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?

Thursday, October 5, 2023

1 - Devotional Bible Study Method

Big Idea: A Bible study method based on application is practical for daily living.

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.

The Bible Applied to Daily Life

My mother and I were working in the garden on a hot day in North Dakota. I was about 8 years old, probably doing more playing than helping. She asked me to bring her a cup of cold water. Remember what the Bible says, she quoted.

And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. Matthew 10:42 NLT

It was the Bible, applied to daily life. It began to shape my life on the importance of service before self.


The Bible is not just words  

The Devotional Bible Study Method, according to Rick Warren, shows how to prayerfully meditate on the Bible and apply to our daily experiences.

He states that you don’t really know and absorb the Word of God unless you apply it. Otherwise it is just words.

Additionally, the Bible can actually be dangerous if you study it but do not apply it. One example he gives is that you could get arrogant and just brag about what you know, without living it (I Cor. 8:1). 

Application is hard work

Rick Warren gives us three reasons why applying the Bible to daily life takes hard work.

1. It requires serious thinking.
2. Satan fights against it viciously.
3. We naturally resist change.

Four steps to practical application

Every chapter of Warren’s book is practical. He provides charts and templates for personal study. Here are four practical steps he gives on studying from an application point of view, which are the 4 sections of his template on the Devotional Method.

1. Pray for insight on how to apply the passage you have chosen.
2. Meditate on the verse or verses.
3. Write out applications you see from that passage.
4. Memorize a key verse.

Suggested passages 

Psalm 15
Psalm 34
Romans 12
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
1 John 4

Warren’s summary

The Ultimate test by which we study and apply Scripture is the person of Jesus Christ. We have to ask, “Does this application help me become more like Jesus?”

If we do not apply the biblical insights God gives us, we become spiritually dull to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Application of God’s Word is vitally necessary to our spiritual health and our growth in Christian maturity.

Resource: charts for every method

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


Previous: “Three Versions” Bible Reading
Up next: The Chapter Summary Method of Bible Study



1. Take a moment of reflection on your life. Can you think of an example when you were aware that the Bible was relevant to, and helpful to, a life experience?

2. In all honesty, when you read the Bible are you mindful to apply it to your life situation today? Was there moment when you came to realize the importance of application?