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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Writing Character Studies

By All Saints' Day, I should have the first of a series of character studies ready. Each one is split into three lessons. Each lesson takes an episode in the life of or a characteristic of an individual in the Bible, and examines what lessons we can learn from this.

I'll post some more details over the week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Consideration of Size

Group dynamics change with the number of people you work with. Jesus understood this clearly. The way He shared His life with Peter, James and John was different to the way He taught the Twelve when all together. This contrasted clearly with the style of His public teaching to large crowds.

Similarly, in the intimacy of a small group, don't be tempted to preach at the class. Questions and answers worked into a dialogue are far more effective. You have the luxury of being able to tailor your teaching to the needs of your group. But that means getting to know them, appreciating the different ways they learn best, finding out their level of understanding and level of comfort - if they are t be lovingly challenged to step outside that box and grow more.

It's a heavy responsibility - but not one we bear alone. We can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us in order to make not just good decisions; but bold, outrageous decisions that challenge and inspire faith in those we lead.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Prayer and Bible Study

It seems such a simple point - almost trivial. But it must be said.

If you want to be successful in studying the Bible - have a word with the author. He inspired it, He has an agenda for your personal growth.

As it says in Proverbs, commit your work to the Lord, then it will succeed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bible Study on the Go...

Listening to Bible readings and sermons on tape/CD/MP3 while travelling may not be a new idea. Using a mobile phone with internet access to obtain delivery of Bible study materials opens up a hole new range of possibilities. I must confess, during the recent unveiling of the .mobi extension, I registered two for different projects: and - it will be interesting to see what sort of response and audience they develop.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Buddy up - for small group Bible study success!

A short hint. As it says in Ecclesiastes ch.4 v.9-12 " Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn't have another to lift him up.Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one keep warm alone?If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Or as Proverbs ch.27 v.17 puts it, "Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens his friend's countenance."

By buddying up with a friend and making eachother equally accountable for the success of your study together, it gives you not only a safety net - someone to remind you that you need to do your homework, or to give you that much-needed word of encouragement. It also gives you an opportunity to minister in a safe, friendly environment. This is something that should not be overlooked or under-rated. It is an essential part of your growth as a Christian, before you take bigger steps of sharing with a cell group or the whole congregation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Book Studies - a time to wrestle

It is one thing to tackle a passage of scripture - but a whole book is an entirely different matter. One of the biggest problems for the newcomer to studying a book is the fate of the failed commentary writer.

It is not your objective to write a meditation based on every single verse.
your first responsibility is just to read it as narrative - it's part of a big story book after all, and see if you can get to grips ith the six big questions:
  • who
  • what
  • why
  • where
  • when
  • how

Who was the book originally written to?

What type of writing is it?

Why was it written?

Where and when was it written?

How should its message be applied?

After reading through it, if you're not sre of the book's background, pick up a good Bible dictionary or a commentary on the book and see what that says.


Split up the text into Key Passages where the major part of your study will be concentrated.

Identify the Key People and examine their relationship with God.

Draw out the Key Principles that can be applied from this book.

After that, you may want to draw ut a Timeline of important events - also put them in a historical context - what else was happening, before, durin and after.

You can also list the Themes that run through the book and see how they parallel eachother.

You may want to draw Trees, to show how different ideas or principles develop and are dependent on one-another throughout the narrative

Sunday, October 08, 2006

When to Study the Bible

Some preachers will compare spiritual disciplines to physical exercise. There are plenty of Biblical precedents for this. 1 Corinthians ch.9 v.24-27, Hebrews ch.12 v.1 and 2 Timothy ch.2 v.4 immediately spring to mind.

But the analogy runs deeper. An athlete has trained his body to be able to perform at the appropriate level of fitness when needed. When we are tested, that is when we see whether we are spiritually flabby or fit.

Just as an athlete needs to consider carefully their diet and exercise regime. So with us. A varied devotional diet - not just reading testimonies and the regulation skimming of two or three chapters on the annual Bible reading plan. When do you schedule Biblical meditation? When do you meet with others to study? When do you prepare for these studies? Is there a place for praying through the scriptures - using them in worship. Be creative! God created you in His image, so mirror that creativity in your study.

Are you a morning person? Give that time to God, He deserves the best. Are you a night owl? Praise Him then - just don't wake the neighbours! Don't force yourself to be what you're not. If you're sharp just before lunch - study then. If reading a Christian book is likely to lull you off to sleep after a good meal, then that wouldn't be an ideal time.

How do the seasons affect you? Will you have more quality time at one time of the year due to work schedules? Consider these things. But be creative. Listen to tapes or mp3 files while travelling.

Deuteronomy ch.6 v.9 has an important principle here - not to follow a legalistic example of binding scripture verses around yourself. But to have them inscribed on the insides of your hands and head, guiding your actions, marking the boundaries of your home so that people see a difference and not just a written word.

That's why the Good Lord commanded His people to talk about His words - so they would become part and parcel of their lifestyle, something that would define His people, that others would know His presence through interacting with a community whose lives were shaped by His words.

He promised blessing then to people who kept His Covenant. A solemn, bining agreement that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. We are therefore heirs of His blessings, but that does not relieve u of the responsibility of thse guiding principles - to let the Word shape our internal life so that our exterior is similarly transformed.