Someone raised a question about doing in-depth Bible study in a forum I frequent occasionally. I liked this answer in particular….
Bootstrap wrote:A few thoughts on method.
Because context is so important, I really prefer to read an entire book several times – perhaps five – before doing anything else. I’m an ear person, so I like to listen to the text while reading it with my eyes. I don’t worry about knowing what the commentaries say at this point, I am just trying to listen to the text and understand it as a whole.
After that, I like to print a manuscript and get out the colored pencils, Inter-varsity-style. Who, what, when, where, why, how. For instance, on the “who” front, I might use one color pencil for people, and write a P every place where Peter occurs, a J every place that Jesus occurs, note the interactions between them (P->J or J->P), etc. Make up whatever symbols you like, draw boxes and circles and arrows … for “when”, I might draw little timelines along the side, or use colors or symbols to indicate tense and aspect. Your background affects what you will do here – Steven Runge has a set of symbols he uses for discourse analysis, for instance.
Or I might outline the structure of sentences, showing the subject, object, and adjuncts of each verb using a word processor and indentation and simple symbols.
Once I’m sure I have understood the basic text in some detail, I go over the text and write down questions I have. This is one of the most useful things for me, I’m usually surprised by the number of questions that occur to me if I let myself ask. How long did it take to go from this place to the other place? I wonder what time of day it was? What was it like to … Then I look to see if these questions are answered in the text – they often are, but I don’t see that until I ask the question. During the course of the study, I often answer most of these questions, but many remain unanswered. That’s fine, just asking the questions seems helpful for processing a text in depth. Incidentally, if you are doing a less in-depth study, starting with these questions is often good, and you can do that as a first step before doing these other steps too.
All of this is what I would call rich observation. It is not yet interpretation or application. But I find that doing a lot of careful observation is useful to avoid look-say application, and to avoid simply imposing my established theology on a text.
Then comes interpretation – why did the author write this text, what was most important to him, what were his values and concerns, and how would the original audience of understood it? I try to stay focused on the original audience at this point, and not immediately read it as a letter to me as a modern reader.
And this is the point at which I start to bring in other resources. I might look at various translations to make sure I’m not misinterpreting the Greek, or read commentaries to understand the cultural background or fine points of the language, use a lexicon to understand the meaning of a word, etc. The older commentaries like Meyer are great for the details of language, the IVP Bible Background Commentary is a useful but somewhat shallow overview of the cultural issues.
Finally we get to application – if that’s what the text meant to them back then, what does that mean to me today? Or to the church today? Often, the specific concern they were dealing with, such as circumcision or meat offered to idols, is not a big issue in my local church, but if you let the Holy Spirit speak to you, the same concerns they had then are just as relevant today. Application is not really something that scholars are better at than anyone else, this is a time to bring in others and brainstorm and pray and seek God’s will.
How long should it take you to make three points to an audience that is more or less acquainted with your subject matter? Three minutes? Fifteen minutes? How about 45 minutes, or maybe 60 minutes?
I’m thinking of a particular talk that I listened to, once. The speaker told us that he would be giving us three basic points to think about, then dived into his subject with as much zest as a small boy eating his first chocolate bar. He gave us background and foreground, and buttressed his argument with various quotes and evidence of all sorts. After going over his time limit by about 20 minutes, he eventually sat down. The moderator, of course, lauded his efforts properly with appropriate figurative pats on the back.
I was curious, however, as to how many people actually understood what had been said, so I discreetly asked some people what the speakers three main points had been. Interestingly, half of the people I asked apparently didn’t remember a single point. The other half remembered one, but only in a general way. Incidentally, I couldn’t remember all three of them myself, since they had become so buried in the speaker’s brilliant verbosity, that they had vanished from my memory.
I am forced to conclude that the speaker’s preparation time had been mostly wasted, as had the time the audience spent listening to him.
So how do we avoid this? The following points mostly apply equally to writing and public speaking, though they may need to be applied differently. But for the sake of clarity, I will refer to speaking.
Create an Outline
Creating an outline should be close to the beginning of your preparation. You may want to jot down a bunch of ideas first, but then sort them into a sensible sequence. Choose three or four main ideas, then use the rest of your points as sub points. If they don’t fit, drop them. Most people won’t remember more than three or four main ideas from a presentation.
Creating an outline forces you to be systematic in your presentation. It also forces you to evaluate each point to see if it even belongs in your outline.
You should consider handing out copies of your outline if it is important that people remember what you said. Not everyone takes good notes.
The oft repeated advice to public speakers is: Stand up, speak up, then shut up. In other words, avoid the bunny trails, the clichés, and the unnecessary clutter – if it doesn’t further the purpose of your presentation, don’t say it. Unnecessary clutter only drowns out your message.
Going overtime is rude, counterproductive, and unnecessary. If your talk is scheduled to close down at 2:45, you will start to lose the attention of your audience at about 2:46. By 2:50 people will be squirming. By 3:00 they will need to go to the bathroom. By 3:15 they will be utterly antagonistic to anything you have said all afternoon.
One way to avoid going overtime is to schedule yourself. If you have three points to give and a half hour to give them in, each point can be ten minutes long. Jot down the approximate beginning and ending time for every point in your notes, and check your time at the end of every point. This will keep you from talking for twenty minutes on the first point and then only having five minutes available for each of your next two points. Remember to schedule time for closing remarks and your final summarization.
Your choice of vocabulary counts as part of being concise. Rudolph Flesch said that you should always chose the simplest word that will say what you want to communicate. That’s a bit hard on the ego, because vocabulary is one way of proving to your crowd that you are an expert. But in reality, your purpose for being there is to communicate those three points, not to promote your ego. So either use simple words, or define your words with simple and concise words. If it takes more than a sentence or so to define a word, find a way to avoid using it, unless you know for sure that your audience will understand it.
Who are you talking to? First graders? University graduates? It will make a difference!
If your subject is assigned, hopefully it is relevant. But if you are coming up with your own subject, be sure that is of either general interest, or general use, to your audience. There is little use in speaking to an operations crowd about theoretical subjects or abstract ones, even if the subject is your pet one. If you don’t have the expertise or personal interest in subjects relevant to your audience, refuse the assignment.
Questions are a good way to get your audience thinking, or to get their attention. Just make sure that your questions relate to the subject at hand. I asked a group one time how many of them were taking my class because they had to. Every hand went up. It was a depressing start to what could have been a good time.
It is a good idea to introduce every main point with a question, if possible. The question can be rhetorical, or if the setting is informal, you can go for an actual answer from the audience. Just be sure not to lose control of your presentation, if you ask for audience input. Questions are a great way to keep everyone with you and thinking.
Use Visual Aids
Visual aids are one good way to gain and maintain an audience’s attention. People will remember points they both see and hear for much longer than points that they just hear. One of the simplest ways of doing this for a small crowd is to use a white board or chalk board and write down every main point as you introduce it. Leave them on the board until the end of your talk so that they have a chance to soak in.
White boards have become pretty old fashioned however, and you should become acquainted with power point presentations and their use. This allows you to use charts and diagrams, illustrations, and bullet points to get your points across. The days of ad lib presentations are pretty well over, and people expect you as a speaker to do your homework if they are to listen to you.
Can you tell me in one sentence, or short paragraph, what are trying to tell me in your speech or essay? That is what you want me to learn, and what I should carry away from your presentation. If you can’t tell me what that is, I probably won’t figure it out either. In fact, it’s a good idea to introduce your presentation, and end it, with a brief summary of what you are saying. Give the three main points you are trying to make, at the beginning, and at the end, as well as emphasizing them during your presentation.
After all, what is the use of spending half an hour telling a group something they won’t remember?
Pornography when it has conceived gives birth to lust. And lust when it is fully grown brings forth death. (See James 1:15, ESV)
A few years ago, a young man sat down at his father’s computer to do some writing. But while he was looking for a document, he saw a file name that caught his attention. He clicked on it and was floored by the lewd picture that flashed up on the screen. He had never seen anything like it and the shock made him feel weak inside.
He quickly clicked on the little X and the picture vanished. But he noticed that the folder where he had found it was full of files. He hesitated, then reached slowly for the mouse…
Several hours later he reached the end of the folder and shut down the computer. He felt sick, literally sick, as he sat there staring with glazed eyes at the blank screen. Finally, he stumbled away from the computer, his face hot and burning.
He could hardly eat. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t read his Bible, and he couldn’t pray. The lewd pictures he had seen had seared themselves indelibly on the memory plates of his mind and they followed him everywhere he went. They danced in front of his eyes, despite his best attempts to forget. They raised desires within him that he couldn’t handle. Finally, in desperation, he went to talk with his pastor.
His pastor helped him to find peace again, and to regain his victory, though he would struggle with the aftermath for years. But one of the questions his pastor asked him was, “How did those pictures get on your father’s computer? You didn’t put them there, did you?” He hadn’t thought of that, and his pastor saw the shocked look that crossed his face. There was only one possible answer.
A Word to Women
Men are created differently from women. If you are a woman reading this, you need to realize this before you can understand the struggles your boy friend, your husband, or your sons might be going through. Or even your Christian brothers who go to church with you. And certainly, the ungodly man across the street.
Most women, especially Christian women, are disgusted when they see lewd sights, whether in pictures, or in real life. Women have their temptations, but they are based more on the sense of touch and their emotions. Men are attracted by these things as well, but they are especially attracted by what they see. You should consider this when you make or buy your clothing. While it is a sin for a man to lust after you, do you really want to be responsible for stirring up that lust in his heart? Isn’t that a sin too? It isn’t showing Christian love to your brothers in Christ to dress or act in a way that will cause them to struggle with sin.
Unfortunately, more and more women are getting sucked into the pornography trap as well. In some cases, these are gay, which opens a different door. But the same warnings apply to you as men, if you fall into the grips of pornography.
Meet the Octopus
Pornography has become North America’s 7th largest industry according to one source. The young man in our opening account didn’t intend to sin when he sat down at his father’s computer. And the first picture he saw probably didn’t make him sin. But once he clicked on that second picture, he rapidly became powerless. The pictures drew him right in, like an octopus wrapping its slimy and sticky tentacles about him. There was a moment or two that he could have fled. But when he gave in and opened that second picture, then the third one, then the fourth one, faster and faster in his feverish rush to see more and more—he was doomed. The octopus snapped its beak in glee. Another juicy, tasty victim to gloat over and devour slowly in the days and weeks to come.
Pornography is one of the devil’s most successful tools. If he can trip a father, he might be able to trip a son. And one son may induce another one, or a friend. Worse yet, if he can trip a pastor, he may be able to tear a whole congregation apart. Pornography effectively neuters a man’s manhood, especially if he is a Christian. He will not be able to look a woman in the eyes or face himself in the mirror. Deep inside, he knows that he is just a beast, living by his beastly desires. Slowly, but surely, the octopus sucks him in. By the time he gets his eyes off the bait and sees his doom, it is too late. His marriage has been destroyed, his children despise him, and worst of all, he has lost his relationship with his God.
You can find a lot of statistics about this epidemic that is slowly destroying the manhood in our nations. Various studies will give various statistics, but all of them are bad. According to a poll taken by Josh McDowell Ministry for a conference in 2016, 47 percent of men and 12 percent of women in general society seek out porn on a regular basis. We might expect that from today’s sinful society, and I’ve read worse statistics than that. But the same poll discovered that 27 percent of born again, practicing Christian men and 6 percent of born again, practising Christian women[i] also deliberately seek out porn at least once or twice a month.[ii]
It is not for nothing that King David vowed that he would not set any evil thing in front of his eyes. (see Psalms 101:3a) He knew from bitter experience what would happen if he did. (See 2 Sam 11) If you give in to the deathly influence of porn, you will learn it as well.
Victims of the Octopus?
Few people are victims of pornography from one perspective. Normally people fall into this trap by their own choices in life. In that sense, you can’t really call yourself a victim. But in another sense, every person falling prey to the octopus of pornography is a victim because once you get tangled in it’s tentacles, you are pretty well helpless. Without outside help of some sort, you doomed to a lifetime of misery.
But not everyone looks at it that way. Victims of the octopus fall into several categories. The first category is Christian men and boys who have fallen, for some reason or other. The boy in our opening account is an illustration of that. Normally, such victims will be tortured enough by their conscience that they will eventually go for help. They will hate the trap they are in. They will plead with God for deliverance, and ask for forgiveness when they fall. This essay is for people like you, if you fall into this category. Please read it carefully and allow God’s Spirit to direct you to the help you need. Thank Him for your conscience! It will drive you to find a way of escape.
But there is another category of “victims” today. These are the men and boys (along with some women) who don’t hate their bondage. Instead, they want more, and MORE. They get a thrill out of watching pornographic videos and looking at lewd pictures. They may joke about their addiction and shamelessly trade internet links with other people. They seldom go looking for help to escape their addiction because they don’t feel particularly guilty about it.
Unless such people fall at the feet of Jesus in repentance, they have no hope of escaping eternal judgment. Read Jude 12 – 16.
There is one final class of victims, and they are truly victims. A growing segment of teenagers were introduced to pornography at the age of 12 or younger. By the time they reach their upper teens, or before, pornography and immorality has become a daily habit. For such people, their normal desires soon grow into uncontrollable passions. It is important for parents to make sure that their children are not inadvertently placed in such a situation.
The power of God is sufficient to save and deliver any sinner, even from the obsessions of pornography and uncontrollable passions. But in some cases, it can be very long and difficult process.
From Innocence to Addiction
In a Christian setting porn addiction rarely starts with actual porn. It is more normal for teenagers to get started by reading romance novels that include a few borderline scenes that awaken their curiosity. Or, in some circles, it may start with YouTube videos containing a few somewhat raunchy scenes. The devil is very patient. He will stalk his victims for years, if necessary.
Adults for instance may get started by reading news sites on the internet. The article they are reading may be fine, but it may include sideline material that can draw you deeper and deeper, from one site to another. Before you realize it, you are looking at material that isn’t much different from some of the softer porn. In almost all cases, curiosity is the key word that starts the downhill trail. This is true for almost all ages.
Porn has been a problem ever since grocery stores started installing magazine racks. But the internet has increased the porn epidemic dramatically. Probably a third of internet traffic is porn related.
Smartphones have become one of the greater impetuses behind the porn epidemic. People can get porn on their smartphones and view it in secret. They can share it with friends. They can bookmark it for viewing later. Plus, not only can teenagers use their phones to view porn sites, but more and more they are using them to swap pornographic pictures of themselves with others.
And far to often these things infiltrate Christian churches and homes. So, what can we do?
Some churches react to today’s internet and technology threats by rejecting technology completely. That seldom works for long, because most people will be forced to rub shoulders with it somewhere or other. It is better to understand the dangers so that people can cope with them when they face them. But it is one way of dealing with it. And some men may need to do this to be victorious.
Other congregations ask that their people install filters and accountability support systems on their computers and phones. Accountability helps a lot when temptation comes along and you are only one click away from the octopus. But remember, when a man wants to sin, he will always find a way to do it. You must deal with the “want to” in your heart. Build up a relationship with your Savior that is so strong that you want to please Him more than you want to gratify your lusts and desires.
Don’t ever allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that these temptations are innocent and a normal part of life. Many a man has been pulled into the mire by the octopus and destroyed. You could be the next one. Read Proverbs 6:23 – 29.
Only One Solution
There is nothing wrong with using aids like I mentioned in the last section, but I only know of one solution that really works. That is for men to fall at the feet of Jesus and repent of their sin. Repent of the looks they sneak at women passing by. Repent of the pictures and videos they have viewed on their smartphones. Repent of their evil thoughts. Once they have done this, then the solutions in the last section can help to keep them pure.
Evil imaginations and inordinate affections (fantasies and illicit passions) make a lot of trouble for some very godly looking men and boys. Married men, and a lot who aren’t married, have a fairly good idea how every woman they meet would look if they didn’t have any clothing on. Many women would be horrified if they knew what thoughts some men struggle with about them. At its root, that has nothing to do with the internet or Playboy magazines. It comes from not letting God deal with our sinful hearts.
Secrecy militates against victory in these areas. I’m not saying that you need to confess every sinful thought or temptation to the church. But if you are having ongoing problems, you need to find someone who can and will help you find victory. Often just talking with someone will help. If that isn’t enough, then arrange for an accountability relationship.
Cultivate Your Marriage
Here are a few more thoughts. It has been proven that men and women who are in a good marriage relationship are far less likely to fall into this sin than those who aren’t. In fact, one study says that a happily married man is 61% less likely to fall into the porn trap. Quite a bit of the responsibility for this falls into the lap of the wife. She can ward off a lot of temptation for her husband by being willing and eager to build a strong intimate marriage that fulfills his needs (and hers). Every married couple should sit down and read 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 together. The word defraud, used in verse 5 of this passage, is often translated, deprive. Refusing intimate relationships with your spouse is cheating him or her of their rightful dues. Fulfilled husbands and wives are not nearly as likely to fall into the porn trap.
Note also that this passage makes it clear that intimate relationships should not be selfish. Husbands and wives have power over each other’s bodies to give them fulfillment in ways that they could not rightly give to themselves. Indulging in porn is totally selfish.
But What if I’m Single?
Single men and women are about twice as likely to fall into pornography and lust than their married counterparts. In many of these cases, the people involved would like to be married but haven’t had the opportunity. It is important that married people don’t push these people out of their lives, but are willing to provide the support and friendship they need. You can see the signs if you look for them. The young man who looks defeated in church, or who starts to distance himself, might need your help. Girls and young women aren’t immune to sexual sin either, so don’t discount that when someone seems strangely unhappy.
If you are single and struggling, keep in mind that fulfillment in life doesn’t come from marriage or sex. It comes from being in the will of God. God has not deprived you of finding fulfillment in life.
Flee from the Octopus
The octopus is out to get you. It will gladly wrap its slimy, sticky tentacles around you and draw you into its deadly embrace. Few creatures ever escape the embrace of an octopus. You won’t either unless you determine in your heart to avoid the bait that it will set for you. The bait will look so delicious, so enjoyable, and so innocent. You may yearn for it with all your bodily desires. But it is poison. Deadly poison. Once you are wrapped in its deadly embrace, the octopus will slowly dismember you with its beak, all the while gloating over you with its enormous yellow eyes. One of my worst nightmares would be to be entangled and devoured by an octopus. But the pornography trap is even deadlier because your eternal life is at stake.
And there shall in no wise enter into it [the holy city] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27 KJV)
[ii] According to http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/ 64% of Christian men, and 15% of Christian women admit to watching porn at least once a month. Part of the discrepancy in statistics could come from a difference in the definition of Christian.
Truth is something which is still real, even when you don’t believe it. In other words, it is an absolute. I’ve heard of a group of people who believe that the world is flat. That doesn’t change the fact that the world is round. I could persuade myself that gravity doesn’t exist, and walk off the edge of a skyscraper. All I would prove is that what I thought was truth was a lie. Or what I thought was a lie was the truth. Either mistake can be catastrophic.
The opposite of truth is a lie. And the word lie is just as objective as the word truth. Both words mean exactly what they say. You can believe that a lie is true, or the truth is a lie, but that won’t change a thing. No matter what some modern philosophers try to say, truth is true, unless it’s a lie, and nothing can change that.
A friend of mine was following his GPS through a rural area he had never visited before. It took him down some rough back roads, then finally told him to turn left into a dry creek bed. Now it is possible that this route would have led him to where he wanted to go, but he would have had to walk. So, the GPS had given him a route that looked good on screen but didn’t work for him in real life.
So, was it telling him the truth, or a lie?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of ideas about truth floating around to day that are similar. They look good on a computer screen, or in a book. Hypothetically, they make sense. But when you try to make them work in real life, they prove to be a lie. Or if they are true, in a sense, they are not practical enough to use in real life, which still makes them a lie.
So, if an idea works, does that make it truth?
We could add one reason the GPS instructions didn’t work for my friend. He had hip problems that made it hard for him to walk, especially on rough terrain. So, does that mean that what the GPS said was a lie for him but might have been the truth for someone else who could walk better?
In other words, is truth subjective, depending on circumstances?
Not really. The GPS in his car was intended for use in a car. It should not have tried to take him anywhere that a car couldn’t go. If you need to twist and turn something or adapt it to a purpose it wasn’t intended for in order to make it true, then it really isn’t true.
Truth is an absolute. If not, it isn’t truth.
Jesus said that God’s word is truth. The New Testament records the words and actions of Jesus and we can find truth there. A good place to start learning about truth is by reading the Gospel of Matthew.
I’ve added some old music to my site and you can get to it by clicking here. They are in chronological order. It might tell you how old these are when I say that the first recording was released on an LP album as well as on cassette. We never made any 8 tracks of these, and by the second recording, we didn’t bother with LP’s either.
I was teaching those days. I scanned the picture from one of our old copies of the LP we released. The two girls singing with us were my fellow teachers.
Those were the days. Now I can’t sing much above bass anymore. And my breathing wouldn’t let me do it anymore either. Mind you, this was 35 years ago, or more.
Just a quick update on this project. I’ve finalized the editing, and it has been moved into typesetting. A new project always makes me cringe a bit as it comes closer to release. Will it sell? I’ve invested a lot of time in this, and I hope God can use it, somehow.
Keep in touch, and I’ll let you know here how it goes. Cover design is the next step and then printing is next. Then e-books.
For some reason, I’m intrigued by the sky. I take more pictures of the sky than of anything else. Let me show you a few…
This is from our porch, over the back yard. And yes, we still live in town.
This one is just a shot across the prairies. I liked the cloud formations. I zoomed in a bit too much, but I like the colors in the sky.
Take a look at the blue in this sky (I didn’t doctor this at all). No clouds. This was taken at Writing on Stone park. Only possible in Alberta!
This one was back in Ontario. Storm of some sort coming up. This was right after they already had 7 inches of rain.
I don’t remember where I took this one. Here in the west somewhere.
This was in our back yard. This only happens once a year!
Back porch again…
And again. Note the frost on the trees.
Guess who thinks they own the road! This is south of Jasper.
And so is this.
One more. This was at the edge of Canmore, just off the Trans-Canada Highway.
I think almost all of these shots were taken with my iPhone 6 plus. I lost my camera, or at least someone did, so I’m doing all my pictures with my phone. I’ve got a Samsung S7 Edge now. It takes even better pictures.
Blessings. Enjoy God’s masterpieces where ever you are!
I finally bit the bullet and moved my domain to WordPress. Here I can put my blog and my website together and not need to maintain two separate sites. I’m not done yet. I need to move my entire portfolio to this site, which will take awhile.
If you have a suggestion for me, leave it in the contacts page and it will be emailed to me. That’s one page that I know works.
I was thinking recently of how many lost people there are in this world. And right alongside that, how many Christians there are who never talk with the lost people, or if they do, they never say anything about Christ and what He has done for them. How can we spark a revival in North America if we never talk to our neighbors about Christ?
I’m hoping that some of my writing will help with that. I have one book at the publishers that I hope will be on the market by the end of October. I’m working on another one that I hope to get finished by then and ready to send in as well. I’ll be placing more details in my portfolio pages on some of that, as well as listing some of the books I’ve written in the past.
Some of you have heard of God and Uncle Dale. I learned recently that Rod and Staff has sold approximately 12,000 copies of the English version of that book and is still averaging about 450 copies a year. I often wondered what made that book take off like it did.
I guess it hit the right slot, and that had to be God’s timing.