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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The other week I discovered a short free email course on how to improve the way you teach the Bible to small groups.

The author of the course is Glenn Brooke. On his website, he promotes a more in-depth ebook on the subject. Click here for more information on both the free course and the $29 book.

If you decide to join his email list, there are a few other interesting free resources too.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Types of study

I'm trying to catalogue a list of different types of study that can be undertaken either individually or in small groups. I shall then expand on them in later postings.

So far, I've decided to cover the following topics:

  • Character study - reviewing the life of a specific individual in the Bible and seeing what Biblical principles apply to their story.
  • Book study - reviewing the main themes of a specific book of the Bible, understanding its structure, purpose and message - in both its historical context and its application for today.
  • Word study - looking at the meaning and usage of specific words in the Bible in order to understand how the Holy Spirit can communicate with us today by looking carefully at the original writer's intent.
  • Thematic study - looking at a range of Bible verses dealing with a common theme in order to draw out a composite picture of God's attitude to a specific subject.
  • Meditation - continual review of a specific passage in order to allow the Holy Spirit to communicate the answers to questions arising from the text.
  • Memorization - Learning a specific passage of scripture by heart in order to be able to examine its flow and depth of meaning, while looking for specific application of the Biblical prinicles underlying the text.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A people of the Book

Whether we like to admit it or not, the purpose of Bible study is to enable us to deepen our relationship with God. There are other reasons that we might prefer to give - to equip us for service, help us become better people. But these are means to a greater end, they are not the final outcome itself.

Another thing to bear in mind is that it is vert tempting to evaluate the Bible's text and try to fit it into our worldview, evaluating its message in the light of our experience, rather than allowing its message to shed light on the evaluation of our experiences and shape our worldview.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Character Studies - further thoughts for Bible study

The Bible is essentially a book about people - ordinary people, just like you and me. It describes how they encountered an extraordinary God who transformed their lives.

It therefore provides a yardstick against which we can measure our own spiritual experiences. It gives us valuable insights into the spiritual principles that apply to circumstances in our lives mirrored by those of the people in the Book.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Homework for Bible Studies - not an optional extra

When you were a child, you were set homework for a reason. Many skills take practice, and if you don't put the effort in, you will not get the desired result. This is particularly true if the time for instruction is limited, and there would be plenty of time to forget what you have learned if you do not apply it.

There is also the advantage that you can come to a Bible study prepared. That instead of having to spend a large proportion of time warming up or recapping, the person leading the study can launch into the next part of the teaching.

Don't forget the possibility that you may also have the opportunity to testify how the homework helped you apply Biblical truth to your own life - that it enabled you to see new connections between faith and action in your lifestyle; that by having a structured assignment, God was able to speak clearly to you and work powerfully through you in a way that you would have missed out on.

When setting homework as a schoolteacher, I was sometimes conscious that for some, it would reinforce failure or bad practice because they did not have a supportive parent who could help them. With Bible study, that is one thing I don't have to fear because each one of us has access to a loving Heavenly Father who can reach out by His Spirit and give a clearer understanding when we encounter difficulties with His word.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Character Studies

One way to study the Bible and find some principles to apply in your own life, is to work your way through a character study.

It's always good to study these people in the Bible. Because we're not given an unrealistic picture of how they should have lived.

Instead, we're left with a gritty story that contains true-to-life snapshots of how ordinary people - just like us - came into contact with an extraordinary God, how He transformed their lives, and how they still were not perfect after that.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A few thoughts about Bible Study

As with diet, variety is important.

There are a number of different ways of studying the Bible, and a mixture of approaches will help you get more out of it than just sticking to your favourite.

We're often warned about the dangers of too much processed food in our diet - that it makes it difficult for us to maintain a healthy balanced mix, that our bodies need wholefoods in order to function properly.

So it is with Bible study. It is not healthy to let someone else do all your thinking for you, but you need to be challenged as an active participant in Bible study. You need an environment where you are free to ask and answer questions yourself.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Memorization Game

I've been working on a simple Bible verse memorization game - simple enough - I find the authoring far more fun than the tweaking of the user-interface afterwards.

I now have to decide on what additonal features I should add to the game to make it more playable.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bible Memorization

There is a reason why memorizing Bible verses is an essential part of a balanced devotional life.

If you wish to be effective in using the scriptures in order to share God's perspective with others, you have to know what He has said, and where He has said it. Half-remembered bits of verses are not good enough. As Eve found out in Genesis ch.3, incomplete recall of God's words not only gives ground for confusion, but can be exploited by the enemy.

The Holy Spirit has been promised to help us recall God's word when we face confrontation - but this does not absolve us from the responsibility to get the word inside us first. Our role model in this respect is Jesus, who demonstrated ably in Luke ch.4 why recalling precisely what God has said is an essential tool in spiritual warfare.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why study the Bible?

If you believe that there is a God, and that He has taken the trouble to communicate His will to us through a collection of books through the ages, then it is an inescapable conclusion that finding out what He has said, and how His words affect us must be a high priority in our lives.

Studying the Bible means more than reading books about it or listening to people explaining their thoughts about it. Indeed, in Acts ch.17 v.11, the people of Berea were specifically commended by Luke because they did not merely take Paul and his companions' words at face value, but conducted their own studies to determine whether they spoke the truth, or were making things up to suit their own agendas.

This is logical. After all, if you believe that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writers of the Bible is at work today, then He can speak to you, and give you insight into the application and meaning of those same words as you study them today.

An exciting idea, if you pause to consider its full impact. That the creator of the entire universe cares enough about you as an individual, that He will choose to demonstrate the reality of His presence by communicating with you as you fill your mind with words he inspired two thousand years ago - that this transcends barriers of language, of the limitations of our intellect and imagination, of our own imperfection.

He chooses to meet us as we are in order to shape us into the people He has clled us to be, and the tool He chooses to do this through is His powerful Word.