Easy Steps to Digging Deeper into the Bible

An easy assumption to make when it comes to reading our Bibles is that if you want to go deeper into the text then you need to purchase a bunch of scholarly resources: commentaries, introductions, lexicons, study Bibles, etc. Now, while these are all great resources and will help expand your understanding of the text, too often we move to these far too soon, or we are simply intimidated into inaction because we don’t own these already.

The truth is that pastors and Bible study leaders are served well to do their own thinking through and analysis of the text prior to moving to other resources… it is also true that anyone wanting to go deeper or be more prepared for receiving a sermon or participate in a Bible study would also do well to tackle the text on their own.

So, how? Well, there are a lot of different methods and ways, but I wanted to share some simple steps that make up the beginning of my sermon preparation. (This isn’t necessarily the best possible methodology, but it has worked for me thus far, and it’s pretty simple).

  1. Prayer. Thank God for His Word and your ability to study it. Repent of sin which can cloud your thoughts and the work of God in your life. Ask the Spirit illuminate your time of study.
  2. Big Picture. Now, we have been in a continuing study of Ephesians and I have constantly tried to place each week in the context of the whole book and point out its individual relationship to the previous week’s text. If you have been part of a study like this then you may already feel good about seeing where it fits in the big picture of the book. If not, then this is a step that you can put a lot into (read the whole book, give a summary to each chapter) or a less (read the paragraph before your section and after to see if it modifies how you might read your section).
  3. Read it. Read the section over a couple of times and write down your first impressions of it (what stands out, what seems important, what do you want to know more about).
  4. Line by line. Go verse by verse down a sheet a paper writing out your own paraphrase of each. If some verses or statements have a specific relationships or connections to others, make some visual note (arrows, or indent) to show those relationships.
  5. Group. Group paragraphs together and by looking at your paraphrases of the individual verses, come up with a general title or paraphrase of each paragraph. Then give the whole section a title if you can.
  6. Interrogate. Grab a different color pen and start marking things that seem important (repeated words, emphasis), write out questions you have that you hope to find answers to and write down other verses in the Bible that these make you think of.

Now you should have a good idea of what you think this section of scripture means, what’s important and what things you’d like to find answers to either in further study (resources) or from the sermon or Bible study you’re attending.

Now, this doesn’t always mean that you have it all figured out… many times I’ve moved onto the next step of checking with how scholars understand certain things and I’ve found myself to be way off, but at least I knew that I wrestled with it. Other times I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I actually had some good thoughts that I shared with smarter people.

I hope you’ll take some effort to try even a few of these steps and work it into some of your regular time of study. If you’ve already figured out what works for you to get deeper into the text, great! Keep with it! But if not, try these; it will take a little longer than just opening your Bible, reading, and shutting it… but it is worth it to not only wrestle with the text, but to let the Word of God wrestle with you.

My notes from Eph 5:3-20 (teaching at Remix on Jan 8).

My notes from Eph 5:21-33

Let the Word of God wrestle with you!

sermon: The Light Shines in the Darkness (John 1:5)

What would you do without light? Live in darkness, sure… but then, could you really live? What sort of life is that? Is it life at all? John writes in verse 5 of chapter 1:

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

As I was studying this verse I approached it in a little bit different way than I have heard before. In my studies I found that there were two ways of understanding a key word in the sentence. It can be translated as “understood” (as in the NIV84 version) or as “overcome” (as in the ESV and NIV11). I found pastors and scholars on both sides of the issue (with a leaning towards “overcome”), but each seemed to concede that John probably intended a little bit of both with his ambiguous word choice (John often has double meanings in some of his key phrases which he expands in other sections). Seeing as this was in the prologue I wanted to determine if there were further sections of John that helped reveal the answer to two questions: “Why hasn’t the darkness understood the light?” and “Why hasn’t the darkness overcome it?” I hope you benefit from the fruits of my labor.

Sermon Download

Key Ideas:

Why John uses “light”:

Key aspect of light… it shines; darkness flees. There is no such thing as a room so incredibly dark that flipping on a light won’t work. “It is the function of light to shine precisely in the darkness, to oppose darkness, to dispel darkness (Leon Morris).”

The Light is continually in action:

But John, if only referring to creation, the coming of Christ or even the earthly ministry of Christ, then he would have said, “the light shined in the darkness,” but he says presently, actively, “the light shines.”

Those in darkness don’t understand it (because their deeds are evil and they love it):

“Immersed in wrongdoing they have no wish to be disturbed. They refuse to be shaken out of their comfortable sinfulness. So they set their love on darkness (Leon Morris).”

Click to read article about Steven and Kathryn; who live in the darkness in the Las Vegas flood tunnels.

Those in darkness don’t understand it (because they’re afraid of being exposed):

People in sin, do the same thing, they reject the light of Jesus because they are not willing to confess first and foremost: “I am a sinner, separated from God, in need of a savior who will pay my penalty for me… I can’t do it alone.” The first step is to see your sin, see your wickedness and bring it into the light of Jesus Christ.

The darkness has not overcome it (in Jesus’ ministry):

Jesus has the power to bring sight to the blind. Not just the physical blindness (of course He does that), but also spiritual truth that overpowers the darkness that has kept this man and every human being enslaved… so they might see and believe in the One who gives life.

The darkness has not overcome it (through belief in Jesus):

Jesus has the power to take people out of the darkness. Because he is the light that shines. But you must believe. Jesus came to deliver us from darkness. He is able to overcome it. Will you believe?

The darkness has not overcome it (because of the resurrection of Jesus):

There doesn’t need to be fear of the darkness anymore. Though the cross seemed like the very moment when darkness might win, the exact opposite was true, for on the cross sin and death were vanquished, our penalty paid, our relationship to God restored.

So what?

We need to respond to the Light God sent down to this dark world by submitting to it (owning up to our sin and your need for Christ), trusting in it (confidently trusting that only Jesus took care of your sin at the cross and placing your hope in Him), living by it (1 John 1:5-7) and sharing it with all who will see it (Matt 5:14-16). This Light is Jesus Christ. This is why we celebrate Christmas.

sermon: The Light & The Life (John 1:4)

This Christmas our series is entitled: The Light Shines. We are taking an in-depth look at the “prologue” of John 1 (verses 1-18). Pastor Ty kicked off the series last week looking at Jesus as “The Logos – the Word” and as creator. Sunday night I picked up where he left off looking at verse 4:

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

In other Remix news, we had our first potluck gathering prior to the service and it was a roaring (and filling) success. Thanks to all who came.

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Key Ideas:

Why study John 1 at Christmas? :

And we study it this Christmas, we look at the incarnation of Christ, so that we might have one eye on Jesus born a child, laying in manger and our other eye on the beginning of the world and say, “Yes, My Lord was already there.”

Only God can create Life:

Here we stand in defiance to what the general scientific community is teaching today because we say with along with John that life does not exist in its own right… it comes from a source… that source is Jesus.

Spiritual Life is found only in Jesus:

If you have Jesus, then you have life. If you reject him, you reject the life… the real life, the spiritual life that begins in the here and now and continues on to that better country God has prepared for those who have faith in His Son.

Jesus is a Light to All:

In one sense we can understand this to reflect the bringing of life in general to people as a sort of light… a sort of hope. It allows for men and women to exist, a sort of common grace that life would occur at all; that God would make provisions for people’s days to continue.

Jesus is the Light of Spiritual Truth:

Jesus, who has life to give, has also light to shine. And He brings both if you are willing to receive it.

Some extra pictures related to the sermon (you’ll have to listen to know why):

And this:

The "All Spark" from Transformers

In the Dark

In preparation for our Christmas series focused on Jesus as the Light come down (John 1), we created a fun gameshow-type series of videos that highlight the futility of doing anything in the dark. I hope you enjoy this first one… it make me crack-up every time.

Ending song is “Light of the World” by Chris Tomlin & Matt Redman. Get it here.

Infrared shot of Sharon trying to sort M&Ms in the dark.

reflections: Ephesians chapter four

Chapter four kicks off the second half of the book of Ephesians with a greater focus on practical living as opposed to the thick doctrinal focus in the first three chapters. The primary point for this second half is to live a life worthy of the calling (as expressed in the previous chapters) through unity in the Body of Christ and personal holiness. Here are my reflections:

Ephesians 4:1-16

  • Who we are and what we have in Christ matters. The weight of every command in this chapter in following is completely based in the riches that God has poured out for us in Christ. We must never forget God’s incredible generosity and how it defines the focus of our life.
  • We have been called greatly & we have been called first. It is a great calling and it can be overwhelming… how do we honor the God who has greatly honored us? But we have also been called first… which means that we do not earn the riches, but the riches have been given and we are simply trying to live in light of them.
  • We must have an attitude of unity. There are types of attitudes that can cause division, (you’ve seen them, maybe you’ve had one) but there are also attitudes that encourage and foster unity. These are: humility, gentleness and patience. These are not easy characteristics, they take work, but they unify the church and God cares immensely about that.
  • The church is unified, but it is also diverse and gifted. Paul gives us two little blips on the gifts. In the first, he mentions that to each one grace is given as Christ apportioned it. Everyone in the body has a gift and that gift is important and necessary for the body! This makes up the diversity of the church and shows how everyone has a part! Secondly, Paul mentions some particular gifts – ones that are essential for the growth and protection of the church. Pastors can understand this as, “Wow, I’m a gift to you… aren’t I so great!” or “Wow, God has given me to you, how may I be of continual service to His church.” I think you see the diference.
  • We need a better understanding of our role in growth.  The teaching, the instruction, the giving of the word by the people God has placed in your church is not just for your individual growth. Hear this! Too often we are so concerned with whether or not we are “being fed,” whether or not each sermon hits that magical spot that causes me to grow miraculously and makes my inner spirit all warm and tingly…. Paul says, Knock it off! See the bigger picture! Is the word being given to feed you, yes, but not just you… and you shouldn’t be “eating” just so that you grow, taking no part in the growth of the whole body! It is for the whole church! And you have a part in it.  Paul is clearly calling us to mutual responsibility for the growth of this church!
  • We need to be the wonder of the Church.  God saw it fit in his plan to take a divided people and unite them together to display his glory and wisdom… we should therefore desire greatly to be those people… united; declaring to the world that we are his disciples by loving one another.
Ephesians 4:17-24
  • Sometimes the world seems attractive. At that time Paul felt it was necessary to remind the church that they should not be just like the world around them. The world gets to live for it’s self and in the moment that is what sounds best. But it is not, not even for us… so Paul takes his readers into the heart of the self focused life.
  • The self-focused life is delusional. If you’re living for yourself and you’ve rejected Christ as your King then your world is upside-down and dark. This doesn’t mean your dumb or not intelligent… but it does mean that you’re missing out on the right kind of intelligence:  The ability to grasp the truth of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
  • The self-focused life is unsatisfying. This is sort of a paradox: if you live your life for your own satisfaction, then you will never be satisfied. Because ultimate satisfaction cannot be found with you at the center of your purpose and pleasure… It can only be found in seeking God above all else.
  • The Christ-focused life is one of great learning and growth. Christ is the ultimate subject, the ultimate teacher and the ultimate environment for learning to take place. He is ready to help us grow… we cannot grow without Him… we cannot chose the new life without Him.
  • The (Christ-focused) new life is not like the old. It is markedly different… it looks different because it is different.
  • The change has already happened . If you are in Christ you are already new… live like it!
  • The change is occurring right now. The Holy Spirit is actively renewing your mind, patterning it after the mind of Christ rather than your old ways of thinking. It’s a process and it takes time, but praise God that He is the one involved, so work with Him as He works in you!
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
  • In Christianity, the rules are based in the relationship. Everything that Paul tells us to do or to not do is based first and foremost in the relationship we have to Christ. These are not rules to earn favor or position with Christ, but rather because we are already in Christ and because He is at work in us we should live a certain way. This is how we honor the One who has given us the greatest of honors. So we should cherish the opportunity to be given commands that will allow our lives to bring joy the Father.
  • In Christianity, the rules have a personal purpose and a community purpose. Each command about lying, stealing, anger, etc. has first an application to our own lives, obeying will lead us to greater personal holiness, but they also are intended for the sake of the Body of Christ. Each command builds up the unity of the church, helps those in the church who have less, or helps us to keep the devil away from taking advantage of us. Remember, when we seek holiness it is also for the Church. When we sin, it is also to the detriment of the Church.
  • In Christianity, the rules will be followed and they will be broken. This does not mean that those who are able to follow them better can lord it over those who are going through a hard time or are just barely making it by. Paul’s next-to-final admonition in this section is that we be people who deal with each other (especially when failing in sin) with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Paul knows that we will fail, and when we do, these are the qualities that are to be expressed toward the fallen… because Christ has dealt with us and our sin in the same way.
  • In Christianity, the rules can be summed up: “Be imitators of God & live a life of love.” We are His children and we are to exhibit the familial likeness. What’s our model? Jesus Christ on the cross, showing the greatest love of all. This is the standard of our love. This is how we display the glory of God. Love one another.

Sermon (Eph 4:25-5:2)

Our 10th and final week of Jesus Loves the Church (for the Fall) was on Sunday, November 20th. We took a look at the end of chapter 4 at what many consider to be a list of rules… hopefully in listening in you will see that they are so, so much more than that. [We will pick back up with Ephesians 5 on January 8th. I hope that this book has become even more alive for you and greater understood.]

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Key Ideas:

Work:

Paul has turned work, which too often is for our own success or pleasure, into a tool for showing God’s glory in relation to how we take care of each other in the body of Christ.

Speech:

Christians on the other hand are supposed to choose their words wisely in order to edify or build up one another. Our conversation should be wholesome and beneficial to grow and give grace to those who hear.

Rules:

Paul is brilliant. He can give a list of rules that normally would set us up to be rule mongers, but he reminds us that we can’t. We’re only doing okay because of God’s grace… because He has forgiven us… because He was kind to us and had mercy on us. So be like Him… and have grace, and forgiveness, and compassion and kindness too.

We can get all hung up on rule-sy type language. The truth is, we need it. We need a guide to know what is part of the old life and what is part of the new.

Christianity:

Christianity will continue because the One who gave it form died to make those who followed just like Him.

Board Notes:

None this week.

Video:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18795812