Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Why Read Through the Whole Bible?

The Big Idea: Reading through the Bible in a year will give you perspective of God at work.

“Daddy, could I read the Bible through in a year, too?”

I was probably about eight years old. My father made a reading program before it was in vogue for the church to read the Bible through in a year.  Our pastor requested he make bookmarks of his reading plan and pass them around at the New Years Eve service. My father loved the Bible and wanted it to be a relevant part of people’s lives.


Why Should I Read the Whole Thing?

Reading the whole Bible through helps to see the big picture. We tend to go to our favorite places but the whole of Scripture is from the Lord. 

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 (NLT)

Have you used Google Map to find someplace and then decided to click on the satellite view? It explains a few things like why a road curves (mountain) or why the street dead ends (river). The bird’s eye view helps us get a better perspective.

So why read the entire Bible through?

  • It gives a clearer view of God and the Bible story.
  • It shows God’s bigger plan of Salvation.
  • It provides background material for characters referred to in the New Testament.
  • It gives fresh insight who God is and His love in a different context.
  • It keeps us balanced in our Christian life rather than have our hobby horses.

At Least Try

I’m embarrassed to admit it has been twenty plus years since I read the Bible through. In 2021 I decided I would. But 2021 has been an intense year health-wise for me.  I didn’t start it till March. I realized I just needed to start and then do the best I can. I am currently in Jeremiah. I tell you this goal adaption because sometimes we quit and don’t start again. We feel defeated. An amended plan is still a plan! I am still getting in to God’s Word! I plan to finish reading the Bible in 2022.


Then and Now

When my father created his program in the 1960s, we knew no other plan. Today so many are out there it can be overwhelming. There are a few things you can do to search for a plan.

  • One of my favorites is the Bible Project plan. An option is to listen to the audio daily.
  • Or check the many plans at and choose one (the Bible Project one is there too)
  • Follow a plan that your church may be using. Doing it as a group provides great support.

 Don’t give up, and don’t settle for doing it just once. My dad read a different version each year and said it was always fresh and new to him!


Up next: What Does Timeless Truth Mean?

Previous post: Shine: The Christ Candle

Note: We have been in the process of going through a Practical Starter Guide of Inductive Bible Study. We will resume this series in January.



1. Have you ever tried to read the Bible all the way through? Did you make it? If not, what happened and what might help you follow through?

2. What do you think might be useful in reading the whole Bible?

3. Take a moment to pray about your time in the Word this year. Ask for God’s help and His guidance. As Him to help you stick with it even if you fall behind.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Shine: The Christ Candle

The Big Idea: About the fifth Advent candle, called the Christ Candle, focusing on Jesus as the light that has come into the world.


The Last Candle

The Christ Candle is lit last. Advent guides us to anticipate Him. A child gets excited for Christmas day to open presents. Advent gets us excited to celebrate His arrival into the world.

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 (NKJV)

The Christ Candle is in the center. The reason for the season is Jesus. He is central to the story. He is the essential perfect One. God exalts Him above all for His willingness for this earthly mission. He is central and best for us when placed at the center of our life.

After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross. Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name. Philippians 2:8-9 (NLT)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; Revelation 7:17 (NIV)

The Christ Candle is white for purity. Jesus represents the spotless Passover lamb, the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is our Passover lamb, absolute perfect sacrifice once and for all!

For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)

The Christ Candle shines brightest in the dark. I love lighting the candles best at night. It is brightest against a dark backdrop. Jesus brought light into the world. He lights our darkness, chasing away the shadows of doubt, fear and oppression.

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. John 12: 46 (NLT)

The Christ Candle shines together with all the other candles on the Advent wreath. Everything is created by Him and for Him, the Ultimate One worthy of all our praise.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. Colossians 1:16-17a

Shine in the Darkness

He came shine as a light in this world. We reflect Him. Others see Him through us. Our world is so ridden with darkness. May His light shine through you this Christmas.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)

He has come. Blessed Christmas!


Up next: Why Read Through the Whole Bible This Year?

Previous post: Angel Tracking: The Angel's Candle

Note: We have been in the process of going through a Practical Starter Guide of Inductive Bible Study. We will resume this series in January.



1. What darkness is around you right now? Is it the cultural climate? A family situation? A work situation? Consider God sent Jesus to light the darkness. How might this make a difference in your darkness?

2. Take a moment and reflect on Jesus as light to your soul.

3. Reflect on the light of Jesus in YOU. How do you reflect Him?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Angel Tracking: The Angel's Candle


The Big Idea: About the fourth Advent candle, the Angel’s Candle, focusing on the role of angels in the story of Jesus birth.

Angel Tracking

How do you picture an angel? A cute little cherub? A man in white with feathery wings?  A figurine at Grandmother’s house? The Bible tells us little about angel appearance. They are neither man nor woman and without age. Imperfect ideas of angels abound. They don’t earn their wings as the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” implies.

Angels are heavenly spirit beings mentioned close to 300 times in the Bible. God created them to serve Him. 

Find the Angel

Angels have numerous roles in the Bible, such as protection, guarding, and serving. The Biblical word  “angel” means “messenger.” Angels play this role in the Christmas story.

  • An angel informed Zachariah he’d become the father of John the Baptist to direct people to the Messiah (Luke 1: 11-19).
  • An angel told Mary she was favored of God and how Jesus would be conceived in her (Luke 1:26-38).
  • An angel reassured Joseph (Matthew 1:24-26) that Mary was  pregnant by the Holy Spirit not by another man, to care for Jesus and what to name Him.
  • An angel told the shepherds of Jesus’ amazing birth and how to find Him (Luke 2:9-15).
  • An angel warned Joseph in a dream to go to Egypt for Jesus’ life was in danger (Matthew 2:13)
  • After the threat subsided an angel advised Joseph in a dream to return safely to Israel (Matthew 2: 19-20)

Angels spoke on God’s behalf; special messengers with a specific message. Angels on track with God.

Advent, means “coming. ” This fourth week, reflect on angel involvement. The key word is peace, likly from the praise anthem preformed by a huge heavenly choir to the shepherds in Bethlehem. They proclaimed,

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14 (NLT)

Tracking Angels

Angels are mysterious creatures. Curiosity pricks at us. Some apply more faith and energy into angel worship than in God. While true today, it was also true in Bible times. Jews in antiquity gave different names to angels, assigning specific powers to them. In this climate the author of the book of Hebrews reminded Christians of Jewish background that Jesus is greater than the angels (Hebrews 1:4-7).

Angels  perform a vital service. They are servants of the Most High; servants of Jesus Himself! At Jesus’ earthly arrival angels brought the word about the Word of God.  We can track these angels. Look closely at their messages. They remind us that God is at work in the lives of Hi people, and of His loving care for them.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Levitical Shepherds: The Shepherd's Candle

The Big Idea: The third Advent candle called the Shepherd’s Candle focuses on the station of shepherds (likely Levitical Shepherds) and their joy and amazement learning about the Savior.

 Shepherds for Worship

Our son’s favorite Candid Camera stunt depicts bright college bound high school students told, “You have the aptitude to be a shepherd.”

Shocked and dismayed, one says “I don’t even like animals!”

“Are people still doing that?” another responds incredulously.

Shepherds herd smelly stubborn animals they are not always highly esteemed. Why did the angels visit shepherds one dark night in Bethlehem? God must enjoy juxtapositions. Consider the contrast of Jesus, King of kings, God Eternal born in a stable, not a palace. God loves people of all kinds: the godly, the wealthy, the prominent, the middle man, and the poor who are invisible and despised. He has a special place in His heart for the lowly ones. (Psalm 4:21, Psalm 138:6)


What’s a Levitical Shepherd?

The tribe of Levi, son of Jacob (Genesis), managed the tabernacle/temple and sacrificial worship. Aaron’s descendents (the brother of Moses) were the priests. The rest ran the upkeep and logistics of the sacrificial system. They work for worship, so that others can come to the temple and properly worship God.

Some Levites handled sacrificial animals and grain. Some kept and refilled oil lamps, overseeing the oil and incense supply. Some managed special clothing. Some washed bowls, knives tongs etc. This was their vocation. The tithe of the people of Israel cared for them and their families.

Bethlehem, about 5 miles from the temple in Jerusalem, was a site outside of the big city, to raise lambs for sacrifice. Scholar Alfred Aldersheim wrote a book, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883), researching Biblical and extrabiblical sources on this. Search Migdal Eder (Tower of the Flock). We cannot be 100% sure of this in Jesus’ period but it offers an interesting connection to these shepherds. Sacrificial bound lambs without blemish needed protection from cuts and injury in a rocky harsh land. It is suggested the new lambs were wrapped in strips of cloth (Swaddling clothes) and laid in feeding troughs (manger) to protect them (see articles below).

Great Joy

The shepherds were visited by an angel.

The angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 10-12 (NLT)

These shepherds, probably sleepy, cold and dirty were the first people chosen to meet the promised Messiah. If indeed they were Levitical shepherds, they knew the Messianic prophecies. They knew where birthing lambs were wrapped in swaddling cloth placed in a manger. Migdal Eder. They hurried to find Him (Luke 2:15). Imagine their wonder! They told everyone this story (Luke 2:18-19) and all who heard were astonished!

The pink candle lit on the third week of Advent is the candle of joy. I grow weary of TV news. I hunger for encouraging news. Reflect on the joy of our Savior (literally, our rescuer). It is good news indeed!

Useful articles:

About Those Shepherds

From the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

Edersheim on the Nativity of Jesus the Messiah

Scholars do not agree on the documentation and current lack of archeological evidence available but the suggestion of Levitical shepherds is compelling and plausible.


Up next: Angel Tracking: The Angel's Candle

Previous post: Notable Small Town Residents: The Bethlehem Candle

Note: We have been in the process of going through a Practical Starter Guide of Inductive Bible Study. We will resume this series in January.



1. Imagine yourself as a shepherd in the night watching sheep outdoors. What kind of conversations might you be having? What might you think about at night? What might be your hopes and dreams?

2. Imagine listening to the experience with the angels (Read Luke 2: 8-18). Why would you be afraid at first? Think carefully about what the angel says. Why is this good news? What would you as a shepherd feel. How do you feel about this declaration in your modern worldview?

3. Why is this about joy? Meditate on the angel's words.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Notable Small Town Residents : The Bethlehem Candle


The Big Idea: About the second Advent candle called the Bethlehem Candle, giving insights on the town where Jesus was born.

The Bethlehem Candle of Advent

We light the second Advent candle to remember Bethlehem, known for the birth of Jesus. Some small towns are known for a famous citizen. While living down south we visited Plaines, GA, home town of former President Jimmy Carter. He grew up there and now resides there. We visited his church one Sunday and met the Carters.

Bethlehem, famous for the birth of Christ, is also famous as King David’s hometown. The story of Ruth happened in Bethlehem. Ruth is King David’s great grandmother.

Read this prophecy for Jesus’ birth written by the prophet Micah.
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. Micah 5:2 (NASB)

This prophecy was pinpointed by scholars to King Herod when the wise men came looking for Jesus (Matthew 2:5-8).

What you may not know about Bethlehem

Mary and Joseph, descendants of David, went to a census with mandated registration in their hometown, Bethlehem. Since they lived in Nazareth it was a long trip to walk. Though now a bustling metropolis, Bethlehem was a small village at that time.

A couple of interesting notes about Bethlehem and Jesus’ birth. The name means “House of Bread.” Very interesting that He who calls Himself “The Bread of Life, ” (John 6:35) would be born there.

Bethlehem raised lambs birthed for Passover. A Passover lamb had to be one year old and in perfect condition without blemishes or injuries. So the lambs born there were treated very carefully. Newborn lambs were wrapped in cloth to guard from injury. The shepherds were probably Levitical shepherds. Curious that the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, Rev. 5:6) would be born there. Remarkable He was wrapped in swaddling cloth like the Passover Lambs. Also extraordinary Levitical shepherds were most likely those to whom the angels announced this glorious news (Luke 2:10-14). The Apostle Paul put Jesus’ sacrifice plainly. “Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us” I Corinthians 5:7b. (NLT)

The Bethlehem Candle represents where Jesus, King of Glory, took on human flesh and became a man who worked with His hands. This man, God made flesh, sacrificed Himself on the cross and rose victor over death. The Bethlehem candle is often called the Faith Candle. Faith in the Son of God is indeed our source of eternal life (Phil.2:6-8). This is so well explained in the familiar carol, “Hark the Harold Angels sing.”
Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem


Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of a virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the God-head see, hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel


Hail the heav'n born Prince of Peace, hail the Son of righteousness
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth


Up Next: Levitical Shepherds: The Shepherd's Candle

Previous post: What is Prophecy?

Note: We have been in the process of going through a Pratical Starter Guide of Inductive Bible Study. We will resume this series in January.



1. What image comes up for you reflecting on Jesus born in Bethlehem? Close your eyes and reflect what the town and manger looks like to you. Think of the smells, the sounds around you.

2. Have you ever thought of the baby Jesus as the one who died and rose again for your sins?

3. Bible study exercise: List ways how Jesus might be like a Passover lamb (metaphor) during His time on earth. Reflect on that.


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

What is Prophecy? The Prophecy Candle

 The Big Idea: An explanation of prophecy especially during Advent regarding the arrival of Jesus.

What is Prophecy?

Prophesy! Who hit you!” (Luke 22:64 HCSB) said Roman guards as Jesus was blindfolded and beaten before being hung on the cross.

People often consider prophecy in this way: as a foretelling of the future or as a special knowledge. These two verses reveal a lot about prophesy.

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. 2 Peter 1:20-21 NLT

Guidelines for Biblical Prophecy

  • Prophecy doesn’t come from a prophet’s own understanding.
  • God the Holy Spirit moved them what to write.
  • Prophets spoke from God.

Prophecy is a message from God revealed to us. It is God’s Word to us. God reaches out to us because of His desire to intimately connect with us.

The Prophecy Candle of Advent

The first candle on the advent wreath is called the Prophecy Candle. It reminds us of all the passages in the Old Testament that point to the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.

There are eight verses from the Old Testament that point to Jesus’ birth in the Matthew account alone. There are many more that foretell His life and death.

An Old Man's Joy

A beautiful story from the Gospel of Luke is recorded in Luke 2:25-35. A really good devoted follower of God named Simeon spent his elderly years in Jerusalem because God revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. He was moved to go to the temple courts at the same time that Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple. Simeon scooped the babe into his arms and began to praise God with words from Isaiah 40. Mary and Joseph were amazed! Prophecy in the Word of God spoke to him and the Holy Spirit moved him. That’s prophecy in action!

Advent is a Tool

Advent is a tool to remind us of His coming. In a very real way it is about not only His first coming as the incarnate baby in the manger, but also Jesus the glorious King who will return.

Check into the prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. His coming is more than coincidence. A great pamphlet from Rose Publishing, “100 Prophecies fulfilled by Jesus”is a great tool to study. Check out this blog from Focus on the Family too.

Dig into His amazing Word and enhance your anticipation for Christmas!


Up Next: Notable Small Town Residents: The Bethlehem Candle
Previous post: Advent Starter Kit

Note: We have been in the process of going through a Pratical Starter Guide of Inductive Bible Study. We will resume this series in January.


1. How would you describe prophecy? How do you feel about it? Does it assure you or is it a bit scary?

2. Do you think the verses could be construed as chance?

3. Why might it be it valuable to you to notice Old Testament prophecies in anticipating Christmas?

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Advent Starter Kit DIY

The Big Idea: How to personally start celebrating Advent at home the four weeks before Christmas.

Holidays seem to get introduced earlier and earlier each year.  My car radio played an all Christmas radio station mid-October!  This year Advent begins on November 28th. Advent occasionally kicks off in November (four Sundays before Christmas).

Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. Advent wreath are used in some churches. If you want to try it for yourself, here are some practical suggestions. It’s a great benefit to find practical ways to reflect on God’s Word and what really matters.


Why Advent Helps You Get Closer to God

Any tool that can help us focus on God’s great love for us through His living Word is gold! Advent is a Latin word meaning come/coming. It focuses on:

  • The coming of Jesus into the world. 
  • His second coming.

Though this tradition began in early church history it has helped many in our modern time find Peace in the holiday frenzy. It’s designed to lead our focus toward the spiritual wonder and joy of Christ.


What you need for your starter kit.

Five candles. 

  • Traditional- 3 are purple, one pink Some add a center white candle.
  • Optional- 4 red or green candles with a center white one.

Design from a wreath or circle. Advent holders are sold (optional). DIY guideline.You could take a Christmas wreath of almost any kind and place 4 candle holders on the inside or outside of the circle (or pillar candles). 

Find a simple devotional on Advent. Some follow a devotional thought through the first 24 days of December. Some light candles at Sunday dinner with the family and reflect on the theme of the week (see below). There are ways to incorporate Advent into activities with children!


Excellent Free 25 Day Devotionals

From John Piper. download the electronic one for free. Good News of Great Joy

From Stuart and Jill Briscoe. Meet Him at the Manger

CRU –sign up to receive. Making Jesus Your Solid Foundation

Billy Graham –sign up to receive. Arrival: Perparing to Celebrate Christ's Birth


Sunday themes:

1. First Sunday - The Prophecy Candle symbolizes hope. Throughout the Old Testament prophesies brought hope for the Messiah to bring something better.

2. Second Sunday – The Bethlehem Candle represents faith. The minor prophet Micah foretold Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. King David was also born there. It leads us to look to the king of Kings in faith.

3. Third Sunday – The Shepherd’s Candle stands for joy. The shepherds were told of this great joy for all peoples. This is the pink candle of joy.

4. Fourth Sunday – The Angel’s Candle is the candle of peace. They announced “Peace on earth, goodwill to all.”  Jesus brings people to God and brings people together. Reconciliation is peace.

5. Christmas Day – (Optional) The Christ Candle for light and purity lit on Christmas.  It is usually white.

“Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20


Up Next: What is Prophecy?
Previous post: Unravelling Figures of Speech in the Bible

Note: We have been in the process of going through a Pratical Starter Guide of Inductive Bible Study. We will resume this series in January.



1. Why do you need a focus of Jesus’ coming this year in December?

2. How might this be a teaching aid for you and your children?

3. What might you get out of this even if you miss a few days or a Sunday due to travel? (Hint- do what you can!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

IBS-23 Unraveling Figures of Speech: when not to take the Bible literally

The Big Idea: We believe the Bible is to be the literal word of God but what about figures of speech?

When not to take the Bible literally

I studied French for a year conversing, listening to television, reading the paper, etc. I heard a phrase about a moon of honey on the news. I was stupefied till I realized the story was about newlyweds. That idiom is also used in English!

As serious students of Scripture, we take the Bible at its word. It is not a fairy tale. Interpret it literally most of the time believing it is God’s Word to you. The Holy Spirit inspired writers (2 Peter 1:21) who wrote beautiful ancient literature, but no language is sterile. Figures of speech give it beauty and emphasis. Realize figures of speech paint a picture. Sometimes figurative words of another culture sound odd to us. Bible translators apply modern phrases to express the idea for us which explains the difference in comparing translations. Remember that the cohesiveness of the Bible remains in sync with the rest of it. No strange doctrine emerges from a sentence or verse that is counter to the rest of the Holy Word of God.

Figures of Speech

Figures of speech are words and phrases that express meaning that is not meant to be literal but rather descriptive. It is not intended to be misleading but rather to illustrate like a word picture. Examine this chart to see the more common figures of speech found in the Bible followed by an explanation and an example.

Figures of Speech in the Bible

Understanding these language variables help us interpret the Word of God better. It is not intended to be mysterious and hard to understand. The Bible is intended for us to learn how to live abundant life in Christ (John 10:10, Ephesians 3:20).


This is the twenty third in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next in the series: What Does Timeless Truth Mean?
Previous post: Strange Bible Verses



1. Do you enjoy idioms in your language? Does one make you laugh when you hear it? Do you have a story of a funny misunderstanding talking with someone who was foreign to your language?

2. What is a phrase in the Bible that sounds odd? What do you think it is really trying to say?

3. Does this blog on figurative speech give you comfort of more confusion to trust what the Bible says? Why or why not?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

IBS-22 Strange Bible Verses: writing styles in the Bible

The Big Idea:  Knowing the style of literature you are reading is useful to interpreting what the Bible says.

Writing Styles in the Bible

Thanks Cuyler Black!
Playing the popular game, Jeopardy, one chooses a category for a question. Players typically know some categories better than others.

You may favor a genre of books of Bible. Many spend more time in the New Testament reflecting on Jesus. I love the comfort of Poetry books (i.e. Psalms, Proverbs). Our son gravitates to Apocalyptic books (i.e. Daniel, Revelation). I asked him recently if that is because he enjoys Sci-fi. He says “I like to remember God wins in the end.”

Types of Biblical Literature

The Bible has sixty six books altogether, written between 1400-2000 years of time. Some are easier to read than others. It helps to understand what genre of literature you are reading. Reading a cookbook is different from reading a murder mystery novel or a textbook on history.

How are the books of the Bible categorized? They are categorized by their main writing style, though one book can have multiple styles in it.

History – Often written in a descriptive narrative style telling a story of what happened and what God did. Example: Acts of the Apostles.

Law – This writing sounds like a legal document, about worship procedures or a covenant relationship between God and man. Genealogies are in this category. Example: Leviticus.

Poetry and Wisdom – Descriptive creative writing. Ancient Middle Eastern poetry and wisdom literature doesn’t rhyme but it shows emotion and action more than a description. It gives advice comfort and/or warning. Example: Psalms.

Prophecy – Prophetic writing is a persuasive style. Prophets are the mouthpiece of God saying what God wants people to know. They remind or warn us of God’s guidelines. Sometimes comforting. Sometimes frightening. Example: Isaiah.

Gospel – The word Gospel means “good news.” The Gospels contain historical narrative to introduce and show Jesus’ life and ministry as good news to man. Example: Matthew

Letters – The New Testament letters written from spiritual leaders of the early church write to encourage those following Jesus. Their writings are expository. They are referred to as Epistles. Example: Philippians.

Apocalyptic – Similar to prophecy as it is a message from God to man with a future urgency regarding the last days on earth. It is marked by a lot of symbolism much like poetry. Example: Revelation.

Why Genre Matters

  • · Knowing the communication style of a confusing passage can bring clarity and peace. We don’t have to understand everything, but we can work with it.
  • · It helps us understand the original Biblical world and culture in which it was written as we seek its core timeless truths.
  • · We understand how two books different from each other may have similar themes.
  • · We appreciate the creativity and brilliance of God communicating through so many different authors and styles.
  • · We look at poetry and figurative apocalyptic literature to see beyond the imagery to the message.

I posted a blog last year on literary styles of the Old Testament. Check it out!
You might also find this video from The BibleProject helpful.


This is the twenty second in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents



1. Can you think of a saying or section of the Bible that seems odd to you? What is it? Does it help to know it might be poetic or an ancient storytelling style?

2. How might you seek to find out of which style a book of the Bible is written?

3. Have you considered praying to ask God for wisdom to find clarity to a confusing passage? Could you also talk it over with someone else who studies the Bible a lot? It is useful for us to talk together about His Word.

As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. Luke 24:14-15 NLT

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

IBS-21 Age to Age: Twelve Biblical Eras

 The Big Idea: Understanding the period of time and world situation helps us interpret the Bible

Know the Biblical Eras

There are seasons in life. College days. Newly married. Death of someone in a household. Senior living. There are seasons of a nation as well. A Hebrew word talks about time. עֵת It is often translated “time” or “times” but sometimes translated “seasons” and other words for time periods.

“My times are in Your hand.” Psalm 31:15a

History is often studied by periods of events/world leaders. The era of a Biblical book is effected by the period of time in history, which is important to Bible interpretation. For instance, the knowledge of Roman world domination is revealing to understanding the Gospels.


Twelve Biblical Eras

The Bible can be summarized by twelve general periods. Note geographic focus, world events/powers and Biblical focus during each period. Click and save this chart to photos or right click and download to save to examine and use later in your studies.

Right click and download to use this for your studies.
Copyright @ScriptureSpy

The Apostle Paul, in Athens, Greece addressed a group of Athenians (~55-60 A.D.) referencing an alter to an unknown God.

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

"God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31 NLT

God is at work

God is at work through the entire time frame. Sometimes astonishing is how our Sovereign God uses world powers and world events to work to accomplish His ultimate plan for His people. Enduring world powers, influences and difficulties through the ages of the Bible, God clearly works among His people for His purpose. In our world today take heart. God is not surprised at what is happening, nor is He wondering what to do. He is Lord!


This is the twenty-first in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
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Up next: Strange Bible Verses
Previous post: Maps, Timelines and Charts


1. Think about a distinct season of your life. Was it a difficult one? Tedious? One of great happiness? How long did it last?

2. In the passage from Acts 7:24-21 what do you learn about God? Make a list. How do you see God works in the world with a plan?

3. Reread Acts 7:30-31. What about your life? Have you turned to Him?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

IBS-20 Books with Pictures! Maps, timelines and charts


The Big Idea: Bible maps, timelines and charts reveal temporal and cultural information to aid interpretation of the Bible.

I like books with pictures!

I like books with pictures! I am a visual learner. Visual guides to the Bible have maps, timelines, charts and photos about Bible times. Understanding the land and era helps the interpretation process. Here are some resources available and how they can help.


1. Rivers, lakes, mountains. Shows why they went a certain route, why towns were in a certain location (water, trade route, etc). Ex. Route of the Exodus. Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee.

2. Country borders and territories in a given period. Illustrates shifting of territories in war, allocations to tribes of Israel, countries hostile to Israel, etc. Ex. The allocation of land to the twelve tribes. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Herod’s territories in Jesus’ day.

3. Common highways, trade routes on land and sea. Reveal nomadic routes, travel to the temple, how the Gospel spread after persecution of early Christians, etc. Ex. Abraham’s journey from Ur to Canaan. Paul’s three missionary journeys.

4. Topographical maps show elevations with terrain. Numerous Bible references say Jesus went “up to Jerusalem” because Jerusalem is a high elevation (Mt 20:18, Mk 10:33, Luke 2:22, John 5:1, etc.)

Where to find: Study Bibles, back or throughout (maps index). Online at Bible Hub. Blue Letter Bible. NET Bible. Bible Handbooks and Atlases. Search engine images.


1. See the whole story. The Bible story covers nearly 2000 years. Get the big picture and break it down from there.

2. Identify major players. Who came first? Abraham or Moses? Isaiah or Elijah? How did Israel’s twelve tribes happen? Ex. Line of Abraham. Period of the Prophets. The book of Acts.

3. Chronology. Some of the Bible overlaps (the kings of the Old Testament, the Gospels, etc). Note the events in chronological order. Ex. Life of David. Life of Christ.

4. Context. Context is key. Who was king then? What country was in power? Was an event early in Jesus’ ministry or right before the cross?

Where to find: Blue Letter Bible. Hendrickson RosePublishing. Amazing Facts has a useful online timeline.


Concisely organize information.

1. Lists. Ex. Books of the Bible. Plagues of Egypt. Major and Minor prophets. Miracles of Jesus. Twelve Disciples. Prophecies of Jesus.

2. Comparisons and contrasts. Ex. Feasts of Israel. The four Gospels. Levitical High Priests vs. Jesus the High Priest.

3. Relationships. Ex. Days of Creation. Sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. List of OT Kings and Prophets. Paul’s ministry partners. Names of God.

4. Spatial perspective. The tabernacle layout. Herod’s temple. Via Dolorosa.

Where to find online: Blue Letter Bible, Search Engine Images

An excellent publisher for maps, charts and timelines is Hendrickson Rose Publishing. Also Baker Books and Zondervan Books.


This is the twentieth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Age to Age
Previous post: Scripture Interprets Scripture



1. Check your Bible and find lists of maps, timelines and charts. Is it in the front or back of the Bible in an index or appendix? Does one catch your eye as interesting? Check it out!

2. How might a map or timeline give insight to God at work?

3. Use your search engine. Put in Names of God. Look for images. Look over all the names and meditate on it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

IBS-19 In Sync: Scripture interprets Scripture


The Big Idea: Practical ideas suggested so you can explore how to use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

In Sync

Acapella bands blend voices together with precision. Likewise Biblical themes harmonize together remarkably. The Bible, written over 1200+ years by diverse writers retains solidarity and cohesiveness. The Holy Spirit is the true author, moving the writers (2 Peter 1:21). No wonder common themes emerge in other parts of the Bible that agree.

These concepts for the interpretation phase of Bible study should sound familiar:

Context is key.

  • Examine different genres (literary styles) of writing.
  • Historical background and culture of the Bible aid interpretation.
  • Always check the Bible first, then check exterior resources and commentaries.
  • Scripture interprets Scripture

What “Scripture Interprets Scripture” Means

Because all the Bible is in sync with the rest of Scripture, other Biblical passages shed new light on a passage. This is the most reliable way to verify Biblical truths.


Topical Bible
– These resources list Bible references by topic. Naves Topical Bible online has its own webpage and app. It is also available at The Blue Letter Bible uses Hitchcock Topical Bible and others.

Concordance – A concordance is useful to look up where a key word occurs. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has its own app. and help and and other electronic Bibles contain a powerful search engine.

Google and many search engines are useful to see what the Bible says about a subject. You can write, for instance, “Hope in the Bible.” Remember the references you seek are scripture only, not external sources. always presents top verses in a given category.

Cross-reference – Many Bibles have little letters next to key words in a verse, with parallel passages listed. Look each of them up for insight. Thompson Chain Bible and online resources are invaluable.

Practical Suggestions

1. Look up key words in a topical resource, a concordance, or online (see above). Examples of a key word: Hope. Redemption. Faithful. Godly.

2. Use online resources to look up a phrase in the Bible. Examples: Fruit of the Spirit. Fear of the Lord. Passover lamb.

3. Character search. Use a topical Bible, a concordance and online resources to look up passages and verses that mention a character in the Bible. Many main characters are mentioned in several places, many mentioned by Jesus or Paul. Trace what other Biblical references say about this person.

4. Make lists. What do these various verses tell you about a key word, a subject, a person? Do you have some questions? Write those down. Pray about it. Consider synonyms to explore in the Bible or words used in other translations, especially if little is found on your quest. Example – Redemption/deliverance/rescue.

Always pray over your study asking the Author (the Holy Spirit) to help you connect the dots! God’s Word is powerful!

For a little more explanation and ideas see a longer previous post of mine about how Scripture Interprets Scripture.


This is nineteenth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents 

Up next: Maps,Timelines and Charts
Previous post: Word Study Using the Blue Letter Bible

1. Have you connected the Holy Spirit as the inspired common denominator throughout the entire Bible? Reflect on that and meditate with gratitude to God for His communication through the whole Bible.

2. Is there a subject of the Bible you have always wanted to explore? Try it today!

3. If you struggle with doubts about the cohesiveness in the Bible, take time to tell God, asking for His Holy Spirit to help you.

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26 NLT

But 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. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 1 Corinthians 2: 10-13 NLT

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

IBS-18 Word Study Using the Blue Letter Bible


The Big Idea: How to use the Blue Letter Bible online for a Word Study 

There are several Bible Resources online. Some are free and some become expensive as you add features. For the average Christian, Blue Letter Bible is a free powerful tool that you can use both on and offline. It is also available as an app through Apple and Google Play.

Review what a Word Study is and how to do it in the previous post, IBS-16. Understand that the goal is not to review every word in your passage, but choose repetitive words and significant words in the passage.

Blue Letter Bible

1. From the opening page of the Blue Letter Bible online, put in the Bible reference. It is important to note these guidelines do not apply to the app.  Hit the Green search. If you are studying in the NASB or ESV choose that in the dropdown menu.

2. The verse opens. Hover over the tools icon and a menu will give you options. Choose interlinear;  it will give you each word with Strong’s Numbers.

3. Words and phrases of the verse go line by line with the Strong’s number. You can see the tense or grammatical position of it, and even find a sound icon for pronunciation.  Click now on the Strong’s number.

 4. There are a few useful things on this new view. You have the number of times it is used in the Bible, an outline how it is used, the Strong’s Definition and other Biblical resources that help define and understand it. 

5. Jump down on this page to the section called Concordance Results. There you will see each occurrence of this Hebrew or Greek Word with entire verses listed.

6. Here you have the opportunity to see how many times your word occurs in the book or chapter you are studying. You can see how it may be translated into another English word in some passages. All of these clues areuseful to understanding the word used here. 

If the author of the book has written more books, such as the Apostle Paul, you can compare how Paul uses the word in his other writings. The same goes for the Apostle John, Moses of the Old Testament, etc.

 Sometimes a word occurs in only one place in the Bible. One can check their use outside the Bible which can prove useful. Understand this unique word cannot be the key to a new theology or doctrinal understanding. Always go back to the context and where this concept occurs in other parts of Scripture. 


This is eighteenth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents 

Up next: Scripture Interprets Scripture
Previous post: How to Use the Strong’s ExhaustiveConcordance



1. Do you prefer to use online tools or hard copy books? What is the advantage/disadvantage of each?

2. Practice with a word to use for a word study, such as 2 Peter 3:9, looking for the word patient. What do you learn about the patience of God through this? 


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

IBS-17 How to Use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

The Big Idea: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, a hardbound massive book and also an online resource. 

Around 130 years ago Theologian James Strong created a massive resource to find any Bible Verse in the King James Bible. It was indexed according to every word in a verse. 

Why it is useful for Christians:

  • Find the reference for any verse using a word in the alphabetical index.
  • Check the root word in original Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) languages.
  • Each word indexed by number. This index number is still used today in original language tools and in online references. 
  • Find basic information about that word.

Let’s illustrate

We can examine the word “beginning” from the Old and the New Testament.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Strong’s index of English words is alphabetical. In the “Bs” look under “beginnings.” We can sample the verse in both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1.

Notice the highlighted number at the end of the reference line. This is the Strong’s index number for Hebrew in the Old Testament, and Greek for John’s reference in the New Testament. 

The appendix of Strong’s Concordance lists all the Hebrew words and Greek words by number. See number 7225 used in the Hebrew for Genesis 1:1. 

Following the Hebrew dictionary is a Greek dictionary with word number 746 from the root used in John 1:1

Occasionally an old Strong’s Concordance is at a Thrift Shop or on a give-away book table.  Even the oldest versions are useful, though some are quite musty and threadbare! Grab it! Several modern versions have an identical model (NIV, NASB, and the ESV). 

Additionally electronic Bible resources use Strong’s.

Apple and Google Play have a Strong’s Concordance App.

The Blue Letter Bible

From the opening page of the Blue Letter Bible, put in the Bible Reference. Hit the Green search.

The verse opens. Hover over the tools icon and a menu will give you options. Choose interlinear;  it will give you each word with Strong’s Numbers.

Bible Hub

The opening page of Bible Hub top line allows you to enter the Bible Reference.  Notice one of the lower listed resources is Strong’s (highlighted in orange by me). That will guide you to the root words of Genesis 1:1.

These are basic examples for online use. Choose one as a favorite and learn how to use it. There are great tutorials on YouTube and blogs on how to use them to full advantage. 

Deeper Christian Blog: A Simple Guide for How to do a Word Study 

Video: How to do a Blue Letter Bible Word Study by Pam Gillaspie

For pastors and theologians, these tools are only a starting point, and some argue they are less than accurate, with the Dead Sea Scroll findings more recently.  Still for a starting point, for a serious student of the Bible, this is very useful.


This is the seventeenth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Up next: Using Blue Letter Bible for a Word Study
Previous post: What is a Word Study?

Table of Contents


1. Have you ever quoted a verse and wondered where it is found in the Bible? What does this tool do for you now?

2. If you notice a word used many times in a book of the Bible, such as light or money, what might that tell you about the book or the passage?