Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to Study Your Bible

  I  can't say much else about  my role in the ministry, but I can, with no apologies make the following statement; I  labour in word and doctrine.  That's not a boast of accomplishment, it's a statement of effort; I put in the  hours.  I  do this because we're commanded to by scripture, but also because I am so dense it takes me a lot more effort to understand something than most of you.
  We seem to be experiencing a dearth of actual Bible study in the day and hour we live in. There are plenty of books  least claiming to tell you what the Bible says, but very little understanding and very little  actual study by the readers.  It's so much easier just to take  somebody's word for it than to   search the whole counsel of God on a matter.  So as my tiny contribution to the  body of Christ, I offer you the principles and practices that have helped me become slightly less of a Bible blockhead.

1. It's all one book-  The Bible is clear that the  actual author of the words you're reading isn't Moses or Daniel or Paul; its the Holy Spirit of God.  The Bible says that "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21)
  Because you have  different books of the Bible  dictated by the Holy Ghost to different men, the 'cultural context' or 'understanding the times in which it was written' is remarkably unimportant. All you need to consider is the context where the words actually are, and how they relate to other scriptures.  There is no need to consider any 'Pauline bias' since Paul didn't  actually author those epistles.  He wrote down what he was told (1 Thes 2:13), and  there were some things he wrote  down that God didn't see fit to  put in the  Bible (Col 4:16).  Looking at the Bible as one book of unfolding revelation and unsearchable layers makes it a lot easier to  let God show you what he said.  That also means if the  scripture repeats itself or  uses the same word or phrase over and over again, even though separated by thousands of years, it's significant.  That's how the Holy Spirit connects  the dots; with words.
2. Read your Bible God didn't give you a Bible to sit on your coffee table; he gave you a book, and books are meant to be read. "Till I come , give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." (1 Tim 4:13) The average Christian in America never reads their Bible all the way through, and are  horribly ignorant of what it says as a result.  Sit down and read with  absolutely no agenda in mind. Just read.  Start at the beginning and read through to the end, then start over. Do this until you die. Throw out  your charts and  schedules; just read. As you go through, God will show you things.
3. Believe what you're reading It is my position that I have every word  that God wants me to  have in a language that I can understand.  I believe God inspired it, and it retains that inspiration. I believe God preserved it in English, and that I have it. I can put  my faith and trust in the individual words without worrying about what anybody else says, and without searching for  the 'originals which nobody has.  The body of Christ has been nearly crippled by educated men who sit in condemnation of the word of God and have told  people that , without he help of  scholarship, they can never be sure as to what God actually said. The Bibel says in John 3:34 "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him."
3. Take notes and ask questions  I  physically wear out a Bible in about  5 years, and in  the current copy that I use in my  reading, I  have  little scribbled pencil marks all in the margins. A lot of them are  references to other verses. Some of them are dates when God spoke to me about a verse.  Some of these pencil marks are questions like 'what in the world does that mean?' or "huh?".  Sometimes I get the answer later on, and next  time I pass that  pencil mark I can erase it. Sometimes I go years without an answer and I have to eventually try to transfer these notes/questions to a new Bible. Notice that I said 'try', because my track record on transfers is  pretty awful.
  In addition to simply reading, I am an obsessive  researcher.  I  read my Bible with a concordance and a pad of paper handy, and I will look at every single instance of the occurrence of a word. I'll write out  all the verse longhand, and then , starting at the  top, will read them all in context. Sometimes I'll make a chart.  For example, I wondered once if the 'mind' and the 'heart' were the same thing, so I looked up all the  occurrences of mind ( 92 times) and then heart (500).  I wrote them out, made my chart, and about 200 times  into  'heart' I  had forgotten what I was looking for to start with.  That happens.
  The Bible says that we are to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15)
4. Pray You're best bet to get an answer from scripture is to consult the Author. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)  As I've said in other places, my method of  discerning the will of God is to read my Bible and  ask God to show me his will through my daily Bible reading.  Countless times I have asked "God, what does this verse mean?"  By way of an answer, the Lord will highlight another verse which explains it.
5. Fast Don't look at me that way; fasting is a biblical concept when seeking wisdom and guidance from God.  The method and duration of fasting is a whole  separate topic, but  let me just say this; a Biblical fast is  no food only water. Anything less is an 'NIV fast'.
"Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." 1 Cor 7:5
6. Last resort- Check a commentary I''m not scared of commentaries, though I  usually don't   deploy them, but the fact remains is that  God gave insight to  men who have lived and died down through the centuries and whatever  question I have, the odds are that I'm not the first person to have that question."And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2)
What  possible reason could I have  for  ignoring this great gift God has  given to the body of Christ down through the centuries of recorded insight?  Having said that, I  summarily dismiss any commentator that corrects the Bible  or tries to tell me what it should have said.  I also take everyone's  commentary with a grain of salt because after all , all flesh is grass.
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