Studying the Bible is 'soul food' for Christians

Jackson Sun
May 31, 2014
Dr. Ryan Fraser

Do you regularly read and study your Bible? God’s Word is the primary source of “soul food” for the Christian. Without feeding on it consistently, we are likely to starve spiritually. Reverence for the Scriptures and diligent study of them go hand-in-hand.

Psalm 119:105 asserts, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Bible exposes the darkness and illuminates the way to heaven. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching , for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can catch a glimpse into God’s mind and grasp his perfect will by reading what he has revealed to us in his holy Word.

There are several ways to get more personally involved in Bible study. Attending a Bible class at church is a good start as well as forming a private devotional time as part of your daily routine to spend quality time in the Word. You also could invite some friends or neighbors to hold a weekly Bible study in your home or theirs.

Many people struggle with knowing where to start when it comes to studying the Bible. I would recommend beginning with one of the four Gospels— Matthew, Mark, Luke or John — and systematically working through the book, paragraph by paragraph. Having a good Bible handbook or commentary on hand to supplement what you glean and provide some additional background to the text you’re studying is often helpful.

There are some important considerations to remember when entering into personal Bible study. First, do so prayerfully and with an open heart and mind. Ask God to show you what he wants you to understand from his Word and for the wisdom to know how to apply it in your life . One of the hurdles we often have is that of coming to Scripture with preconceived notions and biases. We’ve got to set aside our blurry lenses and look at the text as if for the very first time with eyes and hearts wide open to the truth.

Second, answer the following questions about the passage of Scripture you’re exploring: (1) Who is speaking? (2) To whom is it spoken? (3) When was it spoken? (4) Why was it spoken? When it comes to Bible study, proper interpretation and application  depends on establishing the right context. Slow down before jumping to faulty conclusions.

Third, harmonize all Scripture. In other words, avoid taking a particular verse or passage out of the larger context of the entirety of the Bible (as well as of the more direct context of the particular chapter and book itself). It is important to compare the text with other Scriptures that address similar topics to gain a clearer perspective of the overarching picture. This also will help in determining the precise meaning of the text in question and clear up confusion.

The Gospel writers were seen as artists in their societies with some artistic license. In the Gospels we need to be looking for the essence of them, not the details. Understand that there are certain accounts  that are word for word while there are others that are thought for thought. We must ask how they shake us up and shape us. We must ask what impact they have in our lives. We need to get out of the Western mindset and just enjoy the story, and see how they affect us.

Fourth, ask yourself, “What was the text saying back then?” and then ask, “How is it speaking to us today?” In other words, what were the author’s original intent and its original meaning within its historical context? Then, what principles are applicable from the text for people in our own day and age and culture?

Most importantly, remember “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Ministry reaches out with food, Bible study

May 31, 2014
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — One evening each week in a west-side neighborhood, a local preacher standing in front of his small church calls out to passers-by: “Free food. We love our neighborhood. Come join us for brats and Bible study.”

The Rev. Canneth Lee started an outreach he calls “Brats and Bible Study” because he wanted to do something different in the neighborhood.

“Brats and Bible Study” meets on the corner of Johnson and Elwood Avenue every Wednesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in front of the Kingdom Christian Center.

Church members greet passers-by and invite them to the Bible study as they cheerfully offer candy.

[body_starts_here]“I was talking to my congregation about outreach this year and doing something different,” said Lee.

“In the past years, we did free hot dogs, chips and water on Saturdays. This year because of the recent violence I wanted to engage our neighbors in a relevant way. So we decided to take evangelism to the street where the people are. And so far it’s been a great way to bring the teenagers to church.”

Lee said he has the heart for people from all walks of life and saw an opportunity for his congregation to both pray and feed the souls of people in their neighborhood both physically and spiritually. That’s what Brats and Bible Study has been doing over the past months.

“I used to go to church all the time, but when my grandmother died I stopped,” said Andre Butler, 16, a student at Washington High School.

“Pastor Lee brings the Bible to life when he talks and somehow he manages to relate to our time. I like his message and I’m always hungry.”

Last week’s Scripture passage came from I Samuel. “When David fought with a giant. You see the giant would come down every day and dare someone to fight him, and one day David, a young man, took him on and brought him down,” the minister said.

“This neighborhood is put down all the time by people who think we are located in a bad place. But today, 30 young people have come to hear this message and no one has been able to bring us down because we are protected by the armor of God. You can stand against anything that comes your way and God will give you the power over your enemies,” Lee said.

Two new families who met members of the congregation last week immediately connected with the folks who gathered.

The ministry also has paved the way for more interactions between the church and the youth.

Everyone is invited to join them for “Brats and Bible Study” and all in need of prayer are encourage to stop by, Lee said.

“We are a very close church community,” said Maryah Wright, a Clay High School student and church member. “What I like about coming here is getting people to come join us and once they come, they keep coming back.”

Women share love for the Lord in Bible study

May 16, 2014
The Times and Democrat

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to meet an intriguing group of more than 100 women who had two of many things in common: a love for life and a love for the Lord.

These women comprised every shape, style and shade of the rainbow that covers the earth’s sky on any given day, yet managed to gather in core groups for an intense biblical journey spanning 30 weeks.

There was lots of laughter at the group’s Share Day that culminated the Bible study at the First Baptist Family Life Center. There were plenty of tears, too, but not from constantly asking their children, “Why are you standing there with the refrigerator door open? Are you contributing to the electric bill this month?”

Rather, as each woman — some of them mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers — took to the podium, tears of joy flowed as they recounted their journey through the Book of John with their “sisters” and how it helped them understand both the “humanity and divinity of Christ” and offered them a “fresh look at Jesus.”

Toni Pipkins served as the teaching director of the Orangeburg Community Bible Study cohort for the international ministry. She said she has seen the class grow from 70 to more than 200 in the last two and half years.

“It’s amazing to see women from every walk of life, socioeconomic level and race come together to study the Bible,” she said.

She said it was a day to “experience how God is changing our community from the inside out.”

Conversation could be heard throughout the room as the women dined.

One woman said, “I was always in the church, but now the church is in me,” and another said, “I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but through this group I’ve gotten to know Him.”

While the ecumenical Bible study served as an extension to some of the women’s regular church attendance, others said they found their voice and found women who they could share Christ with in a deeper way.

I met women like Nicole Cabin, who said through her corporate and individual study she learned she must listen to God and get out of her own way.

“I can sit in prayer for 20 minutes and not say a word and still hear a lot from God,” she said.

Harriet Horne said, “In order to introduce Jesus, people need to first know there is a God.”

“God loves me through you,” Yvonne Pooser said to her CBS sisters. “When you wrap your arms around me, that’s Him loving me.”

In her first year with the Bible Study, Willette Staley said she got restless after retiring. She compared herself to the Biblical account of Martha.

“I was always busy ... too busy to hear the voice of God,” she said.

Adelle Holly joked that she found strength to stand and speak in front of an audience, something she hadn’t done since high school.

Women like Sandra Watts, Alice Houser, Shey Patrick and others learned 30 central truths about the Gospel of John. They shared sentiments like “love for their new family,” “triumphs over ovarian cancer” and “being overwhelmed by Jesus’ love.”

However, everyone believed Gloria Kirkland summed it up best with her rendition of a 1963 song by Bill Gaither, the chorus of which goes: “He touched me, oh he touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.”

Virginia county takes aim at home Bible studies, freedom of assembly

MAY 11, 2014
Washington Examiner – Opinion

A new Fairfax County, Va., zoning proposal takes direct aim at the right to assemble in the privacy of one’s own home.

This proposed “Group Assembly in Residential Dwellings” zoning ordinance amendment not only poses a grave and fundamental violation of the U.S. Constitution but smacks of the worst type of government overreach.

The ordinance would limit the number of people one could have in their home to 49 a day, and to exceed that limit more than 3 times in any 40-day period would be a violation of law.

I never imagined hosting a Bible study in my home could one day be a violation of the law, but that’s exactly what this proposal could do.

On a recent Wednesday night, I joined dozens of other concerned residents of the county at one of three planned Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ community meetings to voice our outrage about this proposal.

I explained how the proposed amendment would violate the right to free speech, the right to religious expression, and the right to freedom of assembly.

The Supreme Court has specifically held that it would be a direct violation of the Constitution for an ordinance “to make criminal the exercise of the right of assembly simply because its exercise may be ‘annoying' to some people.”

That’s precisely what the proposed ordinance aims to do.

It limits the rights of the Fairfax residents to peaceably assemble in their own homes, to hold Bible studies there, and conduct many other lawful activities.

It not only violates the U.S. Constitution, it violates Virginia’s religious freedom statue by substantially burdening an individual’s religious right to hold a Bible study in their own home if it exceeds a certain number of participants.

In fact, the explanation for this proposal on Fairfax County's website specifically denotes “religious meetings” as one of the intended targets of this ordinance.

The supposed need for the proposed amendment is to combat “parking, noise, and other concerns,” yet none of these issues are addressed by the ordinance.

The county has plenty of tools in its arsenal to combat any actual problem without violating the constitutional rights of its citizenry.

As I explained to the county officials, there are numerous ordinances on the books governing parking, noise, trespassing, and property damage.

To limit the number of people allowed to visit a home would be the same as if the county were to address obnoxiously loud music by banning playing the radio altogether in one’s home. It’s that absurd.

It’s been reported that out of the millions of peaceful gatherings that occur in Virginia’s most populous county, there were only six complaints of problematic, large gatherings over the last year.

This ordinance would not only hamper Bible studies, but birthday parties, community block parties, realtors’ open houses, having people over to watch the big game, and so much more.

As one resident complained, being from a large family, just gathering with his extended family for Sunday dinner would suddenly be illegal.

It opens up the county to needless litigation, at taxpayer expense, over a perceived problem that could be solved in less intrusive ways.

This proposed ordinance is just more needless regulation to resolve a nonexistent problem and make violators out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Thankfully, at least one member of the board, Pat Herrity, has raised the alarm on this issue, concerned about the legal pitfalls of such an ordinance.

Hopefully, the entire board will heed the opinions expressed by county residents and quash this absurd and blatantly
unconstitutional assault on our rights.

Matthew Clark is a resident of Fairfax County, Va., and associate counsel for government affairs and media advocacy with the American Center for Law and Justice.