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56 Tips To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

56 Tips

To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible

 

 

by Paula Wiseman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

56 Tips

To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible

 

PAULA WISEMAN

ROBINSON, ILLINOIS

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by Paula Wiseman

Published by Paula Wiseman at Shakespir

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.

 

Paula Wiseman

Sage Words

606 N. Cross Street

Robinson, IL 62454

www.paulawiseman.com

 

Unless otherwise noted Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NAS are taken from the New American Standard Bible^®^, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1994 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked NIV taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Other Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

 

Cover Photo: Lightstock.com

 

For more information, visit paulawiseman.com or email [email protected]

 

 

Book Layout © 2014 BookDesignTemplates.com

 

56 Tips/ Paula Wiseman . -- 1st ed.

 

 

Dedicated to Amanda

THANK YOU

By getting your copy of56 Tips to Help You Get the Most out of Every Book in the Bible, you’ve shown you want your study time to be as rich as possible, and I want to help you as much as I can. These three guides have even more tips to help you understand, retain and apply God’s Word.

In 3 Keys to Studying the Bible you’ll learn:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How to examine the text closely (without Greek or Hebrew)

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What the text means

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What to do with it

In 3 Keys to Interpreting Scripture the Right Way you’ll learn:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Why context is critical

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Why cross-references matter

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What to do when things seem to contradict

In The Whys and Hows of Marking Your Bible you’ll learn:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How marking aids retention and understanding

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What tools are best

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How to get started

I’d love to send all three guides, no strings attached. They’re a perfect complement to 56 Tips and come with my thanks for reading.

Blessings,

Paula

Sure! Send me the guides.

To Lauren, Alan and Rachel

 

 

I will delight myself in Your statutes;

I will not forget Your word.

 

 

―Psalm 119:16

 

 

CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

OLD TESTAMENT

THE LAW

Genesis

Exodus

Leviticus & Numbers

Deuteronomy

HISTORY

Joshua

Judges

Ruth

1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles

1 & 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles

Ezra

Nehemiah

Esther

WISDOM

Job

Psalms

Proverbs

Ecclesiastes

Song of Solomon

PROPHETS

Isaiah

Jeremiah & Lamentations

Ezekiel

Daniel

Hosea

Joel

Amos & Obadiah

Jonah & Nahum

Micah

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Haggai & Zechariah

Malachi

NEW TESTAMENT

GOSPELS

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

HISTORY

Acts

LETTERS

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians

1 & 2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy & Titus

2 Timothy

Philemon

Hebrews

James

1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 & 3 John

Jude

PROPHECY

Revelation -Part 1

Revelation -Part 2

Revelation -Part 3

 

INTRODUCTION

Most people want to get more out of the Bible when they read it, but often, they don’t know how to go about it.

This book was designed to solve that. I took each book of the Bible and outlined a unique approach for reading that particular book.

You don’t need a theology background, or any knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. The tips are straightforward, practical and easy-to-follow, and it doesn’t matter what translation you use.

So grab your Bible and your notebook and get ready. You’re about to be amazed by how much truth you’ll discover for yourself.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLD TESTAMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LAW

Genesis

 

First tip –Don’t worry about all the “begats.”

The first book of the Bible is a great place to start studying God’s Word. It is the “book of beginnings.” Reading two chapters each day will finish off the book in under a month. Chapters 1-11 describe four key events (Creation, the Fall, the Flood and the Dispersion) while chapters 12-50 look at the lives of four key people (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph).

Here are some things to look for as you read through Genesis:

Firsts – Of course Genesis tells of the first man and woman and so on, but it also describes the first act of worship. Interestingly, the first mention of love in the Scripture occurs in the context of a father’s love (chapter 22). That story of Abraham and Isaac is one of my favorites in all of Scripture.

God’s Revelation of Himself – God becomes more personal as the story unfolds. From Elohim in the opening words to God Almighty and the God Who Sees, God displays more of His character to His people

God Initiates – Everything we are, and have, comes from the will and hand of God. He made us, revealed Himself to us, and sought a relationship with us. After man’s failure, God’s love and grace initiated redemption for a hopeless humanity. The story of His pursuit of us begins in Genesis.

Exodus

 

Exodus, the epic story of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage makes a great study.

Often the detail and repetition discourage folks from reading and studying the book. For others, any study of Old Testament law seems irrelevant.

 

However, here are a few things to watch that might help.

1. God speaks – Watch God’s revelation of Himself through His words. I also love His conversations with Moses. After Moses’ death, these words are recorded “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” That’s a relationship worth studying!

2. God acts – Take note of how God intervenes on behalf of His people, both in Egypt and in the desert. Some of my favorite passages are God’s display of power at the Red Sea and His holiness at Sinai.

3. Leadership lessons – Moses makes a tremendous character study. Key traits are his humility, his compassion and his intercession. His humanity shows through many times, too.

4. Object lessons – Everything about the Passover and the tabernacle point to the coming work of Christ. How do the items in the tabernacle compare to the names Jesus gave Himself?

Leviticus & Numbers

 

Leviticus and Numbers are the twin road blocks to Bible study. Heavy on details, repetitious and even tedious, they can present a real challenge as you make your way through Scripture.

 

In Leviticus, the Israelites remain at the foot of Mt. Sinai and receive God’s specific instructions on how worship would work from now on. God was undoing years of absorbed Egyptian culture and morality to create a unique people, set apart and obedient to Him. In our age of grace, you might make a good case that we don’t need to know anything about Old Testament law.

However, here are a couple of things to consider as you work through this law book:

 

What do the precepts tell you about the character of God?

How do the standards given for the priests apply to us as a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9)?

 

Numbers has lists—census, genealogies, campsites and more. If that’s not your thing, there are still some goodies in the book of Numbers. Most of these stories are referenced by New Testament writers so they can add to your understanding in other studies.

 

Chapter 6:24-26 Aaron’s blessing

Chapters 11-12 Rebellion in the camp

Chapters 13-14 The spies, the refusal to advance and repercussions

Chapters 16-17 Korah’s rebellion

Chapter 20 Moses’ lapse at Kadesh

Chapter 21 First victories

Chapter 22-25 Balaam’s prophecies and Israel’s failure

 

I admit, Leviticus and Numbers can be tough, but God always blesses your efforts. Ask Him to show you something you can use. He will.

Deuteronomy

 

Ah, Deuteronomy. You make it through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers only to hit some weird Biblical déjà vu in Deuteronomy. It isn’t just the “read the Bible in a year weed-out”, “separate the saints from the sinners” test of true spirituality. It’s a unique recap of God’s law for a new generation poised to seize God’s promises and it’s an intimate revelation of the God who made those promises.

Being the nerd that I am, I like Deuteronomy. Here are some things to remember as you read it-

It’s a series of farewell addresses Moses delivers. These are the things he really wants Israel—the regular folks, not the priests or the Levites—to know and remember before he dies. You can almost hear the urgent parental pleading in his voice.

Jesus quotes Deuteronomy—a lot! In fact, in His epic temptation standoff with Satan himself, all the Scripture Christ uses as His defense comes from Deuteronomy.

The name means “second law,” so yes, there is some repetition of those legal details from Leviticus, but hang in there.

 

As you study Deuteronomy—

1. Keep a list of the things you learn about the character of God.

Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.4:39 NAS

2. Notice the special relationship God has with His chosen people. Even though we aren’t Israel, God has chosen us as His through the blood of Christ.

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.7:6 NAS

(The following verses are good ones, too.)

 

3. Pay close attention to our responsibility to Him.

Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 10:12-13 NAS

Then toward the end, in chapter 27 there is an amazing convocation where the entire nation of two million or so is divided in half and they take their places on two facing mountains, Gerizim and Ebal. There, at Moses’ direction, they take turns rehearsing the blessings and curses contained in the Law. Imagine what that must have been like!

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORY

Joshua

 

Joshua is the historical record of the twenty year conquest of the land of Canaan. Admittedly, the battle strategy and the geographic details can make for a tough read, and it may be tough to get past the idea that the stories are for kids.

However, Joshua provides a great account of how God keeps His promises and how He works in the lives of men and women.

 

Let me highlight some study keys to the book.

 

Themes:

God fulfills His promise to Abraham.

Obedience is critical to success.

 

People:

Joshua is a great example of Godly leadership.

Rahab is a tremendous picture of how God chooses us in grace, lifts us out of our situation and places us in His family, giving us a future and a hope.

 

Events:

Crossing the Jordan (chapter 3)

The fall of Jericho (chapter 6)

The defeat at Ai (chapter 7)

Joshua’s final speech (chapters 23-24)

Judges

 

I have a confession. Judges is one of my least favorite books. It’s a cautionary narrative about a nation in which “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) It relates seven cycles of apostasy and the roots causes behind the falling away.

It also tells of God’s merciful intervention and deliverance of His chosen people each of those times.

 

Judges is a great book to study as a series of character profiles. Three people stand out.

 

Deborah (chapters 4-5) – During the third cycle of oppression, God raised up a woman named Deborah to lead the nation politically and spiritually. Although Barak led the troops into battle, she was clearly the brains behind the operation.

 

Gideon (chapters 6-8) – Some of Gideon’s heroics may be familiar from childhood Sunday school stories, but he’s an interesting study. He has a unique brand of measured boldness, only to fall prey to the pitfalls of success.

 

Samson (chapters 13-16) – I think this guy is one of the most perplexing characters in Scripture. He had a casual disrespect for God’s law, mixed with an undeniable divine empowerment. I can’t figure him out.

 

Things to note:

What you learn about us as human beings. Judges offers a stark account of what we are like, especially when we are left to ourselves.

How God displays His grace and His power. God’s grace and compassion are evident in His on behalf of His wayward people.

 

Do you see yourself in Judges?

Ruth

 

The book Ruth is like the Huckleberry Finn of the Bible. Huck can be read and enjoyed by fourth graders, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. But it’s also the subject of deep discussions in university halls and by literary critics. Each group of readers gains a deeper appreciation of the book as they mature. They begin to see the deeper themes and symbolism wrapped in a seemingly simple story.

That’s the way it is with Ruth. With just four short chapters, it’s easy to give it a cursory read, and come away satisfied by a story of God’s provision in hard times. My Sunday school boys appreciated the story of the “hot foreign chick” loyally returning to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, leaving behind a life of idol worship.

One book to help with this study was The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules by Carolyn Custis James, and it gave me a greater appreciation for the depth of the story. (I recommend it.)

Perhaps the greatest challenge readers face when studying the book of Ruth is understanding the ancient Near Eastern customs described.

 

Here are a few ideas on how to approach this little book:

Choose an individual—Naomi, Ruth or Boaz—and follow the story from his or her perspective.

 

Consider the following questions:

How does God care for His people?

How does God make a place for outsiders/ foreigners? For widows? How then should we as believers care for them?

What is redemption and how does Boaz portray Christ’s redemption?

What types of love are manifested?

 

BONUS: How is Ruth a Proverbs 31 wife?

1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles

 

I’m considering 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles together because they cover the same main subject—the life and times of David. Volumes have been written about David and I can’t possibly cover him in one quick tip.

However, if you undertake this study there are a number of different ways to approach it.

 

Character study – David’s life divides into three phases: Shepherd, Renegade and King. What kind of man is he? How does he grow and change through each phase? What is the dominant aspect of his relationship with God during each phase?

 

David’s triumphs and failures – He had plenty of both. Note how he responds to God in each situation.

 

A who/what study – Who does David come in contact with? What happens? What does he take away from the encounter?

 

David’s prayers – What prompts the prayer? What does he say about God? What does he ask for?

 

Consequences – None of these books shy away from portraying sin or its effects. Keep track of the sins – not only David’s, but of others like Eli and Saul – and how the individual sins impact others and even the nation itself.

 

If you’re really ambitious, follow your footnotes and read the Psalms that are cross-referenced to the events in David’s life. This gives a uniquely intimate look at his relationship with God.

I love being able to look at his “journal.” Also the range of emotions he records is reassuring. David’s walk with God wasn’t all hearts and rainbows. By allowing us to see his failures as plainly as his great victories, we see God’s mercy and grace on full display.

1 & 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles

 

1 & 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles detail the history of Israel from the end of David’s reign until the Babylonian captivity.

If you’re not into history, these may be difficult books to study. The unfamiliar (but often similar) names and different spellings for those names add an extra challenge.

But don’t get discouraged. We are used to name changes. For example, when I was a kid, the capital of China was Peking. Now it’s Beijing.

The names in Kings reflect that same cultural shift in spelling between the generations of historians.

These books form the framework for the rest of the Old Testament since the prophetic writings fit in between the narratives in these books. For instance, Lamentations is Jeremiah’s poem written after he witnessed the devastation of Jerusalem’s fall. Knowing the history gives a better insight into the prophets.

 

Details aside, there are three great threads that run through these books.

God’s promise to David – Notice how God reiterates His covenant and preserves David’s line.

God keeps His word – This includes the promises of judgment. The messages delivered by appointed prophets underscores this.

Obedience matters – Each king’s reign includes an assessment of where he stood before God. Notice how the people responded to the king’s obedience (or disobedience) and the consequences.

 

If you want a quick survey hitting some of the highlights and notable people, check out the following chapters in Kings and their Chronicles cross-references.

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Solomon (1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 5 -7)

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Elijah (1 Kings 18)

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Ahab (1 Kings 22)

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Elisha (2 Kings 5

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Hezekiah and Isaiah (2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32)

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Manasseh (2 Kings 21, 2 Chronicles 33)

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Josiah (2 Kings 22-23, 2 Chronicles 34-35)

*
p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Fall of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36)

Ezra

 

Ezra continues the history of Israel, picking up after seventy years in Babylonian captivity. We see them take their first steps toward reclaiming their nation and their place as God’s chosen people.

As you can imagine, things are a little shaky. This generation doesn’t know much more about living as God’s people than that first generation of Israelites who left Egypt. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the two.

 

Just like in Exodus, we find:

The institution of God’s law

The establishment of a worship center

Hostility from enemy nations

And like Exodus, there are occasional lengthy passages of genealogies or other details.

 

As you read:

Watch how God sovereignly directs all the events. The phrase “the hand of the Lord” is used a few times. We’ll see it again in Nehemiah.

Notice the problems caused by compromise.

List Ezra’s character traits. These are summarized in 7:10.

How are the issues Ezra faced relevant to us today?

Nehemiah

 

Nehemiah is a manual for strong leadership in difficult circumstances. A cupbearer to the king of Persia, Nehemiah is extremely burdened for his homeland upon hearing about the state of things in Jerusalem—no temple, and no wall. He secures permission from the king to act and returns to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding and repatriation of Israel.

The book can be divided into three sections-

•Rebuilding

•Revival

•Resettling

 

(We got some details of the Revival in the book of Ezra.) It takes place AFTER the book of Esther. In fact, she is the king’s stepmother and may have had a hand in the king’s sympathetic treatment of Nehemiah and the Jewish people. Chapters 1-12 cover about a year. Then there’s a 20 year gap before Chapter 13.

 

Themes

Obedience: Watch how much importance is placed on following God’s word and seeking His will.

Opposition: Nehemiah faces opposition from all directions and sources. Note who opposes him and how he responds. Can you apply Nehemiah’s strategies?

Prayer: Keep track of Nehemiah’s prayers. What prompts them? What does he ask for? How does God answer?

 

One of my favorite verses in the book comes in a reply Nehemiah sends to Sanballat, one of his chief persecutors.

“Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (Neh. 6:8, NIV)

Esther

 

The last history book in the Old Testament is Esther. Although Nehemiah, Ezra and Malachi include a few later events, Esther closes the story of the Jewish nation until the arrival of the Messiah.

On the surface, it’s an almost Disney-ish story of an orphan girl who wins a beauty contest and becomes queen.

With a more careful consideration, we find it is so much more. Esther is one of two books in the Bible named for women. It is not quoted in the New Testament, and the name of God is never mentioned. However, there is no question that a drama of cosmic proportions is unfolding. Satan raises up a willing instrument, Haman, to destroy God’s chosen people, but the Jews respond with confident faith in God.

Esther provides a unique perspective on how God’s providence looks from the outside. (An interesting side note: Haman is called the Agagite when he is introduced in chapter 3. Agag was the king of the Amalekites, whom Samuel the prophet executed nearly 600 years earlier in 1 Samuel 15. Haman was carrying a serious grudge.)

In the background of Esther, between the call for all eligible girls and the selection process, is the battle of Thermopylae, and Ahasuerus’ humiliating defeat. This is the battle where the Spartans under King Leonidas make their courageous stand.

 

The easiest, most natural way to study the book of Esther is to follow the four main characters – Esther, Mordecai, King Ahasuerus, and Haman.

 

What evidence do you see of Esther’s and Mordecai’s faith?

What difficult situations do they face and how do they respond?

Is Ahasuerus a good king? Notice his interactions with various people. How might his military defeat be a factor?

What are Haman’s character flaws? Are they exaggerated or do they follow a natural course?

 

Another way to approach Esther is to watch for God’s involvement.

What events are the result of divine intervention?

Does this help you recognize God’s involvement in your own circumstances?3

 

 

 

 

 

 

WISDOM

Job

 

Job is a difficult book. We don’t have many background details but it seems Job may be one of the oldest stories in Scripture. He was likely a contemporary of Abraham or he may have even predated the patriarchs. The catastrophes described defy comprehension, and for one man to absorb them in such a short span of time pushes the limits of our belief as much as any miracle recorded. Job wrestles with the questions we’ve all raised.

•Why do bad things happen to good people?

•Where is God when bad things happen?

•And perhaps most penetrating—do we serve God for what we get out of it?

 

Job is written in poetic form and after a prologue, it is arranged as a series of debates. Job’s friends alternate between lecturing and charging him. He responds, decrying his lot and defending himself to his friends and to God. The poetic style and the strings of proverbs often employed by Job’s friends can make it difficult to follow.

 

•As you read and study Job, keep track of the speaker. (Sometimes the same speaker will continue through several chapters.) What is the tone of his speech? What charges does he make? How does Job respond? What is his tone?

•What kinds of “advice” do Job’s friends give that is theologically correct but misapplied?

•Keep a list of the defenses Job wishes to make before God. What does he say when God confronts him?

•What do you learn about God from chapters 1-2 and 38-42?

Psalms

 

Writing a quick study tip for Psalms is almost a lost cause. At least seven contributors added to this praisebook across 900 years. It is arranged in 5 “books,” which seems to follow the tradition of Moses’ five books more than any thematic grouping. In the broadest sense, the topics deal with:

•God’s working in creation,

•God’s working in the nation of Israel,

•God’s working in the life of an individual.

 

Here are some ideas on how to study the book of Psalms.

Read it. Read a psalm a day. That will cover almost six months with a few days left over, plus you can take extra days for Psalm 119 and some of the other longer ones. When you finish, repeat.

Read a psalm a day in each of the 30-day months. A little adjustment is necessary to avoid having to read all of 119 in one day, but it’s easily done.

Speaking of the 119th Psalm, one of my favorite studies ever was reading a verse a day from that psalm. I cross-checked different translations and kept my Hebrew and English dictionaries close and journaled my thoughts and insights.

Keep track of the emotions or mood of each individual psalm.

Watch the keywords and themes that run through the book, like worship, refuge, prayer, deliverance, enemies. Note how each is used and what they reveal us and about God.

•Psalms has tremendous material for memorization. Keep a list of your favorite psalms or verses and try your hand at memorizing them. Some of my favorite psalms are 1, 8, 18, 19, 27, 37, 46, 91, 94, 103, 116, 118, 119, 139, and 142.

Proverbs

 

In the book of Proverbs, we have a collection of wisdom compiled by the man God declared to be the wisest who ever lived. Most of the Proverbs were spoken by Solomon himself, while the rest definitely reflect his influence.

The word, proverb, means “to be like” and most of the sayings in the book give us an example to follow or a negative example to avoid.

The language is simple and straightforward and relies on imagery, metaphor and simile to make its points.

 

There are a few difficulties with Proverbs, though. One lies in the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a discernable pattern to its arrangement. The common themes pop up in verses spread throughout the book.

A second issue is that the verses contain only general principles and guidelines. We can find exceptions to most of the statements. (Some of Solomon’s frustrations with that very fact show up in Ecclesiastes.)

 

So how should we study Proverbs?

The first nine chapters are the most cohesive and form a body of wisdom from father to son. There are three key ideas introduced in this section:

Fools, scoffers and wise –The wise are the godly, the fools discount everything God says and the scoffers pay God’s rules lip service. These three will reappear throughout the Proverbs.

The dangers of sexual sin –Nowhere else in Scripture do we get such a candid discussion of the pitfalls of adultery and the tactics used to draw us away.

Wisdom personified – Although Solomon gives Wisdom a feminine identity, she clearly speaks with God’s heart.

 

In later chapters, watch for the following key words and ideas –

The righteous vs. the wicked – How do each behave and what are the consequences?

The lazy vs. the diligent – How is each distinguished and what comments does Solomon make about their lives?

Humility vs. pride – What is the mark of a humble person? A proud person?

Path, way, walk – This refers to a course of life, and its key, defining mark. What paths are discussed?

Finances – What principles are offered for handling money?

Things God hates – What do these reveal about God’s character?

The fear of the Lord – How is it defined?

 

An easy strategy for studying Proverbs is reading a chapter a day on the 31-day months.

Ecclesiastes

 

My husband counts Ecclesiastes among his favorite books of the Bible. It’s Solomon’s frank admission of the failure of worldly wisdom and pleasure-seeking. If you read his story in 1 Kings you’ll find he learned these lessons the hard way. There’s a tinge of sad pleading for us to heed the words, as well as a knowing resignation that most of us won’t.

 

What to look for as you read Ecclesiastes:

Key words –

Vanity (or meaningless, emptiness, or pointless depending on your translation) –What does Solomon label as vain?

Under the sun – (This indicates the natural activities of life, not necessarily evil, but not especially God-centered either) What happens “under the sun”?

I saw – Take note of Solomon’s observation’s and commentary

Profit – What things are worthwhile and which aren’t

 

Questions to consider

What is the central question Solomon tries to answer?

Where does Solomon try to find meaning?

What results does his search produce?

What conclusions does he reach?

 

A tough application question

Have you ever looked for answers or meaning apart from God and His ways? How did it work out? What advice can you give as a result of your experience?

Song of Solomon

 

In 1 Kings 4:32, we have this record of Solomon: “He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five.” While hundreds of his proverbs are preserved, we only have one song.

Song of Solomon is probably one of the least studied books in the canon of Scripture, but one of the most practical. It’s a candid celebration of courtship, marital intimacy, and mature love.

That candor makes a lot of folks uncomfortable and for many years, the book was treated as allegory and spiritualized to the point that it didn’t make much sense. For this book especially, use the first rule of interpretation – the simplest, most obvious interpretation is best.

 

Let’s address some issues that cause folks to shy away from the Song.

 

Solomon? Didn’t he have hundreds of wives? How is he qualified to speak on this? Solomon had God-given wisdom that no other man possessed. Unlike the Solomon in Ecclesiastes, this Song pictures a young man, chasing hard after God and His ways in every aspect of his life, including his marriage. It’s God-inspired and God-preserved. The multiple wives happened after the conclusion of the events in the Song.

 

What is it even talking about?

For starters, it’s poetry which means the language is rich in metaphors, similes and word pictures. Then when you add the fact that it’s deeply rooted in ancient Hebrew culture and customs it can be difficult to interpret. This is where a good study Bible will help. If you don’t have one, update the language. If you don’t think a neck like an ivory tower is particularly attractive, what sweet nothing would make you gooey inside?

 

 

My sister, my spouse? Seriously?

Again, we have a cultural disconnect. There’s nothing Freudian about it. Solomon and his bride wish for such a degree of closeness, that being womb-mates is the way he expresses it. It sounds a little unsettling to our ears, but he meant it in the best way. In other spots, his bride says she wished Solomon was her brother. The reason is brothers and sisters were allowed to be affectionate in public. Decorum dictated that the King and his wife be prim and proper. She just wishes she could hug him or hold his hand or something. Purely innocent.

 

How can we get anything out of it?

1. Know who’s speaking – The Song switches between the Bride, Solomon and a Chorus, the daughters of Jerusalem. Occasionally a few others pop in for a line or two. If your Bible doesn’t help you out with divisions by speaker, use one that does. (One caution: While the words of Scripture are inspired, the section divisions and labels aren’t. There may be some differences from one Bible to the next.)

2. Use a good study Bible or commentary – This is the easiest way to get the inside track on all those cultural references. (I read What the Bible Says about Love, Marriage and Sex by David Jeremiah. It’s straightforward, easy-to-understand and balanced between ancient wisdom and contemporary application. There are plenty of other good ones, too.)

3. Trust yourself when it comes to the poetic language – It probably means what you think it does. While culture and society have loudly taken up the cause of illicit or immoral sex, the church has chosen to respond largely with silence. Song of Solomon demonstrates that God sanctions and blesses sex within the boundaries He established. Trust me, a walk through this book is well worth the time and effort (especially if you’re the hopeless romantic type.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROPHETS

Isaiah

 

Isaiah is the first of the Old Testament writing prophets. He prophesied through the reigns of four different kings of Judah spanning fifty-three years around seven hundred years before Christ’s birth. Micah and Hosea were his contemporaries, but none of the prophets match the scope and power of Isaiah’s words. He wrote some of the most beautiful and poetic words in all of Scripture in chapter 53 describing the suffering savior and we recall his words every Christmas from 7:14 and 9:6-7.

Few passages are as awe-inspiring as his commission from God in chapter 6. I have regularly come back to Isaiah in the last few years and it’s become one of my favorite books.

Any prophecy is tricky to study because it often has at least one immediate application (speaking directly to the prophet’s contemporary listeners) and at least one long-term fulfillment.

Many times, an understanding of the culture and history is helpful (or necessary) to get the full impact of the contemporary message. The future message may be just for the hearers’ future (like Babylonian captivity which followed about 150 years after Isaiah) or our future (like the return of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom) or both.

Confused? Even if prophecy is not your thing, or you find the history stuff boring, Isaiah is still worth studying.

 

Here are some things to look for as you read:

Isaiah spends chapters 1-39 detailing God’s unflinching judgment. Note to whom each message is addressed. Is it Judah or another nation? Also notice the power in God’s pronouncements.

Then in chapter 40, the message changes to comfort and grace. (Yup, grace in the Old Testament.) Chapters 40-66 are some of my favorites. Note Jehovah’s declarations of unfailing love. Good stuff.

Isaiah speaks often of Messiah’s kingdom (especially in the latter chapters). What will the kingdom be like? Who will be part of the kingdom?

Isaiah’s dealings with King Hezekiah are recorded three times in Scripture (2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36-38). What can you learn from the king and prophet as they faced some dire situations?

Finally Some have noted that Isaiah has sixty-six chapters divided into thirty-nine and twenty-seven chapters in their respective “halves” just like the Bible’s sixty-six books are divided into thirty-nine books for the Old Testament and twenty-seven for the New, and so they look at Isaiah as a “mini-Bible”. They say chapters 1-5 should roughly correspond to the themes in the books of Moses, and 40-43 should follow the message of the Gospels. The chapter divisions were added more than a thousand years after the prophet finished writing, though. You’ll have to read and decide for yourself.

 

Here are some of my favorite verses from Isaiah-

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior (43:1-3)

Jeremiah & Lamentations

 

Jeremiah was a preacher’s kid, the son of a small-town priest. He was called to be a prophet while still a teenager and served during the darkest days in Judah’s history. He lived through the fulfillment of his prophecies of judgment, destruction and captivity. Because of the content of his message Jeremiah was threatened, jailed, publicly humiliated, imprisoned, put in the stocks, dropped in a pit and forced to flee for his life.

His message is unflinching, but sympathetic. In the midst of devastation, he clings to hope, to the character of God, and to his faith in the coming restoration. His writings contain truths that have deeply and profoundly impacted my life.

 

The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s epic poem about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The grief is heart-rending, but in the middle we find the powerful verses

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:23-24)

 

As you read Jeremiah’s writing, here are some things to look for.

What do you learn about Jeremiah’s life? Sometimes we forget the prophets were human. Jeremiah himself is a key player in the events that unfold. Keep track of what happens to him and the frank discussions he has with God about his calling. What encouragement does he offer to downhearted, burned out or depressed believers?

What do you learn about the character of God? How does He feel about Judah? (Not to give away the answer, but I love the passages where God longs for Israel to love Him as He loves them.)

Why does judgment fall? Can it be avoided? One reason Judah caught Babylon’s eye was their relative wealth and prosperity. They believed it was a sign of God’s favor on them. How did they respond to Jeremiah’s message?

Is his message relevant to our culture? Study the object lesson that came with Jeremiah’s trip to the potter’s house in Chapter 18. What do you learn about our relationship to God? What other object lessons does God give Jeremiah?

Jeremiah 17:5-10 are some of my favorite verses in Scripture, containing truth that changed my life.

Ezekiel

 

Ezekiel is like the anti-Jeremiah. Jeremiah was tender-hearted and prone to fits of depression. Ezekiel was stubborn with a much harder edge. God even said, “Like an adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead.” (3:9)

This prophet had a tough assignment though. His job was to tell the Jews taken into Babylonian captivity that their sin and rebellion was the cause for all their misery. You can imagine how well that message was received.

I admit, Ezekiel is one of the more challenging books, but it contains some of the most evocative object lessons in Scripture.

Sometimes Ezekiel was called on to act out the lessons. Sometimes he built models. Sometimes he just told stories. No matter what the method, each was designed to demonstrate God’s care and provision for a rebellious nation even in the midst of judgment.

 

 

Here are some things to consider as you study Ezekiel:

In chapters 1-3 like Isaiah, Ezekiel gets a vision of God and a divine commission. What responsibilities does Ezekiel have? Do we as believers have those same responsibilities? God is very frank about how hard Ezekiel’s job will be. Is this encouraging or discouraging?

Keep track of the object lessons. List what the object or event is and what it represents, along with the message God has. (For example, how does Ezekiel portray the siege of Jerusalem? Note: The siege is actually taking place as Ezekiel performs this. Chapter 16 is an allegory about God’s care for Israel and her response. Another important one in the vision of dry bones in chapter 37.)

What do you learn about the character of God and His judgment? One recurring theme is the gradual departure of the glory of God. Watch for its movement. What prompts each step of its departure?

In the midst of all the prophecies of judgment and destruction is a clear message of restoration. When and how will Israel be restored? What does this tell you about God?

Daniel

 

Daniel is the last of the Major Prophets, but he’s probably the most familiar. After all, he’s got good stories. From the time we are kids in Sunday school, we hear about the lions’ den, the fiery furnace, the handwriting on the wall and even the one about how Daniel chose vegetables. Those are great stories for sure. (The handwriting on the wall is one of my favorites.)

However, if we reduce the book of Daniel to nothing more than a collection of stories better suited to a children’s Bible, we miss not only an unparalleled character profile of a man singularly devoted to God, but we also miss one of the two most significant apocalyptic visions God gives.

Daniel is taken into captivity as a young teenager, probably 12-15 years old. His parents were likely executed by the Babylonians. He spends the next seventy-plus years in Babylon, most of them as a high-ranking government official. During his later adult years, God begins to give him intense visions of the future which he faithfully records. In fact some scholars question Daniel’s authorship. Because his predictions are so spot on, they assert they must have been written after the fact.

 

So how should you approach Daniel?

If prophecy is intimidating, stick with the first six chapters. They are a chronological narrative, and are easy to follow.

People – Look at the people, especially Daniel and his friends. What do you notice about their faith in spite of their adverse circumstances? How does Daniel deal with opposition? What other traits are worth emulating?

Kings – What do you learn about the three kings mentioned (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius)? How do they respond to God?

Prayers – Look at Daniel’s prayers. (You may need to slide into the last few chapters to get them all.) How does he approach God? Notice how he intercedes.

Miracles – What miracles does God perform? What message is He sending by performing them?

 

Now, a word or two about prophecy

It’s hard to interpret.

We don’t have all pieces.

Nobody has all the answers.

 

That said, if you dive into those last six chapters of Daniel (plus chapter 2 with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision) you’ll get a framework for end-time events. Taken with John’s Revelation in the New Testament, they mesh together, offering two perspectives of the same time period.

Read carefully and notice time markers like “after this.”

Focus on the “big picture” message rather than obsessing about what details like “seven heads and ten horns” means.

Then the big question, based on your understanding of the end-times, do you need to make changes in your life now?

Hosea

 

Hosea lived during a time of peace and prosperity in Israel, but it was also marked by immorality and spiritual apathy. 2 Kings 14-20 and 2 Chronicles 26-32 give the historical setting for his writings.

God called him to demonstrate His divine love for His wayward people by marrying and remaining faithful to a woman who would leave him for a life of adultery and prostitution. Hosea took in children he had not fathered. He endured repeated shame and heartbreak, and even purchased the wife he loved from a slave market.

 

Things to look for in Hosea:

Personal details – We don’t get many, but take note of what you learn about Hosea and his family. His name is linguistically related to “Joshua” and “Jesus” —they all mean “salvation.” Does his name fit him? Does he have anything in common with Joshua or Jesus?

God’s character – What do you learn about God and His heart for His people? What is His tone when He speaks?

Sin and its consequences – What sins does Gomer commit? What sins has Israel committed? Are they similar? What is God trying to teach His people (and us) through Hosea’s response to his wife’s unfaithfulness?

 

BONUS: Compare what you learn about God’s love in Hosea with what John says about His love in 1 John (or even in the gospel of John). Has God’s love changed?

 

BONUS #2: I spent some time studying Hosea for Contingency and Indemnity, and I found he is quoted quite often in the New Testament. What themes and ideas do you recognize from the New Testament? Were you surprised to find they originated with Hosea?

Joel

 

We know next to nothing about the prophet Joel except his father’s name. Scholars have combed through his words looking for clues about where he was from or even when he delivered his message, and they’ve come up empty-handed.

All we know is that a swarm of locusts had destroyed the crops, and now the nation was facing a famine. God prompted Joel to seize this moment of natural disaster and warn of even greater calamity if the people didn’t repent.

Joel is only three chapters and easily read in one sitting. It is straightforward with vivid imagery.

 

As you read look for these things:

The locust invasion is described in chapter 1. What is the outlook following this disaster? What actions does Joel call for the people to take?

In the first half of chapter 2 another invasion is described. How is it like the locust invasion? Midway through chapter 2 what action is recommended to prevent a second invasion?

The rest of the book describes God’s response to the people’s repentance. What do you learn about God from His response?

A key phrase in the book is “The Day of the Lord.” To what does it refer? Is there a single “day”? Many times, prophecy has a short term and a longer term fulfillment. Is this the case with the “day of the Lord”?

 

BONUS: Peter and Paul both quote from Joel. What do they say? Do they give new insight into the prophet’s words?

Amos & Obadiah

 

Amos was a farmer who was tapped to bring a message to Israel—don’t be fooled into thinking that just because economic times were good, it’s a sign of God’s favor.

We can date his message pretty reliably from 1:1 where he says, “two years before the earthquake.” A major earthquake occurred in 760 BC during King Uzziah’s reign. This makes Amos a contemporary with Isaiah.

 

Amos starts with a series of messages to the neighboring nations. Who are they? What sins are mentioned? What judgment is promised?

Then he turns his attention to Israel. What are her major sins? What means has God used to try to get Israel’s attention so far? Has it worked?

Finally, Amos sees a series of visions in which Gods uses everyday objects to help illustrate His points. Two visions are positive. Three are negative. What are the objects and the messages?

 

BONUS: Did you notice the locusts? How do they compare with Joel’s locusts?

Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. It’s a one chapter quick hit for the nation of Edom. The people of Edom were the descendants of Esau and there were generations of bitter, bad blood between Edom and Israel.

How is Edom characterized? What are the people like? What have they done?

How does/will God respond? What is the final outcome for Israel and for Edom?

Notice the repeated word “day.” How is it described? What will happen on that day?

What does Obadiah tell you about the fate of the enemies of God’s people?

Even after difficult messages of warning and judgment, God finishes with a clear word of hope and restoration. With God, the bad news is never the last word.

Jonah & Nahum

 

Jonah – My first tip for studying Jonah is forget the fish. Our familiarity with that part of the story can cloud our ability to see a sobering, convicting story of a believer who had unilaterally decided some people were beyond the reach of God’s mercy.

Study Jonah’s words and his prayers. What do they reveal about the condition of his heart? Do we ever get frustrated with God’s decision to extend mercy to those who don’t seem to deserve it?

Study the response of the pagans—the sailors and the Ninevites—to the truth Jonah relayed. Contrast it to Jonah’s response to God’s command. What do you think made the difference? Does our familiarity with God cause us to lose some of our awe for Him?

Trace the word “prepared.” What does this demonstrate about God’s sovereignty? What else do you learn about God’s character?

Study the last object lesson with the plant and the worm. What was God trying to show Jonah? What is God trying to teach us with the abrupt end of the book?

 

BONUS: Can you see any similarities between the attitudes of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day and Jonah’s attitude toward the people of Nineveh? Are there any people or groups that some are reluctant to carry the gospel to today? How do the lessons of Jonah apply?

 

Nahum tells the “rest of the story” for Nineveh. A hundred years after Jonah’s amazing revival, the city abandons God and His laws. Nahum gives a message of judgment. What does he say about Nineveh? What have they done to bring God’s judgment upon themselves?

 

What do you learn about God and His anger?

Is there any message of hope or restoration?

What lessons does Nahum have for God’s people in the prophet’s day? In ours?

Micah

 

Micah was another country boy, like Amos, called by God to deliver a harsh message, but he preached to Judah while Amos preached to Israel. He was also a contemporary of Isaiah, and some scholars believe Micah delivered his message to the regular folks while Isaiah used his connections to address the upper class.

During Micah’s day, there was relative peace and prosperity in Judah. However, the northern kingdom of Israel was about to fall to the Assyrians. A flood of folks were making their way south to escape the Assyrian threat, and bringing their Baal worship with them. Denunciation of idolatry is a major theme of Micah’s message. The language and style of Micah is like that of an impassioned prosecutor making his case.

 

What to look for in Micah:

The Case: Note the three times he uses the word “hear” (or “listen” in some translations) at the beginning of chapter 1, chapter 3 and chapter 6. Those mark off three sections, maybe three separate messages. What is the charge in each section? What evidence does he give? What hope does he offer the defendant, Judah?

The Last Days: (Or “that day” or the “latter days”, especially in chapter 4) What will happen on “that day” or during those days?

The Lines: Micah 5:2 may be the most familiar verse in the book due to its Christmas message. How does it fit in context, though? Another well-known verse is 6:8. It’s quoted a couple of times in the New Testament. How does it fit in context?

Habakkuk

 

Habakkuk is unique because it is more of a conversation between the prophet and God rather than a message for the people. He very frankly pours out his bewilderment over God’s ways, His treatment of His people and the seeming prosperity of the enemy. Scholars give the days immediately following the death of Josiah as the most likely timeframe for Habakkuk’s writing.

 

Some study tips-

What are Habakkuk’s complaints or questions to God? How does God respond?

What will happen to the wicked?

Chapter 3 is a prayer after Habakkuk reaches a point of resolution. What does the prophet say about God?

Habakkuk means “to embrace.” What does he ultimately cling to?

 

BONUS:

Habakkuk 2:4 “the just shall live by his faith” is quoted in the New Testament –Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. How do those passages relate to the Old Testament theme?

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19 are some of my favorite verses. I paraphrased them this way –Even though I have nothing now, no hope for tomorrow and no prospect that anything is ever going to change for the better, I WILL CHOOSE to rejoice in God, my God, my salvation. He is my strength and He enables me to walk through these fires with confidence, like it was my natural habitat.

Zephaniah

 

Zephaniah is one of the last prophetic voices crying out before the fall of Judah to the Babylonians. He tells us in the very first verse that he is of royal blood and he uses that platform to deliver a sober message of impending judgment. His words likely date to the period just before Josiah’s sweeping reforms and he may have had an influence on the young king.

In world politics, with the shift in the balance of power from Assyria to Babylon, Judah’s days were numbered. Especially in chapter 1, note how many times the phrase “day of the Lord” or “that day” is used. What will the day be like?

As with many prophecies there are often near term and long-term fulfillments. Do you notice any items that fit with our contemporary situation or have yet to be fulfilled?

In chapter 2 four nations are specifically mentioned and in the beginning of chapter 3 Jerusalem is the focus.

What sins are listed as being the cause of judgment?

What remedy does God propose? Do we still deal with the sins mentioned here, either individually or as a society? Can Zephaniah’s remedies be applied?

God never delivers a message of judgment without also emphasizing hope and restoration. What words of hope are mixed in the prophecy? (The latter half of chapter 3 focuses on God’s faithfulness and restoration.)

 

My favorite verse is Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

Haggai & Zechariah

 

After the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, they undertook the project of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. However, they very quickly ran into opposition from the neighboring countries. It got so bad that the Jews lost their resolve and gave up on the project. Sixteen years later, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to get them back to work.

Haggai targeted the people with his message, especially those who had abandoned the temple building project.

Haggai has two short chapters containing a total of five messages. Each is very specifically dated, giving the book natural divisions. What is the theme or summary of each message?

What does Haggai say about the temple? About the glory of God? (Some believe Haggai may have seen Solomon’s temple. Not only would this make him a very old prophet, but it adds credibility and power to his words.) Are his messages more denunciation and correction, or encouragement, or a mixture?

 

Zechariah was a priest, so he had access to the leaders of the nation-the governor, Zerubbabel, and the high priest, Joshua, (different Joshua than the one at Jericho). His message comes as a series of short visions and object lessons.

What visions does he see? What interpretations are offered?

Zechariah focuses heavily on the coming kingdom. How does that serve to encourage the contemporary Jews and their leaders?

Some key words are that day/ Day of the Lord. What happens on “that day”?

What does Zechariah say about Messiah and His kingdom? How does Israel fit into the kingdom? Why was this message so critical to the returning remnant?

Malachi

 

Malachi marks the last prophetic word from God for four hundred years, until John the Baptist burst on the scene, proclaiming the kingdom of heaven was at hand. The remnant who returned from Babylon had been back in the land around a hundred years, but they had settled into an empty ritualistic religion rather than embracing a relationship with their covenant God.

God raised up Malachi to tell them in no uncertain terms that they had learned nothing from the captivity and if things didn’t change, judgment would fall yet again. It’s a harsh message to have hanging over them for four hundred years. In spite of that, Malachi is straightforward, readable, and has just a twinge of sarcasm. It’s one of my favorites among the Minor Prophets.

As you read the four short chapters, look for the questions and answers. Sometimes God asks, and sometimes Malachi asks. These form the framework of the book. Note the speaker and the response. What is the tone? Are God’s accusations justified? Do the people have a valid response?

One key word is covenant. What does God say about His covenant?

 

BONUS: Knowing that marriage is a covenant, what parallels do you see between God’s relationship to the people and the number of divorces among the priests? In other words, have the people treated God the way the priests have treated their Jewish wives?

What are the major sins Malachi calls the people out for?

What judgments does God pronounce? (Also note to what specific group those judgments are directed.)

Finally, like many of the prophets, Malachi looks forward to a coming day. What does he says about that day? What will happen?

Malachi hits hard because of the self-righteous justification the people respond with when God confronts them with their sins.

When I evaluate my walk, I need to make sure I’m using God’s standards and not my own, and that I don’t pass off the warnings. Otherwise, it’s kind of like sitting through a blistering sermon then telling the preacher on the way out, “Boy, you really gave it to THEM today.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOSPELS

Matthew

 

The gospel of Matthew contains some of the most familiar passages in the New Testament—the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the Great Commission—and that makes it great choice for study.

 

There are two major themes running through Matthew.

Jesus is the long-awaited King – Matthew’s audience was Jewish, and he intended to show that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. In fact, tags about the prophets appear throughout the book. His genealogy was royal, His decrees were majestic, and He introduced us to “the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus faced stiff opposition – Beginning with the early threats on His life by Herod, the political ruler, through His eventual trial at the hands of the religious authorities, the King was rejected by all segments of society. Many times Jesus’ words ran counter to the conventional wisdom of His day or to the long-held traditional interpretations.

 

If you are a list-maker, here are some suggestions:

What does Jesus say?

What is the response to His teaching?

What do others say about Him?

What is the kingdom of heaven like?

 

In some ways, I think it’s harder to study the Gospels than some of the other books, maybe because these are the words and actions of Christ Himself. Usually with the Gospels, I tend to study by “episode” rather than take an entire chapter. I like to soak it in and let it percolate before moving on to the next thing.

Mark

 

The gospel of Mark is the story of a man on a mission. I’ve developed a deep appreciation for this compact, action-oriented gospel. I love how the narrative flows from one episode to the next, building as it goes. It’s the shortest gospel—only sixteen chapters—and makes for a quick read and a great study.

 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you dig into Mark.

Mark is written for a Gentile audience. There are few mentions of Old Testament prophecies or Jewish customs or traditions.

The focus is on what Jesus does. Matthew proved Jesus was the Messiah based on the scriptural evidence. In Mark, the proof comes through His miracles. Nearly every chapter contains some demonstration of Jesus’ divine power. Also note Jesus’ unwavering focus on His mission. Nothing distracts Him from fulfilling His ultimate purpose.

Watch the transitions, time markers, and place names. Phrases like “they went out from there” or “while He was still speaking” or “then they crossed over” underscore Mark’s narrative style. Another key word that’s worth noticing is “immediately” (or “straightway,” if you’re using KJV).

Mark supplies details and comments that none of the other gospels have, especially sensory details. He highlights the green grass, the little boats, the disciples’ fear and failures. Toward the end of chapter 6 after Jesus calms the storm, only Mark tells us the reason for the disciples fear and amazement.

“For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

Luke

 

Luke’s gospel is a sweeping narrative, rich in detail and scope. The style is polished, including a proper formal prologue, and it gives us an account of the perfect man, the Son of Man. Luke interviews witnesses, and tracks down details to ensure there would be a lasting record to prove that these stories, although seemingly too good to be true, weren’t. In Luke’s mind, you can’t argue with the facts—God became a man, and He lived among us.

 

Some things worth noticing as you read through Luke:

Humanity. In Luke we see the birth of Jesus, His family, an episode from His childhood among other things. But we also see Him interacting with all sorts of people, especially Gentiles and women. Tracking these encounters makes a great study.

Parables. Luke records some of the most familiar, most beautiful parables Jesus taught, including the Good Samaritan in chapter 10, and the ‘lost’ parables in chapter 15 culminating in the story of the Prodigal Son. These also make a great study and illustrate Luke’s passionate desire to communicate to his readers that the Gospel, the kingdom of God, is for them, too.

Miracles. Luke, the physician, shows a keen interest in the healing ministry of Jesus. He knew firsthand how inadequate human efforts were and He recognized Jesus had all the answers. It’s also important to note that gospel is book one of Luke’s two-volume work. Acts is volume two.

John

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke are the “synoptic” gospels, meaning each gives the same kind of general, comprehensive view. They each present Jesus’ life and teaching in a narrative, roughly chronological fashion.

John, however, takes a slightly different approach. His is the apologetic gospel. His goal is to prove Jesus is God incarnate, the Savior of the world, and once his evidence is presented, he wants his readers to embrace that Savior in faith. He plainly states that in 20:30-31.

John makes a fantastic study, but make sure you leave yourself plenty of time. Many of the chapters are long and, like the other gospels, there is a wealth of good stuff. The last time I did a study of John, I was struck by the constant opposition Jesus faced, and the intensity of the religious establishment’s hatred of Him.

 

Here’s a quick overview of what to watch for in John’s gospel:

Key Words: signs, faith, life – John builds his case by returning to these themes throughout the gospel. Keep track of them and what you learn each time they pop up.

Seven miracles – Of the many miracles Jesus performed, only seven are recorded. Why? What did each one signify? What lesson or truth was John intending to convey with each one?

Seven “I AM” statements – The Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World… (You have to find the others.) Jesus made seven distinct powerful statements about Himself and His mission and each one is worthy of a closer look.

 

John chapter 3 contains the most familiar words in Christianity-

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Those simple words contain an unparalleled, earth-shattering reality, don’t they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORY

Acts

 

Acts is the sequel to the gospel of Luke and it tells the story of the witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit. It naturally divides into two sections. In the first twelve chapters, Peter is the main character and the church is just beginning to function. Beginning with chapter thirteen, Paul takes over and missionary work dominates the rest of the narrative.

Acts is a dynamic action-packed book that forms the bridge between the Gospels and the epistles and it serves as the framework upon which the remainder of the New Testament is built.

 

Some suggestions for a study Acts:

Character studies – If you like this type of study, Acts has some great people to profile. Major characters like Peter and Paul as well as supporting folks like Stephen, Barnabas, Silas, Lydia, Cornelius all make great studies.

Key Words: witness, believe, baptism, resurrection, persecution – Keep track of each of these words and record your insights. I didn’t realize how crucial the idea of the resurrection was until I tracked the key words.

Paul’s travels – If you like history, geography and details, Paul’s missionary journeys are worth a closer look. Note his successes and his failures and how he adapts his approach to best connect with the culture.

Holy Spirit – Jesus kept His promise to send another Comforter, and His presence pervades the book of Acts, empowering, strengthening and directing the believers at every juncture. As you see the mighty works accomplished in the early church, remember the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed since those days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LETTERS

Romans

 

Romans is one of the cornerstones of the New Testament. In it, Paul lays out the key doctrines of Christianity in a logical progression. It’s hardly a dry dissertation, though. Martin Luther touched off the Protestant Reformation when he grasped what Paul had written. The truths even make Paul stop and praise God. (See 11:33-36)

 

So how should you study Romans? Slowly. Intentionally. Reverently. Just like any other study, right?

The book is roughly divided into three sections – Why we need salvation, how it’s accomplished and how we should live as a result. A quick overview should answer those questions.

 

To go deeper, Romans lends itself to key word studies. Try tracking these words and recording what you learn about each of them:

Sin

Righteousness

Faith/ Believe

Hope

Grace

 

Another approach is to watch for all that GOD does.

Paul uses transition words like therefore frequently. Sometimes it’s helpful to watch for the cause and effect on either side of the therefore.

Finally, if you like to memorize Scripture, Romans is full of great material.

1 Corinthians

 

First Corinthians is an extremely relevant book for believers trying to live in culture that is contrary and hostile to faith. A careful reading of the two epistles leads many scholars to believe that we have two out of four letters. The letter is intensely personal and Paul’s pastoral heart shows through each line.

 

Here are few ideas on how to approach a study of First Corinthians.

The book is roughly divided into three sections:

Paul encourages unity within the church. (1:10)

Paul admonishes the church to deal with sin. (5:1)

Paul answers a series of doctrinal and practical questions. (7:1)

 

Perhaps the easiest way to study the book is to watch for each new topic and keep track of what Paul says about each one. The key transition words to note are “now concerning” (Your translation may use “now regarding” or some similar expression.) Occasionally, Paul uses “I do not want you to be ignorant” (or unaware).

Second, the book is filled with quick encouragements and instructions that are worth listing.

Third, some questions to consider: What are believers’ responsibilities to God and to each other? Do Paul’s answers/statements challenge your ideas?

2 Corinthians

 

Second Corinthians is the most underrated, underappreciated book in the New Testament, maybe the whole Bible. In it, Paul is passionately personal in his defense of his ministry and his authority, but he also exhorts and encourages the believers in Corinth in a touching heartfelt way. It is packed with tremendous truth.

 

One thing worth noticing, even keeping a list of, is everything Paul says about God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. For example in 1:3-4, Paul says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” See that? God is . . .

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p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. The Father of mercies

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p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. The God of all comfort

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p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. He comforts us in our tribulation

 

Some major topics Paul covers include:

What does it mean to be a minister? (And we are ministers.)

What are our responsibilities?

What should we be doing? (You’ll find these answers mostly in chapters 2-6)

What are our responsibilities when it comes to giving? (Look at chapters 8-9)

How should a leader conduct himself and how should we in the body respond? (Try chapters 10-13)

The guts of the book are found in chapter 5:17-20. It is perhaps the most succinct statement of what God did for us and what our job is as a result. Love these verses!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Galatians

 

In Galatians Paul gets down to the central question of Christianity—How are we made right with God? Is it by what we believe or by what we do?

Galatians was written for a group of new believers at churches Paul planted. They were very sincere in their desire to please God, but they were easily led astray. Paul wanted to get them back on track as quickly as possible.

The apostle doesn’t pull any punches. The tone is occasionally harsh but always passionate. After all, someone is messing with his (spiritual) kids and he takes it personally.

 

Some ways to study Galatians:

Follow the key theme – justification. What does it mean? How does it happen? What does the Law have to do with it? And the $64,000 question, are believers required to keep the Mosaic Law (or any other set of rules)?

The Apostle Paul – In chapters 1-2 we get a good deal of information about Paul. In later chapters, his concerns for the church shows through. What biographical things do you learn about Paul? Look at his account of the Jerusalem council in chapter 2. What was the major issue at that meeting? How was it resolved? How did that apply to the Galatians?

Justification by Law vs. Justification by Faith – How does Paul make his case? Keep a list of what he says about the Law. What does it do? What does the illustration about Isaac and Ishmael mean in chapter 4? Why is faith better (see chapter 5)?

Practical applications – What do you learn about living a Christian life, especially about living with each other (chapter 6)?

The bottom line:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Ephesians

 

I did a study of Ephesians a few years back and it is one of the most powerful books in the New Testament. It was written by Paul from a Roman prison and contains a balance of doctrine and application.

I love chapter 2, the way it starts with our hopeless condition, and then everything changes at verse 4 with the words, “But God.” Chapter 2 also includes those familiar, life-changing words,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

The book divides easily into two parts. Chapters 1-3 are a doctrinal lesson, giving us powerful truth about what God did for us through grace and where we stand as a result. Chapters 4-6 guide us on living as believers in a range of relationships from the church, to the family to business dealings. Keep track of what you learn in each section.

Ephesians has several key words: riches, grace and filled/fullness. What do you discover about each one as you read?

Paul gives some key information about the church and how it should operate. What do you learn about it? What mystery does he explain?

There is a beautiful prayer in the middle of the book (3:14-21). What requests does Paul make? Can you imagine him praying that for you? Could you pray that prayer for someone in your life?

Finally, chapter 6 contains a section about the armor of God. What makes up our armor and our weapons? What do we need to guard against?

Philippians

 

This is a very personal letter to the first church Paul planted in Europe. Some of the details of his visit are recorded in Acts 16-17. It is evident he knew and cared deeply for the people there.

Philippians is the feel good book of the New Testament. I love this book. Chapter 1 encourages us to hang in there and keep growing. Paul’s description of how Christ humbled Himself in chapter 2 gives me chills every time I read it.

In chapter 3 Paul tells us what his salvation means to him. Then chapter 4 finishes with some of the most encouraging words in all of Paul’s writing. Philippians is short, conversational and personal and it’s an easy one-sitting read.

 

If you want to go deeper, here are some things to help.

As you read, notice what Paul says about the church. (A major topic is the generosity of the Philippians.)

Paul describes his situation and asks for the church’s prayers. Note the specific concerns, and list the ways he prays for the Philippians.

Keep track of the instructions and encouragements Paul gives the believers in Philippi. This is a great list!

Two key themes are joy (rejoice) and unity (one, same). List the things you learn about each one as you read.

Colossians

 

Colossians contains a tremendous amount of theology and practical guidance in a tight four-chapter package. It will take a few minutes to read, but much longer to digest. That’s not to say Colossians is difficult or hard to understand. It’s good stuff, worth savoring, and pondering.

What can we learn from Colossians?

Christology – Paul writes some beautifully profound words about Jesus Christ, His position and His work. Soak in those things and keep a list. (One note: When Paul uses the word “firstborn” to describe Christ, he is using it as a position or a title, much like we say “crown prince.” He is affirming Christ’s position of authority and anticipating His rule.)

Redemption – There are several rich passages about our redemption. Note those.

Heresy – What heresies was Paul addressing among the believers in Colosse? Do we face those same heresies? What truth does Paul use in response?

Living – Paul gives instructions, especially in chapters 3 and 4, about how we should live and function in a range of relationships. Keep track of the groups Paul addresses and what he says to each.

1 & 2 Thessalonians

 

Thessalonica was home to a church Paul founded on his second missionary trip. Acts 17 tells us he had great success there but subsequently met strong opposition and was forced out of town. Upon hearing Timothy’s report on the church, Paul wrote his first letter and within the next year, he wrote the second letter.

Both letters are short, straightforward and easy to read. However, that doesn’t detract from the rich truth contained in them.

Encouragement – Paul reminds them of their genuine conversion, of how they put their faith to work and the blessing they were to him. We all need to hear this kind of stuff, so write those things down and take them to heart.

Practical instruction – These letters are packed with tips for daily living. At times (like 1 Thessalonians 5) they come in rapid fire succession. Paul gives special attention to charging the believers to live a life of purity. How’s that for relevant to our culture?

Eschatology – That’s a seminary word for the theology of the end times. Apparently the church had gotten some bad information and Paul takes time to set things straight. Notice what Paul says about the Day of the Lord, the second coming of Christ and the Antichrist.

Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.(1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)

1 Timothy & Titus

 

Imagine training a young man or young woman to do your job. What would they need to know? What pitfalls should they avoid? What kind of pep talk would you give?

In two New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul gives Timothy and Titus his guidance on how to pastor a church. The different tones in the letters reflect the personalities of the young men receiving the letters and the churches they were leading, but there are similar themes.

 

Look for the following things as you read these short letters:

1. What qualifications should a leader have? Do your leaders have them? Do you?

2. What are the marks of false doctrine and sound doctrine?

3. How should our beliefs impact our daily life?

4. What specific groups or situations are addressed? What guidance does Paul give for each one?

Both books have great verses and passages worth noting or even memorizing. I love the summary of the gospel in Titus 3:4-7

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

2 Timothy

 

If you knew you had only days or weeks to live, what would your frame of mind be? What things would you want people to know? What instructions would you give to ensure your work continued?

These are the questions answered in the Apostle Paul’s final short letter to his young protégé, Timothy. It’s a quick, heartfelt read. Since Timothy was quite familiar with Paul’s doctrine, you won’t find much exposition in this letter. Instead you find unique insights into the heart and mind of the apostle.

 

Keep track of what you learn about Paul. Where is he? What is his emotional state? What things are weighing heaviest on his mind?

List the instructions and admonitions he gives Timothy. What seems to be his greatest concern for Timothy?

 

BONUS: Compare this letter with Deuteronomy 31. Both Moses and Paul knew death was imminent. Are there similarities in the tone or content in their final words? What differences do you notice?

Philemon

 

Philemon is a super-short, one-sitting, under-ten-minute read. It’s a very practical demonstration of reconciliation and peace-making in the body of Christ. There are three people:

The Apostle Paul, the author of the letter. Paul was a prisoner in Rome.

Philemon, the recipient of the letter. The church in Colossae met at his house. His wife and son were also devout Christians.

Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, who had stolen a large sum of money before he ran away.

 

Paul led Onesimus to the Lord and sent him back to his master with this letter. We shouldn’t interpret this as an endorsement of slavery or an obligation to return slaves to their masters. Slavery was a social and political reality in Roman times. Paul was advocating the restoration of the relationship between these men who were now brothers in Christ. Philemon was within his legal rights to have Onesimus put to death. Paul urged him as a friend, brother and mentor to act with grace rather than assert his rights under the law.

 

List what you learn from the text about each of these men.

What is Paul’s tone in the letter? What does that tell you about the role of a peacemaker?

Have you ever been in Philemon’s position – wronged and facing a decision on how to receive the one responsible? How did you respond?

How is Onesimus like all believers?

 

BONUS: I think Paul’s passionate intercession on behalf of Onesimus comes from his own experience with John Mark. He mentions Mark in v. 24 here. Read Acts 12:25, 13:13, 15:36-40, 2 Timothy 4:11 to get a timeline of the relationship between them.

Hebrews

 

Hebrews is my favorite book in the Bible. At least in the New Testament. (Check back to Isaiah.) There are a few passages that still give me chills every time I read them. (Like Hebrews 9:12)

We don’t know for certain who penned the letter and we don’t know much about the recipients, except that they were a group converted Jews. From the letter, we learn that persecution of these believers was likely to intensify in the near future and the writer didn’t want them to abandon their faith in Christ.

(Note: It’s not at all necessary, but it’s helpful to review Leviticus before diving into Hebrews. That review can be as simple as reading the introduction to Leviticus in your study Bible.)

Key Word: Better – Highlight all the occurrences of the word “better” and keep track of “what” is better. Why is it better?

Jesus Christ – Soak in all the details about the work Christ did, does and will do. Great stuff!

Instructions – The writer gives great advice and encouragement especially in the last couple of chapters.

Old Testament Exposition – Several Old Testament passages are discussed by the writer. What insights does he add to the Scriptures?

Examples of Faith – Chapter 11 is the roll call of the faithful. What lessons can you take away from each of them? What about those in verses 35-39 when the outcomes were not as positive? What does this say about God?

James

 

I have a lot of sympathy for James. He was Mary’s second son. Imagine what it must have been like growing up a Jesus’ little brother. Tracking him carefully through the New Testament, we see he didn’t believe Jesus’ message or the truth of His identity until after the resurrection. His faith, however, was unshakeable and he quickly rose to a position of leadership in the early church, including pastoring the church in Jerusalem. Josephus records his martyrdom around 62 A.D.

He wrote his epistle probably to Jewish believers scattered by intensified persecution. The difficult situation doesn’t prompt him to water down his message, though. His style is straightforward, to the point, and requires very little extra interpretation. He says what he means and means what he says.

 

So what does he say?

How believers should behave. James has practical instruction on living a godly life. Some writers have even called his letter a New Testament version of Proverbs. Note the distinguishing marks of true believers he mentions.

How does he say it? He uses references to nature and evocative similes and metaphors. He calls the tongue a fire, and compares it to a ship’s rudder for its tiny size relative to the body it often drives. Keep track of the images he uses.

He uses short directive statements, like“Let us be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Make a list in your notebook of the instructions and commands.

He addresses questions and objections his reader may have. Note the questions and his responses.

 

Note: Some writers make much ado about a seeming contradiction between Paul and James about works and faith. Paul says you can’t be saved by works. (Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.) James says you can’t be saved without them. (James 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.)

 

What’s the resolution? A careful reading in context shows that Paul and James use the same word, but they are talking about two different things. Paul is discussing the things we might do to try and earn our salvation. James is talking about the evidence of it.

1 Peter

 

Peter was the outspoken leader of Jesus’ chosen disciples. He witnessed amazing things, and suffered spectacular failures, but he has a unique credibility with us because of those failures. We may not feel a kinship with Paul, the super-apostle, but a guy who shoots off his mouth before he thinks, takes on more than he can handle, yet finds his way back to the feet of Jesus every time … he’s one of us.

He wrote two letters to a group of Jewish believers scattered by intense persecution under the Roman emperor, Nero. The tone is encouraging, but challenging. He doesn’t give anyone a free pass on holy living just because times are hard.

While we may not be able to identify with the threat-of-death type of persecution Peter’s readers faced, we do live in a world that is hostile to our beliefs. The constant pushback sometimes erupts in mistreatment, unfairness and broken relationships. This letter answers the question how do we maintain an authentic faith while enduring the challenges we face?

 

What should you look for as you read 1 Peter?

1. Instructions – Peter gives heavy doses of advice and instruction. There are four broad categories for that guidance: 1.) maintaining hope 2.) avoiding bitterness 3.) trusting Jesus, especially in difficult times 4.) His second coming.

As you list the instructions, note which category they belong to. Are there more of one type than another? Why do you suppose that’s the case? Also, many of the instructions are accompanied by a “therefore” statement giving the reasoning behind the advice. Does knowing the reasoning behind the directions make them easier to follow?

2. Jesus – What does Peter say about Jesus and His return?

3. Precious – I always pictured Peter as a country boy, a redneck even, so reading the word ‘precious’ in his letter makes me smile. But notice when he uses the word. What is he describing and what does he want us to take away from that?

4. Finally, how do we deal with hostility and animosity?

2 Peter

 

Imagine for a moment that a loved one was considering turning over his or her life savings to someone you knew was a liar and a cheat. How desperate would you be to convince your loved one not to listen? Would you rehearse all the principles of sound investing? Would you relate your own experience with money? Would you point out the inconsistencies in the investor’s pitch? Maybe a combination of all three? How far would you go?

What if it wasn’t about money? What if your loved one was about to be lead astray by a false teacher?

In Peter’s second letter, in spite of the fact that he faces imminent death, the only thing on his mind is the relentless assault on his flock by liars. You can feel the urgency as he reiterates the truths he’s related to the believers.

 

So what truths should you watch for as you study?

False teachers – What does Peter say about them? What teachings does he especially warn about? How does he recommend to combat these false ideas?

End times – What information does Peter give about Jesus’ return? What encouragement does he want his readers to take away from his words?

Knowledge – A key word in the epistle is “knowledge.” What key things do we know? How should this impact our daily lives?

Instructions – Peter packs in a healthy dose of instruction and encouragement in these three short chapters. What sorts of things does he touch on?

 

BONUS: How do Peter’s last words compare to Paul’s final instructions is 2 Timothy? Are the tones similar? Do they touch on similar themes?

1 John

 

1 John is like the Blue’s Clues of the Bible. If you’ve not had preschoolers in the house for a while, you may not be familiar with the television show. It creates a very simple, stripped-down, easy-to-navigate world. It presents literal, easy-to-understand lessons in a warm tone, inviting participation. Finally, the five-day cycle (same show for five days) helps tremendously with retention, confidence and mastery of the concepts.

Now let’s think about 1 John. The elder apostle presents very straightforward truths in plain language. He cycles through each of his major topics several times, always with an encouraging tone and genuine desire to help his readers internalize and live in the truth.

See the parallels?

 

Even if you don’t buy the Blue’s Clues analogy… Here are some things to work on as you read and study this short letter:

The Author – What does John tell you about himself? Why is he writing? How does he address his readers?

The Culture – John pastored the church at Ephesus which was noted for its intellectualism. One of the major heresies the church combated was Gnosticism, which stated matter was evil and therefore Jesus could not be God Incarnate, and could not be sinless. How does John dispel these ideas?

The Contrasts – John presents his subject matter through a series of simple contrasts, like light vs. dark. If you walk in the light you behave in this manner. If you walk in darkness you behave in a totally different manner. Keep track of those contrasts and what John says.

The Keys–What does John say about each of these key concepts: fellowship, love, false teachers/doctrine, obedience, abide

The Savior–What does John say about Jesus Christ?

We had 1 John 4:7-18 read at our wedding. It includes this verse:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”

2 & 3 John

 

This tip is a short one because the books themselves are short. 2 & 3 John are much more like our idea of a letter. Each is clearly addressed to someone the apostle knows and for whom he has warm personal regard. The apostle’s great concern is that these young churches are vigilant in identifying and rejecting false teaching.

 

2 John

To whom is 2 John addressed?

What warnings or instructions does John give?

In 2 John, watch for these key words – commandment, doctrine and abide. How do those key words connect to John’s purpose for writing?

 

 

3 John

In 3 John, the letter is addressed to a specific person. Who is it and what can you tell about him?

There are two other men mentioned in the letter. Who are they and what does John say about them?

 

BONUS: In 3 John, John mentions the idea of hospitality and also touches on it in 2 John. How is hospitality connected to the false teachers? What lessons on how to deal with people can you take away from these letters?

Jude

 

Jude is another short, one chapter epistle, and like James, this one was written by another of Jesus’ little brothers. If the list in Matthew 13:55 was by age, Jude was the baby. He wrote a tight, yet passionate exhortation to guard against apostasy. Apostasy is a deliberate defection from the truth.

 

Some things to note as you read Jude:

What does he say about the apostates, their character, their tactics, their teaching, and their influence in the church?

What advice does he give for guarding against apostasy?

What Old Testament people or situations does he refer to in order to make his case?

 

BONUS: How does Jude compare with 2 Peter on false teachers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROPHECY

Revelation -Part 1

 

Revelation. Intimidated? Don’t be. The final book in the Bible is an awesome study guaranteed to bless you. Really. Chapter 22 specifically says those who read and obey the words in the revelation will receive a special blessing.

It was written by the apostle, John, after he was given a vision. His words were meant to admonish, exhort and encourage believers in Asia Minor.

 

Before we start, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Yes, there are lots of sevens, and symbols and John tries to describe things that defy the imagination, but don’t let those things throw you.

The Greek name for the book of Revelation is The Apocalypse. Culturally, we have ascribed an idea to the word ‘apocalypse,’ and granted some of the events described in the Revelation are horrifying, but the word simply means ‘the unveiling.’ (Think-yanking a sheet away and shouting “ta-da!”)

So who or what are we unveiling? Jesus Christ. Not the suffering servant, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Divine Warrior King who assumes His throne. In Revelation, we get a Mount of Transfiguration-type glimpse of Christ in all of His awesome glory. See that, study that, meditate on that.

The book is divided into three sections. Revelation 1:19 says that John is to “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Chapter 1 makes up the “things which you have seen,” chapters 2-3 make up the “things which are,” (contemporary to John) and chapters 4-22 cover the “things which will take place after this.” These sections have their own unique character so we’ll take our time and look at each section separately.

 

 

Keeping these things in mind, let’s look at the first section –

Chapter 1, the vision of Christ.

What do you learn about John?

What symbols are given and how are they interpreted? (Verses 20-21 explain some of the symbolic things John saw.)

What do you learn about Jesus? What does He say about Himself? How does He appear? Now, John knew Jesus personally and saw Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. How does John react to this vision of Christ? Keep track of these appearances of Jesus throughout the rest of the book. Note how He appears, what He says and does and how others respond to Him.

Revelation -Part 2

 

Revelation was written down by the apostle John, and he was instructed to send it to seven churches in Asia Minor. However, before the prophetic visions unfolded, Jesus had some very pointed words for the believers in those churches. Chapters 2-3 are His messages.

The churches: Are these seven real churches? Or do they represent seven eras of church history? Or are they a microcosm of believers found in all churches? I think the best answer is yes. If you like history, the background on these seven churches is well worth the investigation. If not, don’t worry. There is plenty of good stuff in the text.

The format: Imagine sitting down with Jesus for your performance review. He points out what you’re doing right, what you need to fix and His recommendations. Each of the seven churches got that treatment. As you read the messages, look for these points: (If you are a list or chart maker … this is your time to shine!)

How does Jesus identify Himself? (Notice, He picks one of the attributes described the chapter 1 vision.)

What does He “know” about the church? Is it good, bad or both?

What instruction or encouragement or warning does He give?

What promises does He make to the overcomers?

How do these fit with the identification of Jesus?

The application: Why is it necessary to see the vision of Christ in chapter 1 before getting to these messages? Which church do you most identify with? What do you take away from Jesus’ words?

Revelation -Part 3

 

This tip for chapters 4-22, gets into the heavy stuff . . . the prophecies. Admittedly, this can be difficult to sort out, but the trick is to keep the big picture in mind. Don’t get bogged down, or try to interpret everything in light of current events, and be wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers. Remember, the book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, so focus on Him.

At different points, John fills in some background or gives details, but this list marks the chronological progression of the visions through the book.

The throne room

The seals (including the four horsemen)

The trumpets

The bowls

The second coming of Jesus and the battle of Armageddon

The great white throne judgment

The New Jerusalem

 

Without getting deep into the prophetic elements, here are some things to look for as you study.

•Notice what is said about Christ, what happens to the saints, and how the non-believers (those who dwell upon the earth) respond to the events.

•What do you learn about worship?

Angels are more visible and active in Revelation than any other book. What do you learn about them and their ministry?

 

If you want a more detailed study, follow those cross-references in your study Bible and incorporate passages from Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and the Olivet Discourse into your study.

 


56 Tips To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible

Want more from your Bible study? You don’t need a theology background, or any knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. In a compact format, 56 Tips gives background notes, keywords, things to look for, and questions to consider for each book of the Bible. Grab your Bible and your notebook and get ready. You’re about to be amazed by how much truth you’ll discover for yourself. Whether you are a beginner or long-time student of Scripture, 56 Tips To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible will provide a framework for your personal study time.

  • Author: Paula Wiseman
  • Published: 2017-02-14 13:50:30
  • Words: 16452
56 Tips To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible 56 Tips To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible