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Observation 5
Posted on August 27, 2010

You may remember that I have said that observation is key to Bible study; really it is key to life. You may have read Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes. One of the remarkable things about Holmes is the ability he cultivated of observing all of the detail around him. He used those observations to unravel the problems he was presented. While Doyle characterized Holmes’ method as deduction, it was based on inductive reasoning. Holmes remarked to Watson, "You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles." (Sherlock Holmes, in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery.") With Holmes, the accumulation of the “trifles,” led to the clear understanding of the presenting problem. That is what we are striving for in observation.


So how does one move from the collection of the “trifles” to the unraveling of the problem, in our case the core content of a passage? The answer is twofold. First in understanding what the “trifles” are revealing about the problem, and second asking the right questions about what is being revealed.

Category: Bible Study

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Hard Stuff
Posted on August 26, 2010

What do you do with hard stuff in the Bible? In the series of Blog entries on demanding (here, here, and here) we looked at 1 Samuel 15 where in verse 3 Samuel instructs Saul on behalf of God to wipe out Amalek. By wipe out, leave nothing alive. Extermination was the goal and the command. Some people responded to that, especially the part where it was specified that the command included infants. There was response on the website and I got some email about the issue. What do you do with that? I posted this on or about the day that I first held my newborn granddaughter. She is totally helpless and innocent, yet those like her in Amalek were under a death sentence from God through Samuel.


I thought it might be a useful exercise to use this as a way to examine how we can and should deal with difficult passages in the Bible. There are more than a few. The process we will follow will take some time and will require some deep thought and some work on those who wish to participate. It will take several of these posts spread over several weeks. If you stick with it I will equip you to handle just about any of the difficult issues you find in scripture.

Category: Bible Study

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Observation 4
Posted on August 25, 2010

We have been looking at increasing observation skills. We have looked at using the seven questions; looking for repeated words, concepts, and phrases; finally we looked at using structural markers as an aid to observation. How can these be used together to wring out observation of the text?


At Dallas Seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks, Prof, taught and introductory class on Bible study for many years. I had heard messages on cassette tapes that were taken from this course early in the 70’s. I tracked down a Dallas grad and copied his notes from that class. I used those notes and messages as a foundation from which I built first my habits of study and what I equipped others in our ministry to do.

Category: Bible Study

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Demanding 3
Posted on August 24, 2010

[Yesterday’s post raised, in some of those who read it, the issue of God’s command to totally wipe out a people – especially infants. It has troubled some of those who have read it. So, we will cover in more detail this issue in a later post.]


The last installment of Saul’s mistrust of the heart of God is in the passage where we started, 1 Samuel 28. To reiterate the context, Saul is facing a huge battle with the Philistines. He is outnumbered. He is desperate for guidance. His mentor, Samuel, from whom he received a harsh rebuke and was estranged, has died. He comes to the Lord but the Lord is silent. So he does what he has done all of his life. He takes matters into his own hands. He seeks out a medium to get the answers that he cannot get from Samuel or God. The desire for answers and guidance is not a problem. The demand for guidance is.

Category: Spiritual Life

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Demanding 2
Posted on August 23, 2010

Recently we have been looking at Saul in 1 Samuel 28, the last sad chapter in this first King of Israel’s life. I stated that there was a pattern of Saul not trusting God. The pattern reemerges in 1 Samuel 15. In verse 3 Saul is given his marching orders. He is to “go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Fairly clear. So Saul goes on his divine mission. A few verses later we read, “Saul and the people spared Agag (the king of Amalek) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”


If you are like me, you may notice that Saul did not do what God had commanded him to do through Samuel. He went on the mission but did not carry it out as outlined by God. Half done is not done. In verses 13 – 23, Samuel confronts Saul. If it were not so tragic it would be humorous. It is worth taking some time to read. Saul claims obedience, then he blame shifts, telling Samuel that it was the people not him, and tries to cover it over by claiming it was done in the name of worship. Samuel and God are having none of it. Saul was more concerned about how the people were going to react to him than obeying what God told him to do. Trust here would have been to do what was unpopular, what he feared, and then to trust God for the outcome. But as with the sacrifices, Saul did not trust God’s heart, direction, and involvement. So he acted. He did what he thought was best in the situation. The result, he was cut off from being king, the Holy Spirit was removed from him and replaced with an evil spirit to torment him, David was anointed king in his place in the next chapter, and Saul never saw Samuel again. Radical consequences.

Category: Spiritual Life

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Demanding
Posted on August 20, 2010

In 1 Samuel 28 we read a really sad episode in the life of the first king of Israel, Saul. You may already know the story. Saul was in a pitched conflict with the Philistines. He was outnumbered. He was desperate for guidance. His mentor, Samuel, from whom he received a harsh rebuke and was estranged, had died. He went to the Lord but the Lord was silent.


Saul got in trouble with God because he did not trust God. Nearly from the beginning of his reign he was unable to trust, to wait on God. This attitude shows up first in I Samuel 13:8 – 15. It is humorous to read, especially verse 12. Saul “forces” himself to disobey God and make the offering that Samuel was to make because, from his perspective, he needed that offering to insure his victory over his enemy the Philistines. Wow. What a study in self justification. Saul panicked when he saw the people leaving him. He focused on the circumstances rather than the command of God. He took matters into his own hands. He fixed the problem.

Category: Spiritual Life

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Observation 3
Posted on August 18, 2010

You may have heard “If you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, look to see what it is there for.” The reason for this is that “therefore” is a structural marker. It indicates that what has come before leads to what comes after. In observing what the author is saying, it gives a structural clue to how he is framing his argument. As we mentioned yesterday, by extension, the Spirit used this structure to communicate truth to us.


“Therefore” is not the only word like that. For instance, “but” indicates that what has come before is in contrast with what comes after; “for” will in a lot of cases will indicate the supporting reason for what has just been said. There are many others you can look for click here for a list you can use in your study.

Category: Bible Study

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Observation 2
Posted on August 17, 2010

Last week you may remember that we talked about the need to increase observation skills in order to gain a better grasp of the Bible. Noticing repetition in the text will help us immensely as we look to answer the observation question, “What does it say? There are a number of reasons for this. The Holy Spirit chose to communicate to us through the written word. That means, by definition, He used the vocabulary and grammar of an existing language when He moved the authors to pen the originals. That was no mistake. The languages He chose have remained the same since the originals were penned. We have a plethora of resources that unlock both the grammar and the vocabulary of the original texts. The structure and laws of grammar aid us as we seek to observe.


Another reason that repetition is key, is the culture from which the originals emerged. The writers of both testaments were Jews. They grew up with the Hebrew language. In the Hebrew repletion, is used for emphasis, especially in the wisdom literature (Psalms and Proverbs). Repetition is also encountered in the Prophets.

Category: Bible Study

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Distraction
Posted on August 16, 2010

Do you ever get distracted? It happens to me a lot, especially when I am coming in the presence of God to re-engage for the day. This morning Psalm 71 was on my schedule. Reading through it, about half way through, I was halfway done planning a project to scan all of the negatives and slides I have from my time in the Air Force… I had pictures in my mind of where all the negatives were… The old camera box is on the shelf in the closet under the stairs, and I think the slide storage box is there as well…I will need to get all of the slides out of the carousels… oh, there are a couple of negatives in the safety deposit box… I wonder where the disc negative is of that picture Ranae likes so much… It is sure a good thing that this scanner will scan negatives into pictures I can preserve all of this digitally… I probably should scan all of the pictures hanging in the house of the family… what if we had a fire… Isn’t Psalm 71 great!


About ¾ of the way through the Psalm I realized what was going on. Here I was standing before the Lord to worship, rather than falling to my knees and drinking deeply. I was out in the toolie bushes gathering serious wool. What was that about? I stopped and prayed for focus and clarity and started over… This morning was a real struggle.

Category: Spiritual Life

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Observation
Posted on August 13, 2010

A couple of days ago you may remember that I said there were four basic questions that we need to ask in any Bible Study. The first is, “What does it say?” As we discussed, that is the observation questions and has to be first in order to make sense of what the author is presenting. We mentioned that if one wants to grow in Bible study, that learning to make good observations is essential. For the next few days I will share some tools to help you observe more in the text.


First thing you can do to improve your observation is to bombard the text with questions. You can start with the basic seven that reporters (are supposed to) use:

Category: Bible Study

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Pabulum
Posted on August 12, 2010

If you have read much of this blog you may have noticed that I encourage people to do Bible study. Not just Bible study but independent study. That means that you start with the Bible and a blank sheet of paper (or in my case computer screen). The book and workbook (Your Walk, their walk) I wrote was aimed at encouraging men to not only engage in this but to lead in equipping their families to do the same.


There are a number of reasons why this is important. Hebrews 5:13, 14 gives us the main point. If we are going to mature, be effective as a believer, we have to graduate from baby food, milk or pabulum, to real food, meat.

Category: Bible Study

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Questions
Posted on August 11, 2010

When you are in a Bible Study, what is the first question that usually comes up about a passage?


If your experiences mirrors mine, someone in the group is going to ask, “What does this mean?” In 99 cases out of 100, that is the wrong question.

Category: Bible Study

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Perspective
Posted on August 10, 2010

Have you ever read something in the Scripture and responded, “That is just not true!” I was reading in Psalm 41 this morning, verse 11 says, “By this I know that You are pleased with me, Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.” I do not know about you but that has not always been my experience. I have had a number of enemies shout in triumph over me. That really bothered me, because in the verse the implication seems to be that if I have been defeated by my enemy then the Lord is not pleased with me.


I started doing an inventory of defeats. That was a fun exercise. Then started spiraling into how can God not be pleased with me if I get defeated? My first response was to discount the passage and chalk it up to some genre specific issue so that I could make the Scripture not say what it seemed to be saying. Do you ever find yourself doing that? Struggling with what the text says; trying to make it fit with your experience; or working to explain what it seems to plainly say away?

Category: Spiritual Life

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You're Kidding God...
Posted on August 09, 2010

You may remember that in December 2008 I wrote about my reaction to Philippians 2, no probably not, it’s here.


A couple of days ago, while I was thinking through another passage of scripture, the Lord directed me to Matthew 24. I had another, “you have to be kidding…” moment. Does that ever happen to you when you read the Bible?

Category: Spiritual Life

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Errands
Posted on August 06, 2010

In 1 Samuel 17:20 we read that David left the flock… There is more there, his dad gave him an assignment to take supplies to the army and specifically to see how his brothers were faring in the war with the Philistines. David left the flock there with every intention of coming back. But on this errand, events took place that changed forever the course of not only David’s life but the course of history.


When David got to the camp of the army of Israel, he walked into a bizarrely comical situation. Picture a pep rally before the big game. Or better the pregame huddle in the tunnel. The men were pumping themselves up for the fray. Yelling war cries; you can almost see and hear it, you have seen it on TV a hundred times, men jumping up and down in a circle with their hands extended and a final cry of, “Heyyyyyyyyy, Israel!” Then they break the huddle and run to the field. Only to see the nine foot plus Goliath standing there waiting for them. So they run out of the huddle, do a 180 and run back up the tunnel.

Category: Spiritual Life

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In the Grass 3
Posted on August 05, 2010

Last thing I have been learning from the time with Bob is integrity. You may have heard it said, “Do what I say; not what I do.” You may have even said that to your kids from time to time, if not verbally, then with your actions. I have.


One of the things that I have found really helpful in my walk with Christ is Scripture memory. I have memorized a lot of verses. Emphasis on the past tense there. Seminary gutted my memory discipline. In dealing with the tsunami of information and assignments there I chose to let that go. Bad choice. I am struggling to regain the discipline.

Category: Spiritual Life

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In the Grass 2
Posted on August 04, 2010

Yesterday we talked about the learning from working with a friend in a Bible Study with an eighty year old man in a retirement home. There have been many lessons from that experience thus far, and I expect more as we continue.


Focus has been another major learning. While the focus of my friend (let’s call him Bob), who set up the study, has been the men he was hoping to reach, my focus has been Bob. I have been working with Bob to equip him to both study for himself and lead others in the study. One of the things we have had to talk about several times is the need for those in the study to struggle with the questions for themselves. Typically in any study in which I have participated when questions are asked and the participants do not share their thoughts in an appropriate time, the leader will rush to fill the dead air with the answer. Time runs differently when you are the leader of a study. For the leader 7 nanoseconds feel like 7 hours. For the participant it feels like 7 nanoseconds. If Bob answers his own questions quickly, two things happen. First, those in the study learn that he really does not want them to answer. Second, he robs them of the process of struggling with the text to come up with the answer. In the case of the scripture the process of struggling with the text is as if not more important than the answer. The reason is that when we process the information ourselves, it becomes ours; when we are told the answer retention is slippery.

Category: Spiritual Life

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In the Grass
Posted on August 03, 2010

For the past few months I have been meeting a guy for breakfast. He had missed one of the workshops and wanted to get some help in leading his family in the Word. We have been doing several verse analysis studies and slowly building up his confidence in the Word.


He shared a prayer request for some men who lived in a retirement home near him. He expressed an interest in getting them into a Bible study. Since he was not sure if they were all believers I suggested that he do an evangelistic study in the book of John and offered to help him. We started the study about four weeks ago. It is really different. Essentially it is my friend, and 80 year old man, and me. I have learned a lot.

Category: Spiritual Life

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Reengage
Posted on August 02, 2010

Writing the books took more out of me than anticipated. I have had a lot of thoughts but have been written out. I am going to reengage with the blog now… There has been a lot going on, there are two things I want to bring you up to speed on; one is how the ministry is developing and the other is drift in the Christian life. Read more and comment.


I have, in the past few weeks, been pulled into a situation that has caused me to think a lot about drift. A man I have known for a long time has apparently fallen into heresy. Who he is or what the specific heresy is not important for our purposes here, but how he got there and the impact it has had on the body of Christ is important. I do not know all of the details of how he got to his current positions; I have reviewed his materials, but for the time being have been asked not to contact him. I want to. Suffice it to say that where he is now seems to be far from where he was when we had frequent contact. He is a leader, a man of influence, one to whom younger Christians look to for guidance and direction. As such, at some level, he is intimidating. It would be a risk for a young believer to question what was being taught by this man. So for many years, apparently, my friend was in a situation where he was drifting in his beliefs and there was not a peer or mentor to speak into his life. There were no checks on his thinking or if there were he ignored them.

Category: Spiritual Life

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