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Posts Tagged ‘Bible Study how-to’

You Can’t Thumb Through a Kindle

Have you ever been thumbing through your Bible, turning to a particular scripture, when your eyes fell on an “underlined” passage that just “jumped out” at you and spoke to your heart? Well, we’re quickly losing that type of encounter in our society because…

You can’t thumb through a Kindle
Smart phone or I-Pad
There’s no “random” experience
In the latest gadget or fad.

“But” (the retort comes back)
“I’ve quit ‘chasing rabbits’
I’ve streamlined my time
It’s all at my fingers
The reason and rhyme

I’ve stopped the distractions
I’m focused you see
I’m in charge of my study
I’ll decide what I read.”

(But my friend, what you don’t realize is…)

There’s no surprise encounter
With the Word to be had
You can’t thumb through a Kindle
And what we’ve lost is so sad.

 

Yeah, it’s a hokey little poem (not my best literary work by any means) but it captures the anguish of my heart. (Though you may be reading this on an electronic device, still) I fear we are fast becoming a world in which God’s Word is not allowed to “speak” to our hearts. “WE” are too much “in charge” of our own study these days.

Mark up your Bible. Underline passages that speak to you. Make notes that you (or your great-grandchildren) will read in the future.

If you remember… folks died to make sure you had God’s Word, in print, in your hands…

Prayer:

Almighty God… El-Shad-dai… my All Sufficient One, thank You for this living, breathing Word in my hands. Speak to me today in my reading, and remind me tomorrow of what You have said.

When I am so troubled that I cannot read, may I “thumb through” and just read the “underlined” so that I remember Your presence, Your faithfulness in the past, and hold to that promise for the future.

I pray this in the Name of the One Who Is the Word made Flesh – Jesus Christ my Saviour – Amen.

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A friend of mine mentioned that she was reading a thought-provoking devotional book and that she liked to read it in small segments and “swish it around in my mind…”

That reminded me of this devotional. It’s a little light-hearted, but perhaps may make you think a little…

 

Tootsie Roll Pop Bible Study

What’s your favorite candy? My husband and I really enjoy Tootsie Roll Pops. We like them especially when we have to drive at night – they help us to stay awake because, after all, they require you to do something, which keeps you awake. My husband has even used them to keep him awake when reading – pretty cool trick, huh?

I thought of this in connection with Bible study recently. Take the following scripture for instance.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Don’t read over this beatitude (or other well known scriptures) too quickly just because you know it. Pretend it’s a tootsie roll pop. Don’t crunch it. Savor it. Enjoy it. Roll it around in your mouth (heart and mind) while you ponder its deeper meaning. Take it out of your mouth and look at it while the flavor is still lingering on your tongue, and think about its truths.

Then take it in again and feel your mouth watering around the candy; around the Word as you consider what it is saying in your present state. For the Word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB) and The Word speaks to each of us in our daily walk.

Resist (again) the temptation to bite into it. Let the meaning come to you slowly, and when it does; when you seek; when you find; when you come to the chewy center; when you arrive at the truths that God has laid out for you, oh the joy you’ll find at understanding His precious Word. And add to that, not only coming to it, but coming to it in His timing – well, what a joy, indeed!

May God bless you as you delight in the study of His Holy Word! Amen.

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We have started a new Bible study in our women’s group. We are studying the Book of Amos. In our Monday night and Tuesday morning studies we are using the Disciplers’ Bible studies series (www.disciplersonline.org) On Wednesday nights we are using a shortened version of the study.

We began our study by asking the question “Why study Amos?”  For the first week’s lesson we read through the whole book, and this week, after having read the whole book of Amos, our question may still be “Why Amos…” – especially if you read it in a traditional translation like the KJV or NASB… even the NIV or the NLT can be hard to understand if you don’t know anything about the geography or history of Israel. So why is it important to learn that? First of all because Israel is God’s chosen people, and Zechariah 2:8 tells us that God says that anyone who touches Israel, touches the “apple of His eye”. You’ve heard that phrase – when someone is especially dear to you, you might say, “he or she is the apple of my eye”.

And second, because Romans 11 teaches us that we, as Gentiles, have been “grafted in” to the tree that is Israel. And 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that “Now these things happened to [the Israelites] as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come”. (Italics added). Everything in this Bible is there for our instruction… Our pastor last Sunday, in using a football analogy said that the Bible is God’s “playbook”, so we need to know what it is saying – and why.

Last Fall we studied the book of Malachi, and in that study we saw that “Malachi” meant “God’s messenger”. And the book began this way, “The burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Malachi was the last word from God to Israel in the Old Testament – and God had a burden for His people.

Now we find that Amos, who was the first writing prophet sent specifically to the Northern kingdom of Israel, has a name which means, “The burden” or “burden bearer”. In fact, almost every prophet’s name indicates a connection to God. For instance, Daniel – Dan, which means judge, and El which means God, so Daniel means either a judge of God, or God is my Judge. Ezekiel means strength of God.

If the prophet’s name ended in Ah – as in Jeremiah, or Micah, or Obadiah – the Ah was connected to Yahweh or Jehovah. Obadiah means serving Jah; Micah means “Who is like God” and Jeremiah means “Jah will rise”. But even those whose names did not have God’s name in them, their names still indicated God’s care for His people. Habakkuk means to embrace and Hosea means deliverer.

God is connected to His people and He has a burden for His people – both the Jew and the Gentile. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Although the book of Amos starts out with judgment that God will call down on all these surrounding peoples (because sin requires judgment) still, the bulk of Amos’ message is calling God’s own chosen people to repentance. In this book we see a variety of sinful situations that Amos will address. In our lesson we read a list of these sins and our writer asks that we consider our own lifestyles in comparison to these.

Some of these will clearly speak to us as individuals, such as Amos 2:6 where we might take advantage of someone else, or Amos 6:8 where we might be arrogant, but others, such as Amos 2:7 where justice was being perverted we might say, “I don’t have anything to do with the justice system…” Really? Do we vote for judges, or for those who appoint judges and make laws? Do we pray before we vote, or do we look at our own wants and needs? For the past 30 years or more I have based my presidential vote on the fact that the president is the one who appoints the Supreme Court Justices rather than the state of the economy. So yes… our leaders represent us and we will be held accountable for the actions of our leaders.

One commentary (Parallel Bible Commentary) said that the theme of Amos is “National accountability for national sins…” and we ask, “How can one person, and one vote, and one prayer really make a difference? How can little ole me, out here in East Knox County, really make a difference?”

I think we need to look at Amos, the man, to understand the answer to that. Amos was a “burden-bearer”. He was from the small village of Tekoa. It wasn’t much then, and it isn’t much today either. From what I read, even today the main highway doesn’t go anywhere near Tekoa – in other words, you have to decide to go to Tekoa. It isn’t “on the way” to anywhere. But that’s where Amos was from. Think about where you’re from, and your credentials… As we said last week, in chapter 7, when Amos has a run-in with the well-educated and prominently placed priest, Amos will say, “Look, I’m not a prophet, I’m not the son of a prophet – I didn’t even go to prophet school!”

Amos was not of noble descent like Daniel, or of priestly descent like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, nor, like we said, of a prophetic family like Jonah. Amos was simply a sheepherder, or some translations say “herdsman”. Most commentaries agree that he was, what we would call, a “blue collar” worker and that he (most likely) did not own the sheep that he tended, because we are told that he was also a gatherer (or literally a “nipper”) of sycamore fruit. I told you last week that when I think of sycamore trees, I think of those little sticky balls that grow on our sycamore trees. But the sycamore fruit of the Middle-East was actually a low-quality type of a fig. It was a cross between a fig and a mulberry, and it was eaten for food by only the poorest of people (Parallel Bible Commentary). The fig had to be cut or “nipped” in order to make it ripen, other wise it would rot. It is also likely that Amos was a type of a migrant farm worker because the sycamore grew better in some areas than others (ISBE). He had to be pretty agile, too, because the trees grew some 25-50 feet tall! (Remember the story of Zacchaeus climbing the sycamore tree?

So… what’s your picture of Amos? Poor, dirty, uneducated? A tenant farmer?

A “Grapes of Wrath” type of character? That may not be quite the picture, but at any rate he was not one that we would call “well-connected” So… how can someone without the (so-called) “proper credentials” stride into the nation’s capitol – or rather the nation’s center of religious activity (which is what Bethel was) and call the rich women “You cows of Bashan”? “You idolaters and adulterers.” How did he do it? Here’s the thing… he was a “burden-bearer”… It didn’t matter where he was from, how he looked, or how educated he was or how well he could talk – God had called him and given him a burden for God’s people.

Where did this burden come from? While it could have come “out of the blue” like God’s call to Moses in the burning bush – more likely it came through the teaching of others, maybe his parents or grandparents. As I said last week, we need to “think” as we study. Amos did not live in a vacuum, he lived in the world. He prophesied during the time of King Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel, but he was not born an adult. He had probably heard of Elijah; his parents may have told him about the three year drought and about Ahab and Jezebel, or he may have even heard the prophet Elisha speak. The prophet Hosea followed right after him, so they may have spent time together, and he may have known of Jonah’s trip to Nineveh, which probably played a huge role in Israel’s peace and prosperity of the time.

In many ways Amos could echo Mordecai’s words to Esther – “Who knows but that you have come [here] for such a time as this.” While Amos was quick to disavow his connection with professional prophets – he does, however, quickly embrace his particular call. In verse 15 of chapter 7 he says, “But the LORD called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophesy to My people in Israel.’” In chapter 3, verse 7 he says, “The Lord has spoken – who can but prophecy?” In other words, “I don’t have a choice. I cannot not preach!” Have you ever had something that you “had” to do?

I believe God calls people for specific responsibilities – sometimes they respond, like Amos did, or they question at first like Jeremiah did, or they go at it begrudgingly like Jonah did – but that doesn’t deter God. God’s will – will be done.

For us, I think this study will do several things – first it will cause us to look deep within ourselves for hidden sin and hidden attitudes. It will also cause us to look at our place in the world. As much as I love living in my secluded little valley out in the country – still I live in the world, and I am responsible for praying for this world. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT) says this: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

And another thing that this study will do is ask us the question “Are you a ‘burden-bearer’”?

Are you a burden-bearer? Out of all that you have studied and learned in your life – what is the thing that burdens you? What do you pray for? What do your prayers sound like? I believe that, as women, God would indeed have us pray for our families. But, I don’t think our prayers should stop there.

What has God given you a burden for? If you don’t know, meditate on it and ask Him and He will open your eyes. He may indeed lead you from your Tekoa and give you a burden for Him.

 

Post Script:

This morning as I was praying for my family I began thinking about what burden God had laid on my heart. Where is my passion? What “burden” do I bear?

The more I thought about it the more I came to see that my passion is teaching Bible studies – especially teaching to Christians, or as I call it “that Biblically illiterate person in the pew next to you”. It is sad that most Christians do not engage in serious Bible study. Many are not getting taught from the pulpit, nor in the Sunday School class, or anywhere else. Disciplers Bible Studies are great and there are many other great ones out there – the bottom line is – you need to know God’s Word. That is my burden and my passion.

 

 

Gracious God, thank You for the preservation of Your Word. May we never take it for granted, and always strive to know it, and You better. In the Name of the Word Himself, even Jesus – Amen.

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People often say to me, “I wish I loved to study like you do”. There’s a long story about how I came to decide to study the Bible, but the short version can be summed up in three steps, which I call “The 3 D’s”.

First there is Discipline (and that’s where my long story fits in). This actually begins with a decision – so I guess I should change the title to “The 4 D’s” 🙂 But once the decision is made that you want, or need, to study, then comes the discipline.

There are all kinds of reading programs available – but these never worked for me. I’d forget, or get behind, and then I’d simply quit. It was just too much hassle. But, one good thing about these programs is that they prove that you CAN read through the Bible in a year by only reading 15 minutes a day. Fifteen minutes a day! Surely one can decide to discipline themselves to read 15 minutes a day.

Where to start? Anywhere! The idea is, at least in the beginning, to just read 15 minutes. But here’s the key – discipline yourself to do it. Other studies have shown that when you do something (anything) for 21 straight days – it becomes a habit. So what if reading the Bible becomes a habit? There are worse habits…

But a funny thing happens as you discipline yourself to read the Bible – you begin to Desire to read the Bible. Now you have gone from Decision, to Discipline, to Desire. And it’s a great thing to desire to read the Bible, but there’s one more step – and that is Delight!

As you desire to read the Bible you will soon find yourself delighting to read the Bible. There is no set timeframe for these steps to take. Some will reach delight quicker than others, but if you hang in there with the discipline – the desire and delight will come.

What is delight? (I’m so glad you asked!) The Hebrew word for delight as it is used in Psalm 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”) means to “luxuriate” or “to wrap oneself in something”. When I think of “luxuriate” I think of wrapping myself in a warm flannel robe. So to delight myself in the Lord, or in His Word, means to wrap myself in it… and that’s where I am in Bible study – and you can be there, too.

Oh – and about those “desires of [my] heart”? Yes, God gives those to me. He gives to me, through His Word, the very desires that should be of (or in) my heart. And when He gives them – I know they are right.

So – Decision, Disipline, Desire, and Delight. Won’t you start the journey today?

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Perhaps the simplest approach to Bible study is to use three basic inductive Bible study questions to ask of any given Bible passage. You may have heard of “Inductive Bible Study” and thought that it involved marking your Bible with distinctive colors and symbols. Well, that’s one way to do it, but that’s not what the word “inductive” means.

The definition of “inductive” is: “adjective: of reasoning; proceeding from particular facts to a general conclusion.” In other words it means to “dig a little deeper in the well!”

 There are 3 steps to inductive study (whether it’s Bible study, historical study, or practically any other study.) This involves “Observation, Interpretation, and Application.” We all do this every day without even thinking about it.

For instance, if you have pets, when one of them is sick you go to the vet. Now, an animal can’t tell you “where it hurts.” Therefore, the vet must do some “inductive reasoning.” First he “observes” how the pet is acting. Then he “interprets” what this could mean, and then he “applies” this knowledge to determine how he should respond. 

I’ve heard several different ways to remember, or understand this type of study. “The Three Questions of Bible Study” from the book, “Unlocking the Scriptures” by Hans Finzel puts it this way:

  • What do I see? (observation)
  • What does it mean? (interpretation)
  • How should I respond? (application)

Another “catchier” way to remember it is from Chip Ingram’s “Living on the Edge” radio ministry (www.lote.org) and that is to look at the scripture and determine:

  • “What I read…” (observation)
  • “What was said…”  (interpretation)
  • “How I was led…” (application) 

However, the easiest one for me is “What, So what, Now what…” 

This is for: What is it saying (observation)

                   So what does it mean (interpretation) and

                   Now what does it call me to do (application)?

However, THE Most Important element to any Bible Study is prayer. Every time you sit down to read any scripture, get in the habit of asking God, through His Holy Spirit, to open the Scriptures to your understanding. This is not a “gimmick”, it’s not a “trick” or a “magic formula.” It is fact.

Psalms 119:18 says, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” NLT

And God’s answer is, Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” NSAB

 

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I have long said that I feel that the greatest deterrent to understanding scripture, for anyone and especially for those who’ve been “brought up” in the church, is that “we don’t read, what we read…”

In other words, we may be so familiar with the stories – we know how it is going to “turn out” – that we think we know what it says. The problem is – we don’t!

Our culture is at fault as well. We have learned to read quickly. We scan the headlines and the articles of the newspaper or a magazine for items that interest us. Marketers tell us that we have 3 seconds to grab a person’s attention with a headline. Therefore, does the Bible stand a chance?

There are 3, what I call “duh” statements that may shed some insight on our study of the Bible.

  • The first is: “The Bible was written to people in ‘Bible Times’.”

That “duh” statement carries much more weight that it first appears – We must understand that the original readers would have completely understood what was being said when many times, we simply don’t “get it.”

  • The second is: “We (in America) read the Bible with ‘American eyes’ and we (personally) read the Bible with ‘our own’ eyes.” 

What that means is, we can’t help but read the Bible from our own perspectives, based on our own experiences, coming from our own backgrounds. We just are who we are.

  • The third “duh” statement is: “We read the Old Testament through ‘Jesus glasses’.”

From “this side” of the cross we understand a lot more about fulfilled Old Testament prophecy than the prophets and writers from “that side of the cross” did.

1st Peter 1:8-12 (NLT) says: “You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls. This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you.

They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when He told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and His great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” 

Isn’t that cool? “Even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen!”

Tomorrow –  “How to study the Bible Part Two”

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