Olive Tree Staff
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Reading and studying the Bible are important disciplines for all Christians, but the concept of Bible study can be more elusive. In Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods, Warren starts out by saying, “I have discovered that most Christians sincerely want to study their Bibles on their own, but they just don’t know how.”
There are many classes, books and seminars full of theories and methods to teach you how to study the Bible. I took a class in seminary called Principles of Inductive Bible Study, and to this day I can hear the professor’s voice in my head. Every day the professor would ask, “What’s the first step in inductive Bible study?” and as a class we had to respond in unison, “Observation!” Then he would ask, “What question do we ask in the first step of Inductive Bible Study” and in unison we would again respond, “What does the text say?!” Often he would repeat these questions over and over until he felt we responded enthusiastically enough. He drilled into us what he believed to be the right steps for inductive Bible study, but his was just one out of a multitude of Bible study methods.
I’d recommend taking a look at How to Read the Bible Book by Book and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart as good introductory Bible study resources. Learn To Study The Bible by Andy Deane, and Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul are also helpful for picking up good Bible study tools and habits. Study Bibles, like the NIV Study Bible Notes can provide notes, cross references and other insights into the text to help you in your Bible study. I have several study Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries and other resources that I consult when studying a particular passage of Scripture. However, don’t get too bogged down with study books and miss out on the truths you can glean from digging into the text on your own.
Here are some things I do when studying the Bible (don’t worry; I won’t make you memorize these!):
Context, Context, Context
I start by looking for the historical context: the author, style of writing, time period, audience and the historical background that surrounds the text. I then focus on the biblical context. I read the previous and subsequent chapters to get a full picture of the passage. Finally, I look for how the passage is applicable to my life.
I like to read the passage through three times. I write down repeated words or phrases, metaphors, similes, exclamations or anything that stands out. If anything reminds me of another passage I’ll look it up and compare. I like to pick out a couple of the repeated words and phrases for a quick word study, looking for other places those words are used in Scripture using my Strong’s Bible.
I like to re-write the passage of Scripture in my own words, taking into account all of the work I’ve done up to this point. I then summarize my study in three sentences or less. I’m terrible at memorizing Scripture, but I’ve found that re-writing the passage in my own words helps me to recall the verse, even if it isn’t exact.
Do you have steps for Bible study that you follow? Is there a resource that you find especially helpful for your study? Let us know by leaving us a comment.
Today is the first Thursday in May, a day set aside by our country’s leaders as a national day of prayer. The Bible speaks of prayer often and encourages us with numerous examples of people who spent time in prayer. Examining the lives of those prayerful individuals in the Scriptures reveals that they are no different from you and me; they have their shortcomings and, in many cases, it is only through the Lord answering their prayers that they succeeded.
Learning to Pray from Moses
Moses’ example—that is, his overcoming his fear of public speaking and leadership—speaks volumes about prayer. Moses knew he wasn’t a capable leader of his people, so he spent much of his time in conversation with the Lord, often pleading for God to have mercy on the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. It was only through his conversations with the Lord that Moses was able to deliver Israel from Egypt.
Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ [God] said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ (Ex. 3:11-12 ESV)
Moses continued to ask the Lord for guidance, and when it was clear Israel would need a new leader to take them in to the land, he appealed to God, saying:
‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.’ So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.’ (Num. 27:15-18 ESV)
God provided Joshua to be the new shepherd to the Israelites, a direct answer to Moses’ prayer. However, not all of Moses’ prayers were answered. In Deuteronomy 3:23-28, Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Promised Land with the Israelites.
And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’
But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’ (ESV)
God’s answer to our prayers, like His answer to Moses’ here, may be “no,” but the truth still remains that God is willing and ready to listen to our prayers, but we must be equally willing to speak to Him and listen for His answer.
As a Christian, prayer is an important part of spiritual life. It’s a time when we draw into the presence of our Lord and offer Him our praise, thanksgiving, supplication and repentance. We want to encourage you today and every day to spend time taking advantage of the privilege of speaking to our Lord personally and intimately through prayer. The writer of Hebrews invites us to do the same:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16 ESV)
The Story Of Jesus As Told By His Friend John is the the Gospel of John put into contemporary English and told as a first-person account. Where John uses the pronoun “we/us/our” he is referring to himself and the other disciples. Let John be your narrator. He was there when it all happened and will tell you the story in his own words.
Find this great title to read in the in-app store of The Bible Study App!
Don’t have The Bible Study App? Get it here!
At the end of 1998 I traveled with a small group of people into a country closed to the Gospel. We each brought a few paperback Bibles and we also brought the Bible on audio cassette. We knew that in one area we would traveling to that bringing a printed Bible wouldn’t be enough because many couldn’t read. Not only that but they didn’t have access to current technology (at the time CD’s were current technology!) which is why we brought audio cassettes.
15 years later and it’s now estimated that more people have access to a smartphone than decent sanitation. What does this mean for missionaries and the advancement of the Gospel? It means that we live in a time where the Gospel can be transmitted like never before!
As the picture above demonstrates, we can now store over 1,600 Bibles on a Micro SD card that is smaller than a penny. If you’ve ever picked up a box of books, you know how significant the idea of being able to store an entire library’s worth of books on a memory card is. That one cassette box I hid in the bottom of my bag years ago could hold enough Micro SD cards to resource thousands of pastors.
We live in a unique time and it will be exciting to see how technology continues to be utilized in the spread of the Gospel!
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The Young Tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer was born April 21, 1897 on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania, the third of six children. And although he would inspire millions with his preaching and writing, he was given very little education during his childhood. Instead, he was needed at home for physical labor. In 1907, when his brother left home to work for the Goodrich Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, Tozer was called upon to do the difficult work of a farm-hand. At 15, his entire family moved to Akron and Tozer went to work at Goodyear. One afternoon walking home from his job, he heard a street preacher say, “If you don’t know how to be saved . . . just call on God.” When he got home, he climbed the narrow stairs to his attic and gave his life to God. Within a few years, Tozer would gain a reputation as a “20th-century prophet.”
His First Pastorate
Tozer joined the Missionary Alliance Church shortly after his conversion, where he met Ada Pfautz, whom he married at the age of twenty-one. In 1919, ordained, married, and without formal education, Tozer was called to pastor a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. Able to express his thoughts in a simple and forceful manner, Tozer’s preaching began bringing the power of God to hungry souls, and people couldn’t get enough of him. That humble pastorate in West Virginia sparked Tozer’s 44 year ministry with The Christian and Missionary Alliance. He spent most of those years at Chicago’s Southside Alliance Church where the congregation, captivated by his preaching, grew from 80 to 800. In 1950 Tozer became the editor of the Alliance Weekly, and its circulation doubled almost immediately. His ministry was fueled by constant prayer, and he would often be seen walking the aisles of a sanctuary or laying face down on the floor, praying. He noted once that, “As a man prays, so is he.” An early biographer noted his consistent prayer life: “Tozer spent more time on his knees than at his desk.”
His Continuing Legacy
A. W. Tozer was 66 when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1963. His tombstone simply and appropriately reads, “A Man of God.”
He left behind many books that continue to give Christians encouragement and guidance. His writings are as fresh today as when he was alive because, as a friend commented, “His books reach deep into the heart.” His honest and colloquial humor has been known to sweep up congregations in gales of laughter. And his wisdom has left them silent and stunned. For almost 50 years Tozer walked with God, and even though he is gone, he continues to minister to those who are eager to experience God.