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By Guest Blogger: Mitch Claborn
Just the other day, I completed a year long Bible reading plan, using the Bible Study App from Olive Tree. For this trip through the Bible, I used the M’Cheyne reading plan. Each day, there are 4 reading selections. Upon completion of the plan, one has read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. Here are some of my thoughts as I look back on my year-long journey through God’s Word.
God’s Word is Consistent
Some people don’t or won’t read the Bible because they claim that it is inconsistent. These are people who have never read through the Bible completely, or who take small passages completely out of context in order to support their claim.
The truth is that God’s Word, expressed in written form in the Bible, is wonderfully, marvelously consistent. From start to finish it is a story of God’s love for humanity. Throughout the story, mankind rejects God again and again yet His love for us never fades nor falters, never dwindles nor diminishes.
Again and again in the Old Testament, God sent prophets to try to talk some sense into His people. In most cases the prophets were ignored, or even persecuted and killed, but God never stopped trying to get Israel’s attention. (See 2 Chronicles 36:15 – 16.)
Finally, when the time was just right, God sent His son Jesus. The Law, with its system of ritual and sacrifice was inadequate for salvation, but Christ was the perfect substitute. Christ’s coming to earth, His death on the cross for us and subsequent resurrection from the dead remain the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. One simply cannot read through the Bible without seeing God’s love in action, demonstrated time and time again.
A Process, Not a Task
There was a point in this past year, about midway through the reading plan, where I started treating the reading as a task to be completed. For a while, I started reading two days’ assignments every morning, so that I could finish sooner. The Holy Spirit was quick to point out the error in my thinking.
Reading the Bible should be a process to experience, not a task to complete. It it the process of reading God’s Word that is valuable, not the completion of the book as if it were simply a novel or a historical piece. The value is in the journey, not the destination. I will never be finished reading the Bible. This is an especially difficult lesson for me to learn, as I am a very task oriented person, but I’m getting there.
Daily Reading is Crucial
In the middle of Job’s excruciating trials, he didn’t fail to place a high value on God’s word. Job 23:12b I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. For a Believer, God’s word is spiritual sustenance. It is absolutely crucial for Christians to feed every day on the wisdom found in the Bible, to absorb into our minds and our hearts the truths that await us there. Reading God’s Word should be as much of a part of our daily routines as eating breakfast (or whatever meal it is that you never do without).
Knowing That I Don’t Know
As I read God’s word, I constantly discover things that I’ve never noticed before, even in passages that I’ve read many times before. Grasping a previously unknown truth brings a joy like no other.
This in no way implies that I understood everything I read as I went through the Bible this past year. There are many places that I read through more than once trying to understand just what was going on, and some of them are still a mystery to me. This might seem like failure to some, but I consider it a blessing. The more I read and understand about God’s Word, the more I discover that I don’t know. I’m perfectly OK with this. On my next trip through the Bible I’ll understand more and find yet more that I don’t yet understand. Comprehension of God’s Word is a continual, ongoing process.
More Bible reading. And after that, still more reading and studying of God’s Word. I plan to go though some of Olive Tree’s shorter reading plans, starting with “14 Days on Love”, and then start up another long term plan, probably Prof. Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System.
Keep on reading!
I am an IT nerd by trade, a husband of one, father of four and grandfather of six. I drink decaf coffee and work in various ministries, in and outside of the church. You may find more of my writing on my blog: http://www.mitchclaborn.com/ or follow me on Twitter @MitchClaborn.
Guest Blogger: Tom Possin
As a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question. Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second. Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.
The Two Travelers and the Farmer
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”
“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.
Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.
Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.
“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”
“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
-North American Folk Tale (Source uncertain)
This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak. We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood. To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.
After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.
The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:
- Observation – What the text actually says.
- Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.
- Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?
Text first, original audience second, our perspective last. The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.
Tom Possin is the Director of the School of Biblical Studies at Youth with a Mission of Montana – Lakeside. He has been a missionary with Youth with a Mission since 1991 and taught the inductive bible study with the School of Biblical Studies since 2002.
From Guest Blogger: Andy Deane, author of Learn to Study the Bible
Studying the Scriptures is supposed to be exciting! That’s why King David tells us in Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Like me, I hope that you have found this verse to be true. Maybe, like me, you have also discovered that having plain honey multiple times a day can get repetitive. I’m not saying that God’s word becomes boring over time. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I love that God’s word is so diverse and continues to excite and bless the reader taste after taste. The Scriptures are not to blame if we lose our taste for them. The Bible is designed to be a continual blessing to the believer. But believers may sometimes need to mix up how they study the Scriptures to make sure to avoid the ruts that their method of extracting the honey can bring about. Sometimes when we use the same approach to studying each and every day, the approach can become repetitive. It’s not God’s word that needs new spice, it’s the method of study that needs variety. That is why I wrote Learn to Study the Bible. With forty different ways to study the Scriptures, you always have a fresh way to prepare and digest your daily manna from heaven.
I’d like to share briefly the three ways that I personally enjoy studying the Bible.
FAVORITE VERSE BIBLE STUDY METHOD:
To start, please consider buying a new Bible to use with this method, or at least a new color highlighter. Begin by reading one to four chapters of the Bible a day. Remember that reading one chapter a day will get you through the entire New Testament in a year with one hundred make up days for when you miss a day of reading. Four chapters a day will get you through the entire Bible in a year in less than 25 minutes of reading time. The key is that each day you underline only one favorite verse from each chapter you read. That’s easy when you are in Leviticus but extremely difficult when you are in Matthew! After you are finished reading the entire book, go back and circle one favorite verse from the verses you underlined in the whole book. Write a few sentences in your Bible about why that is your favorite verse for that book. After you’ve read the whole Bible, you’ll have 1,189 favorite verses underlined (one from each chapter) and 66 all-time favorite verses (one from each book). Think about how valuable that Bible will be to you because of this investment. As you turn to any page in Scripture you will remember which verse spoke to your heart the most. You might even consider putting the date next to the verses you choose to connect them to your daily journal to enhance the experience even more. These will become the verses you choose to memorize since they have meaning to you. It’s a simple but fruitful and personal way to study the Bible.
TRANSLATION COMPARISON BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Not every student of God’s word is going to have the blessing of learning the original biblical languages. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand on the shoulders of scholars who spend their lives steeped in these languages, and this is the beauty of the Translation Comparison Bible Study Method. Every translation of the Bible represents the understanding and choice of dozens of skilled language scholars. When you see a unique word in a verse, you can be sure an important decision was made to choose that word over another word. This method helps you notice the different word selections that scholars made when creating English translations of the Bible. You’ll also learn how to prayerfully meditate on why these words were chosen over other words and how that can impact your understanding of the text. Learn how to compare Bible translations for spiritual growth and profit by reading a chapter from the book for free by visiting this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/167983176/Translation-Comparison-Method.
DAILY BREAD BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Sometimes our biggest problem is rushing our reading of a passage of Scripture. If we simply slow down and chew on God’s word then we would be blessed by it. Slowing down is exactly what the Daily Bread Bible Study Method will force you to do. With this method, you’ll learn techniques that invite you to take the time to make sure you’re squeezing all the meaning you can out of the Scriptures. If you’ve struggled with understanding what your pastor means when he tells you to “meditate on God’s word,” then this method is for you. Read another free chapter from the book by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/16565590/The-Daily-Bread-Bible-Study-Method.
I hope these three Bible study methods that I use personally will bless you as you experiment with them. Remember that however you mix it up, keep it exciting—don’t let your Bible study time become dull or a duty. I hope you’ll enjoy and use one of these methods, but don’t forget that you should never become devoted to the method—only to the Savior to whom the methods lead!
Remember Moses and the burning bush? Remember my question to you, “What’s your burning bush?” Well, I have some news for you: it wasn’t really about Moses, which means it’s not all about you, either. But before you “click” out of here, let me explain the overwhelming affirmation from God in this.
Go all the way back to Genesis 12, and 15. Genesis gives us the original covenant between God and Abram, verses 2-3 “I will make you into a great nation” and, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.
Then later in chapter 15:13-14, God reassures Abram of the covenant and adds this:
Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions”. (NIV)
We usually read the passage about Moses and the burning bush as being Moses’ calling. Where he received his purpose, call and direction from God. Sure, this happened, but is this why it happened? I think not.
Isaiah had a vision of God in His throne room and overheard (I stole that from Oswald Chambers, in “My Utmost For His Highest”.) the call for someone to go on His behalf (Is. 6-1-8). Esther was made queen, but for what purpose (Est. 4:14-16)?
Now look at Exodus 2:23-25.
23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them. (NRSV)
God saw the plight of the Israelites and remembered his covenant with them (through Abram), and for all the nations that would be blessed as a result.
Four hundred years later, enter Moses …Exodus 3.
We too often read and interpret the Bible in an egocentric manner: all about me. Sure, God wants to communicate, lead, and empower us, but He also wants to bless others (even accomplish His greater plans) through us! Moses was called, but it was so that we could be here, part of the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, today.
What’s your burning bush? What could that call mean for the Kingdom of God and all of mankind? This shows overwhelming faith …in us! God believes so much in us, as we respond to him, that he is willing to use us to create HIStory (HIS-story, get it?). Be looking for the little things that keep drawing your attention, and never take for granted the power that God wants to unleash through you. Sure He’s speaking to us. But really, it aint about us at all… it’s SO MUCH BIGGER!
Jeremy West has been on staff with Youth With A Mission since 1995. He teaches and runs training programs globally in the fields of discipleship and leadership development.
Part 1: “What’s your Burning Bush?”
One of life’s most frequently asked questions is, “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?” The following questions usually ensue: “Are these ideas from you Lord, or from me? What are my giftings and where do I fit in with the scheme of doing ‘great things’ for God?”
A decade ago a good friend of mine asked me the question: “What’s your burning-bush?” The context for this question is Exodus 3:1-4; here we find Moses tending a flock of sheep (not even his own) when he comes upon the burning bush.
1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
Factors Surrounding the Bush
Moses saw the “bush” and through that encounter received his calling for the rest of his life—40 more years. Here are some factors surrounding this event that I hope will speak to you, challenge you, and encourage you.
1. God knew who Moses was.
Moses was called by name, twice. Think about this… did Moses know God at this moment? Unlikely. Raised as an Egyptian, fled from his own people, married the daughter of a (most likely at the time) pagan priest. 40 years later… 80-year old Moses encounters the bush
Did God know Moses? Absolutely. He called Him by name twice.
2. God knew where Moses was.
He knew his physical location on the mountain (He knew where to find him). He knew his age, He knew his fears, He knew his history and testimony, his successes and failures (He was aware of his identity questions.
3. God knew how to get Moses’ attention!
For Moses it was a bush that was burning, without burning up.
4. It was Moses’ response, that drew a response from God.
Read the first part of verse 4… “Moses saw it and then turned aside. When God saw this…”
Forget Moses… What About You?!
My point is this: What is YOUR burning bush? What is it that you notice as you go to work, to school, to church, when you lie in bed at night dreaming? What is in your make-up and design that is attracted to specific things? Do you want to heal the sick and lame that you see—in body, mind or spirit? Is it a word of knowledge to reach someone? Is it the homeless, or the elderly, or the children, who always seem so obvious to you, yet not to others? Do you find yourself thinking about new businesses or new ministry opportunities before they exist?
Don’t assume that everyone else notices the things that you notice: they don’t! You may walk the same street as another person yet see completely different things. In fact, this is a strategy I often use with my own outreach teams or during ministry to help reveal gifts, calling and God-inspired opportunities. God could be trying to get your attention in a way specific to you, so stop trying to find Him the way other people have; turn aside to what He is showing you Himself. For example, He probably won’t bring you to a plant that is on fire yet not burning up!
3 Questions to Consider:
- Do you recognize what it could be that God is using to get your attention? Your heart, your vision, your desire, passion, or those ‘unique-to-you’ ideas?
- Are you looking for it?
- Will you turn aside to investigate?
One final word… Even 80 years isn’t too late. Moses was 80 years old when he saw his burning bush, and he had been through a lot of “stuff”. It’s never too late for anyone with God; He hasn’t forgotten your name.
What is your burning bush?
Read Part 2 HERE.
Jeremy West has been on staff with Youth With A Mission since 1995. He teaches and runs training programs globally in the fields of discipleship and leadership development.
By Guest Blogger: Jan Martinez
Editor’s Note: Jan Martinez is the founder and Director of Christ Kitchen in Spokane, Washington. Christ Kitchen seeks to ‘love women out of poverty’ by providing employment opportunities as a means to discipleship. Jan’s book titled ‘Christ Kitchen’ releases this week.
I’d never witnessed a beating. To this day I shudder when I remember it. I had been reading in my car before a doctor’s appointment and happened to notice a young woman leaving the hospital. She was maybe 25 years old, very thin, pale complexion, worried eyes. She wore tired jeans and a loose fitting blue and white t-shirt. Her sandal had a broken strap and slapped awkwardly on the cement walk. As she hooked her purse over her shoulder, I watched her look around anxiously scanning the parking lot. Perhaps that is what caught my attention – her apprehension attracting mine. Her body shook slightly and I saw that she was crying. As she walked toward me, the pain on her face displayed untold miseries as if she carried a horrible burden.
My heart went out to her. Had she just lost a loved one, received bad news, a fatal diagnosis? It made me ponder what my face looked like after learning I had breast cancer. Curious what we think about when viewing another’s pain. Screeching brakes startled me out of my reflections as an older model sedan came skidding to a stop behind my car. “Get in!” screamed a clearly enraged man to the woman. Her crying stopped immediately when she saw him. In that moment, I interpreted her immediate calm as relief, like finally she had someone to share her burden, her sorrow. Now I imagine that it was actually certain fear of what would follow.
As soon as she got in the car, that huge, muscled man lit into her like a prizefighter on a punching bag. He struck her again and again – powerful, closed-fist blows to her face and belly. “Who’s (smack!) baby (smack!) is it?” the maniac bellowed as her body absorbed the blows and ricocheted off the window and seat.
I screamed. A deadly, guttural, hate-filled roar welled up in me. Instinctively, I jumped out of my car spilling my book and purse onto the pavement. What did I think I was going to do? Rip her out of a moving car in Hollywood cop-story style? Save her from the clutches of a mad man? I simply screamed. I screamed at him to stop. I doubt he even heard me as he put his car in gear and drove his bleeding baby’s mother away.
Did I get his license plate and report the assault to the police? Did I check at the hospital to find out who she was and make a report to Child Protective Services? I’m ashamed to say those ideas only occurred to me later. What I did was sit down on the curb as if I’d been punched in the stomach; a groan escaping me in sympathy with hers. And then I sobbed. I cried for that woman’s beaten body, for the possibility that he had killed the life within her, for their future, for my impotence, for the violence that’s hidden in a third of all relationships in our country.
I now carry my business cards in an easily accessible pocket or wallet. These perky little marketing tools advertising Christ Kitchen gift baskets and catered fare as well as my contact information are hardly a worthy defense against bullies or crazed offenders. But under our Christ Kitchen logo it says, a place of hope for women in poverty and I pray fervently for beaten souls to find hope. I hand these cards out to women in trouble, practicing for the time I am once again up against devastating odds. I pressed one into the hand of an overwrought mom in Target who was yelling at her crying baby. “Come see us,” I offered after she let me hold her child while she shopped. I jumped out of my car downtown and slipped a card into the shirt pocket of an inebriated woman slumped beside a building, hoping she might follow my prayers for her to our ministry.
If anything, the woman in the blue and white t-shirt taught me to be ready, intentional. My mentor, Jill Briscoe, always says, “The mission field is between your two feet.” At times it comes screeching to a halt interrupting our solitude and at others we have to act on simple clues God sets right in front of us. This must be what Paul meant when he wrote Timothy, “Be ready, in season and out of season, to preach the Word.”
“Be the Word,” my Lord comforts me when this violent world assaults my sweet life with powerful blows as I watch the evening news or drive through my neighborhood. “Be hope to my lost world.”