Wednesday, July 28, 2021

IBS-7 Investigative Reporter: the five "w"s and an "h"


The Big Idea: Asking investigative questions leads to a better understanding of the Bible.

Five "W"s and an "H"

Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? 

These interrogative questions are timeless. Aristotle the first one on record to teach them. Journalists have used this to write news stories. Doctors have used it to narrow down diagnosis. Pastors have used it as a preaching tool. Here's a poem penned by author Rudyard Kipling in 1902 (The Elephant's Child).

0I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

As a scripture spy, I carefully investigate the Word of God and write down my findings. First I pray over the text, then I launch my investigation. I examine the context, the words, and obvious things. I ask myself these six questions and write down my observations. It is an excellent place to begin!

Not every question will apply to all Bible passages. But these questions are a good framework for a starting point for serious and simple investigation.

Who?    Who are the people, or groups of people, mentioned? Who is the author? Who is the author speaking to? Who seems to be the main character? Are families or couples involved? Write the facts. Begin with just the facts.

What?   What is going on in the passage? What is the event? What is the subject? Is it a drama or a discourse? Are there instructions or is it historical? Is there action/movement?

When?    Are there any words that describe time of day, season, festival? Are there words that show movement of time, such as "a little while later"? Does it talk about the past or the future?

Where?  What is the location? Is it a town or in the country? Is it another foreign country? Does it refer to the land or mountains? The temple? A cave in the desert? Was it on a hill, on the lake, or by a well? These markers give perspective.

Why?    Is the why included? Is there an explanation? A reason for a command or a sinful action? Is there a natural lesson why consequences followed sin? Why does it suggest prayer?

How?     The one "H" in the bunch. Is there an illustration? Are there instructions? How did Jesus heal? How did the disciples feel? How did the father of the prodigal son greet him? Sometimes the how is by adjectives and adverbs.

Sergeant Joe Friday, detective on the fictional TV series, Dragnet, gathered facts in a calm no-nonsense manner. "We're just looking for just the facts," he'd explain.

Find out all that you can about God's Word. Don't make it say what you want it, or hope it, to say. We're looking for just the facts! 

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21



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

Up next: Mark Up Your Bibles
Previous Post: The Power of Observation
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1. Have you learned about the five investigative questions before? In what context? How might you compare it to looking at the Bible?

2. Does this appear to be a useful tool for you in studying the Bible? Why or why not?

3. Try this passage from Acts as an example. Acts 17:10-12

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.








Wednesday, July 21, 2021

IBS-6 The Power of Observation: seeing words

 The Big Idea: Carefully examining the words in the Word of God is beneficial.

Seeing Words

In the detective show, "Psyche," often the episode opens with Shawn as a boy. His cop father, Henry, challenges him to close his eyes and remember all he saw. He presses him to see more than the obvious.

"Scripture Spy " is so called to challenge our Scriptural observation. To dig into the truth in context. To discover the meaning of the Bible, not adapt a good sounding verse to support a viewpoint. 

 Ten Ways Observation Helps

Many professionals (teachers, doctors, scientists, cops, etc.) value observation. This is how it helps me get into the Word: 

1. It slows me down. Slow down = notice more details.  

2. I'm more precise. Sometimes accuracy is very important (i.e. amount of powerful medication). Accurately handling God's Word is vital. Don't be sloppy in discerning meaning.

3. I avoid proof-texting. Christians proof-text by taking one verse or phrase to support an idea possibly unrelated to what the passage means. This is a terrible way to learn about God and Biblical truth. Examine the context!

4. I understand better. As clues are sought for the how, the why, and the significance, I reach the central meaning. I understand better. Some verses I won't understand till I see God face to face, but I should carefully examine God's word while earth bound!

5. I solve mysteries. Jesus told the crowds parables. Occasionally He explained them in greater depth to the disciples. God's Word is designed to draw us in and make us hungry for more. Key word studies and cross references shed new light on difficult passages.

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.      Mark 4:10

6. I have more to pass on. Digging into the Bible gives me layers of fresh insight. It's exciting to share these with others.

7. Another frame of reference. By observation I can see the world through another's eyes. TV detective Monk would frame his hands to focus on what someone saw. I can watch God and His work through a Biblical author or character's eyes.

8. Essential for my spiritual growth. Pediatricians agree part of normal development is observing and noticing details. It starts with peek-a-boo. Children then learn to discern shapes, colors, and sounds. Likewise, learning to discern the Biblical text is a valuable life-skill for spiritual growth.

9. Prevention. Observation by the police can prevent crime or deter problems. Routine medical tests can prevent bigger health issues. To study the entire Bible, not just my favorite passages, may reveal ungodly patterns never before addressed that should be examined. 

10. Importance of assessment, feedback and goals. Research scientists use observation for assessment, feedback and goal setting. As I study the Bible carefully the Holy Spirit helps me examine my attitudes and actions. A life verse gives direction. Let God's Word guide you toward a more abundant life in Christ.

For instructions how to make your own worksheet of any Bible passage click here


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

Up next: Investigative Reporter
Previous Post: Clean Bible Study
Table of Contents 


1. Have you ever wished you had paid more attention to the details? When? Why?

2. Do you have a career that depends on good observation? If not, who do you hope pays close attention in your life (for example, your doctor, the person who does your taxes, etc)?

3. What might help you pay more attention to a Bible passage? Memorizing a verse? Using colored markers? Reading it out loud?


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

IBS-5 Clean Bible Study: just three steps

The Big Idea: A brief overview of the three steps to an Inductive Bible Study

Just Three Steps

My parents both grew up on a farm. They loved the wholesomeness of garden to table food. Have you heard the buzz phrase "Clean eating"? It's good for you! Eat more whole foods that are not processed. Avoid pre-packaged meals with preservatives and additives. Salt food but avoid those pre-loaded with salt.

Inductive Bible Study is like that. Simply look at the Bible. Just the Bible. Examine it. Evaluate it. Embrace it. Do not start with a commentary, or a read a book all about it. That might be helpful later in your study. Start with you and the Word of God. See what it says. Seek what it means. Seize it for your life.

This method is often explained in these three steps.

  • Observation: what does it say?                       
  • Interpretation: what does it mean?
  • Application: what does it matter?  (or how does it apply?)

Let's look briefly at each step. They will be examined more in the following weeks. And always, always begin with prayer.



By reading and re-reading the passage by making notes and notations, you observe carefully like a scientist what the passage says. It often involves multiple readings looking for something different each time.

People mentioned. Author's voice. Recipients of the writing.

Time references and places and countries/nationalities mentioned.

Lists and correlations. Comparisons. Contrasts. Descriptions.

Make sure you cover these interrogative questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?



Steps imply one is necessary for the second. Review your observations with prayer. To analyze what it means try these.

Context. Theme or goal of the book? Author's purpose? Historical setting? OT or NT? etc.

Genre or type of literature. Is this a story or a letter? Is it metaphorical? Poetry?

Central points. Key words or ideas repeated?

Cross-referencing. What corresponds with other places in the Bible? Is someone mentioned elsewhere? What's their story?

Perspective. What does it show us about the nature of God and the nature of man?

Put in your own words. What does it say? What is most obvious?



Why is this in the Bible? The Holy Spirit inspired it. What have you learned and how will it help you today? A few guidelines.

Instruction. What might this teach about who God is for me and about myself? Teachings on church? Family? Leadership? Society? Neighbors?

Disclose. What might this reveal about sin, bad attitudes, etc. A warning?

Encourage. Is there encouragement for me? Can I pass it on to others?

Actions. Can I make a real-time application to my life? How? How soon?

All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16



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

Up next: The Power of Observation
Previous Post: Best Translation for Inductive Bible Study



1. If you have never studied the Bible on your own like this, what do you think about it? What are your concerns? What might be useful?

2. What role would prayer play in the process? Why?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

IBS-4 Lost in Translation? The best translation for Inductive Study


The Big Idea: Why it is useful to use the New American Standard Bible for Inductive Bible Study (IBS).

Lost in translation?

Have you ever read a menu, sign or instructions where English is not their first language or there is a misprint? Bakery sign reads, "Do not touch bread with hands. Please use tongue." They meant tong, but you gotta chuckle!

The Bible, originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, must be translated into English for our understanding. Bible translators have a colossal task to put the Bible into understandable modern English while being faithful to the original meaning of the text.

There are two sides to the spectrum of Bible translation theory. Word-for-word, and thought-for thought.

Word-for-word translation seeks to be true to the original languages, as literally as possible, but still understandable. (i.e. NASB, ESV)

Thought-for-thought translation seeks to get the idea across using modern language, idioms, and phrases. (i.e. The Message, The Living Bible)

Both are important qualities to understanding the Bible. Word choices are critical because words matter. The idea behind an ancient foreign language should be plainly understandable to everyone. The grammar and idioms of the original languages of 2000+ years ago could be lost on us. Translating to explain the thought sometimes carries bias. It is constructive to compare different Bible versions when a verse is not easily understood.

Why the New American Standard Bible?

1. An accurate translation for the serious reader.  In college I invested in a New American Standard Study Bible in fine black leather. I was in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This Bible version was all the rage for accurate, serious Bible study.

2. Used by Precept. Precept regularly publishes excellent Inductive Bible Study guides with leader training and support. For years all studies printed were based on the New American Standard Bible (NASB), because its literal style is as true to the original language as possible. The NASB came out in 1977 (1995 update, and 2020 update). New studies coming out may be updated to the 2020 version but many studies are sold using the 1995 edition. About ten years ago they also offered their studies using the English Standard Version (ESV) which is also a tried and true word-for-word translation.

3. Top Word-for-Word Translation. Both the NASB and the ESV are high on the spectrum for literalness and accuracy. This is important when we dig deep into the text of the Bible.

4. On the Same Page. When a Bible study group looks intimately into the Word of God together, it can be useful to examine the same translation; be on the same page, so to speak. Discussion is enriched as people share the way a verse reads in their favorite translation. Bible versions are a very personal thing. You should love your favorite version. But examining a literal translation together in deep study can be constructive.

5. Valuable NASB Tools. Two Inductive Study Bibles are published. One from Precept, one from Harvest, International. Both offer NASB and ESV versions. Thomson Chain and McArthur's Study Bibles are also popular using NASB. There is an exhaustive concordance for NASB. Some Bible apps use NASB with Strong's Greek words highlighted, such as the Tecarta e-Bible, and Logos Bible Software.

Be assured that no matter what Bible version you choose, the Holy Spirit will guide you. 


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

Up next: Clean Bible Study
Previous Post: Book Overview
Table of Contents



1. Did you know there are different Bible versions? When did you realize that? Do you find it confusing or have you learned to use them for your advantage toward understanding?

2. What's your favorite Bible version? Why do you appreciate it?

3. Look at a verse in a couple of translations and ask yourself what you learn about the verse through that exercise. For instance look at Ephesians 1:9.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He set forth in Him. NASB (New American Standard Bible)

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. NLT (New Living Translation)

God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. GNT (Good News Translation)