Tips for Studying the Bible

As Christians, we have a lot of questions that we don’t always know how to investigate on our own, and we’re grateful when somebody will come in and give us the quick answer. But if you’ve raised kids, you know that when your kids have a question and ask you to sort something out for them, they come away with one kind of knowledge. When you allow your kids to work through, and find, and research the answer for themselves, they come away with a completely different kind of understanding. I can remember when I first came to Christianity out of atheism, I really needed to examine the issues for myself. And let’s face it, there are lots of times when it’s not so much an understanding of the truth; it’s not so much that the truth is out there and I just can’t grasp it; it’s that I hold some type of prerequisite, presupposition, that prevents me from seeing the truth clearly.
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Chasing After the Heart of God

Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God.

Jennie’s DVD-based Bible studies are uniquely relational, interactive and dig deep quickly. Her first study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free was released at the end of 2011  Her latest Bible study is entitled Chase: Chasing After the Heart of God (Thomas Nelson), and it focuses on the life and psalms of David.

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World’s Most Advanced Study Bible—Free through March 2014 with Coupon Code

You’re about to benefit from my recent blogging infrequency. Today, I have the honor of introducing Faithlife Study Bible—it’s free for you through March 2014. Just go to and enter the coupon code JohnBarry. Faithlife Study Bible rethinks the study Bible. It’s a new study Bible, designed from scratch for a digital world.

Faithlife Study Bible has 

A Bible Study Plan That Works--Part 2

In my last blog post I shared the process I took my students through to come up with a theme statement for the book of Ephesians. It took us an entire week of class, but it was well worth it!

For the second week, I had them work in groups to break down the book into chapters, sub-chapters, and to come up with a heading for each of them. Rather than simply accepting the existing divisions of Ephesians, they came up with their own analysis of the structure of the book. Below is a sample of their work. Once they broke down the book into their own divisions, they used the existing chapters and verses to communicate how they believed it should be organized. As you can tell, their outline is very similar to the existing outline in the Bible!

Chapter I: Salvation Through Christ (1:1-23)

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A Bible Study Plan That Works

One of the most disconcerting trends of 2011 is the continued lack of theological knowledge among the church, as demonstrated in the Barna 2010 Trends. As Christians we simply don’t have theological depth or know how to relate it to our lives. And we spend little time studying the Bible, despite Paul’s strong admonition to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:15). Even though we claim to believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it tends to take a back seat to other priorities in our lives.

Why is this? Many possible reasons come to mind. One reason is that we are simply busy. Are lives are filled and studying the Bible takes time and effort. Another reason is that we simply don’t know how to study the Bible. I’m convinced that if more people in the church truly knew how to study the Bible, and saw the fruits of increased understanding, they would make time for it.

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Why Not Go Deep?

I've been thinking about going deep lately. Something clicked in me after meeting with Jim Belcher, former pastor of Redeemer Prebyterian Church in Orange County and the author of Deep Church. Jim is leaving the church he planted almost ten years ago to move his family to England and work on a second book, which will most likely have the word "deep" in it. Jim seems to have hit a nerve with the idea of going deep, whether it's a church or an individual.

We didn't get deep into the subject, mainly because Jim is moving in a few weeks and every minute in his life counts right now, and he couldn't spend any more time with me than it took to consume a $4 Dennys value breakfast. But our conversation was enough to get me thinking:

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Sometimes All You Need is a Plan

Pablo Picasso, Woman ReadingLately, I've had trouble focusing when it was time to read the Bible. I realized that this was largely due to the fact that I have not been following a reading plan this year. During odd-numbered years, I read through the whole Bible, usually using this plan. But during even-numbered years like the one we're in now, I have historically taken a more systematic approach. For example, one year I focused on the Sermon on the Mount (using this excellent book by John Stott as an accompanying text), another year I used Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and read scripture as I studied particular topics.

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Apologetics Study Bible for Students

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students is here! The Bible shipped January 31, and now you can order from Amazon. This is something I've been working on for two years and I am absolutely thrilled about it.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students will anchor younger Christians in the truths of Scripture by equipping them with thoughtful and practical responses for whenever the core issues of their faith and life are challenged.

Multiple research studies have shown that spiritual focus often weakens among teenagers as they head into the attention-dividing realm of young adulthood. Up to 66% of them leave church altogether. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students works against that trend by helping this audience begin to better articulate its beliefs.

Playing Tag with God

People sometimes ask me what my favorite passage of scripture is, and I usually have a hard time coming up with an answer. However, this morning I finished my 2009 Bible Reading Plan by reading the last three chapters of Revelation, and I think this might just be my favorite passage:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."*

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James Bond and Bible Software (004)

As the Editor-in-Chief of Bible Study Magazine, people regularly ask me, “How should I study the Bible?” I answer this question differently nearly every time. Why? Because there is no simple answer. There are hundreds of ways to study the Bible. (You can listen to my answer on the Debbie Chavez Show here.) Nonetheless, I always come back to two points: Ask questions of the biblical text and get good resources. Let’s talk about the second point.

Me, Myself and I (oh yeah, and the Spirit) Bible study is one of the great assassins of biblical interpretation. We need the community of God and good resources. If you have been a long time reader of my blog, you know I regularly try to bring context to the passages we discuss.

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