Jm

Author's details

Name: jm
Date registered: March 10, 2012
URL: http://jmsmith.org

Latest posts

  1. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Avoiding cult-like groups that use Biblical-sounding language — September 18, 2014
  2. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Thayer Thursday – Sex isn’t bad! — September 11, 2014
  3. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Thayer Thursday – the Emotional Elephant — September 4, 2014
  4. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Thayer Thursday – the Lone Voice — July 24, 2014
  5. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: The single most effective way I know of to study the Bible in our digital age — July 22, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Dojo Discussion: Gay wedding cakes, discrimination and religious freedom — 4 comments
  2. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Guns, Satan, mental illness…who do we blame? — 2 comments
  3. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Questions for Chick-fil-A supporters and opponents alike… — 2 comments
  4. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: The Church and Same-Sex Sexual Relationships: My response to Sam’s guest post — 1 comment
  5. Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Grabbing a guy’s package = Off with her hand?? (Part 1) — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Sep 18 2014

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Avoiding cult-like groups that use Biblical-sounding language

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/cults/


Hi Dojo readers,

I wanted to share the following quick thought today:

Beware of people and ministries who know just enough of the Biblical languages (particularly Hebrew!) to mislead those who don’t.

 

Why do I say this? Well, yesterday I came across a gentleman in a Christian discussion group on Facebook who posted the following picture with no comment to go along with it…

I responded by asking: “Which commandments and at what point in redemptive history?” and linked to the video my colleague Chris Thayer and I did on the relationship between the Old Testament commandments and followers of Jesus:  “Do Christians Keep the Ten Commandments??”

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10150213450640582&set=vb.837625581&type=3&theater

 

Instead of answering, the gentleman continued to post a series of pics…

 

This person was very zealous but would not engage in any actual discussion. He simply kept repeating warnings and telling people (in this Christian discussion group) to “come out of Babylon” and that “Many are coming to the feast of tabernacles to be obedient to our Father! Many are being baptized in the Name of Yahshua! The Great Awakening Has Begun! HalleluYah!

In response, a friend posted a link to another discussion forum thread about “Yahweh Restoration” cults: http://www.puritanboard.com/f34/anybody-familiar-yahwehs-restoration-cult-63090/

The links shared on that thread were helpful and I recommend them to anyone who’s come across such people as the gentleman above or have been influenced by such teachings which place a heavy emphasis on using Hebrew (or Hebrew-sounding) terms. One of the commenters who had firsthand experience with such groups shared the following:

I am familiar with them and once was influenced by them but never actually joined it. They are one of many fractitious sects of the Sacred Name Movement (SBM), which believes we have to call the Father Yahweh and the Son Yahshua. They’re an offshoot of the adventist movement that believes in keeping the OT Torah and Feasts, that the NT was written in Hebrew rather than Greek, and avoiding “pagan” words to the point of saying Yahweh is an Elohim not a God (b/c “God” sounds like “Gad” in Hebrew, and that means luck!), and Jesus is at best a second-rate mistransliteration, at worst a word meaning “Heaing Zeus” (seriously!)

Some other unorthodox beliefs

  • The Messiah is a created being, not truly divine
  • Salvation is found only in calling God Yahweh, in addition to following the Torah and believing in His Son
  • The Holy Spirit is Yahweh’s powerful force, not a person
  • The Messiah was impaled (not crucified, since a Cross looks like a Tau and Yahweh could never execute his son on a pagan instrument!) because He pronounced the Father’s name

YRM [Yahweh Restoration Ministry] is a breakaway from Yahweh’s New Covenant Assembly/Yahweh’s Assembly in Yahshua; the leader of YRM is the son of the leader of YAIY. Both came out of the aforementioned AoY. Other groups include Yahweh’s Assembly in Messiah, PaleoTimes, and various Congregation of YHWH assemblies. The “House of Yahweh” is an extreme (even for these guys) offshoot of the SNM.

Most SNM groups have published their own “translations” of the BIble (usually taking the KJV, ASV, or Rotherham and changing it to fit their theology).

 

Now obviously as someone whose teaching ministry often focuses on the Hebrew Bible, I love it when people discover the Biblical languages and the Hebrew roots of our faith!

I smile when people call Jesus’ Disciple as well as his half-brother “Jacob” instead of “James” (after all, that’s what the Greek NT ACTUALLY calls him!) and when people use the name “Yahweh” or “YHWH” instead of the made up mishmash of a name, “Jehovah”.

I love pointing out the nuances and semantic treasures found in the Hebrew text of Scripture which shed new light on so many passages and stories.

In short, I think the Biblical languages are essential for understanding the meaning of Scripture and I lament the degree to which they are ignored by the majority of church leaders (including seminaries that, unbelievably, don’t require both Greek and Hebrew as core classes for their graduates who are going to be preaching and teaching the Biblical texts to others!).

That being said…I repeat the thought I began this post with:

Beware of people and ministries who know just enough of the Biblical languages (particularly Hebrew!) to mislead those who don’t.

Back when I finished my first full year of Greek at Gordon-Conwell, our professor said to the class, “Congratulations! You now know enough of the language to successfully start your own cult!”

We laughed…but he was absolutely correct. There are teachers and preachers out there who get so enamored by just the tiniest bit of Biblical language knowledge that they end up taking a prideful and antagonistic stance toward anyone who doesn’t know what they do (or think they do!).

Some end up simply becoming quirky or obnoxious, yet remain within their churches…daily testing the patience of their pastors or small group leaders, no doubt. :)  Others, however, join up with or start their own cult or cult-like movement apart from the overall Body of Christ.

How can we identify such teachers or movements? There’s no cookie-cutter method for delineating between unlearned zeal and full-fledged cultishness. However, here are a few points I find helpful to keep in mind when encountering such people:

 

1. They can often be detected by their insistence on division from other believers over ceremonial/cultic titles and a veiled (or open!) antagonism toward other followers of Jesus who do things differently or use other terminology.

2. They tend to elevate their own pseudo-translations of the Bible (whose translators are either anonymous or have no formal training in ancient Near East languages) and insist that all other translations–and by extension, churches who use them–are “corrupted”, “fabricated”, “pagan” or other ominous sounding terms.

3. They often appeal to people’s desire for secret or hidden knowledge and exhibit spiritual pride in looking down upon the “blind sheep” who are “asleep” or “foolish”, etc.

4. They rely almost entirely on self-published tracts or internet resources rather than scholarly publications or peer-reviewed theological work from outside of their own tradition.

5. They have little regard for, or knowledge of, actual Church History of the past 2,000 years…except for the individuals or movements they seek to criticize or condemn (usually Roman Catholic, but sometimes Protestant as well).

 

This isn’t a comprehensive list. Rather, I’m simply wanting to share a few of my observations from the past 15 years or so of ministry dealing with semi-cult groups and the people who have been influenced by them.

I invite readers to add to this list in the comments below if you have other observations about such groups that you find helpful.

 

Blessings from the Dojo,

samurai heb text bg thumb

JM

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/avoiding-cult-like-groups-that-use-biblical-sounding-language/

Sep 11 2014

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Thayer Thursday – Sex isn’t bad!

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/thayer-sex/


Chris Thayer is the Director of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, NC where he oversees adult life groups and Biblical education. On Thursdays I share his weekly “Thayer’s Thoughts” for small group leaders, which are based on the previous Sunday’s sermon. Click HERE to watch or listen to the accompanying sermon.

A slightly awkward, yet telling situation I encountered while teaching children was when myself and several other teachers found out that the students had a new word they used as a euphemism for sex. Once we found out what was happening – we quickly addressed it with the children involved. As you can imagine, it was a delicate situation – and one that I was highly uncomfortable with.

Also, as a new teacher, I was less than experienced in knowing how to handle it with children. A child who was in kindergarten was one of the children who used the term. One of the teachers present took the child to the side and privately asked him if he knew what that meant. He said “sex.” The teacher (who was much wiser than me!) gently asked the child if he knew what sex was. He said: “No, but I know it’s bad.” In what was one of the most brilliant and appropriate responses I’ve ever heard (and frequently contemplate as I think about how I will talk with my own children about sex), she said: “No, it’s not bad at all. It’s wonderful. But it is only made for a husband and a wife; for mommy’s and daddy’s when they’re married. And now’s not the appropriate time or place to talk about it.”

That was it. No further explanation was given or warranted – but it was brilliantly handled.

I would have probably agreed with the child that it was “bad” (and perpetuated a terrible theology about sex!) just to teach him that it was inappropriate to talk about it in the context he was doing so; yet this other teacher, had tremendous wisdom to properly teach this child a healthy truth without over-reacting.

Sex.  It’s a topic of conversation that is, unfortunately, avoided by many Christian churches and Christian Households. This has been the case for much of church history, though. In fact, you can go back to some of the earliest and most influential Christian teachers and read their thoughts on sex. In their writings, you’ll find that marriage (and the sex entailed therein) became a lesser form of living the Christian life than being single and celibate. (Ironically, and sadly, in the 21st century American church this ideology has been largely flipped; and now being single and celibate has become to many a second class population within the church).

Because of this long history of sex and marriage being viewed incorrectly, the book of Song of Songs from the Bible has been largely allegorized to deal with what makes even the most ardent Biblical scholar blush! However, when read, there’s really no getting around what’s actually being said! It’s a book that is about love and sex.

So, what do we do with it?

Well, read it and learn from it appropriately of course!

One of the most important lessons we can start off with, though, is that it’s in the Bible. Sex is not a bad thing to be avoided. Nor is it something to be flippantly dealt with (as the rest of scripture makes particularly clear).

As we read this book – we should come at it with the wisdom of the teacher referenced above. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a wonderful thing – within it’s appropriate context.

 

Chris Thayer

[Follow-up note from JM: For a full translation of this most beautiful of songs, color-coded to help differentiate the speakers and characters involved, see the Dojo Blog post: Song of Songs - Now in Color!  And for a fuller introduction to the book, including a look at some of its more explicit metaphorical imagery (blush alert!) download the audio message "The Song of Songs" from the Dojo Audio Archive.]  

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/thayer-thursday-sex-isnt-bad/

Sep 04 2014

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Thayer Thursday – the Emotional Elephant

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/thayer-emotion/


Chris Thayer is the Director of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, NC where he oversees adult life groups and Biblical education. On Thursdays I share his weekly “Thayer’s Thoughts” for small group leaders, which are based on the previous Sunday’s sermon. Click HERE to watch or listen to the accompanying sermon.

Emotion.

It’s a word that, for me at least, conjures intellectual objection. If I could be like Spock on Start Trek and rid myself of all emotion, particularly in my faith, I could understand exactly what it is that God wants me to do; I could live and think in a manner according to the core message of the Gospel without the pesky problems of emotion.

At one point in my life emotion had turned into the elephant in the room. I ignored him for fear of being lost in a sea of the post-modern[1] way of living life without the security that comes from cold, calculated thinking. Then (through a situation that would take too long to recount here) the elephant stepped on my chest, and I had no way of ignoring him anymore.

Modernity[2] brought us cold, calculated logic. I, along with much of the Western church, swallowed this philosophy’s hook. Unfortunately, this has caused us to forget what it means to be human, to remember that we are not only intellectual beings, but also emotional beings as well. Many removed God (and ourselves) from the realm of emotion, and the hole it has left in our hearts is groaning to be filled again.

God did not just give us a mind; he gave us a heart as well.

My challenge, and the challenge of our generation, is to understand Yahweh on not only on an intellectual level, but also on an emotional level. My prayer is that we can learn how to appropriately do this as members of the body of Christ and as communicators of the Gospel to a hurting generation.

This, as you heard this Sunday, is why we experience the truth of the Gospel at Good Shepherd not just on an intellectual level – but also through experiences that evoke an emotional response. We don’t just hear a sermon…

…we see it communicated in the atmosphere of the room

…we feel it communicated in the rhythm of the songs we sing

…we engage our emotions as we sing scripture and they become our prayers.

The Gospel is not relegated to the mind alone, nor is it relegated to the heart alone. It is a message that engages both our minds and our hearts; our intellect and our emotions.

One of my favorite thinkers, Ravi Zacharias has a quote I have said often (and still strongly believe): “What I know in my heart must make sense in my mind.” I’d like to say that the opposite is also true. “What I know in my mind, must make sense in my heart.” To ignore the opposite is to live only half of the way God created us, to become machines rather than truly human.

 

Chris Thayer

 

[1] Post-Modernity, at the risk of oversimplification, is a philosophical term used to refer to a system of belief in which truth becomes relative and emotion takes the throne that the mind held in Modernity.

[2] Modernity (again at the risk of oversimplification) is a philosophical term used to refer to a system of belief which places an enormous amount of weight in humankind’s ability to reason and think – to the extreme of needing nothing to understand reality outside of our own mind’s capacity.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/thayer-thursday-the-emotional-elephant/

Jul 24 2014

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Thayer Thursday – the Lone Voice

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/thayer-elijah/


Chris Thayer is the Director of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, NC where he oversees adult life groups and Biblical education. On Thursdays I share his weekly “Thayer’s Thoughts” for small group leaders, which are based on the previous Sunday’s sermon. Click HERE to watch or listen to the accompanying sermon.

My son’s namesake is a prophet from the Old Testament who only appears twice in the Bible: Micaiah.

His story is told in 1Kings 22 and 2Chronicles 18. Only two chapters in all of scripture – and they both tell the same story. He was the only prophet who was willing to speak the truth to King Ahab when 400 other false prophets were telling the king a lie. He was alone, yet remained faithful to the One True God. My prayer for my son since before his birth and through today has been that he would always follow God and speak the truth even if, just like the prophet Micaiah, everybody else around him deserted him and God.

So when I read the story from 1 Kings 18 about Elijah and the prophets of Baal – something inside me bubbles to the surface: an excitement and a challenge.

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

I’m excited as I read the account because Elijah not only stood in the face of adversity at the risk of his life and reputation – but God came through and tangibly revealed Himself to be the One True God in the face of a throng of people who cried out otherwise. It forces me to stand in awe.

I’m also challenged, however, by the trust in God that Elijah (and Micaiah after him) showed. It forces me to face myself in the mirror. If everybody around me were to stop following the one true God, and follow another god (be it an idol of old such as Baal or a modern one such as fame, money, power, or sexual identity) – would I stand firm in my foundation? Would I be willing to place my life and my reputation on the altar – knowing that the one true God would come through to show Himself for who He is?

I’m glad that I have a community of believers, a “…great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that surround me and encourage me; that I don’t have to walk this journey of faith, of trust in God, alone. Praise God that He gave us this community to encourage us and help us run our race with perseverance. However, my prayer for my son, for me, and for you is that when we are faced with any circumstance in which we must choose between the gods we make or the God who made us is that we would risk all we are for the One who is. Because ultimately, it is not our name or reputation that is on the altar – it is His.

 

Chis Thayer

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/thayer-thursday-the-lone-voice/

Jul 22 2014

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: The single most effective way I know of to study the Bible in our digital age

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/digital-bible-study/


Hi Dojo readers,

I was watching the kickstarter video for the new Bibliotheca project that is in the works (which you should go check out HERE if you haven’t already seen it!), and it got me thinking about something I’ve shared for years with folks in the classes I teach, but have never shared in a blog post.

We live in an age where the technology we have just in our PHONES alone gives us more access to Biblical studies than every person in the history of God’s people COMBINED had access to in the history of mankind. Think about that for a minute and let it sink in.

It is simply staggering when you actually realize the implications.

And while the rise of modern telecommunications and the digital/computer age have produced many new ways for evil and sin to flourish, it has also produced the ability to study and understand Inspired Scriptures in ways that are revolutionary…and no, I’m not talking about those silly “Bible Code” approaches some people seem so fascinated by (spoiler alert: they’re bogus!).

In fact, one of the absolute most effective ways to study the Bible that I have ever found is available absolutely free for any Christian in the world with internet access and a word-processing program. And that is what I want to share with readers today. Because it’s the way I prepare for Bible studies I lead when I really want to understand a book in Scripture as a whole and the flow of thought within it.

You see, the original Scriptures in their original languages did not have verse numbers.

They didn’t have chapter numbers.

They didn’t even have spaces between the letters originally!

Here’s an example of what a New Testament text looked like when it was first being circulated among the early churches:

greek text

ITWOULDREADLIKETHISTOTHEORIGINALAUDIENCEANDTHEYWOULDKNOWWHERETHEWORDSWERESU
PPOSEDTOBEDIVIDEDBECAUSETHEYWEREUSEDTOREADINGTHISWAYANDBECAUSEMOSTOFTHETIMESC
RIPTUREWASREADOUTLOUDRATHERTHANBYINDIVIDUALSANYWAY.

Now of course modern English (which you speak and/or read if you’re reading this post!) has things like spaces, punctuation and paragraph indentations, all of which help us determine the writer’s intended message. But sometimes, due to printing/cost constraints, it is not feasible to print the Scriptures for modern English readers in ways that make the best sense literarily. In the past, publishers would print each verse as a new paragraph for some translations (see the old KJV or NASB for example). With the demand for thinline and pocket-sized Bibles, publishers often use the two-column approach which allows more text per page…but doesn’t accentuate reflective, thoughtful reading to many English readers.

And the presence of chapter and verse numbers in most printed Bible translations end up dominating the page (see the print version of the NET where each verse also include the chapter number right beside it, for instance) and break the passage up in ways that the original Biblical authors never intended–such as the unfortunate chapter break between Genesis 1 and 2.

On top of that, the decisions as to where paragraphs should begin and end are 100% made by the translators/editors/publishers of the various printed Bible translations rather than being part of the original Inspired text itself. Most of the time this doesn’t make a huge difference…but sometimes it definitely does!

So with all of this in mind, one way I have found to be TREMENDOUSLY helpful in really reading and studying the Bible in detail and understanding the literary flow of Scripture’s library of texts is by using a simple process that forces me to interact with the text in a way that no printed version ever could. I invite you to try it for yourself and see if you don’t gain so much more from ANY book of the Bible than you ever have before.

Step 1: Choose a translation

If you don’t have the ability to read or translate the text from its original language/s (Hebrew, Aramiac and/or Greek) then you’ll need to choose a translation that you can work with. There is no “best” or “most accurate” translation in modern English. EVERY translation is an interpretation. Period. Anyone who claims otherwise is being dishonest or is ignorant of how Bible translation works in real life. For the purpose of study, I suggest choosing a translation that is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between word-for-word and thought-for-thought (for more on these and the issues involving translations, I highly recommend the Disciple Dojo resource “The Bible for the Rest of Us“…and not just because I produced it! :) )

Fortunately, most English translations are available for FREE online! There are many places you can go, but I recommend in particular Bible Hub, Biblia.com, or Bible Gateway (Bible Gateway is nice because it has the RSV and NRSV, which many critical scholars prefer and which I grew up with as a good Methodist!)

Step 2: Choose a book of the Bible

This is based on whichever book you want to understand better or whichever one you are studying in small group, Sunday School or seminary/Bible college. For this example, I’m going to use the book of Jonah since I’m an OT guy and it’s one of my favorite books to teach.

Jonah example 1

Step 3: Open a blank word processor document

I’m not a hipster, so I’m using PC. But if you’re a Mac user, I’m sure you can find an equivalent to this step! :) For this example, I’m using Microsoft Word, but the open-source Word-like programs out there all do the same thing basically so it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re computer savvy enough to have found this blog in the first place!

Step 4: Copy the text of your Bible book

In your online Bible resource noted above, go to the first chapter of the book you’re studying and use your mouse/touchpad/touchscreen/whatever to highlight the entire text of the chapter. Then copy it by either selecting “copy” from the edit menu, right-clicking and selecting “copy” from the pop-up menu, or just hit “CTRL + C” (my preferred method).

Jonah example 2

Step 5: Paste the UNFORMATTED text into your blank document

Here’s the key to the whole thing! Go to the Word document you’ve opened and paste the text into it. But make sure to paste the text UNFORMATTED. In Word, you do this by choosing “Paste Special” from the “Paste” menu at the top left of the screen. When you do this, it removes any text formatting and hyperlinks and paragraphing. If when you paste the text there are still paragraph breaks in the passage, just delete them so that you are left with a block of text.

Jonah example 3

Step 6: Repeat for the remaining chapters of the book

Obviously if you’re studing 3John or Jude or Nahum this will be a very quick process. If you’re studying Psalms, Jeremiah or Acts, then you may want to break this step up and do it for 5-10 chapters at a time. With Jonah, it’s just 4 chapters so it only takes a few minutes

Step 7: Save your Word file

Now that you have the entire text of the book in a single, unformatted word-processor file, save it to your computer/device with a filename that will let you identify it easily. For instance, I would save mine as “JONAH_TEXT.doc” or something like that.

Step 8: Add spaces, paragraphing, punctuation and notes

THIS is where the real payoff is! As you read through the text in your word document go through and begin adding your own formatting. Decide where the paragraph begins and ends and indent/space it accordingly. As you go, I recommend either deleting or making into superscripts the chapter and verse numbers. Delete any cross-references or footnotes you may have copied (though take note as you go if some of the footnotes are insightful or important and if so, note them either in the side margin or in brackets or some other way that you find helpful). And be sure to delete any paragraph headings or subject headings that your translation may have put in the text at the beginning of various passages (i.e. “Instructions about the Tabernacle” or “Jesus heals a blind man” etc.)

I usually set up the margins of my Word document so that there is a good 2″ or 3″ margin on one side of the page (usually the right, since I’m right handed). In that margin, I create a text box by selecting “Text box” from the “Insert Shape” menu and I use that for adding any notes, alternate translations, cross references, or quotes from commentaries I come across as I study the book. This is not a necessary step, but I find it especially helpful and recommend doing it if you can.

Jonah example 4

During this process of formatting the book on your own, you will likely be forced to make interpretive decisions that you would have never thought about by simply reading a printed/formatted text. You may find that a train of thought runs all the way through a number of verses and they all belong to the same paragraph after all. You may find that a new thought beings in the middle of a verse and the text should be separated there instead. You may come across a list of things that are hard to keep in mind when read in paragraph format and so choose to put each one on a separate line to create the list feel that the text gives (this is especially helpful in genealogies!) and to see the importance of the number of items listed that you might have otherwise missed (this is ESPECIALLY helpful in Matthew’s opening genealogy!).

The important thing is not that you get it “right”, but rather that you are forcing yourself to interact with the text at the literary level and really absorb its content and how to best present that in terms of clarity of reading. You will find yourself reading and rereading a passage and perhaps realizing that it could legitimately be read two different ways depending on how it’s spaced/punctuated, etc. This is exactly what this type of studying is supposed to do! To get you to not just read the text…but to actually READ the text. To THINK THROUGH the text. ON YOUR OWN before consulting any commentaries, study guides or study Bible notes.

You won’t end up with a “perfect” formatted text. Rather, you’ll end up with a text that you have genuinely worked through and thought through and are so much more familiar with after having done so!

Step 9: Save your formatted book file

Once you’ve formatted your book of the Bible (or actually, having done so multiple times along the way so that you don’t accidentally lose your file due to a power outage or accidental keystroke or any of the other things that make us want to throw our computers across the room when they happen!) save it with a different name that distinguishes it from the unformatted version. For example “JONAH_EDITED.doc”. And if possible, save a copy of both versions on a flash drive or memory card as well! That way, you can share it with others or on multiple computers/devices.

Step 10: Use your new formatted digital book file alongside your various Bibles when studying or teaching

As you continue to study the book, you may find that you need to go back and re-edit parts of it. You may come across other translations that you think work better in certain passages of it. No translation is perfect and the beauty of this whole process is that with a simple cut-and-paste you can create study notes, alternate translations, insert footnotes, underline, highlight, make bold, or change font color in ways that help the text make better sense to you.

For example, when I was doing this with the book of Revelation, I found it helpful to put all of the quotes or references to passages in the Hebrew Bible in bold italics and to indent them. This allowed me to easily see just how much Revelation draws from the Old Testament and the frequency with which John does so. I also put in small paretheses beside each one the actual verse reference being alluded to or quoted. This allows me not only to easily identify which books John is quoting throughout, but it also helps to instill in my visual memory the passage in the OT that is being referenced each time I read it.

Or when doing this with the book of Romans, I would put spaces between each rhetorical section of the book so that I could more easily see when Paul is changing voice/character in his diatribes throughout the letter. Of course there are points at which it is heavily debated whether or not he is speaking as himself or as his rhetorical interlocuter, but that is what you learn as you continue to study the book throughout your life and further develop your Biblical-theological views.

When doing this with a book in the Hebrew Bible, you are forced to note and figure out a way to better communicate visually the structure and patterns of Hebrew poetry (which is practically EVERYWHERE in the OT!). Many passages that are formatted in most translations as simple paragraphs are actually poetic. So, for example, on the 6th “yom” (day) of Genesis 1, when God creates “adam” (human), we come across the first poem in the Bible in v.27. The tri-partite structure of the verse provides a MAJOR clue as to how we understand the concept of the “image of God” that might otherwise be missed by just reading it as a prose paragraph (I’ll let you study that verse on your own to find out what I’m talking about). In some books, such as the Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon) it is impossible in places to identify exactly who is speaking. This is when using colors can be especially helpful–as I’ve done here in the Dojo, in fact!

It also becomes very helpful in narrative portions of Scripture where there is dialogue. Instead of reading it all in a block paragraph, you can format the dialogue like modern English dialogue reads in novels or plays, thus more easily keeping track of who’s speaking and how the conversation is going.

Another really helpful thing is the ability to add punctuation. All punctuation in any Bible translation has been added by the translators…and often they don’t do justice to the tone of the text. There are times when an exclamation point (or three!!!) are needed to convey the force of the passage. There are times when USING ALL CAPS can help bring out the emphasis when the author seems to be “shouting” (in modern digital lingo). These are all things you can decide and add to your formatting to help bring out the meaning of the text.

And if you don’t have a tablet or mobile device that you can take with you to Bible study/Sunday School/class or wherever it is you want to read and study at the time, you can print out the word file and take it with you. That way you haves something to scribble notes on, highlight, underline or whatever else you may want to write on it which you can then easily edit into your digital file when you get back to your computer.

“But what if I get it wrong?? Isn’t this “adding to” God’s Word??”

No.

You are not producing a translation to take the place of your Bible! You are doing an exercise in study…and it’s okay to be wrong when you’re studying! That’s part of the learning process. Part of the wrestling with God’s word that we are all called to do in whatever ways we’re able.

In the 1700s, John Wesley would read and reread Scripture in multiple languages and produce copious notes on nearly the entire Bible. I believe he would’ve been astounded and overjoyed if someone had given him the ability to format, copy and paste. I believe Bible readers throughout the millennia would be thrilled if they had the ability to digitally read, study and analyze the syntax and structure of the sacred texts in the ways we are able to now…even on our phones!

In the end, remember, the journey IS the destination. The purpose of this exercise is to get you to think through–to REASON through–the flow of the book as a whole. “Memory verses” are fine, but they don’t give you context. Doing the process I’ve suggested above is the single best way I have personally ever found to grasp the overall context–and thus the overall foundational teaching and “big idea”–of the various books that make up this library we call the Bible. In fact, in my DVD study “Revelation: A Guided Tour of the Apocalypse” I include in the workbook (which is available to download for free HERE!) the entire book of Revelation that I have translated and then formatted in this way if you’d like to see an example.

I invite you to give it a try, Dojo reader, and see if it doesn’t deepen your understanding and appreciation of whatever book you choose to study next.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/the-single-most-effective-way-i-know-of-to-study-the-bible-in-our-digital-age/

Jun 25 2014

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: Check out this 2-part World Radio feature on my art and ministry!

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/radio/


Hi Dojo readers,

Last week I did an interview for World Radio’s program “The World and Everything in It” for their series on visual artists in the church. Christina Darnell spent the afternoon talking to me about my art, my martial arts involvement and how it all shapes the ministry of Disciple Dojo. It was a great experience and the bit just aired this week.

Here are the segments below. Please listen and share them with anyone you know who might have an interest in the ministry or artwork I do!

Part 1 – Ministry, Art and Martial Arts

Part 2 – Can Christians watch or participate in MMA?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/06/check-out-this-2-part-world-radio-feature-on-my-art-and-ministry/

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