Showing posts with label Bible in Sync. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible in Sync. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Exile Pattern

Happy birthday to anyone but me.

Big Idea: The Exile imagery in the Bible describes when God’s people are cut off from all that is familiar, needing to hold on to God alone.

Happy Birthday to Anyone But Me

I moved to New York City straight out of college. I took a day off for my birthday. How does one celebrate a birthday in the largest city in America not knowing anyone yet?

Getting groceries, the entire store sang Happy Birthday to one of their employees. I closed my eyes and imagined it was to me too. But I knew it wasn’t. I stopped at the post office. Someone yelled across the room “Happy Birthday” to the person next to me in line. That evening as I watched a sitcom on TV, you guessed it. Somebody celebrated a birthday on the show.

My birthday all by myself mocked me.

That sense of strangeness and aloneness is part of the Biblical image of exile. Out of my comfort zone with all the familiar props removed, God whispered, “Trust me. I am still here.”

The Exile Pattern

Adam and Eve experienced exile. They second guessed God, getting banished from their paradise habitat. Later in Genesis, the story of Joseph is all about exile. The trigger idea is associated with the phrase going “down.”

    Down into the cistern (Gen 37:24)

    Down to Egypt (Gen 37:15. 39:1)

    Down into the dungeon (Gen 39:20)

We too use the term down when things don’t go well.

    I’m feeling down.

    He’s down with the flu.

    Our portfolio is down.

Exile Happens

Throughout the Old Testament, exile happens, often because one chooses against God’s way. This was not in Joseph’s case, and God had a special mission to prepare for him. He was sent for a purpose into exile. When God’s people go down into exile, God desires it will drive them to Himself. and to use them.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ Jeremiah 29:13-14 NASB

The New Testament reminds believers this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), strangers in exile on this earth (Heb 11:13). The longer we know Jesus, the more this world feels like we don’t belong here. We walk through this strange planet feeling alien, strengthened best when driven to Him. He will see us through our Exile.

As Joseph told his brothers,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 NLT

God is with us in our exile moments. He wants these uncomfortable experiences to draw us closer to Him, depending on Him more than ever.

Check out this BibleProject video on Exile for more insight.

[The four blogs for October are based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject. Next month's theme will be about how I have learned to be thankful in the midst of physical health issues.]

Up next: 3 Things I Miss Since I Broke My Foot
Previous post: The Blessing and Curse Pattern


1. Does an experience come to mind when a trial or hurtful event was difficult, but later you could see that God used it for good? If you cannot think of something, in quiet prayer ask God to show you He was at work.

2. What Bible verse or passage comforts you when you feel alone, or separated from all that is familiar, for instance, during the early days of the pandemic?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Blessing and Curse Pattern

Big Idea: Choosing God’s way brings blessing. Choosing willfully against God’s ways brings baggage and consequences that are the opposite of blessing. 

Blessings from a Beggar

Shopping at West African market
It was hot so I waited in the shade to be picked up after shopping at the West African market. Islam, the predominant religion there requires giving to those in need. Those in need ask. After awhile one gets a little jaded when the next open hand insistently reaches out.

I was alone that day and exhausted. A very old woman shuffled to me with graying, matted eyes. She held out her hand, not sure if I spoke the language. She said in Maninka, "White lady, please, I need money for food."

I sighed at the interruption, and reached into my bag. I was exhausted from the sun and a busy schedule.  I fumbled through my colorful bag over fruit and canned goods till I reached my money. I grabbed a bill. It was about 15 cents US equivalent at the time but more than what’s usually given a beggar. The woman took it, sighed and moved it in and out focus. Then she looked startled!

“Why, white lady, you have given me much! I shall eat rice today!”

She poured out Maninkan blessings on me including one of my favorites, “May God pour out His blessing on you!” My eyes started watering up with tears. I wanted to scoop her in my arms with love like Jesus surely did with the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:48). I blurted back “Bless YOU!” but she was already making her way to a rice stand.

A Blessing

Blessing, what does it mean? It is a common word that we use casually within both the church and in secular society.

As with the Tree of Life, the word is used like bookends from Genesis 1 to Revelation. It carries a developing theme. On the fifth day of creation when the living creatures were created God blessed them. God said to the creatures, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

We tend to think of blessing in terms of plenty. It is indeed tied to abundance. It might be financial, but it might be abundance and goodness of family, spiritual strength and peace and so on. The blessing pattern on the patriarchs of Genesis develops quickly to include responsibility for what God has entrusted to them. They are blessed to be a blessing. They are stewards, a responsible party, for what they are given. We should do likewise!

A Curse

Many might think curses are about voodoo or witchcraft with hexes put on people. Rather God allows people to choose their own way and deal with the consequences. One reads in Exodus 11:10 “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Pharaoh had hardened his own heart already numerous times. The intent of Exodus 11:10 is that God let Pharaoh’s own hard nature take over, causing its own consequences and difficulties. In the New Testament we have the example of Romans 1:28, giving people over to a depraved mind due to similar stubbornness.

Check out this BibleProject video on the Blessing and Curse for more insight.

[The four blogs for October are based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject.]

Up next: Exile Pattern
Previous post: Tree of Life Pattern


1. How do you usually use the word blessing? Is it a word you use a lot or not very much? Why?

2. Has this blog given you a new insight on blessing and/or curse as a Biblical pattern? Reflect on this passage from Numbers 6:24-26 and thank God for His blessings offered to you.

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The Tree of Life Pattern

Big Idea: Tree imagery throughout the Bible shows people meeting with God, having to make a choice to follow Him or not.

Under the Mango Tree

People in Africa clustered in tree shade
Some of my best thinking and prayer times take place under a tree. Near seminary graduation I felt uncertain about what my future would look like. Headed alone to West Africa to work, I had a lot of questions and concerns. I sat in the shade of a tree, leaning on tree bark contemplating and praying about my future. It was a calming, encouraging moment.

Most villages in Guinea, West Africa have a large town tree. Trees are invaluable in the hot, arid land. Buying and selling takes place in its shade. Village fathers gather at the spreading roots of the tree discussing issues and transactions. After I finished shopping at the outdoor market I would wait for my return ride under a tree making small talk with others waiting too. 

Fast forward to my current life. When looking for a retirement home, I wanted a living room view of trees instead of a subdivision fence. I now fold laundry watching the birds and squirrels play in the trees rather than neighbors on their deck.

The Tree of Life Pattern

In Genesis 2 and Revelation 22 Tree of Life verses are like a set of book ends. Between them God’s plan unfolds to reach out to mankind bringing eternal life to those who respond. That first tree of life reference shows the failure of man to trust God. The last tree of life reference in Revelation shows a new heaven for those who are now a new creation in Christ.

Why study how the tree imagery creates a pattern in the Bible?  In ancient literature imagery and metaphors signal an idea. In our modern era think of Star Wars, when you see the light sabers come out you know it is about more than a light saber. It is about "the Force."

Tracing trees through the Bible is more about what happens by these trees. It shows a meeting which results in testing followed by blessing or a curse. The first pattern starts in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve are tempted at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The testing was not about the fruit, it was about the choice; trusting God at His Word, or not following Him by choosing our own way.

Abraham, Friend of God

Abraham, the “friend of God,” illustrates the tree imagery exceptionally. Multiple times God meets him under a tree and Abraham responds in contemplative, frank conversations, and most importantly, faith. Many of these events are noted on a high place. Similarly the wood for holy worship in the tabernacle and temple were in a high place. Misguided worship in rebellious times was on the high places, and then in the New Testament, redemption through Jesus on a tree, the cross, also on a high place. Jesus who sacrificed Himself on the tree, becomes the vine and we are the branches. He is the buried seed that died and sprang forth to new life.

Under the cool shade of a beautiful tree, like the first Adam and Eve, we have the choice. To trust Him, or to doubt Him and follow our own stubborn instincts.

The BibleProject video on the Biblical theme/pattern of the Tree of Life.

[The four blogs for October will be based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject.]

Up next: Blessing and Curse Pattern
Previous post: The Holy Spirit Pattern



1. Do you have a favorite tree in your life? Why is it a favorite? Or have you had special memories of a tree, such as a first kiss, family time at Christmas, a place of shelter…

2. Why might a tree be a good place to think about God? What kind of decisions might be made at a place of meeting God? Perhaps your place is wood – wood in a fireplace, or a wooden rocker. Take a moment to think about decisions you have made in contemplation.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Holy Spirit Pattern

Big Idea: God’s Spirit, a divine energy invisible like the wind, is revealed from Genesis to Revelation. 

I Heard His Last Breath

I was at a West African hospital with missionaries who had just been in a rollover car accident. As a missionary nurse I collaborated with local doctors and nurses. I found myself by candlelight in the simple hospital room consulting with Dr. Bah, the chief of medicine at the West African town of Kissidougou.

Wrecked car in Africa
I worried about Stephan who was unconscious with bandages wrapping his head. His wife and two little kids were waiting at home. It was unthinkable that God would let this faithful man die. I had seen God miraculously intervene many times and prayed for mercy.

About 2 AM I checked Stephan’s lungs again which had been filling with fluid. He took a deep breath, and then I heard a rattling sound. Then nothing. Dr. Bah came in and examined him. In silence he looked sadly at me, shook his head and left the room.

The Holy Spirit Pattern

From the very beginning of Genesis the Spirit of God shows up.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1;1-2 NLT

Word patterns reoccur throughout the entire Bible. Many of these patterns, also called themes, begin in Genesis, and continue significantly through the entire Bible. One of the first patterns to show up is the Holy Spirit.

The Hebrew Word for Spirit

The Hebrew word from the original language translated spirit, ruakh, is also translated in other contexts as wind, or breath.  It shows an invisible energy from God Almighty. The breath of God. See the Holy Spirit move in the wind. We do not see it but we see its effects (John 3). This energy helps create the world. The Holy Spirit works with the Father and the Son at creation. The Bible states, “Let US create” (Genesis 1:26). The noun for God is plural; not multiple god’s, but God revealed in three persons.

The Spirit that Animates Every Being

This powerful presence of Spirit animates every human being from age to age. God's sustaining breath is not just in believers in God, but all humans and even in every creature. In Noah’s account, the Spirit of God is in the animals too (Genesis 17:15). God is everywhere and God’s power is at work in everything. (see Colossians 1:15-17 Acts 17:28. Romans 11;36. 1 Cor. 29:11-12)

I was never more startled at the animation of breath till I heard my friend Stephan’s last one.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6

Check out this BibleProject video on the Holy Spirit for more insight.


[The four blogs in October are based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject.]

Up next: Tree of Life Pattern
Previous post: Links throughout Scripture


1. Have you ever reflected on life seeing a creature breathe, such as an animal, a newborn, or someone near death? Did you ever think of where it comes from or goes? Did you see God in it?

2. The Holy Spirit is the energy that gives all people, even all creatures life. What does that tell you about God? What about those who breathe but don’t realize it is God?

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Links throughout Scripture

The Links Title Page

Big Idea: Follow words and key ideas that become links throughout the Bible to track Biblical themes.

Links throughout Scripture

A popular Study Bible called the Thompson Chain Reference Bible has been around for over 100 years. It is a heavy Bible! Dr. Frank Charles Thompson, a pastor, wanted to make a tool for both pastors and ordinary Christians to help them trace key words that permeate the Bible. He said they were like chain links. It is still a sought out Bible for serious study.

Thompson Chain page from a Bible

BibleProject Videos on Themes

More recently, an organization called the BibleProject began developing informative videos to help people understand the Bible from its original writings to help our lives today. These free tools use multiple electronic formats such as videos, podcasts and online classes. They focus each year on an aspect that helps Bible understanding. They recently put it all together in an app. All the videos, podcasts, blogs and classes remain online. The app organizes them and takes it to a whole new level! (Download at Google Play and the App Store). They organize their tools to correspond together to help you study the Bible better. Their Bible reading program includes information you can click on and apply as you read.

Using the Helpful Skills Page in the BibleProject App

It is helpful to go to bottom of the opening page by opening the heading “Skills.”

The skills section has three headings: Pattern, Style and Structure

: Lists themes in the Bible with videos and podcasts that correspond

Style: Lists literary styles the BibleProject covers, with videos and podcasts listed

Structure: The section guides you through practice in a couple specific chapters of the Bible to look at the patterns and links.

What Thompson Chain Reference Bible calls “chains” is similar to what is called "links" by the BibleProject. The Bible has a lot of specific words and ideas that can be traced, which are key themes throughout the Bible. Most of these start in Genesis from the very beginning and go all the way to Revelation.


One word example is “Blessing.” This word is often connected with other words, such as abundant, fruitful, life, and rest. The way BibleProject puts it, when you see this word later in Scripture, it activates the theme. Look for how it links to what you have already learned about it.

Check out this BibleProject video on Links for more insight.


This is fourth  and last in a series, The Bible in Sync - September 2022

Next Post: The Holy Spirit Starting in Genesis
Previous post: Like a Mosaic


Name a theme you are familiar with in the Bible. How do you see it play out in other parts of the Bible?

Here is an example for you to try

For an all powerful God, He is gentle with us, and we should reflect His gentleness.  


Place the word Gentle in the search. What do you learn throughout the Bible looking at the gentleness of God? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Movements in Scripture

Big Idea: Biblical scrolls are made up of several distinct movements that make patterns that come together like a beautiful mosaic.

Movements in Scripture

Synagogues revere a handwritten Torah scroll carefully kept for special events. The Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) is the first section of the Bible recounting God creating man and laying out what a good relationship with Him looks like.

Handwritten Bible Scrolls Meant to be Remembered

earliest sections of the Bible were made up of handwritten scrolls intended to be read to a community on a regular basis, with memorization encouraged. Word patterns and a flow of ideas had a cadence to it. A scroll contained collections of writings, each with their own distinct message and theme. This was in ancient times before chapters and verses were added to it that we are now so accustomed to.

Example of a Pattern

If you examine Genesis chapter one you see a certain rhythm.

Then God said let there be…

God saw that it was good…

And the evening and the morning was the ___ day.

This is one example of a pattern of words.

The Bigger Picture

When looking at a mosaic you may not notice it becomes a much larger picture till you step back. Patterns might be intricate and small, joining other patterns to make up a larger picture. Check out this mosaic from a collection of pictures in the Canadian town of Amherstburg! Many pieces of artwork are pieced together from the community to form a larger mosaic. An image emerges with a message of community unity. 

The Word of God is like that! It is profound at the deepest, intimate level, and it comes together on a larger scale with a message for the world for all time. In last week’s blog we noted movements of a symphony each with a different style or tone. Some are brisk and breezy and others are slow and reflective, each sharing a common melody. When discerning a movement in a Bible section, look for a common primary theme, a repetition of words, the introduction of a significant word, patterns of words and so forth.

Ideas Throughout Form a Meaningful Whole

The ideas come together in to a meaningful whole. As we study the Bible we want to study the intricacies and the meaning of words. Do not miss the big picture! Ask how one part fits in with the whole message of the Bible. It all points to Jesus!

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.  Hebrews 1:1-3 NLT

For more information on the power of movements in scripture, check out this video from BibleProject.


This is third in a series, The Bible in Sync for the month of September 2022

Up next : Links
Previous post: Like a Symphony


1.Take a look at the mosaic picture again. What are some of the smaller pictures you can make out? Why might it fit in with the whole? Could you tell the bigger picture at first glance? Why or why not? Do you think the Bible is a bit like this picture? Why or why not?

2. Can you think of a theme in the Bible? What is it? How does your theme fit in with God’s message of love and rescue of His creation?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Like a Symphony


Big Idea: The Bible’s many stories weave common patterns together similar to a grand symphony with different sections but the same repeted melodies.

Like a Symphony

Symphonies, though they can refer to an orchestra, can represent a single body of work, such Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Most symphonies have four movements each with a distinct style (lively, slow, robust etc). Usually there are melodious patterns that emerge that show, in spite of variations, that they all belong together.

Movements in a Biblical Scroll Useful

The BibleProject likens the Bible to the movements and patterns of a symphony and that resonates with me. The book of Genesis heard in the original Hebrew has four distinct movements. The Bible as ancient literature in a non-literate society was intended to be listened to in community. Memorization was encouraged so it was written with recognizable word patterns to aid memory. There were no chapter and verse markings at that time. Those were inserted later to help those of us reading it to find our way back to a section.

Beautifully Crafted Patterns and Links

I can’t read the original Hebrew but I have learned a lot about God from reading my Bible in English. However it is intriguing to learn about the original intent of the Biblical authors. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, it has been beautifully crafted with movements and patterns. That is true for the individual books, but it is also true when you examine all 66 books of the Bible. The patterns emerge and are unified, culminating in the Life of Jesus Christ. These patterns then continue in the New Testament church. 

Patterns are also called Themes

Another word describing patterns is themes. Examples are, blessing, eternal life, Sabbath, etc. When we learn how to trace key words throughout a book of the Bible, and even the entire Bible, we discover key themes God wants us to know. Like putting together a puzzle, it is amazing to tie several sections of the Bible together and see a unified theme.

Sample of Bible Project Themes
I am excited to explore this concept of movements and patterns further with you in the next couple of weeks. As always, if you go to you will find a lot of excellent information.

You might find this video from BibleProject on Design Patterns in Biblical Narrative to be useful.

This is second in a series, The Bible in Sync for the month of September 2022

Up next : Like a Mosaic - Movements
Previous post: One Story, One Spirit


1.Have you ever played an instrument in a group playing a piece with multiple movements? What do you recall about the continuity of the piece? Perhaps you have been to a classical concert with that sort of structure. Did you notice any similarities between the various parts of one piece?

2. Have you ever noticed or had a pastor or Bible study leader tie together various parts of the Bible? How did that impact you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

One Story, One Spirit

Big Idea: Through the Holy Spirit, the Bible always ties in to one main story that ultimately points to Jesus.

Syncing Your Bible

In our technological world to “sync our devices” means our phones, computers and tablets can link bookmarks, apps, emails and other documents. Similarly the 66 books that make up the Bible are “synced” by the Holy Spirit to present the same message. They all point to God, specifically Jesus the Son.

Written over 1000 year Timespan

The Bible was written over a period of more than 1000 years by many contributing authors who came from diverse backgrounds. They included shepherds, kings, prophets, a doctor, a tax collector and others. Numerous writing styles and literary genres are used such as storytelling, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic writings, and so on. How is it that all 66 books are telling the same central message? God the Holy Spirit orchestrates this, and the message points us towards God the Son, Jesus Christ.

All the Stories Ultimately Lead to Jesus  

The BibleProject, an organization using animation with simple Biblically sound explanations states it like this: “The Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.” Even when Jesus is not mentioned directly, the stories tie in to Him. They give us background information on God’s plan through His Son Jesus to rescue us from our sinfulness.

This month’s series, The Bible in Sync, is based on how the Bible Project explains the connection of stories using patterns and themes throughout the whole Bible.

Many Styles With One Common Denominator

Though there are many styles of writing, this community of authors had one critical thing in common. They were all influenced (“carried along” I Peter 1:21) by God’s divine guidance in the form of the Holy Spirit. It was God’s divine word through ordinary human beings. This is how these diverse styles and stories became in sync. (See chart below on God’s goodness).

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 1:21 NIV

The BibleProject explains this synchronization of Scriptures in this introductory video.

This is the first in a series, The Bible in Sync for the month of September 2022

Up next (New Series): Like a Symphony
Previous post: How to make a Bible Passage worksheet


1.Do you believe the Bible is one unified story? Why or why not? Have you researched the subject yourself? How would you go about that?

2. What would it mean to you that the Bible has one main purpose and story, being about Jesus?

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, 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, September 15, 2021

IBS-14 That’s really what it said! Beliefs and mystery


The Big Idea: Can we take the Bible literally (which at times seems hard to understand) and trust it to be God’s Word?

Simple or Hard?

The Bible is simple. The Bible is hard.

Can it be both? Turning a light on is so simple a 5 year old can do it. With a massive power outage, specialists reinstate it by a pretty complex process. College professors teach electrical engineers the complexities of energy. The Bible has that kind of duality.

A five year old hears “Jesus loves me” and understands. “Love” in the Bible is complex. Inductive Bible Study is not for the lazy. It can be hard work. Like a multi-faceted diamond, fresh angles emerge studying the same passage repeatedly.

The Bible is not a mystical book, nor a fairy tale. It speaks to man from the heart of God, though it covers over a thousand years and numerous civilizations. The truths it contains apply to multiple cultures and generations because it is the divine Word from God to man. It is not intended to be a secret for a select few. God wants you to understand and know Him.

Belief and mystery

You need not know Hebrew and Greek to understand the Bible. With desire to know and walk with Him, God gives the wisdom and understanding to discern His Word.

The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 (NASB95) Also see Acts 4:13

The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It touches thoughts and guides actions. It is not fabricated to make a point. Some spend massive energy discounting the stories and miracles. Take God at His Word, trusting even the mysterious. What is your perspective? 95% mystery and 5% literal? Or 5% is a mystery and 95% literal?

The Bible speaks of mystery till we’re in heaven. It also says dullness accompanies unbelief.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. I Corinthians 13:12 (NASB95)

Colossians 2:2 and 4:3 and numerous other passages state “God’s mystery… is, Christ Himself.” Believe His Word and submit that which you struggle with to Him.

Moving from Observation to Interpretation

Having observed the text gives you a head start. Observation bleeds over into Interpretation smoothly.

1. Review your observation notes.

2. Does the Bible passage state purpose? i.e.” _____so that_____”

3. Revisit the theme of the chapter and book you are studying.

4. Describe what the verse says in your own words.

5. Explain the most obvious point it appears to be making.

6. Contemplate where God shows up. What does it say or show about Him?

Don’t make this hard. The Bible has clear lessons throughout, especially when we sync passages with the rest of the Bible. Scripture interprets Scripture. Pray for God to guide and simply believe.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6


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

Up Next: Where Can I Find That?
Previous post: The ABC's of Interpretation
Table of Contents 



1. If you had to take a wild guess what percentage you think is literal and that which remains a mystery, what might you suggest? Does your presupposition help you study the Bible or hinder it?

2. In spite of Inductive Bible Study being hard work, are you enjoying putting in the time to do it? Do you find inductive study rewarding or frustrating?

3. Pray asking for God to guide you in your studies that His Word will become even more precious to you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Why read the Bible?


The Big Idea: No matter what your belief, you should read the Bible. 

Why read the Bible? The skeptic needs a different reason than a Christian who has followed God for decades. No matter what, it is a worthwhile read. Here's why.

To the Skeptic

1. Best Seller: The Bible has been a non-fiction best seller for centuries. It was the first book printed in 1452 on the Guttenberg Press.

2. Influential: The Bible has influenced and inspired world leaders and many top literary minds in world history.

3. Moral Compass: The Bible gives moral and ethical guidance. It is basic. It is profound. It grounds us on what we know in our gut to be right.

4. Big Picture: The Bible gives big picture perspective. It introduces the higher power. It provides comfort and hope.


If You’re Just Beginning

The Bible is like a library with various literary styles like poetry/wisdom, stories, history, law, and apocalyptic writings. Some of the Bible is not exciting or inspirational. But it has purpose just like the tiny type in contracts. Be aware of this when you read it. Next week will be about how to begin reading.

1. The Encyclopedia. The Bible contains information on many different subjects. It contains history, Old Testament laws, and compendiums about wisdom.

2. The Cookbook. Some parts of the Bible read like a cookbook. Proverbs has recipes for young man to keep pure, and about business women contributing in both home and community. The New Testament has guidelines for marriage,etc.

3. The Storybook. The Bible has vivid stories of people who are not perfect. Some turned to God and it changed their life. Bible characters are not superheroes or villains. Ordinary people encountered God and made their choices.

4. The Spiritual Guide. The Bible is a spiritual book for the soul. It teaches how to get along with God and man. Our bad choices effect us and it shows how to choose a better way to live.


What Christians Believe

1. God's Word: We believe the Bible is the very word of God. The Holy Spirit has breathed the words through those who wrote the words down in different eras and places. It is surprisingly in sync as a unit.

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

2. Active: The Bible is living and active. Though it was penned long ago, it is dynamic, not static, and continues to be relevant no matter what the culture or era.

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

3. Trustworthy: You can trust God's word to be true. God's promises throughout the Bible can be trusted as we rely on Him.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:1

4. Life Changing: God's Word teaches us how to be right with God. God wants to rescue us from the pit. Words like: rescue, save, restore, redeem, fulfill are about God's ability to change us from darkness to light when we trust Him.

Stand by me and set me free. Give me life again because of Your Word. Psalm 119:154 (TLV)

 I close with a quote from an Athiest Book Club discussion from Goodreads.

I happen to be an Athiest who has read the Bible from cover to cover more than once. Some may ask why I, a non-believer, would want to read the entire Bible. They should be asking why so many believers do not.


Open the Bible and explore it! 

Next week the topic will be on where to start reading.

Up Next: Where do I Start?
Previous Post: Watch the Bible


1. Have you read much in the Bible? If not, why not? OR if you read the Bible now, what was your excuse before you actually began.

2. Do you agree or disagree with my reasons for reading the Bible?

3. Are you willing to read something, even one verse, in the Bible each day this week? Try finding verses in the Psalms.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Scripture Interprets Scripture


The Big Idea: When the Bible is confusing, ask yourself how it links with the rest of God's Word which is one big storyline. God with us. 

On a bright summer day we were sitting on lawn chairs in the backyard under a big shady tree. She wanted to talk about many burning questions regarding how to understand the Bible.  "Why do some Bible verses seem to contradict each other," she mused. "How can you know the right way to read it? I love the Bible and I believe it is the Word of God. But sometimes it confuses me!"

We read the Bible for comfort, wisdom and guidance for how to live a Christian life. But a lot of casual readers, and even seasoned ones like my friend, run into passages scratching their head. I don't mean they are confused with every single verse. Admittedly there are indeed passages that are a little hard to understand. That is just being honest. Communication, especially between generations and cultures, always takes a bit of work. All of us know there are days when our spouse says something or our parents try to explain something and we look at them blankly, wondering what they mean.


An important principle is to have Scripture interpret Scripture. The Bible itself should be your primary source for understanding. God's Word, though written by many human authors from various backgrounds over about 1400 year's time has one main story to tell; that of God reaching out to know and be known by humans. There are a number of sub themes under that story but they are in sync with each other. In spite of so many authors and such a long period of time, it is remarkably cohesive from Genesis to Revelation. This is because the same Spirit of God moved each author in what message to write.

Inductive Bible study aims to get us digging in the Bible. The primary goal is to explore as much as we can primarily in the Scripture passage without going to other sources right away. If you do it properly you should probably read a passage many times in a study period. Each time look for something else. Underline. Diagram. Look for repetitive words and word relationships such as cause and effect, opposites, and so on. Look for location, movement and time periods. You will find yourself looking at a verse in a whole new way when you hunker down with a passage.

The more you get to know your Bible you will discover when reading that a verse or passage will trigger another passage saying something similar. Or you will want to dig more into the back story. For instance Jesus talks about Old Testament characters like Noah and Jonah. Who were they? Look up where the reference is that mentions them.


1. Start with Prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit that moved the authors of the Bible to write the Scriptures to guide you.

2. Check a cross reference. Many Bibles have notes in the center with correlating verses.

3. Check a concordance or electronically a word search for key words repeated. You may want to do a special study on a key word. Explore a person or place mentioned using these tools. See all the other places it is mentioned in the Bible.

 4. Read the verse or passage in a number of Bible translations. There are times, but not all that often, a word is used in the original language only once in the Bible with a meaning or background unclear. Understand God has not left the people of God missing a very important concept for thousands of years because of that word. Check on verses with similar themes and phrases. Interpret from the body of the whole. Interpret the obscure based on the known.

5. If you did not start your study looking at the context, do so now. Ask yourself who the author is, who he wrote to, how many chapters there are, the theme of the book, and what kind of genre the book is.

6. Look at the context and theme of the chapter before and after the passage you are concerned about.

7. Do not base a whole doctrine on one isolated verse or passage in the Bible without correspondence with the rest of it. Remember you want to know what God is saying to the people of God. This is about what God means and not about a new doctrine or mind-blowing idea you can come up with.

8.  Be cautious with allegories. Much of the Bible needs to be read at face value in sync with other Scripture. The whole Bible is not an allegory. It is a very practical book with stories of real people learning to trust God and inherit eternal life.

9. Do not interpret the Bible by your life experience. In a roomful of people, each one may have a different idea how to live out a passage, or a different way of expressing what it means, but you should never have multiple interpretations of a Bible passage. The Bible is not relative to experience. Rather our life experiences should be lived in light of the guidance of the Bible.

10. In light of Biblical themes that span the Old Testament and New Testament, always examine the Old Testament as foundational and the New Testament as the fulfilled understanding.

Keep hungry for the Bible. Let God's Word build into your life a heart to please Him.

Up Next: Biden's Bible

Previous Post: Instruction Manual Fiasco

Check out a more recent, concise post of mine on this topic. IBS 19 Scripture Interprets Scripture


1. Do I tend to feel lost when reading the Bible or frustrated with the meaning? Talk to God about your concerns. Expect Him to guide you.