Saturday, May 30, 2020

Video: Your Word is my Refuge

The Big Idea: Psalm 119, a great passage about God's Word, encourages us to shelter in Him. 

Stay at Home, stay in the Word!

You are my refuge and my shield;
    your word is my source of hope.

Psalm 119:114 (NLT)

Psalm 119 is one of the greatest passages in the Bible about the Word of God. It is exactly at the center of the Bible. It has 167 verses, which are in 22 stanzas. Each stanza starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And every single verse makes references to the Word of God. Sometimes it is called "Your Word." But other times it says your commands, your statutes, your laws, your instruction, etc. 

Several verses talk about God as our refuge, our protector. And with that, God's Word gives us hope. I have been meditating these days on refuge. I am reminded of a time about 15 years ago when I had a chance to attend a couple retreats at a silent order Monastery. Monastery of the Holy Spirit, in Conyers, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. Listen to my Video Blog to hear about the light it shed into my life. 

Up Next: The S.O.A.P. method of Bible Study

Previous Post: Why use a study Bible?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Why use a Study Bible?

The Big Idea: Study Bibles have a lot of tools to enhance your study of the Bible but there are many to choose from. 

I spy a Study Bible!

As of today Christian Book Distributer's website has 2,439 different kinds of Study Bibles. Granted many of them are multiples of the same Bible, with various covers. Black or brown leather, soft cover or hard cover, etc. Some vary mainly as being marketed to men or women. And some vary in being King James or New International Version. Or another version. But they have almost identical Bible helps content for the same kind of Study Bible.

Perhaps this is you.  "What is a study Bible and why should I have one? I use my YouVersion Bible App all the time."

Perhaps you have three or four Study Bibles to your name. You like the content unique to each one.

You can get all kinds of Study Bibles. Geared for men. For women. For teens. For teen boys. For teen girls. For professionals. Large Print. Pocket sized. Some are in the English Standard Version. Some in the New American Standard Bible. Some in Today's Living Version. And more.

If you wonder about the variety, here are some samples!

Apologetics Study Bible - for one who wants a defense of the Faith
Life Application Study Bible - notes on difficult passages, Bible life and times, and questions of application. This is so chock full of information it is one of the best selling Study Bibles.

Key Word Study Bible - Key Bible Words from Hebrew and Greek noted and explained.
Thompson Chain Reference Bible - over 8000 topics chained together, and cross references. A series that has been around for a while and is much beloved.
Rainbow Study Bible - uses color coding for themes throughout the Bible.
Complete Jewish Study Bible - For both Jewish and non Jewish people alike with explanations of Judaism to add to understanding of the background of the Bible.

Aside from it being a very heavy book to carry around, often with over 1000 pages, there are so many tools available to you through your Study Bible. Before you go out to buy one, check out this list of what many include. Then look around and compare the difference in them and what you think might be helpful.

Study Bible Tools

Articles and photos. Many Study Bibles have articles on hard to understand subjects, or on key words, main characters in the Bible, archeological findings, and so on. Each Bible is different as to what they offer.  Some have photos too, of Bible Lands, or plants mentioned in the Bible, and so on.

Book Introduction and outline.  Almost all Study Bibles have an introduction of each book of the Bible, giving background, authorship, time reference, intended audience and themes. Many add key verse and an outline of the book.

Concordance. A concordance is an alphabetical listing of words or phrases used throughout the Bible. There are listing where the word or idea is used. Strong's Exhaustive concordance is a tome in itself that has every word of the Bible ever mentioned, and where it is found. The concordance at the back of a study Bible cannot be that exhaustive, but what is there is helpful when you are studying.

Cross References. Cross references in the margins will tie together verses from other parts of the Bible. This is especially helpful when a fulfillment of prophecy is mentioned and it is linked to the Old Testament source of origin. Some Bibles have very few cross references, and others like the Scofield or Thompson Chain Bible will have quite a few.

Scofield Study Bible 1917

You can see in this photo how a verse has a little letter next to it. You will find the corresponding cross reference verse in the middle column. 

Devotional thought. Some Bibles feature special devotionals or small articles to give insight to the Christian life. Women's Bibles are specific to women's concerns. A Military Bible will have devotional thoughts for those in the Armed Forces. Sometimes one Bible teacher will have his or her teachings through the whole Bible, such as the Dr. David Jeremiah Study Bible, or the Pursuit of God A.W. Tozer Study Bible.

Maps and charts.  Most Study Bibles have key maps for Biblical Periods. These are usually dispersed throughout the Bible. For instance, a map of the Apostle Paul's missionary journeys would most likely be among the Epistles written by the Apostle Paul. There may be a chart for the Life of Paul. Each study Bible is different in what subjects it expounds on, but you should look for a study Bible based on the resources it has.  There is always an index, usually at the beginning, of where those maps and charts are located. 

Study notes/textual remarks/commentary. Most study Bibles have comments that accompany multiple verses, on the bottom of the page. Some are textual references for clarification. Some may have a full blown commentary available, such as the Matthew Henry Study Bible.
Scofield Study Bible 1917

Practical considerations

Since a study Bible may be a heavy large book, you might want it mainly for your home study and use your electronic Bible when you go to church or Bible Study. Or you may want to mark up your Bible on the passage your pastor is preaching from to help you remember what you are learning.

In the old days, Family Bibles were historical documents that recorded the family births, marriages and deaths. Over time I hope you will find that your go-to Study Bible will be a sort of spiritual time capsule for you. You can mark a date that a passage really spoke to you and changed your life. You can mark up passages you have studied heavily with different colors. 

The Bible will help you remember favorite passages, and passages you want to share with others. As your Bible gets more and more worn, you will know that the Word of God is being used and changing your life. Beware of marking your Bible with a pen if you have the very thin leaves in it. Ball point pen will bleed through over time. Archival quality pens are ideal for that. Having the thin leaves is helpful to make the book less heavy, but the pages can also tear easily. These are a few things to consider.

A really good study Bible, especially if you get it in leather, can be a very expensive purchase. They can be from $20-$95 or more. There are a couple of options for you to get a nice study Bible more reasonably. Though you may not find it in the translation you had hoped for.  Yet the reference tools therein are valuable for you have access to. If you have an Ollie's Bargain Outlet near you, they often have a good supply of Bibles, including Study Bibles.  Also thrift shops and garage sales might have one you run across. Our daughter recently got 2 very nice Study Bibles for $1 each at our local library book sale.  All in near new condition.  

Now you might find it sad to find a Bible at a Thrift shop or garage sale. However, imagine someone being awarded one in Sunday School or at a conference, or gifted with one for Graduation or Christmas. But they already have their own Bible they are familiar with and use all the time, so they lighten their shelf and give it away. My husband and I have sometimes obtained an extra Bible at a bargain price. We knew we did not need it, but we knew we will find someone who will. We get it and we pray over them. Our give-away Bibles always find a home.

One more tip. Sometimes a publisher will offer an e-Study Bible for the kindle for free on for Kindle. I have about 5 study Bibles available for my kindle that way. You need to look for them under Kindle Bibles time to time and snatch them when you see them. 

We are so privileged to be able to have the Bible in our language. There are still thousands of people groups around the world who do not have that yet. And we have many different translations available to us. And we can read. In the day of King David and Paul the Apostle, the literacy rate was much lower than it is in America today. Let us not take this for granted. Get one of these tools, the Study Bible, and begin to investigate the depths of what is in God's Word. It is valuable for your life and godliness. They are the very words of God intended for YOU!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Animation: What is Inductive Bible Study?

The Big Idea: A short video explaining the basics of Inductive Bible Study. 

An introduction to Inductive Bible Study

Have you heard the phrase bounced around, "Inductive Bible Study?" Does it sound time consuming and daunting? Only for experienced Christians or Clergy? 
No! Even in a short period of time each day you can apply inductive methods to a verse or passage of Scripture by delving deeper, more slowly, into a passage. Watch this 5 minute video to see how this might work for you. 

Inductive Bible Study templates for taking notes.

You can find plans and even templates on Pinterest. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Personal Bible Study Methods

The big idea: Even if you are new to the Bible you should not be afraid to read the Bible on your own. 

Why study the Bible for Yourself?

God's Word, the Bible, is like spiritual food to build us up spiritually. (Matthew 4:4). You eat every day, and you should eat what is good for you! The Bible is important for us to take and digest. It will make us stronger and build us up.

It is very helpful to read inspirational books written by strong Christians who teach us through their writings. But it is important to be in church and hear pastoral teaching regularly. It is great to join a Bible study or Sunday School class and learn with others. In addition to being a part of a body of Christians (the church), and reading good stuff about the Bible and about God, it is extremely important for each Christian to intake and digest God's Word for themselves.

Don't be afraid to read the Bible on your own

Don't be afraid to read the Bible on your own and ask yourself what it means for you today. You have the Holy Spirit who promised to guide us in the Word of God. But don't isolate and read a verse here and there and build your life on a few snippets of the Bible. We need the Holy Spirit to work in us through other Christians, and have them and the Bible to be in sync. Though our studies might be private, like a personal cup of coffee with Jesus, we are part of something bigger, the Church of believers in Jesus.

There are a number of ways one can study the Bible. Of course there are lots of devotional books that explain an aspect of a verse to you, like "Our Daily Bread," and Bible study guides you can follow with or without homework each day.

But the absolute joy of discovering the Bible speaks to YOU, in personal time reflecting with God will bring you closer to Him and give you great satisfaction. Some will find one method works for them and they stick with it their whole life. Some get bored with just one method and it may be helpful to mix it up.

How should you begin?

  • Have a Bible/Bible app, paper and pen.
  • Find a place where you can focus.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Types of Personal Study

A. Read a small section of the Bible.

There are several ways you can approach this.
  • Read a chapter each week. Read it every day for the week in a different translation.
  • Read a paragraph. The next day read the next paragraph. Compare/contrast. Chart it.
  • Read a verse. Study one verse each day, reading carefully, slowly, out loud, write it.
  • Read a passage till something jumps out at you. Meditate on that thought.
  • Read the Bible through. Or the New Testament, the Gospels or the Psalms. You will get an overview of themes and principles.
Each of these methods, involves reading repetitively, and taking time to meditate on it. You may want to chart it or diagram something.

Ask yourself

  • What is the passage saying? Who? What? When? Where? How?
  • What is the passage saying to me? How can I apply it to my life?

Here is a good article about these various methods.

B. Focus on one idea in the Bible

Again, there are several ways you can approach it. This method is greatly helped by using a concordance or word search in your Bible App.

· A character study. Choose a character (i.e. Samuel). Check each time he is mentioned in the Bible. Chart his life. Ask what are lessons of what to do or not to do like him? Qualities?

· A word study. Choose a subject such as joy, or peace. Follow it through the Bible. Is it more in the Old Testament or New Testament? What do you observe in the verses? Patterns?

· A topical study. Choose a topic like prayer, or marriage and see how it plays out in the Bible. This is an expansion of the Word Study. Ask what we can learn and apply? Many books and Bible studies are written on topics. But they are harder to do as an in depth study through the Bible. Additionally it can be tempting to focus only on your topic of interest all the time and you may miss something else God wants to teach you.

C. Inductive Bible Study

Studying the Bible methodically, slowly, in detail, piecing together the whole. This method can be as simple or complex as you are comfortable. This method needs a notebook. You can find journal pages free online. Pinterest has a lot of them. Take a verse, paragraph or chapter and your journal/notebook.

SOAP Method
  • Scripture
  • Observe
  • Apply
  • Pray

ACTS Method

  • Ask God
  • Chapter reading
  • Think about the chapter
  • Scripture verse to write down that stands out to you

APPLE Method. Read the passage and ask yourself what you see.

  • Attributes of God
  • Promises of God
  • Principles for life
  • Lessons learned or sins to avoid
  • Example to follow

Inductive investigation
  • Observation
  • Investigation
  • Application
I like the worksheet from as it is very simple and easy to reproduce daily. You can also just write each category in your journal.

Organizations with resources to help you in Inductive Bible Study

Precept Bible Studies with Kay Arthur. I think no organization does a better job producing Inductive Bible study guides, tools, and methods. This organization has special training for their most in-depth study guides, for each book of the Bible, called "Precept upon Precept." I have been trained in it and love it. But it is a very time consuming way to study the Bible. You need to commit an hour a day to study. There are shorter study versions that are excellent too. Precept Bible Studies uses colored pencils to mark the Bible. Their detailed studies guide you to learn on your own, and take you methodically through the process. They provide worksheets for each chapter of the Bible for your to mark up and put in a binder. Or you can buy one of their Bibles specifically made for this.

· Intervarsity Christian Fellowship has a ministry to various groups. Their campus ministry was foundational in my life when I was a college student and that was where I learned about Inductive Bible Study for the first time. Their hallmark is a presentation of God's Word that is founded on careful study. They do not shirk from the tough questions.

· The Navigators also have tools for Inductive Bible Study. They have a wonderful College Campus ministry and ministry to Military organizations. My father came to a personal walk with Christ and growth in the Lord when he was in the Navy through this organization. Their hallmark is discipling people to walk with God in what they call "Life to Life Discipleship."

Diane Reading a Family Bible

A Foundation for your Faith

When I left college and went to seminary, I was shocked to discover that personal Bible study by the inductive method was not taught, nor did many seem to know how to do it. Of course seminary was designed to teach Bible background, Church History, how to use tools with the original languages of the Scriptures, and how to communicate the Bible clearly in ministry. While my school encouraged a wonderful deeper life with Jesus, and great tools for my life of teaching God's Word, my training in Inductive Bible Study has been foundational.

May this overview of Bible Study methods encourage you to choose a way to sit down with your Bible and notebook, pray and open the Word of God to your life.


Up Next: What is Inductive Bible Study - animation
Previous Post: God's Word is for YOU


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Video: God's Word is for YOU! (Nehemiah 8:8)

God's Word: Applicable for ALL!

Nehemiah 8:8 (NIV)
"They read from the book of the Law, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being said."

This little gem of a verse is very meaningful when you see the context!  It shows us that God's Word is even more valuable when it is explained by teachers. We can also deduce from this that the Bible is to be understood in your own language, and your own context. A biblical passage from the Old Testament (444 BC) before Christ was even born is able to be applied to my daily life and yours. 

What really excites me about this verse is that God's Word was "made clear."  When you go to the original Hebrew text (you can find it in a Strong's Concordance), you see that the word used there can be translated "translated." In fact it is good to compare Bible translations, and you will see that the New New American Standard Bible uses this word. Some other Bible translations use the term "distictly." This is because the word in Hebrew means to slice and dice,  and make the meaning clear and distinct. It also applies to translation. 

Having worked at Bible Institute for pastoral training in West Africa for ten years, I found a clear understanding of God's Word, the culture of the Bible, and the culture it is applied to, to be important pieces to share about God. We as American international workers, in Jesus' name, must be very clear to not bring an American form of the Gospel or have it perceived as a white man's God. The Bible was not written in America! It came from  Middle Eastern context over a period of 1400 years. It is in sync as for Biblical thought and teaching about God, from one era of Bible times to another. It is applicable to every man and woman, every child, and every tribe and nation in it's own time, because our God transcends time and places and wants to reach out for a relationship with all people!  It is thrilling to explain the Bible to people and see the light come on because God reaches into their individual circunstance and touches their life.

May you look at the Bible in a fresh way today. Ask God to give you wisdom for today, for whatever is your life situation. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Video: God's Word: So inspiring! (2 Peter 1: 20-21)

The Very Words of God: In Sync! 

2 Peter 1: 20-21 (NLT)

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet's own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

Can we trust God's Word? Is it only a bunch of mish mashed pieces of words from contemplative old men of antiquity that got strung together for good advice? 

The Word of God is not just a bunch of wise sayings. It is the very word of God. The Holy Spirit moved men of God, men who heard the whisper of God in their ears, their heart, and their very soul to write down their story, and what God had for His people to know. He used these people to write down words that are surprizingly in sync with each other through centuries and across cultures.

The Bible was written over a period of 1400 years with over 40 different authors who came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were prophets and priests. But others came from a background like a tax collector, a doctor, shepherds and more! 

See how this process is decribed in 2 Peter 1:20-21.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Bible: Where do I start?

Diane is grinning, carrying a stack of heavy Bibles.

The Big Idea: If you are new to studying the Bible, here are some pointers about how to start reading it. 

The Bible is a big heavy book that can weigh a lot. The issues discussed are weighty too. Let's face it. There are things in the Bible that are confusing: those verses that stump you, those verses that, well, you aren't even sure what they are talking about. Or perhaps you are using a version of the Bible that sounds like Shakespeare. It doesn't sound the way people talk anymore. Is that how God talks?

A few pointers

Don't give up. The Bible is a huge library about God. It is made up of 66 different books, split into the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is relevant for every day we live, with advice for our problems and relationships giving us values, attitudes, illustrations of every kind of emotion you can imagine. Most importantly, it shows us how to know God, our creator and the way to live with Him forever after you leave this world. 

 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 New Living Translation (NLT)

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.
And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  John 6:63 New Living Translation (NLT)

Read a version you understand

 If you are brand new to Bible study this is especially important. There are a lot of different versions of the Bible now. Some are intended for an international audience. Some are designed to be an informal understandable language. Some are focused on accuracy to the original ancient languages of which the Bible was written (mostly Hebrews and Greek). Because of electronic versions online, it is very easy to try out different versions If you want a version that is very easy to read and quite accurate, check out the New Living Translation (NLT). If you wish to have a very accurate translation, try the English Standard Version (ESV) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Here is a good guide from the American Bible Society

Here is a more detailed discussion about how multiple translations developed and what their differences are.

Ask the Holy Spirit for help

One of the Holy Spirit's purposes is to help us understand the Bible and the things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10 (NLT) tells us It was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom each time you read the Bible. Ask him to reveal the meaning, the truth of God and his Word, to you.

Start here...

If you are just beginning and don't know much about the Christian walk, a very good place to begin is the Gospel of John. Any of the four Gospels are great because they tell us the story of the life of Jesus on earth. John is a particularly good book because it explains the story and explains well Jesus' mission on earth. On the Christian life, my favorite book is Philippiens. It has a theme of joy, even in the middle of severe hardship.

Many who have been Christians for a long time have a favorite book of the Bible. If you are new, you might want to ask an experienced Christian what is their favorite book of the Bible. What is their favorite verse and why?

Mark up your Bible

Cheat sheet of colors and symbols for different topics in the Bible
If you have a paper bound Bible learn to write in it. Underline favorite verses. Mark a verse that changed your life or really spoke to you. You can put the date there, or the name of the Pastor who preached on that verse.

  • It will be easier to find verses you want to remember.
  • It will be easier to share a verse or passage with a friend.
  • It will help you remember important lessons.
  • It will help organize and categorize what you've learned.
  • It will be a journal type record of what God has taught you.
Avoid ballpoint pens as they tend to bleed over time. You might find it useful to have a color code and use colored pencils. This is what I did with my first serious Bible I received for Christmas when I was 16 ... I underlined verses about Salvation in green. Black indicated sin. Pink was the Christian life. You could use whatever color you want. This is your Bible, and your tools. I used symbols for topics as well. Here is the page of codes from that Bible from the 70s, and a page from that Bible.

I got a lot of great training for Bible reading on a summer mission trip when I was 16. The organization, called Teen Missions, International , created this guide for studying the Bible and I made the markings my own. Used with permission.

Teen Missions Intl information sheets for marking the Bible.

Your daily bite

Yes, I said bite. That's a good way to start if the task seems overwhelming. The Bible is food for your soul, for your Christian life. The Bible makes the analogy that God's Word is like food. Jesus quoted the Old Testament when he said, " The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ " Matthew 4:4 (NLT) (quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

Just as you would eat food every day, read something from the Bible every day. You may say:

It's hard to imagine it.
It could be boring.
I don't have the time.
Maybe I won't understand anything. First things first. Pray before you read, asking for God to teach you.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16 New Living Translation (NLT)

When I was a teen at a Bible Camp, the speaker challenged us to start reading the Bible every day. At the least, he said, commit to read one verse a day. If you read more, great. If not, at least you are reading God's Word. In one year you will find that this has changed your life. I took that challenge. I started with one verse a day. But the funny thing was, as time went on I developed a hunger for what the Bible said. I started gobbling it up like a kid eating their favorite ice cream every day. It did change my life. My parents saw the hunger and bought me that Christmas Bible. I decided to go on a mission trip for teenagers. That trip too, changed my life.

It's OK to start reading one verse a day. Maybe, just maybe, you'll get hungry for more!

Diane is reading her first Living Bible, now falling apart.

Up Next: God's Word! So Inspiring!

Previous Post: Be a Scripture Spy!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Video: Be a Scripture Spy! Get into God's Word

Get into God's Word: Be a Scripture Spy!

Hebrews 4: 12 (NLT)
   For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Get into God's Word and it will really get into you! This verse reveals how powerful God's Word, the Bible, is for our everyday life. It is alive, piercing, and effects us deep into our private thoughts.

This video is a wonderful passage about the Word of God and a great introduction to being a Scripture Spy.