31 May 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 6A: Chapter Analysis

Dear Lissy,

I talked in our last letter about the choice to make before you continue your study.  I'm going to write about Chapter Analysis first and then double back to cover the Chapter Summary/Verse Analysis option.

Chapter Analysis takes several hours, so I'm going to cover the steps in a couple of letters.  First, let's get a bird's eye view of where we're headed.

Chapter Analysis
  • Create a chapter summary
  • Observe the passage carefully 
  • View the chapter in its historical/cultural context
  • Correlate the chapter with similar passages in the Bible
  • List your conclusions and check with a trusted commentary
  • List applications and create meditation prompts
  • Create paragraph and chapter titles

The first step in chapter analysis is to create a chapter summary.
  1. Read through the chapter taking notes.  Look for natural divisions.  Keep in mind you are reading a relatively modern English (Western) translation of an ancient Near Eastern document.  There will be themes that run from the beginning of the chapter to the end, and still others that are part of a larger book theme. Some will seem to plot against you by connecting two divisions. These can be frustrating to deal with, but once you understand the principle of chiastic structure they are incredibly beautiful.  It may be easier to think of sectioning a chicken for frying.  I may section it into two breasts, two legs, two thighs and use  the rest of the bits and bobs for broth. You might divide the same chicken into two breasts, two leg quarters, and four wing sections instead.  Neither one of us is "right", it's just personal preference.  The point is to divide the chapter up so it can be studied.
  2. Go through the passage marking just the simple subject, verb, and objects on your worksheets.  I use the same symbols I used as a child:  underline the subject once, the predicate twice, and draw an arrow to the object.  It's sometimes useful to actually write the chapter out this way.
  3. Finally, create an outline of the passage.  Remember, Eastern writing relies heavily on chiastic structure so the chapter won't usually fit neatly into an American-style outline. I outlined Psalm 19 "David Ponders God's World (1-6)" "David Ponders God's Word (7-11)", and "David Ponders His Own Heart (12-14)."  At the very end of the chapter analysis you'll use these initial thoughts to help you create paragraph and chapter titles.
In my next letter we'll get into what most students consider the "fun" part of inductive study, identifying and marking up a passage on the worksheets.

Loving you more every day,

27 May 2012

Sunday Night Sanctification Exam

Dear Lissy,
Every Sunday night since I married, I've faced the same thing:

The Sunday Night Sanctification Exam
While Daddy and you guys happily unwind from a long day at church, I scramble around to make snacks/supper, get everybody ready for the new week, and make sure Sunday clothes, shoes, Bibles and papers are all put safely away.

All I ever want to do is crash, alone, with a good book or music. I'm tired, and the week looms big ahead. It's the perfect set-up for some seriously snappy and selfish behavior.  Or maybe a pity party.  Sometimes both.  (After all, I'm also the one who has to be up an hour early to make sure everything is ready to leave in the morning.  How is this fair?)

I know the Devil would like nothing more than for my flesh to undo all the work the Holy Spirit has done during the day in my heart by erupting in a self-righteous hissy fit.  It's crucial at this time that I extend the same sweetness, grace, and service to my natural family as I have my spiritual family all day.

So now I study and prepare for my Sunday night exam...
  • I prep school on either Friday afternoon or early Monday morning, not Sunday evening.   
  • I make sure I've shopped for easy-to-make, well liked snack/supper food.  
  • I direct you kids to put away your own Sunday clothes, Bibles, and papers.  Often I change to comfy-casual clothes for Sunday evening church so I don't have to change when I get home. 
  • I have one of you help in the kitchen.  I make a conscious effort to sing and joke around so it's a fun time for my helper, too.
  • Above all, I pray.  A lot.  The entire hour or so after church actually, I'm in constant communication with my Savior.
  • Finally, after supper snacks are cleaned up (by the whole family!) and the kitchen is closed, I cheerfully and gracefully say "good night" and retreat to the sweet silence of my room to read, listen to a CD, or catch up on internet reading. 
I can't begin to tell you what a blessing it is to lay in bed that night, reviewing my day with the Lord, to be able to say, "Thank you for helping me through the most difficult hours of my week with a sweet spirit" instead of "Oh, Lord, I've messed up AGAIN!"

I hope you'll have good memories of our Sunday night routine, but somewhere deep in your neurons is the memory of many where I've failed.  Please know, dear heart, that when I succeeded it was all Christ.  I have no strength left to be "nice" or "fun" on Sunday evenings.  You may not face this exact exam, but I guarantee you'll have one of your own.  

Grateful that He's still working on me,

25 May 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice

Dear Lissy,
When I began taking piano as a first grader, I was taught using classical methods.  I never played a hymn until I began accompanying the children's choir in our church in seventh grade.  Transitioning from classical to hymns was difficult, but I had already mastered the basics:  chords, scales, key signatures, and the like. I was excited to finally be able to use my music for something more than a "dumb piano recital".

You are at a turning point in your inductive study.  

Modern inductive study methods end the observation portion of the study with a chapter analysis.  A typical epistle takes a couple of months to complete well.  This is the "hymnplaying" of Bible study.  Chapter analysis, while hard work, is both manageable and enjoyable.  Each time you complete a study you become more skilled, and it has immediate practical application.

Traditionally, paragraphs were carefully summarized as outline points before moving into an in depth verse-by-verse analysis.  Because this method takes a year or more to complete well, it can be daunting.  Traditional inductive study is a lot like classical training on an instrument.  It requires enormous amounts of time and effort, but delivers an incredible amount of both knowledge and skill.  There is no better way to discipline your mind, and you will learn Christ as never before.

I've done both, and enjoy both.  The choice you have to make next is important:
Do you want to spend  a year or more to do a verse-by-verse analysis, or would you prefer a broader, easier chapter analysis study?

There is not a right answer, but there is a right choice for you right now.

  • Do you have a consistent, daily time that you can pursue Bible study every day?  If not, or if that time is shorter (like summers when I home educate), choose the modern chapter analysis method.  
  • If you have the time, motivation, and perseverance for the traditional chapter summary/verse analysis method, however, you will reap rewards for the rest of your life.
  • If you're working with a small topical passage, like the Proverbs 31 woman or the I Corinthians "love" passage, definitely choose verse analysis.
I hope that you're still excited about our study.  I'll present the methods for each of these studies in upcoming days and weeks so that you have a "how to" on both.  

Keep Digging!


Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read
Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key
Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6a: Chapter Analysis
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6b:  Identifying Key Words
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6C: Finding the 3C's
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6D: It's About Time
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6E: Keep Digging
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6F: Word Studies
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6H: Application Brings Transformation 
Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!

21 May 2012

3 Tomato Tricks For An Early, Abundant Harvest (UPDATED 8/2012)

Dear Lissy,
I received a whole flat of plant starts last night from Mrs. S. after church. We're blessed with four vigorous tomato plants:  two Romas and two Early Girls.  Because we live so far north, it's a challenge to get a good tomato harvest.  Here are three tricks I've learned that allow us to harvest early and often.

Trench Planting
When we lived in Florida we planted deep.  Now that we're back in New England, we trench plant. The plant develops a vigorous root system in warm soil and produces tomatoes several weeks earlier than deep planting.  There are two drawbacks to trench planting:  drought and root damage when cultivating. Drought is rarely an issue, and I take care when cultivating.  If you live in a drier or warmer climate, stick with deep planting.

  1. Dig a trench 3-4 inches deep the length of the area you're planting and sprinkle in compost.
  2. Water the tomato starts so the dirt will stay with the roots.  Remove bottom leaves if desired.
  3. Lay the plants in the trench placing the top tier of leaves 18" apart.
  4. Place a 4" newspaper collar to prevent cutworms around the stem.  2" should be above the soil, 2" below.  (Not pictured)
  5. Replace the soil, press firmly, and place stakes or cages taking care not to sever the stem.  
  6. Water heavily for the first three days, and mulch with straw after 1 month.
Semi-Circular Root Pruning
This is an old-timer's trick that amazes me every time and works in every climate.  Once your tomato has green fruit that has grown to full size, use a bread knife to cut a semicircle 6" away from the stem about 8" deep.  Be very careful to avoid the main stem if you've trench planted.  The tomatoes will ripen within a week instead of the 2-3 weeks it normally takes.  The plants continue to produce and can be "root pruned" up to 3 times.  The first time you do this, only do one or two plants so you can see the difference in how long they take to ripen.

Wrap the Cages
After placing the tomato cages, wrap black roofing felt or plastic up the first 12" and staple into place.  The additional heat and wind protection will increase the yield by about 50%.

My first BLT or Caprese salad is definitely worth the extra fuss!

Update August 2012:  I'm adding a 4th trick that made an enormous difference this year:  Epsom Salts.  Following directions on the package, work some into the soil before planting.  When the first flowers appear,  sprinkle salts around the drip edge of the plant and spray the foliage with 1 Tbsp. of salts dissolved in a quart of warm water.  Re-apply spray every 10 days throughout the harvest.  My tomato bushes are loaded -- over 40 fruits per plant!!!


17 May 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key

Dear Lissy,
At this point you've prepared to undertake a lengthy Bible study and mastered the overall content of the book.  You should be familiar with how God revealed Himself in the book you've chosen, and what the writer says about both himself and the recipients.  You've also marked the historical and cultural clues within the book.
Artwork available for purchase here
Now we need to take a day and give ourselves four solid reference points that will allow us to keep all of our future work in context:  the key word(s), book and chapter titles, and a key verse. These function much like the staves and key signature in music.  At first identifying them will seem hard, but as you study more books, they jump right off the page during the initial reading phase.  Keys aren't necessarily found in the order I've listed them below.

1. Find two or three key words.
The first key is determined by frequency and is pretty easy to spot.  It's almost never an important word, but it always unlocks incredible truth.  In Jonah it's "pray/call/cry/cried".  Titus has "good", while Colossians is "all/always/every." Ecclesiastes is the phrase "under the sun".  This little key will unlock truth by looking at the word or words that follow.
The second key is a little trickier because it's used for emphasis.  This is a word that will only show up once to a handful of times, but it unlocks the central truth of the book.  Jonah uses "exceedingly/great," while Colossians is "complete".  In Titus, the word hope only appears three times, but it provides the structure for the book.  We are to have a confident and joyful expectation as believers because of our salvation (ch.1), Christ's appearing (ch 2), and our eternal inheritance (ch.3).
The keys should be related, even if you don't immediately spot the correlations between the two.  As you study Titus, it becomes clear that our hope motivates our good (honorable or useful) behavior.
Because you have a good familiarity with the book at this point, you may be able to spot both of these without any additional reading.
Once you find the key words, mark every occurrence in a distinct way on your manuscript copy.  I like to use a highlighter for the first key, and actually draw a key around the second key.

2.  Write a simple book title.  This usually ties into one or both of the key words and the key verse.  Colossians for me was "Complete in Christ," while Titus was "Honorable living in light of eternal hope."
My Colossians book summary key.  We'll fill in the
very bottom row later.

3.  Write simple chapter titles that support or explain the book title.   For Colossians I entitled the chapters Grounding in Christ, Growth in Christ, Glorifying Christ, Greetings to and from Fellow Believers.  I can easily explain how each of those chapters support or explain the overall book theme, Complete in Christ.  They don't need to be alliterated, I simply do that so they're easy to memorize.  If the chapters also fall into larger divisions, mark and title those divisions at this time also.  Colossians 1-2:15 are Christ's Completed Work, Col. 2:15 - 4:18 are Christian Conduct in light of Christ's Completed Work.

4.  Identify a key verse/verses.  One of the old time Bible teachers used to say you could find the key verse under the front doormat or the back doormat.  Titus is under the back doormat in 3:8, but Proverbs is under the front in 1:7. In the New Testament, the books are often written with chiastic structure, so the key verse will be in the middle somewhere functioning as a balance point. Colossians (2:9,10) and John (20:31) both have key verses in the middle of the book.

At this point, it's a good idea to take a study Bible or Bible encyclopedia/handbook and quickly check yourself.  Sometimes the keys can be very tricky to find (like the goad & nail in Ecclesiastes), and a little extra help will make future study much easier.  You shouldn't change your work to match someone else's unless you feel that you were just dead wrong or missed something completely.  You may also be able to glean a few more important bits of cultural or historical information from these sources.  We aren't going to study the culture/history in depth until we are interpreting the information.

It's a gorgemous day, and I need to get OUTSIDE.  I hope you're enjoying this study time as much as I do, little one.

Love and a tight weez,

Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read
Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key
Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6a: Chapter Analysis
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6b:  Identifying Key Words
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6C: Finding the 3C's
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6D: It's About Time
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6E: Keep Digging
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6F: Word Studies
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6H: Application Brings Transformation 
Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!

16 May 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context

Dear Lissy,
I've begun a series of letters on Bible study to help you recall the process we followed together in high school.  Preparation will help you use the excitement and motivation of starting something new to create an environment where you can easily persevere.  Mastering the content of a new book takes about 90 minutes of purposeful, repeated reading for a 4-6 chapter book.

Context is king in Bible study.  We need to fit each piece into its proper place during our observation of the book so that when we begin to interpret, correlate, and apply we are working from the proper perspective.  Grave doctrinal errors and generally weird ideas are most commonly a result of taking verses and even chapters out of their original, inspired context and shoehorning them into a man-made set of ideas.
9 cute birds. . .NOT a caterpillar!
As a pianist, I take a great deal of time marking my score.  If I'm playing a solo arrangement of a hymn, I need to ensure the melody sings out over the rest of the notes and that the spirit of the hymn is accurately communicated.  When I'm accompanying another instrument or a vocal group, I rarely play the melody, but rather provide entrance points, counter-melodies, and harmony that support and highlight the other musicians. For congregational accompaniment there's a whole set of  techniques to be mastered to support the church as they lift their voices in song.  I'm always playing the same instrument, and I may even be playing the same song, but the context determines how I'll handle it.

Plan to spend four to five 45 minute sessions working on setting the book you've chosen into context.  This is where we start marking up that triple-spaced manuscript, so pull it out, grab your bag full colored pens and pencils, and find a quiet spot.  Begin with prayer, asking God to help you to carefully observe His Word during this time.

Keep track of the symbol/color you use for each of these sessions for future use.  I like to write a key directly onto the top of the manuscript.  Choose whatever color or symbol suits your fancy.  For the sake of ease, I'll be giving my own below.

Day 1-2:  Find God first. Grab a red pencil, and mark every occurrence of God, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Lord, Holy Spirit/Ghost, and all the personal pronouns referring back to them.  Sometimes another word is used that is clearly a reference to a member of the Trinity like Creator or Author.
God:  Red triangle around
Christ:  Red cross drawn through
Lord:  Red crown around
Spirit:  Red cloud bubble around
Now write the words "God", "Christ", and "Spirit" at the top of three different pages in your notebook, and list from your marking above what the text says about each member of the Godhead.  Even though this is an academic exercise, it deeply moves my spirit each time I do it.

Time out for a quick reminder:  We are looking for direct statements of evidence, not circumstantial, or interpreted evidence.  I recently served jury duty, and the judge explained it this way.  If you are sitting in your living room and see a snowmobile zoom past, you can say "A snowmobile drove by my house."  But, if you are in the kitchen making a snack, and only hear the noise and see the tracks left in the snow, "A snowmobile drove by my house" is circumstantial evidence.  We will be interpreting evidence later on in the process, but for right now, only write down direct, stated facts.

Day 3:  Learn about the author.  Every book is verbally inspired by the Spirit of God, but we want to find all of the information the author states about himself in the book.  You won't always get a name, especially in Old Testament books.  Again, this is just collecting direct evidence.  Don't drag out the study Bible and commentaries yet.
Box in blue around anyplace the author directly references his own name or uses a pronoun (I, me, we, us, etc.)
Now list the word "author" at the top of a new piece of paper, and list all of the information he reveals about himself in the book.

Day 4:  Learn about the recipients and other characters in the book.
Highlight any references to the people receiving the book.  Again, look for pronouns like thou, thee, you, ye, etc.  Try to determine if the book was written to a single person (Philemon, 2 Timothy) or to a church, people group, or nation (Colossians, I Peter, Jonah).    The book's placement in the Old or New Testament will dramatically affect how you interpret and apply the information you collect.

Underline references to other individuals in orange.
Once again, write "recipients" at the top of a new page and list everything this book reveals about them.  Do the same for "other individuals" referenced in the book.

Day 5:  Determine the literary genre and highlight any references to cultural, geographical, or historical clues.
The genre will fall into one or more of the following categories:
Historical narrative:  Tells a story
Law:  Records civil or ceremonial laws
Poetry:  Remember, Eastern poetry doesn't rhyme, but it does still use rich imagery and parallelism
Wisdom:  Practical truth for living
Prophecy:  Foretells future events.
Gospel:  Biographical narrative of Christ's life
Epistle:  Letter written to an individual or a group

What is the general attitude of the writer toward the recipients? (Warning, praise, encouragement, etc.)

Underline in green any references to geographical locations, events in history, or cultural practices.  Be sure to mark references to other religions as well.
List information regarding historical, geographical, and cultural references on a new page of your notebook.  It may also help to print out a map and physically mark the cities and countries listed.

At this point, you've invested a lot of work into familiarizing yourself with the book and establishing its context in relation to the whole Bible.  It's time to dig into the chapters next.  I hope this has been rewarding for you even though it is not a devotional practice.  I often get very excited as I start separating out the various components of the book.  Even though I'm not technically interpreting or applying truth at this point, my brain tends to start making connections that are rich in truth.


Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read
Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key
Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6a: Chapter Analysis
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6b:  Identifying Key Words
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6C: Finding the 3C's
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6D: It's About Time
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6E: Keep Digging
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6F: Word Studies
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6H: Application Brings Transformation 
Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!

13 May 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read

Dear Lissy,

In my last letter we gathered all the goodies to begin an inductive Bible Study.  We are going to use the example of music throughout our study to help grasp where each piece fits into the picture.
The Scriptures do not exist for mere study or intellectual absorption. They are meant to renew our minds, touch our hearts, and shape our lives. Put another way, the Scriptures are meant to be performed. The Psalms, for example, are meant to be prayed and sung. The biblical narratives are meant to be meditated upon and responded to. The revelation in the epistles is meant to be embraced and applied.
The vast richness of Scripture can be likened unto an elaborate musical piece that’s written out on a sheet of music. That sheet is meant to be interpreted and then performed. 
For this reason, the Bible, like a Divine musical composition, requires the contributions of various musicians to interpret and perform it in harmony with one another. Each musician may use a different approach to interpreting it. And each may perform it in a slightly different way. But taken together, those musicians comprise an orchestra that creates a beautiful melody, expressing the richness of the biblical message through different sounds, pitches, and tones.  
~ Frank Viola

Torrey lists eight conditions of the person who profits most from Bible study:
Students who benefit from their study are born again, have wholly surrendered their will to God, and obey the Bible's teachings the instant they see them.  They have a deep love of the Bible, study it as the words of God, and are willing to work hard. A profitable student of the Bible also studies the Word prayerfully, and comes with a child-like mind ready to be taught.
Notice that he does not list intelligence, a Bible college degree, or even an extensive library.

After choosing a book to study (we'll do Jonah or I Thessalonians as your very first study in a couple of years), it's time to READ it.  Continuing our music analogy, this would be like a musician "sight reading" a score through several times.  

Set aside 90 minutes and read through the book as many times as you can.
  • Complete the entire 90 minutes in one sitting using the copy you printed out with no verse or chapter markings.  Most books can be read through several times.
  • Begin with prayer.  
  • Read objectively.  This is not the time to be specifically looking for personal guidance or wisdom.
  • I like to give each reading a specific purpose so that I'm not mindlessly decoding words.  Not all of the questions pertain to every book of the Bible, but they do help keep me focused.
    • Read through slowly and silently.
    • Read it aloud.
    • Read looking for Jesus.  What information is given about Him?  What attributes of Christ are highlighted in this book?  Are there any prophecies or types of Christ?
    • Read looking for information about Who:  Who wrote it? Who are the main characters? To whom did he write it?
    • Read looking for information about Where.  Where did the author write from?  Where were the recipients living?  Where does the action take place?  Often these questions won't be fully answered until you begin study.
    • Next, look for When.  When did the author pen this book?  Look for indications of timing of events.
    • Why is the next thing I look for.  Why did the author write the book?  Why did he choose the topics and give them the space he did?  Why the character(s) do what they did?
    • Read looking for answers to How.  How did the author illustrate truths?  How were the recipients or characters behaving? How does the author interpret their behavior?
    • Read looking for answers to What.  This can take several readings.
      • What are the main events?
      • What are the megathemes, or major ideas?
      • What are the main teaching points or doctrines?
      • What attitudes and actions characterize these people?
      • What does he spend the most time teaching?  What is his purpose?
      • What is the key word/phrase for this book?
By now you should have a good handle on the book as a whole. As you grow used to inductive study you'll increase in your powers of observation.  Eventually you'll be able to read through a book a handful of times and get more from it than you did reading it a dozen times when you first began.

Read on!

11 May 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation

Dear Lissy,
You're interested in inductive Bible study, so I'm going to give you a challenge:  stop reading this letter and read Psalms 119 first. The first three verses are a capsule view of the rest of the chapter.  List on a separate sheet or mark these items as you read:
  • What behavior does the Psalmist commit to regarding God's Word? (I used an up arrow) 
  • What help(grace!) does he need or ask from God regarding his statutes and laws?( I used a down arrow)
  • What reward has he received or anticipate from God and His Word? (I used a star) What punishment does he anticipate for those who oppose God's Word? (I used an x)
Are you done?  Great!  If you skipped it, naughty girl!  Ezra's beautiful psalm explains far better than I can why I take the time for inductive Bible study.  Your oldest brother and I will be starting his first study over the summer, and I know it will be a rewarding time for us both.  I hope by documenting this the first time teaching it, I can come back and edit these letters so that you'll have a resource to go back to if and when you decide to do one on your own.  Let's get started. . .

1.  Print out two copies of the book of the Bible you are going to study.  
  • One should be printed triple-spaced, 8-1/2 x 11.  These are worksheets and will get extensively marked up. Punch them with a standard 3-hole punch and place them in a notebook.
One of my worksheets from Colossians 1 after marking.
  • The other copy should be printed "flat" without any chapter or verse numbers or breaks  OR a paragraph-style Bible can be downloaded to a reader.  There currently aren't any flat PDF's available -- you'll have to do the cut and paste work yourself or use your Bible study program.  The study begins by reading through the entire book several times in a single sitting.  You will continue to read through the book in a single sitting several times a week throughout the study to keep the "big picture."  This copy should fit easily into a handbag or tuck into the front pocket of the notebook.  Have a little fun with the cover, and you'll be more likely to pick it up again and again.
I put my manuscript, or "flat" copy into a half-sized kraft envelope.  A
booklet would get scrunched up in my purse.
"Flat" Colossians:  Print a copy with no chapter or verse divisions.

2.  Download or bookmark a Bible with search and study features.  This will be your working copy of the Word while you're going through the study.  It's just too clunky and time consuming trying to go back and forth with a paper copy of the Bible and various study guides. Please ask Daddy or your pastor for recommendations if you're downloading commentaries so you can use the very best.

3.  For your first couple of  times through an inductive study on your own, use a study guide.   I choose to use Sunergos studies with teenagers (here's a free sample chapter!) because they are inclusive, meaning all study materials are printed in the workbook. 
By their very nature, inductive studies are "strong meat". They are food for mature, obedient believers only.  Inductive study is much like hunting:  it takes skill (and a few specialized tools) to place a succulent venison strap on the dinner table.  Guided studies are more like the "half a cow special" from the local butcher.  The meat is familiar, and comes wrapped and labeled in neat dinner-sized packages.  Most of the hard parts (bones, gristle, etc.) have been trimmed away.
R.A. Torrey's classic, How To Study The Bible is available free or quite inexpensively when you're ready to venture on your first solo study. 

4.  Assemble all the fun goodies into a pencil box or pouch!  
I'm geeking out over this lovely case from Jet Pens
  • Fine point pen.  I prefer blue to stand out from the printed text
  • Pencils and a pencil sharpener
  • Good eraser
  • Set of erasable colored pencils or erasable gel pens. 
  • Set of highlighters in at least 4 colors
  • Transparent ruler
  • Spiral bound, 3 hole punched, college ruled notebook
  • Set of sticky notes that have both the flag and 2 x 3" size.
5.  Choose a time and place that you can work undisturbed for 45 minutes to an hour each day.  I like to use the hour after lunch when it's the hottest and we're all resting.  Early morning or evenings worked far better when you were toddlers.

The rewards of inductive Bible study as a Christian woman are largely internal.  I'll probably never have an opportunity to share the study itself.  While that may seem discouraging, the "root work" being done far surpasses any lectures I could share.
" Scripture teaches clearly that the living and active Word matures us, transforms us, accomplishes what it intends, increases our wisdom, and bears the fruit of right actions. There is no deficit in the ministry of the Word. Be a good student. Read repetitively and in context, line by line. Keep the God of the gospel at the center of your study. Strive for comprehension before interpretation. Give application ample time to emerge from a passage. Watch ignorance flee and transformation flourish. Study the Word. Master it, master it." ~ Jen Wilkin
Study hard!

P.S.  Don't miss all of our favorite tools for study available at the Shop Dear Lissy Amazon store!

Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read
Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key
Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6a: Chapter Analysis
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6b:  Identifying Key Words
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6C: Finding the 3C's
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6D: It's About Time
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6E: Keep Digging
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6F: Word Studies
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6H: Application Brings Transformation 
Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!

Linked up at:  Raising HomemakersGood Morning GirlsWomen Living Well, and Works for Me Wednesday

04 May 2012

Becoming a Warrior Maiden

Dear Lissy,

 We've just come off a week of revival meetings at our church. My heart has been encouraged and inspired, and we saw a soul saved last night. Physically, though, I'm exhausted from being with people every night for a week. I'm using this afternoon to catch up on housework and spend some time alone.

Warrior Maiden by Alois Noette
I realized after looking back through the last year and a half of letters that I've never written on Scripture memory.

The Method To My Madness
I use a very simple method referred to as "first letter" to memorize.
I downloaded a hyper-linked Bible that I can access either from my phone or our Kindle so I can work on memory and review either at home or while out & about.  This tool allows me to easily toggle between the full text I'm memorizing and the first letter of each word in the verse.  Mrs. D uses a similar i-pod app for her memory work.

As I've grown older, I've transitioned from topical memory to passage memory.  Most Sunday School, camp, club, and college memory work is topical.  We learn verses that help us witness, understand the most important doctrines of Scripture, or allow us to defend ourselves in warfare with our flesh and the Devil.  These verses are  as vitally important as you start in your Christian walk as beginning forms are in swordmanship.  Once you have mastered the individual verses, however, it's important to move into more advanced work.  Learning passages of Scripture is akin to participating in actual fights.  You combine the forms in various ways, perhaps pick up a few new moves, and increase in skill.

Why Memorizing Matters
The Bible I downloaded gave dozens of reasons for memorizing God's Word, and there are thousands of articles on Bible Memory on the internet.   Here are my own top three:

The Bible is how you learn Jesus Christ. 
Your dad and I dated long distance for three years long before the invention of e-mail.  We learned more about each other through our letters than we ever did by talking.  God has chosen to reveal his character and person in His Word.  As you memorize it, and therefore meditate on it, you learn about the character of and become closer to your Savior, Brother, and Lord.

The Bible is the sword of the Spirit.  
The only words the Spirit has ever spoken to my mind were straight from His Word.  That often happens through the process of illumination while I'm reading/studying, or through the preaching and singing of His Word in church.  But often, when I'm weak, or weary, or battling, or outright sinning in real life, He speaks verses to my mind.  As I increase His vocabulary, he is able to comfort and come alongside me in ways He never could before.  Only His Word, the sharpest of swords, can divide the mind, emotions, and will of a human being from their spirit.
I increase my own witnessing vocabulary.  Nothing I can do or say outside of God's Word is going to bring a soul to Christ.  New souls are born of the Spirit and the Word.  Just like a midwife, the more I know, the more useful I become in facilitating that process.  Just last night our Pastor's wife was caught in the middle of "labor", and brought a new soul into the kingdom with only the Bible she had in her heart.  A true warrior maiden, she didn't miss a beat, and the our new baby sister arrived safely.
I increase my counseling/teaching vocabulary.  I will speak in public when asked, but the vast majority of the work God has called me to do is "life-touching-life" work.  Praying.  Encouraging my husband.  Raising and home educating my children.  Encouraging and exhorting friends.  Once again, the words of the Spirit hold far more power to comfort, encourage, exhort, or warn than anything my feeble mind will ever conceive.  My favorite definition of counseling is "people in need of change helping people in need of change."  As God gives me wisdom regarding the source and/or outcome of unbiblical thinking in another person's life, it is only His Word that holds the power to transform that friend's mind.

The Bible gives us extraordinary power in prayer.
My strongest spiritual gifts are prophecy and mercy.  God gives me the others on an "as need" basis.  The gift of prophecy is incredibly difficult to control, and wildly inappropriate for a woman (or so I thought).  At its essence, prophecy is a compulsion to speak against error. I don't see a cute little acorn of sin in that toddler, I picture the oak it will become when he's an adult, and used to go in swinging an axe.  I burst into tears and left a church service while visiting Aunt D because all the holiness was gone in that place and I couldn't bear it.  Needless to say, I hurt people.  Regularly.  After your Dad preached a series through the gifts of the Spirit, I understood both the strengths and the weaknesses of the gift of prophecy.  I got really upset that I'd been given prophecy, and I begged God to switch it over to exhortation or some other more socially acceptable gift.  He gently and lovingly taught me from Ezra and Isaiah that I was going to continue seeing sin, but that I should speak to Him about it in prayer instead of directly to that individual most of the time.  I pray hard for my friends and family.  When I see sin, I bring it before Him using His own Word.  I have learned over the last several years to do justly, but to love mercy, and in all that to walk humbly before my God.  I will have a lifelong challenge to keep my mouth shut until I'm in my prayer closet, but it's a battle that's worth winning.  I need only look in the mirror to remember that I, too, am a person in need of change!!!  Whatever gifts the Spirit gives you, you'll find they have incredible power in your intercessory prayer life if you are able to harness them with the Word.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of reasons to study, meditate, memorize, and implement the Word.  Learn your Weapon, well, my Dear.  God needs more valiant warrior maidens!