“I Think . . . .”

During her last semester before graduating from high school, Amy took a course in the New Testament. Probably not too many public schools offer Bible classes, but hers did.

Opposite approaches

At various times during the semester the teacher would ask what the Bible says about such and such. One male student tended to respond by saying, “Well, I think . . .” and he would give his opinion.

Among the issues discussed were whether one can fall from grace and whether baptism is essential to salvation. This student did not offer much if any Scripture as the basis for his assertions.

About once a week Amy responded to his “I think . . .” by saying, “The Bible says . . . .”

Good for her! She knew that what we believe must be Bible-based—and she had studied enough to be able to say, “The Bible says . . . .”

How many people twice her age can do that? Or three times her age?

Why we believe what we believe

Many people simply inherit their beliefs from parents without question, or they uncritically accept what some preacher says.

Bible study takes effort. Are we prepared to invest the time and energy required?

Also, if we discover we’ve been taught wrong, will we change our thinking to conform to Scripture?

What if we discover from our study that God expects us to make a major change in our lifestyle? Are we willing?

Or what if accepting biblical truth means we will face opposition from family and friends? Will we go with the truth, regardless?

What Bible study involves

To be effective, Bible study requires that we: 1) love the truth, and 2) diligently search the Scriptures (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Acts 17:10-12).

The goal of Bible study is not simply to accumulate knowledge but: 1) to learn what God expects us to do so we can do it, and 2) to share what we’ve learned with others (James 1:22-25; Ezra 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:2).

People like Amy are in the minority. Many don’t know what the Bible says. Many don’t care.

So, Amy, keep on saying, “The Bible says . . .” and you’ll enlighten those who love the truth as you do, but who also need your help to find the Way.

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Another Look at the Old Testament

Why it’s so important!

Although we’re not under Old Testament law, there is great value in being familiar with the 39 books that make up three-fourths of the Bible.

Reading the New Testament without knowing the Old is like reading a sequel but not the original work.

The New Testament keeps pointing back to the Old. It refers to Abraham, Moses, David, and many other Old Testament characters. It quotes from Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, and many other Old Testament books.

On the day Jesus rose He said, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).

What we can learn

These 39 books were written by about 30 men—all inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Though originally addressed to Jews, the Old Testament instructs Christians as well: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4; see 1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

There’s so much to be gained from these ancient documents. We learn from Noah’s obedient faith, Job’s sufferings, and Esther’s courageous stand.

We see how God was patiently working out His great plan, laying the groundwork for Jesus’ coming into our world to be our Savior.

Well worth the effort

By reading only four chapters a day you can complete the Old Testament in less than eight months. If we get bogged down and quit when we read the detailed Mosiac laws in Exodus and Leviticus, we’ll miss the dramatic stories of Joshua, the tragic period of the Judges, the ups-and-downs of the Kings, the inspiring poetry of the Psalms, and the struggles of the prophets.

The more we read, the greater blessing we’ll find in its pages.

So please, read it all. You’ll be glad you did!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How to Personalize Your Bible

Perhaps you own a Bible with your name engraved in gold on the cover. Or maybe you received your Bible from a relative or friend who wrote a meaningful inscription to you on the flyleaf. Certainly this makes your Bible more personal than those of the same edition in boxes on the bookshelf at the store.

But there are even better ways to personalize a Bible.

We can mark it up.

Of course, scribbling in a book is disrespectful. But writing notes in a Bible for study purposes is actually a sign of great respect. It shows we care about discovering its treasures. It shows we are taking the Bible seriously and really want to learn more and more.

A Bible with a worn cover, loose pages, its words circled and underlined and its margins filled with notations from years of study—now that’s a personalized Bible! How many Bibles should a Christian wear out in a lifetime?

I heard about a woman who asked a preacher to write notes in her Bible like the ones he had in his. Valuable as those notes might be, they are not the product of the diligent studies of the one who requested the preacher’s notes.

We can live it out.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves . . . . one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22, 25).

Having a Bible is good—if we study it. Studying the Bible is good—if we obey it.

Could there be a better way to personalize our Bible than to shape our lives each day by its teachings?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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What’s the Key?

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A young man I know has been a Christian only a year or so, but he has grown tremendously. His mentor told me he believes his remarkable growth is due to reading the Bible every day.

It makes sense. As Peter wrote, “. . . like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation . . .” (1 Peter 2:2).

God designed the Bible to equip us in all the ways we need equipping (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Where to begin

We start out with the simpler things of Scripture (the milk), and the next step is to graduate to the more challenging, meatier aspects of God’s word.

Two different books of the New Testament strongly urge slow-to-grow Christians to go beyond the milk to maturity (1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:14-6:3).

But how does reading the Scriptures help us grow? The more we read, the better we understand how God means for us to live in this world and to prepare for the next.

The goal of growth

Of course, it isn’t just reading that does it, but putting what we read into practice. The Bible is a know-and-do book (James 1:21-25). There’s where the real growth comes!

But what are we to grow toward?

Christlikeness has been called “the Ultimate Aim of the Christian Life” (Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Index of Chain Topics #382).

Becoming more and more like Christ is the challenge of a lifetime, and the Scriptures show us how to shape our thinking and living into conformity with Him (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:5-11).

Want to grow?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Book

If you’re like me you have stacks of things lying around you’d like to read, but may never get around to. There just isn’t enough time.

So we are forced to be selective—not just because there is more than we can possibly digest, but also because there is so much not worth reading. Literally anything is available these days—from the uplifting to the ugly.

There are books, and there is THE BOOK. What separates the Bible from all other literature is its divine origin. It is God’s message through human agents inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

People who loved truth

A man from Ethiopia was reading the Old Testament as he traveled toward his home. “Do you understand what you are reading?” a stranger asked him. “Well, how could I,” he replied, “unless someone guides me?” Having said this, he invited Philip to join him on his journey. Beginning with Isaiah 53, the passage which had puzzled the traveler, Philip “preached Jesus to him.” As a result he became a Christian before the day was over—and “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:26-39).

A few chapters later Paul preaches in a synagogue in Berea. “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They neither rejected nor accepted what Paul said without investigating. When they compared Paul’s words with God’s word, they saw the two lined up perfectly. So they believed.

Do we investigate?

Many people never check out the preaching they hear. But while some preach truth, others preach error (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Do we love the truth enough to investigate until we find the answer?

What if all of us were to resolve to spend less time with social media/TV and more time in the Bible? What difference, do you suppose, would that make in our lives?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Use with Caution

Helpful, however . . . .

Many Bibles have only the text of Scripture, or perhaps some maps and a brief concordance in the back. A study Bible, however, is designed to provide various helps—such as introductions to each book, charts, diagrams, and comments on the text. A good study Bible can prove quite useful.

Since these extras are provided by fallible human beings, we do well to exercise caution and not necessarily believe everything we read.

Discernment needed

I have a study Bible, generally quite good, that depicts the tabernacle with some of the furnishings in the wrong place.

If I were to point this out to the publisher I would likely get a cordial reply acknowledging the mistake and promising to correct it in the next edition.

But what if I were to call into question some of the charts that reflect a premillennial bias—or the faith-only position it takes. These are not the result of poor proof-reading but of erroneous theology.

Another study Bible, commenting on Acts 2:38, asserts that baptism is not for salvation. Someone might read this uncritically and accept it as true. But shall we believe what some scholar thinks Acts 2:38 means or what the verse actually says?

Study Bibles are useful to those who profit from all the helps they provide, but who can also detect editorial errors as well. As the old saying goes, “Take the wheat, leave the chaff.”

Some study Bibles are “chaffier” than others. The discerning reader should be able to tell the difference.

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What I Love to See

Powerful effect

I love to see a well-used Bible—worn cover, key passages marked, and with lots of hand-written notes in the margins.

Even more so, I love to see believers whose lives are shaped by the Scriptures. They not only know the Bible, but far more important, they live it.

This is exactly what God intends (James 1:21-25).

God’s word is a guiding light (Psalm 119:105), nourishing food (Matthew 4:4; 1 Peter 2:2), and a sharp-two edged sword that pierces to the very core of our being (Hebrews 4:12).

Powerful Cause

When applied, the Scriptures can transform vile sinners of all stripes into those whose lives reflect the Christ they now serve (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

How can the Bible’s transforming power be explained in any other way than by its divine origin?

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