Christianity 201

January 10, 2023

Prayer Prompts and Study Prompts

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom – Colossians 3:16a NIV

Most people are familiar with prayer prompts. Using a list is most common, but earlier today I was thinking of some people I went to high school with who have rather unusual names, and it occurred to me that instead of just thinking of those names, perhaps I should be praying for those people, wherever they are today.

Study prompts are another matter.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been using some of the verses on my NIV Bible app as a springboard for writing a longer article. I don’t write original devotionals here each day, so it’s something that happens only when a verse strikes me as worthy of further examination.

Which brings me to our opening verse.

The NLT breaks it up into three sentences, of which the first two are:

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.

Note: The part I’ve omitted in both the NIV and NLT citation from Colossians is the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” part of the verse. This is usually thought of as one of the “music verses” of the New Testament, but I wanted to focus on the first part today. However, I do want to note the connection between the other “psalms, hymns…” passage in Ephesians 5. In the former case, the word of God fills our minds and provides text for our singing, and in the latter case, being filled with the Spirit has the same effect; it causes us to sing.

I do prefer the older rendering, with its phrase “dwell in you richly.” We often speak of meditating on scripture. In Psalm 1, we are told of the upright, “But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. (1:2 NLT)

Here I’m also reminded of Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (NIV)

Fine, you say; God’s word is important, but what about “study prompts?”

The website Holding on to Truth offers 8 Reasons to Let the Word of God Dwell in You. At the end of the article, the writer, Tom Smith provides four ways to accomplish this. If this section interests you, I encourage to read it in full, but his means of letting God’s word get embedded deeper into our souls are:

  1. Feed on it (see it as daily nourishment starting with key verses)
  2. Read it (i.e. have a plan to methodically read all of it)
  3. Sing it (Christianity is a singing faith. It’s part of our DNA)
  4. Speak it (find people with whom you can talk about scripture texts and share meaningful times in God’s Word.)

Well…that gets us closer, but it’s still not what I have in mind by the phrase “Study Prompts.”

A study prompt is where you really want to start, to use our tag line here at Christianity 201, “Digging a little bit deeper.”

■ If you use BibleHub, or have a reference Bible, it might mean checking out some of the related scriptures.

■ If you own a Study Bible, it might mean delving into the notes provided for the passage in question.

■ If you own a Bible Commentary, it might mean reading what others have written about the verse or chapter.

■ If you have internet (which you do, since you’re reading this) it might mean looking for articles explaining the verse. (Type the verse reference followed by the word commentary, like this “John 3:16 commentary.” Or ask a question like “Why did Paul ask the church to…?”)

■ If you’re in a small group and there’s free discussion time, it might mean asking the group. (“Have any of you ever wondered about this verse in Ecclesiastes?) (Answer: If it’s in Ecclesiastes, yes, someone else in your group has wondered about it!)

■ If you’re a visual learner, it might mean checking out The Bible Project to see a video on that Bible book or topic.

■ If you’re marooned on an island, it might mean clearing your head and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the passage or theme to you. (That won’t be many of you, but the method is worth considering either way!)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 NIV

Just as someone’s name comes to mind in a prayer prompt, so also allow a verse or a theme to come to mind in a study prompt, and don’t let go until you’ve learned more. With a study prompt — however it becomes front of mind — you do the thing that comes next.

You study.



January 24, 2018

Watch Out: There Are Wolves Online

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

Hebrews 5:13-14 ““For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” 

This article replaces another which appears previously in this space.

Without a thorough indoctrination into the publishing industry, it’s easy for people shopping for a Christian resource to find something through a search engine, or scrolling categories at Amazon which appears to fit the bill but does not actually line up with scripture as they have always understood it and as their church teaches.

We wrote about this in August, 2017 in an article titled, Shopping for Church Resources on Google and Amazon Involves Risk.

…[T]the group leader, capitulating to an internet shopping world goes online and discovers a particular resource for their small group that seems to fit the bill.

  1. It’s on the book of Philippians, which is exactly what they want.
  2. It’s a fill-in-the-blanks format, which is exactly what they want.
  3. It runs ten weeks, which is exactly what they want.
  4. It’s under $10 US per book, which is exactly what they want.

What could possibly go wrong?

We then offered a number of things that could blow up, the last of which was,

The search process lands someone on a website not realizing it belongs to a marginal or fringe group such as LDS/Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness and is impressed enough to delve further into their writings, never returning to their place of origin.

Heck, if you’re ordering quantities of things, let’s face it, many people could be deceived.

There are several ways this can happen:

  1. The product they followed up on when they typed their criteria into a search engine belonged to a commercial publisher or distributor who was paying for search engine optimization (SEO) or even a paid ad itself.
  2. The internet isn’t very discerning; it follows an algorithm to obtain results depending on what you type. But too many search terms can also send it off the rails.
  3. The person searching isn’t very discerning; they are not trained in terms of knowledge of who it is behind the website or the publisher.


From there the article discussed a number of issues all related to publishing.

But there is a much broader issue begging for discussion here, and that’s discernment, as in spiritual discernment. It’s more than just a “spidey sense” but sometimes it presents that way. Something just feels off, or not right.

Because we’ve covered discernment here already many, many times — it’s the spiritual gift I believe people desperately  need in an internet age — I would encourage you to track some of those articles at this link.

What are we supposed to do?

Writing at Before the Cross, Erica Boutwell notes,

…Paul says in Romans 16 to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

Maybe you’re feeling some reservations about someone but you don’t think you have enough Biblical knowledge to really tell if what they’re teaching is legit. Ask your pastor or someone you believe knows the Word well. Trust that the stirring in your gut is not just that late night bowl of ice cream talking. There’s a good chance it’s the Holy Spirit prompting you to research something a little more – either to further your own knowledge of scripture or to help you point out false teaching.

I believe the biggest thing believers need to learn from the tricky spot we find ourselves in today is to never take something at face value. The enemy is cunning and he is patient enough to creep in just a little at a time, even through someone you feel like you’ve been able to trust up until now. We have to stop blindly following the teachings of 3rd party resources, and start holding up the information we’re being handed against the lens of scripture. When all is said and done, we don’t get to use the excuse of “but he said . . .” or “but she told me . . .” Rest assured, the day will come when they will be held accountable, but not for your choices.

As we continue growing in our faith, we are to become more and more responsible for who we let teach us and what teachings we trust. So as the different teachers in our faith increase in number and influence, especially outside of the church, let’s make it a priority to know the Word of God well enough to be aware when we are being fed real meat and when we are having the wool pulled over our eyes…

Click this link for other articles by Erica at Before the Cross.

January 29, 2016

Why Apologetics?

Red Letter BibleYesterday I was reading an article which spoke of the main purpose of Christian apologetics is to “strengthen the believer.” We tend to think of it as a branch of evangelism, but unless believers are fully grounded themselves, they can’t share their faith effectively, or be able to deal with objections raised by those outside the faith.

The article mentioned a familiar verse:

I Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

But also

Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

(all NIV)

At this point, I want to share the whole article with you. It’s from the website Ratio Christi and clicking the title below takes you to the site, from which you can explore many other resources. (I’ve added emphasis to some of the things the author feels are symptomatic of the shallowness of Christianity in present times.)

Strengthening the believer…

Most have probably heard the saying “if, insert name here, jumped off a bridge would you follow?” The context meaning just because someone else does it, be it popular, or not real smart, would you follow simply for that reason? The point being, a lot of people, do and believe a lot of, well let’s just say strange things. So what does this have to do with strengthening the believer? I am glad you ask!

In Dr. William Lane Craig’s book On Guard, he writes “the purpose of apologetics is to reach the lost, strengthen the believer and to change culture.” I spend, and know God has led me to this point, most of my time attempting to strengthen the believer. Unfortunately, apologetics receives some of its strongest opposition from this group of people. I find this very confusing and extremely frustrating. I mean, after all, apologetics is Biblical, part of the first and greatest commandment, and Jesus used it, as did Paul. But that is not the point. How can professing believers reach the lost, or change culture if they do not know what and why they believe? It has been written about many times before, they cannot. In fact, the majority of professing followers do not know what or why they believe. I was ask recently to back that statement up. Herein lies the point.

As an apologist I felt it to be pretty obvious, (the shallowness of professing believers). I mean, I do this for a living. And a simple conversation with many other professing believers seemed like sufficient evidence. So when ask to provide evidence of my claim I was, honestly, taken by surprise. After all, it has been written about extensively, statistics show the church is declining, as do they show our 18 to 20 something’s leaving in mass numbers, (50-80%). So I thought about what would seem to be a good indicator of, or considered acceptable evidence for, most believers not knowing what or why they believe. Are you ready? Brace yourself, or sit down if you are standing. This could be earth-shattering. But in reality, probably not. Remember when I stated God is using me, through apologetics, to strengthen the believer? Previous paragraph…well, that is a tough “row to hoe” as they say in southern West Virginia. Okay, okay, I will get to the point, or my evidence.

False teachers! Pretty simplistic huh? Why would one use false teachers as evidence for a shallow church? Are you serious? One of the fastest growing “denominations” is the Word of Faith movement. Joel Osteen packs in 45,000 every Sunday. Ken Hagin, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, TBN, GodTV, Creflo, TD Jakes are all the most popular people and most watched and listened to “Christians.” That is just to name a few. There was a recent Facebook post with Jessi Duplantis and one of his cohorts discussing why they needed private jets. The top selling “Christian” books continuously are written by these people. And one would question the shallowness of professing followers?

What about all of the misquoted scripture one is faced with on a daily basis? We have all heard it from Jeremiah 29:11 to Philippians 4:13. The teaching how to reach the lost by sharing our testimony. By thinking witnessing to someone is inviting them to church. I could go on and on. The evidence is strong. The church NEEDS apologetics. The church NEEDS sound doctrine. The church NEEDS to make disciples. All of which a Biblical commands. Sadly, it would appear the church is in denial!

Please, don’t get me wrong. There are many solid teachers/preachers out there. But if professing followers don’t know what they believe, or why they believe it, how can they possibly distinguish the false teachers from sound theology. Remember, people actually followed Jim Jones to the jungle and killed themselves. And he was extremely popular.

Boys and girls, Christianity is not relevant or popular in today’s society. In fact, it has never been popular. The gospel is offensive. The promise of trails and tribulation does not sound fun. Or happy, blessed, or favored as so often quoted.

I often tell my students that we need to get the majority of professing followers lost so that we can get them saved. Please consider the first and greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37, the next time you consider an apologist that is attempting to strengthen believers too harsh, or not speaking with gentleness and respect. Please read 2 Corinthians 10:5, Jude 3, Titus 1:9, and 1 Peter 3:15.

I pray for the maturity of every professing follower. I ask God that each of you to stop watching, reading and listening to false teaching. Would you at least admit the problem? Would you please commit to figure out what you believe and why?

November 15, 2013

Bible Study Isn’t to Win God’s Approval

Bible Study 2

Today, years later, I can still remember the reference, in fact I can still hear the cadence of my Sunday School repeating it slowly in unsion:

“Second Timothy Two Fifteen”

The verse, as we learned it, was “Study to show yourself approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”  Actually it was “shew thyself.”

But while Bible study is important, the verse wasn’t translated as accurately as it might have been. Being “approved unto God” isn’t about study, in the more academic sense we think of it. Other versions have:

  • Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him (NRSV, NIV)
  • Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” (Living Bible)
  • For yourself, concentrate on winning God’s approval (Phillips)
  • Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker  (God’s Word, also CEB)
  • Do your best to be the kind of person God will accept  (ERV)
  • Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of (Message)
  • …do everything you can to present yourself to God as a man who is fully genuine (The Voice)

The Voice Bible sets up the broader context:

11 Here’s a statement you can trust:

If we died with Him,
    we will live with Him.
12 If we remain with Him,
    we will reign alongside Him.
If we deny Him,
    we will be denied by Him.
13 If we are unfaithful,
    He remains faithful,
For He is not able to deny Himself.

14 Remind others about these things that I’m telling you. Warn them before God to stop their useless bickering over words. After all, splitting hairs does no good; it only ruins those forced to listen to their meritless arguments. 15 Timothy, do everything you can to present yourself to God as a man who is fully genuine, a worker unashamed of your mission, a guide capable of leading others along the correct path defined by the word of truth. 16 Stay away from ungodly babbling because it will only lead deeper into a godless lifestyle. 17 Once these empty voices start to speak, Timothy, they infect and spread; and soon the body is consumed with its cancer…

In context, winning God’s approval is this passage is about character, and behavior; not about Bible knowledge.

There’s nothing wrong with Bible study. Every Christian should own several Bibles, a Bible Dictionary, a Concordance; or access to similar resources online. I only have to say, “Search the scriptures,” and immediately many of you think of the Bereans, who are commended in Acts 17:11 for their diligence in Bible study.

NIV Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

If you were raised with the two or three translations that use “Study to show yourself approved;” that’s not exactly bad advice. And it won’t throw you off track spiritually. But today we have the benefit of translations that will help us see passages in ways that more accurately reflect their context. In other words, you’ll discover that the section in II Timothy isn’t about studying the Bible if you… well… study the Bible.

We often do translation passage comparisons here, and facilitate that using; although I do own a multitude of translations and commentaries in print. Today at Thinking Out Loud we’re doing a feature on the variety of Bible versions available, so I want to invite you to continue reading at Bible Translation Families. I’m hoping it will shed some new light on how the various translations fit into the broader picture.

September 28, 2013

The Top Verses

Bible StudySomething a little different today!

I’m not sure by what criteria the verses on the website Top Verses  were chosen, but it’s no surprise that John 3:16 was ranked number one. Furthermore, most of the ten verses on the first page are probably quite familiar to you, or at least more familiar than some of the ones listed below. But I thought it would be interesting to dig through the top 100 to see if there are some verses which everyone may not expect to be on such a list….

I deliberately chose some toward the lower end of the top 100, but there are 3,111 verses included in this collection. With ten per page, you could take a year to go through these one page at a time.

Next, you’ll notice that on the list below, each verse is also a link which will take you to a profile page which gives the verse in much greater context. I’ve selected NIV as the default here, the site offers each verse as well in Amplifed and KJV translations. Choose one or two of the profile page and allow that to be your reading for today.

Matthew 28:18
     Rank: 19

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (NIV)

Acts 4:12
     Rank: 24

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.” (NIV)

Titus 3:5
     Rank: 31

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (NIV)

Ephesians 4:11
     Rank: 35

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers (NIV)

John 4:24

    Rank: 53

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (NIV)

Acts 17:11
    Rank: 70

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV)

Galatians 2:20
     Rank: 71

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

Matthew 5:17
     Rank: 73

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (NIV)

John 16:13
     Rank: 77

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (NIV)

Acts 20:28
     Rank: 78

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (NIV)

Titus 2:11
     Rank: 79

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (NIV)

Romans 13:1
     Rank: 82

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (NIV)

Hebrews 11:6
     Rank: 87

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (NIV)

John 5:24
    Rank: 89

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (NIV)

Colossians 1:15
    Rank: 93

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (NIV)

Titus 2:13
    Rank: 95

While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (NIV)

Philippians 4:8
    Rank: 96

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. (NIV)

Micah 6:8
    Rank: 99

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

John 17:17
     Rank: 100

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (NIV)

…We’ll do this again some time with verses 101-200, but feel free to jump ahead and do this on your own!  This site is also a good listing of Bible verse essentials that every new Christian should know; though they ought to be encouraged to read things in context; not simply read verses isolation.

April 6, 2011

Random Notes…

I’m really late posting tonight.  Rather than a specific reading or theme, I thought I’d share some of my own nightly devotional process.

When my kids were young, we started something called “Hangin’ Out Time,” which included reading from The Beginner Bible, and other books of that ilk, and then moving on to Hurlburt’s Story of the Bible (the original, in-depth edition, not the simplified one you can purchase today.)

It was doing Hurlburt that I realized the potential for my own spiritual growth to come out of these times, and now that the “kids” are 17 and 19, we still do “Hangin’ Out Time,” though it’s more like a 20-30 minute theology study time.

We’ve read — out loud — every chapter of the New Testament in the Life Application Bible including reading — out loud — all of the study notes.   Plus a number — more than half — of the Old Testament books including Leviticus.

We’ve done three books by Stuart Briscoe, are in the middle of an Andrew Murray, and alternate with occasional contemporary authors such as both books by Francis Chan.

But until tonight, I had never read a single word by Warren Wiersbe.  I picked up a copy of Be Hopeful — our house is full of books in every room — which is Wiersbe’s commentary on I Peter.   I had been told that some people regarded him as somewhat simplistic, but I didn’t get that from his first chapter, which talked about the writer, the recipients and the message of the book.

Wiersbe apparently doesn’t believe that “apostles” exist today.  I’m not sure I agree with that.  I believe that in some form, the fivefold gifts commonly called APTEP — apostle, pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet — are still resident with members of your congregation and my congregation.  Michael Frost boldly suggests that every one of us have degrees of that gifting, but that God has placed at least “one of each” in any body.

But it’s important that I don’t allow my difference with Wiersbe on this — and I’m sure there would be other things — to block me from receiving the other wonderful things he says in this opening chapter.   His foundational chapter on I Peter gives the reader an appetite for the rest of the epistle.

Warren Wiersbe has a number of commentaries that all begin with the word “be.”  The list below begins with the  list from Wikipedia, the ones I’ve added at the end (without dates) are just a few I collected tonight. I offer it to you as good start if you’ve never read or purchased a commentary on an individual book of the Bible.   You’ll see why these are called “The Bees” by some people:

  • Be real (1972) – I John
  • Be successful – 1 Samuel (1973)
  • Be joyful; a practical study of Philippians (1974)
  • Be free : an expository study of Galatians (1975)
  • Be rich : are you losing the things that money can’t buy? : An expository study of the Epistle to the Ephesians (1976)
  • Be right : an expository study of Romans (1977)
  • Be mature : an expository study of the Epistle of James (1978)
  • Be ready (1979) I & II Thessalonians
  • Be complete (1981)  Colossians
  • Be faithful : it’s always too soon to quit! : an expository study of the Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (1981)
  • Be Challenged (1982)
  • Be Confident : an expository study of the Epistle to the Hebrews (1982)
  • Be Hopeful (1982) I Peter
  • Be Wise : an expository study of 1 Corinthians (1983)
  • Be Alert (1984) II Peter, II & III John, Jude
  • Be victorious (1985) Revelation
  • Be Compassionate (1988) Luke 1-13
  • Be Patient : an Old Testament Study – Job (1991)
  • Be Comforted : Feeling Secure in the Arms of God : an Old Testament study Isaiah (1992)
  • Be Obedient: Abraham (1992)
  • Be Distinct – II Kings, II Chronicles
  • Be Holy   – Leviticus
  • Be Available – Judges
  • Be Restored – II Samuel, I Chronicles
  • Be Committed – Ruth and Esther
  • Be Alive – John 1-13
  • Be Transformed  – John 13-21
  • Be Encouraged – II Corinthians
  • Be Reverent –  Ezekiel
  • Be Counted – Numbers
  • Be Heroic – minor prophets
  • Be Delivered – Exodus
  • Be Responsible – I Kings
  • Be Equipped – Deuteronomy

That is quite a lifetime of work, isn’t it?

There are also other series, such as The Life Application Commentaries, and The Bible Speaks Today series, which don’t require you to know Greek or Hebrew; other series such as The Tyndale Commentaries contain some “textual criticism,” which gets into translation issues.

…Christianity 201’s motto is “Digging a little Deeper.”  I hope tonight’s “random notes” have encouraged you to do just that.

March 20, 2011


I always hated to study.  My study habits in high school weren’t great, despite some great academic coaching, and how I got through university is anyone’s guess.

So I have a natural aversion to the term “Bible study,” as it suggests someone staying up late in the dorm under a study lamp, cramming in order to pass some test; when instead, we should she shared times in God’s word as more of a feast, or a banquet.   I don’t want to communicate the idea that something that is designed to be joy-filled is actually ardous labor.

So the verse I learned as a kid,

Study to show thyself approved onto God…

Is fortunately translated differently in newer translations:

(NIV) II Tim 2: 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

(The Message) II Tim 2:15Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple.

(NASB) II Tim 2:15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

(NLT) II Tim 2:15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

Do your best… concentrate… be diligent… work hard.  No late nights with the study lamp burning! It’s not about cramming to pass a test, it’s about living a life!

Now having said all that, this does not diminish the responsibility of the Christ follower to, for lack of a better word, study the Bible.

I recently dialogued with a young woman who, after a year of Bible college was unfamiliar with a Bible concordance.  This is a basic reference tool that, while not necessary for admission to heaven, is one that should form part of your personal library at some point.  Of course, it’s functionality is also available online through sites such as Bible Gateway.

This morning a visiting pastor shared with me this quotation, “Evangelicals are people who know more than they do;” which he attributed to Canadian church leader Brian Stiller.  We don’t want to just fill up with head-knowledge, we need to find ways to put feet to our faith.  But the quotation also implies that historically, we have been people who knew their Bibles.   The term “Methodist” actually refers to a group of people who had a methodical way of studying the scriptures.   The Bereans are held up in Acts as an example of a group who studied the sacred texts with great diligence.

Wanna dig a little deeper?

One way to start is to carefully examine related books:

  • Compare the ‘fatherly’ advice in Proverbs with the New Testament proverbs in the book of James…
  • Study the book of Acts in such a way that you break out into Paul’s epistles to the different churches mentioned in the last two-thirds of Acts…
  • Compare the end-time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation with the things Jesus said about the end times in Matthew…
  • Study the passages in the gospels which are present with all four writers, and then take a contrasting look at the ones that are unique to particular books, especially the gospel of John…
  • Using a concordance, and several different translations, do a word study on a particular theme or idea in scripture…
  • Read books that deal with the “hard sayings” or “difficult passages” of scripture and try to figure out, based on all your other readings, where you stand on these sometimes-labeled “issues”…
  • Here’s a fun one:  You have a blog consisting entirely of scripture passages copied and pasted from an online site.  (Not very challenging so far, right?)  Now, your job each day before you post something is to come up with the post tags, those little one-word things that would bring readers to your page.  How you would tag the various sections is indicative of what you’re seeing in each individual section…
  • The above is very close to something called inductive Bible study.  For this you you make a hard copy (photocopy) of a Bible passage and using a technique practiced by Kay Arthur and others you underline, circle and highlight key words and phrases.  It slows you down and forces you to really consider what the passage is saying…
  • Buy a commentary on a particular book of the Bible and get into depth with the Bible scholar(s) who wrote it.  If you don’t know Greek or Hebrew, get help picking out one that doesn’t go deep into what’s called ‘textual criticism’ and just get one that’s devotional or more user-friendly.  I can’t really list series here because some involve different writers who dig deeper in varying degrees.  So have someone qualified — ideally in a Christian bookstore, not online — help you make that choice.
  • Do a study on the theology of the hymns.  Many contain multiple allusions to scripture, and some hymnbooks have a key verse on the page to help you get started.  Some of the modern choruses also contain a similar depth.

Hope these ideas propel you to greater love for God’s word.

April 7, 2010

I’m Not The Same Person That I Used To Be

There’s a song we sang at camp a lot of years ago:

Little by little, every day
Little by little in every way
My Jesus is changing me

Since I made a turnabout face
I’ve been growing in His grace
My Jesus is changing me

He’s changing me, my precious Jesus
I’m not the same person that I used to be

Sometimes it’s slow going
But there’s a knowing
That someday, perfect I will be

If you walk up to someone and they say, “Hey, you haven’t changed a bit;” and you’re a Christian and they’re not talking about physical appearance like your hair color or your weight; then something is seriously wrong.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New Living Translation):
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Breaking it down by subjects, as on a child’s report card, it might look like this, with two subjects:

2 Peter 3:18 (New Living Translation):
18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I gotta be honest; some days I do well in the knowledge department and not so well in the grace department. But there are days where the reverse is true as well.

Need a more complex report card with more than just two subjects? Here’s the Christianity 201 version:

Colossians 1:9-12 (New Living Translation)
9 … We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father…

Here’s to change; personal change that you know inwardly and others see outwardly.

Thanks for inspiration for this, Rick Apperson. Click over to Rick’s blog to continue this theme…