Showing posts with label Inductive Bible Study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inductive Bible Study. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Find the Application!

The Big Idea: Introduction to a mini-series of posts about how to constructively look for the application to a Bible passage.

Growing up my family subscribed to Highlights magazine. I always looked for a drawing, “Hidden Pictures” with instructions: “Find the hidden objects in this picture.” Now similar online and app games are popular.

Do you ever feel like that with Bible application? You look at a Bible passage knowing there must be an application for your life, but it escapes you. Many people find the Old Testament especially challenging.

It can be difficult to read the Bible and find practical applications. Many who teach Bible study methods list these five things to look for: Sin to forsake, a promise to claim, a command to obey, an example to follow and a response to God. Previously, I put these into the acronym  A-P-P-L-Y to easily remember.

  • Admit sin
  • Promise claimed
  • Principle followed
  • Live the example
  • Yield to God Revealed
I tested this and it is not always obvious to find the application even with the specific categories. First of all, not every category is found in each passage of the Bible. Sometimes the practicality is not apparent. Some of this may be because the Bible was written in an ancient culture and time and we need to transfer the idea.

Good Guidelines

In the following weeks we will look at each point specifically. Here are a couple of good guidelines going in to this.

  1. Breathe a prayer for guidance. I don’t mean lengthy flowery prayers or days of fasting. Just say a prayer in your heart. The Holy Spirit is always there to guide us.
  2. What is obvious? Some sections of the Bible are quite straightforward.
  3. Reflect what you already know about God and His Word. It will be in sync.
  4. Generalize. Consider the theme of the book of the Bible or the life situation presented. Make sure it is in sync with the rest of what you know of the Bible and God, but trying to get too specific is sometimes over thinking and gets you where you should not go. Just ask: what is God saying? Why is this story or passage in the Bible?

I am a practical person and I want to be succinct in my teaching. I trust this mini-series will be useful to your study of God’s Word. God is eager to speak to us.

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. Isaiah 59:1 ESV


This post is fortieth in a series as a Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Find the Application: Admit sin
Previous post: Trust and Obey



1. What is a passage you find especially difficult to apply? Why is that?

2. Have you read or heard about this kind of list before for application? Have you used it? How did it work out for you? Did you find it easy or a bit difficult?

3. Take a moment to pray over your Bible and Bible study time to ask for God to teach you to make it practical for your life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

IBS-39 Trust and Obey: Foundation to Bible application

The Big Idea: Learning to both trust and obey God are the basics of the Christian life. .

As a child, I learned this old hymn (circa 1880s). People who have followed God for years say these are the basics of happily living the life of faith. It is a foundation based in Bible application.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.


The Basics

Trust and obey: one follows the heels of the other. Stripping faith to the minimum consists of these two actions. It is raw Bible application.

Trust: to believe, follow, put confidence in or accept completely. In my own words, but a dictionary definition is similar. Explore “trust” in Hebrew and Greek (often translated “believe” in the New Testament) will be similar.

Obey: To follow through and do what is said. Just do it. Again my own words, similar to any dictionary definition.

Practicing “Trust”

Think of an adult you trusted as a child. Most children learn to trust someone. You listened to their opinions and advice. You followed their example. You went along with them. You knew you could count on them. Maybe you learned who you could count on over time.

Start there with God. Read the Bible, His Word. Listen to it. Try it out. Practice taking its advice. Follow it and discern it is true. Learn that you can trust it.

Practicing “Obey”

As a child you listened to a trusted adult, sometimes to avoid consequences of disobeying. You figured out that following their advice is useful. Perhaps years later you realized they knew what they were talking about.

Start there with God. When you read the Bible, practice taking its advice. Does this sound a little like “trust”? The trust part is trying it out and learning you can rely on it as a good and true word. The obey part is doing it.

In many ways they are linked together. You trust and follow through to obey. You obey so you learn to trust more.

Happiness and Peace

As we trust God and follow through we learn we can lean on Him more. Peace flows from doing the right thing and discovering He does what He promised (2 Peter 3:9-11). True joy and happiness come as we lean on Him. His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) and we need His love and care.

Happy are the people who have all this. Yes, happy are the people whose God is the Lord! Psalm 144:15 NLV 
Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Eph 3: 17 NLT


This post is thirty-ninth in a series as a Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Find the Application!
Previous post: Dwelling on the Word: Easter Example



1. What do you believe is your source of happiness? Peace? Is obeying God on that radar? Why or why not?

2. Growing up, were you able to trust an adult? If not, have you found difficulty trusting God or have you found He is worth trusting because He is more trustworthy?

3. How could you apply trust and obedience in something in the Bible today?

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

IBS-38 Dwelling on the Word: Made Pratical for Easter

The Big Idea: Diane practices memorizing and reviewing Isaiah 53 every year during Lent which draws her mind to Christ’s work accomplished on the Cross.

Raised in a conservative Christian home attending an evangelical church, Lent was not familiar to me. We celebrated one day. Easter Sunday at my Grandparent’s church in Minot, North Dakota. I loved sitting next to my Grandpa singing enthusiastically together, “Up From the Grave He Arose”.

The Practice of Lent

At 40 I married a widower, an evangelical Air Force chaplain. He found the spiritual disciplines of Advent and Lent useful for a deeper walk with Christ. Leading up to Easter he would either give up something like diet cola or television, or add something like volunteer or read a book on Christ to prepare for Easter. Every Good Friday we practice silence from Friday noon to 3 PM, the time Jesus was on the cross. It has been a profound annual exercise for me.

A couple years ago I decided to memorize Isaiah 53 (in King James, so poetic) during Lent. This Old Testament chapter graphically describes what Christ accomplished on the cross. That year I memorized up to verse 7.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. Is. 53:7 KJV

The M&Ms: Memorization and Meditation

Often during Lent I revisit Isaiah 53. Review is important for Bible memorization as our mind easily forgets. I have not yet memorized the entire chapter but I annually meditate on its word pictures whether in traffic, at the grocery store, or at the doctor’s office. I sing hymns reflecting the passage.

“Man of Sorrows”
“O Sacred Head now Wounded”
“What Wondrous Love is This.”

This year I have been reading it and mulling it over in the New Living Translation.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. Is 53:4a

I have recently carried sorrow and heaviness. This passage assures me of His presence, and His profound love for all that I carry.

Memorizing Scripture and meditating on it is a lifetime effort. It carries great benefit for my mind and soul. Try it. It costs nothing and provides great comfort and insight.


This post is thirty-eight in a series as a Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Trust and Obey: To be happy
Previous post: Dwelling on the Word: Meditation


1. The phrase “spiritual discipline” was used. Meditation is sometimes called that. Why might it be called a discipline?

2. If you could memorize a verse or passage for Easter what might it be? How do you think it may be helpful?

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

IBS-37 Dwelling on the Word: Meditation


The Big Idea: Bible meditation is an excellent way to immerse in the Word of God, strengthening our friendship with God and accessing His help for our daily life.

Living by the M & M's (Memorization /Meditation)

A verse in the Psalms calls it “hiding God’s Word in your heart.” This refers to memorizing the Bible but it also applies to reflection.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (NLT)

Memorize words: easy. I can memorize the Lord’s Prayer in Portuguese but not knowing Portuguese it is not meaningful or useful to me. More than pure memorization, meditation lets Scripture flow and process in our heart and mind.

It is also a Biblical command!

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 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippiens 4: 8 (NLT)

Tips for Learning to Meditate on God’s Word

1. Invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of your meditation process. He is the author of the Word and is our counselor (John 14: 26). One of His roles is to teach us understanding.

2. Let your mind linger on a phrase or a verse, reflecting over and over on the same words. I like to think of it like ironing as the hot iron repeats over the same section to smooth it out.

3. Mull over each word or phrase in your mind. Reflect on the meaning, and various nuances of it.

4. Put it in your own words. I call mine the "Di version".

5. Pray it back to God, using words and concepts in the verse. Expound on it to God.

6. Put emphasis on a different word of a phrase each time, reflecting how that Word is significant. Example from Psalm 23:1

THE Lord is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd.

The Lord IS my shepherd.

The Lord is MY shepherd.

The Lord is my SHEPHERD.

7. Think what God might be saying to you. Don’t expand on what you think, but dwell on the wording of that particular verse.

8. Try out conversation with God. Is He speaking to you through this verse? Listen. really listen with your heart. Then, what would you say back to Him?

9. If you have not done so already, consider memorizing this verse. That in itself is a worthwhile exercise and useful for future meditation.

Meditation is a buzz word in our secular spiritual minded society. Meditation on the Creator of the universe and His Word to us is of the highest value to our life.


This post is thirty-seventh in a series as a Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Dwelling on the Word: Made practical for Easter
Previous post: Dwelling on the Word: Memorization



1. Have you done any form of meditation, either for stress reduction or Biblical reflection? Was it rewarding or was it a bit difficult? How might reflection on the Word of God be of higher value to you than secular meditation?

2. Take a moment right now to reflect 1 minute on a phrase from the Bible . You can time yourself if you wish. If this is your first time it may seem like it a minute goes on forever. “The Lord is my shepherd.”

3. Would you ever consider adding some meditation time to your devotion to God, or increasing the time you spend in devotions?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

IBS-36 Dwelling on the Word: Memorization

The Big Idea: Memorization of useful Bible verses is valuable to our Christian life for immediate recall of God’s promises and guidance.

Living by the M & M's (Memorization /Meditation)

A workbook for life. That is how I describe the Bible. I mark it up so I can find a valuable passage to remember or share with someone else for a specific circumstance. But we don’t always have a Bible with us. Clearly it is much easier to have access to the Bible now with electronic Bibles on cell phones. Still, there are times when it is better to just access a useful verse in your brain.

Bible memorization helps us remember the Word and apply the Word. It also helps us meditate better  on the Word.

Memorization is the ability to recite passages word for word. Of course knowing just the words if they mean nothing to us is pointless. It is invaluable to pull up an useful verse for a specific struggle. It may be for comfort or strength. It may be life advice as a regular reminder to follow.

Additionally it gives us the opportunity to meditate on the Word at anytime, anywhere. This is as valuable as pure gold. Imagine the traffic jam. Awaiting while gowned at the doctor’s office on a cold table. Sitting through an MRI exam or the dentist chair. These things happen. They cause anxiety. To be able to readjust our mind to God and His promises is what each of us needs at a time like that.

Five Tips for Learning to Memorize Scripture.

1. Translation choice. Choose one that speaks to you. I find the King James useful for memorization because of its unique poetic nature.

2. Repetition. Repeat phrases over and over. Have it written on your phone, your mirror, your fridge. Note the word order.

3. Look for key words to anchor the verse. As you repeat it, think of what it is saying or picture an object to help remember.

4. Make up a song or melody to help you memorize. There are also apps and some Scripture memory songs on You Tube that have ready-made verses in song.

a. This blog post from Intoxicated on life by Luke and Tricia has a link to an index of 1400 verses to song. The focus here is for children to use but I have often found my childhood songs remain fixed in my mind.

b. Google “Bible Memory by song” and you will get many hits, even with links to YouTube songs. The opportunities seem endless.

5. Use an app for this. There are two I find helpful.

a. Remember Me. This app is available for free. It has several ways you can practice remembering it, such as with progressive words disappearing, or a puzzle manner to string the right words sequentially.

b.  This app is free to download but only for the King James version. You pay to unlock other versions of the Bible.

A verse in the Psalms calls it “hiding God’s Word in your heart.” Tuck God’s Word in your memory for instant recall when you need it! It comes with great promise!

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (NLT)


This post is thirty-sixth in a series as a Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Up next: Dwelling on the Word: Meditation
Previous post: Ten Practical Ways to Apply God’s Word



1. I recall memorizing a Bible verse when I was a little girl. I made up a song to it and it has stuck with me to this day. Can you recall one of the first verses you memorized? Or a favorite? What memory is associated with that for you?

2. Has a verse ever helped you in a certain circumstance? How did it help? Is it memorized or would it be a good one for you to commit to memory?

3. In what circumstance might you not have your Bible on hand but a memorized verse would be useful?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

IBS-35 Ten Practical Ways to Apply God's Word

The Big Idea: A few suggestions how to put into practice using the Bible in the issues of daily life.

Has a verse in a Bible passage ever hit exactly where you need it? The Bible is like that! Ready to apply that thought to your life is not so easy.  Like it is easy to make a New Year’s Resolution and forget it in a week, it is difficult to change our habits, not usually because it is too hard. Often it is because our cluttered life crowds in and we just forget or get off track without even noticing.

The Bible is amazing. Attending a Bible study you may discover the passage is talking about something you need right now! The Holy Spirit is remarkable, simultaneously working in each person with you at the Bible study, bringing the truth home to each one. It is supernaturally uncanny!

Let’s not squander these valuable nuggets in God’s Word. Apply them! Here are a couple of suggestions. 

Ten Practical Ways to Apply God's Word

1. Identify a key verse, or key phrase that speaks to your circumstance in a passage.

2. Write that verse on a sticky note or piece of paper that day. Note it on your calendar or planner.

3. Consider memorizing the verse the coming week, or attach a phrase in the verse to your memory.

4. Make multiple sticky notes or reminders of that verse or phrase and post them where you usually linger. For instance, on the bathroom mirror, atop your computer screen, on your car’s steering column or odometer, etc.

5. Visualize how that verse is useful in a specific situation in your life. Intend to remember when you find yourself in that setting. Play it out in your mind telling yourself it is God’s Word to YOU right now.

6. Consider specific ways this verse applies. Be intentional and specific in applying it.

7. Pray about applying this, asking God to prompt you and guide you when necessary.

8. If this is helpful, gather other similar verses, or find a worship chorus that reinforces it. Use the Word of God to flood your mind with this particular truth.

9. Share what you are trying to do with someone else. Verbalizing it helps solidify it in your mind. Ask the friend to check in with you how it is working. Consider them to be an accountability partner.

10. Put a note in your calendar for a week or a month to check back with yourself how it is working for you.

May you discover that the Lord is our helper in very practical ways when we lean on His Word and trust in Him! He is faithful!


This post is thirty-fifth in a series as a Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study. 

Up next: Dwelling in the Word: Memorization
Previous post: Practice, Practice, Practice!



1. What is a verse from the Bible that you find helpful. Perhaps it is as simple as Ephesians 4:32a “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

2. Reflect and imagine a situation in your life right now in which that verse can influence and guide you . 

3. Pray to the Lord for help this week. Allow Him to apply His Word to your life. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

IBS-34 Practice! Practice! Practice!


The Big Idea: We practice what we learn from Scripture and repeat it till it becomes a habit

A few months ago leading a discussion on the Epistles of John we noticed the repetition and contrast of the phrases “practice righteousness” and “practice sinning. ”

Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. I John 3:8

In the New Testament the word “practice” often refers to people who practice sinful things, such as magic (Acts 8:9), adultery (1 Cor. 6:9) and greed (Eph 4:19). But it also is used to challenge Christ’s followers to practice what is right. The Apostle Paul sets himself up as an example to be imitated.

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you. 2 Thess. 3:7

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:9

Applying God's Word to our Lives

If you have been in sports or music, you know that practice, repetition of a desirable action, is important for improvement. I played the piano and violin in school and my mother constantly said, “Practice, Practice, Practice!”

I asked my class how practice at something matters.

“It means it do it over and over again till you improve.”

“You don’t skip practicing or cheat on it, or you won’t be very good at it.”

“You do it regularly, and keep track of it. You remember to do it.”

What implication does that have for righteousness, that is, living right for God?

Living for Jesus is something we need to work at over and over again.

If we are not good at something, we work at it. The same with godly living.

We keep up with it, realizing we have not already arrived. We will have so much to learn.

We are humble. We have a learning posture.

To be clear, practicing and being intentional ungodly living is not how we are saved from our sin. That is a one time deal when we started our Christian journey. It is solely by faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8) However learning to live for Jesus every day takes intentional practice. We may need to be intentional to get into the habit of what is good and right. Read the Bible every day. Pray every day. Go to church with believers every week. And so on.

This is all about application of the Word. We practice what we read. We apply it actively, not just with our heart but with all we do and say.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 (NLT)

Now teaching Revelation, I was leaning on the application of a passage, asking what implications there are for us today. I grinned when someone who had been in the Epistles of John class raised her hand and said, “Practice, practice, practice!” 

“Yup,” another chimed in, “Practice, practice, practice!”

They must be mothers.


This is thirty-fourth in a series, Practical Guide to Inductive Bible Study.
Up next: Ten Practical Ways to Apply God’s Word
Previous post: Honest to God



1. Think back on your life experiences. Have you ever had a discipline you needed to practice? Sports, music, writing? Something else? Did it come easily to you or was it hard? How did you keep at it?

2. Have you ever found repetition of a Christian practice to be useful? Is there something you of which you think you could use more practice?

3. Pray about being intentional about living right for God, asking for His help in getting better at it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

IBS-33 Honest to God

The Big Idea: An important element of applying the Bible to one’s life is honesty with God and with oneself.

“Heavens to Betsy” 

Different generations have their lingo. Perhaps your grandparents said “Honest to goodness,” “Honest to Pete!” or “Honest to God.” These are exclamations of assurance or accompany a surprising fact, emphasizing it is absolutely true.

The whole point of Bible study is life transformation, renewing our mind by the Holy Spirit. Honesty and transparency with God should be normal. Not being transparent with God is pointless because He created us and knows what we say, do, and even think. Yet, like a kid who ate the whole plate of cookies will try to hide it (even with chocolate chips smearing the face), we find ourselves doing likewise. Adam and Eve started it in the Garden in Genesis chapter 3.

We should be honest with God, but sometimes we are not honest with ourselves. We all have blind spots. Jesus said one should not criticize the speck in his neighbor’s eye when he has a log in his own. Deal with your own log first he says (Luke 6:41-42).

The Searchlight

The Psalmist prays asking God to be a searchlight on his soul. This is a valuable prayer for application. We need the Lord’s help to find that which we may not even realize hinders us.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24

The Scalpel

Hebrews portrays the Bible like a surgeon’s scalpel. It is a powerful, sharp implement able to get into the dark places of our soul, removing that infectious cancer, sin.

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

The Dad

When a toddler insists on touching a hot stove, wanting to protect and help their child the parent will say “No!” and make sure they do not get hurt. God does the same kind of thing with us for our own protection and guidance. Studying the Word we begin to understand God is at work and we can trust Him.

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:10-11

Take time for prayer and reflection at the application stage of Bible study. Ask God to make clear the hidden secrets of your heart. Be honest. Be honest with yourself.

Be honest to God.


This is thirty-third in a series, Practical Guide to Inductive Bible Study
Table of Contents

Up next: Practice, Practice, Practice
Previous post: Struggling to Ask the Right Questions



1. Can you think of a time when the Bible proved to illustrate one of these three examples, the searchlight, the scalpel or the dad?

2. Read over again one of the above Bible verses. Reflect on it. Mull it over and pray through it to ask God to show you where you might need to be honest with yourself and with Him.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

IBS-32 Struggling to Ask the Right Questions

The Big Idea: Well thought out application questions help guide a Bible discussion or personal study toward practical life application.

Bible Study Leaders, this one’s for you!

As a former professor for West African pastoral candidates and regular speaker at churches and retreats, the hardest part for me to prepare in a lesson or message is bringing home how the Bible is practical and real to us today. I’m not the best at conclusions. I’ve written and led Bible Studies for over 40 years. Yet I struggle asking questions targeting the personal relevancy of the Bible for us. Only in past year I sense improvement at zeroing in to the practicality of the Bible for everyday life.

My favorite question has become: Why does it matter? -or- How does it matter?

God’s Word is written for a reason and it matters. These two questions pivot upon “Why is this passage in the Bible for us?” And “How is it significant and relevant for our life?”

The thing is, reflecting on application takes time. Think time. Waiting-on-God time. When we as Bible Study leaders ask these questions, allow a little silence to let people reflect. Give the opportunity to talk a question over in groups of two or three. It helps sometimes to process outloud.

Free Resource from Josh McDowell

An excellent resource is Josh McDowell’s book, A Guide to Understanding Your Bible, suggests these 12 application questions. You can download a basic edition of his book for free here.

1. What truths are found in this passage?

2. How does this truth apply to my life? At work? In my neighborhood? At home? In my nation?

3. In view of this truth, what specific changes should I make in my life?

4. How do I propose to carry out these changes?

5. What is my personal prayer regarding the application of this truth?

6. What verse (or verses) of Scripture could I memorize to best summarize this truth?

7. What illustration can I develop to help me retain this truth and communicate it to others? (A story, a poem, a graphic, a cartoon, or a drawing, for example.)

Be Specific

Josh McDowell’s questions are really concrete, aren’t they? They ask you to picture something or to check the application to various settings of your life. When working on Bible application, be specific and personal in applying truth to your life. And then share your reflections with someone.

It matters.

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

Up next: Honesty

Previous post: Never Ask This Question



1. Why do you think we struggle to be specific in Bible application?

2. How well would you assess you apply God’s Word to your life in a concrete way?

3. Take Ephesians 1:16 and reflect how you can make a concrete application to someone in your life. How does this matter? Who might be the person you focus on? What might you do to put it into practice, at least for a day?

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. Ephesians 1:16 NLT

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?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

IBS-27 Timeless Truth Made Easier : T-R-U-T-H in five steps

The Big Idea: Five steps to timeless truths using the acronym TRUTH.

Peter and Paul Didn’t Carry Smart Phone

In Inductive Bible Study how can an ancient Middle Eastern text apply to the modern world? Peter and Paul didn’t carry smart phones! A Sci-fi time-portal would be nice but we don’t live on a Star Trek set. We need real advice from the real God who seeks real communication with us.

The Bible itself speaks of its relevancy to life, not just in its time, but for all time.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 NLT

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. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8, quoted again by Peter in 1 Peter 1:25 NLT

Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. Matthew 24:35 NLT stated by Jesus.

The challenge is about Bible stories with unfamiliar odd customs and storytelling styles so vastly different from our world of breaking news tweets, tabloids and Reality TV. The timeless truth process forces us to ask what the Bible is saying in a time/cultural neutral way. Then we can transition to application to our life.


Here are five easy-to-remember steps to lead you to understand the point of the Bible passage. Saturate the process with prayer. Realize this process may take some time and reflection.

T Track the text. Read it. Read it again. Read it in another Bible translation or two. Read it in context.

Review the background. Who is the author, audience, players in the story, time frame, location, situation, cultural backdrop, world power, etc. Consult a Study Bible introduction to the book.

Understand the main point. Reflect on the passage. Picture yourself there listening or watching. Ask why it’s in the Bible. Ask what it says and shows about God, about man and about life with or without God. Meditate, ruminate, and contemplate what it must be saying. Then think some more.

T Tweak it to a sentence. Try to write one sentence that explains the main point of the passage.

H Hone a timeless culture-free statement. You may have done this is #4, but you may have included cultural elements, such as “Abraham believed God which pleased Him.” This step would remove the cultural and time limited context to a statement such as, “Believing God will do what He says, pleases God.”

The next blog starts the final phase of Inductive Bible Study: Application.

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

Up next: Application. The So-What Factor
Previous post: The Timeless Truth of Matthew8:5-13

Also check out a post from about a year ago: Five steps to finding Biblical Timeless Truth


1. What is your opinion on the relevance of the Bible to your life today? What role does it play in your everyday life?

2. Reflect a little on this verse. Has this been your experience as it suggests? Ask God to work out this verse in your life giving you hope and encouragement.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 NLT

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

IBS-26 The Timeless Truth of Matthew 8:5-13

The Big Idea: Ten steps to Timeless Truth is a bit complex so here is an example from Matthew using the ten steps.

Last week I presented ten steps to find a timeless truth of a Bible passage. Let’s work through Matthew 8:5-13 using the ten step method.

Ten Steps using Matthew 8: 5-13

1. Pray.

2. Read the passage (including other Bible translations). ESV, NIV, NLT

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13 ESV

3. Discern the context:

Author – Matthew the tax collector a disciple of Jesus

Audience – Matthew wrote especially to Jewish Christians

Time period, location – About 30 AD, first century Israel, in Capernaum the ministry base for Jesus. Matthew probably wrote about 50 AD

Cultural Era – Roman power invaded every walk of life in Israel. Jews were treated poorly.

Book theme - Jesus was the long awaited Messiah to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. (From the ESV study Bible)

Chapter and surrounding chapters review (and section headings). The Sermon on the mount preceded this passage. Chapter 8 headings: Jesus cleanses a leper, the Faith of a Centurion, Jesus heals many, The cost of following Jesus, Jesus calms a story, Jesus heals two men with demons. A lot of headings are about healing.

4. Type of writing: Narrative story about a soldier who needs a servant healed.

5. Read the passage again picturing yourself there.

Picture the time period and surroundings. A busy small town on the Sea of Galilee with shops, a synagogue, a lot of people bustling around.

Note who is present and the type of situation. Jesus has gathered followers listening to everything He says and does (v 10). He may have been at the countryside (Sermon on the Mount by the Sea of Galilee) as the story occurred when He entered town.

Note a Centurion is a soldier in command.

6. Author's Intent

Intentional audience – Jewish believers.

Tone of the passage – Amicable. Centurion asking Jesus for a favor, asking very humbly. Jesus amazed at his faith.

Passage purpose: a exemplary example of faith; the faith of a Roman soldier showing faith at work beyond Jewish people.

Why included in the Bible: To highlight faith, especially of some who were outside the Jewish people, from early in Jesus’ ministry.

7. Describe the passage in a sentence. Example: A Roman military leader humbly asks Jesus to heal his servant.

8. Pray over ambiguities or concerns. The role of a Roman Centurion is worth looking up.

9. The Point of the author in a sentence. Example: Jesus is amazed by a non- Jew’s faith and heals his servant from long distance.

10. A timeless culture-free statement. Example:  Bring Jesus your needs humbly acknowledging He is Lord of the universe.

Next week a simplified easy-to-remember five step list will be available for those with less experience in inductive Bible Study. I appreciate feedback that ten steps is too complex for those less experienced in Bible study and Bible background.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

IBS-25 Ten Steps to Timeless Truth

 The Big Idea: A check list to discover the timeless truth of a passage. Disclaimer - advanced Bible study method.

A timeless truth is the central basic idea of a Bible passage not bound by time or culture. It applies to any era or country. An example of a culture-stripped timeless truth: "God’s Word helps us fight temptation."

I know of no guide listing Biblical timeless truths. Discerning them is not impossible if one takes time for reflection and a little background research. The more you have studied the Word of God the easier this process will be. These are steps I would go through. 

The Ten Points in Detail

1. Start with prayer.

2. Read the passage a couple of times (including other Bible translations).

3. Discern the context. A lot of this can be found in a Study Bible or you may have covered if you have been studying this passage in a Bible study and already covered this information. 

a. Identify the author, audience, time period, location, cultural era (world power)

b. Identify the book theme. Thumb through section headings in chapters before and after your passage. 

c. Read the whole chapter of your passage, and skim surrounding chapters by examining section headings.

d. Look at cross references and footnotes in your Study Bible.   

Bible introductions include valuable information on the author, audience, time period, setting theme, and outline of the book.  Intros precede each book in Study Bibles.  Try this Study Bible online from English Standard Version Study Bible. 

4. Identify type of writing:

            a. Narrative (story style)

            b. Instruction (legal, teaching, guidelines)

            c. Example or figurative (parable, proverb, apocalyptic)

5. Read the passage again picturing yourself there.

            a. Picture the time period and surroundings.

            b. Note who is present and the type of situation.

6. Intention of the author

            a. Intentional audience

            b. Tone of the passage

  c. Passage purpose (encouragement, scolding/correction, teaching about God, sin, heaven, hell, how God’s people should live, prayer, a good or bad example?)

            d. Why might this passage or story be included in the Bible?

7. Discribe the passage in a sentence/statement.

8. Admit ambuiguities or concerns. At this point reviewing a trusted commentary or two may be useful. Ask a pastor or Bible study leader’s opinion. Press humbly in spite of fquestions. If you have chosen a difficult passage it has most likely been debated by others. Some passages won’t fully understood till we are with Jesus face to face.

9. Write the author's point in one sentence. Take time here to reflect and pray.

10. Write down the most basic message contained in the passage not bound by time or culture after reviewing your response to #7 and #9.

Congratulations: you have likely found a timeless truth!

God’s Word is both simple and complex. You may argue there is too much for one sentence. One sentence can later be developed adding sub points and applications but it is useful to find the big idea.

 Disclaimer: This could be frustrating for beginners. These ten steps are an activity for people seasoned in studying the Bible on their own.  Pastors do something similar to prepare a clear applicable sermon from a Biblical text. It takes some practice.  I would recommend starting with a fairly short passage that is familiar to you for practice.  To start with a difficult passage that churches have debated for centuries is not an appropriate test for a first effort. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IBS-24 What does "Timeless Truth" mean?

The Big Idea: What does Biblical timeless truth mean and why does it matter?

Today we return to the series A Practical Starter Guide to Inductive Bible Study which we paused from for Advent.

 The Big Idea

When interpreting a Bible passage look for the timeless truth, sometimes called the universal truth.  What does that mean? I propose it is the most basic big idea at the core as a simple statement stripped of culture or historical period. It should be as relevant for the Biblical Abraham as for Abraham Lincoln. Simply state it in a short sentence.

“God is always with us.”

“Lies are destructive to relationships.”

“When one prays to God He listens.” 

Our own cultural era is known for relativism, which touts that truth is relative to each individual’s own perception and experiences. Experience based, it tends to be subjective. We know that even our culture must admit there are some absolutes. In science, the law of gravity for instance. Regarding moral truth, we know that there is a collective conscience among human beings that deplores a brutally heinous crime.


Standard of Truth

The Bible sets itself as a standard of truth. Look at Psalm 19:7 about the Word of God, the Bible.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 ESV

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “The Spirit of truth” in John 16:13. He calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life in John 14:6.

Distilling a Bible story or passage down to the timeless truth is important because it leads us to appropriate application to our own everyday life. It bridges the journey from the cultural of the Middle Eastern ancient Bible times to our modern world.


The Picture, the Window and the Mirror

A pastor heard a well known pastor, Warren Wiersbe, illustrate finding timeless truths for writing sermons. He described it using the components of a picture, a window and a mirror A good explanation of this analogy for timeless truth would be like this.

The picture is the story or narrative in the Bible, beautifully written in its cultural context. We can look at it and admire it like a Rembrandt painting. But is it not our world.

Consider the window as the process from the Biblical world to our own. Someone referred to it like a time portal. Do it in prayer, study, and reflection on the key thought and driving principles that shed insight like a window opened, to cross over to our time. In writing magazine articles and Bible messages on world missions I found time spent thinking and praying on the big idea of the passage was time well spent.

The mirror represents reflection and introspection. We look at the passage for it to illuminate our current life. Could one apply the point of the passage on our life like putting on a shirt or a hat? Could we use the passage to examine our life similar to looking at a mirror before heading out the door?

God’s Word was written and is presented to us in multiple ancient Middle Eastern contexts. To best apply it to our lives it is useful to distill the big idea, that is, the timeless truth separated from culture, to move to relevancy of Scripture to our own world. Many of us do this without realizing it. 

Next week we will explore how ten steps can help us find the timeless truth of a passage.