One thing that many of us face is the difficulty of how to study the Bible in a way that is meaningful and effective in our lives. Many times we can also struggle with keeping it fresh, enjoyable, and exciting over the course of our Christian lives. Here are some tips to keep engaging the word of God that is living and active (Heb 4:12) in fresh and meaningful ways.
Study One Book of the Bible
Since the bible is a compilation work consisting of 66 books (in the Protestant bible) written by many authors over the course of about 1500 years, it can be helpful to focus on one book of the bible at a time so you can get to know the intent of the author to his audience for that particular time and occasion, and find meaningful (and accurate) ways to apply the Scriptures to your own life. (For good resources see NIV Study Bible and How To Read The Bible For All It's Worth) If you can, try to read the book at least once in one sitting (this may be difficult for longer books, especially in the Old Testament, but read it in as few sittings as possible as close together as possible). Write down a basic outline of the flow of the book, jot down the major characters, events and themes until the book starts to sink in as a whole.
You can apply these same principles as you study smaller portions of the bible, such as a section of a book - something that represents a story or unified thought (for example, the Sermon on the Mount in Mat 5-7, or Paul's treaty on the Spirit in Rom 6-7, etc.), or one chapter of the Bible, or even a verse.
Study One Topic or Theme
Pick a topic, theme, or biblical subject that you want to understand better or gain mastery over, then research that throughout the Scriptures. A helpful tool for this is Bible Gateway, or my favorite Blue Letter Bible, because a good concordance is also helpful for this kind of study. Some possible topics and themes are; God's love, redemption, sin, forgivenness, mercy, patience, gentleness, courage, etc.
Study One Character
The Bible is a story about God interacting and intersecting with real people throughout history and as you study the characters of the Bible, you start to realize that they have many of the same strengths and weaknesses, relationships, difficulties, and victories that you and I have. You can study characters like Joseph, David, Jonathan, Peter, Timothy, Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Paul, John, Mary, Abigail, Steven, Caleb, Priscilla and Aquila ... just to name a few.
Seven questions to ask when you read: (adapted from How To Give Your Faith Away by Paul Little)
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a promise in this passage? If so, what is it? Can God lie about his promises? Are there any conditions or premises to the promise? Do I see this promise fulfilled or unfulfilled in my life?
Is there a command to obey?
Is there something that God expects me to do or obey? How have I been doing? Am I consistent? How can I get started if I am not obeying?
Is there sin to avoid?
Is there a sin God is telling me to forsake? Am I guilty of this sin? When? How? Who can help me with this and how can I avoid this in the future?
Is there a teaching about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or other bible subjects that I need to believe?
Much of God's word is Him revealing himself to us, his nature, character, and personality. What do I need to change my thinking and belief on in order to accurately match what God reveals about himself?
Is there an example to follow or avoid?
We must be careful here in our hermeneutics (see How To Read The Bible For All It's Worth) but do you see an example to follow or to avoid?
Is there a difficulty to explore?
Sometimes we struggle to understand, and perhaps even find ourselves doubting the truth of what we read. First you must not let Bible difficulties throw you, but instead inspire you to think, study, read, and ask questions. It is okay to ask questions. Second, you must realize that there are some things that are difficult because the bible has not said much about them, or because of our limited human understanding we can have a difficult time grasping them (such as the timeless nature of God). Keep in mind Ps 139:6; Isa 55:9; etc. and remember to interpret obscure or difficult passages in light of clearer ones.
Is there something in the passage I need to pray about today?
God is speaking to you as you read through His word, this should help initiate and spark your conversation with him in return.