Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 1

When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name, O LORD God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16 

Frequently I hear, "I want to read the Bible, but I'm not sure how or where to start." Whether you are part of a Bible Study group or using a devotional guide or simply reading these sacred writings, remember these ancient and fresh, living words reveal God's truth and plan for humanity, as well as, are a source of abundant life, strength, encouragement and joy. When reading a Scripture passage consider these components: Observation, Interpretation, Application. (Kay Arthur's "How To Study Your Bible" gives great information.) Ask yourself these questions: Who's present? What's happening? What does this passage mean? How does this apply to my life? These components create an "inductive approach" to studying and understanding, to examining God's word in detail, to discovering meaning in the words. This personal message from God to us allows us to be transformed through the Living Word. (next week I'll break down these components more.) A.W. Tozer's writes, "The word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality." Remember, reading the Bible is a process requiring spiritual discipline for the purpose of developing a more intimate relationship with God. God's word still speaks through the Scriptures. Are you listening?

While there is no one-way to read the Bible, let me offer you some solid choices. The Student Bible, with study notes from Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford, outlines 3 different Reading Plans. Track 1 is a two-week at a time commitment. There are 10 sections, each designed to be read in two week periods, and to give an overview and introduction to both the Old and New Testaments. Track 2, using a 6-month guideline, allows the reader to read at least one chapter from every book in the Bible. Track 3 embraces reading the entire Bible over a 3 year period. There are also guides available that would lead the reader to complete reading the Bible in one year. Remember, whatever path you choose, the purpose of reading the Bible is not about completing a task; rather, the goal is for spiritual development.

Another approach allows for the study of "themes" in the Bible, reading passages throughout the Scriptures such as grace, the nature of God, love, moral commandments, and many, many others. Another way to read would be to read sections or categories such as The Gospels or The Epistles (letters) in the NT; and in the OT, The Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), the History books (17 of these), Books of Poetry (5 of these), the Prophets (17 of these). No matter the course or track you choose, spending time in God's word is essential for spiritual maturity, but more than this, the word of God is to become part of us, part of our breathing and living and serving, part of each individual's response to God. Let your heart echo Jeremiah, "When Your words came, I ate them...". ~dho

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why Read the Bible?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The next few weeks let's explore why Christians need to 
read the Bible, how to read the Bible, and the process of discernment when we study the Bible. People read the Scriptures in various ways and for a variety of reasons. Some search for truth, others seek ways to judge or defend a position; some read to acquire religious information, while others come to learn God's way and hear His instruction. The Bible, the inspired word of God, is a gift from God for the people. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Holy Scriptures reveal the character and holiness of God, record the history of God's prophecies and their fulfillment, teach the way of repentance and redemption through Christ, establish the guidelines for righteous and holy living, and define hope as God's promise of eternal life. Christ's words in John 5:39 say the Scriptures "bear witness about Me." These sacred writings still speak God's prophecies and remind us today that no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). From Genesis to Revelation, these words continue to bring God's message and reveal His purpose century after century, So shall My word be that goes out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty,, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it  (Isaiah 55:11). These ancient writings bring faithful instruction for every new day.

With precepts and promises, prophets and parables, God's story of redemption and restoration enfolds us. The living Word of God (Christ) reaches into the world, choosing you and me from beyond the pages of holy writings and through the ever-living word of God (the Bible). Within the pages of this ancient text, we discover God's ultimate plan for humanity. Jesus Christ, His Word in the flesh (John 1:14), proclaims God's truth and love and hope for the world. Reading this holy and living book gives us a taste of eternity and the goodness of God. From In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) to The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:21), the beginning to the end, God presence and power is Sovereign. Will you study God's teachings and promises? Will you learn God's character? Will you recognize God's leading? Immerse yourself in the Bible and let God's love embrace your life. ~dho

**next week: How to Read the Bible

Thursday, August 13, 2015

God's Way!

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. 
Galatians 5:22-23 The Message 

After several weeks exploring the concepts of discernment and examining its purpose, the next question becomes, "What are the methods of discernment?". Reading God's word and spending time in prayer are essential activities. In order to recognize God's voice, we must know who God is and be in a relationship with Him. God reveals himself to the world through the Holy Scriptures, and communication with God comes through prayer. As this intimate, trusting relationship with God grows, we also begin to recognize God speaking through people and circumstances and opportunities. To listen to God's voice means being attuned to all our surroundings, though the noise and in the solitude. God is omnipresent, everywhere, all the time, at the same time. He is waiting for you and me!

This Scripture in Galatians describes the outward character and behavior of living God's way! These benefits of living for Christ brings unmeasured joy and soul satisfaction. Just today I read Rev. Carolyn Moore's blog post, Not Just Another Book Club (or "How To Read the Bible"). Read this and let it soak into your heart and mind and soul. THIS is the beginning of truly developing a relationship with Christ. On my blog (see the "Resources" page), I list just a few Bible translations, Study Bibles and devotional tools. Online tools like BibleGateway and YouVersion are easy to find and use. A favorite App of mine is Olive Tree; some of the downloads are free and others cost. All these seemingly infinite resources are of little value if they go unused, just as a neglected relationship with God will not grow. Choose God's way! ~dho

*** Mangrove Ministries' Facebook Page: click this link; Please share your thoughts and comments with other readers.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Testing the Voices

"...present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, and that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2 NASB

Discernment involves learning to listen to the Holy Spirit with the ultimate goal being personal spiritual transformation. Coming to have a clearer understanding of God's priorities can expose an unrecognized spiritual talent or reveal a calling to a new ministry opportunity or inspire a new way of living for Christ. This spiritual discipline increases our awareness of God's presence and His workings within the ordinary moments of time, teaches us how to love like Christ, and renews our hope even in times of uncertainty.  To prove what the will of God is comes through dokimazo, the Greek word meaning "by testing you may discern".

Another Greek word, diakriseis, means a "spiritual judgement or understanding" and defines discernment as a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:10). In breaking down this word, dia (through) and kriseis (judgment), we discover the concept of judgment that sees through appearances. This kind of discernment differentiates between the promptings of the Holy Spirit (always good) and deceptive spirits (evil intentions). Remembering spiritual gifts come from God, this gift, like all other spiritual gifts, is to be used for the good of the church and to encourage the body of believers. 

As you contemplate the spiritual discipline of discernment, identify the places in your life that are distractions, places or things that are keeping you from knowing how God is calling you to serve Him. Ask yourself, What am I willing to change? What am I willing to do to be sure I hear God's voice? Will you find a sacred space and spend time listening for God's direction? Will you choose to serve God in the ways He desires you to serve? ~dho