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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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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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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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SWEAT 5
Posted on January 08, 2010

The final letter of SWEAT is “T,” “Time.” It takes time to develop intimacy with God through the Word. We do not like this. We live in a culture of 24 hour news cycles. I get tweets on my phone, and status updates from facebook constantly telling me what my friends are thinking/doing. I can click on the web and find information in a matter of seconds. If I can’t remember where a verse is in the Bible I can do a search on a word or concept in my Bible software and find it in a matter of second. I zap commercials. I microwave popcorn. I get frustrated if I have to wait for anything. Time is money. We only get 168 hours of it a week.


God does not dwell in time. He transcends it. There is no sequence to His experience or knowledge. He wants a relationship with us and for us that means we have to invest the time. We cannot take a pill, stick something in a microwave, and create a relationship with God. We can’t do that with the people who are closest to us. It takes time, both in quantity and quality.

Category: Bible Study

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SWEAT 4
Posted on January 07, 2010

This is the fourth post on this so we must be on “A.” “A” stand for “Apply.” Howard Hendricks is a professor at Dallas Seminary. He has written several books and has an extensive speaking ministry. He taught at Dallas only the fall semester while I was there. He traveled in the spring and summer speaking literally all over the world. You can hear a lot of his messages here.


One of the courses he taught was introduction to hermeneutics. It is a fancy seminary word for interpretation. The course was really about how to do effective Bible Study. Prof (that is what most of us called him) is passionate about inductive Bible study. In the student lounge there was wall paper with interpretive art that depicted seminary life. One of the images was Prof writing O. I. C. A. on the board; the four steps of inductive study; Observation, Interpretation, Correlation, and Application. One of Prof’s more frequent admonitions was, “Interpretation without Observation is Abomination, but Interpretation without Application is Abortion.” Strong words. The point he was driving home is that God did not give us the Bible to increase our knowledge or enable us to win at Biblical Trivial Pursuit. He intends our interaction with the Bible to be transformative. That requires us to act on what we encounter there.

Category: Bible Study

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SWEAT 3
Posted on January 06, 2010

So we have seen that it can be hard work to meet with the Lord in the Word. (For a couple of really good insights into that click here and here.) If that is all that we have to look forward to in this journey of getting to know Christ through His Word, the line to start the process would not be very long. I am not a big fan of exercise. I do it. Not as often as I should. But I do it. The pattern has been that exercise goes in phases for me. When there is a break in the phase, that is when because of travel, illness, or other circumstances I have had a layoff in consistency, I really hate getting started again. I have lost so much momentum. It is like starting all over – probably because it is starting all over. But there comes a time about three or four weeks into the process where my muscles and cardio vascular system have adjusted, and it becomes a pleasure to be out there. I begin to notice the scenery and my surroundings rather than having to concentrate solely on the process of the exercise. There have been times it has been an absolute joy.


That is what the “E” is about in “SWEAT.” Jeremiah 15:16 (one of my favorite verses, btw) says, “Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” Note that the action of eating the Word of God came prior to Jeremiah’s attitude toward the Word of God. What does eating do for us. In the physical sense it gives us fuel to run our bodies. We cannot go very long without it. When we eat the food becomes a part of us, literally. It is used to create and repair cells. It powers our systems. It allows us to live.

Category: Bible Study

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SWEAT 2
Posted on January 05, 2010

We saw yesterday that we can become partakers of the divine nature through exercising faith, applying the promises of God. This is because they are based on His nature and character. As we trust what He has revealed to us then we prove His word in our life.


Study is the first word in the acronym Sweat, it refers to this process. In order to trust the promise of God, the Word of God, we have to know what it says and reveals about Him. The only way I know to do that is through the Study of the Scriptures. Sure we can read about what others have studied, but that would be somewhat like courting through a proxy. We would have no firsthand experience.

Category: Bible Study

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SWEAT 1
Posted on January 04, 2010

A while back one of you noticed the acronym SWEAT in the picture from the Friday evening meeting in Trinidad. I got an email asking what that was all about. Bottom line it was and is a way to remember what we needed to do to build on the week of investigating the Nature and Character of God.


In response to his email I sent the top level of the acronym and asked if he wanted me to expand it. He did. So I decided to do that here over the next five days (or so). Thought that may be a good way to start the year.

Category: Bible Study

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On Your Own
Posted on February 09, 2009

In the past two Fathers to Sons clinics – wait I have to give you some context. One of the things that I feel is very important in our relationship with Christ is that it is not buffered. What I mean by that is that all of us are to have an intimate, vital, personal relationship with Christ. That means that no one can do that for us. We have to do it ourselves. Much like no one can use a proxy to develop a relationship with our wives for us, so we have to develop our relationship with Christ ourselves. The tools we have for this are primarily the Word, and prayer. Yes, He uses community to challenge, reinforce, and enhance our personal relationship with Him, but the primary thing is that we have to pursue Him for ourselves.


Now back to the original thought – in the clinics the importance of coming to the Word “unfiltered” is stressed. “Unfiltered” means that you come to the Bible without using the notes in your Study Bible, or commentaries. There are numerous reasons for this some of which I cover in the clinic. (One of the best arguments for not going to the notes first or referring to commentaries prior to doing your own work is here.) One of the reasons is described in Hebrews 4:12 as “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” That refers to God’s Word not to words about God’s Word.

Category: Bible Study

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You're kidding, right, Paul?
Posted on December 26, 2008

You may remember I referred to Philippians 2 a couple of days ago. You know the passage. It is the one where Paul exhorts us to do several things that seem virtually impossible. You know, things like being united in spirit, intent on one purpose, regarding others as more important than ourselves, looking out for other’s interests, have the same attitude that Christ did, that is to do all the above to the point of death. I don’t know about you but when I read that it reads like a hyperbole like a great preacher exhorting the folks in the pews to live the life. But, we really can’t do that, really.


A really effective tool in Bible study is to observe repetition. It is like the teacher in the front of the class when they used to stomp their foot to let you know something was going to be on the test. The interesting thing here is that Paul uses repetition to provide solid examples to back up the “hyperbole”. Look at the chart here. Note that in 4 Paul tells us the readers not to look out for their own interests but for the interests of others; in verse 21 he states that Timothy will do that in regard to the Philippian believers. In verse 7 he states that Christ emptied Himself; in verse 17 Paul says he is poured out for the Philippian believers. In verse 8 Paul states that Christ was obedient to the point of death; in verse 27 he states that Epaphroditus was serving to the point of death in his work for the Philippian believers.

Category: Bible Study

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The Richness of Scripture
Posted on October 22, 2008

The richness of the Word of God never ceases to amaze me.

We have been studying Mark in our Tuesday morning group (check out the handouts there). We were in chapter five this morning. Three really familiar stories, the demoniac, Jaris’s daughter, and the woman with an issue of blood are there.

Repetition of terms and or of phrases can be a really helpful key in understanding a portion of Scripture. In Mark 5 there are several examples of repetitive clues to structure and content. Click here for a mark-up of the chapter.

Category: Bible Study

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