Learn To Study The Bible
Forty Different Step by Step Methods to Help You Discover, Apply, and Enjoy God’s Word
Author: Andy Deane, Associate Pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, in Central New Jersey
It wasn’t all that long ago I viewed comedian and atheist Bill Maher’s movie entitled “Religulous”, and it’s one of the things that first came to mind when I saw this book and what it sets out to do as far as bringing Christians closer to God’s Word and receiving from God what he has to offer to all those who believe and love the Lord. In Maher’s movie it’s very plain to see that he appears to be setting out to disprove something about all religion, and in his attempts, he blindly tries to include God himself in the process. But what he really ends up doing is illustrating what is wrong with religion itself and how mankind goes horribly wrong when he is not being truly led by the Spirit of God. I think you can tell the difference between Biblical characters such as Jesus himself, or St. Stephen or Paul after his conversion, and those souls Maher rails against for injustices to mankind all in the name of God.
And what this guide book really does for me is ask the question, “Who are you?” When someone suggests a study guide for Biblical scripture, does that interest you... or does it make you hesitate? If God is really there for us, and is who he says he is... then it makes sense, knowing him as he is, that he would have a people somewhere. Do you find that you love and trust God but are skeptical of his people? If someone is lead to create a book of helpful study methods for you to go deeper into the very gift of God to mankind, namely, his Word, do you trust that? Do you look for better ways to study the bread of life? Or are you more like some of the folks who Bill Maher rails against and really would rather do things your own way, despite the consequences, which coincidentally, bring a secular person like Mahrer to spend huge amounts of money on a film where he can’t quite get anyone to prove it all to him the way he wants it, and then he turns on God himself in a public forum. Those are questions only you, yourself can answer.
In Pastor Deane’s book he writes in several sections, comfortable leading ones, that put several pieces of a larger puzzle together in a very succinct format. He begins by outlining benefits for Bible study by addressing the treasures that can be had by all who will receive them. Such things as, of course, salvation, cleansing from sin, receiving peace and joy, guidance in decisions of everyday life, and also timeless principles of success without added woes.
The world can’t tell you who you really are in the great universe we are a part of, and it won’t. It will only inform you that life is about those things which make you happy, and usually leaves out all the timeless messages that God himself has laid before us. This makes you the greatest victim of all, as since, you had the answers to life the whole time, here in God’s Word, but you listened to someone else and never benefitted as you could have if you had just taken the time to see for yourself what God has given us. I think that’s actually one of the main points of the Genesis story. God tells Adam and Eve one thing and someone, anyone else, tells them something else. Who are they going to listen to? Who are YOU going to listen to? I think this book can help you to listen to the right voices and also makes it fun and interesting to do so.
One thing you must understand first thing, is that these are study methods, 40 or so of them in fact, that are designed to assist you in different ways to gain as much as you can from the exercise. You can’t be lazy, people. This is for the diligent and purposed of heart. Just remember, the Bible was written over a 1,500 year span and it’s all the same connected story. Part A leads to Part B and so on, therefore; long term study is a necessity for discovering the eternal Truths God has laid out.
Pastor Deane begins by laying out the basis for structured study in how we Observe what is written; What does the scripture say?, Interpretation; What does it mean?, and Application; What does it ask of us to do in our lives?
There are some rather imaginative applications for the future chapters of the book outlined here as far as helping you to get the most from your study, and the outlining is quite comprehensive, there is a ton of work that has gone into putting together a rather small book that is packed with information both from individual sources and from sources you can no longer find for yourself. Just keep in mind that, as in playing a practiced sport, like say, billiards, if you practice sloppy, you will teach yourself to play sloppy. The same principle applies here.
When the book kicks off with the actual methods it starts with some simplified and yet creative ways of study, and some of these can also be used with any subject, I suppose, but they are all good ideas. As an example, Chapter 6, Daily Bread asks you to take a line of a passage and accentuate each word and the meaning that it relates to you as each one is emphasized. Simple, yes, but we’re just getting started here, as the book becomes more and more of a guide toward dissertation and college level study than you would at first have guessed. It isn’t long before we find ourselves in the library on a long table with ten books open and several legal pads for cross referencing and detailed comparisons. But don’t let that scare you, there is something here for everyone.
At the end of each chapter, there are painstakingly rendered, real world examples written in real handwriting just to illustrate what the study (briefly) outlined would look like when done correctly. What more can you ask for? I, myself, was quite grateful for this illustrative addition and have already applied a few of the techniques myself, with pleasing results, but the visuals were indeed a nice touch and a big help.
Let me just show you one of the early ones, a simpler one than those later in the book. I figure if you have read this far, you must have some level of interest that would like to see an example. In Chapter 8, Specs On, named after the practice of putting on the glasses for clearer insight, you are asked to map out the words “Specs On” and then answer questions accordingly after you have read a passage..
S - What is the sin I need to forsake?
P - What is God’s promise I need to claim?
E - What is the example I need to follow?
C - What is the command I need to obey?
S - What is the stumbling block I need to avoid?
O - What is the obedience needed on my own part?
N - What new information have I learned.
As you have answered these questions for yourself, you have done today’s study of a chapter or passage of scripture. Not bad, huh?
In another chapter it is suggested you take a more “reporter” type search and ask exhaustive questions concerning a chapter or passage. For instance, look everything up. Get maps, history books, dictionaries and do all the research for that particular section.
For instance, Psalm 126:
When Yahweh brought Zion’s captives home, at first it seemed like a dream; then our mouths filled with laughter and our lips with song. Even the pagans starting talking about the marvels Yahweh had done for us! What marvels indeed he did for us, and how overjoyed we were. Yahweh bring all our captives back again like torrents in the Negeb! Those who went sowing in tears now sing as they reap. They went away, went away weeping, carrying the seed; they come back, comeback singing, carrying their sheaves.
Now ask questions:
Define captivity. Locate Zion. Is this real or a dream? What nations? Why were they singing? What are the great things God did for them? Is “us” Israel or Judah or all believers? Locate the Negeb. What is a sheave?
Now after you have asked and answered all these questions, ask yourself how this applies to you. Since in reality, you are the final chapter of the book that the Bible begins in you. Being willing to expend energy, even for these relatively simple studies, will challenge your perception as to how important and vital the Word is to you.
Then there are major, more college level methods discussed, such as line by line charting. First you choose some verses, then you write them out, then paraphrase them. You then make a side by side chart of verse and paraphrase, and work to understand the ultimate application in your life. That is always the final step.
Book overviews can also be a lot of time consuming work, but then these are the advanced methods. Chapter 18’s description of this method looks particularly daunting considering it uses the book of Romans as a study. (Perhaps the toughest book in the whole Bible) But if you have the commitment to do such things as titling each section and then working on getting the main theme, followed by a charting of the theme as outlined on page 103, well you are indeed blessed brother. Some of these studies are not for those used to being spoon fed.
You may also find studying lives of individual characters and larger Biblical topics to be of great interest, as outlined in later chapters here. I can tell you, this is way beyond just reading a chapter a day for a year or some such thing. But I would hope you would allow pastor Andy’s ministry and work to reach out to you for deeper relationship with God. Because, you know, it will happen with these methods.
The methods I found to be most interesting were the suggestions of studying characters such as the individual Kings in books like Kings and Chronicles, and then stepping back and looking at them as a whole. Personally, I have found entire movies that could be made from the stories here, that have been completely ignored, and that’s a real shame. Even more so since over and over Kings refers to the lost book of the annals of the Jewish Kings, and yet we still have God’s word to refer to it. (But that’s a whole other blog)
Other suggestions here will lead you through studying “prayers”, proverbs, parables and even collecting a chart of all miracles. How about studying just the questions Jesus issued to those he spoke with? Or How about just the collected commands? But don’t get me wrong, the methods are varied and defined in short, succinct chapters. There is even a section toward the back for younger adults with charts that will illicit responses from them of the somewhat lesser intellectual side of the college study method level.
As an example, there is the heart monitor chart, which gauges your emotional response to readings on a 1-5 scale. Did you respond at all? Did you get choked up? Do you understand that the level of your heart response to a scripture is a nice measure of your spiritual life existence? Have you ever heard of someone having a Bible with tear stains on the pages? Seems a bit foreign to you. Maybe histrionic? Maybe not.... maybe you are just not open enough to hearing from God. A bit harsh, I know, but something to really consider between yourself and God.
Just keep in mind that folks like Bill Maher have no concept of what it is to hear from God, or be affected by his Holy Word. And that’s one of the reasons he goes about through life as he does, hearing but never understanding, frustrated to anger that he has somehow been left out. This book, Learn to Study the Bible, 40 Methods is tightly written and imaginatively displayed so that you, the real children of God can join the millions of those down through history, both great and small men and women, who knew nothing of each other, but all found the same Jesus.
I’d like to also thank Pastor Deane for requesting this review. He lives on the other side of America from me, New Jersey, and I live in Los Angeles. We’ve never met. When I started this blog I set out to be sort of a consumer advocate for the Christian community, reviewing subjects like education, politics and current events, or perhaps seeing some movies before your kids do, and reporting on them. I never expected to receive an invitation to review a book on Biblical study methods, and I just know Pastor Andy is not a man to randomly throw out those invitations to those he doesn’t feel will do at least an adequate job of doing so. I’m humbled to think that something I wrote somewhere in my blog caught the attention of the Jesus in him, so that I could respond in kind with the Jesus in me. It has been my extreme pleasure to be involved in his work in this capacity and I deeply thank him for his verification.