December 18, 2006
Bible Study Book Part Two
Well, I finally hit the “send” button on the manuscript. Since last week I’ve added all of the Scriptures and reflections. This will all make more sense once you read the introduction of the book but I thought I’d give you a more thorough sneak peek this week. (This way I can hurry up and get back to my Christmas shopping because I am WAY behind.)
Tools for Digging
I love the Bible and I love history so you can just imagine how excited I am to teach you today’s Bible study method. Let’s first talk about the available resources to study the historical and cultural context for some of our favorite passages. The most general would be a good Bible Handbook. This handy little book is part Bible dictionary, with some Commentary added to the mix, throw in some archaeological facts and church history, add a dash of Manners and Customs for seasoning and put it all together with some really helpful pictures and illustrations. Sound like a must-have to you?
A Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia is similar but much more exhausting…uh, I’m mean exhaustive. This is the place to go if you a true-blue history buff or detail person. You will be in Bible study heaven.
A Manners and Customs book is actually just some fun reading all by itself. It is fascinating to learn about how the people lived during Bible times, the clothes they wore, jobs they had, food they ate, just how they went about their daily lives and how different, and yet so similar, to our every day existence.
Let me share a few instances where you would definitely enjoy reaching for one of these resources. (Or even a regular, do-they-even-publish-them-anymore encyclopedia.) Let’s start with a doozie, 1 Corinthians, chapter 11 where Paul talks about it being disgraceful for a woman to have short hair and how she needs to be wearing a head covering anyway. I like Paul and all, but sometimes he can rub me the wrong way. This would be one of those times. Thankfully, I was able to cut Paul a little slack after researching 1 Century Corinth and discovering why he was even bringing this issue up in light of the custom of dress and societies view on hair issues, and women in general.
You can also look at specific Scriptures like Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” This verse takes on a whole new depth of meaning in light of how salt was used in Bible times.
I’ve chosen a really fun verse for us to study today. Come join me.
The Treasure Map
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Matthew 4:19 ESV
When I think of fishing, I’m visualizing a pole, a line, and a hook with a squirmy, gooshy worm on the end. I cast the line out on the lake, wait for a tug, and reel in the fish. So, when I read this verse about being catchers of men, that’s what I think I should do in my personal evangelism. How very important history and culture and customs are to the study of the Bible.
By looking up some history during Bible times, I learned that fish were most often caught in a dragnet, which was shaped like a long wall, with sinkers along one side and cork on the opposite side. The net is positioned in a large semicircle some distance from the shore, then slowly pulled to land by two teams of eight fishermen each. Biblical fishermen also used cast nets, which were smaller and could be managed by one boat. The smaller nets could be handled by just one or two fishermen. The work was often done at night when the fish couldn’t see the cords of the nets and swim away.
I learned so much by investigating a little deeper that really transformed my thinking. For one thing, this information illuminates the truth that we are to be working in teams for the sake of spreading the good news of the gospel. Evangelism was never meant to be done alone, or be completely dependant on individuals. One plants, the other waters, and the Holy Spirit brings the increase! Fishing is a team sport.
Tools for Digging
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
James 1:22-25 NLT
The last thing I want to happen is for you to learn twenty Bible study methods, dig deep into the Word, and come up with a bunch of head knowledge without any heart change. We must be careful, as 1 Corinthians 8:1 reminds us, “This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
God did not give us His word to inform our minds but to change our lives. Because we don’t want to know a lot of Scripture, but ultimately our lives are unchanged we must learn what it means to be a doer of the Word. How do we put our faith into action? James 2: 18 says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Although, this is only one of twenty methods you’ve learned, it is one that I would suggest trying to incorporate in addition to all the others, every day. Each time you spend time reading God’s heart for you, our response should always be, Lord, what do you want me to do with this information? How can I apply this principle to my life, starting today? Am I violating this Scripture in word, thought, or deed?
Get into the habit of spending the last few minutes of your quiet time actually being quiet. This is a struggle for me. I feel like I should be praying, or worshiping, or writing in my journal, or reading my Bible, but the thought of being still and quiet seems like such a waste of time. Okay, I know in my mind it really isn’t, but that is still how I feel. Well, I guess it isn’t still how I feel, since that is the problem, my inability to be still. Anyway…where was I? Oh yeah, being still enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us about a specific response we can have to what we’ve learned in the Word.
Of course, we don’t want to miss the obvious. If the passage tells us to do something or not do something then we probably don’t need to ask the Holy Spirit for revelation on that one – just do it! Although, we may need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us “just do it!”
Let’s try it together and see how we can take these wonderful truths we’ve been learning and live out a life of truth.
The Treasure Map
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things.
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Romans 2:1-2; 12-13 ESV
When I read this passage I was sorely convicted about a certain situation. There was a person in my life that had hurt me deeply. I knew in my heart that I had forgiven them and was able to move on in relationship without bitterness. I thought I had responded righteously and every thing was settled and behind me. God used this verse to show me that, yes, I had forgiven them for hurting me but I still judged them for doing what they did because there was no denying it was wrong. I still needed to repent for judging. For one thing, I was capable of doing the same thing and I certainly would want mercy to be extended toward me. The best way to guarantee that is to live, not only in forgiveness but also mercifully.
Every passage of Scripture has a lesson for us, and we grow deep in the faith as we make our own Bible translations—not from Greek to English, but from our printed pages to our daily lives. Bible study without application is like studying a particular medicine without ever taking it to cure your sickness. It’s like pursing cook books without ever preparing a meal. It’s like carrying around a canteen without ever sipping the water.
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
May God help us to… just do it!
(Here are a couple of new pix from a photo session I had on Monday.)
Posted by weblion at 03:48 PM