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I would first like to say that I don’t necessarily believe that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to study the Bible. I do, however believe that there are preferred ways to study the Bible, as well as better and best ways to study the Bible. I’ll try to cover some ways that I have heard of, some I have used and ultimately what I personally prefer.
One of the main reasons I’m writing this is that the Church, (by which I mean the universal Church, those believers in Jesus Christ, worldwide who have accepted Him as Savior and Lord) has become increasingly biblically illiterate. I believe that one of the primary reasons for this is that there is a plethora of “Christian” writers out there who try to compartmentalize the teachings of the Word of God and even make much of it more palatable, simply to sell more of their writing. I hope to get to some of that later in this post, or perhaps in another.
Some of the methods I mention have been adapted or paraphrased from the section, “How to Study the Bible,” found in my primary study Bible, The King James Study Bible, by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN (Copyright 1988, Liberty University). Just as a side note, I received this particular Bible on Father’s Day of 2000 and have read it through probably 8-10 times since then. (I have read the text of Scripture, not necessarily including commentaries from other Bibles through about once yearly since September of 1999.)
So, is it best to simply “read” the Bible or to “study” the Bible? My personal answer is, “YES!” I’ll explain my personal approach toward the end of my article. “Devotional Bible Study” is the first method explained and is somewhat the approach I take.
Bible study by chapters, taking only one chapter a day would take a little over three years and cover all 1,189 chapters in the Old and New Testaments. We follow this approach as a family. Because things come up from time to time and because this was not as much of a priority when we started, our first reading through the Bible took longer than three years. However, I can say that our four oldest children, current ages 9-16 have heard the entire Bible read through once. We are currently in the book of Ezra on our second trip through the Bible as a family.
Obviously, some chapters are longer than others. Some chapters are certainly harder to get through (consider the genealogies , the description of the tabernacle, or offerings in the Old Testament). Some chapters are simply more difficult to understand because of the depth of theology there. However, a chapter a day approach would be one way to study the Bible. If you do this, bear in mind that, with the likely exception of Psalms, the chapter and verse divisions were not in the original writings.
You could study your Bible by paragraphs or even by verses. The paragraphs in most Bibles printed today are clearly marked in the printing process in some way. However, the collective thoughts on the writer on a topic should be clear to most students employing this method. I believe this method would take a little more time to cover the whole of scripture, but should go a long way in understanding. Study by verses may be a little more difficult for some people because some verses depend on the surrounding verses or may be supported or even seem to be contradicted by other verses. Honestly, I would not recommend a verse study method for new believers.
Bible study by books works for many, especially those who may have a fairly good grasp of scripture as a whole, already. Obviously coming into play here is the author, historical background, original language, overall theme, sub-themes and likely more that can be drawn out of the text. I have used this method and still do, occasionally. It can be very enlightening and encouraging. It can be very challenging as well. I would consider this to be a good method, but not the best.
A Bible study by words or topics would be similar, though one would be a single word, no matter its usage and the other would be a single idea. These are closely related in approach and even in results and I have found both to be very productive as I study the Bible. In my mind, studying by word or topic are so nearly one and the same, I personally don’t really differentiate. This is one side of my two-sided personal approach to studying the Bible. I’ll get on that a little later.
Fairly recently I’ve heard of an approach promoted that I personally think is an unwise approach, especially for new believers. This method involves Bible study by books, in a way. The promoter of this method that I read about encourages people to pick one to maybe three books and reading them through first, then studying them through repeatedly. I believe that his “preferred method” of Bible study that I’ve just explained can easily promote error, especially among young (new) believers.
So, what’s wrong with studying only a couple of books in-depth? Honestly, nothing *IF* you already have a pretty good grasp of the Bible as a whole. You see, God’s word compliments itself, explains itself, interprets itself and more. A new believer being told, “Just pick one or two books and study them until you think you really understand it,” can be very dangerous indeed. I firmly believe that taking a partial approach to scripture can be worse than having no Bible at all.
Paul, the Apostle, when addressing the Elders at the church of Ephesus declared, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Again Paul says in his letter to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. ” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “All the counsel of God. All scripture is given by inspiration… and is profitable for…”
Without at least a basic understanding of the entirety of scripture, it is unwise at best and dangerous at most to focus on smaller portions of God’s word. I could give many illustrations here, but I believe that really none should be needed. If I were to encourage a new believer to begin a regular Bible reading and study program, I would encourage them to read completely through the New Testament first, possibly balanced with a single chapter from Proverbs each day (30-31 days in a typical month, 31 chapters in Proverbs. It works out nicely.) Once the New Testament has been completed, go back to Genesis and read through the entire Bible. Once the entire Bible has been read, continue regular reading through the entire Bible over and over. I would even encourage reading enough to get through the Bible once a year.
For me, personally, this is my approach. I read through my Bible once a year. In addition to this, I do focus on word and topical studies until I am satisfied that I understand what it was that I set out to know. Honestly, since an infinite God is the ultimate author of the best and most important book ever, there are things that I still learn after almost fifteen years of almost daily reading and study. I am thankfully still learning, even today and intend to continue to learn until the LORD calls me home or returns to take me with him.
Here is the absolute “bottom line” I will attempt to leave with you: my “best” method may not be your best or preferred method. The best method for you may be any other way that I mentioned or even some other way. I do know this, however, if you neglect regular reading and/or study of God’s holy word, you are not only missing so much, I believe you are living in disobedience. The Apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy I do not see as merely a suggestion, but I do see it as an imperative, a command: ” Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
May the God of the Bible, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe richly bless you as you read and study his word in order to: “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18)
Questions like this have come up at work periodically, or in the newspaper or just about anywhere people engage in meaningful conversation. People have argued over the meaning of the First amendment to the United States Constitution (hereafter 1st amendment) for many, many years. People come down on both sides of it, somewhere in the middle of the idea or way out in left field and some not even remotely close to the ball park, so to speak. Personally, I have my own ideas and if you continue reading, I’ll be happy to share them with you. I would welcome discussion, as well. I know this is a relatively new blog and I’m not here as much as I’d like, but I haven’t seen much interaction at all. (Maybe it would be different if I could do something like this for a living.) Anyway . . .
Let’s look at the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as a baseline to get us started. It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Mostly, I intend to look at the first clause of this amendment, but there will likely be a couple of other points to touch on.
So, let’s break this down a little bit. I am not a lawyer, but I am a Fredom-Loving American as well as an American Soldier. (I bet you couldn’t tell from the name of my blog, could you?) I also like to read and I’ve enjoyed a good bit of history because it interests me. Honestly, the First Amendment isn’t that hard to understand. The very first word is who this is directed at: Congress. It is the United States Congress that this amendment is directed at. There is to be no denomination of Christianity or other religion which the United States government can pass a law to establish or compel the citizens of this country and their manner of worship.
Believe it or not, when many of the first colonists settled this “New World” they established their particular brand of, almost entirely Christianity. Most of the colonists in the New England area practiced their Christianity in accord with their Congregational beliefs about church government and doctrine. The colony of Maryland was predominately Roman Catholic in their faith and practice. The colonists who settled Providence Plantation, which became the state of Rhode Island were Baptists. William Penn and his fellows who settled what became the state of Pennsylvania belonged to the Church of the Brethren, or perhaps better known as Quakers. I believe that most in the Jamestown and Virgina area, who largely sympathized with their Mother Country remained Anglican or perhaps better known as the Church of England at that time. The local and regional (which became state) governments more or less established their particular ‘brand’ of religion in their area. I’ll grant that much of this happened before the United States became a nation and before Congress was assembled, but it did continue in many ways after the Constitution was adopted.
So, just to be clear, I enjoy history and these are some of the things I’ve learned, but I don’t have a Ph.D. in history, so someone may be able to point to some things I’ve missed. I do want to point out some simple observations that I really don’t think are very profound, but most people who I’ve talked to absolutely miss.
People will point to the First Amendment and the “establishment clause” and how it forbids anyone, especially any government, federal, state or local from being involved in anything religious, and everything involving Biblical Christianity in particular. Let me just say here that true Christianity is a choice. The salvation of Jesus Christ is a gift offered to everyone, but it must be received. No one can force it on you. So, at its core, true Christianity cannot be established anyway.
ALMOST EVERYONE misses the fact that there is no clause in the First Amendment that prohibits Congress or any lesser entity of any government (state, local, etc.) from acknowledging, endorsing, or encouraging Christianity or any other religion. acknowledging, endorsing or encouraging is not in any way the same as establishing a religion. If the government were to establish “Christianity” everyone would be compelled/forced/made to observe/live/practice whatever the government decided was to be proper regarding this religion. I believe a thinking man would understand that our nation was founded mostly by men who personally claimed to be Christian. Why then, would one come to the understanding that no person in any governmental body, individually or collectively could acknowledge, endorse or encourage (specifically) Christianity? The thought is preposterous in my opinion. Even a simple search through history will easily show that governmental bodies and individuals involved in those associations have throughout the history of our nation have done all of these at one time or another.
What seems even more preposterous to me is that we as a country seem to be bent on allowing a very vocal minority ESTABLISH their religious views and practices of atheism, agnosticism, humanism or anything BUT biblical Christianity on the rest of the nation! These fools (see Psalm 14:1) have for years attempted to impose on the rest of our great nation their RELIGION of whatever “…ism” they happen to espouse. For some reason they don’t have much to say about any recognized religion except what I (and most people like me) would consider biblical Christianity. They have become so successful that the federal government in particular and many state and local governments or government entities will RUN the opposite direction when someone even whispers some nonsense about the supposed “separation of church and state.” SHOW ME where you find that clause anywhere in the Constitution. It’s simply not there. The idea has gained so much momentum and too many people are not willing to challenge these thugs with the facts of history or even counter them with good old common sense.
“But someone might be offended.” Let me see, where do I read in the Constitution of our nation or of any of our states that someone has the right to not be offended? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Everyone will be offended at some time in their life. You have the inalienable rights given by our Creator outlined in the Declaration of Independence, the rights guaranteed (supposedly) by the Bill of Rights and our United States Constitution, but NO WHERE is anyone guaranteed the right to not be offended. The fact that I and many others like me are offended by the insensitive, intolerant, so-called ‘politically-correct’ …ism followers impose their religion on us while telling us that we can in no way even acknowledge ours is the epitome of hypocrisy!
So you say you’re not a Christian and you’re offended by the sight of a cross. You don’t have to look at it. No one is making you bow before it, sing hymns or listen to a Bible reading. But the fact that you tell me that a cross erected by people honoring our veterans, police officers or other honorable people or some event cannot remain because it establishes Christianity is absolutely ridiculous!
Our Constitution, which I affirmed to protect and defend, guarantees us the Freedom OF Religion. It does not guarantee anyone the right to Freedom FROM Religion.
“Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.”
This is written on a plaque hanging on our living room wall. It was given to us by friends for Christmas a couple of years ago. They acknowledge God, but honestly I don’t know if they are truly “born-again” believers or not. Still, I think that we have had some impact on their lives and hope to continue planting seeds with them and others around us. I hope this quote holds true to those who know me. I pray this not at all for my recognition, but for the sake of their eternal destiny.
The photos went up first, but even before that, I knew a promotion was coming. I do enjoy the unit I’ve been serving with for the last couple of years and I do enjoy my job as a truck driver. I was hoping to get promoted within the 1158th Transportation Company, but the LORD has other plans.
It’s been a couple of months now, and drill is again this weekend. For those who don’t know, I’ve been promoted to Staff Sergeant and transferred to A Co. 132nd BSB in Janesville, Wisconsin. My first drill went pretty well considering that the weather was terrible that weekend. I’m still feeling out the unit and I’m sure they’re feeling me out too. I have always tried to make the most of the military, no matter where I serve. With the promotion came an obligation for reenlistment. I signed for six more years, which will put my Army National Guard service at twenty-one years and one month.
I’m back in school now too, coming up on half-way through my US History course. I’m enjoying the study for the most part, but it’s one more thing to occupy my time. I think it will be a benefit in the end, so on I go. If I thought I could handle it with everything else I do, I’d take two courses at a time. We’ll see how that works out in the future.
I’m exploring the possibility of a couple of different job opportunities. Nothing concrete yet, but I’ll keep interested parties posted through here. If either pans out, that will indeed be a new road to travel. Honestly, I’m hopeful but I try to be realistic too.
Back to the promotion for a moment. The new position is a Squad Leader position, which means I’m responsible for even more soldiers than I was before. I think the biggest hurdle there is getting to know my soldiers and letting them get to know me. I see it as another ministry opportunity and a good chance to share my faith. I’ve already had some good discussions and some disagreement with what I believe. I’m somewhat used to that, but I share anyway. It’s not my job to change hearts and minds, but it is my job to plant seeds.
I’m excited to see where the LORD is leading in all these different areas. I know He’s got my best in mind and I desire to give Him all the glory.
The holidays, Thanksgiving, CHRISTmas, New Year’s Day, my birthday and other things have kept me away. Between family celebrations, illnesses, family time, plowing snow, work, a new National Guard unit and starting school back up, I’ve been pretty busy.
I had hoped to get here for about a one-a-week post but that hasn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t have called it a New Year’s resolution, but there was at least hope and intent. Unfortunately, not everything works out the way I’d like it to.
I have had a few things on my mind, and thought, “That would make a great blog post,” but so far it hasn’t happened. The recent Bill Nye – Ken Ham “debate” is recent and still pretty fresh in my mind. I’ll see about putting up some thoughts about that. I do welcome discussion, but I enjoy the better control I have here than I do on Facebook. For those reading, you can introduce this site to others you know, who also know me. I’m not on Facebook much anymore and intend to be here more than there. Maybe I’ll get to where I check into Facebook a couple of times a month and here a couple of times a week. Well, hopes and intents, anyway.
No promises, mind you, but you should be seeing more of me here.
Thanksgiving Day, 2013: the day is nearly over, the celebrations are not yet and I pray the sentiment lives on all year long and beyond. We enjoyed a nice dinner with Grandpa and Grandma P. (my in-laws). It wasn’t overly elaborate but it was nice to visit again. My family will celebrate at our home on the Saturday following.
I have so much to be thankful for. First of all, I am thankful for the gift of salvation from my LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is the most blessed, most precious gift anyone can receive. I am thankful for my dear, sweet wife and the seven children she has blessed me with in our seventeen years of marriage. I am thankful for an opportunity to serve my country and community in various ways. I am thankful for my family, extended family and dear friends. I am thankful for the blessing of living in the greatest country on this earth. I am thankful for my health and job with which I am able to support my family.
This may seem odd to some people, but I am thankful that I have learned to give thanks, even in difficult circumstances. In these times, I remember the admonition given to us by the Apostle Paul, who said, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I know that God is ultimately in control. Even difficult situations he causes or allows have a far greater purpose than I will likely understand in this lifetime.
For the most part, things are going pretty good right now, but I know that can change in a hurry. I have been able to give thanks, praise and honor to God in difficult circumstances before and through his grace and strength and can again when those times may come. Thanksgiving is much more than some turkey and a football game on the tube. It’s an attitude and a way of life. I pray that God, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit will enable me to live in such a way.
Hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!