Hello Fellow Ordinary Pastors!
I recently received these questions:
- What is your favorite tip for studying the Bible?
- What is your favorite book for studying the Bible?
- What is your favorite book of the Bible?
While responding I thought it would be good to share on The Ordinary Pastor Blog. If any of you would like to answer these questions too, I’d be interested in seeing your responses!
1. What is your favorite tip for studying the Bible?
Understand the context! I wanted to say, “Consider the context,” but I don’t think that’s strong enough. You have to know the context or you can – and often will – misinterpret the verse. We don’t have the liberty to say, “I like the way this verse sounds, so I’ll rip it kicking and screaming out of context and use it this way!”
Here are two examples…
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
What a fantastic sounding verse! Unfortunately, many people have no idea who it’s written to, what it’s describing, why God said it, etc. This verse is part of a letter Jeremiah wrote to Jewish exiles in Babylon. They felt cast off by God, so He encouraged them with these words and gave them instructions for living in their new home. For example, a few verses earlier they were told to build homes and plant gardens (Jeremiah 29:5). If you apply Jeremiah 29:11 to your life, then you should also have a garden.
Is there a danger associated with using this verse loosely? Yes. What happens when:
- A couple loses a child?
- Someone’s spouse is unfaithful?
- A family goes through a financial hardship?
Did God not have peaceful thoughts for them? Did He not want to give them a future and a hope? Not at all, but if you don’t understand the context, you’re going to be left feeling hurt, confused, and possibly betrayed.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Another great sounding verse. People love to quote this after something wonderful happens. Only problem is that’s the opposite of how the verse is meant! The context is contentment, and the verse would actually be used correctly if someone quoted it while going through a trial. Paul is actually saying he learned to be content in any situations he found himself, whether he’s humiliated, hungry, or suffering (verse 12). And He can handle these moments because of the strength Christ gives him (verse 13).
Who needs Christ’s strength when everything is going wonderfully? We need Christ’s strength when things are difficult.
Is there a problem with misquoting this verse? Again, yes! Let’s say an athlete quotes this verse after winning the big game. Aren’t there some nagging questions?
Is God really that concerned about who wins sporting events? Did this guy’s team win because he’s a Christian, and the other team is a bunch of heathens? If you’re a Christian, does this mean you win all the competitions in your life? What happens to Christians when they lose games…did God not give them the strength they needed?
2. What is your favorite book for studying the Bible?
Much of my ministry revolves around expositional preaching and teaching, two (and sometimes three) times per week. I prepare two “types” of messages:
- Verse-by-verse teaching for Sunday School, midweek services, home fellowships, etc. I work through the verses, explaining them, answering questions, etc. At our Wednesday night home fellowship we’re in Revelation. During Sunday School I’m teaching a series called, “Am I saved? Six tests to know!” For these messages I look at four commentaries (maybe a few more if verses are particularly difficult).
- The sermon on Sunday. We’re currently working through Luke’s Gospel verse-by-verse. I provide application and lessons from the verses as we work through them. For these messages I look at 7-9 commentaries.
One reason I’ve enjoyed Wiersbe’s commentary so much is he goes beyond exposition to the application I’m looking for in sermons. While I’ve only published one book at this point, Marriage God’s Way, I’d like to publish more in the future, and I see the content coming from sermons that can translate into book chapters. Here’s a podcast where I discussed this with Cody: Episode 36: Write a Book! Or Not…
3. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
There’s an ongoing joke with the congregation I pastor that I have lots of favorite verses. As I study each week, I get excited about the passage and it becomes my “new favorite.” This also happens with the book I’m in. Right now we’re going through Luke verse-by-verse on Sunday mornings, but I’ll refrain from claiming it as my favorite.
My favorite book(s): 1 and 2 Samuel. I read them early after I became a Christian, and it was life-changing. I’ve been impacted by lots of books, but nothing affected me as much as these two. I was saved in my early twenties, and by that time I felt like I’d developed some similarities to David…not necessarily in a good way. I was both challenged and encouraged by his life and the way God dealt with him.
When I came to Woodland Christian Church, I spent the first two years preaching verse-by-verse through 1 and 2 Samuel, and it was one of the joys of my life.
As I said at the beginning, if any of you fellow Ordinary Pastors are interested in answering these same three questions, I’d love to see your thoughts! Please put your answers in the comments section or create your own post! If you provide a post please put it in the comments section and link to this post, so I can be sure not to miss it!