Wednesday, June 30, 2021

IBS-3 Book Overview: how to skim a book of the Bible


The Big Idea: How to overview a book of the Bible before studying it in depth.

How to skim a book of the Bible

When I recently prepared for a ten day trip to Utah, I got the map out to see what states it borders. I looked at where we hoped to go each day, and where it was located. Soon I got my bearings on the upcoming trip.


When you plan a Bible Study focused on a book of the Bible, make an overview of it. Notice where it is in relation to other books. How long it is. What the chapters look like and the writing style. The Biblical text is always our primary source. Study guides and commentaries are sometimes helpful but always go first to the original source and draw your own conclusions.


1. The Title. What might the title tell you? Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t. Take the book of Numbers. The book of Numbers has to do with counting the people. Consider the book of Matthew. That is a name. It has something to do with a man named Matthew (with Jesus and his friends). It's always a place to start.


2. Book Orientation. Where is it located? Old Testament or New Testament? What books surround it? Is it in a group of books, such as one of the four gospels? A minor prophet? Is it a first or last book of the Old or New Testament?


3. Total Chapters. Go to the end of the book and see how many chapters are contained therein.


4. Ten seconds per Chapter. Skim your way through the book looking at each chapter briefly. (You can write things down if you wish, but it is not necessary at this stage).

a. Chapter and Section Headings. Many Bibles, both paper and electronic, have emboldened headings at the start of a chapter. Sometimes it indicates a new subject in the middle. Look at these as you skim through the book.

 b. Repetitive Words. Take note at what you see. Does a word or phrase keep reoccurring? What contact hints do you notice as you glance through it?


4. First and Last Paragraphs. Go to chapter 1 to the first couple verses. Is the author named? Recipients noted? Purpose stated? Now go to last chapter of the book, last paragraph. Do you notice a summary or conclusion?


5. Read It Once. If it's a long book, you can spread it over a couple of days. Read more quickly than carefully. If it's a short book, read it entirely a couple days in a row, each time in a different translation.


6. Style. Do you notice from the style what kind of written genre it is? Is it story narration? Poetry? Prophecy or Rules? Historical?


7. Write observations. What has this exercise taught you? What do you think you might learn from this book?


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

Up next: Best Translation for Inductive Study
Previous Post: Context is Key
Table of Contents 




1. When is a bird's eye view, an overview, useful in life?

2. Try this plan with a short book as an exercise. Did you learn anything from it? Was it useful?

3. Would this overview generate some questions? Might it make you more excited about the book you will be studying?  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

IBS-2 Context is Key

The Big Idea: The context of a Bible passage is key to understanding what it means for us. # 2 in a series- Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Location! Location! Location! 

A pastor recently told a story like this to illustrate the importance of context.

Imagine an experienced pastor writes a letter to a younger pastor in 2020. He recommends a masked congregation, people sitting every other pew, and counsel by phone or video conferencing when possible.

Suppose the letter is uncovered 200 years later . The archeologist may surmise this was normal church practice. Until he compares the letter date with historical writings about the year of COVID. Context makes all the difference.

Merriam Webster says context is "the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning." Some English words have plural meaning. Check these sentences using the word "break" for instance:

  • It's time for my coffee break.
  • Don't make me trip or I'll break my coffee mug, or worse, my neck!
  • I wonder if the coffee shop will break even this year?

Kay Arthur, Inductive Bible study expert proclaims, "Context rules!" The best way to understand a verse is not according to personal experience or worldview. Rather study the verse in context of the sentence, its paragraph, its chapter, its book and the way the word, theme or idea occurs in the rest of Scripture.

Don't think this makes it impossible to understand the Bible. When you see a verse, just ask, "What is it's context?"

Context Assistance

1. Theme. Read the chapter. Skim the book looking at section headings, and so on. Look for a theme.

2. Key Words. Look at words that carry the verse, especially if they repeat. They (and synonyms) may reoccur in a verse, paragraph, chapter or book.

3. Easy Observations. What clearly jumps out at you as you read? Are there names? Relationships noted? Places? References to time? What are people doing? If it is poetic or instructive are there lists?

4. Comparisons and Contrasts. As you study the chapter or book it is in, you can compare paragraphs and chapters for relationships to the other parts. Contrasts are sometimes easy, such as in Galatians 5: 19-23 which list the acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

5. Location in the Bible. Like real estate, where is this located? Who wrote it? To whom? Old Testament or New Testament? What genre is it (i.e. Wisdom Literature, Gospels of Christ)?

6. World History. What era is this? Who's the reigning world power? What is normal life for this part of the world? Who is the targeted people group for this passage? This can be enlightening information.

7. Biblical Continuity. What is the core idea of the Bible? Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the Church? What does the Bible say overall about love, sin, forgiveness, and so on? One verse will not fly in defiance to the whole. Scripture interprets Scripture.

In the following weeks we will unpack how to examine a passage.

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

Up Next: Book Overview
Previous Post: Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study
Table of Contents 


1. Have you ever had a conversation misunderstood till you realized the context?

2. How often do you consider Bible context? Never? Only when stuck on meaning? Routinely?

3. What aspects of context are you more likely to think about? Old vs New Testament? Bible Themes? World Powers.

4. In what way do you think this awareness in Bible study might be helpful to you?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

IBS-1 Practical Guide for Inductive Bible Study

Bible on display

The Big Idea: Introduce a practical series for inductive Bible study.

In-Depth Bible Study Made Simple

You've heard the story - give someone a fish and they eat for a day. Teach someone to fish and they eat for a lifetime. 

True also for Bible study.

Inductive Bible Study lets you investigate God's Word on your own and apply it to your life, whether you are a new follower of Jesus or have followed God most of your life. 

Even if the Bible is new to you, don't be afraid of this method. In fact, it will help you dig in.

Kay Arthur of Precept, International, a ministry designed to facilitate Inductive Bible Study, says Inductive Bible Study is getting "In da Bible." It is as simple as that. 

In Inductive Bible Study you examine a passage carefully.  You note the obvious. You look for significant words repeted (key words). You observe framework, setting, and style. You ask how it matters to your life.

Let's begin to unpack how to get in "da" Bible. I trust someone completely new to the concept can apply this. I hope Inductive Bible Study champions will be refreshed and newly eager to explore the Bible.

There are three foundational steps to Inductive Bible Study.

Why does inductive study work?

It helps you slow down in your reading of a passage, not just skim it quickly. You don't ask yourself  one question - "what does this mean to me?" You notice what it really says. You look at correlations.

 You start to see the big picture and grasp themes and ideas the Bible conveys. When you follow the basic 1-2-3 guidelines fresh insights emerge. The discoveries are rich and God's Word sinks in. It is exciting!

Here is a list of basic principles for inductive study that work. 

1. Read. Repeat. You read the text over multiple times, often seeing something fresh on sequential reads.

2. Make notations (different colors and symbols suggested) to differentiate words. You can do this in your Bible or have the text printed on a sheet of paper.  You can see relationships and repeated words more easily.

3. Summarize by theme each chapter and eventually each book.

4. Search for obvious things. (Names, places, references to time, relationships)

5. Mark a different aspect each time you read it through.

6. Analyze from different viewpoints.  What does it teach about God, a character, qualities, mankind…

7. Make lists from your observations.

8. Identify key words.

9. Compare words, characters, concepts with other Bible passages.

10. Identify context.

11. Apply it to life. We study the Bible because it can make a difference to our life in every way. Learn to listen to God as you study it.

12. Cover it in prayer. Start with prayer, pray while studying, and end with prayer!

The Word of God is worth your time to study, meditate on and apply to your life. Doing this is tied to the promises of God. 

 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8

 See my animated video summarizing inductive study. 

Up Next: Context is Key

Previous Post: Jumpstart Reading Your Bible



1.  Which statement closest reflects your thoughts. 

  •     In-depth Bible study on my own is appealing because it sounds so logical and useful.
  •     In-depth Bible study scares me because I might get something wrong about the Bible.
  •     In-depth Bible study must be way more time-consuming than I want it to be.
2. Have you ever studied the Bible using any of these ways to look at God's Word? What did you think?

3. How is this like teaching a man to fish?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Jumpstart Reading Your Bible

The Big Idea: Talk to God during your Bible reading. It will bring greater clarity and joy.

Talking to God as You Read

Some days motivation to read the Bible is hard. You know it's good for you. Yet getting into the habit feels like anticipating that root canal. Satan prefers you not  read it either and will offer every excuse not to. The Bible gives peace, wisdom and joy. The enemy of our soul does not want you to find that.

Here are some helpful ideas.

  • Pick a consistent time of day
  • Find a time that works in your schedule
  • Pick a quiet place free of distractions
  • Keep a reading log to watch your progress
  • Read a chapter (or verse) a day sequentially
  • Find an accountability partner


Just a Little Talk With Jesus

There's an old southern gospel song called "Just a Little Talk with Jesus." It was written in the 1930s by an African American pastor in the deep south. The chorus starts like this:

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
And He will answer by and by

I suggest you incorporate a little talk with Jesus as you pick up the Bible and read. It centers us back to our Creator who knows us and loves us tenderly.  The Bible is God's very Word to us. This is all about interacting with God and it’s a two way street.

1. Begin with honest prayer.

Don't feel like reading the Bible right now? Tell Him. Angry or feel distant from Him? Tell Him. You won't offend Him. He knows what you are thinking. Confess what is not right between you and God. Humble yourself. Be honest. In a relationship, honesty and authenticity is highly valued. Start with that.


2. Pray for a hunger.

Distant from God? Busy? Too tired? Embarrassed? Ask for a desire for the Word of God. This is a spiritual interaction, not your own wistful efforts. 

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment. I Peter 2:2

3. Reflect on His amazing love.

Think of His crazy love for you and mull it over. He wants time with you. Get to know Him. In the moments of silence with Him, be still and reflect.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7a

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Jude 1:21 (CSB)

4. Ask God for insight.

God is the Word who has breathed Scripture into being through human authors. He is able by the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you through the Bible. Confused or lost? Ask Him to make the Bible clear and meaningful to you. 


5. Pray it matters.

God's Word is living and active. It can make a difference guiding our daily life, giving us strength, comfort and aid when we apply it. Pray for God to reveal the Word to where you live and breathe. To build you up and give you hope in whatever circumstance you are in.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. … 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

As you dialogue with God, may you find that His Word comes alive to you. May it fill your heart with peace and give you a longing to know more about Him and His Word. These seasons of longing for God are amazing. Seek this and rest in this.

Up Next: Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study

Previous Post: Trust the Bible Because of these Dead Guys



1. Which of the five suggestions attract you?

2. Have you ever prayed following these guidelines? Do you think it might help you as you read? Why or why not?

3. Write a prayer using these 5 points. Try it out today.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Trust the Bible Because of these Dead Guys


The Big Idea: Five groups of people were especially attentive to keep the Bible copies accurate.

Nitpickers of history checked and double checked Bible copies

The Bible has been around for thousands of years. Could it possibly be accurate, you might ask? Yes! The Bible has a fascinating history. Here are the stories a few guys who had a hand in preserving its accuracy. Perhaps their stories might encourage your confidence in the powerful, miraculous Word of God!

1. The Scribes

After the Hebrew people were taken captive, and saw Jerusalem and the temple destroyed between 500-600 B.C., the Biblical vocation of Scribe emerged. It was critical to preserve the books of the Old Testament accurately. They verified word count, they spoke each word they wrote aloud, there were thirty day reviews. Any inaccurate copies were burned.


2. The Essenes

This subdivision of Hebrews lived in community near the Dead Sea (200 B.C. to 200 A.D.). Archeological finds at the community of Qumran indicate they were highly organized. Concerned that the correct way of Bible interpretation and worship was getting corrupted, they set out to safeguard the pure word of God.  Many of their preserved copies of books of the Bible were discovered in clay pots in 1947, known now as the Dead Sea Scrolls.


3. The Monks

Mont Saint Michel, France

Saint Benedict (480-547 A.D.) was a gentle, disciplined holy man with a passion for the Bible. He  gathered holy men in community to study, teach and write down the Bible, which back in that era, still had to be hand copied. The Rules of Saint Benedict established guidelines for monastic living which monks follow to this day. Monasteries had a Scriptorium, a well lit room for monks to copy the Bible word for word.


4. The Masorites

Jewish scholars, many from the same family, did more than meticulously copy the Old Testament books (500-1000 A.D). They established consistency in spelling, reading and division of passages. They counted words and syllables and made pronunciation marks and grammar guides. The Masoritic texts are guidelines to this day for Bible scholars and translators.


5. Johannes Gutenberg

Books were hand copied until a German named Gutenberg (1400-1468 A.D.)  invented a press about 1450 using mobile type to reproduce books. His first printed book was the Bible. It was a game changer for Bible copies to be a consistent text going out to multiple churches.

These groups of people and individuals are key examples of those who stood guard and made sure that the Bible you read today is extremely accurate. From the time they were originally penned, to each copy that was made, it has been preserved for you and me! The Word of God, this real and active Word from God, is for each one of us to know beyond doubt that God wants to connect with us. Explore the living, dynamic Word today!

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar. Proverbs 30: 5-6


Up Next:  Jumpstart Reading Your Bible

Previous Post: Key Questions to Help you Read the Bible



1. What kind of documents do you safeguard? Why are they important to you or your descendents?

2. Have you ever thought about the day when there were very few Bibles around, and few people could read? What might that have been like?

3. Take a moment to thank God for those who made sure that they Bible was kept accurate through the ages.