Posts Tagged ‘Bible Study’

Our women’s ministry is called WOW- Women of the Word, indicating our desires for them to be women in whom the Word of Christ dwells richly. So when Crossway sent me a copy of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin (ebook), I was a little intrigued.

Last year I brought our men through Bible Study so they would learn how to study and teach the Bible. WOW is much shorter, and seeks to address things from a woman’s perspective (lots of illustrations I wouldn’t understand) while also offering some warnings against “feminizing” it. She does want them to remember it was written to both men and women.

Overall I thought it was a good book to help women dig deeper into the Scriptures. She was quite clear, succinct (I could learn from this) and interesting (probably more so if I were a woman and was familiar with things like rhumba tights). Her study plan is really about depth and she makes some wise warnings about how this all takes time. Her goal is for women to use this method in their personal study or when studying a book of the Bible as a group.

She starts with what she calls a series of “turn arounds” or ways in which she was reading things wrong and needing to begin reading them. She also realized that the Bible is primarily about God (and secondarily about us), the mind matters because it transforms the heart. These are two important things to know or you will make the Bible into a self-help book meant to make you feel good. This is the ever-present danger of therapeutic moral deism.

“But our insecurities, fears, and doubts can never be banished by knowledge of who we are. They can only be banished by the knowledge of ‘I am.'”

Her second chapter is “The Case for Biblical Literacy”. She wants women to develop a working knowledge of the whole Bible, how it all fits together, instead of a patchwork understanding (similar to one developed by children’s SS lessons and a steady diet of topical preaching).

“Sound Bible study transforms the heart by training the mind and it places God at the center of the story. But sound Bible stud does more than that- it leaves the student with a better understanding of the Bible than she had when we started. Stated another way, sound Bible study increases Bible literacy.”

She lays out a few bad methods. In the Xanax approach, you are looking to take away bad feelings, and look for just the right passage. It makes the Bible about you instead of to you. There is the Pinball approach in which you bounce around like a pinball without any thought to the context and purpose (and therefore the meaning) of a text. There is the Magic 8 Ball approach where we simply look for what to do in a crisis rather than learning who we are to be in Christ. The Holy Spirit transforms us.

Bible literacy, she rightly argues, keeps us from falling into error. If we know the whole of Scripture we can notice if someone is abusing a part of Scripture. We will also be better prepared to answer the charges of our critics. Bible literacy is not developed overnight. It takes time to read for both breadth (devotionally) and depth (study). It takes reading the whole Bible repeatedly to see patterns, references and allusions to other passages. It takes years, and in our microwave society most people don’t want to invest that kind of time unless they grasp how important it is. Perhaps I’m weird, but no one told me to do this. I just did it.

Her plan or method is to study with the 5 P’s: Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process and Prayer. Much of what she lays out is what a pastor regularly does in sermon preparation minus the crafting of said sermon.

Purpose is important. It is about understanding the purpose of the Scriptures AND the purpose of that particular portion of Scripture. As a whole the Bible is about redemption, a redemption story. Particular passages are stories of redemption within the story of redemption. They progressively reveal God’s greatness and the greatness of His plan. We begin to look for how each text fits into the whole text instead of viewing it as an isolated, independent text.

Perspective is asking questions of the text to understand its purpose which will help you understand its meaning in due time. This is the process of understanding the historical and cultural context of the particular book. We want to see it, as best we can, as the original audience did instead of just putting our 21st century American presuppositions and experience on the text. We did much of this in English class as we studied literature. Who wrote it? When? Why? To whom was it written? What genre or style?

Patience remembers that digging deep takes time and effort. It is applying the concept of delayed gratification to Bible study. We remember that our efforts have a cumulative effect. We will have to be patient with ourselves. We will fail. We will find reasons to not study on a particular day. We will discover we have grossly misunderstood texts. We will have to be patient with the process, refusing to take short cuts. There will be patience with our circumstances which may present hindrances to study. There will be plenty of reasons for patience.

“Could it be that feeling lost is one way God humbles us when we come to his Word, knowing that in due time he will exalt our understanding?”

Process is the main portion of the larger plan. This is the nitty-gritty. She wants women to own the text through lots of hard work. Owning it means understanding its original meaning, attempting to interpret it and then make application from it. She wants you to read it repeatedly so you notice the flow of the argument or story (depending on the genre). She wants you to break out the colored pencils/pens (on a copy of the text) to note verb tenses (yes, they matter), subjects and all that grammar jazz. Yes, she wants you to outline the passage and put notes in the margin of that copy of the text. She wants you to compare different translations and see why they differ (when they do). She wants you to crack open a dictionary to understand words that are used that you don’t commonly use. Yes, this is hard work and not always exciting but if we want to understand a text’s original meaning (what it says) it is necessary work.

We then move to interpretation or what the text means. She wants you to hold off on the commentaries until you develop your own interpretation. I’ve seen others say the same thing. Generally that is a good idea. But sometimes you do struggle with “what it says”. Commentaries aren’t just interpretations, but also help us get what it says because sometimes the text is hard to discern, or parts of it. It is important to read 2-3 commentaries so you don’t fall into a cult of personality (“well, Bultmann says” repeated ad nauseum). There is more hard work here: looking at cross references, paraphrasing and just plain thinking. Yes, sometimes you just sit there and think (also known as meditating on the Word of God).

Once you know what it says, and what it means you can ask how it applies. What am I to believe about God? What am I to believe about myself? What does God call me to do in dependence upon Him? This takes thinking about the text, myself and my circumstances.

Prayer is a short chapter. The point is we are to pray all through the process, knowing that we need the Spirit’s help to illuminate the Scriptures so we can understand the Word, ourselves and our circumstances (yes, I’m adding a little Frame to her thoughts).

She then has a chapter in which she demonstrates her process using James 1. This way you can see it in action and have a better idea of what she has been talking about. The book concludes with some encouragement for teachers in how to bring the fruit of this into a group setting, and then a call to seek God. The purpose of all this is to know God, not just gather information.

This is a good introduction. I would quibble with some of the books she recommends because of the theological commitments and method of interpretation used which I think distorts the Scriptures. Yes, I’m talking Dispensationalism. I’m not saying she is a dispensationalist particularly since focusing on the whole story is more of a covenantal perspective of Scripture (which focuses on the unity of Scripture). Just one of those weird things that passes through my mind.

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I think what really stood out to me was the recommendation of D.A. Carson found on the front cover.

“If you are a high schooler, read this book carefully and thoroughly, and then loan it to your parents.”

The book he was referring to was Bible Study: A Student’s Guide by Jon Nielson. Nielson’s goal was to equip & encourage students to study the Bible. What I’ve found in over a decade of pastoral ministry is that too few people in the pews know how to study the Bible. This means that many churches are failing to train students, their SS teachers or small group leaders how to study the Bible. It is easy to hand them a study guide, we use those, but not train them how to do it.

As our men’s ministry considered what to study this year, they chose to study this book. Many of them felt a proper conviction that they needed to better understand how to study the Bible to better lead their wives and family.

There is the background for why he wrote the book, and why I read it. Now, how is the book?

Nielson starts with a number of truths concerning the Bible that need to be grasped as we begin to study the Bible. He starts with the doctrine that “The Bible is God Speaking”. He tackles the doctrine of Inspiration. If we don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God (He spoke it), we have no compelling reason to read and study the Bible. It is just an interesting story and confusing moral advice. But if God is speaking…. that changes everything. So he explains dual authorship and inspiration in an understandable way, and then gets into the implications of what we believe. He stands opposed to the post-modern notions of deconstructionism and for authorial intent as fundamental to meaning.  Since the Bible is God speaking, our goal in studying it is to hear God speaking to us through the Scriptures.


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As we’ve been noting, there are many Mistakes Leaders Make. One of the more serious mistakes, relating to discipleship, is confusing information with transformation.

Here is what Kraft means, in the context of his fictional church.

“Because quantity was a higher value than quality, people at CCC gradually made the mistake of replacing transformation (quality) with information (quantity). They were a Bible-teaching church. But they were at their core becoming a transactional (lots of activities) but not a transformational (life change) body of believers.”

The Senior Pastor put an emphasis on numbers- the growth of the church was measured quantitatively. There wasn’t really a matching focus on qualitative growth. It isn’t as if you have only one or the other. Any wise pastor wants BOTH. But I’ve seen many sacrifice the latter to pursue the former.

But even those who want to see qualitative growth can have inaccurate understanding of what it is and how it happens.


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Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, FL is trying a new form of ministry.  Their Thursday night Bible Study, called the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies, will now be be live on the internet (9-10 pm ET)  and people can interact with the lesson via webcams, mics and text chats.  They are using this technology to spread the gospel and the Reformed Heritage.

Their website also has other resources that may interest people wanting to understand Reformed Theology.

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The editor has been acting up, so my whole post got lost.  I’ll try to reconstruct….

I didn’t see much of the family on Saturday.  We enjoyed our normal Saturday breakfast together.  MMMMM… bacon and chocolate chip pancakes.  Then I was off to a premarital counseling session.  It has been awhile since I did a formal counseling session, so I was a bit rusty.  And we ran late, so I left for Orlando later than expected.

I had hoped to grab lunch in Orlando with an old friend before we went to a funeral.  A former roommate’s father had passed away after an incredibly long illness.  This guy had moved back in with his parents to help out.  He faces a rough road after having put much of life on hold for years.  But it was like old home week as I was able to talk to a bunch of old friends from Orangewood PCA.  Most of the time we spent together before I moved to Winter Haven we were all single.  Some of us are married now, so our topics of conversation are decidedly different.

My friend Robert edits a boating magazine.  His wife gave me a copy of a recent magazine.  Every once in a while his family benefits by travelling with him on assignment.  This copy had his family snorkling for scallops while reviewing a boat.  So CavDaughter liked seeing pictures of my friends and their kids.  Unfortunately she now wants me to buy a fancy boat.

As I drove home, quite hungry, I listened to the Red Sox – Yankees game on the radio.  That is until the rain delay started.  I arrived home around 6:30 to wolf down some pizza and spend time with the kids before beginning their bedtime routine.  After putting them to sleep I was able to enjoy watching Papelbon put the finishing touches on the Yankees.  Since Beckett is on my fantasy baseball team, I really wanted him to get the win.

I woke up to discover that my fantasy team was ahead going into the final day but my 13-3 lead was now 9-7.  Not looking good as my power & RBI guys slump, particularly Big Papi.  Soon I was distracted from my misery by my kids’ delight in a sand hill crane.  They are common this time of year, but who can understand the heart of a child.  If the photo editor was working right, you’d see a picture of the crane, and notice his pretty red head.

Off to church where I am still not comfortable sitting and listening.  I’m sure the people in front of my did not enjoy my singing.  Neither CavWife or I were particularly wild about the sermon.  He really didn’t seem to stick to the text.  It was more of a topical sermon on the exaltation of Jesus (a much needed topic, to be sure).  There were some typos in the outline.  “Jesus Christ as me Savior and me Lord”.  The seminary student next to us quipped that it must be the pirate confession.  My cynical side came out as I considered application of the text had been reduced to checking a box on the outline.  Worse, conversion is no longer even walking the aisle but merely checking the box.  I know that is probably not s.o.p. for the pastor, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

After the kids’ nap time, it was off to Family Study.  I tried to lead the singing on my guitar, but I’m not a worship leader.  It would help if I could actually sing.  You think?  I then taught on 1 Peter 2:11-12.  We focused on the 2 sides of sanctification: mortification and vivefication.  In Peter’s terminology this is abstaining from sinful desires and living such good lives … I mentioned a Thomas Chalmers’ quote via Sinclair Ferguson about the “expulsive power of a greater delight.”  When we delight in Christ most of all, the deceitful desires of the flesh have less of a hold on us.

So here I sit, the kids are asleep and I’m hoping the Sox can take the rubber game against the Yankees, and that Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis can help me hold on to my lead.  The way this game is going, I’ll be in bed by 12:30.  I don’t think I’ll be rested for this very long week.

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