Bible Study is Not Doing Crosswords!

6657775I think that there are people who enjoy Bible study the same way that other people enjoy filling out crossword puzzles. Get all the parts and get the thing completed – they find satisfaction. I think there are people that study the Bible that way. They can see how it relates to its context and how its details work to get across the concept. But if it never gets into your life, if it never really touches your experience, I doubt seriously that you can call it a study of biblical truth, because I think God’s truth is always designed to challenge and change us. – Haddon Robinson (Michael Duduit, Preaching with Power, pp. 155-56)

On Memorizing Scripture

He was in the wilderness. He was exhausted. He was hungry and thirsty. He was alone. He was attacked by the Devil. He was armed with the word of God. He was victorious. With confidence in the sacred scriptures, Jesus prevailed against the tempter’s deceitful schemes (see Matt. 4:1-11). The Lord defeated Satan with three verses from Deuteronomy. How much more can you and I resist temptation, live obediently, and endure hardship if we get the word of God into our hearts and minds through scripture memorization?

There are very few spiritual disciples that are more beneficial than scripture memorization. It arms you with truth to resist temptation. It renews your mind as you meditate on scripture. It shapes and strengthens your prayer life, enabling you to pray the scriptures back to God. It makes the wisdom of God readily available for decision-making. It arms you with biblical authority for counseling fellow-believers or witnessing to lost people. It gives comfort in times of grief, sorrow, and persecution. And it fills your mind and mouth with truth to offer as grateful praise to God in worship.

Here are seven steps you can take to begin and stay on track down the narrow but life-giving path of scripture memorization.

1. Have a plan. When left alone, good intentions suffocate spiritual progress. Godly desires must have the fresh air of practical commitments in order to breathe and live and grow. So establish a definite plan for scripture memorization – a plan that works for you. Decide when you will do it. Select what verses you are going to memorize. Have a plan and establish measurable, challenging, attainable goals.

2. Start small. Don’t begin by telling yourself that you are going to memorize a chapter a week. No you’re not. And your failure will only discourage you in the future. Remember, each victory will help you another to win. So start small and build on your successes. One or two verses a week is a good place to begin.

3. Select verses that are meaningful to you. The Bible is filled with hundreds of verses worth memorizing. Many profitable Bible memory systems are also available. And pastors and teachers may encourage you to memorize certain passages. Draw from all of these sources for ideas. But also select your own memory verses. Choose passages that are meaningful to you and that you find helpful.

4. Make memory cards to keep with you. Write out the verse on a card that you can take wherever you go. And when you have spare moments – on a break, in a waiting room, or between activities – you can read, review, and recite your memory verses.

5. Get a Bible memory partner. Do you have a prayer partner? If not, you should. A good prayer partner can give you support, hold you accountable, and celebrate victories with you. A good Bible memorization partner can do the same. Iron sharpens iron. So consider partnering with someone for mutual support in memorizing scripture.

6. Keep practicing your verses. Scripture memorization does not come easy for most of us. But don’t be too quick to blame it on a poor memory. Scripture memorization is spiritual warfare. But our spiritual enemy cannot prevail against the word of God. So keep practicing your verses until you get them down. Then constantly review them. Remember, repetition is the key to memorization.

7. Pray for God’s help. Do you fear that you cannot memorize scripture? Tell God about your fears. Do you need strength to remain focused? Ask the Lord for it. Do you need wisdom for selecting verses or managing your quiet time? Pray with confidence for these things. God is glorified as you learn to think and behave biblically. So labor and pray and trust the Lord to help you to make the word a treasure in your heart, so that you might not sin against him (Ps. 119:11).

A Testimony: My Journey to the ESV

The Bible has always been a central part of my life. And the translation of my youth was the King James Version. My home church was not “King James Only.” But the KJV was the only translation we were exposed to. I had a children’s story Bible that I loved. But I knew it was not THE Bible. The KJV was. I assumed it was the Bible Jesus and the apostles read.

My father – who was my pastor – studied and preached from the KJV. But he often read devotionally from the Moffat Translation, I later discovered. It was the default version from which he would quote Psalm 23:1: “The Eternal shepherd’s me, I lack nothing.” This introduced me to the world of multiple Bible translations.

Then I got a copy of Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible paraphrase. I was fascinated that it was written to help his children understand scripture during their family devotions. And I understood that it was a paraphrase, not a translation. But I enjoyed reading it. On one occasion, I was studying Psalm 1. I knew the psalm by memory. But I struggled to make sense of it for preaching. So I pulled down my Living Bible. The first verse read: “Oh how happy are those who do not take advice from ungodly people.” That paraphrase caused things to begin to click for me and showed me that different translations can help you see a text with fresh eyes.

I remember in the early days of my pastorate, I was in a jam and stole a sermon from a book. It was called “Other Little Ships” based on Mark 4:35. Jesus was on the ship, but there were other little ships with him… like worship, fellowship, discipleship, and stewardship… Get it? I thought I nailed it. But after the service, a member showed me her Bible, which read “other little boats.” I was embarrassed. And I determined not to steal again (Until the next time!) and not to have a sermon trumped because I did not compare translations.

At some point, after young people and new believers kept mentioning their difficulty in understanding the KJV, I started using the New King James Version. It was basically the KJV, with some words translated more accurately and the archaic language updated. It used “You” rather than “thee” and “thou.” And it did not use any words that end with “eth,” like “maketh” or “cometh.”

I used NKJV for personal study and public teaching for about ten years. But I constantly read from various translations. For an extended period, I would study from the NKJV and do my devotions from the New International Version – memorizing scripture from both translations. But this proved to be more than I could maintain.

One day, I drove out to my favorite Christian bookstore. I slowly perused every section of the store, looking for anything new or of note that I had not read. Scanning the Bibles section, I picked up the English Standard Version. As I began to read it, I was hooked. It had the accuracy of the New American Standard Bible, the readability of the New International Version, and yet maintained much of the poetry of the King James Version/New King James Version. It became my personal Bible, even though I was still preaching from the NKJV.

When I finished a book series I was preaching, I decided to try out the ESV for a few weeks. I have been preaching and teaching from it every since. I never made an announcement of my change. I just would just state the translation I was using before I read my text, which I had always done and still do. Many followed me to the ESV, in order to have the same Bible the pastor was preaching from.

I continued to compare translations. And I am sensitive to the fact that there are many different translations sitting in people’s laps when I stand to preach. But the ESV has proven to be sufficient for my personal devotions, in-depth study, and public ministry. And the growing number of reference resources linked to the ESV only increases my confidence in it as a fitting Bible for both personal and corporate use.

I actually think that there are too many translations on the market. Publishers are producing new Bible versions for economic gain rather than spiritual benefit. Thankfully, there is a “survival of the fittest” dynamic that renders unworthy translations extinct. But it is my prayer that the ESV will gain readership and influence among Bible readers and students. May the Lord use this wonderful translation to spark a revival of love for the word of God!

Bible Study Is Not Meant To Satisfy Our Curiosity

I think that there are people who enjoy Bible study the same way that other people enjoy filling out crossword puzzles. Get all the parts and get the thing completed – they find satisfaction. I think there are people that study the Bible that way. They can see how it relates to its context and how its details work to get across the concept. But if it never gets into your life, if it never really touches your experience, I doubt seriously that you can call it a study of biblical truth, because I think God’s truth is always designed to challenge and change us. – Haddon Robinson (Michael Duduit, Preaching with Power, pp. 155-56)

The Vital Statistics of Philippians

God willing, this Sunday morning I will begin a verse-by-verse exposition of the epistle of Paul to the Philippians. I am calling the series: “Philippians: Partnership in the Gospel.”

Here is a summary introduction of the book of Philippians that gives abbreviated details about the contend and background of this letter. I hope you find it helpful as you read through, study, and meditate on this wonderful letter of Philippians.

Author: The Apostle Paul is clearly identified as the author of Philippians (1:1)

Intended Audience: Paul writes to the all the Christian believers in the local church of Philippi, along with the spiritual leaders of the church (1:1)

Date of Writing: Some time between 61-63 A.D.

Place of Writing: Paul is under house arrest in Rome, where he is awaiting trial. Philippians is one of the “Prison Epistles” of Paul (along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)

Occasion: The church had sent Paul a gift through Epaphrotidus. While ministering to Paul, Epaphroditus became gravely sick. God healed Epaphroditus and Paul sent him back to the church. Paul sent this letter to the church through Epaphroditus.

Purpose: The letter is primarily a “thank you” note to the Philippians. Of course, because this is Paul writing, and because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it become much more. He also gave an update on his circumstances, commendations to his colleagues, and various exhortations and warnings to the church.

Theme: Partnership in the Gospel (1:5)

Key Verses: 1:5, 6, 21; 2:5, 3:1, 13-14; 4:13, 19

Special Features:

1. Philippians is called “The Epistle of Joy,” as Paul speaks of joy or rejoicing at least 16 times.
2. The Hymn of Christ (2:6-11)
3. One of the Prison Epistles (along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)
4. One of Paul’s most personal and intimate letters.
5. This is the only letter in which Paul greets church officers (1:1)
6. Paul organized the church at Philippi during his second missionary journey (Acts 16)

Chapter Summaries:

Chapter 1 – There is joy in Christian suffering
Chapter 2 – There is joy in humble service
Chapter 3 – There is joy in being and growing in Christ
Chapter 4 – There is joy in godly contentment

Length: 4 chapters; 104 verses

Key People:

1. Paul
2. Timothy,
3. Epaphroditus
4. Euodia
5. Syntyche

Key Concepts:

1. Joy
2. Partnership in the Gospel
3. Christlikeness
4. Unity
5. Suffering

Best Commentaries

Bible commentaries are an essential tool for personal Bible study and Bible exposition. There are those who would vehemently disagree with that previous sentence. But do not listen to them. Commentaries are important and helpful.

I strive to live by the principle of the Proverbs that teach the importance of godly counsel (e.g., Proverbs 11:141; 15:22; 20:18). This is one of the reasons why I use Bible commentaries. There are men who have spent decades studying particular books of the Bible. And it is foolish and arrogant for us to think that we would not be aided by consulting those who have spent so long with particular sections of scripture and have published their studies.

Of course, you must not be a slave to commentaries. In fact, it is wise to use them last, after you have gone through your own process of studying the meaning of the text. This will keep you from merely parroting or echoing other people’s ideas. You and your Sunday school class and your congregation and whoever else you are responsible for teaching need to know what God has taught you about the text and its application – not merely what he has taught John MacArthur, Warren Wiersbe, James Montgomery Boice, and others.

Likewise, you should be careful in your selection of commentaries. Most of us do not have the money to buy unhelpful books (if there is such a thing). And some books are really not worth spending a lot of time with. Sunday is coming fast. And you don’t have a lot of time to waste. So your goal is to have access to the best resources for the passage that you are studying.

To that end, I have found a website that reviews and recommends best commentaries. It’s called Best Commentaries. Check it out. And bookmark it for later reference.

I learned of this site by Tim Challies recommendation on his website.

If you know of other helpful online studies tools and resource sites, pass them on.