If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve observed that we advocate for a specific method of personal Bible study. (We call it the OIA method—Observe, Interpret, Apply—though it goes by other names elsewhere.) You may have interpreted our repetition to mean we think you should adopt this practice. At this point, I hope the application is clear.
But bringing OIA Bible study into your life might sound difficult, especially if you haven’t done much personal Bible study before. This approach to God’s Word is deliberate and thorough, so studying a portion of Scripture will take time, especially if the passage is lengthy.
But who has extra time?
Your schedule is already full. Your calendar might resemble an old wineskin containing new wine, set to burst (Matt 9:17). How can you find time for personal Bible study if this method demands so much time?
Instead of an exclusive focus on Bible study, I suggest you think in terms of Bible intake. With this term I include all the ways we interact with the Bible: reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and hearing the Bible preached. The lines between these activities can be fuzzy, since starting with one practice might overlap with or lead into another. But all of these categories are important.
Think of Bible intake like the food you eat. The U.S. government urges a balanced diet consisting of foods from five groups, and your Bible intake should also be varied. Your bones might weaken if you ignore dairy, and you may show a spiritual deficiency if you neglect (for example) Bible memorization.
So you should be studying the Bible, because that’s part of a healthy diet of Bible intake. But this doesn’t mean you need to break out the OIA worksheets during every devotional opportunity. Some mornings you could read longer passages of Scripture and meditate on specific truths or promises. Other times you might work on Bible memorization.
What Might This Look Like?
Your devotional life will likely be different than mine. My own practices happen with far less frequency and passion than I would like, but I record them here in case they are helpful.
- During the two weeks each month when my small group meets, I study the Bible in the morning using the OIA method. I don’t separate my learning from my teaching. I shoot for 30 minutes at a time.
- In other weeks, I read other parts of the Bible. I follow along with my pastor’s preaching texts or dive into another section of Scripture.
- Whenever I have devotions, I spend 10 minutes on Bible memorization. I cycle through a review of the chapters I’ve memorized and work on new verses at the end.
Make some time to think seriously about your own devotional practices. What are your priorities? Have you been ignoring any aspect of Bible intake? It’s one thing to read a blog about Bible study, but it’s far more important to make appointments in your life to meet with, learn from, and worship God in his Word.
Strive for Bible intake as often as possible. Make sure not to neglect Bible study. When you study the Bible, I suggest using the OIA method.
Three Final Pieces of Advice
First, remember that there is no Scriptural command to read through the Bible every year. I’m not against reading great quantities of the Bible (or doing so quickly), but I’ve found this goal tends to dominate many Christians’ devotional practices. It produces guilt and crowds out other forms of Bible intake.
Second, our weeks are far more similar to each other than our days are. Establishing weekly devotional rhythms (including devotions-free days) can be more helpful than setting high daily expectations.
Finally, remember the gospel in your devotional life. Consistent devotions do not endear you to God, and inconsistent devotions do not turn the Father away. If you are his child, God’s love for you is full and perfect—he cannot love you any more or less than he does right now. The perfect life and death of Jesus—not any obedience of your own—has secured this for you once and for all.