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002 - Tips or No Tips? - The ‘ABCs’ of reading the Bible

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin
The Truth Network Radio
August 8, 2020 2:00 pm

002 - Tips or No Tips? - The ‘ABCs’ of reading the Bible

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin

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August 8, 2020 2:00 pm

Episode 002 - Tips or No Tips? - The ‘ABCs’ of reading the Bible

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You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye? Is there something here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper. Right. Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink.

Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own. As we ask God to meet us there in its pages. Welcome to more than.

Join us today as we talk about the rules for reading the Bible like rules through day. This makes me want to break them. Okay, let's not do the rules about. Join us as we look at general tips for eating the best tips. Sounds trivial. OK. And what would you say? I have principles, general. General principles for reading the Bible. OK. Next. Well, welcome back. This is Jim and this is Dorothy.

We are glad that you've returned to us with more than ink to talk about the Bible and the fundamentals of reading it and the blessings it is of reading it and how you go about doing that and how you become a self learner in the Bible. So. So we're just glad you're back with us today. We want to focus here sort of at the beginning again on on the fundamentals of Bible exploration. I mean, kind of it's not all the tips about how to read the Bible, but there's sort of an I don't want to call it rules, but there are approaches that we use that are just really valuable. And we want to cover those because these these different rules. What's a better word for principles? Printing Zerega, basic print facing principles. These will come back over and over and over and over and over again as we look at passages as the weeks go on. So so we want to cover him here so you'll understand them a little bit. And then we'll point about as we go on. We use some examples today as well. So. So let's start with this. And this is probably the biggest issue when it comes to people reading the Bible and doing it poorly. This is a you know, you heard people snatch a little verse and then just wave that little verse around like eight words and act like that's the be all end all of everything in terms of knowledge. And you've missed the context. So context is just a gigantic issue when you're reading the Bible. It what's the general issues about context? What's the problem?

Well, we don't read very well. You know, we kind of zoom in on the words that we like or the words that Aintree guess are the words that get our attention and then we kind of yank those out and fix on those.

Right. And you can define it to be almost anything you want at that point, right? Yeah. And that's that's a tremendous problem. Just a tremendous problem. It also it's encouraged by the fact that people take versus like that home out of context. We call it. And you can you can give them to someone else. And they spread like wildfire, including the interpretation of it. Well, it really nowhere comes. Yeah. And then people say, well, the Bible says this. Exactly. And we'll give you probably within the novel says lots of stuff that isn't necessarily what God has to say. Yeah. And you take everything I say out of context and make me mean anything you want it to mean. So to be fair, you really have to watch the context about these things versus aren't bad. But just make sure you understand the flow. What's going on. Great example. Probably the most abused example ever in the world of this is when people quote to you and they say, well, doesn't the Bible say, you know, Judge, not that you be not judged. Doesn't it say that it shouldn't judge. So stop judging me. And is that a fair interpretation of what that versus talki meant? That comes off. That comes out of near the end of the Sermon on the Mount. And I'm studying the Sermon on the Mount right now. So you hear a lot of examples from that. But that one is so used whenever we have an opinion about what's right and wrong, especially as is embodied in a person, people say, well, Bible, the Bible says, don't judge or you'll be judged. So is this really pejorative against judging at all?

Yeah. The problem comes with the way we use the word judge. Right. Because in English we're kind of poverty stricken and we used judge in a lot of different ways. But the Bible has a lot of different layers of meaning to the term judge meaning catchphrase.

It can mean discern. It can mean evaluate. Apply some thought, too. But it can also mean to render a judicial verdict like a condemnation. Right. And that's the that's the distinction there. I mean, the context in Sermon on the Mount is Jesus is talking about hypocrisy. Exactly. And pasting a label on someone else that you are unwilling to apply to yourself.

Yeah. So. So how do you fix that problem? Well, that's that's Matthew seven, verse one. Well, if you just read down to verse five, just four versus later, he after he talks about some of the problems of the hypocrisy in judging and stuff like that, he actually does recommend that we help other people through our judgment. It's actually endorsed at the end of that. Can you get down to verse five? He says, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. So this section is how you do it. Not so much whether you should or not.

Yeah, I'm first. You know, seeing clearly is the issue. First Corinthians two speaks about having the mind of Christ Jimminy and talked about this ahead of time. But, you know, Paul says in that passage, I don't have it right in front of me, that there's nothing that we cannot apply the mind of Christ to, that when we have the spirit in us directing our minds, we can appraise all things we can apply judgment, spirit, led judgment, discernment to everything and anything.

Yeah. We're not supposed to be naive. That's raw and dumb and roll over anything. I think clearly according to what God thinks. Exactly. Exactly. So that's. That's it. So that's a good example of context issue. So, again, if you're if you're venturing into reading the Bible now because you're thinking about this, just make sure you read sections, reread around it. And we always recommend. OK. So you got a favorite verse, someone. Asked to, you know, read some before and some after, read like ten verse before in 10 versus after missed, not a lot. We're talking about one or two paragraphs. So get the gist of what's going on. Well, sometimes it does require even a little a little broader reading, like who is there? Who is talking? Who are they saying? Well, I was recommending the minimum. OK, so just don't go to the single verse syndrome because that's that's usually deadly because people can twist diversed. I mean, whatever they want. Unless you see the context. Let's move on to the next kind of principle, not to principle.

OK. So that relates to observation, which is closely connected to context. Right. Where are we? Who is speaking to who? What are the details? What does the text actually say? And we had something come up real interestingly just recently that Jim and I were realizing, oh, there's a little word in a passage that we are very familiar with that we really hadn't emphasized right before. So sometimes you just have to slow down and observe very. And the word has always been there. The word has always been in there. Do you want to pull up the passage? Yeah.

Well, it's again, it's on Sermon on the Mount. It's in Matthew seven again. And you've heard this thing about the you know, the narrow way in the Broadway. And people talk about that all the time or a narrow path and a broad path and end. And that whole concept is twisted to mean just about anything that you want, you know. So if the narrow path is not doing something in the broad path, as you can twisted. But when you read the passage and the more dominant word and there is not the path or the way, it's the gate to gate, it's the gate. And he starts by saying, enter by the narrow gate. This is Matthew seven 13. And so so, you know, you pass by that and you just don't think about, well, the gates, not the big issue here. The path is the path is because he says enter by the narrow gate for the gate is wide in the way is easy. That leads to destruction. So we always talk about the way. But what's the gate about? And then you'd be look about it. You think, well, I'm not just going to pass over that. What is it? What wouldn't when Jesus says gate, what did people think of in their minds? And. And if you've ever been to his early know anything about archeology, you know that the cities were all walled with big stone walls and they had they had limited numbers of entries into and out of the city. And they were called Gates. Yeah. And the point of a gate is to limit access, limit and access. So when Jesus talks about a gate, he's talking about a place of limited access, of deliberate, limited access, and then nearer the gate, the easier it was defense. So the more restrictive, the narrower the gate. So when he says enter by the narrow gate, he's saying enter by the very restrictive way. There's a very restrictive way that's that's going on. And later in the passage, he says that restrictive way is is keeping people out of the city, which is called life. And so when you look at this, the gate as a restricted device rather than the path itself that leads to the gate, your whole interpretation shifts. And that's just because you slow down and you observe, hey, there's Gates in here, and I've never thought about that before.

Yeah. And we're not talking about a sweet little white picket fence gate. We're talking about it just we fended defended access point that there's only one way in which once that dawns on you, you realize, oh, my gosh. Jesus said in John Ten, I am the door. You gotta come in and go out through me. Right. Right.

So this path in life eventually leads to a destination, which is that gate. And that gate is engineered by God to be a deliberately restrictive passage. And he's talking about judgment at the end of life. And few will actually pass through it. So. So go back and read the passage. But I think it was just a it was an astonishing thing to me that when we talk about observation, I'd read that word gate a gazillion times and it just never dawned on me what was being implied. But to people who heard Jesus speak this, they knew exactly what to do at a city gates was they had a city gate right in front of it. Right. So. Right. So that's observation. Go slow down. Just notice what's there.

Notice the details. Notice the words that are chosen. Notice if those words are repeated or repeated. Idea. Because sometimes the scripture will say something one way and then restate it in the next sentence. In other words. Or a paragraph later. And the poetic books actually are famous for this. That's the way they're structured. They rhyme thoughts or concepts rather than rhyming words like we do in our poetry. Exactly. And in Middle Eastern poetry, they rhyme thoughts. They rhyme concepts. So we've got pairs of statements that say the same thing from different point of view.

And the more you read that that literature is you recognize it's pretty common.

So we watch an observation. We look for repeated words. We look for details. We look for who is speaking to who. Who is the intended audience. Who is speaking. Right. Just obvious stuff over. We tend to gloss over well. And as I said before, we when we read sometimes. We just fix on the things that attract our attention, we're drawn to the shiny stuff. Yeah. Instead of seeing what's really there, it's kind of you can't see the forest for the trees. Canada. Exactly.

Well, that's a good segue way into the issues of mixing Old Testament and New Testament. So why is that important?

Well, we can't really understand the New Testament unless we understand the Old Testament, because the context is the New Testament comes on the heels of the Old Testament, one that people speaking in the New Testament were mired in the Old Testament.

That's right.

So, you know, two passages actually came to mind when I was thinking about this. And the first one actually is John 316.

And we reference this yesterday about the verse before and the verse after are so important, Jesus says in verse 14, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even Selma's the son of man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. And then he says, for God so loved the world. Right. We know that part. But then we go to her 17th, for God didn't send the son into the world to judge the world or to render a verdict right now. Right. But that the world should be saved through him. Well, what he's referencing there is clear back in numbers 21.

If you remember that incident in the wilderness when the people were complaining and the Lord sent fiery serpents as names that bit that matter. And then he says to Moses, Now take an image, make an image of the serpent in bronze and put it up on a pole and stand it up in the middle of the people so that when they look at it, they can be saved. They say die from the bite. It doesn't say they stopped getting bitten. Right. What it says is they won't die from the bite if they look to the serpent on the bowl. So Jesus takes that image. That would have been very, very familiar to Nicodemus, who was talking to in that conversation and says just like that. That's how the son of man came to seek and to save the lost. Yeah. And so unless we familiar with that would be a natural connection to his here, I would have immediately the peg would have dropped in the hole for Nicodemus. But for us, it's like, where did that come from? So we need to read our Old Testament alongside the New Testament. When you find in your New Testament reading that there is an Old Testament reference to chase it down. Yeah, chase it down.

And that's you know, it's one of the things we talk about, about tools for study, too. If you have a Bible that has a reference section, you know, either down the center column or side columns or something, and they'll usually have these passages and it'll have a little flag and say, go look back here in Exodus. And if you go look, you go, oh, look at that. So you don't have to be a total Bible scholar to know those connections. The references in your columns in your Bible will lead you to those.

OK. But even if you don't have a reference, anytime Moses is mentioned, you can pretty well thumb back to Exodus, Exodus, Exodus or Deuteronomy and find with a little a little thumb work and little searching. What's being talked about.

Exactly. Well, let's move on. So we talked about context, read larger sections about observation. There's so much more tons observation. You just notice what's there and quit reading. Overstuff Old Testament, absolutely valuable. Another one that we talked about is using the Bible to interpret the Bible. So, for instance, if I pull a verse out of context, who he said is bad, and I and I interpreted in a way that that's inconsistent with what the rest of scripture teaches, then maybe my my, you know, interpretations. Wrong. So important. So you're really Haston have to use the Bible to help interpret the Bible. And there's no way to to groom that facility unless you just read a lot of Bible. You know, you make those connections so that you're not you're not coming to conclusions that are at odds. And the reason philosophically this this should work is because God says breathed into all the scripture. So if God is the ultimate author through all of these different men, then they should have the same message. I have the same interpretation. So you can do just a really good example. And this fits our culture a lot is about the the priest, Melchizedek and Melchizedek has taught a lot in our culture here. And so and if you read if you read through the Bible, you'll find Melchizedek has mentioned a ton in the book of Hebrews at least eight times in chapters five, six and a lot in seven. And the writer, the writer of Hebrews is trying to make a point about the nature of Jesus as our high priest and as a priest like Melchizedek. Well, so then you could go off in crazy directions and talk about Melchizedek. This mark is make stuff up and it just makes stuff up. Yeah, well, you know what you can find Melchizedek in the Old Testament is in Genesis 14 and nowhere. He has this interesting encounter with Abraham. So it's way back in Abraham time. So to keep you from misinterpreting in the New Testament who Melchizedek is and what that means about who Jesus is, our priest is. Well, hey, let's use the Bible to interpret the Bible. This go back to Genesis 14 and just find out who Melchizedek is. And it's really his only. Cameo appearance in the entire Bible is back there in Genesis 14.

Actually, I just did this with a friend just a couple of weeks ago, a friend who grew up in the dominant culture here. And she said, you know, what is this, Melchizedek? What is this about him? Is he a real guy? And so we went back to them passage and just read it. I didn't we didn't even read it. Study it. We just read it.

And she's like, oh, that's all new to me.

And then suddenly a lot of the mythology that she had grown up with just evaporated know. Going off the rails. Yeah. And then there's actually one other place, the Old Testament, where it mentions in songs and in Psalms one mentions Melchizedek and really paints the connection between the real person Melchizedek over in Genesis 14 with what the writer of Hebrews is talking about in terms of a type to talk about who Jesus is and someone tells all about the Messiah, Jesus.

So, OK, we need to talk about Type's maybe in another conversation, because that is a huge, important concept to understand. Yeah. But we won't do it right now.

Yeah. Don't have much time left. Well, let's move on to this. Since Melchizedek was a real person. We have to realize the Bible is in the context of real people in real time, in real culture. And that changes how we kind of mystify the Bible that these are real people, right?

Yeah, we have real people in real families relating to one another in a real way. These are not made up. People are idealized people. We have, you know, accounts of a deeply dysfunctional families. For instance, King David's family, all of his children, many, I would say all many, many children, a lot of deeply troubled. He was not apparently such a good father. And, you know, one of his sons attempted to seize the kingdom and led an insurrection. Another of his sons raped his half sister. There was tragedy and sorrow in that family. And the Bible recounts these things unflinchingly. I've been reading Lamentations and Habakkuk and Zephaniah in preparation for something else. And, you know, Lamentations talks about the total destruction of Jerusalem and the sorrow and everything from cannibalism to what people are like who are dying of starvation. I mean, these are very real accounts of real people going through real circumstances.

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, it seems like an obvious point to make. But the problem is that many times when people approach the Bible, they think it's kind of a is kind of a two way use the word magic, but it's a mythology. Yeah. That you pull out these little tidbits and it doesn't necessarily have to be anything about real people, but it is real people and it is real. And God's trying to give us an understanding of who he is in a context of how he how how he interacted with real people during real times. So there's a there's a vast amount of sinfulness that's mentioned in the Old Testament and the new. Oh, yeah. We're doing wrong style people in their real brokenness. Exactly. And so you don't want to look at that brokenness and say, look, it's mentioned in the Bible, so it's OK.

Right. In polygamy is it is a case, a living. He is well read into that a lot. Yeah. Just because it is mentioned and described and because it was an active part of us of a number of the lives of people in the Old Testament. Right. Right. Some of our local culture point to that and say, look, God must have commanded it where I meant no, not so much.

And in fact, if you just want to do an honest observation to find out, you know, when you see polygamy, the Old Testament, just look at it and ask yourself, does this look like these worked out well? There is no doubt. Was it turned out well? So there's no way you'd read? Doesn't go well. That's a good idea. Look out worked out for them because it didn't work out well for them. So so, again, these are real people and polygamy is not something God commanded. In fact, it's it's something that God commands against, especially when he talks about rulers. So, you know, he's just not a good deal. And in many, when you go to Genesis two, God doesn't give Adam to wives. So, you know, you just got to look at what's there and realize these are real people.

Many of them doing really stupid things well, or polygamy being accepted in that culture at that time. God acknowledges it and accounts for it, but does not endorse it.

Right. And people will say, well, if it was bad, God would have condemned it and he would have judged them for it. And I say, well, no, you're doing a lot of stuff today. That's wrong. And God's not taking you out right now, OK? But actually, he did. He said but he did. Kings should not be taken out of life, so no one should be taking multiple wives. So, yeah, in the New Testament, again, leaders should be, you know, a one women people is what it basically says. So. Well, let's Segway the last section about just general reading tips, because we want you to go out and read the Bible. We really do. And there's a couple of more reading ideas, principles about that. And once you start with the first thought on it. Well, I.

I just can't emphasize reading enough. Read. Read. Read and then read some more. We are people who like to read soundbites and reduced dangers to little headlines, but the Bible is one book and it's a huge story. And we need to read often and read completely, like whole sentences, whole paragraphs, whole letters, read widely, read repeatedly. How many times have you come to the end of a page in anything you're reading? Not just the Bible.

And realized my eyes were reading those words and somewhere in my brain they were being accounted for. But I was actually thinking about something. I'm the exact and I have to go back to the top and start. But then you kind of do this thing you say. But I get credit for the fact. Right? I read it. I can check that out. If I read my brain wasn't engaged. Right. Yeah. So read with your mind engaged. And that probably means slow down.

Yeah. In large measure, it does end an end to be inquisitive as you're reading. You basically sit down, say, well, God, what have you got for me? Let's just take a look here and see. In fact, one of things I recommend to people a lot when they're reading is, is that there's there's advantages to both reading large sections quickly as well as small sections slowly. And we were talking about the Sermon on the Mount. You know, when you get the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, very famous of the Beatitudes at the beginning, a Sermon on the Mount Matthew five starts in verse three. And he says, you know, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And then he doesn't say anything else about what the heck that means. So you have to sit there and you need to see to dwell on that for a while and and work through the words and just sit on that and meditate NASCAR. Well, what does that mean? And when you get deeper into the idea of what being poor in spirit is all about, you realize that that's that's the condition we are all in before we come to Christ. So it's an interesting thing. You need to be slow that you don't just need to rip through the Sermon on the Mount and Beatitudes. That's wrong. But for me, you know, if I get to a narrative which is which is just a true story being told like one my favorite narratives and judges four and five is Deborah. Just a great, great story. Just an incredible story. Well, I'm not going to dwell on a verse for an hour and a half because it's a story is storytelling. So, you know, be discerning and see what's there and understand that you need to take to different speeds in two different breaths, continue to stay in context. But I remember one time, in fact, when Dorothy was working at the Pancake House. Oh, golly, I was. A long time ago. Long time ago. I have two years. And you closed the restaurant like at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and I would come and just sit there and watch as all the customers are doing all the way. And I wait for you to finish work. I remember one time I went with my little pocket Bible and I decided, well, I'm sitting here in this booth all alone. I'm going to read all of Romans in one sitting. I had never done that before. And I read Romans in one sitting and I was blown away. I mean, I was just I was just amazed that this just isn't just a little collection of little tidbits that are strung together. This is a gigantic single fort. So, again, even though there's small sections in Romans I want to dwell on, because they they deserve that. Also forcing yourself to go to a large picture reading the whole thing.

One is really extraordinarily valuable, as hugely important. I think we underestimate how much we can gain by just reading a large portion all at once.

And I, you know, ran across a funny quote. I think it is Mark Twain that said it said, you know, when it comes to the Bible, it's not what I don't understand. It bothers me. It's the parts that I do understand. Yeah.

And way we can gain a lot more understanding than we think we can by simply reading for the big picture and read the whole book. It's not going to take you as long as you think.

And if something trips you because you'd understand it sometime, we'll just let it go for a while and come back to it. Sometimes it's better just to keep an eye and gain the bigger picture, even if you haven't got the whole thing debugged.

So I'll give you an example of this. We took a trip to Israel a few years ago. That was a geographical history tour. And the first thing we did every time we got off the bus, our teacher would say, now look around at the horizon. What can you see from here that, you know, we've been there before? And how does it relate to where we are now? So when we come to read the scriptures, I've come to apply that that way. If I look at the horizon, what can I see from here that I've seen before? Where am I? In the bigger context and you'll be amazed at how many dots begin to connect right that way if you read for the big picture. Right.

So, so read for the big picture. Just dove into it and do it. And if something snags you or I don't what that means, make a note. Go back to it later, but keep going sometimes it's a much better way to do it. That was Clue's case when I read Romans way back in 1917 or three.

I read together. Yeah, he's a guy. So I make a habit of this reading a whole book. And then as soon as I get to the end, go back and read it again, because it's amazing what comes off the page the second time.

Yeah. Or if I actually drill down on specific verses and studying for a while, which is kind of time consuming, then when I get done with that, I think I want to go back, read the whole thing now that I have more understanding on the specific verses and read the whole thing. You know, always a big flyover. It's just it's just a remarkable way to do it. And it's not a waste of time. And so we are like at a time.

We're out of time again that we. Talked about context a little bit. We've talked about observation, we've talked about connecting your Old Testament with your New Testament. We've talking about laying the Bible, interpret itself and reading big and little.

Right. Right. Read with your mind. Open toward the spirit of God. So before we come back, next time, we hope you do a little bit of reading yourself. And and we'll see you next time. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for joining us.

More than Ink is a production of Main Street Church of Brigham City and is solely responsible for its content to contact us with your questions or comments. Just go to our Web site. More than Dettori. Man does not live by bread alone. But man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.


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