Wednesday, February 23, 2022

IBS-31 Never Ask This Question!

The Big Idea: “What does this passage mean to you?” a commonly asked application question, can be problematic implying that any interpretation is OK.

"What does this passage mean to you?"

Near the end of a Bible study it is easy for a leader to blurt out, “What does this passage mean to you?” In reality, this is not only a lazy question, it is a dangerous one. The goal in Bible study is to know God’s Word and make it matter to daily life. This question may actually lead us far away from Biblical truth. In defense of Bible study leaders, we want each person present to consider how the Bible can make a difference in their life. Coming up with good application questions is hard. There are better ways to pose the question.

Opinion is relative. Truth is not.

The question can make it appear truth is relative to the individual. It implies that there are many ways to interpret the Bible and understand God. Everyone should have a unique personal application of the Bible to their life, but not a different interpretation of Biblical truth. If we think everything is truth, the actual truth becomes blurred. Our society champions relativity, but let’s not get confused that God is whatever one wants Him to be.

I can hold a red apple. Someone can say it is aqua, purple or a cell phone to them, but opinion does not change the nature of that red apple. Application rather is one person seeing it as a quick portable snack, another to bake into an apple pie, and another envisions homemade apple butter. Same red apple. Different applications. But not different entities.


Variations on the Question

God wants to be known. His Word is designed to guide us to know Him and a guide for this life as well as for eternity. Inductive Bible Study is a great way to get into the meaning of the text. Let’s look at a variants on the question.

NO – What does this passage mean to you?

YES – What does this passage mean?

NO – What does this passage mean to you?

YES – What does this passage mean FOR your life?

NO – What does this passage mean to you?

YES – How does the passage meaning apply to your life?

“Opinion is the medium between ignorance and knowledge.” Plato

One ought not to strive to know God half way. Seek to KNOW Him and His Word, not just be content in your opinion of it.


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

Up next: Struggling to Ask the Right Questions
Previous post: A-P-P-L-Y 



1. Have you been in a Bible Study with this question asked, did someone’s opinion of the passage seem strange to you? What did the Bible study leader do?

2. If you are a Bible study leader or Sunday School teacher, do you find it easy or difficult to come up with good application questions? How do you usually approach this?

3.Prayerfully meditate on this verse for a couple of minutes this week.

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds. Psalm 119:27 NLT

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

IBS-30 A-P-P-L-Y


The Big Idea: A list of five questions based on the acronym APPLY can guide us quickly to passage application.

A-P-P-L-Y the B-I-B-L-E

I like easy-to-remember lists that help me get to the point. In Bible application preachers and authors recommend various questions to ask. The acronym APPLY helps me quickly recall them when I study a passage or prepare to lead a Bible study. I am using three of the five this week in the Bible study I am currently leading on Revelation.

Remember to always ask God for His guidance as you seek to apply the Bible to your life. He wrote the book, after all!

A Admit Sin. In Adam and Eve’s story in Genesis 3 we watch mankind’s bent toward sin with a need to be restored with God . The Bible repeatedly shows real life stories with sin’s enticement and pitfalls, and a way out. Check your passage prayerfully through this lens.

P Promise Claimed. God’s Word is full of His promises. He is not our adversary when we seek Him. As we get to know the Word we see all the practical ways He cares for His children. Collect these promises and bank on them for your life.

P Principle Followed. Passages of the Bible hold principles for life. There are lists of what to do and what not to do. There are Proverbs and sayings of wisdom how to live a good life. Look for these and examine how you can live by them.

L Live the Good Example. The Bible is full of stories of real people. There are good examples and bad examples. Some of the best of characters also have pitfalls they fell into, as an example to us to be watchful not to do the same. Study these life situations and learn from them.

Y Yield to God Revealed. Always ask what a passage reveals about the attributes and character of God. Observe how God works in the world and His plan for mankind. See how He longs to gather those who love Him, be with them and guide them. Yield your will to God counting on Him to be all that He reveals Himself in Scripture to be. Consider how this loving just God can make a differences in your life situation today.

Memorize this list and practice looking at a Bible passage by asking yourself which ones apply best to your text. Then ask yourself how that applies to something TODAY. The Bible is all about the nourishment and wisdom we need for our current life situation.

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. Phil. 3:17 NLT


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

IBS-29 Biblical Application Menu

The Big Idea: 2 Timothy 3:16 provides an application menu how to apply the Bible to life.

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.” 
― Dwight L. Moody, historic preacher and evangelist

Bible verses make great posters, greeting cards and quotes. Passages like 1 Corinthians 13 are nice to read at weddings and Psalm 23 at a funeral. The intention of the Bible, however, is not for us to merely feel lifted, smile or debate at a symposium. God designed it for practical living for His people. It is life altering from the way of the world. It transforms us into the kind of people we ought to be as followers of God. And it strengthens us and gives us meaning.

One verse in the New Testament could be a menu on Bible Application.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

It tells us straight out that it came into being by the breath of God. Curiously God created us as human beings this way too (Genesis 2:7)! It was given to us to be PROFITABLE, that we have practical guidance how to live a meaningful satisfying life as representatives of God on earth. Jesus calls it abundant life (John 10:10).

The Bible Shows What’s Right

Teaching: What is right and true. Some Bible versions translate it as doctrine or instruction. It is about gaining knowledge about God and our human nature. This, like a good GPS in the car, directs us toward God and how we as humans can live right.

The Bible Shows What’s Wrong

Reproof: Some Bible translations use rebuke or conviction. It shows us where we are wrong and heading for danger. In the car analogy, it is like the GPS saying we are going the wrong way. Or getting a speeding ticket. We could be heading for trouble and not get where we want to go.

The Bible Shows The Way Back

Correction: When driving in the wrong direction, the GPS says “Recalculating.” That’s a good description for Biblical correction. It points us back to the right path.

The Bible Shows The Way Ahead

Training: The Bible is an instruction manual, but it does no good to read the instructions without using the information. In the car analogy, it is like a new driver taking Driver’s Ed and training with a learner’s permit. Learning to live a godly life with our mind fixed on what is good, right and true takes practice. Consider the Bible your training manual.

The chart below offers insight on the words from the original language, Greek and how different versions of the Bible translate it. It is insightful on the difference between each word. I love how the Amplified, the New Living Translation and the Message shed more insight!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

IBS-28 Application: The “So What” Factor

The Big Idea: Application to your daily life is the most valuable part of Bible Study.

Imagine I invite you to my house for Thanksgiving. You come hungry expecting a satisfying meal. Entering it smells inviting. I invite you inside and show you the meal all prepared.  I invite you to take pictures. I ask you how it smells. I have recipes printed to give you. You help me make a side dish where I show you new techniques. By this time you are really hungry and ready for the meal. Then I usher you to the door.

“So long, it was great to have you over! Hope you find those recipes helpful!”

You depart wondering what just happened. 

This is a perfect example of how we treat Bible Study skipping application. We can have the best recipe for study and a great passage chosen. The outcome can be beautiful and paint a wonderful picture. But as in my illustration, if you don’t take it and apply it, it is a pointless exercise, like cooking a meal for solely beauty and interest, not to eat.

The "So What" Factor

A valid question in Bible Study is: So what? How does this passage matter to my life? Why is it in the Bible? How can it help me today? I call this the “So What” Factor. Answering this simple question moves us light years in our walk with Jesus.

The Bible, a remarkable literary tome, is not merely for pleasure or intellectual reading. The Holy Spirit of God moved writers to communicate His loving interest in mankind (2 Peter 1:21). He desires followers to have a worthwhile life focused on eternity with Him. Becoming a Christian carries no promise for an easy life. God does, however, promise a life of peace beyond human comprehension with unexplainable joy in the midst of hard times. This Word from God is packed with real life examples portraying wisdom, warnings, understanding and promises. Read and implemented it to your life. This is Bible application.

Remember the three phases of Inductive Bible Study:

God’s Word exists so we can know Him, and through His presence, we have an unbelievable peace and satisfaction within.

Do what God’s teaching says; don’t just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves. James 1:22 ERV

Lets explore ways to figure out how the Bible applies to modern life. Determine the “So What” Factor.


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

Up next: Bible Application Menu
Previous post: Timeless Truth Made Easier : T-R-U-T-H in five steps


1. Do you sometimes wonder how an Old Testament story can apply to your life today? Think about a story you know from the Bible that means something to you.

2. What do you think the Bible should provide for you? What would you like to know?