Week 2 - Monday

What's that Genre?

January 13, 2020 • Melissa

What’s your favorite type of book to read? Do you love fiction novels, or do you prefer a memoir? Or what about film? Would you rather watch a romantic comedy or a nature documentary? In the same way we approach varying genres of books or movies differently, the way we read the books of the Bible depends on their genre. We shouldn’t read books of poetry the same way we read historical accounts, much like we approach the movie “The Wizard of Oz” differently than the movie “Schindler’s List.” Today, we’ll look at the different genres found in the Bible and the best way to approach each when reading and studying. The Pentateuch: The books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy form what is called The Pentateuch (literally meaning “five books” in Greek). This section is also known as the Torah, the Jewish law. These five books were all written by the same author and to the same audience. Moses wrote the majority of these books during the time the Israelites wandered in the wilderness before entering the land of Canaan. The books were written to the generation of Israel that was about to enter this land in order to remind them of who God was and why He had set them apart from other nations. The Pentateuch itself contains several genres. Most of these books contain historical records of the Patriarchs of Israel and the accounts of their lives. There are also several long sections of law codes that God gives to the nation of Israel, instructing them how to live. When reading these books, we can read the historical records as true events that occurred to real people. These events give us insight into the culture of the time period. We also learn a great deal about God, His character, and the way He interacts with humanity. Whenever you read a passage of Scripture from one of these books, ask yourself, “What does this show me about the character of God?” Historical Books: Both the Old and New Testaments contain historical books. The books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther make up the historical section in the Old Testament, and the book of Acts in the New Testament contains the historical record of the early church. These books were written by a variety of authors to a variety of audiences. In the same way the historical accounts of the Pentateuch were real events that occurred to real people, the accounts contained in the historical books are also real events that happened to real people. Each book was written to a specific audience, generally an audience of Israelite people, reminding them of God’s faithfulness. We read these for information about the culture and history of Israel and the way God interacted with His people when they were both faithful and unfaithful to Him. Poetic Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are considered books of poetry. Job tells the story of a man who lost everything and how he responded before God. His laments give us insight on how to respond to tragedy. Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes contain collections of hymns, sayings, and poems from Israelite and Jewish literature. The Psalms offer insight into a host of circumstances, Proverbs offers practical insight for life, and Ecclesiastes presents questions about the meaning of life. Song of Songs is a display of the covenant relationship of marriage and the joy of romantic love. Each of these books contain a host of literary devices, like similes, metaphors, repetition, allegory, hyperbole, and exaggeration. We can learn a great deal from these authors about understanding and expressing emotion, how to ask God questions, how to deal with pain and loss, how to rejoice and offer praise, and how to live a faithful life. Prophets: The largest section of the Old Testament is the writings of the prophets. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel are called the Major Prophets while Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are considered the Minor Prophets. These divisions have to do with the length of the writings, not particularly the content. The New Testament also contains a prophetic book. The book of Revelation is a message of prophecy regarding the end times and the second coming of Christ. These books are often difficult and confusing to the modern reader. Not only are we thousands of years removed from the events, but our cultures are often so different that many of the ideas seem completely foreign and confusing. However, these books tell us a great deal about the character of God. The promises (both of prosperity and judgment) recorded in these books are written to a specific audience. While these promises were not written to us, they tell us a great deal about God’s character. They tell us what God loves and what God hates, what He honors and what He punishes. We should always ask the question, “What does this promise tell me about God’s character?” Gospels: The first four books of the New Testament are the accounts of Jesus’ incarnation. The word “gospel” comes from the Greek word for “good news.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each tell of the good news of Jesus Christ, of His life, death, and resurrection. These books were written by people who had close, personal relationships with Jesus or with His apostles: Matthew and John were two of His twelve apostles, Mark was an associate of Peter’s, and Luke was a traveling companion with Paul. Each of these authors had seen first-hand the impact of the life and ministry of Jesus and were convinced of the importance of sharing it with the world. The gospels are accounts of the life of Jesus, each written from a different perspective. These are true events that occurred, and can be read as such. Each gospel highlights a different aspect of Jesus and His ministry. Matthew’s focus is the Kingdom of God, Mark’s is the servanthood of Jesus. Luke’s focus is the humanity and deity of Jesus, and John’s focus is that Jesus is the Son of God. Epistles: The books of Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude are called Epistles. These books are letters, written by different authors to a specific group (or persons) and deal with specific issues. When reading any of the Epistles, it is important to have an overall understanding of the main message of the letter. Without understanding the overall theme and message of the letter, it is easy to misinterpret individual verses. Taking extra time to study the cultural and historical background of the letter will prove to be invaluable for understanding the context and meaning of the letter. While studying these letters in depth requires looking at paragraphs and individual verses, they must always be interpreted in light of the letter’s overall message. When studying these books be sure to ask, “What is the overall message or cultural context and how does it relate to this specific verse?” Be careful not to apply personal or cultural biases to the commands in these letters, but instead, be aware of the original audience and their situation and environment. As we read each book of the Bible it is important to keep the genre in mind. With a focus on understanding the theological message of each book we can gain incredible insights from historical accounts, letters, and prophecies written thousands of years ago. Let's continue to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and insight as we read and study God's Word. He'll be faithful to answer us as we seek Him! -Melissa Week 2 Challenge: God is faithful to reveal Himself, regardless of our choices. This week, take special note of the way you see God’s character on display, whether that is through nature, other people, or His Word.

More from Draw Near

Week 6 - Friday

A Lifetime of Study • February 14, 2020 • Jen

As this study comes to a close, I pray that it has reawakened in us a desire and an excitement to dig deep into God’s Word and grow in the knowledge of our Savior. We have been blessed with access to many free tools, including books, commentaries, and sermons, that can help us in our studies. Let’s make the most of these gifts. Here are some things to remember: Always begin with your own observations. Use the questions you have learned earlier in this study to help you pull out as much information as possible from your passages. It might even be helpful to have those questions written down and tucked in your Bible so you can easily reference them until they become second nature. When it comes to studying our Bibles we need to remember that the text has one intended meaning but many applications. It is our job to find that meaning to best of our ability, which is why studying God’s word can be hard work. “I study my Bible as I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf . . . Pause at every verse of Scripture and shake, as it were, every bough of it, that if possible some fruit at least may drop down.” - Martin Luther Once we have written down as many observations as we can, done the work of interpretation, examined a few commentaries, and discussed the meaning of the passage with other believers, we can find ways to apply what we have learned to our circumstance and our world. Studying our Bibles should not only fill us with more information, but it should also lead to our transformation. We must apply what we learn to our lives. Jerry Bridges writes, "As we search the Scriptures, we must allow them to search us, to sit in judgment upon our character and conduct." The Word of God is a treasure, but we don’t always recognize it as such. How do we change our thinking?  How can we value it more than any of our other possessions? It happens the more we engage with it. The more you read it, study it, write about it, pray it, and memorize it, the more we will value it and see it’s worth. Here are some study tools that our team has found valuable and helpful in our study of God’s Word. Some of these are free and some are available through Amazon or other booksellers. Commentaries and other resources: https://www.preceptaustin.org/ - Lots of good articles and Bible study tools Studylight -  Another great resource for commentaries and study tools Blue Letter Bible – Commentaries, translations, and Greek and Hebrew Lexicons Here are a list of articles that might be helpful in learning more about studying the Bible Bible Study Tools – Has wonderful commentaries, dictionaries, concordances and lexicons to use for free as well as other tools that can help you) Grace Bible Church – Offers free Inductive Bible Studies for download Theology For Women – Wendy Alsup Women of the Word – by Jen Wilkin Disciplines of a Godly Woman – by Barbara Hughes Treasure of David – Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalms Most of us don’t know each other, we live all over the world, experiencing different cultures and speaking different languages, but we all have similar difficulties and struggles. We don’t know each other now, but we will someday spend eternity together. Let’s pray for each other, that we come to adore the Word of God more than any other book on earth and through, it the God of the Word. Looking to Jesus, Jen

Week 6 - Thursday

February 13, 2020

Week 6 - Wednesday

The Why of Memorization • February 12, 2020 • Jen

We memorize a lot of things in our lives; recipes, song lyrics, movie lines, directions, even computer programs. We are adding more information to our minds on a regular basis. One thing many Christians seem to struggle with is memorizing Scripture. I believe the main reason for this is because we don’t see its importance. Reasons and Benefits We are called to memorize God’s Word. In Colossians 3:16 we are told to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” To dwell means to live; we are to let God’s Word live in us. In order to do this, we are required to  study it deeply and commit it to memory. Deuteronomy 6:5-6 is says, “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength. These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind.” For something to be on our heart means we have committed it to memory. We can recall and think about it without having to look it up. It is a way of loving God with our mind. Jesus memorized Scripture. Jesus quoted Scripture all the time, showing how He took the time to memorize it. In Matthew 4 records Jesus’ temptation in the desert, during which He consistently clung to the truth of Scripture to combat the attacks of the enemy. If Jesus needed to memorize Scripture, we definitely need to memorize Scripture! Sure, we can open our Bible and read verses, but how much more battle ready would we be if we could recall verses from memory without having to look them up? In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 It changes the way we speak. “For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart”  - Matthew 12:34b What comes out of our mouths? Complaining? Anger? Pessimism? These are signs that the Word of God does not well in us richly, because what is in our heart comes out of our mouth. If our hearts are filled with God’s Word, then we will speak of Him more often. He will be in the conversations we have with our kids and with each other. He will influence the way we talk about our circumstance and the way we talk about others. There are many other reasons we could come up with that show the importance and the benefit of having God’s Word hidden in our hearts. Now that we know why, let’s look at the how. There are many ways to memorize Scripture. (I’m sure there is even an app out there that can help us.) Here is one method I have found very effective and helpful in my own life. Ron Hood, in How to Successfully Memorize and Review Scripture, recommends the following method for memorizing Scripture: “When you have selected a verse, quote it twenty-five times the first day, twenty times the second day, fifteen times the third day, ten times the fourth day, five times the fifth day, once a day for forty-five days, once a week for seven weeks, and then once a month thereafter.” It is a slow process, but this way we can be sure that it is cemented in our hearts. Sometimes I’ll tape verses to my mirror in the bathroom, saying it a few times as I get ready. I also put verses in the kitchen, on my computer, or in other areas where I work. I’ve even can even put a 3x5 card in a plastic baggie and taped it in my shower for some uninterrupted memorization time. One thing we need to remember is that, like Bible study, Bible memorization takes work and time. There are no shortcuts. That’s okay. It is worth the work. What if this year, our mission was to memorize more Scripture? What if this year, instead of memorizing verses, we memorized chapters, or even books of the Bible? Rather than being afraid of the hard, slow work it takes to memorize God’s Word, let’s embrace it, committing our lives to hiding His Word in our hearts. Looking to Jesus, Jen