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 The Bible

 

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

It all starts with regular prayer and Bible reading! It will strengthen your faith and your relationship with Jesus and keep you focused on the vision God has for you.

If you aren’t praying and reading the Bible daily, it is because you have decided not to.

 

 

 

See Tips on How to Read the Bible

 

Bible links

 

 

Many Christians now preach a message of "Dalmatian Theology"  

Dalmatian theology - The Bible is inspired in spots and you are inspired to spot the spots.

Advanced Dalmatian Theology - Just like Dalmatian theology, except God is also changing spots and adding spots, and only telling liberal / progressive Christians.

Saying the Bible isn't fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong (and unfounded) claims.  It implies that God couldn't, or wouldn't deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God's alleged failings, flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.  Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God's alleged errors?   

Why is this a serious problem?  It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having "Christians" pick and choose what they want to believe in.  Worse yet, they ignore parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable.

If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask how they feel about John 3:16 or one of their favorite verses.  If they claim it is inspired,  how do they know?  There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of the original writings.  We don't need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like. 

 

 

Origins of the Bible

Steve Ball put together an excellent lesson on the origins of the Bible.  Read it here (or right-click and select "save file as" to download it).

Memorizing Scripture

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Tips

  • Memorize 1-2 verses per week
  • Use them!
  • Meditate on the meaning of the verses
  • Find verses that have special meaning to you

Methods - pick the one that works for you (or more than one)

  • Write them out several times
  • Record them and listen to them in your car or elsewhere
  • Read one every time you get in the car (or before bed, etc.)

Here are files of my favorite verses in both Microsoft Word & Excel. 

Bible verses - MS Word

Bible verses - MS Excel 

 

Tips on How to Read the Bible

The Bible is the inspired word of God. Certainly the creator of the universe and all its splendor ended up with the Bible as He wanted it to be! The theme of the Bible is consistent - a perfectly loving, merciful and just God reaching out to the humans He made in His image, wanting them to exercise their free will to accept the sacrifice He made on their behalf in the form of Jesus Christ.

However, the Bible is composed of sixty-six books, written by dozens of people in 3 languages over a period of 1500 years, so it isn't always simple to understand (especially when looking at just a few verses). Therefore, it is helpful to have some guidelines. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when studying the Bible.  

  • Read 1-3 chapters at a time
  • Question it - What portion stands out to me? Why?
    • Is there an example for me to follow?
    • Is there an error for me to avoid?
    • Is there a duty for me to perform?
    • Is there a promise for me to claim?
    • Is there a sin for me to confess?
  • Plan it – make a plan for how you will use it
  • Pray it – pray scripture back to God
  • Share it – helps others, and helps us to remember it

(note: the section above came from a sermon by James MacDonald on Walk in the Word)

  • Let the clear explain the unclear (interpret difficult passages in light of straightforward passages)
  • Read individual passages in light of all scripture
  • Distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive passages.  Descriptive passages tell about something that happened, but they don't necessarily mean they apply to all of us.  For example, the Bible tells of King David's adultery and act of murder but this obviously isn't an example to follow.  In the same way, miraculous situations described in the Bible don't necessarily happen to each of us.  Prescriptive passages such as "love your neighbor" do tell us how we should act.  
  • Distinguish between passages regarding events/messages pertaining to a particular time vs. those meant to be universal or timeless
  • Always consider the context of a passage.  As the Stand To Reason organization says, "Never read a Bible verse."

- Cultural and social setting
- Who was it written for?
- Literary context
- Passages before / after
- Overall theme of the Bible (creating, perfect, loving God who desires a relationship with his creation, etc.)

  • Don't assume that the unexplained is not explainable
  • Don't assume the Bible is guilty until proven innocent. There are many outstanding apologetic works that show that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Here is a quick overview of a "MAPS" acronym provided by the Christian Research Institute. See M-A-P-S to Guide You through Biblical Reality for more details.

Manuscript evidence
- Many eye witness accounts
- Most books were written within short time of actual events (much less likely to have legendary characteristics)
- Thousands of manuscripts, closely dated to events. Far superior to other ancient documents that are readily accepted as fact.
- Dead Sea scrolls

Archeology - We are constantly getting more and more archeological proof of what is recorded in the Bible, and there has yet to be a finding disproving something in the Bible.

Prophecy - Incredible, perfect accuracy of hundreds of specific and general prophecies

Statistics - The incredible accuracy, cohesiveness and consistency of writings of people from different languages and continents over thousands of years would be statistically impossible without divine intervention.

  • Don't try to read it from front to back.  Genesis is a great book with many exciting stories, but you can get bogged down in the ceremonial laws in a book like Leviticus, for example.  Start with one of the Gospels (John is a popular one) and work from there.  
  • Don't base teachings on obscure passages
  • Remember that partial reports aren't false reports. For example, if one gospel mentions two angels at the tomb of Jesus, while another only mentions one angel (but doesn't state there was only one angel), then this is not a conflict.
  • The original text was without error. There have been errors in translations (though very few, and fewer still which changed the meaning of the text).
  • Latter revelation supersedes previous revelation
  • Don't assume that the Bible approves of all its records. The historical portions of the Bible are accurate descriptions of events, even though God may not have approved of the events. Also, some Psalmists expressed real human feelings that weren't necessarily what God wanted them to feel. The Bible doesn't gloss over human failings. In fact, it shows that even the greatest heroes of the Bible had major flaws and were sinners in need of a savior, as we all are. 
  • Remember that the Bible uses non-technical, everyday language.
  • Round numbers are not false. The Bible sometimes uses them just as we do.
  • Don't assume that if you can't understand something that it can't be true. As God pointed out in the book of Job, there are many mysteries that we can't understand or don't need to understand. To try to completely understand God would be like trying to teach calculus to a baby.
  • Remember that there are various literary devices in the Bible - e.g., history, poetry, letters, gospels, prophecy, stories, romance, parables, etc.
  • When in doubt, consult a commentary, study Bible, pastor, or anyone with more experience in Bible studies.

 

More ideas

There are many excellent articles of the reliability of the Bible in books or on the Internet. See the Apologetics links here.  Please note that the writings of Dr. Norman Geisler were used extensively in creating the list above.  His book, The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, is a particularly good book to read to understand the evidence and reasoning for the reliability of the Bible.

 

Printed with permission from the authors of How To Talk About Jesus Without Freaking Out

  • First and Always: Ask God for understanding and insight. (Some call this prayer.) It was His idea to write the Bible in the first place, so we might as well ask Him to help us to understand it!
  • What to Know: The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books written by numerous people who have had firsthand encounters with the living, personal God. It is split into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament includes the account of Creation, the history of Israel, and many prophecies of the coming Messiah. The New Testament gives God's plan for man and the fulfillment of every Messianic prophecy in the person of Jesus Christ.
  • Where to begin: The best place to begin reading is in the Gospels - the first four books of the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give firsthand accounts of the life of Jesus. We recommend that a new reader begin with the Gospel of John, the clearest overview of the Bible. Then go back to Matthew and read the entire New Testament, followed by the Old Testament.


Reading for Bible History

  • GENESIS: If you're a person who must start at the beginning, Genesis tells how God showed Himself in the creation of the world and the birth of the nation Israel. In Genesis 3:15, God foreshadows the future revelation of Himself in His son, the Messiah. Its fulfillment is best described in the book of John.
  • GOSPEL OF JOHN: This is a great summary of the life of Jesus. It's only about twenty-five pages long. The entire Gospel is best summed up in chapter three.
  • EXODUS: Moses leads the people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God gives him the Ten Commandments. In the book of Exodus, the celebration of the Passover foreshadows Jesus.
  • ACTS: Keeping in mind the Israelites' struggle to return to the Promised Land, read how the faith of this same people was established with the coming of Jesus as their Messiah.


Reading the Bible for Theology

  • ROMANS: Paul answers the "big" questions of Christian life, including the issues of hope, strength, sin, perseverance, and grace.
  • PHILIPPIANS: A letter written to new Christians on how to lead a life that is pleasing to God.
  • EPHESIANS: Another terrific instruction letter on Christian conduct.
  • HEBREWS: See how throughout the history of the nation of Israel God has always rewarded those who persevere in their life and in their belief in Him.
  • REVELATION: Read only chapters 1 and 22 if you are a new Christian. In these two chapters Jesus talks about His return. The rest of Revelation is pretty much heavy-duty prophecy told in allegories and images.


Reading for Wisdom and Help

  • A PROVERB A DAY KEEPS THE FOOL AWAY: One of the best success manuals ever in print is in the Old Testament. Proverbs - the book of wisdom - has thirty-one chapters. In addition to your daily devotions, it's a wonderful idea to read the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month in which you are reading.
  • PSALMS - THE PRAYER BOOK OF ANCIENT CHRISTIANS: The Psalms have been used as a prayer and songbook for Christians since the days of its author, King David. If you want to learn how to pray, Psalms is a great place to go.


There is Something for Everyone

Here is where to find some of the best biographies:

  • Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-6)
  • Noah (Genesis 6-9)
  • Abraham (Genesis 11-25)
  • Jacob (Genesis 25-39)
  • Joseph (Genesis 37-50)
  • Moses (Exodus - Deuteronomy)
  • Ruth (the book of Ruth)
  • David (1 Samuel 16; 1 Kings 2:10; Psalms)
  • Solomon (1 Kings 1-11, Proverbs
  • Esther (the book of Esther)
  • Job (the book of Job)
  • And most importantly: Jesus (Matthew - John)