Hi, this is Noel. Today Denise is going to talk about Walking Toward the Help and I will go over how to answer the questions that come up when you are studying the Bible. Here's Denise.
(You can either read the Lesson or watch the video. To take notes either print out the Lesson, follow along in the book, or use a separate piece of paper to write out the answers to the questions below.)
I [D] went to a 'secular' school for my Master's of Psychology degree. I think there was only one other Christian in the whole program. I remember raising my hand one day in class and commenting, "We are real big on the idea of boundaries in psychology. We teach our clients that it is OK to tell someone else that 'this' is OK with me, but 'this other thing' is not OK. And I agree that boundaries are important because without them there would be no right or wrong.
"But, I've noticed that psychology doesn't seem to like the idea that God might have boundaries! He has to be the big doormat in the sky. He has to accept whatever we justify in our own minds." Well, you could have heard a pin drop in the room after that.
God has boundaries. He wrote a whole book about them. They are reasonable and His help is available within them.
Running from the Help
There is a baffling tendency in all of us to turn and run from help. We are so sure we know a better way. But our actions so often separate us from the help we need.
In fact, this tendency is at the root of all sin. In its essence, sin is not wrong doing. Rather, sin is independence from God. Independent thinking says, "I'm not going to be anyone's disciple," "I'm my own boss," and "I do, what I want to do."
1. Sin is
Most of us know non-Christians who behave better than many Christians. Going to heaven is not about behaving better than other people. Otherwise these well-behaved non-Christians would be going to heaven.
The reason non-Christians are not going to heaven is that they reject God's provision of forgiveness. They choose hell when they say, "I am my own boss. I don't need forgiveness." The Christian knows he is dependent on God's mercy and needs forgiveness.
2. Believers are dependent on
God offers forgiveness and unconditional love within certain boundaries. He made the way. But independence from Him foils His efforts.
Skill Time: Answering Your Bible Study Questions (the steps)
Normally in devotional Bible study it is best to put your focus on the parts of the passage that make sense to you rather than focusing on what you don't understand. The purpose of devotional Bible study is to feed yourself rather than to solve every problem you encounter.
8. Normally, in devotional Bible study, you shouldn't focus on
9. Rather, you should focus on
Picture for a moment a cow walking out into a rich pasture full of luscious food in every direction. But over in the corner is a patch of ground where the grass is not growing very well. Now, it would not make sense for the cow to rush over to the barren part of the field and spend all its time trying to eat the grass that is barely growing when it is surrounded by such available food.
In a similar way, when you open a passage to study it, there are usually a number of things that make sense and some things you don't understand. Learn to focus on the things that make sense and so feed yourself from the richness of the field rather than spending all your time looking at problems and coming away from your study without nourishing your soul.
Having said that, there are some times that it is worth the distraction to resolve questions that come up. For example, if you are preparing to teach a Bible passage to a group of people, you should probably answer some of the questions that occur in the passage so you can answer the group's questions. Or if you encounter a question that prevents you from understanding the rest of the passage, that might be a good question to answer for yourself.
Once you have a question you want to answer, it is sometimes unclear how you should go about answering it. Consider how the questions children ask get answered.
If you are a parent, or have been around children, you probably have had to answer a lot of questions. Many of the questions are on topics familiar to you--"Where does the sun go?" "What is a fire truck?" But some of their questions are on unfamiliar topics. Yet they still want an answer. So you probably do your best to piece together a likely answer.
For example, suppose a circus has come to town and you take a small child to watch the circus parade down the street. As you watch, a plate spinner goes by and a child asks how they do that. You may have to think for a minute or two. Then you might speculate that there is probably a groove in the bottom of the plate that the stick fits into. Or perhaps the plates stay stable because of the high speed at which they are spinning. As long as the plate is spun quickly and the stick remains in the middle, it works. One way or the other, you give your best guess and surprisingly, your best guess is often quite close.
Answering your own Bible study questions is something like answering a small child's question. In the rest of the Lesson, I have broken the process down into five steps.
Step 1: Pray for Wisdom
It is surprising how often the answer to our question is right before our eyes in plain view but we don't see it. Pause, take some time. Ask God to open your eyes and help you see. He loves to give us wisdom (James 1:5) and He does open our eyes.
10. The first step is to
Step 2: List All Possible Answers
Take a look at your question, take a look at the passage, and imagine as many answers as you can. The answers do not need to be perfectly supportable, they just need to be potential statements that would answer your question. If you work with it, you can usually come up with at least two or three possible answers.
11. Next, list all the
If you can't think of any possibilities, then imagine the most persistent child you know is asking the question. This child will not take "I don't know" for an answer. Whatever you would tell that child is what you should write down.
This is a creative step. Take the leash off your mind and let it run freely and write down what you come up with.
Step 3: Write Out the Support for Each Answer
Look at the first answer, then look at the passage and write down all the reasons that would support this being the answer to your question. Then do the same thing for each of the other possible answers.
12. Next, write out the support for
At this point you are making an argument for each answer. Be as unbiased as you can. Surface everything you can see or think of that supports the answer.
Step 4: Choose the Best Answer Based on the Support
Now sit back and survey the possible answers and their support. You are judge and jury. The Holy Spirit is opening your eyes. Decide for yourself, which answer has the greatest chance of being correct based on the strength of its support. That is the answer to your question.
13. Next, choose the best answer based on
Step 5: Check an Authority
Once you have surfaced and weighed the evidence and have an opinion of your own, it is a good time to compare your opinion with the opinion of an authority or two.
14. Last, check an
You might use an online resource or go to a Christian bookstore and look for commentaries that cover your passage to see if they address your question. You might ask a pastor, or other church leader whose opinion you trust, what their answer would be to your question and why they favor that answer.
As you check with these authorities, if they cover your question and suggest an answer, be careful what you do with the answer. Do not discard your answer and adopt the authority's answer because the authority may have studied more than you.
Rather, go back to your list of possible answers and support for each answer and add the new information contributed by the authority. Now sit back and decide which answer seems right based on the strength of its support.
Remember, when you meet the Lord in heaven, He is not going to ask you what your pastor thinks. He is going to ask you what you think. Go with the answer that makes the most sense to you.
Watch the video or check the answers below to compare your answers with what we came up with.
Next time, Denise will talk about God's Pattern for Helping and I will finish up How to Answer your Bible Study Questions.
If you are stuck, reply to this email and ask a question.