Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…
Aug 2008

Bible Devotions

We need to recapture in the church a consistency and passion for Bible devotion time.
Over the years I have heard almost every reason for why people DON’T have a regular
devotion time. Here are probably the top 4 reasons:

1. Lack of discipline to make devotion time in the Bible a priority.
2. Lack of motivation - this can range from the Bible is hard to understand all the way
it just doesn’t seem relevant.
3. Indicates our spiritual condition - a former teacher of mine used to put it this way
“you are no closer to the Lord Jesus than you are to His word.”
4. Lack of the proper skills in “how” to have an effective devotion time.

Here are some helpful tools that can aid in your morning or evening quiet times in the
word of God.
The preparation of the heart is a non-negotiable and without it Bible study will
nothing more than an academic exercise. If there is no illumination and understanding
of the text correctly then there will be no correct application either. Therefore it is
critical that we learn to prepare the heart before we start to read, study and have our
quiet times. As one scholar once said "it doesn't do much good to tune the fiddle when
the concert is over".

1. Confession of known sin or sin that is being tolerated in one's life (1 John 1:9)
2. Prayer of desperation from the heart of one who earnestly desires to hear from, meet with and obey God

I - Incline your heart (Psalm 119:36)
"Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain"

O - Open my eyes (Psalm 119:18)
"Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law"

U – Unite my heart (Psalm 86:11)
"Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name"

There are six question words you may use to ask questions of every part of every text. Read More...

A Bible Journal

What is God saying to me?

What am I saying to God?

What verse(s) do I need to study and pray over?

What verse(s) should I commit to memory?

What principle to apply now in my life?

What truth(s) should I share with others in my life?

Bible Translations

Bible Translations

This from Fee and Stuart “Reading the Bible for all it’s worth” (p.34-35)

Original Language: The language that one is translating from; in our case, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek

Receptor Language: The language that one is translating into; in our case, English

Historical distance: This has to do with the difference that exist between the original language and the receptor language, both in matters of words, grammar, and idiom, as well as in matters of culture and history.

Theory of translation: This has to do with the degree to which one is willing to go in order to bridge the gap between the two languages. For example, should lamp be translated “flashlight” or “torch” in cultures where these serve the purpose a lamp one did? Or should one translate it “lamp” and let the reader bridge the gap for himself or herself? Should holy kiss be translated “the handshake of Christian love” in cultures where kissing is offensive?

Definition of Fee and Stuart's terms combined with C. Michael Patton (Parchment and Pen blog site)

* Formal Equivalence: Translations that seek to translate word for word (although this is really impossible). Examples: NAS, KJV, ASV, ESV. Less readable, but better for study in contemporary languages. Why? Because they will usually attempt to make fewer interpretive decisions on any text that can be understood in many ways. This allows the reader to struggle through the options.
Literal The attempt to translate by keeping as close as possible to the exact words and phrasing in the original language, yet still make sense of the receptor language. A literal translation will keep the historical distance intact at all points.

* Dynamic Equivalence: Translations that seek to translate thought for thought. Examples: NIV, TNIV, NRSV, etc. Not quite as good for deep study, but usually better for reading and memorization. Dynamic equivalence translations make good pulpit or teaching Bibles.
Dynamic Equivalent The attempt to translate words, idioms, and grammatical constructions of the original language into precise equivalents in the receptor language. Such a translation keeps historical distance on all historical and most factual matters, but "updates" matters of language, grammar and style.

Free The attempt to translate the ideas from one language to another, with less concern about using the exact words of the original. A free translation tries to eliminate as much of the historical distance as possible.

* Paraphrase: Translations that seek to use common language and idioms to get the basic point across in a very readable way. Examples: Message, Philip’s Translation, NLT, GNB, etc. While paraphrases are not good for study or memorization, they are very readable and cause you to read the text differently than you normally would. In this respect, they have great value.

Biblical teaching model for class

Why read the Bible?

Here are a few Scriptures for our consideration. (NASB translation)

John 8:31 ¶ So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Josh. 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Acts 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
John 14:24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

2Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2Tim. 3:17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Books on how to study the Bible

The following books are my recommendations for those who want a good system for studying the Bible. The fancy word is called “hermeneutics” which means a method of interpretation. When we speak of Biblical hermeneutics then we are specifically talking about a method to interpret the Bible. Over the years I have talked to many people in the church who simply don’t have a method or a system to study God’s word. We are going to talk about three specific disciplines when it comes to the Bible.
  1. A Bible reading plan that takes you through the entire Bible in one year.
  2. A Bible devotion plan, that allows you to meditate on a chapter, verse or word.
  3. A Bible study plan that equips you to handle the books of the Bible in detail.

The recommendations that follow are specific study aids for category #3.

How to read the Bible for all it’s worth - Fee and Stuart
Getting the Message - Doriani
Understanding and Applying the Scriptures - McQuilken
Living by the Book - Hendricks
Basic Bible interpretation - Zuck
A basic guide to interpreting the Bible - Stein
The Hermeneutical Spiral - Osbourne

Questions for deeper meditation

Ryan Townsend contributes some excellent questions for our prayerful consideration this year:

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your Bible reading, study and devotion time this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Studying the word of God

The name of our course is “learning and living the God-centered life.” One of the things I will consistently teach over the next year is this, what we believe is in fact how we behave. Therefore one of my main focuses in ministry over the past 10 years has been to ask "WHY" Christians don't read, study nor have devotions on a regular basis. As you read this email do a quick survey of your own Bible reading, study and devotion time in the last 3 years. Each of us has 10,080 minutes every week. Most Christians I have taught over the years understand the command that we are to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. However, when they do an honest review of minutes available as opposed to minutes actually committed to study, reading and devotion time, there seems to be a gap between what they know and what they do. Therefore, one of the goals of this class is to get each of you into the word in order that the word can get into you! This point needs some further clarification. We live in the culture of America. Many live by a motto that goes something like this "if it's to be then it's up to me". Therefore when you tell an American Christian to get back to the Bible they think "I can do it, I will do and if you don't think I can then watch me". All that produces is a group of people that have a "DUTY" mentality and that is NOT my goal for you in our class this year. Instead my goal is that you would "DELIGHT" in picking up your Bibles each morning, to have a meeting with the living Lord Jesus as He explains His word to you.

I have found it helpful to look at several aspects of the "why" as it relates to Bible reading, study and devotion time. The first category I want to share with you are the main reasons I continue to hear as to "why" people don't study their Bibles. As you read would simply make a mental note if any of these reasons apply to you specifically. Now please don't be offended at my next statement. But Vance Havner, one of the great all time Baptist preachers, used to say "An excuse is the skin of a lie stuffed with a reason". So with all that said here we go.
1. The Bible doesn't seem relevant to my life
2. The Bible is confusing and hard to understand
3. I end up always feeling guilty when I read the Bible
4. I rely on my pastors and leadership to teach me what the Bible says
5. The Bible is boring to me
6. My life is hectic and I simply don't have time to read the Bible
7. The Bible is full of contradictions and therefore lacks credibility
8. I don't read period, not just the Bible but I don't read anything

From time to time I have dealt with each of these objections but let me go straight to the bottom line.


Therefore I am asking each of you to honestly evaluate what priority does God's word have in your life right now. This is one of the most, if not the most important question that you will every ask yourself. Because as we will see your answer to that very question will have eternal consequences. A pastor once said that when his mother gave him his first Bible she wrote on the inside cover "sin will keep you from this book or this book will keep you from sin". How true is that statement in light of Romans 6:23 that plainly tells us that the wages of sin is death. So now allow me to give you the other category of "why". This is going to be a list of "why" as a Christian you should study the Bible. Let me mention that while this is my list it certainly is not an exhaustive list. Read More...

Bible Litmus Test

1. Do you spend more time watching favorite TV shows during the week than in Bible study, reading and devotion?

2. Do you know more facts about companies on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ than the facts in your Bible

3. Are your recipe books are more marked up and gone through than your Bible?

4. Do you have more songs downloaded on your iPod than verses of Scripture in your heart?

5. You think Bible study is dry and boring

8. You don’t remember the last Bible verse that you memorized

9. Your Christian walk is defined more by “what you feel” instead of “what the word of God says”

10. You don’t have a system or plan in which to study the Bible

11. The main reason for your lack of Bible devotion time is a due to a busy lifestyle

12. When is the last time (not counting small group) that you carried your Bible to someone’s home and helped them worked through a major issue from the Scriptures?

13. Are you spending more time with the newspaper weekly than with your Bible?

Old Testament

OT Timeline

Basic Bible Layout

Bible Survey