Meant for Good: A Study of Joseph

On April 11, 2023, my brand new Bible study through Concordia Publishing House hits the shelves: Meant For Good: A Study of Joseph. And here’s the cover!

Similar to the depth of my Esther study, this study goes deep into the life of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Joseph’s biography occupies more space in Genesis than those of Adam, Noah, Abraham, or even his own father, Jacob.

Although that should be reason enough to study Joseph’s incredible journey, he experiences family conflict and unfair treatment that many of us can relate to today.

What You Can Expect

This Bible study has meat and lots of it. Did you expect any less? Over eight weeks with five days in each lesson, we dive deep into Joseph’s incredible journey from Canaan to Egypt.

Get your bible, pencils, notepads and bible highlighters ready, because we take an epic adventure through Genesis 37-50. New insights and familiar passages are sprinkled through each week like treasures waiting to be re-discovered.

Each week includes an introductory of which chapters in Genesis will be covered, along with key questions to answer individually or in small groups.

Each week ends with a very special section called “Go Quiet, Go Deep.” This is where we take a pause from the journey. Quiet our minds from distraction. Remember what the Lord has showed us so far. And ask Him to make that lesson personal. Applicable. Relevant to us right now.

Joseph is a Portrait of Jesus

Out of all the Old Testament cast of characters, Joseph offers us a remarkable picture of Jesus. In my opinion, he more closely modeled Christ than any other. In countless ways, the life of Joseph illustrates the future life of Jesus. Specifically:

  • A shepherd deeply loved by his father.
  • Hated and rejected by his brothers.
  • Put into a pit to die but was raised up.
  • Sold for pieces of silver and turned over to Gentiles.
  • Endured severe temptation but did not sin.
  • Accused falsely but spoke no defense.
  • Cast into prison yet shared a message of deliverance.
  • Honored among Gentiles yet rejected by his brothers.
  • Married a Gentile bride.

The Story

The story begins with Joseph in the land of Canaan as a seventeen-year-old dreamer—literally. As one of two sons born to Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel, favoritism plays a significant role in the story of Joseph. After all, Jacob had been his mother’s favorite.

In Jacob’s eyes, his son Joseph was the favorite even though he was not the oldest son. Joseph had ten older brothers and one younger brother. Sadly, Joseph’s mother Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, the youngest son.

God gave Joseph the extraordinary gift of interpreting dreams. However, Joseph had not yet mastered the art of tact, timing, or knowing his audience. When he tells his brothers that one day they will bow to him, it becomes clear that even though Joseph’s gift was intact, he was not able to read a room.

One day, Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers who are tending their flocks far away. But Joseph never makes it back home.

The 20-Year Saga

The brothers accost Joseph, strip him of his many-colored coat, and throw him into a waterless pit. They ignore his cries, decide to leave him in the pit to die, and sit down to enjoy lunch together. Then Judah offers up a Plan B to make some extra cash instead.

Then Jacob’s sons (all except Benjamin) agree to pull Joseph out of the pit and sell him to Midianite traders for twenty pieces of silver. They return to their father Jacob and promptly lie about what happened.

Pause a moment. Can you imagine what Joseph is feeling? He is rescued from the pit (yay!) only to be sold for money (what?) by his very own flesh and blood.

The Midianites take Joseph to the land of Egypt. Then Joseph is sold to Potiphar, who holds a significant position in Pharaoh’s Egyptian court, to work as a slave.

As Joseph works diligently in Potiphar’s home, Potiphar’s wife takes notice of Joseph and tries to entice Joseph into sleeping with her. He flees from temptation and her repeated offers, only to be falsely accused and thrown into prison.

Spiritual Bootcamp

And so begins Joseph’s spiritual boot camp which lasted more than twenty years. The amazing truth about God’s spiritual boot camps (basically, our whole life) is that He never leaves us. Ever. God’s faithfulness to us never wavers.

During those twenty years, Joseph oversees Potiphar’s home, eventually oversees the prison into which he was thrown, and interprets four additional dreams along the way. The whole time, the God of Abraham is working in Joseph’s life. Molding. Shaping. Preparing.

Even though Joseph’s brothers stripped him of his coat, they could not strip him of his godly character.

Egypt’s Second in Command

After interpreting Pharaoh’s two confusing dreams, Pharaoh elevates Joseph to the position of second in command over Egypt. In addition, God populated the house of Joseph with a wife and children. A new family. Even though Joseph was far from home, God blessed him in what Joseph referred to as “the land of my affliction.”

Eventually, all of Egypt understood that Joseph’s elevation to prominence was a good thing. Joseph’s diligence and excellent administrative skills successfully navigate Egypt through seven years of famine. His industrious, tireless work ended up providing a multitude of nations with food during the devastating famine.

Forgiveness

Joseph could have easily leveraged his powerful position to retaliate against his older brothers. He could have blamed them for stealing the life he had planned. He could have allowed hate and bitterness to take root in his heart. Instead, Joseph forgave wholeheartedly and embraced reconciliation.

We behold the Gospel story woven like a scarlet thread throughout Joseph’s narrative. The struggles that Joseph endured remind us how vital it is to let God’s love and forgiveness lead us.

Joseph’s story is not a rags-to-riches phenomenon. It is a picture of relentless, God-honoring faith.

For All the History Buffs

If you are a history buff like me, you will devour the historical smorgasbord in this Bible study. My previous study on Esther unearthed the nuances and culture of the Persian empire. With Joseph, we dive headlong into ancient Egypt. (Cue the singing of “Walk Like an Egyptian.”)

Ancient Egypt

Originally starting out as several independent cities along the Nile River, Egypt was formed from an Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, which unified around 3100 BC. Egypt was one the largest kingdoms of the ancient world and led the charge regarding cultural and economic influence until it was conquered in 332 B.C. by the Macedonians.

Image from here.

Joseph’s story takes place during the historical time of unified Egypt, which was considered to be one of Egypt’s greatest eras. 

Egypt’s Pharaohs

We also study the historical timeline and Egyptian lineage particular to Joseph’s story. We peek into the fascinating world of Egyptian pharaohs. This Bible study pinpoints the precise pharaoh that Joseph would have served under according to historical fact.

This allows us the rare opportunity to discover what that pharaoh focused on and his geopolitical agenda. Consequently, we can ascertain some of the historical responsibilities that Joseph would have been responsible for under that pharaoh’s reign.

Image from here.

Joseph’s Lineage

As one of the sons of Jacob, Joseph’s brothers and Joseph’s sons eventually comprise the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph did not have his own tribe. There is no tribe of Joseph. However, the sons of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh – form the twelfth tribe together as a double portion of God’s blessing to Joseph.

The Lessons from Joseph Apply Today

Regardless of his circumstances, Joseph never wavered from following the Lord. He was a diligent worker, faithful witness, and capable administrator.

Joseph’s example issues a challenge even today: Will we choose to become victims of our circumstances and give up or will we trust God to bring beauty from ashes and excel?

Even though God would use Joseph mightily, the learning process was long. That same truth applies to us. It may be a long time before God deems us ready for the tasks He has planned for us.

I could not have written in-depth Bible studies twenty years ago. God’s instruction over time has produced a much better vintage.

Joseph could have given in to bitterness. Easily. Who would blame him? Yet he responded to broken dreams and difficult circumstances with a strong faith that propelled him from the pit of slavery to the pinnacle of power.

God Faithfully Prepares Us

God Almighty diligently prepared Joseph to help Egypt’s great nation survive utter destruction. But that preparation did not come in a safe classroom. Joseph learned and honed his extraordinary administrative gifts in two places he never thought he would be – in slavery and in prison.

We may not be able to see how God is preparing us during our difficult times, but rest assured there is a holy purpose for our pain.

The Bottom Line

Even though Joseph experienced extraordinary hurt and adversity, God’s promise to be with him remained faithful. Joseph endured jealousy and sibling rivalry in his father’s household. He survived mistreatment and a murderous plot by his older brothers. He was thrown into prison for resisting temptation. He could have easily allowed his woes to become his focus.

Instead, Joseph looked up and trusted God. And because of the great faith that God instilled in Joseph, a multitude of people would owe Joseph their lives—literally.

Can you relate to waterless pits and unfairness in your life? This new Bible study is so relevant for our current times.

God uses Joseph’s journey to provide invaluable insights regarding how to live wise, bold journeys of faith—fully trusting Him every single day. May God grant you and me such tenacious faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You can pre-order “Meant for Good” right here.

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What Does Rain Symbolize in the Bible?

The Bible often uses the image of rain to describe God’s provision for His people. He uses rain to water the earth and provides nourishment to it. Yet, rain also symbolizes other significant elements.

Table of Contents

  • The Symbol of Rain
  • God Our Provider
  • Judgment and Destruction
  • Rain as God’s Punishment
  • Renewal, Restoration, and Revival
  • Seasons Matter
  • Hebrew Words for Rain
  • Physical Need for Rain
  • Rain Can Symbolize the Anger of God
  • Rain Also Symbolizes God’s Blessing
  • Rain Reflects God’s Eternal Grace
  • God’s Rainbow of Promise
  • God’s Rainbow of Faithfulness and Hope
  • The Bottom Line

The Symbol of Rain

Rain is a powerful symbol that we can interpret in a variety of ways depending on the context in which it appears. Rain depicts God as our source of physical and spiritual life. Yet rain can also appear as God’s act of judgment against sin or wrongdoing.

Rain (or some form of it) appears over 100 times in the Bible. It holds special significance that is important to understand along our spiritual journey. What exactly does rain mean and symbolize throughout Scripture?

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

God Our Provider

In the Old Testament, God is the provider who gives life-giving water to all living things (Genesis 2:5, ESV; Psalm 145:8, ESV). He is also seen as the source of refreshing rain for the land.

For example, the farmer’s hope in times of drought and hunger (Deuteronomy 11:10, ESV). In this way, God provides sustenance and refreshment in times of need.

Photo by Ed Leszczynskl on Unsplash

Judgment and Destruction

But what does rain symbolize when God sends a deluge over the whole land? Flooding rain is often associated with God’s judgment. Remember the story of Noah?

The Great Flood recorded in Genesis 7-8 resulted from God’s wrath against sin. God sent rain for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12, ESV), which flooded the entire earth.

The floodwaters rose so high that they covered even mountaintops. All dry land disappeared and killed every living creature except those aboard Noah’s Ark. Even though rain is often associated with giving life, it can be destructive when wielded by a holy God. 

There are instances when God withheld rain from falling. Without water, nothing can grow or live and disease becomes rampant. We cannot survive without life-giving rain that God sends from His heavenly storehouses.

Photo by Elias Null on Unsplash

Rain as God’s Punishment

But what does rain symbolize when it does not come? Withholding rain is often associated with God’s punishment, though not always complete destruction. When we see references to rain in the Bible, we need to keep in mind that it might not always be a positive thing. 

Here are some ways that rain appears in the negative sense that foretell God’s punishment:

  • Dark Clouds
  • Dry Ground
  • Rainy Season
  • Difficult Times
  • Hard Times
  • Dry Season
  • End Times
  • Last Time
  • Late Rain
Photo by Max Saeling on Unsplash

Renewal, Restoration, and Revival

Even though the Great Flood was God’s judgment, there were blessings when the pouring rain ended. When Noah’s ark landed after being afloat for almost a year, Noah sent out a dove to find out if there was any dry land.

After a few tries, the dove returned carrying an olive branch. Noah realized that his family could soon disembark and begin their new life together. The first thing they did was worship the Lord and begin planting a vineyard to make new wine. Revival!

Photo by iuliu illes on Unsplash

Seasons Matter

As Christians, we know that seasons not only occur in nature, but they occur in our own life journeys. Some seasons bring joy, while others usher in hardship. Yet each season holds God’s specific purpose.

Spring seasons bring new life and growth to every living thing. Fall brings the harvest of God’s plenty. And winter reminds us that rest is necessary for all other seasons to reach peak production. So let’s look at what rain symbolized in Scripture during various seasons.

Photo by Mario Dobelmann on Unsplash

Hebrew Words for Rain

Three Hebrew words denote rains of different seasons. Yoreh or moreh refers to the early (or former) rain. Melqosh refers to the latter rain. Geshem refers to the winter rains.

The Early Rain

The rain of autumn commenced around late October or early November. These early rains (also called former rains) lasted for two months as heavy downpours. Each time I toured the Holy Land in November, cloudless beautiful days greeted our group. Perhaps climate change has altered this in our current times.

In God’s Word, we find these early rains in Hosea and Joel:

  • Yoreh: “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3, NIV).
  • Moreh: “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before” (Joel 2:23, NIV).
Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

The Latter Rain

The rain of spring falls in March and April. These latter rains (melqosh) serve to mature the planted grain. No rain usually falls after April until the early rains in October or November:

  • “He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil” (Deuteronomy 11:14, ESV).
  • “In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain” (Proverbs 16:15, ESV).
Photo by Christina Rumpf on Unsplash

The Winter Rain

The rain of winter commences in the middle of December and lasts through March. Heavy winter rain (geshem) often refers to an ominous, damaging, or destructive rain. There is no prolonged fair weather in Israel between October and March.

  • “And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:12, ESV).
  • “Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain” (Ezra 10:9, ESV).
Photo by Lola Guti on Unsplash

Physical Need for Rain

Rainfall is vital to agriculture, which is also true throughout the Bible. Crops such as olives, dates, figs, wheat, barley, and grapes all thrive in the Middle East. Without sufficient rainfall, these crops would not be able to grow.

Livestock such as sheep and goats also enjoy rainfall, as they need water to drink and grass to eat. 

Not only is rainfall important for plants and animals, but it is also essential for every human being. Water is necessary for all life; without it, we would perish. This is especially true during the hot summer months.

Absent rainfall, rivers and wells run dry leaving no source of fresh water. Disease and death often result from unclean or stagnant water. We need rain and the clean water it brings to survive.

Photo by Jeffrey Workman on Unsplash

Rain Can Symbolize the Anger of God

In 1 Kings 17, we see God’s anger. It says “Now Elijah…said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word?” (1 Kings 17:1, NIV)

At this point, Elijah challenged Ahab (the king of Israel) because they had endured a 3-year drought. The prophet Elijah wanted to see if Ahab would turn back to God despite any other consequences.

First Kings 17 later reveals: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land’” (1 Kings 17:14, NIV).

True to His Word, God sent a heavy downpour within 24 hours that amounted to seven years worth of rainfall. That’s a LOT of rain.

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Rain Also Symbolizes God’s Blessing

One of the most common ways rain shows up in the Bible is in reference to the blessings of God.

Psalm 147 offers a great example of this symbolism of rain. It represents the many blessings God bestows on His people. “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds; He prepares rain for the earth; He makes grass grow on the hills” (Psalm 147:7-8, ESV).

Here are some ways that rain appears in the positive sense that reflect God’s blessing:

  • showers of blessing
  • good luck
  • abundant rain
  • rain dreams
  • appearance of the rainbow
  • sign of the Covenant
  • power of God
  • good land
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Rain Reflects God’s Eternal Grace

Isaiah 30 paints a beautiful picture of the eternal blessings believers will experience.

“And He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water” (Isaiah 30:23, 25a, ESV).

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

God’s Rainbow of Promise

After talking at length about the significance of rain, we would be remiss if we left out rainbows. Rainbows are one of the most popular symbols in connection with rain. Regardless of our current popular culture’s definition, what is God’s purpose for rainbows? What do they mean?

In ancient times, rainbows represented a sign from God. People would see the rainbow and remember God’s promise in Genesis:

“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh'” (Genesis 9:12-15, ESV).

Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

God’s Rainbow of Faithfulness and Hope

God’s famous appearance of the bow to Noah is not the only time rainbows slip into the pages of Scripture. Among other places, rainbows also appear in the Book of Revelation:

“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne” (Revelation 4:2-3, NIV).

We see here that the rainbow continues to be a symbol from God. The rainbow encircling the throne reminds believers of His faithfulness, mercy, and hope. Rainbows remind us that God is always with us regardless of the storms we experience.

The rainbow is one of nature’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring symbols from God. Apart from that vision in Revelation, rainbows symbolize hope, change, and new beginnings.

Every rainbow reminds us of God’s never-ending love and His covenant to never leave us or forsake us. No matter what storms we face in life, God is always with us and He will see us through to the other side.

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

The Bottom Line

God promises that every believer receives an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit in us provides the crucial discernment we need each day. In His strength, we can face every season of life we experience, whether stormy or temperate.

Rain represents many different elements in the Bible. Blessings and grace to judgment and punishment. The spiritual meaning of rain goes deep. Regardless of life’s storms, we trust that our heavenly Father holds the weather, our lives, and everything else in His mighty hands.

In the New Testament, Jesus also controlled the weather when He calmed a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:22-32, NIV). In every instance, God commands complete control over nature.

There is no element that He cannot command into submission. What comfort!

No matter what storms or challenges God’s children face in life, our God is always in control. Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall.

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Why Are Catholic and Protestant Bibles Different?

I did not know that Catholic and Protestant Bibles differed in their number of books until my early twenties when I began attending church regularly and digging deep into Scripture.

Why are Catholic and Protestant Bibles Different?

Naturally, my first question back then was, “Who’s right?” Thankfully, thirty years later God has matured that question into, “What does each Bible contain, how do they differ, and where did that difference originate?”

Let’s begin to answer these questions by first laying the groundwork for how scriptural books were determined and chosen as they appear in both Bibles.

The Biblical Canon

The biblical canon is the collection of scriptural books that God has given His people. They comprise the Bible we hold today, distinguished by their divine qualities, reception by God’s people, and apostolic connection (either by authorship or association).

Typical questions regarding the assembly of the biblical canon generally fall into two broad categories: historical and theological.

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

Historical Questions

First-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus lists 22 Old Testament books that were accepted by the Jews. His list is confirmed by another first-century Jewish source, Philo of Alexandria, which includes exactly the same books as our present thirty-nine books of the Old Testament.

By the turn of the millennium, a Jewish canon of Scripture was largely in place and defined. In fact, there is not a single instance where a New Testament author cites a book as Scripture that is not contained in the current Old Testament canon.

In the New Testament canon, 22 out of the 27 books were widely accepted as Scripture by the second century. Even though disputes over some of the smaller books (such as 2 Peter, Jude, James, and 2-3 John) were not resolved until the fourth century, the core of the New Testament canon had already been in place for roughly two centuries.

Wartburg Castle, Germany
Wartburg Castle, Germany (2022 tour)

Theological Questions

Two questions lead the charge in this category. How do we know that the books included in the biblical canon were the right ones? How can we discern that a book is given by God?

Genesis 1 establishes that God created the heavens, earth, and everything in them. We know this to be true because we see God’s own attributes reflected in His creation (Psalm 19; Romans 1:20). Creation contains beauty, harmony, excellence, and power, all divine qualities we expect to find in God’s special revelation.

Believers also recognize the voice of the Lord in the Bible, as confirmed by Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, ESV).

Also under the theological umbrella is the fact that canonical books are written by God’s inspired prophets and apostles. Only those specifically commissioned by God can be His mouthpiece (Romans 1:2; 2 Peter 3:2; Mark 3:14-15; Matthew 10:20; Luke 10:16).

Martin Luther’s Bible, Wittenberg, Germany (2022 tour)

How Do the Catholic and Protestant Bibles Differ?

The Pentateuch

The Pentateuch (or books of the Law) contains the same five books in both Bibles: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The Minor Prophets

The Minor Prophets contain the same twelve books in both Bibles: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The Major Prophets

Both Bibles contain these five books of the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. However, the Catholic Bible has one additional book: Baruch.

Poetical and Wisdom Books

Both Bibles contain these five Poetical and Wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. However, the Catholic Bible has two additional books: the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach.

Historical Books

Both Bibles contain these twelve Historical books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. However, the Catholic Bible has four additional books: Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.

What Part Does the Apocrypha Play?

The books of the Bible not included in the Protestant Bible are usually called the Apocrypha, meaning “hidden books”), Old Testament Apocrypha (since all are included in the Catholic Bible), or deuterocanonical books (from the Greek word meaning “belonging to the second canon” or having secondary authority).

This third set of books, or “extra books”, were not considered to be divinely inspired but regarded as worthy of study by the faithful. These books were written during the Intertestamental period of those four hundred years between Malachi (the end of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the beginning of the New Testament).

Translation Issue

Since Greek was the common language of the Eastern Roman Empire, some of the later Jewish books were written in Greek instead of Hebrew. These later books were only included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the “Septuagint.”

Between 383 and 404 AD, St. Jerome translated the whole Bible into Latin, which was the common language of the Western Roman Empire. When he translated the Greek New Testament and the original Hebrew Old Testament into Latin, he also translated the Greek “Apocrypha” – those extra books.

However, he diligently included notations that they were not part of the original Hebrew Old Testament. Unfortunately, later copyists neglected or omitted St. Jerome’s notations, and soon his whole Latin translation was considered of equal divine authority.

What Books are in the Apocrypha?

The Apocrypha consists of the following books: Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, Old Greek Esther, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Prayer of Azariah, Song of the Three Holy Children, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, and Psalm 151.

Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany
Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany (2022 tour)

The Impact of the Protestant Reformation

During the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Protestant scholars, including former Catholic priest Martin Luther, rediscovered the importance of both the original Hebrew Old Testament and the Hebrew language in which it was written. 

As a result of their rediscovery, many of these Protestant Christians did not accept the Greek additions (Apocrypha) as authoritative or part of sacred Scripture, but only the original Hebrew books of the Old Testament.  

Printing Press, Wittenberg, Germany
Printing Press, Lutherhaus, Wittenberg (2022 tour)

The First Printed Bible Editions

Before Protestant Reformers lodged their objections, the very first printed edition of the King James Bible included the Old Testament Apocrypha. Consequently, Roman Catholic Bibles today include seven books of the Old Testament Apocrypha as part of sacred Scripture.

Following the objections of these Protestant early church fathers, the second and subsequent editions of the King James version excluded the Apocrypha. Protestant Bibles exclude it from the biblical canon to this day.

Today, some Bibles include the Apocrypha as an appendix or provide a companion resource that separates it from the original Hebrew Old Testament.

Interestingly, the Gutenberg Bible does not contain the Apocrypha, as it was a printed version of the 3rd century Vulgate, which also omits the Apocrypha.

Gutenberg Bible, Library of Congress

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Located east of Jerusalem, the mountainous landscape of the Judean Desert plummets an astonishing 1200 meters to the lowest point on earth: the Dead Sea. This region near Qumran boasts rocky terrain, intense heat, and numerous desert caves. I have been there more than once and it is stark, to say the very least.

Some of the most dramatic stories in the Bible happened in that region. David ran from King Saul to seek refuge in those mountain caves. Jesus rejected the temptations of the devil in that barren desert.

Qumran, Israel
Judean Desert, Israel (2022 tour)

The Greatest Discovery

Yet in 1947, a young Bedouin shepherd was tracking stray sheep among those limestone cliffs lining the northwestern rim of the Dead Sea near Qumran. He stumbled upon a cave tucked into a crevice of a steep rocky hillside. Curious, he threw a stone into the darkness and was startled to hear the sound of breaking pots.

That sound echoed around the world as what turned out to be the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century: the Dead Sea Scrolls. Buried in large clay pots in the arid sands of eleven Qumran caves for thousands of years, the shepherd boy’s discovery revolutionized our understanding of history and religion.

Clay jars, Qumran (2022 tour)

The Significance of the Scrolls

Also known as the “Qumran Cave Scrolls“, they contain significant religious literature dated between the third century AD to the first century AD. The scrolls include biblical manuscripts (books found in today’s Hebrew Bible) and non-biblical manuscripts—other religious writings of historical fact circulating during the Second Temple era, often related to the texts now in the Hebrew Bible. 

While Hebrew is the dominant language contained in the Scrolls, approximately 15% of the Scrolls are written in Aramaic and several are written in Greek. The materials making up the Scrolls mainly consist of parchment, although some are papyrus. Interestingly, the text of one Scroll is engraved on copper.

Why are the Scrolls so Vital?

So what does this have to do with our topic? Among the Dead Sea Scrolls are partial or complete copies of every book in the Hebrew Bible, all of which are contained in the Protestant Bible.

However, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, three works of the Apocrypha are found among the Dead Sea Scrolls: Ben Sira (also known as the Wisdom of Ben Sira, Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus), the book of Tobit, and the Epistle of Jeremiah. These are included in today’s Catholic Bible, but not the Protestant Bible.

Timeline

The official list of Catholic books was pronounced at the Council of Trent during 1545-1563 AD. The Council of Trent was convened by Pope Paul III for all Catholic clerics in response to the Protestant Reformation. 

Over three separate sessions, the council reaffirmed the authority of the Catholic Church, codified scripture, affirmed Catholic doctrines, reformed abuses, and condemned Protestant theology. They also established the vision and goals of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Protestants of the Reformation are credited with removing the additional seven books from the Protestant Bibles. They argued that since those seven Apocryphal books were not contained in the Hebrew Bible they should not be a part of the Christian Bible.

Bottom Line

As a Protestant, I am guided by the 66 authoritative, inspired canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The first time I read any part of the Apocrypha was when I wrote my in-depth Bible study on the book of Esther. Since then, I have read through other books in the Apocrypha.

Bible Study on Esther

However, I do not hold or teach the Apocryphal books to be the inspired Word of God. They do not act as a plum line for my spiritual journey.

I trust the Holy Spirit’s work in those vastly smarter Christian biblical scholars from long ago who did the hard work of deliberating, praying through, and assembling what we hold today as the Christian (or Protestant) Bible.

Studying the Bible has been the single greatest tool (apart from the Holy Spirit) that God has used to increase my faith and come to know Jesus personally. If you are new to Bible study, start with the book of John which provides a stunning, in-depth story of Jesus our Savior. Knowing Him changes everything.

To God alone be the glory.

The Dead Sea, Israel
The Dead Sea, Israel (2022 teaching tour)

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What Is The Last Sentence In The Bible?

As a writer, I realize that there are two important elements in anything I write: the beginning and the ending. A strong opening draws in people and keeps them reading, while a powerful close gives readers a nugget to take with them or linger over.

So what about the best-selling and most shared book of all time?

How Does the Bible Begin?

Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is riveting from the very beginning. The first words in God’s holy Word are spell-binding:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2, ESV).

What an action-packed opening! Those words create a sense of great anticipation. When something or someone is “hovering”, the story becomes a scene poised for motion. It is a glorious moment to savor as God prepares to breathe new life throughout the earth.

It is important to note that the book of Genesis actually picks up in the middle of the story, so to speak. Part of God’s great story has already happened. An epic battle has already taken place.

God has already cast Satan and a third of heaven’s angels to earth in rejection. It’s almost like the passages above could be depicted as God hovering over the aftermath of a smoky battle scene.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

However, since all of Scripture is inspired by God, I do not believe biblical writers focused solely on writing extraordinary beginnings and endings. This whole book of life is extraordinary, filled with God’s purpose for our lives.

Yet it is still instructive for us to look at how the biblical writers wrapped up their stories and letters in an attempt to understand why. The ancient texts of the Old Testament are important, but since the final words in the Bible are contained in the New Testament we will focus there.

Why Do Final Words Matter?

If you have ever sat at the bedside of someone who is taking their final breaths on earth, you know the answer. No one uses their final moments to talk about the weather. Or how they should have devoted even longer hours at their corporate job away from their loved ones.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Listening carefully to someone’s last sayings is one of the little ways that God reminds us of what matters. A modern-day burning bush, if you will, to get our attention back on relationships – both with Him and those He places in our lives.

Our only wise God never wants us to forget the Son of God and what His sacrifice secured for us. Life. Eternal life with Him through faith because He loves us too much to be separated from Him forever.

The last day that I was sitting by my Dad’s bedside, he whispered about love. How much he loved Mom and his four daughters. How important it is that we love one another (and we certainly do). And how fast time slips through our fingers.

By Noon, he was gone and finally seeing God face-to-face. Even now twenty years later, Dad’s last words linger in my soul as if he declared them in a loud voice instead of a soft whisper.

Photo by James Kovin on Unsplash

The Last Words in the Gospels

As we work our way toward the last sentence in the Bible, the importance of last words also holds true in each of the four Gospels. Do you know them?

1. Matthew

Matthew ends his Gospel by quoting Jesus in the Great Commission, which believers embrace to this day as a personal call to action:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

2. Mark

Mark contains two endings. The second one is not found in all manuscripts, and the first version ends abruptly on a cliffhanger:

So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs” (Mark 16:19-20, ESV).

3. Luke

Luke wraps up his incredible biography of Jesus by revealing what Jesus’ followers did. This provides an excellent contrast to what Jesus told his followers at the end of Matthew. The impetus? Our actions need to match our words:

Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:50-53, ESV).

4. John

As a writer, I particularly connect with the ending of John’s Gospel. I love hearing stories. I love telling stories. And Jesus’ stories are the best:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, ESV).

Photo by Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

What About the Last Book of the Bible?

The last book in Scripture is the book of Revelation. In it, God teaches about His new creation – a new heaven and a new earth. It offers a startling account of the end times as God revealed it to the Apostle John.

Some have unwisely taken the words of the prophecy of this book out of context and tried to predict the end of the world. That’s not the point of the book of Revelation.

John reveals visions of wondrous and seemingly strange things about the heavenly places. He describes the vivid divine power of our heavenly Father, a holy city, and the kingdom of God for those who receive eternal life through faith.

He used symbols and symbolism to convey significant messages – in code if you will – to the first-century believers. He did not want to risk his messages being destroyed by his captives, so he wrote using references that only believers would understand.

John was the only one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples who died of natural causes. He lived to be approximately 90 years old, which was astonishing at that time. Many people today do not even live to see their ninetieth birthday.

The Last Sentence in the Bible

The last sentence in the Bible is a beautiful spiritual blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21, ESV).

Why grace? Look around the world. Do you see much of it on the street corners? Look around our neighborhoods. Do you see in the houses down the block or across the field? Look around our hearts. How often do you need to be reminded that God’s grace is for you?

What is so Amazing About Grace?

Philip Yancey wrote a whole book about his personal quest to answer this question. In it, he wrote: “Grace is the church’s great distinctive. It’s the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else–for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world.” (What’s So Amazing About Grace, Zondervan, 2002). Over one million copies of this book have been sold worldwide.

The Greek word for grace in the last sentence of the Bible is charis, which refers to the merciful kindness of God. Period.

Grace means that God exerts His holy influence upon believers to strengthen us, and increase our faith in, knowledge of, and affection for Him.

Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

Craving Grace

Even if we do not realize it, we need grace. In fact, our souls crave it. Grace fosters hope and serves as a holy catalyst for change. No matter what we have done or how badly we have sinned in the past, grace wipes the slate clean toward a bright future.

We may have difficulty seeing grace among believers on a consistent basis, but we will always find grace for us each day in Scripture. As Philip Yancey so wisely stated, grace only comes from God. We do not find a such source in the world.

Grace is so paramount that the Apostle Paul ended the overwhelming majority of his Epistles (letters) with a recurring reminder of God’s grace. A few examples:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14, ESV).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philippians 4:23, ESV).

Photo by Kyle Thacker on Unsplash

Why is Grace Significant?

Every effort to define grace runs the risk of missing the mark. Jesus never used the word himself. However, studying the context usage helps us better grasp the wonder of grace. The events and actions of Jesus’ life communicate grace as something better lived out than written about.

Grace is amazing because it typically works contrary to reason and against the grain of common sense. In a world that is organized around “you get what you pay for” and “you get what you deserve,” grace turns all achievement philosophies upside down.

God’s love for us has no strings attached. No earned approval strategies. In fact, grace is never anything a person can get or work toward. Grace only arrives as a gift that must be received. 

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Letting it Linger

When we finish reading the Bible or arrive at the end of any book, we usually follow one of two courses. The first is to read the last line fast and quickly close our Bible, glad to have finished another book. Check!

The second is that we sit still, allow the ending to sit with us, and contemplate its final words. Perhaps even read the last sentence again. May I suggest that we follow this course with Scripture?

When we read the last sentence of the Bible or the last sentence in any one of its books, take time to sit still for a bit. Linger over that final sentence in the context of what came before them.

And friends, the final words in Scripture are certainly worth lingering over: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21, ESV).

Amen.

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Best Bible Reading Plans

Many people have never read the Bible cover to cover. That’s not a judgmental statement, because it used to be me! Nothing has completely transformed my life more quickly than spending time reading and studying God’s beautiful words every day of the week. God’s Word is living and active, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, transformation happens from the inside out.

Perhaps as you start this new year, daily Bible reading will provide a “soul reset” that you need to combat the world’s daily chaos. And that chaos, confusion, and dissension seem to gain momentum every year. We need God’s Word in our hearts, so let’s be intentional about it.

Do you want to pick a Bible reading plan that you won’t regret committing to for the next season? I have done all the work for you digging deep to find the top ways to read the Bible broken down in daily readings. These free downloadable plans vary widely, and you will likely be surprised by all the different approaches to help you read the Bible.

Why Read Through the Bible?

Reading and hearing God’s Word increases our faith (Romans 10:17). To that end, each checklist will guide you through the entire Bible at your own pace. Some days may go faster than others, but the whole point is to stay in God’s Word. His wonderful truths instruct, guide, and teach us, and provide the encouragement we need to shine His light in a dark world. And friends, this world NEEDS His light.

During your journey through Scripture, ask God each day to speak to you directly from His Word — whether you read a whole book of the Bible, an entire chapter, or one verse at a time. Approach His words of absolute truth with expectation. His story is our story.

Print off one of these free Bible reading plans and tuck it into your Bible. Make the commitment today to read through the most profound, life-changing truths ever written. You will never be the same again. His Words will hydrate you from the inside out.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

This 52-week Bible reading plan methodically works through the whole Bible in one year. It combines readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms each day to work through the entire book in a calendar year. Begin each day with prayer, asking God for discernment, and dive into each day’s reading. {Download here.}

Bible Reading Plan At Your Own Pace

This plan offers a lot of grace space when your days get busy. This plan allows you to pick up where you left off, no matter how long it’s been since you read the last entry. Once you get used to reading God’s Word on a regular basis, you can move back to specific books of the Bible or Scripture references where God has specifically touched your heart.

A dedicated Bible reading schedule is important, but if you are just starting out give yourself a lot of grace. If you miss a day, or a week, or feel like you are just shuffling pages, it’s okay. Your spiritual walk over the course of a year and your whole life takes diligence and patience. Trust in the Lord and how He will work through His Word in your heart and mind. {Download here.}

Historical Overview One-Year Bible Reading Plan

This Bible reading plan offers a basic outline of the Old and New Testaments, then fills in readings with more detailed books. You will read the entire Bible with this historical Bible reading plan!

The Old Testament readings follow a historical overview, then moves to the prophetic literature, followed by the wisdom literature, and Psalms (some twice). The New Testament begins with Christ’s birth, then moves into Acts (Luke’s sequel), followed by Ephesians (Paul’s teachings), the pastoral epistles, and so on. {Download here.}

Read The Bible In 90-Days

This 90-Day Bible reading plan is very different from the others. In biblical times, the Word of God was passed orally, learned orally, and memorized by hearing it orally. A pen and paper were not standard staples back then. Usually, only the rabbis in synagogues had printed copies of God’s Word. This plan allows you to hear the Bible as those people back in biblical times.

This is not a competition with yourself just to say that you have completed it. You WILL see God move in ways that you haven’t before if you walk through the Bible passages and listen. Even if you actually retain only a small portion of what the Bible says in each reading, you will retain what He wants you to hear for a long time – perhaps for your lifetime.

Pray each time you read to hear what God wants you to hear and be able to let the rest go. This is not a Bible study. This is a Bible reading. Absorb what you can. Listen. He will help you.

Setting a goal is important with this particular plan because each day’s reading takes an average of 45-60 minutes. Since our listening can easily become distracted, commit to actually reading a Bible rather than listening to an audio version. Take your Bible everywhere!

You are on an important mission, so grab additional reading time whenever possible: waiting to meet friends, waiting for the oven to preheat, a 10-minute break at work, waiting in your child’s school car pick-up line, or even arriving early at church and read before worship. Even 10 increments help. {Download here.}

Bottom Line

As you commit to walking through your daily or weekly readings, you will discover what a tremendous asset and great springboard it is to know what it means to live a Christ-centered life. That’s the bonus part of the plan!

Over time, you may discover a preferred Bible version, choose to jot down study notes as you read, write down some meaningful passages in your own words, or even venture past the daily reading assignments as God moves your heart toward His. The key is following those spiritual nudges as God brings them about. And He will.

There will be parts of the Bible that will be difficult to understand, but do not lose heart! The history of Israel in the Old Testament historical context sometimes seems harsh. We see a wrathful side of God in some of the battles.

But as you spend time in God’s Word on a daily basis, you will see God work and move in different ways. You will see His helping hand, His good way, and His unquestionable love for you.

Keep Going

When you finish a year plan, select another year’s reading plan! Studying the Bible is a lifelong adventure that never becomes stale. If you are not part of a bible class at church or in your community, I challenge you to find one. Such group Bible studies are a good resource to engender a stronger tie and accountability to maintain your own desire to keep moving forward.

There is no one way to read the Bible — that’s the beautiful part. There are many foundational passages of Scripture (such as John 3:16), and reading them in context is key to understanding God’s Word and His plan for your life.

I pray that this journey draws you closer to Jesus and inspires you to show His love and forgiveness to a world that desperately needs them.

All Four Plans for Free Downloading and Printing

  1. One-Year Bible Reading Plan
  2. Bible Reading Plan at Your Own Pace
  3. Historical Overview One-Year Bible Reading Plan
  4. Read the Bible in 90-Days

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50 Bible Verses About Loving Yourself

Inching its way into our subconsciousness, our media-driven culture subtly and inevitably draws us into the comparison trap. Such comparisons can generate negative thoughts and low self-esteem.

The Comparison Trap

We tend to compare gardens, homes, health, families, good works, careers, outward appearance, education, churches, and even denominations. Perhaps we are tempted to go so far as to determine our “lovable” quotient based on these external things. So what does the Bible say?

We can even fall into the comparison game with people in the pages of Scripture. Perhaps we see the faith of Esther, Hannah, Rahab, or Ruth and compare our faith level to theirs. We see the bravery of Daniel, Joseph, or David and compare our strength to theirs.

And at whatever level we indulge in comparison tends to directly impact how we feel about ourselves if we do not let Scripture remind us of our worth in Christ as a child of God. It is important to cultivate those dear friends who remind us that God’s greater love is the true love that we cannot live without.

Loving Yourself

The spiritual collateral damage of the comparison trap is believing that anything external determines your inward value in Christ. It comes down to loving yourself based on the fact that you are made in the image of God through the sheer grace of God.

“Loving yourself” or “self-love” may sound like a feel-good, psychological sound bite, but there is much truth to it as Christ-followers. Believing by faith how much Jesus loves us enables us to embrace loving ourselves as He does.

Culture’s idea of self-love and being lovers of pleasure can lead to a multitude of sins. Such self-centered love focuses on our own happiness.

There is a huge difference between being lovers of God and lovers of self. Loving God means loving yourself through His eyes. Being lovers of self means loving yourself through external measures and leaving God out of the equation altogether.

So if you struggle to love yourself in the way God loves you or feel worthy of love, allow these fifty best Bible verses about His love for us and loving others to sink deep into your soul.

Old Testament Verses

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13-15).

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10).

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good” (Proverbs 19:8).

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:3).

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).

Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love” (Psalm 109:26).

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26).

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

New Testament Verses

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29).

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-38).

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Owe no one anything, except to love each other” (Romans 13:8).

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16).

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9).

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 1:21).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

{Some of these links are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through that link, the ministry may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your ministry support! Photos are obtained from Unsplash.com}

The Shortest Chapter in the Bible Packs a Punch

The Bible is God’s breath exhaled on the page. Scripture is filled with wisdom and guidance for a Christ-follower’s faith walk, along with how we are to love, live, forgive, and interact with each other.

We can spend our whole lives studying the Bible’s contents, memorizing Bible verses, and participating in Bible study, never knowing it all. The Hebrew Bible does not contain verse divisions like our English translations, but those are certainly helpful for navigating through the books of the Bible.

So, let’s talk scope and facts first.

Facts About the Bible

Here is a quick content overview to demonstrate its complexity. The Bible contains:

  • 66 books total
  • 39 Old Testament books
  • 27 New Testament books
  • 783,137 words
  • 3,116,480 letters

Verses and Chapters:

  • The Bible has 1,189 chapters, which contain 31,102 verses
  • There are 929 chapters and 23,145 verses in the Old Testament
  • There are 260 chapters and 7,957 verses in the New Testament

Shortest and Longest:

  • The book of Psalms is the longest book with 150 chapters
  • Psalm 119 is the longest chapter with 176 verses (and longest psalm)
  • Esther 8:9 is the longest verse with 78 words
  • By word count, 3 John is the shortest book
  • By word count, Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter (and shortest psalm)
  • John 11:35 is the shortest verse with only 2 words: “Jesus wept.

The Timeline and Locations of the Bible

Inspired by God, the Bible was written by forty different authors from many different walks of life, covering forty generations experiencing different times. Spanning 1,500 years (from 1400 BC to AD 100), it covers three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), and is recorded in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic).

The Old Testament

The 39 books of the Old Testament contain:

The New Testament

The 27 books of the New Testament contain:

There is a reason that the Bible is the most printed, most read, best-selling book in history!

What is the Shortest Chapter in the Bible?

Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible. And even though it is the shortest chapter, it conveys the core message of Scripture: God’s never-ending love for us. The first half of verse 2 encapsulates this beautifully: “For great is His love toward us” (Psalm 117:2a, NIV).

God’s love for us and His creation spans the entirety of both the Old and New Testaments, yet simple enough to rest in the shortest chapter. He loves us. Period.

There are no conditions attached to His love toward us. There is no action that we can perform to earn it. God’s love is His free, extraordinary gift to us. The greatest gift, in fact, that we have ever or will ever receive – bar none.

Interesting Facts About Psalm 117

The two verses of Psalm 117 contain 17 Hebrew words. It is the shortest chapter in the Bible in both the number of verses and the number of words. Psalm 117 is also the precise center of the Bible. As the 595th chapter, there are 594 chapters preceding it and 594 chapters following it.

God’s Enduring Faithfulness

And if God’s never-ending love was not enough, the second half of verse 2 affirms: “and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:2b, NIV).

God’s boundless love and tender care for us never cease. You and I can spend a lifetime looking for meaningful, lasting human love. Yet the shortest chapter provides the quickest assurance that we are loved beyond measure by the One who knit us together in our mother’s wombs.

Psalm 117 is Also About Praise

Psalm 117 begins with “Praise the Lord” and ends the same way. The shortest chapter in Scripture found the space to remind us twice of the importance of praising God.

Psalm 117 is both a personal and worldwide reminder to praise God. Here we are over two thousand years after Jesus’ glorious resurrection still worshipping Him regardless of color, creed, or credit. Because of His great love for us, we are able to love and serve one another (1 John 4:19).

Whether we read a short chapter in the Bible or absorb the longest one, every verse and chapter conveys God’s unwavering truth along with lessons we can learn and apply to our lives.

Even though Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, it is long on God’s love and faithfulness toward us. Knowing those truths enables us to live courageously to share the hope of Christ in our turbulent times when people are desperate to hear it.

Praise the Lord!

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50 Motivational Bible Verses About Aging Gracefully

An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” Agatha Christie

At the age of 40, Agatha Christie married prominent British archaeologist Max Mallowan in 1930. Afterward, she spent several months each year traveling with her husband to archaeological digs in the Middle East.

Leveraging her first-hand acquired knowledge of archaeology, she became one of the most well-known, best-loved, and best-selling detective novelists of all time. And she was no spring chicken!

Photo by Jeremy Horvatin on Unsplash

How can we age gracefully in the Lord when the world around us only sees our wrinkles?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Aging Gracefully in the Lord
  2. Old Testament Bible Verses
  3. New Testament Bible Verses

1. Aging Gracefully in the Lord

When it comes to aging gracefully, one of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

There’s no age limit on that verse. We count each day significant because through them God increases our spiritual wisdom. And the longer He keeps us here, the more opportunities we have to share that acquired wisdom.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

On countless occasions, I have said to my family, friends, and at conferences: “If you are still breathing, God still has a purpose for your life.”

Perhaps the Best Years are Still to Come

I am in my mid-50s, but I truly believe in the marrow of my bones that my best years are still to come. God controls the steering wheel and I am simply a passenger in the most glorious, thrilling adventure of all time.

The truth is that God faithfully watches over us. No matter how advanced in years we become, He’s still got us. He still has a purpose for our lives for our good and His eternal glory.

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Since before the foundation of the world or before He knit us together in our mother’s womb, God’s plan for our life was already mapped out in its entirety.

We Have a Choice

We have a choice. We can enter our “Golden years” kicking and screaming, or we can enter them with the greatest sense of expectation and wonder.

Our health may decline in our senior years. We will face difficult times. We will likely need glasses, hearing aids, false teeth, or joint replacements. We will likely need a little more time and a little more effort to get from point A to point B.

Photo by Tiago Muraro on Unsplash

Yet the good news is that aging is a truly beautiful gift from God. When we abide in Him, wisdom abounds.

Giving Thanks for “Spiritual Giants”

I am so thankful for the older “spiritual giants” in our lives. Only those dear friends can offer godly guidance to the deep spiritual questions we ask. And all because God has given them the gifts of faith, time, and wisdom.

And now, we have the privilege of being those older, spiritually wise people for the next generation.

We cannot turn back the clock on the aging process to wrinkle-free days. But we can embrace this season of life as wisdom-rich days.

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When Agatha Christie reached seventy-five years old, she said: “What can I say at seventy-five? Thank God for my good life, and for all the love that has been given to me.” Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

God’s Word provides infinite encouragement, inspiration, and wisdom on how to age gracefully. I pray that these Bible verses encourage, challenge, and inspire you. May God bless you in your Golden years!

2. Old Testament Bible Verses

*Note: All Bible verses are in the English Standard Version.

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  • “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age” (Ruth 4:15).
  • “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12).
  • “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31).
  • “I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand” (Job 32:7-8).
  • “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
  • “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29).
  • “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedars of Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:12-15).
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  • “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
  • “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. But I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more” (Psalm 71:9, 14).
  • “With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:16).
  • “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29).
  • “[The Lord] redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:4-5).
  • “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Exodus 22:22).
  • “You shall walk in all the way that the Lord you God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess” (Deuteronomy 5:33).
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  • “That this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever” (Psalm 48:14).
  • “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7).
  • “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
  • “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Deuteronomy 34:7).
  • “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:7-8).
  • “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom” (Isaiah 40:11).
  • “Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven” (Psalm 148:12-13).
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).
  • “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22).
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  • “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
  • “Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).
  • “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).
  • “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).
  • “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6).
  • “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like You?” (Psalm 71:18-19).
  • “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age” (Genesis 15:15).
  • “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” (Genesis 24:1).

3. New Testament Bible Verses

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  • “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
  • “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is appealing in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:3-4).
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
  • “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
  • “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
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  • “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
  • “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
  • “So that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:7-9).
  • “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Peter 1:12-15).
Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash
  • “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
  • “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:14-15).
  • “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
  • “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
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  • “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
  • “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
  • “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves with too much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:2-5).
  • “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).

DOWNLOAD PDF OF BIBLE VERSES

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13 Best Bible Study Methods

Whether you are a new or seasoned Christian, knowing how to study the Bible and where to start are daunting tasks. Been there. Done that.

Technology allows us to have the Bible at our fingertips 24/7. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops enable us to access God’s Word just about anywhere in the world.

We can attend church online, listen to sermons and podcasts as we drive, or experience worship through music videos without leaving our homes.

The entire Bible is more accessible than at any other point in history, yet “How to Study the Bible” is searched online over 8,500 times each month.

Access to the Word of God is not the issue. Yet our knowledge of its contents is decreasing.

Where Do I Start?

I will say it again: knowing how to study the Bible and where to start are daunting tasks. Our spiritual growth stagnates the longer we wait. Many Christians lack practical tools to study the Bible effectively.

It takes time to incorporate a new habit, discover the best way to study, and the best study bibles to utilize on this new journey.

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Why Is Knowing Scripture Important?

Studying Scripture changes our lives from the inside out. We learn how to love like God. Forgive like Jesus. And treat enemies with kindness. Counter-cultural to say the least.

Most importantly, the Bible reveals God’s beautiful truth that He sent His only Son to rescue us from sin, death, and the grave!

I first started studying Scripture after becoming a Christian at age 23. I did not know anything about the Bible. There’s an Old Testament and a New Testament? You get the gist.

I felt that my basic questions were off-putting to mature Christians. I lacked a good starting point, a good study bible, or a good direction on which steps to take first.

Over the past thirty years, God has cultivated in my daily life solid tools to study, memorize, and apply Scripture every day. I am passionate about biblical literacy.

Bible study methods

Participating in church or small group Bible studies along with Sunday sermons is important. However, taking a personal lead in developing effective self-study methods stokes that flame of faith.

Some of these methods may work better for you than others. Invest some time trying each one to discover which works best for your personality and schedule.

First Things First: Start with Prayer

Scripture is God’s breath exhaled onto the page. Focusing your mind and thoughts on Him comes first and foremost. Always begin your study time with prayer.

Perhaps, one similar to this one:

Dear Lord, as I open my Bible today, open my heart to hear your words of truth. I pray that your Word comes alive in me. Remove all distractions right now. Open my mind to gain understanding as your words heal, teach, inspire, convict, and restore my heart. Enable your words to take root, grow and blossom in my life. Bring your light of understanding and peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Method #1: Study One Book of the Bible

I suggest starting with a small book from the New Testament. The books of James, 1 Peter, and 1 John are all good choices for first-time studies.

Depending on your schedule, plan to spend 3-4 weeks studying the book you have chosen. Take time to read through the entire book more than once.

Look for themes that may be woven throughout the chapters. For example, the book of James contains an obvious theme of persevering through hard circumstances. Write down the verses around each theme.

Also, make a note of life application principles within the book. In James, a clear life application is that words need to result in action. Saying that we forgive is vastly different from moving toward forgiveness.

As you meditate on the themes and life application principles, allow God’s Word to speak to you personally. Where can those themes or applications apply to your life right now?

Method #2: Read Straight Through the Bible

Reading the Bible straight through (without taking notes) allows us to “hear” it like Israel’s nomadic tribes. Individuals did not have parchment, so the Bible stories were shared verbally.

Note that you do NOT have to start at the beginning of the Bible. The Bible contains 66 separate books compiled into one. You can start anywhere you like, just use a checklist to ensure you read through all 66.

Bible study methods

Also, choose a Bible version that is easy to read. Let’s face it, if you don’t understand it, you won’t get far.

There are dozens of translations and different versions of God’s Word, but the King James version is probably the most difficult. For clear reading, I suggest the English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), or The Message versions.

As you settle down for uninterrupted reading, imagine story time around an evening campfire. Or story time in the afternoon with milk and cookies. (That’s a flashback to elementary school.)

This method allows us to see and hear the overarching story of God’s love and goodness to His children from Genesis to Revelation. His passionate, relentless pursuit of us toward salvation comes across with beautiful clarity.

I have many different Bible reading plans and checklists as free downloads here.

Method #3: Write Out Parts of the Bible

Our culture moves at lightning speed. Since we are technologically driven (for the most part), we desire things to move fast – such as food, lines, and traffic.

Absorbing Scripture into the marrow of our bones takes time. Breathing space. Quiet surroundings. That’s where grabbing a pen, your Bible and a journal plays a vital role.

The rhythm of physically writing slows us down to absorb the words. Words have a chance to stick with us past the moment – especially if you want to memorize particular verses.

As an author, I love the steady cadence of writing out God’s Word. That cadence resounds in my soul to retain those life-giving words. I recently started once again with the book of Matthew.

Make writing fun! I use my favorite Tul pens and a variety of colorful journals that are readily available and inexpensive.

Method #4: Character Study

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Who’s who in the Bible?” The follow-up question is usually, “Why do they matter?”

I love reading current biographies of historical great men and women because they lend insight into the person. Doing character studies throughout Scripture accomplishes much the same with an added bonus: we glimpse the character of Christ.

For instance, Scripture contains only two books named after women: Ruth and Esther. My quest to understand Esther using this method turned into a full-blown, published Bible study. Talk about an amazing woman of faith that God used mightily! We can learn invaluable life lessons from Esther.

https://cph.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=110&url=334

Studying characters matters because their examples teach us how to actually live a life of faith:

  • Moses steadfastly led the Israelites through the desert for forty years.
  • Joseph never complained about being thrown into prison after refusing Potiphar’s wife.
  • Mary did not doubt when God told her that she would be the virgin mother of our Savior.

Character studies allow us to see how God moved in their life. How He provided for their needs, disciplined them toward success, and loved them beyond measure. He still does that today with you and me.

Pick one person and get started! You will be amazed at how relevant their experiences still are today.

Method #5: Topical Bible Study

This method is similar to the Character Study method listed above. However, instead of a person, pick a topic. Temptation, peace, addiction, and forgiveness are a few that could be tackled.

I remember as a new Christian being confused by what it meant to be “quenched” or “hydrated” by the Lord. What does “living water” mean? Years later, I used this topical Bible study method and turned that personal quest into another full-blown Bible study.

https://www.artesianministries.org/book/quenched-christs-living-water-for-a-thirsty-soul/

What topic do you long to know more about how God instructs His children? Use the concordance in the back of your Bible to find where that topic appears in Scripture. Then grab a notepad.

Read and/or write down all of those passages. What does God teach about that topic? Are common misconceptions debunked? Most importantly, meditate on how God can apply those truths to your spiritual journey.

Method #6: Memorize Scripture

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is vital. When the enemy knocks us to the ground, God brings relevant verses to mind to comfort us and bring His peace. Scripture memorization is a crucial line of defense.

One of the first portions of Scripture I memorized was the Armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18. The evil in this world is evident – just turn on the evening news. As His children, we need to know God has protected us from head to toe.

If you are facing a particular battle right now start with verses that speak to that situation. If you are experiencing joyful circumstances, start with passages that praise God. I wrote an entire Bible study on the armor of God because it is that important.

Yes, all of Scripture is worthy of memorizing. However, focusing on ones that directly apply to your current situation will be more meaningful. Memorization and real-time application will come easier.

Method #7: Bible Journaling (the SOAP Method)

A vital step in our faith journey is applying Scripture to our lives. A popular, helpful method appeared a few years ago called “S.O.A.P.” It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

Bible study methods

I used this method effectively when writing The God of All Comfort based on 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Paul teaches how God comforts us in our affliction, which enables us to also offer His compassionate comfort to others.

The S.O.A.P. method is simple. Pick a section of Scripture each morning or evening during your devotion time. Using a notepad or SOAP journal:

  • Write down the Scripture passage.
  • Read through it again and record your Observations.
  • Jot down how you can Apply those truths in your life.
  • Close with Prayer asking God to make that verse personal to you.

When you come across your S.O.A.P. journals later in life and read through them, you will be amazed and encouraged by God’s faithfulness along your journey.

Method #8: Single Word Study

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about fear? Love? Humility? Kindness? Such wondering offers a perfect opportunity to undertake a single-word study.

When I experienced divorce over a decade ago, I did not feel very loved (to say the least). One of my pastors challenged me to read through the Bible and write out every passage that talked about God’s love. WOW!

That undertaking left me without a trace of doubt about how much God loves me, even when people may not. Writing all of those love passages consumed an entire journal. If I am ever feeling unloved, I still pull out that journal. I don’t feel unloved for long.

If you desire to be more kind, I challenge you to search for every instance in Scripture where God talks about kindness. Write them out in a journal. Ask the Lord to enable you to be more kind.

God will blow you away as He works through this discipline.

Method #9: Coloring Scripture (Bible Marginalia)

Bible marginalia appeared on the scene a few years ago and has exploded in popularity. If you are an artistic person, this method is a great tool.

The premise is to meditate on a Bible verse as you highlight, color, and create art around it.

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/bible-journaling

Friends of mine have a hugely popular Visual Faith® Ministry. There are hundreds of free graphics and ideas (where I downloaded the one above) that include examples of how to highlight, color, and visually enhance your Bible reading experience.

The Bible is God’s inspired Word – a TEXT full of grace and love to you. Think of the margins as your invitation to text back your response of love, gratitude, praise, or devotion. Adding a date to your pages creates a story of your spiritual journey – and leaves behind a legacy of faith for your children and grandchildren.

Visual Faith® Ministry

The goal is to utilize your God-given artistic gifts to engage with and meditate on Scripture. Be sure to keep in mind the main purpose: meditate on that passage(s) as you use your artistic talents.

Method #10: Read Scripture Like a Novel

Right from Genesis 1, Scripture opens as an epic, cosmic tale about the heavens and the earth. We see God creating everything out of nothing. We see marital drama between Adam and Eve. Blessings and curses. Covenants. Promises. Murder. Adultery. Betrayal. War. Political subversion. Even cinematic-worthy battles.

If you are a writer or wannabe screenwriter, simply look at the account of David’s battle with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. You can’t make that stuff up. It flat out reads like an award-winning novel.

https://cph.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=110&url=379

There are main characters, metanarrative, and deep plot development that become clearer when reading the Bible like a novel. The settings are both intimate and dramatic. The important difference? Scripture is non-fiction.

The overarching message of the Bible becomes crystal clear: God’s love towards us never fails.

If you love stories, read through the Bible like a novel. Mentally insert yourself into those stories. Visualize your surroundings. See how God challenges and rescues. Scripture comes alive!

Method #11: Pray Through the Psalms

As a new 20-something Christian struggling with how God could love someone like me, a godly mentor pointed me to the Psalms.

The Psalms put into words the hurricane of thoughts whirling in my head that I could not verbalize. She suggested that I use the Psalms as a prayer guideline.

It was a spiritual game-changer.

Every emotion that we experience can be found in the Psalms. Anger. Love. Bitterness. Praise. Confusion. Hurt. Thanksgiving. You name it, and it’s in the Psalms.

This method can be written out in a prayer journal, as well as spoken aloud. Since prayer is spoken aloud, start by reading the psalm aloud. You will hear the emotion of each psalmist.

Why do emotions matter?

God created us with emotion to move our hearts and soul beyond our comfort zones. What emotions are in the psalm? The key to relating to the Psalms is putting yourself in the place of the psalmist. Speak as if you were writing it from your own experience. Joy. Heartbreak. Victory. Loss.

King David penned almost half of the psalms. He poured his heart out to God in his writing. And as he wrote, God’s peace and comfort faithfully surrounded him. And his writing reflected it.

As you pray the Psalms aloud, God’s peace and comfort also surround your everyday life. We are verbally handing over our worries and concerns to the only One who has the power to change them.

The Psalms are also infused with worship. Worship was an integral part of the Israelite’s life. Consequently, the Psalms overflow with adoration and worship of God. If your circumstances leave you without words to worship, speak those worship Psalms aloud.

Praying and worshiping through the Psalms continues to be one of the most powerful spiritual tools that God has given us.

Method #12: Pull Out Your Biblical Maps

Understanding the geography around Biblical stories adds an important layer to studying Scripture. Years ago, a friend gave me an ESV Bible Atlas as a birthday gift and it is never far from reach.

For example, when Jacob sent his favorite son Joseph to check on his shepherding brothers, a map reveals that Joseph’s journey was between 50-60 miles. Not just up the road! Such insights lend a greater understanding of the hardships and blessings of Biblical characters.

When you realize that the Sea of Galilee is only eight miles wide by twelve miles long, we can visualize how the crowds tracked Jesus’ boat as they followed Him along the shore to experience the miraculous feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21).

I regularly lead tours through the Holy Land. One comment repeatedly stated is that they had no idea the close proximity of some locations to others. For instance, Magdala, Tiberius, Capernaum, and the Mount of Beatitudes can be seen from an anchored boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Holy Land Tour

If you love maps, this is a very effective method of diving deeper into Scripture. Grab a Bible atlas, pick a story from Scripture, and track the character’s movements. This is particularly eye-opening in Exodus.

I have spent many hours lost in the pages of that Bible atlas seeing Scripture come to life through geography.

Method #13: Use Bible Flash Cards

Flashcards are not just for school students. As a bona fide lifelong learner, flashcards are an invaluable way to study Scripture.

When my Forgiveness Bible study was released, the publisher had the brilliant idea of offering Scripture memory cards as a companion study tool. I still keep those cards close as a reminder to keep a short account of hurts. Life is short. Forgiveness is commanded.

If you are new to the Bible in general, there are flashcards for learning the books of the Bible, significant characters, and even timelines.

This study method is a great resource if you do not have much daily time for in-depth study.

The Bottom Line

The Bible is our only true source of wisdom and knowledge. Regular studying of God’s Word provides a firm foundation to grow and strengthen your faith.

Remember to give yourself some grace as you study Scripture. You are learning the spiritual riches of a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. It takes a lifetime.

The Bible is a life manual for all Christians. God’s Word is life-giving and life-changing. There is a reason that it is the world’s best-selling book of all time.

Above all, diligent Bible study will remind you time and again of the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. God bless your study time!

{Some of these links are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through that link, the ministry may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your ministry support!}

Code Blue and Ash Wednesday

Once again, the darkened wee hours are startled awake as “Code Blue!” rings loud over the hospital’s ICU intercom. The staff rushes as one to battle the emergency.

I selfishly thank God that they are not rushing into mom’s room.

It’s 3am as I hear them working to save a life. As my prayers ascend each time Code Blue rings out, I know that God is already in each room.

God was in mom’s room before we were, as well. And He will be there after we are gone, whether the inhabitants acknowledge Him or not.

Prayer moves the heart of God, but faith reminds us that God is already moving.

The season of Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. Isaiah 53:5 tells us, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Jesus was crushed for our sin. And the most amazing thing? He did it willingly. He deliberately put Himself in harm’s way to save our lives – literally.

God positioned Jesus in a certain place and time to be the Savior of the world. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we were in a spiritually life-threatening situation.

We weren’t going to make it out alive.

We were bleeding to death in our sin.

We were going to lose the fight for life.

But because our Savior stepped in to take God’s wrath on our behalf, we have been extended the extraordinary promise to have eternal life.

If you would like to ponder more deeply the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for you and me, you can download my 4-lesson Bible study on Isaiah 53:5.

DOWNLOAD HERE.

Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. God’s blessings as you travel toward Calvary during Lent.