Bible Study Articles
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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.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary is a great resource for those who don’t have any background with Greek or Hebrew.
Here’s how I used it in a recent sermon. (screenshots are taken from an iPad 2. Click on the images for a larger view)
I read this verse in Genesis 39:2: “And Jehovah was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (ASV)
This passage got me thinking about the word “prosperous”, so I opened the Resource Guide in the split window of The Bible Study App, found the “lookup” option in iOS and typed in “prosper” and then tapped “search”.
From there I got two search results, and tapped the one for “prosper”.
This brought up Vine’s under the search menu for tsaleach צָלַח, along with an article about the word.
The article shows some of the different occurrences of tsaleach in the Bible. All I have to do is tap the reference and the biblical passage appears in a pop-up window. This gives me instant access to other places the word is used in the Bible and helps me keep my Bible study on track by not having to stop in the middle of my study to find the reference.
Another great thing about this resource is that Vine’s gives the Strong’s number (6743 in this case) and is tied into the Olive Tree Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary that is included in this resource. This allows me to tap on the Strong’s number and see the definition of the word and the words in both the original language and transliterated form.
If you have a Bible Tagged with Strong’s, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary is a great addition to your Bible Study library. This is also a great Bible study method to see how other versions of the Bible translate different words.
Since I have the English Standard Version (ESV) with Strong’s, I pulled it up found that the ESV translates “prosperous” as ”successful”. I verified this by tapping on the word “successful” and confirmed that it is the same word for “prosper/prosperous” that the ASV uses.
From there I tapped “look up tsaleach צָלַח”. This brought up the Olive Tree Enhanced Strong’s dictionary and Vine’s. From there I also can tap Vine’s and read the article on tsaleach צָלַח.
Lastly, I find that the popup windows can be a little small sometimes, so the popup window gives me the option to open in the Main or the Split window. This way I never have to leave my Bible text to do a quick word study and study more in depth.
As you can see, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words is a fantastic, easy-to-use resource that gives anyone access to the original languages. With over 6,000 key biblical words that have reference to Strong’s numbers, it makes a great addition to any Bible study library. There is no end to how it can help you understand the Bible and keep your study on track.
James wrote these words long ago but his challenge still resonates strongly today. The words echo what Jesus himself taught in John 14 that whoever loves him will obey his teachings.
We live in an amazing time where – thanks to technology – we have access to numerous Bible translations, libraries of biblical wisdom, and can listen to thousands of sermons from preachers all around the world. The challenge for us in the Western world isn’t getting access to this information, it’s what we actually do with the information we have. How do we apply it? Let me offer three simple ideas to you that have the potential to breathe new life into your Bible reading.
After Jesus’ resurrection and before he ascended into heaven, Jesus promises that the church won’t be left alone, that the Holy Spirit will come and be the one to guide the believers into all truth (John 16:13). As believers, that same Holy Spirit lives within us, so while you read God’s Word, ask the Holy Spirit to guide, reveal, and help you apply his word in your life. It’s a prayer that he wants to answer.
The word ‘meditate’ may generate a specific response or picture in your head – either good or bad. Many religions use meditation in one form or another. One of my favorite pictures of what it means to meditate is the idea of ‘chewing.’ Many of us approach reading God’s word with the goal of getting through it in a set time. In contrast, the idea of meditating is to slow down, imagine, consider…or chew. If you’re a ‘get it done’ type of person by nature, try a different approach to reading God’s word. Use your imagination as you think about the setting of Jesus’ teachings or the surroundings of the desert that the Israelites lived in for 40 years. Chew on the implications of Paul’s teachings for the people living in pagan Ephesus – both for them in the first century and for you today. As you meditate, you’ll find that God’s word sticks with you throughout the day.
Sometimes the simple questions you ask every time you read through the Bible can help get the wheels turning on how to apply God’s word. Here are a few easy ones:
- Who was the original audience of this passage?
- What are the timeless truths in this passage?
- What does this passage show me about who God is?
- What do I need to study further in this passage so I can understand it fully?
You may not be able to answer all of these questions easily, depending on the passage you’re reading but asking questions will help ensure that your daily reading is applied to your life and can challenge you to go deeper.
As someone once said, “Proclamation, without application, can lead to stagnation.” I trust that these simple ideas for application can become a normal part of your study and that for all of us, the long distance from our head to our heart will become shorter and shorter as the truth of God’s word bears fruit in our lives.
This week, Olive Tree has an awesome sale on A Visual Guide to Bible Events. The book’s introduction states that its purpose is to be “a door through which to enter the world of the Bible and encounter the power and love of our Lord Jesus and the unity of Scripture.”
This resource does just that. This book is not written in your typical research academic resource. Rather, it has a conversational tone to which any person can relate. A Visual Guide to Bible Events is packed with over 500 photographs and maps brings a heightened awareness to the biblical text like no other.
For example, take the seven churches of Revelation.
With the addition of the map, you can visualize how John’s letter carrier would have made a circular trip and how closely the seven churches were geographically. You can also see the length of the Israelites’ detour around Edom in Numbers 20:14–21 and Deuteronomy 2:1–8.
Looking through the beautiful full-color photographs gives a sense of being “in the action” and gives a sense of realism and depth like no written resource could.
Another example is a section of the Jerusalem wall during Nehemiah’s time.
Or, seeing a scale model of the temple and envisioning what it would have been like to be with the early church in Solomon’s Colonnade.
Perhaps even seeing a picture of an altar to an unknown God and how that would have affected the Apostle Paul.
Bible history told and shown in this context is insightful for all those wanting to deepen their Bible knowledge. The Bible Study App enhances this resource to strengthen your Bible study. As you’re reading through A Visual Guide to Bible Events, tap or click on a scripture reference to instantly see the Bible text. You can also use the split screen feature to view the articles and pictures while reading your Bible to augment your daily reading.
We’re excited about the new release of The Gospel Transformation Bible this week and think it will be a great study resource for The Bible Study App. Check out this video of Dane Ortlund and Dr. Bryan Chappell about the unique approach of The Gospel Transformation Bible.
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.