bible study tools

Bible Study Plans: Bible Study Techniques and Tools

In part three of our series on how to study the Bible, I’ll review some tips on some Bible study techniques you can use to get the most out of your time with God in His Word. Contact me today!

BIBLE STUDY TECHNIQUES

  • Come with an open heart. Bible study is not to be rushed through or done just for the sake of doing it and then checking Bible study off your checklist. Bible study is your time alone with God, which gives you a chance to grow closer to God and get to know Him. Prepare your heart and your mind to receive what He has for you.
  • Pray. Always pray before opening the Bible. Pray for God to reveal to you what He needs you to know.

BIBLE STUDY TOOLS

  • Bible dictionary. You’ll want to invest in a good Bible dictionary that will not only define words such as redemption, but will also tell you what it means in the Bible and where you’ll see it. I use Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney.
  • Bible atlas. Although this one is not necessary and most study Bibles have maps in the back, but a good Bible Atlas that will show you maps of where all the events you are are reading about in the Bible are happening is a great tool to have on hand, especially if you’re a visual learner. I use Zondervan’s Atlas of the Bible by Carl G Rasmussen.
  • Keep a Bible journal. This is important to record all you are learning throughout your Bible study and to jot down any thing God is saying to you in the moment. While you’re reading, ask yourself the common questions of discovery: who, what, where, when, and why to learn more about what you are reading.
  • Highlight or write in your Bible. Jotting down thoughts as you read the Bible can be a powerful learning tool, especially when you re-visit that same verse years later and see how far you’ve grown with Jesus.
  • Study Bible. A study Bible will offer up notes as you’re reading, which will provide guidance, context, and other useful information, such as where else this person appears in the Bible. A good study Bible is essential in my opinion to understanding the Bible.
  • Different versions of the Bible. Invest in different versions of the Bible. Since the Bible came to us in the Hebrew, through Ancient Greek, into Latin, and now whatever language you are reading in, context, meaning, and even whole parts got mistranslated or missing in the Bible. Different versions of the Bible will give you a deeper and richer understanding of what you’re reading as you hear the same thing said in a different way for your Bible study.
  • Pay attention to the footnotes. The footnotes in the Bible will give you another great way to learn more about where else these events may have happened as well as an explanation on what’s going on.

Ultimately, you only need a willing heart and a Bible to study God’s Word. Those items listed above are nice to have to enhance your learning of the Bible, but don’t let having them stop you from beginning to study God’s Word. Dive in, and being. Contact me with any questions!

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 14, Day 4: Genesis 15:1-11

Summary of passage:  Abram received the word of the Lord in a vision:  Do not be afraid for I am your shield and your very great reward.

Abram questions God as to where is this promised heir.  God assures Abram he will have a son from his own body and his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. God also reiterates to Abram that He brought him from Ur to give him this land.

Again, Abram questions God, asking for reassurances of this promise.  God tells Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and a pigeon.  Abram cut these in half (except the birds).  As Abram awaits God’s arrival, birds of prey come to feed on the carcasses so Abram drives them away.

Questions:

8 )  No.  Justification is being right with God.  We achieve this through faith in Jesus Christ who eradicates our sins and allows us to be clean, right, and thus justified before God.  We are given works by God to do while here on earth that James says proves our faith.

Here’s the crux:  when you are justified you have the Holy Spirit within.  When you have the Holy Spirit, you have no choice BUT to do good works for you are changed and now desire to do good works, which are a sign of your faith and your justification.

We discussed this James passage last year (see HERE) and my opinion is you can be justified with no good works for all that is required is faith.  There is no “work” we must do to get to heaven and be justified for this is a gift from God.  All we must do is accept Jesus as our Savior and we’re there.

As I have seen in the study of Genesis, everything is a gift from God.  Man does absolutely nothing nor does he deserve what he gets.

9a)  We are all dead unless we accept Jesus as our Savior.  Then we are reborn with the Holy Spirit and only then will be have eternal life.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Life is meaningless without a purpose.  If I didn’t have God, my life would be empty.  It would be full of “busyness”, things to distract me, and an inner peace would not exist.  Working for God’s-given purpose, gives life to the mundane, life to the evil, and life to the dead.

All those diapers are for a purpose.  Those long days at a dead-end job are serving a purpose.  When the most horrific thing happens to you such as the death of a loved one, rape, bankruptcy, abuse, loss of a job and every other evil, unfair thing in life and God is the only thing that remains, you have life–even if all you feel is dead.

10a)  Abram believed in God’s promises and they were all fulfilled.  He was strengthened by these promises and gave glory to God while he waited.  He had faith.  He obeyed.  He acted.  He took steps out of obedience.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  The same.  Believe in God, who He is, in His promises, and have faith they will come true in God’s timing.  Have patience.  Give God the glory.  Be strengthened by my knowledge in Him.  Obey God and what He is telling me to do.  Take those little steps of faith.

Conclusions:  I feel as redundant as when I teach my kids their letters but I’ll say it anyways:  Didn’t like this lesson either.  We didn’t once refer to the passage at the beginning, instead exploring Romans and James and we explored James last year.

That being said, I did like re-reading works and faith.  And I did like the reminder we are not dead even though at times I feel dead, indifferent, lost, and immune to the world around me.

My qualm is this:  if this is a study of Genesis, then let’s study Genesis.  If it’s a study of works and justification in the Bible, then don’t bill it as “Genesis 15:1-11”.

End Commentary on Faith and Works taken from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney:

Being made in God’s image, human beings perform works as they live in God’s world. These deeds are based on the condition of the heart.  Works can be done out of evil motivation or even done in order to earn favor with God.  These are unacceptable to Him.

True works arise out of an inner gratitude to God for what He has done for us.  These naturally spring from our faith in Him.  Thus, Paul in Romans emphasized the need for faith in God for good deeds, James stresses that good works are evidence of true faith.  (P. 1532)

I believe the point is this:  you naturally do good works because God dwells inside of you. Works is not a requirement set forth by God in order to be loved, cherished, and accepted by Him.  This is where history went awry in the Middle Ages with indulgences, the Crusades, and earning your way to heaven.

Works is a gift from God that we as Christians just do without thinking.  We’re not trying to prove how Godly we are (for all of us would fail in that realm).  We’re merely following the Holy Spirit and doing what Jesus would do.  Because of our faith in Him.

It’s a simple as that.

Intellectual faith is not what God is seeking; He is seeking faith of the heart.  It’s the difference between saying and doing something.  Many say they are Christians; but is God in their hearts?

Salvation is a gift from God that is by faith alone.  Yet we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  It’s a two-fold process.  One, you accept Jesus.  Two, good works are produced.  And if you truly have Jesus in your heart you have no choice:  good works will follow.  A life lived for Jesus.

The notes from BSF of Acts Lesson 27 have a great explanation on the James’ passage.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 4, Day 2: Genesis 3:1-6

Summary of passage:  The crafty serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say not to eat from any tree in the garden?”  Eve tells him they can eat from any tree except from the tree in the middle of the garden or they will die.  The serpent plants doubt, saying surely you won’t die; you will just be like God, knowing good and evil.

So, Eve took some and ate it and gave some to Adam (who was with her the whole time) and ate it as well.

Questions:

3)  the devil or Satan

4a)  Adam was to care for the trees in the garden and he was free to eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil because if he ate from that, he would die.

b)  Yes.  Why else would God plant it and why would he instruct Adam to eat from any tree (including the tree of life)  Verses 9 & 16.  Everything God does has a purpose.  God gave man Free Will–to choose life or death.  And man chose.

5a)  The serpent planted doubt.  He questioned God’s words by asking, “Are you sure God said that?”  It made Eve wonder if God did indeed say that.  Then he questions God’s word and twists it by saying Eve wouldn’t die if she ate it.  Why would God do such a thing?  Then the serpent does speak some truth by saying their eyes will be opened.  They just wouldn’t be opened how the serpent says.  Finally, he tempted by saying “You will gain knowledge of good and evil” and be equal with God.

b)  First, Eve talked to the serpent.  Then she listened to the serpent.  Then she believed the serpent.  Then she gave in to her desire for wisdom and partook  of the fruit.

c)  God first and foremost.  God’s truths.  God’s words.  God’s goodness.  God himself really.

6a)  Jesus used God’s truths to defeat the devil.  Granted, Eve didn’t have the Bible to use but in a way she had something just as powerful:  a personal relationship with God.  Eve doubted God’s goodness; Jesus never did.  Eve doubted God’s ways; Jesus never did.

Of course, Jesus was God on earth and Eve was merely a human so it’s hard to compare.

But the serpent does use the same methods:  lust of the flesh; lust of the eyes; and pride.

b)  No.  James says after desire (temptation) has conceived (been planted), then it gives birth to sin (one sins) and sin leads to death.

Because Eve coveted the fruit didn’t mean she sinned.  She only sinned when she ate the fruit (disobeyed God’s commands).  At any moment before then she could have walked away.  But she didn’t.

The definition of sin according to Webster’s Dictionary is “a transgression of the law of God”.  Transgression means a violation of a law or command; to go beyond the limits.

According to my bible dictionary (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Douglas and Tenney) sin is “revolt against the holiness and sovereign will of God.  It is a condition of the heart and the outworking of that condition through one’s words and actions.”

We are all tempted (“to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain” says Webster’s).  Satan tempts to undermine our faith.  God tests (not tempts) to strengthen our faith.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  To quit God’s work and purpose for my life.  Some days it’s just not worth it.  It’s a constant temptation.  I’m also tempted to say mean things or not be giving.  Constant temptation to not do as Jesus would do.  Temptation to do what I want to do and not what God wants me to do.

Conclusions:  We discussed the whole sin versus temptation thing in Acts last year except we were asked if it was okay to doubt (see lesson HERE).  We are human.  We will be tempted.  Constantly by the devil.  But we have Free Will to say no.  God always offers us an out (1 Corinthians 10:13) so we can stand up to the devil.  God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.

From Eve we can learn the common steps the devil uses to make us sin:  he plants doubt in our mind; he makes us question God’s word; he entices with something seemingly better.  This pattern we need to be aware of so we don’t fall into sin.  So we can stand up to the devil and say “NO!” in God’s name.  So we don’t lose sight of God like Eve did.

Interesting Side Notes:  Note that God instructed Adam to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Then God created Eve.  Eve must have been told by Adam but she was not instructed by God.  Hence, she was chosen by the serpent to tempt as she was the weaker link.  We don’t know what Adam said to Eve but Adam was standing right there.  He knew it was wrong.  Eve disobeyed God and Adam.

Also, if Adam had been chosen to eat first, Eve might have had an out by saying she was only obeying her husband, the head of the household.  Hence, God allowed Eve to be tested first.

Eve doesn’t even seem to know the name of the tree and exactly what God said since she uses the word “touch” instead of “eat” as God did.  This is not an excuse.  But it does fall upon Adam to communicate to her God’s commands.

Eve was truly deceived by the devil; Adam sinned in full knowledge of what God had said. (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Timothy 2:14).

I was always told it was Eve’s fault man sinned.  But upon close examination Adam bears most of the burden.  He was right there (Genesis 3:6) the entire time.  At any moment either one could have ran from the serpent.  But neither did.  It just shows how powerful and cunning the devil truly is.  And what we must fight against daily.

If Adam and Eve could be tricked and disobey–those who actually walked with God–then we must be extra vigilant and strong in the Word in order to resist.

Great explanation of Genesis 3 HERE

What Does Righteousness Mean?

Our BSF lecture focused on righteousness and our third principle stated, “God’s way of salvation is the only way to turn from sin and turn to righteousness.”

Well, I was stumped.  I had always thought of righteousness as being right.  But this obviously isn’t the case in this sense so I decided to find out what I was missing.

Webster’s says righteousness is “acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin; morally right or justifiable; or arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality”

The synonym listed is moral.

So in my upbringing I had missed the “God” in the sense of the word.

In the statement above, God’s salvation allows us to be righteous (or free from guilt).  Jesus erased our sins. And being righteous means to act in accordance with God’s law–to continually strive to be like Jesus.

God is righteous because He is free from sin.  Isaiah 46:12-13: God says “…you who are far from righteousness, I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.”

I made the mistake of going to Sam’s Club again (I really need to stay away from that place.  I think I would be a fiend if I went to the Bible BookStore as regularly) and I bought Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney.  I had seen it before but decided to wait–until I looked up righteousness and it had the definition I had been seeking!  So, I bought it!

This Dictionary says righteousness is “any conformity to a standard, whether that standard has to do with inner character of a person or the objective standard of accepted law….Lord God always acts in righteousness because He always has a right relationship with people.”

This also explains righteousness in terms of Jesus.  Fascinating stuff and I’d highly recommend it.  I can’t wait to dive more into it.

In essence, being righteous is being like Jesus or being like God.