This study idea has actually been months in the making. Take just a few minutes of your time & check out the full story on the STB series:
So Before we dig into James lets chat about a few of the tools that I use in my personal bible study.
Life Application Study Bible (NIV): To say you need to study from one version or the other is saying that you can’t learn from one version or another version & that is not true (However there are versions that you might want to question & verify. But for the most part christian book stores like Lifeway or Christian Book Distributors are good sources to shop from. True- there are versions that lend better to digging into the Greek & Hebrew languages, but I recommend studying with what your comfortable with. I use NIV, NASB, ESV, & sometimes the Message when I study. Don’t feel like you need to go buy a special bible or version just to study with. I was first drawn to the Life Application Bible because there are small bits of commentary/application at the bottom of each page (it was also a gift from my parents the year I was married) & that can be helpful when you are first starting out learning how to dig in. But at this point in my studying, I don’t really use that anymore.
**A note about the message: The Message is a paraphrase. I think it is a good addition to a study when you need a little more “modern-day” language to grasp a piece of scripture, but I don’t recommend using it as your primary source to study with. It is not a translation, but an interpretation of the bible.
The New Inductive Study Bible (NASB): This is my newest study bible. Inductive study is really what changed the course of my studying. I started using this bible after doing multiple inductive/precept study courses & it does a great job of pointing back to scripture when you’re looking for an answer.
Logos Bible App: This is such a useful tool. This app has commentaries, different translations, dictionaries, write ups, etc. It is an endless source of information. It is also free. There is a learning curve (that I am still learning after a year), but I highly recommend adding this to your study.
Strong’s Concordance App (not the Lite version): This app is only $4.99. It uses the KJV translation & a concordance to break down the meaning & roots of words or phrases in the bible. Again, slight learning curve, but easily worth the price.
Bible Knowledge Commentary: I don’t use commentaries a lot because I have not only learned the value of pulling out the meanings yourself, but commentaries are written/interpreted by men & woman who dedicate their lives to studying the bible & theology, but that also means they are an interpretation belonging to someone else…someone smarter than me, but still a human who may not get it right all the time. When I am really stuck somewhere or am trying to get a bit more of the history side of things, I will reference the commentaries. My dad, who is a pastor, gave these to me years ago as a gift & he recently told me that as of yet he hasn’t found anything to question, so there’s that reassurance on the sources. When you use commentaries, remember to dig out & confirm that information yourself, rather than taking it as a truth. Use it as a tool to guide you, not as the end all be all answer. But again, these are written by men & woman who have dedicated their lives to the study.
**Google: Lets take a moment & talk about searching for biblical answers online. Yes, sometimes it is fine to do a google search for a question you have. What a cypress tree is? Where is modern-day Babylon? Where was Jesus born? Stuff like that is pretty cut & dry, right or wrong. BUT…. when you google something remember this- anyone can write a blog [ummm, hello] & post it online claiming to be an “expert” so you need to know your sources for information are reliable. The other thing is, when you are searching out something biblical, the google answer may not be biblically based. One example is “to meditate”. In the bible when meditation (May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight- Psalm 19:14) is used it is referring to a time of thinking about God. Resting your heart & mind in him (Philippians 4:8). But if you google it the definition you get is “a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself”. That definition right there, would lend zero guidance in helping you to understand what it means to meditate on the word of God. So if you need to look something up, first try some of the sources I listed above. I did a quick bible dictionary search for meditate & came up with multiple, scripture specific, definitions for mediate. So be careful when you google please. Always, always, always go to a reliable biblically based source first. Use Google as a last resort (or to look up verses you can only partially remember [insert sheepish giggle]).
Before we start to really dig into the how of all this, please know not all of these ideas are not original to me. I have participated in many bible studies over the last few years that have really shaped the way I study. I have participated in Precept/Inductive studies, BSF studies, standard studies, topical & book studies. The process of studying the bible is ever evolving & you should be constantly growing and changing in your ways of study & knowledge. One of the most crucial parts I have learned is to allow the Spirit to guide you & convict you & teach you through the Word instead of other sources. Precept/Inductive studies, as well as BSF, are very strict on scripture explaining scripture– letting the bible explain itself rather than a person, who is subject to a wrong interpretation. There are times & places for interpretation, but as one of my teachers says “you will get the most when you dig it out yourself”.
Study The Bible (STB): How This Is Going To Work
Each week, we will tackle 1 chapter of the book we are studying. In that week I will have questions available that you can download or print & answer to help spur you on & lead you through that week’s chapter. You will find out how to dig out additional scriptures to further support the points/lessons/instructions in that chapter. The point of studying is to not only get to know God’s word more fully, but to get to know Him & his character better. It is through His Word & prayer that we become more familiar with who He is. Maybe, we will even throw in a few videos or Periscopes (so if you’re not on Periscope maybe now is a good chance to jump on the wagon) through out the process.
We will only be going through a chapter a week, because most of us have a lot of other things on our plate, including other studies or small group things to keep up with, not to mention families & little ones running around every where. The intention is not to be your complete study, but to give you the tools to aid in studying on your own. So with that in mind we will take it slow. The beauty of truly learning to study the Word of God is that you can keep it as simple & short as you need -or- you can really dig in heavily & pull a lot out of scripture & spend a large amount of time on one very small section of the word.
So let’s get start with the Introduction To James:
Anytime you jump into a new book, you need to ask yourself 6 questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? These questions will help you dig out the history of each book. The history is good to know because it gives you background on where the book happens, who is the audience & writer, the general themes of the book. All good information to have because like the quote says– you won’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.
#1. Who? Who is the author & who is the audience? You will understand the stories & lessons much better if you know who “I, you, them, us, me” refers to.
#2. What? What is the general topic of the book? Sometimes you won’t be able to figure this out from the history, you might not be able to get the gist until your finished with the book. But most bibles have a section at the beginning of each book that will help shine a little light on these questions. Commentaries can help give you an idea too.
#3. When? When(ish) was the book written? Again, always good knowledge to have. The bible is not written in chronological order. Some books happen at different times & some books are written at the same time by different authors (the gospels are a good example of this). The books in the bible are categorized.
Now, sidebar, if you really want to dig into the what’s what in the bible & how it all works together check out Angie Smith‘s study Seamless…I promise you will not be disappointed & you will be so on fire for the word of God after it is over. I have done it once on my own & just finished leading a study on Seamless & both times it was absolutely mind-blowing.
#4. Where? Where does the book take place? It is good to know where the book takes place because it will also give you insight into the audience. Plus, it is pretty cool to be able to translate biblical location to modern-day location, it takes on a more “real” meaning when you know where on earth it happened. It also makes you think about what is going on in that part of the world differently.
#5. Why? Why was the message delivered/book written? This ties in with the “What” a little. What is the book about & why was it written? This usually helps explain the purpose of the book a little more clearly & gives a hint to the spiritual/political climate at the time.
#6. How? How was the book delivered? Is it a letter or a speech or a something else? Truthfully, I don’t know why this is important but it is good to know because again it gives a fuller, more complete look at the book.
So that is your assignment for this 1st week of James. Dig in to the history of the book a little bit. Next Monday, I will post about the History of James & follow with the work for James 1. Here’s a page you can print out to keep all your studies in one place, James- Week 1- Introduction
If you have any questions, find me on social media or comment right here & we will start digging into this together. Don’t forget to join the HFL community over on Instagram with the hashtag #hflcommunity & hflstudies. See ya there!
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