Elul


To me, August is Elul. You know that Rosh Hashanah is coming, and Yom kippur. If I was in a pulpit right now, my sermons would be on the Temple, the sacrifices, and hey, you know what? There’s HUGE connections between Leviticus and Hebrews. Part of the chain I was talking about yesterday.

Preparation.

John the Baptist emerged from the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey. Was he a madman? No – he was dirt broke. He had no money, no home, no job. He was eating the foods that was easiest to find. Locusts in Israel are supposedly quite good to eat, and if you are eating honey too, hey, you’ve got energy. Water to wash it down with, and hey… it’s surviving.

Yes, locusts are kosher.

John the Baptist emerged from the desert, as if from nowhere in the eyes of most people. Yes, some knew he was descended from a Levite. But he was wearing skins and a belt.

Elijah the Prophet dressed like that. And he too lived in the wilderness often.

John the Baptist was poor, not rich, not a king. The people understood he was one of them, and not someone lofty, like the Sadducees. “Make straight the highways!” He was calling. “prepare ye the way of the LORD!”

And he is given the great gift of being able to be the FIRST in the New Testament to utter the most important word to prepare the way.

“Repent.”

Ha’mikvah ha’shuvah. The Baptism of repentance.

Repentance means a change of mind leading to a change of actions. You may struggle with what you were before you were saved – but your life is different now.

If it’s not, you haven’t repented. If there’s NO difference between your old life and your new one, you don’t have a new one.

In Jewish eyes, the Mikvah was a pool for the restoration of purity. Every Jewish community was required to build one.

The established ones were not sufficient for John. For God, the best altar is one of rocks placed on top of each other. God already made them, so further shaping of them was really not necessary. So the best mikveh, the best Baptismal pool, was something God had made.

Something koshered from impurity is lowered into the mikveh, then raised up. It’s pure now.

THe Jewish people were arriving in masses, hearing a call that made perfect sense to Jewish ears. John was telling people the Messiah was arriving shortly. Israel was about to be established, Herod overthrown, the Romans cast out! THey hurried to prepare themselves from impurity to purity.

“Rabbi, what must I do?” “You have two cloaks… can you wear both of them at once? Give one away.”

Considering the poorest of the poor often had no cloak… it made sense. “Other Jews do wtihout and you have two? V’ahavta Vareacha Kimowcha!” Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Are you prepared? Are you purified? What if today was the day? Have you done enough for the Lord? What about all those plans? “I’m going to go help in a soup kitchen as my ministry. I’m going to pass out tracts. I’m going to start a Bible study in my home.”

Done it yet? What if today was the day?

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…

There you go. Sermon seed on John 3 if you’re a pastor.

And a call to transform your life. Radically. Because if the Rapture were tomorrow, does it really matter if you gave up TV, Facebook, all the other time wasters and got on with the business of being a Christian?

Or do you want to stand in front of the Lord, ashamed, weeping, saying, “oh Lord… there was so much I wanted to do for you!”

He died for you. You can do a little for Him. Change your life. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

Make His paths straight.

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Bible Study “in the Valley”


Christianity has its own buzzwords of course – a “mountaintop experience” means close with God or a spiritual experience.

a “walk through the valley” means you are feeling alone and abandoned by God. I’m really not sure why, I really don’t see that in the Bible, but hey! I’ve missed things before.

So, when God is not showing you claps of lightning and thunder every day, when there’s no sudden “aha!” moment of Scripture… what then?

Keep plugging. This is the most important time. Why? You’re saturating your brain in Bible.

During the “valley” times, it’s almost as important to double up on your Bible reading.

As you grow from “little Children” to “young men” or “Fathers” in the Scriptures, these times are preparing the futiure, truly deep insights where you begin to grasp Hebrews. Where you make the connections I recently made a few years back, when I realized that Colossians is connected to Galatians is connected to Romans is connected to Hebrews. If you literally read the books in that order, you begin to see… “aha!”

That’s when you realize there are CHAINS of chapters in Romans. Look for “Wherefore-therefore”. Connect-the-dots, Bible style! Each chapter weaves a linked chain.

I owe it to the so called Valley times, when it felt like God set me there, walked off and left me.

The best example really is Joseph left in the prison. He emerged from there and found himself second to Pharaoh. Or Moses in the Desert. Or even Paul in the desert, left alone by the other Apostles, but being taught personally by the Lord.

The valley times I got through by getting busy, reading the Bible when it just felt like I was wasting my time. I emerged from it, and it was suddenly, “Whoah!”

Because of the Valley times, I see that Mattew is really the key to the Gospels for me. Other people have Luke opened to them from the Lord. Understanding what the Kingdom was for me was a HUGE thing.

It’s amazing.

If right now, it feels like the Lord dropped you in the wilderness of Judea with a pat on the head and “I’ll be right back…”

treasure it.

Free Bible Colleges


Each link opens in a new window

Faithful Baptist Bible College. This is really a Theological Seminary, not not merely a Bible college. I’m working on the founder to rename it correctly.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary They have some free classes

ATIS International Bible College I know nothing about them. I just found the link. No degree given, just a diploma.

College of the Open Bible. I’m not sure about this one. If you have questions, you can contact them.

Bible Commentaries


Every Bible program (well, not Logos) comes with free commentaries. There’s a reason they’re free – they’re old, and public domain. I mean, Matthew Henry is like the champ of free commentaries. THey’ll give you the concise for free, but want you to pay for the complete. Here’s the point – Matthew Henry is public domain. You shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Most old commentators all come from a denominational point of view. They impose the creed or catechism of their denomination upon the Bible.

Many of the commentaries you can get for free are written by Calvinists. They have imposed their particular denominational take of TULIP upon the Bible. As a result, they follow the theological heretige of Calvinism, which is Roman Catholicism and Augustine. So, the order of the day for many old commentaries is allegorical interpretation of the Bible.

You have to pick and choose. Spurgeon made all his students read through Matthew Henry wthin a year of graduation. It was a code of honor requirement. I read it a lot when I first got saved, and many of the conclusions in there had me shaking my head.

One commentator is Methodist, and so he imposes Arminianism and Wesley’s doctrines upon the Bible.

As such, these commentaries must be understood what they are. When you read a buzzword like “Elect” or “sovereign”, it’s time to roll your eyes and disregard. When you read that the locusts in Revelations are Arab horsemen, yeah… remember several of the commentators are Amillennialist and using allegory.

It’s best to get a Dispensational commentary. Most people highly recommend the Bible Knowledge Commentary, by John Walvoord. If you’re into Eschatology, you know Walvoord’s name. He’s the instructor of Tim LaHeye.

So, what’s the issue with the BKC? It’s… got a high bias towards the NIV, and where the NIV disagrees with the King James, he’ll make a comment about it. So, no problem you’re only going to run into comments about the KJV every 11 seconds or so.

Most dispensational commentaries are out of print. There’s Gabalein and a few others. If you want them all in one package, get the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library from David Cloud. He has several dispensational commentaries on it

Best:

  1. Bible Knowledge Commentary
  2. Matthew Poole
  3. Matthew Henry
  4. Annotated Bible
  5. Wiersbe

Between all of my sotfware, I must have, I don’t know, 25 commentaries? THat’s in Quickverse alone. I don’t remember how many in Wordsearch. Because of the structure of Wordsearch, it’s poorly set up to split between reading of the Bible, and the reading of commentary. And of course, there’s all kinds of snobbery in people recommending commentary – “a serious commentary is one where each volume is a single book of the Bible.” Yes, and those are usually $400, and filled with Textual Criticism and comments by unsaved men.

As Cloud points out, there’s two errors with commentaries – one is an over-reliance on them (Evangelical Christianity) and one is a complete abstinence from them.

I think the best attitude about them is a healthy dose of suspicion. Be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Reading and Studying your Bible


There’s a difference between reading and studying your Bible. Reading is done by, well, reading. You can slow yourself down tremendously by marking your Bible, which is good. If you’re racing, all you accomplish is spending less time reading.

But reading is not studying.

You should have a second section of Bible study, specifically for study. “I can’t learn anything from Matthew 1:1-17!” Sure about that? I’ve written a sermon on that. I’ve read it every day for 5 days, and I even numbered in my highlights the 14 steps. I’ve looked into why there’s 14 generations listed, and why three kings are left out!

If you decide you want to do this by hardcover, be prepared to spend money. I’ve got about half the materials I need to do it by hardcover reading, sitting at the dining room table. Ready for the list?

  1. King James Bible
  2. Strong’s
  3. Bible dictionary
  4. Way of Life Encyclopedia
  5. Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge
  6. a Bible Harmony or two
  7. a topical Bible (nave’s or Torrey’s)
  8. notebook
  9. pens
  10. colored pencils or markers
  11. A commentary or two
  12. Vine’s Greek
  13. A Greek grammar, for further study of Vine’s and Strong’s
  14. A Hebrew grammar
  15. Bible Interlinear.

That’ll get you started. That’s some dollars, pounds, euros, deutschmarks, thalers, rubles, shekelim, etc. Half of my library was given to me by a United Methodist minister when he retired.

The rest my wife bought for me, and I ended up working a part time job just to get the rest. This is another reason I use Bible software, because if I were to try to accumulate the library I’ve got between all my Bible programs, it would be $30,000 I’m guessing (I have 800 books in Quickverse, 400 in Wordsearch, about 270 in Logos, 5 in Accordance, etc.) There’s of course some overlap in books, but seriously, take 800 books, figure an average price of $35, and… Some Bible study materials are incredibly pricey!

To study, we must begin by asking questions. This is real inductive study, not some “Marking every mention of brethren with an Icthys symbol”. Although I tried that recently, and everyone’s read how incredibly life changing it was for me! You should all remember this from English Composition class. An article or a monograph answers what questions?

Who What When where how why?

Amos 4:1-3(KJV)

1Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.

2The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.

3And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.

Ready? Let’s try it. Who are the cows of Bashan? Ten seconds… go!

The northern kingdom of Israel. How do I know that? “THe mountains of Samaria.” Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom. If you didn’t know that, your first recourse was to look up Samaria in a Bible dictionary or Encyclopedia (Logos command, open Library, and type:encyclopedia )

What is God speaking about? He is rebuking Israel, the northern kingdom.

When? THe judgment of Israel is coming (the days shall come upon you…)

Where? Answered above.

How? The Babylonians. It’s obvious, and everyone hearing it would know who Amos was talking about. Babylonians used fishhooks, strung together in lines, hooked through the nose or cheek of their prisoners. You kept up in the march to Babylon, or you were painfully disfigured.

Why? Idolatry? Was God angry that people were more intent on following the Queen of Heaven than on God? No. THe verse explains it. They oppressed the poor and crushed the needy.

That took me longer to type out than to study. What should you look up? If you don’t know that “kine” is the plural of “cows”, then you might want to look that up. If you have the King James dictionary, that’s your first or second stop. If not, the Way of Life Encyclopedia.

MAKE SURE YOU ARE WRITING ALL YOUR NOTES DOWN. IF IT ISN’T WRITTEN DOWN, YOU WILL FORGET IT.

Anything to look up here in a harmony? Not yet. Have you gone to the TSK yet? You’re about to have some Harmony stuff to look up.

Here’s the TSK…

Amos 4:1

ye kine: By the “kine of Bashan,” some understand the proud, luxurious matrons of Israel; but it is probable the prophet speaks catachrestically, and means the wealthy, effeminate, and profligate rulers and nobles of Samaria. Deut. 32:14, 15; Psa. 22:12; Jer. 50:11, 27; Ezek. 39:18

the mountain: Amos 6:1; 1 Kings 16:24

which oppress: Amos 2:6, 7, 3:9, 10, 5:11, 8:4-6; Exod. 22:21-25; Deut. 15:9-11; Psa. 12:5, 140:12; Prov. 22:22, 23, 23:10,11; Eccl. 4:1, 5:8; Isa. 1:17-24, 5:8, 58:6; Jer. 5:26-29, 6:6, 7:6; Ezek. 22:7, 12, 27, 29; Micah 2:1-3, 3:1-3; Zech. 7:10,11; Mal. 3:5; James 5:1-6

crush: Deut. 28:33; Job 20:19 *marg. Jer. 51:34

Bring: Amos 2:8; Joel 3:3, Amos 4:2 Psa. 89:35

hath sworn: Amos 6:8

he will: Isa. 37:29; Jer. 16:16; Ezek. 39:4, 5; Hab. 1:15, 16, Amos 4:3

ye shall go: 2 Kings 25:4; Ezek. 12:5, 12

them into the palace: or, away the things of the palace, 2 Kings 7:7, 8, 15; Isa. 2:20, 31:7; Zeph. 1:18; Matt. 16:26

I think you can see that these are three verses, and if you’re doing this hardcover, it’s going to take you three days to study this. In computer software, it’s a lot faster.

Have we looked up any Greek words? Of course not. This is Olt Testament, and therefore Hebrew. So, if you were unsure of any of the wording, you would do best to look up this in a Hebrew dictionary or Grammar. Look up Amos 4:1-3 in your Interlinear. Find any word you have questions on. Check it against a Hebrew grammar or interlinear. If you want to do this in software, you just eliminated most of the software out there. You’re down now to Bibleworks (which I don’t recommend, as it has zero dictionaries and commentaries), Accordance, and Logos. Logos here comes out the clear champion, as it has a LOT more interlinears, reverse interlinears, grammars and lexicons.

If you don’t know any Greek or Hebrew, you learn a lot this way.

Harmonies: When you say Harmonies, most people think of the Gospels. But there’s also harmonies of Paul’s epistles, and of the history books of the Old Testament. So, a harmony would answer, where in Samuel, Kings, Chronicles does this take place? Is this pre or post exilic? (answered that one – pre exile)

Researching history and the Bible is often very rewarding. I’ve been amazed at how God would raise up kings that were to interact with Israel, and once their purpose was done, they within a couple of years lost their kingdom or died. Amazing.

Topical Bible – I’m always surprised how I am the lone voice in the wilderness for these things! If you want to read what the Bible says about the exile to Babylon, this will list it. Some of these are named “what the Bible says about…”

Commentaries: A good commentary can be helpful. A bad one is not. Commentaries must be used with caution. I know for example that all the commentaries I own except for one are non-Dispensational. So, in prophetic verses, I consult none of them. Their results are going to be bewhildering at best, and enough to make me irritable at worst. Knowing the background of some commentators is helpful to knowing, “What do I disregard on what he writes?” For example, I have used Adam Clarke a lot, but I was surprised on how David Cloud said bluntly, “I don’t care what he has to say. I’m not even interested.” I understand his reasonings.

I’ll alk about commentaries tomorrow.

Anyway, I think I’ve explained how to do Bible study. Remember, reading is not study!

Letting the Holy Spirit teach you the Bible


Charles Spurgeon had a pastoral training program, and one time he asked a student if he expected people to get saved every time he preached.

“No, I suppose not.” the student answered.

“Then they never will.” Was Spurgeon’s reply.

If you expect the Holy Spirit to make something alive to you when you read the Bible, you will not be disappointed.

If you do not, if you expect your Bible reading to be a duty and a waste of time… you’ll not be disappointed either.

THere’s some caveats, of course.

  1. Saved. Gotta be saved. The only thing the Holy Spirit will teach you if you’re lost is… you need to be saved. An that you’re condemned without Christ.
  2. You gotta be clean. You know, that holy lifestyle thing I talk about. repentence and prayer, and trying to live a godly life. The last time I wrote on that, it turned into an object of harassment from a woman who took GREAT offense at my asking people to be godly. If you’re caught up in sin and backsliding, I guarantee the only thing you’ll hear while reading your Bible is…silence.
  3. You should pray before reading your Bible. It doesn’t need to be 30 minutes of intense, sweat like drops of blood praying! But in the Tehillas Hashem prayerbook I used to carry with me, the moment that marked from the preparation to the actual prayers was one line… “O Lord, open thou my lips; And my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” (Psalm 51:15, KJV) In THIS case, the study of the Bible, try this… “Open thou mine eyes, That I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18, KJV)

Okay, let’s summarize… expectancy, clean state, prayer. Ready? Here you go. It’s short and easy.

Start reading. Don’t read it like a Lubavitcher Chassid (as fast as possible), but thoughtfully. I’m STILL trying to break that habit. Anyway!

If you read the Bible thoughtfully, expecting God to teach you something, then as you read, something will jump out at you. This is where you highlight it, copy it to a passage list, note stack, or whichever format your computer software does. Some people prefer the hardcover Bible reading. I do that for nightly devotions, but I prefer to have my computer. I don’t get distracted by things. When its time to study the Bible, I study the Bible.

Sometimes you have an immediate understanding of the text you’re reading. That has to be written down somewhere, or you’ll forget it, guaranteed. I’ve lost insights because I thought, “I’ll remember that”… and I didn’t. Write it down. That’s why I did the commentaries and note taking article last week.

Sometimes you’ll be puzzled by a word. Okay, that’s a PROMPTING. Look that word up! That’s why I recommend Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries! That word may shed light on a verse.

The whole thing is the reliance upon understanding from God. If you’re so sure you know everything, the Holy Spirit will teach nothing.

Now, there’s a caveat here. I’ve met enough people who do this to fill the QEII a couple of times. I’ve met a woman who told me, all smiles, that God told her that the “Star of Remphan” was the Star of David, and Jews were idolators because they use it. No matter how much logic I tried to use, or how much I asked her to cite any Bible verse that supported that conclusion, I couldn’t shake her.

If something pops out at you and you feel as if your conclusion may well violate the rest of the Bible, or it’s something that you cannot verify from the Bible (“Jesus Christ had red hair and freckles!”)… it’s not from God. God gives you things from the word that He has already written before. He helps you to see connections in various spots in His Bible. IF YOU CANNOT VERIFY IT FROM THE BIBLE, THEN IT’S NOT FROM GOD! If you at all doubt it, go with that feeling. God teaches you things FROM the word, and not IN ADDITION TO.

In the Logos 30 Day Challenge, the host makes a condition when dealing with Strongs, and I’m going to agree with this (to a certain extent) – check your conclusions against a commentator.

What’s the problem with that? Anyone spot it?

I’ve got a commentary, a famous one, where the author makes a case for women preachers, something the Bible clearly says three times is not permissable. I’ve got another commentary, a famous one, that says the demon locusts of Revelation are actually Arab horsemen, who plagued a city in Europe for seven months, so of course it’s them!

Commentaries (I’m going to write an entire article on them soon) have the same problems your Bible reading has… written by fallible men. Reading the Matthew Henry, as good as it is, will convince you that the Bible is completely of God, as it lets you read something by a man in comparison, and you think, “Bible, from God, yup, no doubts…”

If you get something you think might be from God, it can be confirmed by the Bible but it seems to contradict everything you’ve been taught… go to your Pastor. Check wayoflife.org and see if it’s something David Cloud has spoken against. Seriously, reading through Cloud’s materials has almost been like a second go through of Seminary for me. These are what I’d do.

Setting up your Bible software 2


We did Logos, Accordance, Wordsearch, and briefly Bible Analyzer before a sinus headache left me incapable of writing last week. I really didn’t explain how to do it in Bible analyzer, because it has a default setting, and doesn’t really offer any other desktops. That’s not what Bible Analyzer is for. But if you click the screwdriver/wrench icon, you can set up your preferences.

Okay. What else?

Olive Tree. Like Bible Analyzer, it doesn’t have any other desktops. It’s a wildly popular program because it’s designed for Kindles, nooks, etc. The PC version gives you a window on your right hand side you can open a commentary in. And Olive Tree gives you about 100 free books. I have it, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, to be able to give you all explanations on how to do stuff in it. I recognize a lot of people have Kindles. I don’t. I thought I was fancy a couple of months ago when I finally added the Logos app on my cell phone! Everyone at work is congratulating me on upgrading from my slide phone, by the way. David Cloud gives a good explanation on how to use this program in his Effectual Bible Student series.

Quickverse. I’m spending more and more time in this program, because basically I have what was once the top of the line Bible program, selling at that time for $800. I remember in 2009 looking at Quickverse 2009, and seeing 2008 on sale as Findex was trying to clean out their shelves of the old versions to make way for the new one. I wanted it, but again, they were charging far more than I could afford, and it really was a heartache. Well, a couple of years ago I got QV 2010. The most you can do is set up 3 tiles. Left, right, bottom. If you set that up, and begin adding books wildly to it, you can drag and drop what you’re working on. Quickverse has a mild annoyance, as it literally keeps the spot you were in when you save a desktop. So, at least once a week, you have to save another desktop, since you won’t want to have to remember where you’re at!

By the way, the two top programs for Bible reading schedules are Logos, and Quickverse. Theyset up where to start reading, and where to stop – right in the Bible text. Excellent. How many times have you looked back to see, “Where am I reading until???”

as I’ve mentioned before, with the Quickverse interface, I just find it far more comfortable to have the Bibles on the right, the commentaries and dictionaries on the left. The bottom tile in my sermon writing desktop is for illustrations and quotes. you’ll want to get into the habit if you get this program of setting up multiple desktops, and deleting unneeded ones after a while.

King James Pure Bible Search. Only one desktop available, the default. Not too much in the way of changes you can make to it.

E-Sword: Esword is already set up in the “4 tile” approach of Quickverse 2 & 3. You can choose if you want one window maximized, etc. I choose to keep all the labels in one row, to maximize the reading space. It means you have to scroll to find a book like in wordsearch or Quickverse (BTW, there’s a lot of QV2-3 in E-sword – obviously Rick Meyers wrote it inspired by QV2). There’s really not a lot of customizable options for E-Sword. Yes, I know someone’s going to complain! Please send any complaints about this article to whitehouse.gov.

Thee. I finished this article. I hate leaving things undone.