I guess it should be said that proper study is of the Word – our canon of Scriptures. I am not against the reading of other things inspirational, but would not define such as a “discipline.”
Learning styles, I think, dictate how we best study the Word. Not all are good readers, which is a serious restriction on the study of God’s Word, since it is primarily preserved in literary, traditional book form. Fortunately for those who are more auditory and visual, technology is advancing toward them. With the advent of Matthew and Acts on video as well as interactive computer technology, study is getting easier for those who don’t quite fit the traditional learning style.
I need a clean, uncluttered space that is separate from other distractions. Moreover, I am a kinesthetic learner, so that means that I think better when I move. I need a place that accommodates me standing up and walking around if I need to start putting things together in my mind. This is why I walk back and forth on stage so much while preaching. If I’m moving, I’m thinking better.
Another way to keep me focused in this regard is that I write in the margins of the text. I never take notes from other preachers there, but the insight during my study time goes there. It helps me to process what I am reading.
Also, I gravitate toward the Epistles. Someone at Seminary once pointed out that we study and preach from specific areas of Scripture – from those to which we are inclined – unless we force ourselves outside our own proclivities. Some go more to the Old Testament, but most to the New Testament. I think we can go farther than that. In the Old Testament, I see folks gravitating toward the Narratives or the Prophets or even the Wisdom Literature. In the New Testament, I see some focusing on the Gospels and others on the Epistles. Some, of course, are entangled only in the Apocalyptic Literature, which can straddle Old and New Testaments, but fit together in their minds.
As a result of my own pull to the Epistles, I try to force myself to read from the Gospels and from the various writings.
It is amazing to me how my own view of God has become much more systemic as I study. I see Scripture informing itself in many areas and I put it all together in my head. As a result, when I talk about any particular aspect of theology, I will bring in multiple areas of Scripture to address the topic at hand.
While commentaries and other support literature is often helpful, particularly in dealing with those hard to understand phrases, I find that the study of the Word itself to be pretty open and simple, not to mention beneficial. Commentaries rarely “hit home” with me, but sometimes will help me process something. Meanwhile, sometimes the most simple Scripture will cut me to pieces. Why? Because one is Scripture and one is not.
12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” Heb. 4:12 – HCSB
Finally, I rarely use my Hebrew in study, but will often use my Greek. I always felt more comfortable with Greek and took three years of it – 2 in college and 1 in seminary. At SWBTS, I took Hebrew my first year, and I wasn’t ready for it. Anyway, the language thing helps, when you have it.
Don’t forget to check out the other Spiritual Discipline Bloggers. You can, as always, find them at Joe Kennedy’s blog.