English) try to best convey the meaning but word equivalents don’t always exist.

That is why it is invaluable to study a word’s meaning in its original language and examine the context. The English use of a word is not enough.

Tools needed:

Study Bible
Several translations (but not paraphrases)
Exhaustive concordance   (Scripture Spy: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
Bible dictionary or encyclopedia
A good English dictionary
A set of word studies
If you have had an introduction to Biblical Greek or Hebrew, their Bible concordances and tools may be useful.  Ralph Winter’s Word Study Concordance and The Word Study New Testament are helpful.

Three Common Difficulties listed by Rick Warren

1. Sometimes several Greek words are translated by just one English word.

2. Sometimes one Greek or Hebrew word is translated several ways in English.
  • List the different ways the word is translated
  • List how many times it is translated each way
  • Give examples of each translation if possible
  • Write down how the different meanings might be related
  • Determine if the writer of the book is using the word you are studying in a single sense or is giving it a multiple meaning
3. Sometimes an original word is translated by a whole phrase in English.

Simple steps on doing a word study

1. Choose your word. Maybe there is a word you have been mulling over in your studies.

2. Find its English definition. Check a good English dictionary.

3. Compare translations that have that word. (Scripturespy: This is fairly easy on Bible with a single word. At the bottom it gives the option to see all translations.) 

4. Write down the definition of the word in the original language. Find this using your exhaustive concordance.

5. Check the word’s occurrences in the Bible.
  • How many times does the word occur in the Bible?
  • In what books does it occur?
  • What writers used the word?
  • In what book does it occur most?
  • Where does the word occur first in the Bible?
  • Where does it occur first in the book I am studying?
6. Find the root meaning and origin of the word. Use a Bible dictionary, a theological word book, etc.

Here are a couple of tools for that, that Rick Warren recommends.
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study: New Testament, 3 vols. (Victor) • The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study: Old Testament, 4 vols. (Victor) • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Hendrickson) • Kregel Dictionary of the Bible and Theology (Kregel)

7. Discover the word’s usage in the Bible

a. Find out how the word was used in the time the book of the Bible was written?
b. Find out how the word was used in the Bible?
    • How does the writer use the word in other parts of the book?
    • How does the writer use the word in other books he has written?
    • How is the word used throughout the whole testament?
    • Does the word have more than one usage? If so, what are its other uses?
    • What is the most frequent use of the word?
    • How is it used the first time in the Scriptures?
c. Find out how the word is used in the context of the passage?
    • Does the context give any clues to the meaning of the word?
    • Is the word compared or contrasted with another word in the context?
    • Is there any illustration in the context that clarifies the meaning of the word?
8. Write out an application. Keep your goal application, not interpretation. This is for your personal study and growth, not an academic paper. Pray over it.

Include a list of resource books you found useful in studying this word.

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Word Study Method with a form also available on that page.

Also Scripture Spy has a number of blogs about tools both in book form and online that can be used, as well as helpful information about the process.

What is a Word Study 
Choosing a Bible Translation
Lost in Translation 
Word Study using the Blue Letter Bible 

In the New Year (2024) Scripture Spy Blogs will be about various tools to use for Bible study.  Some are hard copy books and others are electronic sources. Many of the resources are useful for this kind of study. Some of the resources mentioned by Rick Warren are old and out of print. We will look at more update or electronic tools. 

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Topical Method of Bible Study
Up next: Book Background Method of Bible Study


1. Do you have any experience learning or speaking another language? If so, think about some of the words that are difficult to translate into English or vice versa.

2. Rattle off 5 important words used in the Bible. Is there one that you would like to study more carefully?


Thursday, November 9, 2023

6 - Topical Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to the Topical Bible study method which details a Biblical topic through the study of pertinent verses, cataloging their uses and drawing life application from the observations.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

My Pet Topic 

Do you know someone with a pet topic? They bring it up no matter what the conversation is about.

One of my favorite topics in the Bible is peace. The peace that is beyond comprehension that comes from God (Philippians 4:7).

The Topical Bible Study Method

The Topical Bible Study Method is like the Thematic (Themes) study from 2 weeks ago about verses related to a subject. You gather understanding by asking questions.

But the Topical Bible Study and the Thematic Bible study are different in a couple ways. The topical study is broader, and takes longer. All the verses are looked at and the questions are not limited. Each verse is examined for all their insights and compared.

Since the topic may be so broad it would take months to finish, you may want to limit your particular observations to a single book of the Bible, or just the Old Testament or the New Testament.

The importance of topical study 

Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods: Twelve Ways You Can Unlock God's Word . Zondervan.

1. It enables us to study the Word of God systematically, logically, and in an orderly manner.

2. It gives us a proper perspective and balance regarding biblical truth. We get to see the whole of a biblical teaching.

3. It allows us to study subjects that are of particular interest to us.

4. It enables us to study the great doctrines of the Bible.

5. It lends itself to good and lively discussions. The results of a topical study are always easy to share with others.

6. It allows us variety in our lifetime commitment to personal Bible study. The number of topics in the Bible that we can study is almost limitless.

Tools needed:

A study Bible                           (Scripture Spy blogpost:   Resources in your Study Bible)
An exhaustive concordance     (Scripture Spy blogpost: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
Topical Bible

A note on specialized topical Bibles: The Thompson Chain Reference Bible was written over 100 years ago. It remains tried and true for discovering Bible themes.

Advice from R.A. Torrey, How to Study the Bible, Witaker House.  The kindle version of this book is currently free at 

1. Be systematic
2. Be thorough
3. Be exact

Simple steps on doing a topical study

1. Compile a list of all the worlds related to the topic. Think of synonyms and antonyms, phrases and events.

2. Collect all the references. Use your reference tools to gather all the verses you can find on the topics. Use a concordance or the search feature in an online Bible.

3. Consider each verse individually. Use a comparison chart to look up, read and study each reference, writing down highlights and insights. Check the surrounding verses for context. Ask yourself lots of questions.

4. Compare and group the references with one another. You will find there are multiple verses that go together or are used in the same manner.

5. Condense your finding into an outline. Logically arrange your main divisions as you put together an outline. Group related ideas by their logical pattern.

6. Conclude by summarizing and applying the topic. Try to summarize your findings into brief paragraphs. Then meditate on them and write out practical application you see for your life.

Making a Form

Chart 1: For steps 1 and 2. Place topic on top, then words related in the next slot. Next list all the Bible References you find.

Chart 2: For steps 3 and 4. Make a comparison chart. Have 3 columns labeled reference, cross-references, and observations/insights. The third column should be the widest for more room to write.

Chart 3: For step 5. Make your outline here.

Chart 4: For step 6. Summary and application

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Topical Method.  A form is also available here.

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word


Previous: Biographical Method of Bible Study
Up next: Word Study Method of Bible Study


1. What topic would you like to study? Why?

2. How do you think the Word of God can speak to you through a topical study?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

5 - Biographical Bible Study Method


Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that trains us to explore Bible characters for ourselves observing both their strong points and weakenesses, learning from their example (both positive and negative).

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

What Makes People Tick?

Queen Esther is my favorite Bible character. Introduced as a shy teenage Jewish girl she wins hearts and finds her voice to speak up for her people.

At the heart of the Biographical Bible Study Method is the study of a Bible character’s attributes in their unique life situation, watching their growth or groaning at their failures. 

The New Testament tends to have more instructive teaching and the Old Testament tends to teach by telling stories we can relate to.

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. I Corinthians 10:11 (NLT)

The people of the Bible are not all heroes. Even the heroes are complex human beings. Their stories are not sugar coated but rather, raw emotional stories of real human beings.  This supports that the Bible is an accurate source, not one that puffs up stories of key individuals.

God has created man and woman. We are important to Him and He wants to enter into our daily life.

This method helps us examine people, reflecting and comparing them to ourselves as we seek to discover what makes them tick. We can learn from them for our walk with God in our own life experiences.

The Biographical Bible Study Method

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 (NLT)

Tools needed:

A study Bible                           (Scripture Spy blogpost:   Resources in your Study Bible)
An exhaustive concordance     (Scripture Spy blogpost: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
Topical Bible
Bible dictionary or encyclopedia

Tips for a good biographical study

1. Start with a person on whom you can do a simple study. Don’t start with a major character like Abraham or Moses for your first study.

2. Imagine yourself in their shoes. As you study, imagine you are visiting their life in your mind.

3. Be careful not to confuse people who have the same name. There is an Old Testament Joseph and a New Testament Joseph. Totally different guys.

4. Some Bible characters have more than one name. Sometimes this is because their name is different in another language. Abram/Abraham. Peter/Simon/Cephas

5. Focus on what the Bible says about them and try to stay in the Bible first. After you’ve learned about them already you may look up biographical sketches of them in Bible Dictionaries, Commentaries and so on.

Ten Simple Steps for doing a Biographical Study

1. Select the Bible person you want to study. You may look for someone who struggles as you do, or with qualities you want to emulate.

2. Make a list of all the references regarding that person

3. Write down first impressions (first reading)

4. Make a chronological outline (second reading). Often people grow and change. Note that.

5. Get some insights into the person (third reading). Don’t forget location, family, career, period of history.

6. Identify some character qualities (fourth reading). Make a list of positives and negatives.

7. Show how other Bible truths are shown in the person’s life. It may be something like “You reap what you sow,” or a life reflecting prayer.

8. Summarize the main lesson(s) Try to explain the person’s life lessons in one or two short sentences. Is there an outstanding characteristic?

9. Write out a personal application. You may want to refer back to the devotional method. Ask here if you see yourself in that person, strengths and weaknesses that give you something to work on…

10. Make your study transferable. Are you able to jot an outline of what you have observed and learned that you could use to share a devotional or teach a class?

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Biographical Method.
A form is also available at this webpage. HERE.

Start with a simpler Bible character for your first one. Examples: Ruth, Caleb, Andrew, Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha)

Something for everyone 

There are so many personalities in the Bible, just like we are all different with our quirks. We experience different stages of life. One character may be more meaningful to you now than when you were younger. We walk through different life situation from others. The Bible tells of many difficult life circumstances.

Even a Bible character completely different from you has something you can learn. It is all about how God reaches out to us as human beings and wants to work in and through us. 

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Thematic Method of Bible Study
Up next: Topical Method of Bible Study


1. How might you learn from a person who is a bad example in the Bible?

2. Do you have a favorite character in the Bible? Why might you gravitate to that person? At first thought, what might you learn from him or her?

Thursday, October 26, 2023

4 - Thematic Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method based on a theme, which is a singular focus on a topic, asking only a limited couple of questions.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

I’m sure the answer must be Jesus

Have you heard the joke of a children’s Sunday School teacher who asked her class “What is brown, furry with a bushy tail and likes nuts?”

An enthusiastic child shoved his hand in the air and blurted, “It sounds like a squirrel but I’m sure the answer must be Jesus.”

Narrowing a topic to a theme

It is easy to decide on the topic of “Jesus.” But all the verses and passages would become like a doctoral dissertation!

Many themes are within the broad topic of Jesus. Jesus’ parables about money. Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Jesus’ seven sayings at the cross. This is narrowing the topic.

A thematic Bible study is simpler than a topical Bible study.

Explaining the Theme method

This method approaches a theme in the Bible using less than 5 predetermined questions. You trace them guided by these questions, summarize your conclusions then personally apply it to your life.

Tools needed:

A study Bible    (Scripture Spy blogpost:   Resources in your Study Bible)
An exhaustive concordance     (Scripture Spy blogpost: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
A topical Bible

Advantages of the Thematic Bible Study

1. You don’t need reference tools.
2. It can be done in a limited time frame.
3. It is a good way to preview a topic.
4. It is easy to present as a Sunday School class or Sermon topic.
5. It is a way to teach a new Christian a simple study.

Tips from Rick Warren

1. Don’t use too many questions.
2. You may be able to use only one question. i.e. What are the things God hates?
3. You may not get all your questions answer in one verse, but it useful to look at multiple verses.
4. If you can’t find the answer in any of your verses, you may need to rephrase the questions.
5. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too massive a project.

Simple Steps on Doing a Thematic Study

1. Choose a theme that interests you.

2. List the verses you intend to study (use the study Bible, exhaustive concordance and topical Bible to find suggested verses on your theme)

3. Decide on the questions you will ask. Gather no more than 5 questions. Consider questions that begin with Who, what when where, or how. Maybe only 1 question is sufficient.

4. Ask you question(s) of each reference. List your answer(s) on a form.

5. Draw some conclusions from your study. Summarize your answers. Consider grouping similar verses.

6. Write out a personal application. Make sure it is practical, possible and measurable.

Form with suggested categories

Find a form for this kind of chart at this webpage

1. Theme
2. List of references
3. Questions to be asked
4. Answer the questions according to what each verse says
5. Conclusions/summaries
6. Application

For starting out, choose a simple theme with only a few verses. As you get better at this method you can make more complex themes.

Examples of themes

1. Knowing God’s will
Words to look up: God’s will, will of God, will of the Lord, Lord’s will
Question possibilities: What specific things are God’s will? Why am I to do God’s will? How am I to do God’s will?

2. Obedience
Words to look up: obey, obedience, keep, commandments, do…
Question possibilities: Why is obedience important? What are the results of obedience? What are the results of disobedience? How am I to obey God?

3. Praising the Lord
Words to look up: praise, adoration, thanksgiving, joy
Question possibilities: Why should I praise the Lord? How can I praise the Lord? When should I praise the Lord? What are some results of praising the Lord?

My heart is moved with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1 NASB

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Character Quality Bible Study Method
Up next: Biographical Method of Bible Study


1. Are you already thinking of a theme you would like to study in the Bible? What would it be?

2. Does anything scare or trouble you about studying the Bible on your own, instead of using a study guide? What would that be? Pray about it.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

3 - Character Quality Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that teaches you to examine both good and bad qualities portrayed in the Bible to guide us to shed bad qualities and embrace qualities that make us more like Christ.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

Learning From Bible Characters

Jezebel? How could I possibly be like Jezebel?

The “Bad Girls of the Bible” Bible study by Liz Curtis Higgs says we all can see ourselves in these bad girls! Really? Jezebel?

The author explained that Jezebel portrays huge control issues that many women relate to. Yup. I struggle with that too. It is not a becoming trait and not at all like Jesus.

Character Qualities

The character quality Bible study method is valuable because it guides you how to examine qualities, both good and bad ones, portrayed by the people in the Bible.

We need to develop the good qualities that make us more like Jesus. And curtail the bad qualities that detract and even sabotage our witness and living life pleasing to the Holy Spirit.

Tools needed:

A good study Bible     (Scripture Spy blogpost Why use a study Bible)
An exhaustive concordance    (Scripture Spy blogpost How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
A Bible dictionary or a word study book
A topical Bible
An English dictionary

Tips from Rick Warren:

1. Only focus on one quality at a time.
2. Don’t rush it! Character development takes time.
3. Stay with that quality and give it time to get a good handle on it in your life.
4. Be aware that a negative quality may be a positive one misused. They can be transformed.
5. Trust the Holy Spirit to build these qualities into your life.

9 Steps to do a character quality study

Rick Warren’s lists for this method. His book fleshes it out more. In fact you can find a form to use at this website, as well as some additional information on each step. 

1. Name the quality. Write out the dictionary definition. List synonyms.

2. Name the opposite quality (the antonym) and write those dictionary definitions.

3. Do a simple word study.  (Scripture Spy blogpost What is a word study?)

4. Find some cross-references. (Scripture Spy blogpost Concordance and Word Search)

5. Do a brief biographical study.

6. Find a memory verse. (Scripture Spy blogpost Dwelling on the Word by Memorization)

7. Select a situation or relationship to work on.

8. Plan a specific project.

9. Write out a personal illustration.

Here are a couple of lists to get you thinking about qualities talked about in the Bible.  The list is not exhaustive. It is just to give you some ideas.

Positive Qualities: servanthood, honesty, humility, determination, diligence, faithfulness, availability, teachability, forgiveness, generosity, loyalty, fairness, kindness, cooperativeness, discipline, sincerity, contentment

Negative qualitites: lazines, a critical spirit, pride, selfishness, unfaithfulness, disrespectfulness, rebelliousness, gossip, being unloving, dishonesty, impatience, worry, fearfulness, lustfulness, bitterness, apathy, grumbling

A final quote from Rick Warren:

Before we can work on a Christlike quality in our lives, we must be able to recognize it. This study is designed to help you identify negative and positive character qualities and then be able to understand them.

You may then work on setting aside negative character qualities and building positive ones in yiour life. Doing these things will enable you to become more and more like Jesus Christ.

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Chapter Summary Bible Study Method
Up next: Thematic Bible Study Method


1. What character trait of a Bible character would you like to reflect more? Why do you choose that?

2. What negative character trait would you like to change into a positive trait? Can you think of a Bible character who portrays that trait?

Thursday, October 12, 2023

2 - Chapter Summary Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method where a chapter of the Bible is read multiple times as questions are asked about the chapter, then a short summary is made.

Series note: The next 12 weeks will feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

What's that chapter of the Bible about?

If you could time-travel to any event in the Bible and talk to one of the writers, like the Apostle John, and talk to him about his writings, you might run into a roadblock.

“Hey John,” you’d say, “I really love that verse you wrote in John 3:16. Actually I love the whole chapter!”

John would give you a blank look. “You seem kind, but what are you talking about?”

The Bible originally written in Hebrew and Greek did not have chapter and verse markings.

Those were added about 1000 years after the early church to help us find our way around the Bible and be on the same page, so to speak! I think we agree, they are very useful to Bible study!

This Chapter Summary Bible Study Method is useful as a way to view a book of the Bible by its chapters, or a way to look at the content of an important chapter of the Bible.

Why this method is useful

1. It is easy to learn.
2. It does not take much time, depending on the length of the chapter, of course.
3. It does not require any outside helps or reference tools, but it is necessary to memorize the ten steps.
4. It is a good type of study to use when you are engaged in a rapid reading survey through the Bible.

10 steps devised by Rick Warren

1. Caption - A short descriptive title

2. Contents - List of points, observations outline or summarize

3. Chief people – List the people in it.

4. Central verse – choose what you believe is a significant verse to the chapter.

5. Crucial words – Make a list of key words.

6. Challenges – List what you don’t understand or difficulties you have with the chapter.

7. Cross References – Check cross references to add more understanding.

8. Christ Revealed – Consider how the passage points to Christ, or reveals more about Him.

9. Central Lessons – List major lessons in the chapter.

10. Conclusion – Start to apply this. Questions to ask yourself would be, how does this apply to me personally and what should I do about this?

This is just a statement of each of Warren's  proposed steps.  His book has a lot more direction for each step.  

Suggested passages to practice

I Corinthians 13
2 Timothy 2
1 John 1
John 17
The Gospel of Luke

Additional Tip : If you are reading a fast paced program through the Bible, you may find it useful to take time to use this method occasionally on one chapter in your reading for deeper insight.

For more on the chapter summary method, with a chart to make lists, go to this website.   

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Devotional Bible Study Method
Up next: The Character Quality Method of Bible Study


1. If you could go back in time to meet a Bible Character who would you want to meet? Why?

2. How useful do you think this method could be for you to use?