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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Do I Understand the Bible? - Thematic

This is our final approach to digging deeper into the Bible. I have shared with you some of my favorite ways to study the Bible, approaches that I have found helpful over the years.

I would love to hear your stories of different Bible study methods you have tried and your experience with them.

So our final method is called the Thematic Study and revolves around following a theme through the Bible or a portion of the Bible. (If the theme is broad, you might want to limit your study to book or section of the Bible.)

The flow of the Thematic Study:

Begin with Prayer. Pause and ask God to teach you through His Spirit and to show you new insights and ways in which this theme applies to your life.

Choose a theme.

Find references in a concordance that deal with your theme.

Read the verses. You may need to read the surrounding verses to gain context and understanding.

To go deeper try comparing translations and define the theme word. (Bible Gateway makes it easy to compare the verses in a variety of translations.)

As you read, jot down answers to the following questions:

  • What do you observe in the verse/passage? What do you learn about the theme?
  • What questions are raised? What answers are found?
  • When you've read the passages and taken notes, review what you've written.
  • What patterns do you notice? What principles do you observe?
  • Summarize what you have learned from this study

Suggested themes:
knowing God's will
praising the Lord in the psalms
Jesus' prayers
Paul's prayers
heavenlies in the book of Ephesians

Thank you for joining in this look at ways to understand the Bible better. 
Take a minute to share a comment about ways of reading or studying the Bible that have helped you. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Do I Understand the Bible? - Recreate a Journal

A fun follow-up to the Biographical study is to create a journal entry for the person you studied. It can also stand alone as a way to become more familiar with a Bible character or a particular event in their life.

As always, begin this study with prayer asking the Holy Spirit to give you insight and understanding.

Choose the person or event about which you would like to write a journal entry.

Using your concordance, find the verses where this person or event is recorded in the Bible.

Read the verses.

As you read, take note:
  • Carefully observe the text
  • Consider the background
  • Ask what the person might have thought or felt
  • Put yourself in that person's shoes
  • Consider looking at it from a different perspective (e.g. in the march around Jericho you could write from the perspective of an Israelite soldier or priest, a resident of Jericho, Rahab, or an Israelite woman or child who stayed in camp or even an inanimate object such as a horn or stone in the wall) Don't be afraid to think outside the box and be creative. 
Write a journal entry from the perspective you have chosen. 

Suggested stories:
  • Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • Ruth leaving Moab (Ruth 1)
  • Rahab after hiding the spies (Joshua 2)
  • A person of Jericho as the Israelites march around the walls (Joshua 6)
  • A Philistine describing Goliath's death (1 Samuel 17)
  • Mary Magdalene's encounter with Jesus in the garden (John 20:1-18
If you would like to see an example of this study, visit "I Met a Man" - a journal entry I wrote from the point of view of the woman with an issue of blood who touched the hem of Jesus' robe. 

What Bible character intrigues you the most? What about him or her captures your attention?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How Do I Understand the Bible? - The People of the Bible

I have a confession to make, this is my favorite way to dig more deeply into the Bible. I love looking at the people of the Bible trying to understand what it might have felt like to be in their sandals, to think about what their world was like. When I use this style of study, I find that the characters become so much more real to me and I learn from the rich experiences of their lives.

A Biographical Study is looking specifically at the life of one person from the Bible in an attempt to understand who they were and the experiences that shaped them.

1. Choose a person. It is best to pick someone who is not mentioned in multiple chapters or multiple books. If your curiosity about one of the "big" Bible names (Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul, etc.) draws you into studying one of them, another way to do so is to study their life one period as a time. (e.g. Moses - Moses' in Egypt before Age 40; Moses in the Dessert; Moses' Return to Egypt and Leading the Exodus; Moses and the 10 Commandments; Moses Preparing to Enter the Promised Land; Moses Leading the Israelites through the Wilderness for 40 Years; The End of Moses' Life - each of these periods of his life provide a rich and powerful study.) Also, watch out for duplicate names such as Joseph (son of Jacob and Jesus' stepfather) or Mary (Mary mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary mother of John Mark). You'll want to make sure that the references you are using all pertain to the same person.

2. List all references. Using a concordance list all the references that pertain to the person or the specific period of their life that you plan to study.

3. Pray asking the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you, to show you insights and truths from this study.

4. Read the references about this person. As you read look for clues to the following items. Write down your observations.
  • Character development
  • Crises faced
  • Motivations
  • Reactions to life's events
  • Environment (location, culture, family)
  • Significant relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • If OT, NT references
  • Unusual birth or death
5. Summarize your observations and the lessons you learned. A helpful question to ponder as you do this is: Why did God put this person in the Bible and what can you learn from him or her?

Suggested people to study: Cornelius, Hannah, Dorcus/Tabitha, Caleb, Ruth, Daniel, Esther

What people from the Bible have especially impacted you? 
What about their life impressed you?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Letting Go and Listening

Another Five Minute Friday, when we gather to write unfettered and free for five minutes.

Overhead the sunlight filters through the shifting leaves. Below me the hammock gently sways. Around me the gentle breeze caresses my cheeks and lifts my hair ever so slightly. In the distance the sound of water tumbling over rocks provides a soothing backdrop. I relax.

The stresses of the past days and weeks . . . the weight of caring for an aging parent . . . an impending financial crisis . . . life-changing decisions to be made . . . concern for people I love . . . all begin to fade as the breeze continues to caress my skin.

My eyes drift shut.

My shoulders soften and the muscles relax.

In the quiet I hear a still a small voice, only a whisper, saying, "'I Am the Lord who Will Provide' and I love you. You are my own. I have plans for you . . . plans for good and not for harm. Rest in Me." The echo of the whisper stays in my heart and mind, calming, comforting, refreshing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How Do I Understand the Bible? - Outline

I don't know about you, but I like variety to keep things fresh and, yes, even meaningful. I'd rather walk outside than on a treadmill, drive an interesting route rather than the fastest one, do something different sometimes just to shake things up. And, I'm the same with studying the Bible. I've been reading and studying the Bible for a long time now and at times it can get (dare I say it?) boring unless I change things up sometimes. That's why I'm suggesting an assortment of Bible study methods, so that whether brand new to the Bible or a long-timer who's gotten a little bored, you'll have some different ideas to choose from.

Most of these ways of studying the Bible are quite simple, yet each of them then deepen your knowledge, understanding, and experience with Scripture.

Today's is Outline.

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher required that we outline our history book for homework and two things happened. First, I discovered that after I had outlined a chapter I could ace the test with almost no additional study. (Loved that one!!) Second, I was drawn to the logical progression and understanding that comes with reducing something to outline form. I am beginning with the assumption that you know how to do a basic outline. (If that's not true for you, feel free to contact me and I'll be glad to explain how it works.)

When outlining the Bible, it is best to outline either a chapter paragraph by paragraph or a book chapter by chapter.

To begin this study, choose a chapter or book (preferably a short one to begin with) that you would like to understand more fully.

Pray. As I've said in the previous Bible Study posts, prayer to ask the the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you is always a crucial part of the process.

Read through the chapter or book for a sense of flow and how it fits together. At this time don't try to outline, just read it carefully to get the big picture of what's being said.

Read it again with an eye to outlining. If you're working through a chapter, give each paragraph a summary title as the main points of your outline. You may want to include key points from the paragraph as your sub-points. If you are outlining a book, give each chapter a summary title and then use your paragraphs as your sub-points.

Outlining is helpful for getting the big picture of the content and structure of a chapter or book.

If you'd like to take this study a Next Step, combine it with Observe and Question to help bring deeper understanding and to apply it to your life.

Suggested chapters:

Psalm 1
Psalm 23
Psalm 46
Matthew 5,6, or 7
Philippians 4

Suggested books:

What is your favorite way to study the Bible? 
What has helped you to keep your Bible study fresh and interesting?