Dec 282012
 

Read meTo wrap up my series on ‘God’s book’, the Bible and especially as we are near to the start of a new year, I thought we could consider going through the bible in a year.

Have you ever read the whole bible from cover to cover? It’s not as difficult as it may appear and if you were to commit about 20 minutes a day to reading it you could easily finish it in a year. There are various ways to go through the bible in a year so I thought I would give you a few links below with some suggestions:

(1)  Read it from beginning to end, starting Jan 1st at Genesis 1 and finishing the last chapter of Revelation on the 31st December. This doesn’t require too much imagination!

(2) Chronological:  Read the bible as the events occurred in real time. For example, Job lived sometime after the beginning of creation (Genesis 1) but before Abraham was born (Genesis 12). As a result, the book of Job is integrated into the Book of Genesis.

(3) Historical:  Read the books of the bible as they were written historically, according to the estimated date of their writing.

You can find these three ways of reading the bible in a year at this link http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/.  You can also choose which version to read it in.

Have a look at this site http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/.  It sort of does what it says on the tin. There are lots of ways to do it; sign up to an RSS feed, mobile phone app, print a plan off etc.

Here’s one to print off and tick after completing each day http://www.navpress.com/uploadedFiles/15074%20BRP.dj.pdf

I am going to join in with Queens Road Wimbledon daily bible reading plan. They are changing their name to ‘Everyday Church’ on 1st January 2013. Their leader is Phil Moore, who will be tweeting comments on each days reading. He is an excellent bible teacher with great insights. The link is here http://www.qrc.org.uk/biblereadingplan

I pray that God will help you to read the whole bible in a year, but don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. It should be a delight not a chore.

Finally, I just wanted to recommend a few resources that I have found really useful as I have studied the bible. I hope you find them useful too:

I use the following website whenever I am looking up bible verses in different versions. I also sometimes sign up to receive a free daily e-mail, they have all sorts of subjects http://www.biblegateway.com/

This website has quite a lot of resources for studying the bible, with many bible versions, daily bible readings, a daily devotional and lots more http://www.biblestudytools.com/

The following website has a vast array of bible commentaries and other material covering just about every verse in the bible. I found this site really useful for looking up all sorts of Greek New Testament words and phrases, giving a greater understanding of what is meant in the text. http://www.preceptaustin.org/

I have already mentioned the following site when I talked about bible difficulties as it is really useful for looking into apparent bible contradictions.  It also covers all the major cults and where they misinterpret the bible www.carm.org

Here is a website where you can get a free bible download service and good Sunday school resources check it our here http://www.houseandhome.org/niv-bible-download

Now we have finished this latest series, please feel free to contact me if there is anything you would like me to cover.

God bless, Adrian

 December 28, 2012  Posted by at 10:46 am Bible No Responses »
Dec 202012
 

Memorising scriptureI really hope you have been enjoying this ‘God’s book’ series. The Bible needs to inspire us, educate us and reveal more of God’s character and plans for us. It needs to be in our lives on a daily basis. It is our daily bread (Matthew 4:4).

This week I want to talk about the power of memorising scripture. In the process of committing each verse to memory we are being sustained and changed by its living power.

In Joshua 1:8 it says “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

But not only does memorising scripture bless us, it is also a great tool for witnessing and telling others about Jesus. (I listed a number of verses to learn in my post about ‘sharing the gospel’).

Probably the best way of meditating on scripture is to memorise it. This can probably seem like a huge task but actually, if you break it down, just by simply memorising a couple of verses a week you would know over a hundred in a year.

There are various techniques for memorising scripture. You need to find the one that you find easiest and adapt it to suit yourself if necessary. I have listed out a number of ideas below which I hope you will find useful:

  • Take your first verse and read it ten times, close your eyes and read it out ten times. Repeat the next day 5 times each and so on for a week. Then revisit it at about monthly intervals until it comes to mind easily.
  • Alternatively you could just read it out loud 25 times without even trying to memorise it.
  • Try to memorise the reference first. Say it a few times until it comes easily to you. That way if you do forget the verse you can always look it up to remind yourself.
  • Try and remember the gist of the verse first.
  • Try to form an association between the verse and the reference by linking them together.
  • The memory process is really helped by reading out loud.
  • As you read out loud, put an emphasis on a different word each time eg. for God so loved, for God so loved, for God so loved, for God so loved… etc.
  • Put your verse on a piece of card and carry it around with you, get it out each time you have a few spare moments, for example, standing in a queue, waiting for someone etc.
  • Reviewing what you have learned is crucial.
  • Record the message onto a dictaphone (most of the newest phones have one installed, or you could download an app) and play it back to yourself.
  • Stick various cards around the house on places you visit frequently, like the back of the toilet door or the fridge!
  • Get a friend to help you and learn it together, test each other. You will both find it encouraging and you are more likely to do it with mutual motivation.

You may be wondering what verses would be good to start with. I would suggest that as you continue reading scripture and come across verses that really speak to you, perhaps highlight them in your bible and determine to commit them to memory. However I have compiled a list below of really good verses for your own edification, along with verses that are good for sharing the gospel. You may know many of these already and so you are already well on the way. You may just have to fix the reference with the verse. Hover over each one and the verse should appear. With reference to last weeks post on bible versions, some versions flow easier than others and therefore make it easier to memorise. I personally prefer to memorise verses from the NIV although you may like the ESV versions below.

Joshua 1:8                                            Psalm 119:11

Psalm 119:105                                    Proverbs 3:5, 6

Matthew 28:19, 20                           John 1:12

John 3:16                                             John 14:6

Acts 4:12                                              Romans 3:23

Romans 6:23                                      Romans 12:1, 2

1 Corinthians 6:19, 20                    1 Corinthians 10:13

1 Corinthians 10:31                         Ephesians 2:8-10

Philippians 4:8                                  Philippians 4:19

2 Timothy 2:15                                 2 Timothy 3:16-17

1 John 1:9

My last post on the series ‘God’s book’ will be next week and I will talk about reading the bible throughout the year, which will be very timely ready for January 1st.

It just leaves me to wish all my readers a very merry Christmas, I hope you have a great time. God bless  – Ade

 December 20, 2012  Posted by at 9:21 pm Bible 1 Response »
Dec 122012
 

Bible versionsUp until 1895 the Bible was like the original Ford motor car when Henry Ford famously said (supposedly) that “you can have any colour as long as it is black.” The Bible at that time was only available in one ‘colour’, the King James version.

But things changed in 1895 when a German pastor by the name of Adolf Deissmann began reading everyday ancient Greek manuscripts (private letters, business transactions, other documents etc) which were written in the same vocabulary as the NT texts. In other words, the New Testament was originally written in everyday Greek language, not some sort of distant religious language. The consequence of this discovery was that if the original writings were written in easy to understand terms, so subsequent translations should be easy to understand too.

Translation Differences

These days there is an overwhelming choice when considering which bible translation to read, so I am hoping to guide you through the ‘version’ maze in order to help you make an informed decision.

Most people think that the best version would be a word-for-word translation but this isn’t necessarily so. If you have ever tried to learn a foreign language (as I have) you will find that most languages have many pseudonyms and phrases that if translated word for word would make no sense whatsoever. For instance, the term ‘kick the bucket’ wouldn’t make any sense at all if you translated it word for word. You would need to find the corresponding phrase in that language which best fits the meaning behind it. The downside of not using word-for-word translation but rather interpreting the general meaning of the passage, is that you need to be sure you understand what the original meaning actually is! This is not always obvious and in the case of the Bible, having been written thousands of years ago, there will always be arguments as to what the writer did actually mean (unfortunately the writers are no longer around to ask!). We also have to bear in mind that even with the most honest of intentions, the people who interpret the bible will have their own understanding as to what they ‘believe’ the Bible says, especially those versions that have been translated by only one person (Moffatt, JB Phillips etc).

The different versions then can be put on a sort of scale ranging from ‘word-for-word’ (sometimes called ‘formal equivalence’) to a ‘thought-for-thought’ (called ‘dynamic equivalence’). The scale would look like the one below:

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Overview of some of the more popular translations

King James Version (KJV)

This is the Bible with the ‘thee’s’ and the ‘thou’s’ in, also called the “Authorised” version. It has had a huge impact in shaping the English language. It is a literary masterpiece with the words and phrases beautifully crafted. From my own observations it seems some people hold this particular version in too high esteem and use it with an air of superiority, as if the words are more holy if spoken in “olde” English. The vocabulary and grammar have now been updated into the New King James Version (NKJV) which is much more a ‘word-for-word’ translation.

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The RSV was completed in 1952 and was intended to be, in part, a revision of the King James. The RSV attempts to be a word-for-word translation where possible. It has not been without controversy; some opponents claim it denies the virgin birth. The NRSV follows the same principle of translation, though it has now become more “gender-inclusive” (somewhat irritating if, like me, you find the excesses of political correctness tiresome). A blanket gender-inclusive translation can be very misleading.

New American Standard (NASB)

The New American Standard Bible (First published in 1971) is widely regarded as the best ‘word-for-word’ translation available today. It was translated by very ‘conservative’ minded theologians so even though it is very accurate, the language does not flow particularly well, especially as each verse is laid out separately rather than in paragraphs, making it even more ‘wooden’ and ‘stilted’ to read

New English Bible (NEB)

The NEB was completed in 1971, after a quarter of a century of labour. It marks a new milestone in translation: it is not a revision, but a brand new translation. It is a phrase-for-phrase translation. Unfortunately, sometimes the biases of the translators creep into the text. The REB (Revised English Bible) follows the same pattern: excellent English, though not always faithful to the Greek and Hebrew.

New International Version (NIV)

The NIV was published in 1978. It may be considered a counterpart to the NEB. (The NEB is strictly a British version, while the NIV is international). It is more of a phrase-for-phrase translation than a word-for-word translation. The translators were generally more conservative than those who worked on the NEB. In making it easy to read it is perhaps too simple in its language (although this is always going to be a difficult balancing act).

English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV, published in 2001, is the newest and most up-to-date formal equivalent translation. The ESV has eliminated the stilted English of translations such as the NASB, while maintaining the literary excellence of translations like the KJV. The ESV has also consistently translated specific terms in the original language to make theological developments easier to follow, and English concordance searches more accurate. Like the KJV, it has many unforgettable expressions, suitable for memorizing.

New English Translation (NET)

The NET Bible was published in 2005. The NET has all the earmarks of a great translation. At times, it is more accurate than the NASB, more readable than the NIV, and more elegant than both. It is clear and eloquent while maintaining the meaning of the original text. In addition, the notes are a genuine gold mine of information, unlike those found in any other translation. Until I researched this blog I must admit that I had always assumed the NET to stand for internet and although it is only available on the Internet, I hadn’t realised how good it was considered to be.

New World Translation (NWT)

If you ever see this version, don’t buy it! It is the one translated by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a classic example of translating text with pre-conceived ideas (God cannot be three persons, for example) and so attempting to translate it using huge amounts of interpretation. Yet there are other parts which have been translated so literally they are barely readable.

Conclusion
My recommendation would be that when studying, use a couple of translations together to compare. I personally prefer the ESV study bible because the notes are really good. I also use the NIV as this is the version I grew up with and have memorised the most verses from. For just simple reading I quite enjoy the Good News bible. Some people like ‘The Message’ but I personally dislike it. I find it incongruous and grating and nothing like the English I speak. (It’s like your dad embarrassing you with his dance moves at a family wedding or Stephen Hawking reading the sonnets of Shakespeare. There, I’ve got that one of my chest!! )

The most important thing is to keep reading. I believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into truth, so read with a prayerful submissive spirit and be open to what God speaks to you, because He will.

 December 12, 2012  Posted by at 9:46 pm Bible 1 Response »
Dec 052012
 

Interpret bibleSo far in this series we have looked at the reliability of the Bible, how it was put together, its authority, how sufficient it is for our lives and whether we can trust it or not. This week we turn our attention to how to interpret it. Understanding the Bible can be very confusing and can leave you in a muddle, especially with so many and varied views readily available simply by visiting the internet.

Here are 3 very good reasons why we have trouble interpreting scripture:

(1) We are living thousands of years after it was written.

(2) We live in a dramatically different culture.

(3) The Bible was written in different languages to our own.

But that doesn’t mean we should neglect trying to understand it as best as we can. The Bible itself says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”. (2 Timothy 2:15).

The study of interpreting the Bible is called ‘Hermeneutics’ and I would like to outline a number of principals that we should think about whenever we read our bibles, especially if we struggle to understand certain sections.

The Principles of Biblical Interpretation

These principles are embedded in the Bible itself. We do not need to go beyond the boundaries of the Bible to discover these principals; it is God’s wisdom after all and we must allow the bible to interpret itself.

Principle #1: Read it literally

We take the Bible at face value. We generally take everyday things in life as literal or at face value. This is a common sense approach. The golden rule of interpretation is “when the plain sense of the scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” Therefore, take every word at its primary, usual, meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.

Principle #2: Read it in context

Too many people take a favourite bible verse and use it out of context. We must look and consider the verses immediately before, after, and around the passage. We must consider the book of the Bible and the section of the Bible in which the passage occurs.

Principle #3:  Scripture Interprets Scripture

All essential doctrines are fully and clearly explained – either in the immediate context, or somewhere else in the Bible. You need to keep two essential ‘rules’ for applying this principle:

1)  The context of the two passages must be the same.

2) The plain passage must be used to guide our interpretation of a less clear passage – not the other way around!

Principle #4: Progressive revelation

Even though not all of the books in the bible are in the order they were written in, God has gradually unfolded His plans and purposes from the Old Testament to the New. He did not reveal them all at once and so the people of the Old Testament lived under a much different revelation from that which we have today. We must take this into account when applying God’s word to our lives.

Principle #5: We cannot understand an infinite God

God’s ways are so much higher than our ways; we need to understand this when reading the Bible. It is God the infinite communicating with man the finite. God is like a parent explaining things to a small child in ways that it can understand. For this reason we need to be careful when taking passages that describe God, especially ones which say that He has wings or other bodily parts. He is revealing to us truths in ways that we can understand but not necessarily expecting us to take them literally.

Principle #6: The Bible is in harmony

No part of the Bible should be interpreted so as to contradict another part of itself. We start reading and studying with the understanding that the bible is perfect and inerrant because it is God himself revealing to us His ways and His plan for salvation. Proper application of hermeneutical principles will resolve apparent conflicts.

Principle #7: Different styles (Genres)

The different books of the Bible were written in quite different styles. Some are historical books, some are poetry and wise sayings; some were for teaching and the application of doctrine and some, like Revelation, were written in a style that is not even used today called apocalyptic. And some were written in a combination of these styles. To interpret the Bible we need to take these different literary forms into consideration. Given they were written in different languages as well, the study of word meanings, grammar, and syntax of the original languages is important for a proper understanding of scripture.

Principle #8:  Historical background

The Bible was written in specific cultures at particular points in time.  While they are universal in application, the truths in the Bible can most fully be realised only when taking the surrounding culture and history into account.

Conclusions

To study the Bible properly doesn’t mean you have to study ancient Hebrew or Greek or have a detailed knowledge of ancient history and geography. A decent study bible will really help. I personally use the ESV study bible along with a few commentaries, in particular those written by Berkhoff, Grudem and Ryrie (although I don’t agree with everything in them by any stretch!!). There are a number of other tools available such as lexicons and bible dictionaries, but don’t get bogged down in these. All you need to do is read the bible, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and with a prayerful attitude hold the above principles in your mind. You will not fail to grow in your knowledge of God.

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

 December 5, 2012  Posted by at 11:40 pm Bible No Responses »