Scripture From Scratch: New Bible Study Tool (Free Downloads)

The entire Bible is more accessible than at any other point in history. Yet “How to Study the Bible” is searched online over 8,500 times each month. Access to the Word of God is not the issue. However, knowing it is a huge issue. So how do you start studying the Bible?

Scripture from Scratch

Table of Contents

Where to Start Reading the Bible
Why is Knowing Scripture Important?
Start with Prayer
13 Methods to Study Scripture

The best place to start studying the Bible is the Gospels. These four books are firsthand accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry from those who walked with Him. Let’s look at some helpful, practical study knowledge and practices.

Where to Start Reading the Bible

Here is a brand new resource hot off the ministry press to print out and tuck into your Bible: Scripture From Scratch. Reading and familiarizing yourself with the Gospels is an excellent starting place in the Bible and this resource will help tremendously.

The first installment of Scripture From Scratch includes study outlines for the Gospels. Each book’s outline includes the time period it was written, the author, and how many chapters. It also includes the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and what makes that Gospel unique compared to the other three.

These one-page study outlines provide helpful, basic information on each of the four Gospels. They are handy reference guides to share with anyone who studies the Bible–whether you are brand new to Bible study or have been studying for years. 

More outlines and in-depth material in the Scripture From Scratch series will be released throughout 2023, so stay tuned! 

For new Christians or as a refresher for those steeped in the Christian faith, these outlines can be printed out and tucked into your Bible for handy reference. And share them!

Why is Knowing Scripture Important?

I first started studying Scripture after becoming a Christian at age 23. I did not know anything about the BibleThere’s an Old Testament and a New Testament? You get the gist.

I felt that my basic questions were off-putting to mature Christians. I lacked a good starting point, a good study Bible, or even which first steps to take. Attending church was important, but getting involved in life groups, a small group, and surrounding myself with Christian friends was a game-changer.

Over the past thirty years, God has cultivated in my daily life solid tools to study, memorize and apply Scripture every day. Today, I am passionate about biblical literacy. Some of the methods below may work better for you than others. Try each one to discover your best method. It is time well spent for your soul.

First Things First: Start with Prayer

Scripture is God’s breath exhaled onto the page. Focusing your mind and thoughts on Him comes first and foremost. Always begin your study time with prayer.

The Holy Spirit in you will faithfully guide you, but perhaps start with a prayer similar to this one:

Dear Lord, as I open my Bible today, open my heart to hear your words of truth. I pray that your Word comes alive in me. Remove all distractions right now. Open my mind to gain understanding as your words heal, teach, inspire, convict, and restore my heart. Enable your words to take root, grow and blossom in my life. Bring your light of understanding and peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Method #1: Study One Book of the Bible

Start with a small book from the New Testament as a solid foundation. The Gospel of John, or the books of James, 1 Peter, and 1 John are all a good start for new believers.

Plan to spend 3-4 weeks studying the book you have chosen. For the first time, read through the entire book to grasp the story. Then, read through and perhaps jot down some study notes to dig into later.

Look for themes that may be woven into the chapters. For example, the book of James contains an obvious theme of perseverance through hard circumstances. Grab a journal and write down the verses around each theme.

Also, make a note of life application principles within the book. In James, a clear life application is that words need to result in action. As you meditate on the themes and life application principles, allow God’s Word to speak to you personally. Where can those themes or applications apply to your life right now?

Method #2: Read Straight Through the Bible

Reading the Bible straight through allows us to “hear” it like Israel’s nomadic tribes. Each person did not have parchment, so the Bible stories were shared verbally.

Note that you do NOT have to start at the beginning of the Bible. The Bible contains 66 separate books compiled into one. You can start anywhere you like, just be sure to read all of them. Reading straight through allows you to hear the overarching story of the Bible.

Be sure to choose a Bible version that is easy to read. Let’s face it, if you don’t understand it, you won’t get far.

There are dozens of translations and different versions of God’s Word, but the King James version is probably the most difficult. For clear reading, I suggest the English Standard Version (ESV) or New Living Translation (NLT). Personally, I use an ESV Study Bible, but the best study Bibles are the ones that work for YOU.

This method allows us to see the overarching story of God’s goodness to His children from Genesis to Revelation. His passionate, relentless pursuit of us toward salvation comes across with beautiful clarity.

I have many different Bible reading plans for free download here.

Method #3: Write Out Parts of the Bible

Our culture moves at lightning speed. Since we are technologically driven (for the most part), we desire things to move fast – such as food, lines, and traffic.

Absorbing Scripture into the marrow of our bones takes time. Breathing space. Quiet time. That’s where grabbing a pen, your Bible and a journal plays a vital role. The rhythm of physically writing slows us down to absorb the words. They stick with us past the moment – especially if you want to memorize particular verses.

As an author, I love the steady cadence of writing out God’s Word. That cadence resounds in my soul to retain those life-giving words.

Make writing fun! I love using my favorite Tul pens and a variety of colorful journals that are readily available and inexpensive.

Method #4: Character Study

One of the most frequently asked questions is who’s who in the Bible. The follow-up question is usually why does it matter?

I love reading current biographies of historical great men and women because they lend insight into the person. Doing character studies throughout Scripture accomplishes much the same.

For instance, Scripture only contains two books named after women: Ruth and Esther. My study quest to understand Esther turned into a full-blown, published Bible study. Talk about an amazing woman of faith that God used mightily!

Studying characters matters because their examples teach us much about living a life of faith. As you study each character, you will see how God moved in their life. How He provided for their needs, disciplined them toward success, and loved them beyond measure. He still does that today with you and me.

Method #5: Topical Bible Study

This is similar to the Character Study method listed above. However, instead of a person, pick a topic. Temptation, peace, addiction, and forgiveness are a few that could be tackled.

I remember as a new Christian being confused by what it meant to be “quenched” or “hydrated” by the Lord. What does “living water” mean? Years later, I used this topical Bible study method and turned that personal quest into a Bible study called Quenched: Christ’s Living Water for a Thirty Soul.

What topic do you long to know more about in the Bible? Use the concordance in the back of your Bible to find where that topic appears in Scripture. Then grab a notepad.

Read and/or write down all of those passages. What does God teach about that topic? Are common misconceptions debunked? Most importantly, meditate on how God can apply those truths to your spiritual journey.

Quenched: Christ's Living Water for a Thirsty Soul by Donna Snow

Method #6: Memorize Scripture

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is vital. When the enemy knocks us to the ground, God brings those verses to mind to comfort us and bring His peace.

One of the first portions of Scripture I memorized was the Armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18. This evil in this world is evident – just turn on the evening news. As His children, we need to know God has protected us from head to toe. I wrote an entire Bible study on this topic.

If you are facing a particular battle right now start with verses that speak to that situation. If you are experiencing joyful circumstances, start with passages that praise God.

Yes, all of Scripture is worthy of memorization. However, focusing on ones that directly apply to your life situation will be more meaningful. Memorization will come easier.

Method #7: Bible Journaling (the SOAP method)

A vital step in our faith journey is applying Scripture to our lives. A popular, helpful method appeared a few years ago called “S.O.A.P.” It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

I used this method effectively when writing The God of All Comfort based on 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Paul teaches how God comforts us in our affliction, which enables us to also offer His compassionate comfort to others.

This method is simple. Pick a section of Scripture each morning or evening during your devotion time. Using a notepad or SOAP journal:

  • Write down the Scripture passage
  • Read through it again and record your Observations
  • Jot down how you can Apply those truths in your life
  • Close with Prayer for God to make that verse personal to you

Method #8: Single Word Study

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about fear? Love? Humility? Kindness? Such wondering offers a perfect opportunity to undertake a single-word study.

When I experienced divorce over a decade ago, I did not feel very loved (to say the least). One of my pastors challenged me to read through the Bible and write out every passage that talked about God’s love. WOW!

Navigating through the painful valleys of divorce is something I understand very well. If you need a Christian guide on how to survive and thrive, I suggest my book: Without This Ring.

That undertaking left me without a trace of doubt about how much God loves me, even when people may not. Writing all of those love passages consumed an entire journal. If I am ever feeling unloved, I still pull out that journal. I don’t feel unloved for long.

If you long to be more kind, I challenge you to search for every instance in Scripture where God talks about kindness. Write them out in a journal. Ask the Lord to enable you to be more kind. God will blow you away as He works through this discipline.

Method #9: Coloring Scripture (Bible Marginalia)

Bible marginalia appeared on the scene a few years ago and has exploded in popularity. If you are an artistic person, this method is a great tool. The premise is to meditate on a Bible verse as you highlight, color, and create art around it.

Friends of mine have launched a very popular Visual Faith® Ministry. There are hundreds of free downloads that include examples of how to highlight, color, and visually enhance your Bible reading experience.

The goal is to utilize the artistic gifts that God has given you to engage with and meditate on Scripture. Even though you are being artistic, be sure to keep in mind the main purpose. Meditate on that passage(s).

Method #10: Read Scripture Like a Novel

Right from Genesis 1, Scripture opens as an epic, cosmic tale about the heavens and the earth. We see God creating everything out of nothing. We see marital drama between Adam and Eve. Blessings and curses. Covenants. Promises. Murder. Adultery. Betrayal. War. Political subversion. Cinematic-worthy battles.

If you are a writer or wannabe screenwriter, simply look at the account of David’s battle with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. You can’t make that stuff up. It flat-out reads like an award-winning novel.

There are main characters, metanarrative, and deep plot development that become clearer when reading the Bible like a novel. The settings are both intimate and dramatic. The important difference? Scripture is non-fiction.

The overarching message of the Bible becomes crystal clear: God’s love toward us never fails. If you love stories, read through the Bible like a novel. Mentally insert yourself into those stories. Visualize your surroundings. See how God challenges and rescues. Scripture comes alive!

Method #11: Pray Through the Psalms

As a new 20-something Christian struggling with how God could love someone like me, a godly mentor pointed me to the Psalms.

The Psalms verbalized the hurricane of words in my head that I could not explain. She suggested that I use the Psalms as a guideline for my prayer time. Verbalizing worries and concerns to the One who has the power to change them was a spiritual game-changer.

Every emotion that we experience can be found in the Psalms. Anger. Love. Bitterness. Praise. Confusion. Hurt. Thanksgiving. You name it, and it’s in the Psalms. The key to relating to the Psalms is putting yourself in the place of the psalmist. Read it aloud as if you were writing it from your own experience.

King David penned at least 73 of the psalms. He poured his heart out to God in his writing. And as he wrote, God’s peace and comfort would surround him.

The Psalms are also infused with worship. Worship was an integral part of the Israelite’s worship and find great value in our worship even today. If your circumstances leave you without words to worship, speak those worship Psalms aloud.

Method #12: Utilize Your Love of Geography

Understanding the geography around Biblical stories adds an important layer to studying Scripture. Years ago, a friend gave me a Bible Atlas as a birthday gift and it is never far from reach.

When you realize that the Sea of Galilee is only eight by twelve, we can understand how the crowds could track Jesus’ boat as they followed Him along the shore to experience the miraculous feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21).

I regularly lead tours through the Holy Land. One of the comments that people repeatedly say is that they had no idea about the proximity of some locations to others. For instance, Magdala, Tiberius, Capernaum, and the Mount of Beatitudes can be seen from an anchored boat on the Sea of Galilee.

If you love maps, this is a very effective method of diving deeper into Scripture. Grab a Bible atlas, pick a story from Scripture, and track the character’s movements. I have spent many hours lost in the pages of that Bible atlas seeing Scripture come to life through geography.

Qumran, Israel

Method #13: Use Bible Flash Cards

Flash cards are not just for school kids. As a bona fide lifelong learner, flashcards are an invaluable way to study Scripture.

When my Forgiveness Bible study was released, the publisher had the brilliant idea of offering Scripture cards with any purchase. I still keep those cards close by as a reminder to keep short accounts. Life is short. Forgiveness is commanded. In fact, here is a free downloadable reading plan on forgiveness to tuck into your Bible.

If you are new to the Bible in general, there are flashcards for learning the books of the Bible, significant characters, and even the timeline. This method is a great resource if you do not have much time each day for in-depth study.

The Bottom Line

The Bible is our only true source of wisdom and knowledge. Regular studying of God’s Word provides a firm foundation to grow and strengthen your faith. It is life-giving and life-changing.

Remember to give yourself some grace in your study of the Bible. You are learning the spiritual riches of a personal relationship with the Son of God. It takes a lifetime. Above all, diligent Bible study will remind you time and again of the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ alone.


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About the Author

Although Donna is a sought-after Bible teacher, her path from being unchurched to become passionate about sharing Jesus was not easy. Go here to read her God-breathed journey, “From Unchurched to Becoming a Multi-Published Author and Sought-After Speaker.” If you want to send Donna a quick message, then visit her contact page here.

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