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Pursuit (part 4): Scripture Intake

May 5, 2009

This is the 4th post in a series of posts about spending personal time with God.  Other posts may be viewed here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3                                                                  ___________

Most people describe reading The Bible like watching the movie Gigli (voted the worst movie of all time) – you’re confused and bored to death, but you’re hoping something will happen if you keep going.  That’s a far cry from weeping for hours as you read like the dead pastor Charles Simeon or David saying this…

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

The single most important part of pursuing God’s presence is growing in your knowledge and love of Scripture.  If you’ve followed Jesus for any amount of time you know that the times when God seems the closest are the times when Scripture seems the sweetest.  The most beneficial, joyful, and satisfying thing a Christian can do is develop a ravenous love for God’s Word.

Here are some ways to do this…

1) Do something different.  So many people read 1-2 random chapters per day, never understand anything, and hope that if they just keep doing it something will magically happen.  There are multiple ways to intake Scripture but for some reason most people only try one.  In my experience, reading short sections of Scripture is the least helpful way to take in The Bible.

2) Meditation.  This has been the most helpful way to ingest Scripture in my life.  Meditating on The Bible is the exact opposite of Eastern, pagan meditation.  Instead of trying to empty your mind, you’re trying to fill it.  Start by writing down a few verses on a notecard, taking a walk, and thinking about them in every way possible.  Sometimes this is my entire quiet time and it is ALWAYS good for my soul.

3) Memorization.  This often goes with meditation but instead of churning the words over and over in your mind your focus is solely on memorizing the words.  Every Christian needs to do this.  The benefit to this is that throughout the day (and for the rest of your life) you have Scripture with you to think about wherever you go and to focus your heart on Jesus.

4) Study.  If you are a young Christian, this is very important so that you can learn to discern truth from error.  This is where some good theological books, a good Systematic Theology, or a good study Bible are handy.  By purchasing these resources you basically have a seminary professor at your disposal to guide you through growing in your understanding of Scripture.  I’ve referenced some good theological books in my reading list on the right side of the page.  “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem is the best and easiest to read out there of its kind.  For a good study Bible look to John MacArthur’s Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, or the Reformation Study Bible.  They are helpful because they contain notes explaining each passage at the bottom of the page and answer difficult questions that arise as you read.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Hippler permalink
    May 6, 2009 8:33 am

    The MacArthur Study Bible is the best investment (other than salvaton!) that I have ever made in my personal investigation and understanding of God and His Word!

    The study notes amplify and help me to understand what the “story behind the story” is!

    The only other thing that I would add is to get a version of God’s Word that you can understand the writing. If you cannot understand the English being used or sentacne structure, it is just like trying to read a translation in a foreighn language

  2. May 6, 2009 9:07 am

    This comment is not in any way related to your post, Howerton. I just thought I would kindly mention that last month, Administrative Professionals’ Day took place. I was kind of looking forward to flowers or something. Oh well. See if you get cupcakes on Boss’s Day (which ironically, is feasible enough, considering we’ll be in Louisville for the next Boss’s Day)… 😉

    Oh and PS, look at this entry and give me your initial thoughts on his view of the authorship of Hebrews.
    http://www.bringthebooks.org/2009/05/new-orleans-here-i-come.html

  3. May 6, 2009 10:56 am

    I’m a big fan of the Grudem Systematic Theology you mentioned, Josh. When needing to know bottom line doctrine as it is throughout Scripture, Grudem condenses and speaks in terminology anyone can understand.

    A word of caution… When choosing a Bible for reading and study, I’d suggest you choose a Bible that is a “translation” rather than a “paraphrase” of the Words of God. For instance… The Message is a paraphrase. Sometimes when I hear people read or quote The Message there is a strong cringe factor. Sometimes it misses the point of the passage completely. When we believe something is God’s truth but it is not, it is very easy to unknowingly instill principles (and/or practices for that matter) that God never stated to us which affects how we live life and what we believe about God.

    Below you’ll find more info as described by another blogger (http://confessionsofanunchurchedbeliever.blogspot.com/2007/08/translation-vs-paraphrase.html).:

    Up until about four years ago, I studied primarily out of the New Living Translation. It was simple to read and I was comfortable with it. However, I did notice through out my studying in that specific translation, that passages just weren’t making any sense. My husband preferred the King James Version and studied out of that, our studying together almost always ended out of the KJV version for the simple fact that the NLT was not adequate in conveying some of the principles of the Word. My husband, at that time worked for Tyndale House Publishing (which publishes the NLT version) gave me a Bible published by them called “The People’s Parallel Edition”. This edition had the KJV and NLT side by side. It was only then I began to see a true difference between translations.

    Romans 8:1 in both of these versions comes out different.

    Romans 8:1 KJV says “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”

    Romans 8:1 NLT says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong in Christ Jesus.”

    The NLT does not have the rest of that passage! The chapter of Romans 8 speaks specifically about walking in the flesh vs walking in the spirit. It was upon realization that I may have been missing out on vital concepts and truths that I switched completely to the KJV. However, up until a few months ago, my decision to switch to KJV was validated by an eye-opening discovery.

    As, I mentioned earlier, my husband worked at Tyndale House Publishers for quite a while, during that time we have amassed Bibles, and various christian books. One of those books we received was a bible study resource called “Eight Translation New Testament” It wasn’t until a few months ago I decided to read the prefaces and forewords on each translation. “The Living Bible” now known as “The New Living Translation” is a paraphrased Bible.

    PARAPHRASED

    To paraphrase: a restatement of a text or passage giving the meaning in another form, as for clearness; rewording. 2. the act or process of restating or rewording http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paraphrase

    I don’t know about you, but I found this deeply disturbing. Maybe some of you know this and I’m just the last to catch on, but for those of you who don’t let this be of warning to you! It is not my intention to single out the NLT or Tyndale House Publishers or criticize them. My husband was acquainted with Kenneth Taylor, the founder of Tyndale, and knew him to be a God-fearing man. My only reason of focus on this version of Bible study simply stems from the fact that it was my sole source of studying for the longest time! To his credit he does state that the NLT is a paraphrase of the Bible in the “Note to Readers” in the “People’s Parallel Edition” and in the Preface of “The Living Bible”. In the Preface of The Living Bible it says:

    “There are dangers in paraphrases, as well as values. For whenever the author’s exact words are not translated from the original languages, there is a possibility that the translator, however honest, may be giving the English reader something that the original writer did not mean to say.”

    Read more about Dr. Kenneth Taylor.

    TRANSLATED

    Translate: A translation is a word for word and idea for idea rendering of a document from one language to another. I retrieved this explanation from a site called Bible Study Methods. I’m not necessarily endorsing this site, I haven’t spent enough time to do just that, however I do agree to a certain extent to what it is saying and I DO agree we should all do our homework when it comes to Bible translations, whether they are paraphrased or not! Our studying and understanding of the Word is at stake! My whole objective in this post is not to promote one translation, or should I say version, over the other, but to exhort the serious bible student, diligently seeking God’s wisdom and heart to be cautious of the translation he/she chooses to study from. I will express this, a paraphrased bible should NOT be your sole source of studying! A properly translated Bible should be your primary study Bible supplemented by a paraphrased Bible.

    TIPS

    Here are some suggestions on my part(non expert suggestions :))

    1. PRAY for guidance of the Holy Spirit

    2. Read the Preface, Introduction and or Foreword of the Bible.

    3. Research the Translator of the Bible.

    4. The belief of the translator.

    5. The history of the translator.

    6. The motive of the translator.

    7. The affiliation of the translator.

    8. The belief, history, affiliation of the publishing company.

    May God bless you and your endeavors in HIM!

    “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5

  4. josh permalink
    May 6, 2009 11:39 am

    @The Navigator – GREAT word on translation vs. paraphrase. This is why we use the ESV at The Bridge. I should’ve mentioned this in the blog!

  5. tasha permalink
    May 7, 2009 10:01 am

    I have enjoyed the discussion here; I find Bible tranlsation very interesting. No one has mentioned the NIV translation (from what I could find seems to be considered quite an accurate translation) — thoughts on that version from anyone?

    Also, Josh, you may find this blog post regarding the ESV interesting:
    http://blaugmenting.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-english-standard-version-should-not.html

    And thank you for reminding me to slow down and take the time ro focus/mediate on God’s Word as I get into the habit of breezing through a book or chapter to simply get my “time” in for the day.

  6. josh permalink
    May 7, 2009 10:11 am

    Good question Tasha. The most important thing when discussing a Bible translation is not to divide over an issue that’s not worth dividing over… if you’ve ever had the pleasure (sarcasm intended) of being around King-James-Only people, you know what I mean.

    For a little background, there are three types of translations:

    Functional Equivalents: these are not word-for-word translations but more thought-for-thought translations. They are more easily understandable, but less grammatically accurate.

    Formal Equivalents: these are word-for-word translations. They are usually less easily understandable but are far more accurate.

    Tweeners: these are translations that are in between functional and formal equivalents – such as the NIV.

    I preach and read the ESV because it’s a formal equivalent and when I’m preaching I need every single word that God inspired to be there. The ESV is also FAR more readable than other formal equivalents such as the NASB or NKJV.

    In the end though, if you’re reading The Bible it’s always good!

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