Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Read the Bible Repeatedly

Reading well is an essential to effective Bible study. You need to learn how to read repeatedly. Don’t worry. You will not exhaust the Word of God if you read it over and over again. Unlike other literature which you can understand with one reading, the Word of God can never be drained of its application. You may read a passage today and come back to it later and still find more to glean.

Paul alludes to the inexhaustibility of God’s Word in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
In his book, Living by the Book, Howard Hendricks gives several ideas to help you read the Bible over and over again:

1. Read entire books of the Bible in one sitting. Reading a book in its entirety in one sitting will better equip you to understand its message.

2. Start at the beginning of the book. You would never pick up a novel and start reading in the middle of the story. It would not make sense unless you understood the context. The same consideration must be given to the Bible. Start at the beginning.

3. Read the Bible in various translations.

4. Listen to audio versions of the Bible. It is amazing what you will grasp when someone else reads the Word of God.

5. Read the Bible out loud. Words can mean a lot more when you hear yourself speaking them.

6. Read through the Bible in a year. There are many resources that can help you read through the Bible from front to back. Start now!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Read the Bible Thoughtfully

The first method in Bible study is observation. In order to develop this step, you need to hone your reading skills. In order to improve your reading, you need to learn to read thoughtfully.

In his insightful work on studying the Bible Howard Hendricks writes, “Thoughtful reading involves study. Not boredom. Far from it. When you come to the Bible, put your thinking cap on. Don’t throw your mind into neutral. Apply the same mental discipline that you would to any subject in which you take a vital interest” (77).

We are all capable of reading thoughtfully, but many choose not to discipline themselves to become thoughtful readers. Rarely do we spend time reading with care unless the material is of utmost importance (i.e. sports section of the newspaper or an IRS audit). How much more important is it to thoughtfully read the Word of God which holds truths for our daily lives?

People who read and think thoughtfully are those who realize that how one lives is directly connected to how one thinks. If you truly believe that the Bible possesses wisdom for daily living, then it will show in your vigilant study in the Word. Remember what Peter said to Jesus in John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Don’t rush through a passage. Take your time. Set aside some time to engage with the Word and seriously think about what the passage is saying. A couple of weeks ago, we spent some time looking at the questions that you should ask when you come to the Bible (Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?). You will not read thoughtfully unless you ask and answer these questions when you come to a text in the Bible.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Study the Bible? Part 3

Two reasons have been stated why we need to study the Bible: spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. The third reason why studying the Bible is so vital to your walk with the Lord is spiritual usefulness. In a world that is inundated with words, people have fallen into a mental stupor. The mass media is filled with slick-looking, smooth-talking couriers with their sales pitches. It is difficult to know what truth is in a day when words are hollow and carry no meaning. Can we really believe that anything is true? It is no wonder that the world is turned off when the Christian speaks. How are you any different than every other mouthpiece?
When you spend time in God’s Word, there will be a transformation in your life. Though words are important, practicality and application will generate more substance to your life. Instead of talking about your faith, you begin to live it out. People will begin to take notice of the Christian who does more than talk about his/her faith but actually lives it out through hands and feet. St. Francis of Assisi noted, "Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words."
As Paul was nearing the end of his life, he left two letters in the hands of Timothy. Paul wanted to leave his young protégé some concluding instructions to help him carry on the mission of Jesus Christ. He writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul states that when Bible study is taking place it will accomplish four things in your life: 1) teaching, 2) rebuking, 3) correcting, and 4) training. Have you ever wished that you could be more successful for Jesus Christ? Paul says that it can happen when you are serious about studying the Word of God.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why Study the Bible? Part 2

Studying the Bible will help you become a more mature person. What is maturity? Webster defines maturity as “achieving or completing a state of natural growth and development; to be ripe.”

At the beginning of the summer, the Kirby’s decided to try their hand (again!) at farming. We bought four tomato plants. Originally we placed the tomato plants in the front yard, but the local Marietta deer were feasting themselves on our plants. In order to solve the deer problem, we moved the plants to the backyard. However, our backyard is covered with tall pine trees which blocked the sunlight in the morning and late afternoon hours. This created a huge problem for our plants because they only received 3-4 hours of sunlight during the midday.

Because of the lack of sunlight in our backyard, growth and maturity of our tomatoes were stunted. It is the same when you receive a lack of “Sonlight” from God’s Word. The more time you spend in God’s Word meditating and applying it to your life; you will become a “riper” Christian.

What are some of the marks of a “ripe” (mature) Christian? One mark is stability. When you study God’s Word, you will not be swayed by the turmoil in your life. Though you are not immune from difficulty, you will learn how stand strong in the midst of your trial (Psalm 1:1-3; 19:7-11). Another mark of maturity is conviction. As you study the Bible, you will know the truth and not be swayed by false teaching (Ephesians 4:14-15). A third mark of a mature believer is discernment. When you cut your spiritual teeth on God’s Word, you will learn how to discern truth from error and apply the truth to your life (Hebrews 5:11-14). Howard Hendricks writes, “The mark of spiritual maturity is not how much you understand, but how much you use. In the spiritual realm, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge but obedience” (Living by the Book, 20-21).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Study the Bible?

If you want grow spiritually, you must be in the Word of God. One of the reasons that many Christians are not growing in their spiritual walk is because they neglect time in God’s Word. Peter tells us that the one who is progressing in his/her walk with the Lord is the one who spends time in the Bible. He writes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

This is why it is so imperative that you study the Word. If you deny food for your body, your physical health will decline. It is the same in the spiritual realm. If you neglect the spiritual food from God’s Word, your spiritual health will decline. It is no wonder why many are discouraged, depressed, anxious, and wavering in their spiritual walk. People are not in the Word of God!

Peter says that the mark of a growing infant is the desire for milk. When Lily was born, you can believe that every 3-4 hours she would let the whole house know that she was hungry. Likewise, if you are a Christian who is maturing in your faith, then there should be an insatiable appetite for spiritual truth. There should be a craving for God’s Word.

As you crave this pure truth from God’s Word, you will begin to grow. Notice that Peter did not say “know” but “grow.” Many Christians know but do not grow! “The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts but to transform your life” (Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book, 19).