Links for the Weekend (2023-09-08)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

God’s Promises Are Enough for Our Kids (and Us)

God is a promise-keeping God, and this is a strong foundation for every Christian, no matter how young.

God’s precious and very great promises are enough for our kids. And they’re enough for us too, because it’s as we know and trust them that we know and enjoy God personally. Here’s a prayer worth praying: that the go-to heart cry of all our children, throughout their lives, would simply be “Thank you, God, that you always keep your promises.”

Digital Resistance: Three Habits for the Internet Age

If digital technologies shape and form us, Samuel James argues that some resistance may be required by faithful Christians. He describes some habits that correspond to needs we have as those made by God.

My answer is that we should think not (primarily) in terms of retreat, but in terms of resistance. The bad news is that the thought patterns of the web are so embedded into modern life that we cannot effectively avoid them. The good news is that the same responsiveness to the power of habit that makes online addiction so powerful also makes analog resistance effective. 

Why Summaries are Not the Same as Main Points

When studying the Bible, it’s important to understand that summaries are not the same thing as main points. My friend Peter Krol explores the difference in this article and explains why that difference matters.

A summary is most helpful when you need to find something or remember where it’s located in the Scriptures. (“There’s a great parable about two men who prayed to God from a desire to be righteous before him. Let’s take a look at Luke 18 to see how that worked out for them.”) But a main point is crucial when it comes time to provoke change unto Christlikeness.

We’re on shaky ground if we apply only select details of a text to our lives. It’s shaky because it’s possible to go in nearly any direction with application. Using only the details enables us to steer the ship of our own lives on a heading most pleasing to us.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Heaven Is Not Vacation. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

How to Make Sense of the Bible

As Christians, we know that we’re supposed to focus on the Bible. Most of us are okay with reading the Bible, and sometimes we even work on Scripture memorization.

But the thought of studying the Bible can be daunting. We might wonder why we need to do such a hard thing when we have both paid professionals (pastors) to do this for us and an abundance of explanations of the Scriptures (study Bibles, commentaries, etc.).

Christians should study the Bible in order to know and love God more. The Bible is primarily about God and how we’re to relate to him—this is the most important topic in the universe! So, the better we understand and know him, the more we will be who he created us to be. (And, as it turns out, the more joyful we will be as well!)

The Bible is not Written in Code

At times in history, including these current times, some people talk about the Bible as though it were written in code. They imply that we have this communication from God available to us, only the very smartest and most clever people can decipher its meaning.

If we follow this logic, we must conclude that God is hiding who he is from us—that he does not want to be known or loved.

But this is NOT what God is like!

In addition to creation itself declaring the glory of God (see Psalm 19:1–6), we know that God wants to be known because of the incarnation of Jesus. God sent his son to make him known!

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14–18)

Now, just because the Bible is not written in code doesn’t make the whole thing obvious or easy to understand. But it does mean that the Bible is knowable. And, as veteran Bible-readers can attest, the Bible rewards repeated reading and repeated study. There is spiritual nourishment available whether you are reading the Bible for the first or the ten-thousandth time.

Resources for Learning to Study the Bible

No matter how many times you have previously studied the Bible, it can be helpful to have some guidance and resources in your toolbox. I have one book and one website to recommend in this regard.

The book is Knowable Word, by Peter Krol. It introduces the OIA (observe-interpret-apply) method of Bible study in a clear, short, easy-to-understand way.

The website is associated with the book: Knowable Word. Much of the content of the book can be found on the website, though the book is certainly a tidier, neater package. To begin, I’d recommend this brief introduction to OIA and then this more detailed description. You may also find this page of resources helpful as you study the Bible. (I like to print out some of the OIA worksheets to aid my study.) I’ve also produced a one-page summary of the OIA method which could be used as a reference sheet.

(I need a whole pile of disclaimers here, because Peter is a good friend of mine and I contribute articles to this website myself. These aren’t the only resources around to help you study the Scriptures, but they are aimed at ordinary people and many have found them helpful.)

Studying the Bible in Community

As with much of the Christian life, God didn’t intend for us to learn about the Bible in isolation. Bible study for personal devotional time is good, but you’ll likely learn and grow even more when you also gather with a small group of friends to dig in to the Scriptures. (If you’d like to know how to connect to such a group at our church, feel free to ask any member or regular attender on a Sunday morning!)

Studying the Bible may feel like an uphill climb, but it is a worthy hike! In this lifelong work of walking with and loving God, he has given us the Scriptures for our comfort and instruction. Let’s do our best to learn faithfully from him.

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