Bible Study Tips: Look Through Another’s Eyes

The Bible is like an onion: You can find multiple layers of truth in any givenbible study passage. Just when you think you’ve excavated all the jewels of truth from a particular story, you’ll see something in it you’ve never noticed before. I’ve had a verse or passage of scripture speak something to me that was just what I needed. Then, at some later point, the same verse will speak something entirely different but equally as relevant. God’s Word is deep, rich, and full. That is what makes Bible study so exhilarating.

I want to make the most of my Bible Study time. I want get everything I can get out of a passage or story. I want to unearth layer after layer of Truth. I want God to reveal to me all treasures that are hidden in His Word. One thing that will help us get the most from any passage or story is for us to look at the events through the eyes of others in the story!

Bible StudyI’ve read the story of Jonah many times but have always viewed it from the perspective of Jonah. I found other truths in the story when I looked at it through different eyes.  Don’t limit your perspective to the perspective of just the main character, Jonah.  Read the story of Jonah, but this time think about it through the eyes of the other sailors on the ship who were just taking their wares to Joppa when their lives were turned upside down.  How would the story look different if you saw it through the eyes of the people of Nineveh or the king?

One thing that will help us get the most from any passage or story is for us to look at it’s events through the eyes of others in the story!

Think of the story of David and Goliath, but read the story as though you were Goliath, Saul, a random Philistine soldier or David’s brothers.  There are details or subtle messages in the story that may be unnoticed when looking through the eyes of the main character but come alive when seeing the events through the eyes of a secondary character.

Try this during your next Bible study time:

  1. Select one of your favorite Bible stories.
  2. List the all the characters in that story (even ones who may not be obvious or explicitly listed).
  3. Read the story again as though you were viewing the story’s events or hearing the words through the eyes or ears of a character other than the main one.
  4. Are there details that surface in the story using this approach that you may have overlooked before?
  5. Read the story again, but from the viewpoint of yet, another character.
  6. Notice how seeing the events through the eyes of different characters brings different details to life.

I hope by adding this simple approach to your reproitore of Bible study tools, you will be able to peel other layers off the onion and discover some insight that may have previously been overlooked.

~Pastor Matthew Ball

*I welcome you to leave a comment about what nuggets you uncover using this Bible Study tip.

Philippians on Fridays: To Live is Christ

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Fridays Devotion.  Today we’re looking at one of the most quoted scriptures in all of Philippians: Chapter 1 and verse 21:

Philippians 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (KJV)

These words are some of the most familiar and often quoted in the entire book of Philippians.  Paul’s words in verse 21 have provided inspiration for countless sermons and Bible studies.  This passage has been immortalized on cards, memes, plaques and frames.

Philippians As far as Paul was concerned, life itself was all about Christ.  He said, “For to me to live is Christ…”  For him, Christ was the purpose of life.  By Paul accentuating “for me,” he is implying that not everyone shares his outlook.  He was saying, for me, to live is Christ, but for others that may not be the case.  That prompts me to ask each of us the question, “What is life all about to us?

Let me be more plain.  How would we fill in the following blank?:

For to me, to live is _______________

How would we honestly fill in the blank?  Not what should we put on that line or what would we like to be able to put on that line, but how would we truthfully fill in that blank?

It’s not even easy to come up with an honest answer.  How does one really determine what to write on that line?  Some other questions may help us determine the answer:

  • What occupies my thinking throughout the day?
  • What do I talk about most with other people?
  • What do I do in my spare time?
  • What do I catch myself daydreaming about?
  • What are my life’s ambitions and goals?
  • How would I define success for my life?
  • What would my checkbook register or online account activity page reveal about my priorities?

If Christ and things of His Kingdom are not frequent answers to these questions, it would be difficult to honestly fill the blank with “Christ.”

For to me, to live is _______________

Many would have to answer: career, education, family, power, prestige, recognition, leisure, pleasure, recreation, retirement, or an infinite number of other things.  But Paul said, for me, life is about Christ.

Joy comes from Christ being the center of our lives.  

The Book of Philippians is a book about joy.  It reveals many secrets to possessing a deep, inner joy regardless of difficult circumstances.  This is one such secret:  Joy comes from Christ being the center of our lives.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:39:

39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

When you surrender your life to Him, you find true life – you find true joy and peace.  Is Jesus the main subject or is He just a footnote?  Is He what you are living for or is He just a thought on Sunday, Wednesday, or when in crisis?  May we all re-align our lives in such a way that we, too, can truthfully say, “For to me, to live is Christ.”

~Matthew Ball

Fridays in Philippians: Affliction by Way of a Brother

Thanks for joining me for our Fridays in Philippians Devotion.  Today we’re unwrapping Chapter 1 and verses 15-18:

Philippians 1:15-18: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. KJV

We saw in our last few devotions that Paul possessed an inner joy in spite of his adverse
philippianscircumstances.  He didn’t permit his difficulties to rob him of joy or his affliction distract him from his mission.  Even though he suffered injustice, was falsely accused, imprisoned, stripped of personal liberties and treated like a common criminal, he kept his eyes on the bigger picture.  He trusted that God’s Kingdom was being advanced in spite of his personal trials.  He saw how his own incarceration was causing other believers to wax bold.  He was able to share the Gospel with the guards and other prisoners around him.  Paul exemplified the spiritual truth that, by keeping your focus on the right things, God can give you peace and joy even in difficult circumstances.

It’s one thing to keep a positive attitude when the source of your affliction and adversity is an unbeliever.   It’s an entirely different thing, however, when it’s your own brothers and sisters in Christ that are afflicting you.  When we’re persecuted by the unbeliever, it sometimes serves to strengthen our joy. Knowing that we are being persecuted for the cause of Christ and that we are in “fellowship” with His suffering can actually bolster our joy in those trials.  But being mistreated and falsely accused by those in the body of Christ is much more difficult to handle.

Paul exemplified the spiritual truth, that, by keeping your focus on the right things, God can give you peace and joy even in difficult circumstances.

But Paul possessed joy and peace when he suffered at the hands of unbelievers or believers.  Neither scenario was able to steal the inner peace that came from his trust in God. He was still able to rejoice (vs. 18)!  He was still able to see that the purpose of God being fulfilled was more important than his own personal comfort.

There were fellow Christians who were taking advantage of Paul’s imprisonment.  While Paul was able to move freely in his proclamation of the Gospel, they hesitated to move against him. But now that he was in prison, they saw it as their opportunity to advance themselves.  They were using Paul’s incarceration as a means to promote their own personal agenda.  They preached Christ, but their real objective was to gain adherents for themselves.  They apparently thought they could enhance their own positions by degrading the apostle – perhaps even implying that Paul was somehow guilty or deserving of his situation.  These divisive and opportunistic “brothers” where trying to steal away followers.

First, Paul was falsely accused and imprisoned by the heathen. And then, his Christian Philippiansbrothers “added affliction” to him rather than bringing him comfort or relief.  What an opportunity for the enemy to plant discouragement, self-pity and even resentment against God.  But Paul would not have it! He chose, once again, to see the good!

He told the Philippians, some people preach Christ for the right reasons, and others for the wrong reasons, but I rejoice because Christ is preached!  What an incredible attitude!  Imagine how many Christians might respond: “How can God let this happen to me?”  “I hope God punishes them for their wrong-doing!”  “I hope they fail utterly!”  But Paul rejoiced!  He saw the bigger picture. He didn’t condone preaching from false motives, but he knew the hearers would be saved when Christ was preached.  False ministerial motives cannot cancel the truth of the Gospel.  It is the power of God unto salvation!

Paul pointed out to the Philippians in verse 18, (in the NIV) “what does it matter?” What a great question.  What a great phrase to ask when suffering persecution or adversity.  If you can say this, it can help alleviate a lot of stress and worry:  What. Does. It. Matter?  Some people get stressed over things that really don’t matter.  Let it go.  It’s not worth stressing over.  It’s God’s business.  My life is in His hands.  He is in control.  All things work together for the good.  His Kingdom is being advanced.  What does it matter that some are mistreating me or that I’m suffering persecution or personal discomfort?  Paul’s ability to keep his eyes on what really mattered was a key to him having a joy that adversity could not erode.

~Matthew Ball

Bible Study: Your Best Approach for Monday

You recognize the value of daily Bible study. The fact that you’re reading this post is an indicator that you know the importance of getting a daily diet of God’s Word. Reading, studying, meditating and applying God’s Word to our lives is critical to our spiritual growth and effectiveness in ministry.

Bible StudyAny serious student of God’s Word is always looking for fresh ideas and approaches to the daily discipline of Bible Study. New approaches help keep our Bible study times full of anticipation and excitement.

How was your pastor’s message yesterday? I’m sure you left the service thankful that you heard, not just a sermon, but what the “Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 2:7.) The message he delivered was the product of a lot of prayer and study on his part.

A great approach to your Bible study on Monday is to re-visit your pastor’s sermon from yesterday. This is so beneficial for many reasons:

  1. It’s a theme that is spiritually relevant to you and your church family.
  2. The message is still fresh in your mind.
  3. When the pastor and congregation are all studying the same thing, it strengthens unity in the church.
  4. It will help you apply the message to your life.

Go back and revisit the story or passage that your pastor used in his sermon Bible Studyyesterday. Read and mediate upon those verses.  What was the main message from your pastor’s preaching yesterday? Re-read the supporting verses from the sermon. Dig a little deeper:  What other thoughts or verses did the message stir up in your mind?  Perhaps the most important question to answer as you study today is: How can I apply what I heard yesterday to my life this week?

New approaches help keep our Bible study times full of anticipation and excitement.

As a pastor, one of my biggest concerns is that I’ll share a message from the Lord to the congregation who will gladly receive it with amens and exhubertant response, yet fail to truly apply the message to their lives. If the Word doesn’t change how we live, it really isn’t doing us any good. By using the theme of Sunday’s message in our Monday Bible study, we will help ensure the Word is being retained and applied to our lives.

Have a great week. (And let your pastor know this week how much you appreciated the message yesterday!)

~Pastor Ball

For More Bible Study Tips click here

Archeology Update: King Hezekiah’s Seal

archeology There was a great breakthrough this week in the field of archeology.  A piece of clay inscribed with the 2,700-year-old seal of King Hezekiah was found in Jerusalem.  As reported on Friday by Ari Soffer, of Israel National News:

“Archaeologists digging just south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount have made a historic discovery, unearthing the first-ever seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king ever exposed in situ in a scientific archaeological excavation.

The discovery, made by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of
Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar during Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, is an impression of the royal seal of the Biblical King Hezekiah, who reigned between 727–698 BCE.

Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a 3 mm thick soft bulla (piece of inscribed clay) measuring 13 X 12 mm. Around the impression is the depression left by the frame of the ring in which the seal was set.

The impression bears an insc‎ription in ancient Hebrew sc‎ript reading: “לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה”//“Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah.”

As Christians, we are people of faith.  It does and always will require a dimension faith to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  Without faith it is impossible to even please God.  We have faith in a God we can’t readily see with the senses of this physical world.  We have faith that His Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of us.  We have faith that His Word is true, that He is the creator of all things, and that He is coming back to this earth one day.

We have faith, but it’s not blind faith.  It’s not a faith that is without any basis in fact.  It’s a faith based on reason and evidence.  God created us with the ability to think, reason and seek out truth.  There is nothing wrong with seeking out facts and evidence to support the claims of the scripture and of Christianity as a whole.  That’s why Jesus left us with many “Infallible Proofs” of His resurrection! (Acts 1:1-3)

We have faith, but it’s not blind faith.

We are never discouraged in the scripture from using our minds to evaluate historical, archeological and other facts that confirm our faith and even provide us with a defense and the ability to “give an answer to those who ask us concerning our faith.” (1 Peter 3:15)

As believers, our faith in God’s Word is not contingent upon discoveries in Archeology, but it is definitely an encrouagment to hear of a discovery like the one in Jerusalem this week. Skeptics over the centuries have often claimed the Bible is a hoax and that it’s characters never even existed.  Countless discoveries in Archeology such as the one this week in Jerusalem solidify our faith and provide evidence of the Bible’s accuracy.

~Matthew Ball

Check out the following video about this fascinating discovery:

Video: Copyright Eilat Mazar and Herbert W. Armstrong College