How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth

Many years ago when I was completing a School of Biblical Studies with the missionary organization YWAM we were recommended to read the book by Gordon D Fee and Dounglas Stuart entitled “How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth”. This is an excellent book which helps readers identify the types of literature contained in the bible and how to interpret each one appropriately. Two of the main principals stated is the importance of :-

1. Interpreting each passage in it’s context and in relation to the book as a whole

2. To examine the historical context and discover what the passage meant to it’s original readers.

To derive the original meaning of the text to it’s historical readers is known as “Exegesis”. This process can be facilitated by asking questions like :-

1. Who is the author of the book?
2. Who was the audience the author was writing to ?
3. Where was the book written?
4. When was the book written?
5. Why was the book written?

The process of interpretation of the text is known as “Hermeneutics”.

The following are some points from the book about the different genres in the bible and how they can be used to interpret each book correctly.

1. Narratives : eg. 1 & 2 Kings from the Old Testament and Acts in the New Testament.
– They are not allegories or stories filled with hidden meanings as some have interpreted them ; for instance the account of Moses going up and down Mount Sinai in Exodus
19-34 is not an allegory of the ascent and descent of the soul to God.
– These are historical accounts only
– However through these narratives we can see how God subtly worked in situations. We can also see the pitfalls or what not to do eg. the strife that favoritism can cause in a family is shown in the rivalry between Jacob and Esau.

2. Epistles: refer to the letters written for instance by the apostle Paul such as Romans, and 1 & 2 Timothy.
– these must be read in context to understand the culture and background of the readers and what the letters meant to them.
– there is a need to distinguish between the cultural customs of the readers at the time and moral universal laws for all people.
– a general guideline that has been used is that a certain command must be supported elsewhere in scripture for it to apply to us today.

3. Psalms & Proverbs:
– these were written as songs or poems so they could be easier for the hearers to memorise
– Many sayings in Proverbs are meant to be guidelines only and are not to be read as iron clad promises. Eg. Proverbs 16:3 which says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed”. This is meant to be a principal only not a lifetime guarantee. It must also be remembered that God’s view of success is not always equivalent to the world’s view of success.

4. Ecclesiastes: part of the genre of “Wisdom” literature.
– This is a difficult book to read since it includes passages which seem to be self contradictory.
– One interpretation by Professor Longman is to see the book as a form of irony depicting an attitude to life that should be avoided.
– The other interpretation by Professor Provan (his friend) understands the book more positively, expressing how one should enjoy life under God in a world which is fleeting and will soon end.

5. Job : also part of Wisdom literature
– when Job endures his suffering his friends try to comfort him but end up giving him a lot of wrong and erroneous counsel. For instance one of his friends states that Job’s suffering is due to his owns sins which is theologically incorrect. Another of Job’s friends assumes that worldly success is a sign of righteousness in God’s eyes which is also theologically incorrect. Hence it is important to read these speeches as what not to say to friends when they are suffering.

– an important theme in this book is to show the reader that at times what happens in life is not necessarily what God desires or because it is fair.
– Job establishes that everything in life is not always fair. However he also points out that God’s ways are much higher than our ways. When God allows suffering it is not because he does not know what he is doing or that his right to do so should be questioned. God’s choices are always superior to ours.

6. Revelation: Apocalyptic literature which means it is concerned about coming judgement and salvation.
– the book describes a many images of fantasy rather than reality. These serve to embellish many of the end time events eg. the earthquake that will occur.
– there is no guarantee that these images will occur but it gives us an idea of how it will be
– the focus on end times and the coming judgement was to encourage Christians who were undergoing extreme persecution at the time.
– also classified as prophetic and epistle literature.

7. Minor Prophets: Prophetic literature
– the word “minor” means it is a shorter book not less important
– only a small part of the book is about predicting the future
– the minor prophet also spoke words of truth and often provided visual illustration as well
eg. God told the prophet Jeremiah to preach in his underwear
– the main message of the the prophets was to call Israel to repentance.

8. Major Prophets: Prophetic literature
– is an expanded version of the minor prophets
– the message again is a call for Israel to repent of her sins before God
– the plot in these longer books is sometimes hard to discern because they are often a collection of oracles which are not meant to be read in one sitting

8. Gospels: are in a genre of their own
– each gospel speaks to a different audience
– they were not written separately from each other eg approximately 50% of the gospels have common sentences and phrases

9. Laws : eg. Leviticus
– many of these laws were put in place to protect the Israelite people from infection, contamination and other health reasons at that time
– Many of the cultural norms and rules that existed back then are not relevant to us today eg. Gideon putting out a fleece
– the 10 commandments are repeated in the New Testament. Hence they are still relevant for us today.
– it is helpful to find out the historical context of the book
– common sense must be used to discern which laws were cultural and which ones are universal laws for all people that are still relevant for us today

10. Song of Songs: wisdom literature
– about the love between a man and a woman which is God ordained

These are only brief snippets about the main literary types in the bible. It is best to read the book itself for a more in depth instruction and analysis on reading and interpreting God’s Word correctly. In this way one can better avoid the pitfalls of misinterpretation that can be found in many Christian circles today.

“How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth” by Gordon D Fee & Douglas Stuart

“ A practical approach to Bible study in an easy-to-understand style” – Bookstore Journal.

The last time I checked there were 74 copies available at Koorong West Ryde so I gather it must be a very popular and respected book to read for any serious reader or student of God’s Word.

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Set Free

Here is another testimonial song for the purpose of evangelism:-

Set Free  
Psalm 146:7

Verse 1
I was trapped inside a tower
High above the ground
Surrounded by the echo of stone walls
I gazed out the open window
To that other world
Out of reach but still I heard it call

Verse 2
My gaze wandered onward further
To souls down below
All joined by a web of love & laughter
My lungs cried out to catch their attention
All efforts in vain to make a connection
The barrier between us was too high

Bridge
And as I lay asleep
In the stillness of the night
I felt a sudden rumble of the earth
The walls began to tremble
The doors flew open wide
The way the truth the life had come at last

Chorus 1
I’ve been set free
Free to Dance
Free to dance & prance
In open fields of green
I’ve been set free
Free to fly
Free to fly up high
Into that bright sunrise
I’ve been set free

Verse 3
I climbed a spiral staircase
Strived to reach the top
To please the special others in my life
Driven by a need for success
Exhausted but I could not relax
The final prize eluded me again

Chorus 2
I’ve been set free
Free to love
Free to care be kind connect
To those I hold dear
I’ve been set free
Free to rest
Free to rest relax rejoice
In what God has made
I’ve been set free

Chorus 1

Chorus 2

(c) Beverley Tang 2003


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All That I Am

Here is a testimonial song for the purposes of evangelism:-

All That I Am

Verse 1
Lived in a house that wasn’t a home
Thought all things were perfect but felt so all alone
Felt a discomfort that lingered in the air
You took me out to a safe place
Felt a special peace there that I could embrace
For the first time I could be myself

Verse 2
I realised I was broken & bound
Like an injured bird that had just been found
Tears flowed out like snow caps melting in the sun
Felt the emotions of anger and grief
Letting it all out was such a relief
My wounded spirit was slowly healing day by day

Bridge
Like a skilled craftsman and in your own time
You cleansed the dark parts that once were mine
You replaced them all with your life giving fruit of
Love joy peace patience & kindness
Goodness faithfulness gentleness & self control

Chorus
All that I am is You
All that you are is what I want to be
All that I am is You
All that I am is You

Verse 3
You gave to me my identity
Changed me deep within to who I’m meant to be
Like breathing life into dry and lifeless bones
Sprinkled my life with laughter and joy
Gave me a new vision & promised to be loyal
Like a big rainbow that’s guiding me ever on

Bridge

Chorus

Chorus

©  Beverley Tang 2003

Click here to listen to song: –
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=1051446

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Natural Disasters – A Biblical Perspective

There have been many natural disasters occurring across the globe recently. The tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in New Zealand and China and hurricane Katrina in the USA are just some examples. It can often lead us to ask why all these events are happening. Some Christians even ponder whether these disasters are God’s judgment on a sinful world.

The following are some points that may provide some answers to these probing questions. As believers it is also beneficial to have a biblical response to these calamities, to know how to give an answer to our Christian and non Christian friends. These points are taken from the RBC booklet called “After the Hurricane – A Biblical Response to Calamities”.

1. According to the bible the original root cause of the whole of creation being thrown into chaos can be found in Genesis 3:17. This is when Adam and Eve first sinned against God in the Garden of Eden. They had to face the consequences of their disobedience. This involved God commanding that the ground would be cursed because of their sin and that only through painful toil will they live off the earth. This concept is also found in Romans 8: 20 which states that creation is now subject to “frustration” due to the sin of Adam and Eve. Hence natural disasters will continue to occur until God brings into being a new heaven and new earth ( 2 Peter 3:13 & Rev 21:1) .

2. As a result ever since that time, “ the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of child birth right up to the present time” Romans 8: 22. Natural disasters are a manifestation of the curse on the earth that came about due to the original sin of man and woman. Natural disasters can be seen as the whole physical earth groaning. In verse 23 it also states how we as believers also at times groan as we continue to live in a broken world and eagerly await the hope of God’s glory when he will finally put all things right and make all things new again in heaven and earth. God himself also groans with us according to Romans 8: 26. He is not a distant God who delights to see the destruction of rebellious people but yearns for them to repent and be saved to experience his love and deliverance.

2. Serious doubt is cast on the claim that natural disasters are a specific judgment of God on the sins of the world, by the fact that thousands of wonderful Christians have also been impacted along with everyone else in many of these disasters.

3. In ancient times it was often assumed that a calamity would befall only those who were extremely sinful. However in Luke 13:1-5 Jesus refutes this idea saying that those who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them were not more guilty and sinful then those who did not die from this calamity .

4. However Jesus does make a clear distinction. Even though he confirms that these disasters were not because these people were more sinful, he still uses it as a warning and a call for all people to repent. Otherwise when Jesus does come again people will then truly have to face final judgment and true punishment for their sins. ( which will be like facing the trauma of a natural disaster). It could be helpful for we as Christian believers to point out this distinction when trying to explain natural disasters to our friends and family. The natural disaster can be used as a call for non believers (and believers) to think about their lives, to realize what is truly important and consider where they will spend eternity if their life suddenly ends eg from a natural disaster.

5. Even though such tragedies like natural disasters occur, we must also rely on God’s promise that He can still bring something good out of such dire circumstances for those who love Him” – Romans 8:28. During such times it gives an opportunity for Christians all over the world to show Christ’s love in practical, emotional and spiritual ways. Those who are suffering have the opportunity to experience the love and compassion of believers through Christ’s love and power. Christians throughout history have been in the forefront of relief operations. This allows a great opportunity for believers to be a witness to the secular world.

6. Helping those in natural disasters however often requires great sacrifice and even suffering at times. Suffering can be subtle eg. a wife may need to release her husband to work extra hard at relief operations. This may put a strain on marriage and family and put an extra burden on her. However when we realize the work is being done for God’s glory and for those in desperate need it can take away the pain and possible resentment. Other ways of suffering can be fatigue, lack of sleep or facing criticism about our motives for service.

7. Those who cannot give hands on help can pray for the victims, workers and officials. Praying can often be the most powerful work a Christian can do.

8. When giving hands on help during natural disasters it is also a time to be careful- for instance :-
– not to neglect time with God and lose one’s spiritual health
– not to neglect time with one’s own family and children
– taking a Sabbath rest day each week .
– seeking counseling yourself especially if the trauma has affected you greatly.

If Christians fail to do these things a loss of joy, irritability and even depression may occur. Hence it is wise to keep a close watch on oneself. We tend to get careless about ourselves and our personal lives when we are tired.

A sad fact in the history of relief operations is that many helpers have fallen into serious sin , damaged family relationships or suffered burn out so that they have never attempted such work again.

9. Other things to watch out for are : –
– to be careful not to exaggerate our efforts to bring glory to ourselves
– ensure funds are managed honestly and accounted for correctly. Sadly many frauds have been committed during relief operations. Some began as errors in procedures by well meaning individuals.

10. However during natural disasters it is a good opportunity for Christians who have received God’s comfort to offer comfort to those who are in desperate need. This may involve being with people and listening to them. One of the most important jobs of experts is to help people get back to their “normal” relationships with their families, friends, colleagues and neighbors since it is these relationships where they will find strength as well.

11. The following is a point about counseling hurting people during a natural disaster which is helpful to know. Standard practice is to ask hurting people to talk about their pain and what caused it. However during a trauma such as a natural disaster it is not wise to ask people to talk about their pain too soon because they may not be ready to handle these emotions yet. They should only start talking about their pain when they are ready.

Hopefully the above points will help to give greater insight into a biblical perspective for natural disasters since they are occurring more frequently in our world today.

A more detailed discussion of these points can be obtained from the RBC booklet
“After the Hurricane – A Biblical Response to Calamities”. You can obtain a copy for free or via donation by emailing :- australia @rbc.org or calling (03) 9574 7780

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Baby of the Week

Bath time Baby

Baby’s Name : Sebastian

“To wet the baby’s head” – to celebrate a baptism with a social gathering;  to drink to the health of a newborn baby.

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Worship Epiphany

I had an epiphany about worship the other day after listening to a teaching CD by Charles Nieman.  He was saying that by worshiping God and declaring who he is and his sovereignty,  we are affirming to God (and ourselves)  that God’s power is greater and will be victorious over our own problems and circumstances.  This helped me to realize more the value of worship and the relevance it has for my own life.  It helped to motivate me to worship God with greater zeal and enthusiasm

Of course we are supposed to worship God just for who he is and because he is worthy.  However part of me also just saw worship  as God’s command and something that Christians just do.  I did not always see the connection it had to my own life – especially when going through great suffering and seeing no way out of my situation or just not having the faith that there was a way out.

I thought I would share this revelation since it may help someone else who may struggle to worship God in the midst of difficult circumstances.

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Sunny Mummies

There is a secular support group called “Sunny Mummies” which helps to provide emotional support for new mothers or those women about to be mothers.  It helps to provide information on how to look after yourself and your baby.   This could be a good way for young Christian mothers to gain helpful insights while making non christian friends to assist them in any  struggles they may be having with the love of Jesus.

See :- http://www.sunnymummy.com.au

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