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Bible Bootcamp

Part 6

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Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part 6 of our new series encouraging digging deeper into the Bible

Don’t be dumberer: Context really matters

Don’t be dumb, bareback rigging of Ohio cowboy Dusty Whidden.

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

    Don't be dumb. That's the message we took from James about the importance of not just learning from God's word but living it out. To James, ignoring what we're taught is as dumb as looking at yourself in the mirror and then not being able to recognize yourself in a photo on Facebook five minutes later.

“But I have a hard time understanding the Bible. So how am I supposed to live out what I can't understand?” you ask.

Well, the first step is spending time reading it. You don't have to read entire chapters or huge sections of the Bible all at once. Take the time to look at a few verses and try to figure out what they are teaching.

You aren't having a hard time understanding the Bible because you're dumb. It IS difficult. So is bull riding or steer wrestling.

Just like learning to rope off a horse or ride a bull or bronc, you don't get it right the first time. It takes time to learn it.

 Being in churches and Bible studies help because it gives you a chance to hear a preacher/teacher explaining some of the verses to you through sermons and group discussions. As you learn more, other sections of the Bible you read on your own start to make sense.

But context is essential.

Too often, we take verses out of context because they sound good and we either get them totally wrong or we short-change ourselves in how much those verses have to offer.

We have to know who is saying it, to whom he is saying it and why. We have to look at the verses around it to help gain context, then back up and look at the whole chapter, the whole book/letter and how it fits into all of the Bible. It sounds hard, but the more you learn, the easier it gets.

James is actually an easy book to start with because of how direct he is. I think of him as the cowboy of the Bible authors in how he communicates. There's no beating around the bushes and because he's so direct, much of what he shares is easier to understand.

 There are numerous study Bibles out there that provide good notes. Find one of those and read the introduction to each book before you start it because it gives you much of the context you need. Make sure you read the notes that go with each of the verses and remember, the Bible isn't like a regular book that you have to read from Genesis to Revelation. Many people recommend starting with the John who tells the story of Jesus' life, ministry and love for us. It's a good place to learn about your Lord and Savior and what He wants for our lives.

HOMEWORK--Do this--seriously, open the Bible and do this

Now, here's an exercise for you on understanding scripture.

Almost everyone knows Philippians 4:13-- “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”--the wording varies from Bible versions to Facebook posts but we mistakenly take this verse to mean that God will give us the strength to accomplish all our goals.

 Nope! That's not what it is actually saying. Now, go back and read some of the verses before this one. Who wrote it? What do we know about the author? It was Paul and we know he was a persecutor of Christians and we know that he was saved by an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. We know that in following Christ, he helped the early church grow and through that, suffered a great deal of persecution including imprisonment. We know from reading all of Philippians, that Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi while imprisoned. Now look at the other verses and see how much more Paul is telling us and see why we can learn from the other verses that Paul isn't telling us God will help us achieve our goals. He's showing us, from his own life, that God will get us through whatever we are going through, good or bad. When the hard times come, and they always do, this verse can suddenly mean so much more than what we think when it comes to facing a struggle, not just the pursuit of success.

AND, by reading other books of the Bible, we learn that our lives aren't about pursuing our success and that the strength God gives, comes to us when we are in His will, following His plan for our lives. When our dreams become God's plan, that's when it really kicks in.

First, the verse, then the section of scripture it comes from, then the chapter, then the book and then how it all fits into the rest of what we have learned about the Bible. It all shapes how we understand what's being taught.

If you're not sure what a verse means, before you post it to Facebook or share it, ask for help. Don't take scripture out of context. That's being dumberer.


Part Nine