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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bible Regime - How To Study The Bible

"...reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness." (1 Tim 4:7, NKJV)

I am a worship leader and musician, not a Bible teacher, at least, not 'officially'. But I've had a number of people comment favorably about my grasp of Scripture. I've been asked if I was a seminary student at some time. Flattering!

For those of you who want a firmer grasp on God's word, I decided to share two of my basic attitudes that have helped me tremendously in this area.

The first is found in 1 Tim 4:7, "...exercise yourself toward godliness." The NIV has it as "...train yourself to be godly." This tells me two things: first, that godliness is NOT natural for us. If it was we wouldn't need to train ourselves for it, right? Second, that godliness can be uncomfortable. We need training to get past the stage of discomfort and godliness becomes a trained reflex, an ingrained reaction.

Applying it to the Bible, it means that if we want to know the Bible, we need to put in sustained consistent effort on a particular aspect of it. Talk with runners and sportsmen, people who are intimately acquainted with the nature of exercise, and they will tell you that you will not get the full benefits of a particular exercise by doing it just once and leaving it alone for a year. They will recommend doing the same exercises daily, or at least 3-4 times a week, for 4-6 weeks. So if we take this idea and apply to studying the Bible, we should have 4-6 weeks of reading the same book, chapters or verses over and over again in order to get intimately familiar with it.

One thing you will discover though, is that once you start getting into the swing of seriously studying one part of the Bible, you take less time to understand other parts. After I spent a lot of time training myself in the book of Psalms, (I tried to memorize about 30 Psalms, spent more than a year on them) I found that I could recall other parts of the Bible (like the Gospels) more easily when I needed them. This did not make sense to me when I first started, but now I realized that, after all, it's all by the same writer, the Holy Spirit, right?

The second idea that has been useful to me is that of the Scripture being food. In Hebrews 5:12 the truths of God's word are both milk (for infants) and solid food (for the mature). Here's something to ponder: Do you honestly think a baby contentedly feeding at his mother's breast understands or is aware in any way about the immunoglobins, antibodies and the colostrum in his mother's milk? And is he shortchanged in any way by his lack of understanding or awareness?

I knew that in Matthew 13:19 it says that if we do not understand the word of the Kingdom sown into us, the wicked one snatches the word away. But here's my question: how then can we get ourselves to the point when we do understand God's word?

"Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you to understand all these things." (2 Tim 2:7, International Standard Version)

And the word for 'think' in that passage is noieo, which literally means "to exercise the mind towards" (Strongs #3539). Yes, the idea of exercise again! That suggests to me that the understanding will not always come easily, but that we need to spend time on the Word, thinking about it.

Our job is to think, to meditate, and to exercise our minds towards God's word. The Lord's role is to give the understanding. If we do not fulfill our role in this matter, we are making it difficult for the Lord to fulfill his.

The key point of what I am sharing is this. Very often we hear testimonies of people sharing about encountering God in a very real way in his word. They tell us about how the eyes of their understanding were opened on that special occasion and share the powerful insights they receive from the Bible. And we go back home, open up our Bibles, and, like every other day, nothing much happens, at least, nothing that we can see, feel or even articulate in words. And we think that means nothing is happening within us as we feed on God's word.

Because we want something tangible quickly, it is tempting in this day and age to let other people do the thinking and studying of God's word for us and then turn up for their Bible study classes. That way we at least have some information that we can share or articulate with other people, and we believe that we have benefited from the time spent exposing ourselves to the Bible.

Also take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17, International Standard Version)

Having spent a significant amount of time training in kenjutsu (Japanese fencing) believe me when I say that you can truly acquire skill in using a sword not by simply watching others swing theirs around, but taking one up yourself and seriously spending time on it.

It takes time to get really familiar with a tool to the point when you can use it not only for its obvious applications, but for others which are not so obvious. There will be seasons of frustration when you think you aren't making any progress at all. But you have to persevere through these seasons in order to reap the benefits of regular consistent training.

So it is with God's word. Talk with those who spent years in full-time study of God's word. You will discover that most of the time it was ho-hum and nothing exciting. And yet through that time God was sharpening their understanding of his word. But it takes faith and patience to persevere to that point they have such a grasp of the scriptures.

Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision. (2 Tim 2:15, ISV)

During difficult seasons, I faced the upheavals and trials oftentimes using the very same passages that have brought me through previous tough times. When everything is changing and not all the changes are good, facing difficulties with a familiar sword in hand (what I personally call the crisis Psalms) is a source of comfort. The more familiar we are with the Scriptures, the better we can adapt to the increasing challenges we face as we mature in Christ.

Well, here are my thoughts on becoming skilled in our handling of God's word. I am sure there are other viewpoints and ideas that are useful also, but I thought sharing my own ideas on this might be useful to some of you.

May God's word come alive to you even more than it has before!

By: Junjie

Junjie is a worship leader, musician and trainer with more than 14 years of experience in a wide range of church settings. To find out more about his training and to sign up for his free e-course on worship ministry, go to www.invisibleworshipmusician.com

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