5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible (via www.JeanWilund.com)

We have 1,440 minutes in every day. Think you can use some of them for studying the Bible?

Me, too.

I found a great article to help us by Crossway and Jen Wilkin, Bible study teacher and author of Women of the Word.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible by @crossway and @jenniferwilkin #Biblestudy #GodsWord Click To Tweet
5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible (via www.JeanWilund.com)

Feel free to share this great article by Crossway (and Jen Wilkin).




Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 2 ~ Context Matters

Welcome to the Bible: Chapter & Verse Part 2 - Context Matters (www.JeanWilund.com)


God Inspired the Bible. Man Added Chapters and Verses, And a Few Challenges: Loss of Context.

I’m thankful man added chapters and verses to the Bible. I’m also thankful I learned about the challenges that come with them.

Last time we looked at the first of three challenges that come with breaking up the divine text into chapters and verses. (There may be more challenges, but these are the three that stood out to me.)

Today we’ll look at the second of those challenges.

1. The Bible’s chapters and verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.

2. Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding the God-inspired text through loss of context.

3. Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining.


Loss of Context

Chapters and verses cause us to pause.

Sometimes those man-made pauses indicate a change in thought, time, or events. But not always.

Remember, originally, the first word in each chapter or verse was just the next word in the book or letter. They weren’t written with the mindset that they’d be broken up into chapters or verses.

When studying a passage, we need to look before and after the passage to avoid misunderstandings.

BIBLE STUDY TIP: If a sentence begins with a “look-back word” like “And” or “Therefore,” be sure to look back at what came before it.

BIBLE STUDY TIP: When you see the word “therefore,” ask yourself what the “therefore” is there for?”


Example #1: Colossians 2:21

Forbidden or Free

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” ~ Colossians 2:21

Colossians 2:21 seems to teach us what we shouldn’t do.

Until we read the verse right before it.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules.” ~ Colossians 2:20

Rather than Paul encouraging physical self-denial, he’s actually preaching freedom from man-made rules—freedom in Christ.


Example #2: Luke 21

The Poor Widow — Commendation or Condemnation?

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4, NASB).

Most teachings I’ve heard on Luke 21:1-4 never mention the context. They don’t even seem to consider chapter 20 or the verses after Luke 21:4.

The focus most often falls on the poor widow’s generous giving, teaching that Jesus is commending the widow and instructing us to give as generously.

But, when we read this passage in context, we can see an alternative meaning.

Luke 20:45-47: And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Verse 45 begins with the “look-back” word “And,” so we need to keep looking back to get the full meaning.

From the beginning of chapter 20, certain religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus into condemning Himself. They came to Him under the pretense of wanting to understand truth, but Jesus exposed the true motive of their hearts.

Jesus warned His disciples of the leaders’ evil intent and ways, mentioning they “devour widows’ houses.”

It’s right after these warnings that Jesus pointed out the poor widow as she placed her last coins into the temple box. She gave all she had left to survive on.

Jesus commented only on what she gave. Nothing more about her. Nothing about her attitude. Only that she gave all she had left to survive on.

Then He immediately talked about the Temple and warned about being led astray by false teachers and leaders.

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. ~ Luke 21:5-8


Two Interpretations

Is Luke 21:1-4 a teaching on giving generously or about abuse of the poor by religious leaders?

Is Jesus commending the poor widow or is He condemning the disreputable leaders?

I’ll leave it to the Biblical scholars to debate the correct interpretation of this passage. My point is that when we look at passages in isolation rather than context, it can lead us to see the message of the passage differently.

For more insight check out these links:
Does God Wants Us To Give Everything by Grace To You
Abusing the Poor by Grace to You
Jesus and the Widow’s Offering by Bible.org
Giving, It’s a Good Thing by Calvary Baptist Church
The Widow and Her Two Coins: Praise or Lament? by Boston Bible Geeks


Context Matters

The division of chapters and verses makes studying and memorizing the Bible much easier, but remember to read it in context.

REMEMBER: Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstandings. Read Scripture in context, not in isolation.


(For more information check out Don Stewart’s article Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses? on www.blueletterbible.com.)

Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstandings. Read Scripture in context, not in isolation. #Biblestudy #theWord Click To Tweet




Can Sin Ever Be Good?

Can sin ever be good? The answer may seem obvious. Consider the facts.

Can Sin Ever Be Good?

Can sin ever be good? The answer seems obvious – No!

But hear me out.

I have a story that can help us answer that question — a question we each need to ponder.

Just to warn you a little, this is not a chicken nugget post. It’s more like filet. By that, I mean this question is meaty.

Worst Decision Ever

Many years ago I made the worst decision of my life.

I sat on a vinyl-covered barstool and walked away from God.

We’d come to an impasse.

The life I wanted didn’t match the life He seemed to want for me. So I told Him the time had come for us to part ways . . . at least for now.

I hadn’t stopped loving God. But He wanted me to surrender to Him, and I wanted Him to surrender to me.

Since we both refused to give in, I made the worst decision of my life.

Two years and painful scars later, I found my way back to God.

With relief and joy, I fell into His welcoming arms and surrendered to His will.

At least I thought I’d surrendered.

Here We Go Again

While my renewed relationship with God exhilarated me, my repeated failure to walk free from sin frustrated me.

Want what God wants. Want what I want.

Gain victory. Fall on my face.

Stand against sin. Run after sin.

Before long, I was digging my heels in with God. Again.

“You always get Your way,” I cried. “Please, this time, just do what I’m asking!”

The Pangs of Death

Ever patient, God spoke through His Word into my aching heart and clouded mind.

“Your way leads to destruction. Your path is paved with lies. Believe Me when I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

I’d been feeling the pangs of death, sure enough, but not the kind God meant.

I was killing my fellowship with God. I was fighting a battle I knew I’d ultimately regret but couldn’t seem to stop fighting.

As they say, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

They are so right sometimes.

Except it was like I had two hearts.

Two Hearts – One Battle

One heart wanted what God wanted as it overflowed with love for Him. The other heart wanted what my sin wanted, as it overflowed with desire for it.

I begged for relief. “Change me, God! Change my heart!”

Silence.

I understood why suicide seems appealing. Relief from pain and struggle in an instant.

God knew I didn’t need relief, though. I needed power. Resurrection power to follow the heart that desired God more than sin.

The funny thing about resurrection, though, is it only comes after death.

Finally, on a warm spring day, I sat on the soft grass in the shade of my Vitex tree and died.

“You win, God,” I said. “I can’t fight anymore. I don’t want to fight anymore. I just want You. I don’t care about anything else. Just give me You. I’ll do whatever You want, no matter what it costs me, even if You never bless me again. I don’t care. Just give me You.”

In utter weakness, I died that day. Yet, I rose up and walked into my house stronger and freer than I’d ever been.

God had won the battle, and I gained the victory.

The Verdict

It’s time for a verdict on whether sin can be good.

But first, let’s review the facts of my story.

Facts:

My love for God – as strong as it felt – didn’t draw me back to Him. The pain of my sin did.

My desire to please God didn’t open my eyes to the reality of how good He is or how perfect His law is. My sin did.

It was the devastating “rewards” of my sin that shook me awake to the truth that the path I was walking led only to destruction.

Sin’s agony sent me fleeing to Truth. Running back to God.

Without sin’s wretched grip, I may never have become desperate for relief. I may never have died that day and fully surrendered to God.

Instead, at the very best, I might have lived the rest of my life in exasperation, feeling doomed to a rollercoaster existence of failure, victory, failure, victory.

In view of the facts, I ask again: Can sin ever be good?

Verdict:

No!

No, it can’t.

Sin can never be good. It is unadulterated evil bent on destruction.

But God is good.

God is so good and powerful that He can and does use everything, including our most hideous sin, for His perfect purposes.

He used my wretched sin to draw me to Himself and teach me the truth we all must learn:

Jesus paid the full price (penalty) for our sin on the cross, BUT sin isn’t gone. It lives on inside us, and we are powerless to defeat it – by ourselves. But thanks be to God for His resurrection power over sin through His Holy Spirit, who lives in every Christian.

Sin is Never Good. But God Is.

If you’re struggling with sin and feel powerless to defeat it, you need to know that only God can, and He will. Abide in Christ.

Trust Him to be your strength and walk in that trust.

If you’ve already reached an impasse with God and walked away, I pray you’ll return. God is worth more than anything sin or this world has to offer.

Sin’s “rewards” lie perched on a mountain of crumbling lies.

Because sin can never be good.

But God always is.

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Dine, Don’t Snack, on Scripture ~ Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 3


Does this ever happen to you?

Life gets busy. Too busy to do much more than the most urgent, like drink coffee so you can do everything else.

Reading the Bible falls off your plan for the day.

And the next day.

And the next.

Ugh.

You move through the week and lament that you haven’t had time to read your Bible. But you don’t do anything about it.


It used to happen to me a lot.

Then a well-meaning friend encouraged me to simply read a verse or two each day saying, “It’s better than nothing.”

Brilliant.

Instead of sitting down for an extended time of reading a few days a week, I faithfully read a verse or two every day.

It was better than nothing.

Or so I thought.

Over time I noticed my relationship with God growing more and more shallow.

I didn’t know why. I missed the connection.

The Enemy of Best

It seems logical that a verse or two is better than nothing. But sometimes better is the enemy of best.

Imagine a pediatrician saying to the mother of a toddler, “You’re busy. It’s ok if you just feed your child a couple of bites of food a day. It’s better than nothing.”

Technically, the doctor would have a point. Two bites are better than no bites. But it’s not best.

Making time to feed children just enough food so they don’t starve to death is better than not making time to feed them at all. But this better situation is no friend of the child’s best.

Taking time out of a busy schedule to feed children well every day so they can grow strong and healthy is always best.

Surely every pediatrician would agree.

Chapters and Verses Entice Snacking

Because the Bible has been divided into chapters and verses, it’s easy for us to stop reading at the end of a verse.

The man-made divisions hint at a break in thought or action and make it easier to stop reading, but this isn’t the best way to read.

We don’t need to go back and remove the chapters and verses from our Bibles. We just need to resist the temptation to snack on Scripture rather than dine.

Should We Abandon All Snacking?

Snacking has its place – both in food and in verses.

Every day I read, pin, like, and heart memes of Bible verses on Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram.

And some days there really is no time for me to read more than a Bible verse meme. Let’s don’t abandon all spiritual snacking.

And certainly not edible snacks. I count the minutes until my 4:00 pm coffee and snack time. Sometimes I have it at 3:00 pm.

Hot chocolate chip cookies or fresh blueberries with a mug of coffee = Happiness.

But if the only food I ate every day was my 4:00 pm snack, my health would fail no matter how healthy my snacks are.

When scriptural snacks were my only source of spiritual nutrition, my relationship with God grew small. My faith, wimpy.

But once I began reading the Bible in all-you-can-eat buffet portions (and in context), my understanding of God and His character expanded. My walk with Him took off.

Imagine that.

My love for and faith in God hasn’t starved since. And they’re still growing as I keep dining on large servings of Scripture rather than snacking.

BTW, there’s no magic formula. No one can tell you how many verses are enough — except God. Let Him lead your time in His Word.

Is It Ever Good To Study Just a Verse or Two?

Absolutely.

It’s a great habit to dig deep into individual verses. To get to the marrow of its meaning.

I’m currently working my way through Romans. One verse at a time.

It’s taking a long while, but I want (need) to understand it better. So I focus each day on a few passages while remembering that reading verses in isolation rather than in context can lead to misunderstanding God’s message.

As I study Romans verse by verse, I also read a chapter or two to let the bigger picture of Romans soak into my mind. And I read other books of the Bible as well.

We shouldn’t become legalistic about our daily reading. It’s not a measure of our spiritual worth. We don’t win points with God when we read. Nor does He hand down demerits when we miss.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 ESV.

No condemnation. None.

But God’s Word blesses us – changes us – when we read it.

You may have to force yourself to read it at first. But eventually, if you read the Bible in order to know the God of the Word, you’ll begin to long for the Word of the God.

Time in God’s Word will become as enticing as that morning cup of liquid heaven. (That’s coffee for me. I don’t know what you strange non-coffee drinkers enjoy.)

No Time? Pray and Make Time

Life is busy. It’s not likely to slow down.

Deal with it. (Was that too harsh? Sorry.)

Pray and ask God. He’ll make a way for you. He may wake you early to read. Or He may open up time for you to read during the day or evening.

We should all ask God to make us aware of the time we already have that we may be misspending watching TV, piddling on Social media, or catching a little extra shut-eye.

Trust God to enable you to accomplish all you need to do each day. Then walk by faith and make time for reading your Bible – even if you don’t think you have time.

God will provide all you need. But you have to trust Him by sitting down with your Bible.

Don’t wait for Him to sit you down. You’ll probably enjoy it more if you voluntarily sit down rather than having God sit you down.

My mom once told me I was too busy. “You need to drop some of your activities,” she said. I told her it was impossible. A couple of months later I had to have surgery. Somehow everything got done without me. She smirked, and I dropped some of my activities. I got sat down, and I listened.

Just as you’d make time to serve a child three full meals a day, make time every day to serve yourself one full meal of spiritual nourishment from God’s Word.

REMEMBER: Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining. Make time to serve yourself a full meal from God’s Word by reading large portions of Scripture every day.

The Word of God Endures Forever

Chapter and verse divisions may not last, but the Word of our God will stand forever.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
~ Isaiah 40:8 ESV

Dine - don't snack - on Scripture. Why you should read more than a verse or two a day. #Biblestudy #GodsWord Click To Tweet





Welcome to the Bible: Books, Chapters, and Verses, Oh My! ~ Why Two Testaments?

Welcome to the Bible: Why Two Testaments? Let's look at why the Bible has the Old Testament and the New Testament. A Brief Summary.

Sixty-Six Books, 1,189 Chapters, and 31,173 Verses 

The Bible has 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,173 Verses. Oh, my! 

At least in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation, it does.

There are many different translations of the Bible. If there weren’t, only those fluent in the original language could read it. Know ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek? Me either.

Obviously, we’re not going to look at each book, chapter, and verse today. But I hope you will eventually.  

Last time we talked about the authors. Today, we’re going to and look at why the Bible has two halves, namely, two testaments.


The Two Halves of the Bible

The Bible is split into two: the Old Testament and the New Testament.

They’re equal in importance, but not in size.

By the way, the Old Testament is longer.

The Old Testament is the front half of the Bible. It was written before God’s Son, Jesus, came to earth in the form of man.

The New Testament is the back half and starts with Jesus’ coming as the Savior. It ends with His return as Ruler over all.

The word testament originally meant covenant, as in a promise or agreement.

God’s covenant—promised agreement—with the world is the heart of these two divisions.


The Covenant of the Old Testament

All 39 books of the Old Testament center around God’s original covenant—the old covenant—which He made with his people Israel.

It’s also about how God’s people responded, which is to say how miserably they failed to keep His covenant.

This failure trend began with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve.

They believed the lies of God’s enemy Satan and disobeyed God’s one law not to eat the fruit of one tree.

One law. That’s it. And they couldn’t do it.

None of us would’ve been able to do it either. 

Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God’s one law brought in catastrophic consequences – slavery to sin and separation from God. Forever. (Otherwise known as death.)

But God revealed His amazing grace toward them.

He promised a Savior (Jesus) to rescue and restore them into His love. Forever.

God covenanted His promise of a Savior to the nation of Israel—and the world—and gave them a set of ten laws (AKA the Ten Commandments) and 613 rules.

Gulp.

These laws and rules taught Israel how to safely approach a holy God.

It’s not easy to do when your heart is filled with sin, but God made a safe way.  

The laws also revealed that sinful hearts can’t fully obey God.

Who can flawlessly obey ten commandments and 613 rules every day?

We couldn’t even obey one of them for our entire life. Not perfectly. 

Man’s only hope was to receive a new covenant based on grace, rather than law.

Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.

But only a sinless Savior could make such a covenant.

Speaking of . . . 


The Covenant of the New Testament

The 27 books and letters (epistles) of the New Testament tell the story of the new covenant through Jesus Christ.

God created the plan for this covenant long before He laid the foundations of the earth and before sin entered the scene (I Peter 1:19-21).

The New Testament shows how Jesus fulfilled the old covenant by living a sin-free life and paying the full price of our sin by dying on the cross.

Jesus ushered in the new grace covenant when He defeated sin and death and rose again.

Through this new covenant, He offers salvation to all, Jew and Gentile alike, if they believe and trust in Him.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB).

The rest of the New Testament focuses on the birth and growth of Christ’s church, i.e. Christians.

The church is people, not buildings.

It teaches how Christ empowers Christians to live their new life in Him free from sin’s power, even while their old nature clings to them, refusing to die. 

The New Testament also reveals as much as God was willing of Jesus’ return to earth, and how He’ll destroy sin, death, and Satan and his demons forever.

It ends with Jesus’ judgment on those who refused to believe in Him and His glorious reign in the new heaven and new earth.

And that is the short of why we have two testaments.


Summary

The Old Testament shows us:

  1. There’s a holy and perfect God in heaven.
  2. He created us to know and walk with Him.
  3. Sin destroyed our relationship with Him.
  4. God had already created a plan — a covenant based on law — to restore us back to Himself.
  5. God began to unfold His covenant plan and point forward to Christ. 

The New Testament shows us:

  1. Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
  2. He fulfilled the old covenant through His sinless life, death, and resurrection and ushered in the new covenant based on grace.
  3. God sent His Holy Spirit to those who’ve trusted in Jesus. The Holy Spirit and God’s Word teach Christians and empower them to live their new life in Christ free from sin’s power, even as their old nature clings to them and entices them to return to sin.
  4. Jesus is coming again and next time He comes, He’ll set up His eternal kingdom.

Next time we’ll look at the 66 books. There’s a rhyme and reason to their order that might surprise you.

Welcome to the Bible: Why does the Bible have two testaments? #Biblestudy #Christ Click To Tweet

In case you missed these earlier posts in the Welcome to the Bible series, click the photos:


An Introduction to the Introduction to the Bible, See the Big Picture:

Welcome to The Bible: So Much to Confuse and So Little to Understand -- Wait a Minute. Strike That. Reverse It. -- See the Big Picture to Increase Understanding and Reverse Confusion (via www.JeanWilund.com)


An Overview of Who Wrote the Bible

Welcome to the Bible: A Thick Book With Lots of Authors — An Overview of Who Wrote the Bible