To Study or Not to Study

Challies_Jan 24-30-05

I read this quote on Tim Challies blog. I believe it rings true.
Reading the Bible sure will give you a larger breadth of knowledge. It is important to have an understanding of the big picture of the Bible. I certainly advocate reading through the Bible in a year. But I strongly advocate studying the Bible one verse at a time. I would even go so far as to say: one WORD at a time.

Studying the Bible can be a daunting task. Where do I start? How do I go about studying?! I mean I haven’t studied anything since I was in high-school. I am a visual learner. I am too busy. The list of excuses goes on and on.

Well, let me suggest a book on studying the Bible. That’s right. A book that you can study to learn how you can study better. OK. Maybe, not to that extreme. But it can help.

Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks is an excellent tool to enhance your study by equipping you with tools on getting more from the Bible. Let me give three helpful tips from the book that Howard Hendricks gives as his “bread and butter” of Bible study.

  1. Observation – What do I see? 
    • This is probably the best place to start as you learn to study the Bible. Take a verse. One verse. And observe every single thing you notice in the verse. Think like a detective. Literally nothing is too small or too big for you to notice. Write down everything. Be the Sherlock Holmes of Bible study.
    • I like to individually write out each word on a separate line and then write my thoughts and observations underneath that word.
    • The goal is to stockpile as much ammunition as you can. This ammunition will load up the weapons of interpretation and application. Too often we try to interpret the Bible and apply it to our lives without actually observing what it is saying.
  2. Interpretation – What does it mean? 
  3. Application – How does it work? 

Try it out for yourself. Pick a verse this week and study it out. Begin by simply observing every single thing that comes to mind. Look up cross references and definitions and everything you can think of. Record that information. Store up your ammunition. Then you can begin to interpret and apply it later on. For now, OBSERVE. OBSERVE. And OBSERVE some more. I’ll give some more insight in the coming weeks about how we actually interpret and apply these observations.

Flipped Upside Down


“Greatness is earned. It is not a gift; it is a reward. It is not accidental; it is cultivated.”[1] This is a quote that stood out to me from the book, Practicing Greatness by Reggie McNeal, I just finished reading for one of my seminary courses. The book seeks to highlight the different disciplines of cultivating greatness. McNeal builds a case for the intentionality of the Christian life. This book does not deny that grace is a free gift and salvation is something that is not earned by any means. However, what we become and how we grow after salvation is a topic the New Testament covers in at great length. There are ways in which one can become great and ways in which one can insure he will never be great. God does not want to use vessels that are not willing to work for it. “Deliberate mediocrity is a sin.”[2] That is to say allowing yourself to be average and mediocre is not pleasing to God, “rather train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV).[3]  McNeal writes about seven disciplines for godly spiritual leaders. The disciplines of self-awareness, self-management, self-development, mission, decision making, belonging, and aloneness are the seven key factors in a great leader.

In his introduction, the author describes his intent for writing by saying “the book aims to encourage many of you to choose a path toward greatness.”[4] He also goes on to lay down his challenge for the need of the book. The book raises the awareness for the necessity of its topic and the urgency for the reader to take notice. He points to the Kingdom of God as the foundational need for real leaders. He makes aware the extreme lack of great leaders and the absolute propensity of average leaders often by necessity than real skill. Today’s world and culture needs great leaders that are willing to usher in the kingdom of God into the hearts of mankind in the 21st century.

This book made an impact on myself because I think “greatness” is something that is a sort of “faux pas” when it comes to Christian circles. In fact, the Men’s Bible study we just finished going through, Kingdom Man by Tony Evans, covered much of this very idea. Tony Evans, explains that true Christian greatness is not what is associated with arrogant materialistic betterment.

“We commonly think of greatness in terms of power, wealth, and prestige. It’s easy to recognize greatness because it’s riding in the shiny new car or working on the top floor of the office building. Greatness has the fully funded 401(k) and owns the skybox at the arena. But in the kingdom of God, the definition of greatness is flipped upside down.[5]

This “flipped expectation” is exactly what we have been talking about on Sunday mornings in our “Miracle of Christmas” series. God is the King of the unexpected. God brings low what we thought was high and he brings high what we thought was low. He smooths out what was rough and straightens out what is crooked (Luke 3:4-6). After-all, the Son of the Most High was born in a manger. Let us this Christmas experience God’s greatness and since we trust in His greatness we too desire to reflect that greatness in the way we live our lives. Let us expect the unexpected because we serve God who flips our expectations.

In Christ,
Jordan Moody

[1] Reggie McNeal, Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 9.[2] Ibid., 1.[3] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages are referenced in the English Standard Version.[4] Ibid., 7.[5] Tony Evans, Kingdom Man, (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Press, 2012).

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