Sunday, October 31, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: Where?

My greatest fear for you is not that you fail, but that you succeed— to succeed at doing the wrong thing! Many Christians will spend their whole life chasing their dreams and carrying out the goals of their life, but many will find that the ladder they were climbing was leaning against the wrong wall.

Proper observation, interpretation, and application of the Word of God will become a compass that will lead you in the right direction in life. However, unless you make it a priority to study the Bible, you will not do it. Like one wag said, “If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time.”

That is why there are 6 questions that you need in your toolbox when you come to read the Bible: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the third question: WHERE?

As you ask this question, you need to have the set of maps (located at the back of your Bible) at your disposal. When you are reading the Bible and come across a region or a city, you need to look at the map to help you locate the place. Or when you are following the journey of someone (for example, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul), trace out the journey on the map.

Along with the maps, you also need to ask the following questions: Where is the narrative taking place? Where are the people in the story? Where are the people coming from? Where are the people going? Where is the writer? Where was the book written?

Don’t be afraid to bombard the Bible with your questions. Ask, ask, ask! You may not be able to find all the answers but the only way to become an astute student of God’s Word is to examine the text at every angle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: What?

When a certain man found a treasure in a field, he hid it and went and sold all that he owned. With joy, he sold it all and bought the field (Matthew 13:44). When you read the Bible selectively, you carry out a similar act. Understanding that there is a great treasure found within God’s Word, with joy you abandon everything to read and study His Word.

You set aside time. You commit to give God the best part of your day. You look for a place where you are not distracted. You turn off the television and the phone. You get alone with God and diligently search God’s Word because you know that within it are the words of life.

It will not be easy. The enemy will try to talk you out of reading and studying the Word. He will try to keep you busy by reminding you of your hectic schedule. Reading the Bible selectively will require sacrifice and thought, but the dividends are priceless. There are 6 questions that you need to ask while you are reading the Bible: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the second question: WHAT?

What is happening in the text? What are the events and activities? Are there in a certain order? What happens to the characters in the story? What is the writer trying to emphasize? What is his argument?

What is missing in the text? For example, King Saul wars against the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15. Saul carries out the destruction of the Amalekites, he captures their king, plunders their spoil, and prepares to offer sacrifices to God.

However, when Samuel shows up, he puts his finger on one problem: “Saul did not obey the Lord.” But Saul had obeyed. He wiped out the Amalekites. Not all of them! He captured the king. He did not obey the Lord completely. What is the writer of 1 Samuel trying to teach us? Partial obedience is disobedience.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: Who?

Anyone who knows anything about fishing or hunting understands the importance of being at the right place at the right time. Even though you scope out a particular place and find the right time, it is pointless unless you have the right equipment. You need the necessary gear and tools to net your big catch.

It is the same with reading. You may have a specific place and time where you read your Bible, but unless you have the right tools, you can neglect a productive Bible study.

What are the tools necessary to read the Bible selectively? They are 6 questions that you need to ask while you are reading the Bible: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the first question: WHO? Identify the person or people and then ask and answer the following questions:

• Who wrote the book that you are reading? Who is the person or people? to whom is the book or text written? What do you know about the person or people? Who wrote 1 Peter? Peter! He writes about the devil who prowls around like a lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Of all the disciples, Peter understands this because the devil enticed him to deny the Lord.

• What does the writer say about the person or people in the text? For example, Rahab is referred to as a harlot. How would you like to have that emblem embroidered on your jacket? How do you think that person felt about such a label?

• What does the person say? Much of the Bible is narrative and events can easily be summarized in a verse or two. When the writer spends a large amount of time letting you hear words vocalized, it is for emphasis. Listen carefully to what is being said.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Read the Bible Patiently

One of the greatest virtues you can possess in your life is patience. We live in an “instant” culture where we rush through fast food restaurants, place food in a microwave and within seconds have a meal, or sit before a television and flip through channels at the touch of a finger. We move easily from one activity to another. We want things right now!

It is no surprise that we approach our Bibles with the same mentality. We spend five minutes in God’s Word and we expect the same rush as we do with other things in life. When the Bible does not grant us immediate satisfaction, we are off to another stimulus. How does anyone expect to receive anything with substance in a short time? Whatever is of value, it will require sacrifice and patience.

In his book, Living By the Book, Howard Hendricks gives some suggestions to help us read the Bible with patience:

• Work with one book for a month. Spend every day in one book observing its structure, identifying the key terms, investigate the central characters, do some background work with secondary sources, and look for practical ways to live out what you have learned.

• Zoom in and zoom out. As you read and study the passages, examine each story and passage in its wider context to see the flow and argument of the writer. Read every word, verse, and passage in its context because the book is to be read as a unified whole.

As you spend time patiently and carefully reading God’s Word, He will bring peace and comfort to your life. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:7.