Showing posts with label Observation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Observation. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

IBS-12 The Chapter Theme: #hashtagit


The Big Idea: Craft a Bible chapter theme title.

#Hashtag It

Precept author Pam Gillaspie suggests in her Bible studies to create a #hashtag for your chapter theme, thinking about how you’d post your Bible passage as a Twitter hashtag. To do that you'd come up with select key words. A catchy summarizing theme.

I don't succeed at Twitter. I revived my account several times, but each time I failed miserably. I had to recently google what a hashtag is! It is that number sign "#" inserted in your social media message that summarizes cleverly how you'd categorize the post. Clearly I never figured out Twitter or I’d already have known that!


Precept is the standard in Inductive Bible Study methodology. If you participate in a “Precept-upon-Precept” study or an “In and Out study by Precept,” something called an AT A GLANCE chart is provided. As you move through your study you create a theme for each chapter which you write as a chapter heading on your AT A GLANCE chart. You include the author, date and purpose of the book. When you have enough chapter themes to determine the theme of the whole book, that is filled in too.

Whether you like social media or not, the hashtag concept is a creative way to label a chapter. Summarize in 2-7 words what each chapter is all about.

Why is this valuable?

  • It challenges you to digest/summarize what each chapter is about.
  • You can quickly refer to a chapter later and view themes.
  • It helps you remember what you studied.
  • Compiling them guides you to discern the overall theme for each book.

How can I determine the theme?

1. Repetition and Key Words. Look at your passage work and observe the key words you have noticed. Look at the paragraphs and observe any phrases repeated. How about your comparison/contrast notes?

2. Summarize the chapter. Talk out loud to yourself telling what the chapter is saying. Or write down in your own words a short paragraph of summation of the chapter.

3. Observe the first and last sentence. You may see a framework or a timeline. Perhaps you will see a problem and the solution.

4. Emphasis. Why is this chapter here? What is useful about it? What might the author be trying to show?

5. Character or Activity. Is there a key player? Is there a major activity? You can label the chapter with something like “Call of Moses,” “Ten Commandments,” or the “Feeding of 5000.”

You can neatly summarize your chapter or study section because you have done the work of observation. You are now ready to move on to Interpretation and Application!

From the Precept Inductive Bible Study Bible


This is twelfth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Up next: The ABC’s of Interpretation 
Table of Contents 



1. Why is a title useful when looking for a movie to watch or a book to read? What can it tell you?

2. Remember prayer while studying the Bible, especially if you feel stuck. It is a great occasion to lift our eyes heavenward and ask for a little help!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

IBS-11 The Bible, My Workbook: comarisons and contrasts


The Big Idea: Suggestions how to show word relationships in a Bible passage.

The Bible, My Workbook

The Bible is a manual for life and godliness! It is not merely a pretty book for the shelf, or a family heirloom. It is the sacred Word of God. However its intent is as a resource for everyday life. Study it intently! Consider making a Bible passage worksheet and mark it up!

If you are following this blog series, you have already marked your chapter or passage for references to God, time and places, people and key words. Perhaps word relationships have jumped out at you. Try looking for these!

1. Identify Lists. In the text, number the items in the list. Some put a bracket around the section. I usually just label and write out a list on a piece of paper instead of number them in the Bible.

I love list making. I look for lists of what we should do, characteristics, what God does for us, bad examples and so forth. It will be particularly useful to review when you get to the application phase.

Easy list examples in Scripture:

  • Exodus 20               Ten Commandments
  • Proverbs 31             Character of a virtuous woman
  • Isaiah 9:6                 Characteristics of the Messiah
  • Galatians 5:22-23    Fruit of the Spirit

2. Mark Comparisons. You can circle the two words or phrases and draw a line between them to indicate the relationship. The wise man and the foolish man (Matt. 7:24-27). Treasures on earth versus treasures in heaven (Matt. 6: 19-21). You may also find cause and effect, such as when you do A, B will happen. What you plant is what you will harvest (Gal. 6:7-8)

3. Mark Contrasts. In 1 Peter 5:5 you see God's response to the proud and to the humble. Putting a slash between them identifies a contrast. I often underline the sections and draw a line with a slash through it because they may be in separate verses.

There are a lot of contrasts in the Bible. Starting in Genesis 1 light and darkness is contrasted and is revisited often in the Bible. Love and hate (I John 4:20). The flesh versus the Spirit (Eph. 2:1-3).  Look for contrasts because they will also be useful during application on the way to live and the way not to live.

4. Mark Conclusion and Transitional Words. You can put a square around these words to set them apart. They invite us to reflect, summarize, and make conclusions. Again helpful for application. My class must get tired of me saying, "Let's stop and talk about what the "therefore" is there for?"

Make the Bible your workbook. Enjoy your homework!


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

Up next: The Chapter Theme
Previous post: Marking Key Words
Table of Contents 



1. Do you see the Bible as a workbook for life? Why or why not?

2. Give an example of how the Bible might be useful for an everyday situation.

3. Pray right now that God gives you a hunger to dig in the Bible with enthusiasm!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Marking Key Words: Read, Mark Repeat!


The Big Idea: Find key words in a Bible passage and mark them in a consistent manner.

Read, Mark, Repeat

Key words appear repetitively. Synonyms too. Repetition is important. The Bible was written in an oral society and repetition was useful to remember key principles. Pay attention to them!

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:7 NASB 95

I like the way the New Living Translation starts this verse. Repeat them again and again to your children.

Key Words can summarize the lesson. They may not be repeated but they are the obvious point. You don't need to look for deep hidden secrets. The God's truths are often evident in a passage. Ask yourself, what is being described?


Some Marking Guidelines:

Precept offers specific recommendations that many follow. If it is useful to you, great. If another color works for you or another symbol, that's OK. Keep a log somewhere of your symbols and colors so you can be consistent.

1. Mark people or groups. Often blue for the author or main character and orange for the audience.

2. Places double underlined in green.

3. Time references, circled in green, simple clock in the margin. 

4. Key words often have both colors and symbols. Circles and squares around words used. Slashes or Xs for opposites. 

  • Yellow often used for God, holiness, heaven, etc.
  • Black used often for sin, bondage, death.
  • Red for blood, sacrifice, atonement…
  • Green often for words on spiritual growth, money...
  • Blue used especially for the nation and the land of Israel

It is useful to consult the Precept List Kari Dent for useful lists, even by books of the Bible. There are some variations. That's OK. This is meant to be a helpful guide on what works for you.

If you are using a Precept study guide, it will give recommendations. For usefulness, consistency helps through the Bible so keep a record of what you use.


Chaotic or constructive?

A friend confessed marking up the text for Inductive Bible Study feels it is a bit confusing and messy when the whole page is marked up.  Kay Arthur of Precept agrees that marking every word in a passage can get difficult to follow. All markings are not necessary for each chapter. Some words are more valuable to mark than others.

My husband marks less. I mark more. I begin on a worksheet rather than directly in my Bible. Why? I find it helpful re-reading the text to see something fresh each time.

This exercise must be useful for YOU! Some photocopy the Bible passage. Some make a fresh worksheet for key words and another fresh worksheet for correlations and contrasts. Some people doodle the text or draw charts in the margin. For others, Bible mapping or extensive outlines help. It will come more easily as you practice a method of recording.

What's important is that you are reading the Bible, examining it carefully.


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

Up next: Comparisons and Contrasts
Previous post: Identifying God

Table of Contents 



1. Practice looking at a paragraph or a chapter and find repetitive words/synonyms. At this stage is this easy or hard for you?

2. Do you think the repeated words are important to the passage?




Wednesday, August 11, 2021

IBS-9 Identifying God: looking for God in the Bible


Big Idea: Marking the words for God in the Bible reveals a lot about Him.

Looking for God in the Bible

A puzzle called "Where's Waldo?" sports Waldo with his red striped scarf and hat immersed in a sea of people. Your job is to find him. As we study the Bible, it is a worthwhile venture to spot God. Find references to Him. Look for other names referring to Him. Figure out when you can, if it is talking about God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. Or showing the three-in-one Trinity.

The Many Names of God

God is referred to by so many names, Bible studies are published on the names of God (Jehovah, Almighty, Abba, Deliverer…) the names of Jesus (Christ, Son of God, Prince of Peace…) and the Holy Spirit (Comforter, Teacher, Advocate…). Often these names are capitalized when it is clear from the original text that it refers to God.

Inductive Markings for God

For serious Bible study, I use a printed off passage worksheet most of the time. (Click here for instructions how to make your own). I love to study a passage with colors and markers. I am a hands-on visual learner so it helps me. The first thing I look at when taking on a passage is to look for God. Here is what I do.

1. Reference God in Yellow colored pencil or highlighter. On my first reading inevitably I'll miss one or two, but repeat passes rectify it. I mark all references of God (Father, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Spirit and more) including pronouns too. (He, His, etc).


2. Symbolically Mark differently each member of the Trinity. I use the markings Precept uses. For a worksheet using regular paper I use an ordinary pen. If I write in my thin leafed Bible, I use an archival quality thin-lined pen, often purple or blue.


Father - Underline making it into a triangle.

Son - Underline and pull up at the end, crossing the up line.

Holy Spirit - Underline and then make a partial cloud over the word.

Trinity - The Godhead three-in-one, or God in general, use the same symbol for Father. Triangle.

Uncertain - Uncertain which one of the Trinity I just leave it yellow, unmarked any further.  

god, gods - for false gods, I prefer to underline in yellow or not at all.

Trinity Verse - there are numerous verses with all three of the Trinity represented. I put a triangle next to the verse in the Bible margin. I get excited finding a Trinity verse! Here's one from my Bible, Luke 2:26.

 3.Make Observation Lists. List what you learn about God here. List characteristics. List His nature and purpose.  List what God is not like. This requires another reading of the passage or perhaps multiple readings, noting what you have observed. Follow the yellow highlights!

God is everywhere. God is everywhere in the Bible. At times you find Him easily and at times you must look more closely. He is there to be discovered and known. Find joy in the journey!

 Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.  Isaiah 55:6


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

Up next: Marking Key Words
Previous post:Mark Up Your Bibles
Table of Contents 



1. How would you describe the difference between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?

2. Where would you think the Trinity might be mentioned in one place?

3. Try this exercise. Write or print out Luke 1:35 and try to differentiate the Trinity with a marker and pen.

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

IBS-8 Mark Up Your Bibles! Manual for life


The Big Idea: Marking a Bible passage helps you examine it carefully to apply it to your daily life.

Manual for Life

Mark up my Bible? It is a special, sacred book. At the same time, it is an active manual for life and godliness, meant to be read, studied and applied. It should be a part of life, not for display only. Please consider one Bible as your workbook!


Why mark up the Bible?

  • It slows you down to take it all in.
  • You notice details. People, places, key words.
  • You see correlations, repetition and contrasts.
  • You remember more.
  • You can easily find a marked passage to reaffirm you and more easily share with others.


What should you use to mark it?

Some Bibles have very thin paper so don't use ordinary ink pens. They and everyday highlighters bleed through eventually. Colored pencils work. I print the text as a worksheet to not write in my Bible. It keeps my Bible free from looking cluttered and leaves my preferred Bible fresh each time I read.

Use writing materials that will not bleed through over time called "archival"quality. Scrapbooking pens and markers work well. Suggestion:  PigmaMicron pens. Highlighter, ZebriteEco-Double.


What should you mark?

Read the passage over multiple times, each time looking for something different. You can focus better and you hold only one color at a time. Reading the passage repeatedly will help you notice something new each time. On my first pass, I mark God and references to Him.

1. God. There is a way to differentiate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (We will do this one next week. The rest of them the following week.)

2. People. I usually use blue for the author voice, and orange for the audience. When using couples I use blue and pink (like a passage on Joseph blue and Mary, pink).

3. Places. I double underline places, nations and nationalities in double green.

4. Time references. I use a simple clock showing 3 o'clock. This includes morning, night, seasons, etc.

5. Key Words. Colors and/or symbols work here. Just be consistent. It could be thematic words like love, sin, forgiveness, or financial references, nouns like heaven and hell, qualities such as peace, etc.

There is no wrong way, just what works for you. I mark the person's name and all their pronouns. My husband prefers to not mark the pronouns. There is no right or wrong way. Consistency throughout the Scriptures is useful for your future reference. The Precept marking system is useful. A bookmark comes with each study. Here is a link to a helpful site with 8 pages of word markings alphabetized. Also here are instructions how to make your own worksheet from any Bible text. 

Considering the Bible as a way God talks to us. Marking your Bible allows you to interact with Him.  

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB 95)

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

Up next: Identifying God
Previous Post: Investigative Reporter
Table of Contents 



1. Do you feel funny about writing in your Bible? Or did you feel that way at one time? Why?

2. Have you ever seen someone's Bible with passages marked up and writing in the margins, etc? What impression did it give you about that person?

3, What advantage might there be to write in your Bible? If you have done this before, how has it been useful for you?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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


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

Five "W"s and an "H"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Up next: Mark Up Your Bibles
Previous Post: The Power of Observation
Table of Contents 


1. Have you learned about the five investigative questions before? In what context? How might you compare it to looking at the Bible?

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

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

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








Wednesday, July 21, 2021

IBS-6 The Power of Observation: seeing words

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

Seeing Words

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

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

 Ten Ways Observation Helps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Bible Passage Worksheet

The Big Idea: Print off a Bible passage so you can mark it up with colors, word correlations, etc. Having a worksheet like this is one serious Bible study method! 


I learned about Bible worksheets from my college days when InterVarsity Christian Fellowship offered a Manuscript Bible Study. Everyone in the group worked from a double spaced page of a Bible passage with plenty of room to circle, color, and write questions. Everyone had the same Bible version and passage in front of them. Talk about all being on the same page! More about a manuscript study in a few minutes.

What I like about a worksheet:

  • A lot of room to make notes.
  • Use markers and pens and not worry about it bleeding through or messing up your Bible.
  • Multiple people talk about it from the same version.
  • Larger print than most Bibles for easier reading and observation.
  • A fresh look at a Bible passage you may have read many times before.


I find a worksheet to be so helpful, I've used it many years in various ways. I almost always include chapter and verse.

Personal Study. I use a worksheet for personal study of a passage. This is especially useful in examining a difficult passage.  With my ipad, I have even taken a screenshot of a passage and used a coloring feature to highlight and circle words. 

Side by Side. I use side by side worksheets of 2 or 3 translations for comparison. There are parallel Bibles available in hard copy. You can view the YouVersion app with 2 versions side by side. Comparisons can be useful. I don't double space these.

Group Worksheets. I do not give a worksheet for every Bible Study I lead. But for a particularly difficult passage, or for working together on a passage, I make a worksheet to hand out. Thus we are in the same translation for vocabulary and ease of discussion. Usually everyone will read the passage several times, each time looking at something different.

Often I create a passage with wide margins.  Occasionally I arrange a it with a Quarter page margin So more notes or correlations can be written. One could also use this space to make drawings or charts next to sections of the passage. 

Pre-marked Worksheets. At times I have prepared a worksheet with some of the work done for the class ahead of time. I may mark key words, or mentions of God. The class takes the task further. This works well for ease of listing multiple points such as actions of God in a given section.  This is a time saver since Our class is hemmed in by time.


With internet Bible availability I copy the text in the version I want and paste it into my Microsoft Word program. Here are three excellent websites for an electronic Bible on the web.

You will most likely make a worksheet on your computer and print it. Decide what Bible Version to use. Copy, cut and paste onto a document in a word processor program such as Microsoft Word. Make it about 12 pt print or larger for easier reading.  Word has a double space option. With Word and other programs you can change the margins, even specifying how wide from the left or the right. For making a side by side with different versions, I use the columns feature. Word also has a feature to number rows as you will see is valuable for a manuscript study. Also allows you to remove verse marks in the settings feature. 

Use colored pencils, markers or highlighters to mark it up. If you don't have contrasting colors use circles and squares around words, and underline/double underline. Symbols can be used. But the point is to SEE the relationships of words.


Precept Ministries has worksheets for everyone to have the same version and the same
passage. You can get a study for the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or the English Standard Version (ESV). The packet is usually for a book of the Bible and each chapter is on a page. Chapter and verse numbers are included. There is a line at the heading for the chapter theme to be inserted, and a chart at the end of the study for you to record the theme of each chapter you have studied. It is a good recording tool. 

Precept provides suggested colors and symbols to help get you started marking the passages.  Suggested symbols include a purple triangle filled with yellow for God (the Father), purple for royalty the king, and yellow because God is light.

Manuscript Bible Study was started in the 1950s by a staff member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Paul Byer. He discovered it was helpful to have a double spaced passage of the Bible. It really enriched his learning as he marked the pages up and identified correlations in the text. Purists of this method remove the chapter and verse markings and paragraphs. It is printed only on one side. As they work through the book or section, they may lay them all out in order on the floor to get a sense of what the original Bible passage looked like when the writers in Bible times put down the Words of God.

In looking at paper with the words put together without chapter, verse or paragraph, you have a chance to view it the way the early church did. It is a fresh way to interact with God's Word. This is why it is called a Manuscript study. Many who do this will put line markings every 10 lines so a Bible Study group can refer to it more easily.

The Bible was originally written in mainly Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT). It was put on papyrus, parchment, vellum (animal skins) and even pottery chards. There were no chapters or verses assigned. It was purely written like a letter, story or document.

For the first 1000 years of the church, there were no chapter and verse divisions. The first thing to be added prior to 1000 a.d. was paragraph markings to divide the Word into readings to cover a year. Chapters were first introduced in the 12th century in the Latin Vulgate. Verses were added to the first English Bible, the Geneva Bible, in 1560. They were considered helpful for reference and quotation. The artificial chapter and verse divisions has caused some problems in breaking up a coherent thought or theme that should go together. There is a good chapter and verse history on Wikipedia. We have become so used to chapter and verse markings it is hard to imagine it another way. We must remember the chapter and verse markings are not inspired, just a useful tool for finding our way.

The authors of the Bible wrote it so we could understand the story of God as a whole. It is a story with themes that synchronize together to tell us of God and his desire to communicate with us, that we can know him and be his friend. It is great to study it and dig deep into his Word. But don't break the Bible into small favorite parts so much that you miss the woven tapestry of the whole story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Bible Observation

The Big Idea: To understand the Bible oberve the text like an newpaper reporter. Look at the facts. Read the passage again and again from different angles.

Observation: What does it say?

"I spy" is a child's game that teaches the power of observation. Scripture Spy follows this intent. The Bible is not a mere child's game. It is to be observed and studied intently to find every treasure, encouragement and guideline for a fulfilling, God honoring life.

Inductive Bible Study is a process of digging into a scripture passage itself instead of relying on devotional guides for our Bible study. There are various methods, but most agree that the 3 most important steps are:

  • Observation - What does it say?
  • Interpretation - What does it mean?
  • Application - Why does it matter?


Today we will focus on the first step. Observation.

Of course as I always say, prayer is always our first work and our last work. I trust you have prayed over your study time already. If not, be sure you do so. 

We read. We observe. We chart. But ultimately we want to know God better, understand what He is telling us, and be led by His Holy Spirit in our study.

Observation is foundational to our study of God's Word. We are taught from a young age to learn to be aware of our surroundings and the job of discovery. Your mother played Peek-a-boo with you as she temporary hid from your sight, then you both giggled when you saw her again. Remember the hours you spent playing hide and seek? How about the "I Spy" game. "I spy with my little eye, something ____." Oh, the joy of discovery! 

Observing the well known verse, John 3:16, one might briefly write "God loved the world. Sent His Son. Believe and live forever." Sometimes it is helpful to digest a verse, a chapter or a book into ten words, or a simple sentence. It is the big picture. But the point of inductive study is to slow down. Examine. Meditate. Observe what you may not have seen before.


Imagine a fender bender at an intersection. The casual pedestrian might report that a blue car ran the stop sign and hit a red car in the intersection. A trained investigator will note so much more. They will notice the make and model of each car. The license plate with state. How many were in each car. What the driver looked like. If a car had a broken tail light. What the sounds were. If a security tape caught it on camera, they will stop the tape and rerun a section. They will zoom in on certain features. They will look at weather conditions and time of day.

An investigator will look. Examine more carefully. Look again. Ask themselves questions. Consider the five senses. Map out the scene on paper.


When I was in college, I attended a retreat with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship called Bible and Life II. It focused on Inductive Bible Study. The opening illustration grabbed my attention and has stuck with me all these years. The story comes from the 1800s. It is called Agassiz and the Fish.  It's about a Harvard professor, a student, and a fish. Professor Agassiz gave the student a fish and asked him to study it. Then report. Don't consult a book. Don't ask anyone else. Just study the fish. He didn't say when he'd be back. 

Boredom set in as the student studied the pickled fish. Then he started looking at it more closely. Hmm, two eyes. Sharp teeth. Then he drew the fish and discovered all kinds of features not noticed before.  The Professor came back and coached him on further observation of the same fish. Finally after 4 days Dr. Agassiz introduced a similar fish and asked for comparisons and contrasts to be made. And sketched. The student grew to love the etymologic study of fish.


This story is now a famous illustration for the power of observation. It gives a great example for doing Inductive Bible study. Some key thoughts:

  • Slow down. Don't rush through the passage. Read it again and again. Read it in other Bible translations.
  • Just sit with the passage a bit. Think about it. Visualize it in history. Meditate on what it is saying.
  • Write down words and ideas in the passage. Look for repeats and synonyms used. Note contrasts. Lists.
  • Consider drawing a chart. Make a stick figure picture that illustrates it.


Every investigator, be it an insurance agent, news reporter, police officer or international spy, learns to answer these six questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Not every question is going to be relative to the verse or sectional passage, but it is good to go through all the questions. It will slow you down as you ask yourself these questions.

  • Who? - Who is writing? Is God mentioned (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit or all 3)? Is the audience mentioned? Is someone else named? Do we learn some characteristic or quality about the person?
  • What? - What is happening? What event is going on? What is someone doing? What do you learn about the historical context? What object or lesson is featured?
  • When? - Do you see any time references? Time of day? Season? Historical reference (i.e. when so and so was king…) Does is say when something will happen? Does it refer to a past event?
  • Where? - Is a town mentioned? A country? A region? Does it talk about the land? Hills? Village? Going up to Jerusalem? Can you find where it was written (check notes at the beginning of the book in a study Bible)
  • Why? - Is there any reason given why something was said? Why one should respond a certain way? Why God did something or the motives for a person? Sometimes we have to deduce, but sometimes the Scriptures are very plain (i.e. God loved the world so much that He gave His only son. John 3:16).
  • How? - Are we told how God will accomplish something? How the people reacted? How something is done? How is a truth illustrated?


As you are working through the passage, there are other word groupings for which to look.

  • Key word or phrase: Perhaps a word repeats or is illustrated throughout.
  • Contrast/Comparison: Rich and poor, light and darkness, good and evil, It/then and so on.
  • Transitional words: Therefore (what is the "therefore" there for?). But. Because. Likewise.
  • Command. Promise. Warning. Advice.
  • Illustration or analogy ("The Kingdom of God is like…")
  • Emphatic statements: Indeed. Truly. "I tell you/I say unto you." Behold/Look!


Anytime in this phase, feel free to write down questions that come to you. Hopefully the answers will start to reveal themselves as you study. Note also if there are questions and answers in the passage.

Are there Old Testament quotes? Usually they are indented in the passage. There is a cross reference in some Bibles to tell you where it was said. You can also Google it. Yes, you can! Look that up in it's original context. (If not at this phase, in the interpretation phase). 

Cross Reference illustrated

If there are words you don't understand, feel free to look them up in an English dictionary. Also if a person in the passage is mentioned, check for other sections of the Bible that tell more about that person. (A concordance, or the search feature of an electronic Bible).


You have made a great beginning to digging into God's Word. As time goes on your power of observation will get easier. You will always be amazed at what you see in God's Word as you slow down.

Finally, there is a comical informative video by 2100 Productions (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's media branch). Used by permission. It shows Observation in Inductive Bible Study and tells the story of Professor Agassiz

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Bible Word Search

Big idea: How to do a word search to reaseach specific words used in the Bible. 

Why look for special words in the Bible? 

Topics are a reason to do a word search.  If you want to  know what the Bible says about "grace" in the Bible, you might ask yourself where the verses are located that talk about "grace". Compare how often they occur in the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you are studying the book of Ephesians, you might check how often the word "grace" appears in that book. You could see what chapters seem to focus on it more. You could see if it occurs as a word more in one epistle than another. The one with more occurances might be a good place to study if you want to learn about that topic. 

Focus on a subject can be done using a word search. Let's use the word "grace" again. You could look up a number of verses in one book of the Bible, or the whole if you wish, and write down each verse reference and what it teaches you about grace. Then look at everything and compare and contrast. 

Finding a key verse based on a key word is another way to use a word search. Say you have always heard the verse, "For by grace you are saved through faith." But you are not sure where in the Bible to find it. You can look up the word "grace" and most likely will find it's address, it's reference, in the Bible.  


One of my favorite concordances is called the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. It is one of the oldest and best ones out there. It was put together by James Strong and published first in 1890.  It was first used with the King James Bible. Now it is also available for the NIV.  It lists the occurance of every word. See the second photo for the list of every occurance of "the." Since it is so old, it is very easy to find it available for free on many software programs and websites. For instance

There are other concordances available as well. Cruden's Concordance and Young's Concordance are two examples. Many study Bibles will have a less exhaustive concordance at the back of the Bible. 

Electronic Word Search 

One of the most common electronic Bibles is YouVersion, espcially as an app for tablets and phones. You can find the app by the Appstore or Google Play.

Here is how to do a word search using the YouVersion Bible. You will want to look in the upper right hand corner of the Bible page in the app and find the magnifying glass.  Put the word in you are looking for. 

You will find there are options for your search. You can isolate the word to the Old Testament or the New Testament, or confine your search to just one book of the Bible. 

It is even intruiging to see how many times a certain word occurs in each book of the Bible. You can then go to each instance and note what it says about a particular word. 

There are other excellent Bible programs out there, each with a different way to search. Bible Hub, mentioned above does. Another one I like using is  Play around with them and see what you find! Bible Hub also has tools that include Bible dictionaries. Those are helpful too. More on that another day!

Up Next: Be a Scripture Spy

Previous Post: An Introduction