How to Read the Bible like a Seminary Professor Part Two – Observation

People often ask me why I do what I do.

I am a Registered Nurse.

I’m a Bible College and Seminary Graduate

I have advanced graduate and post-graduate degrees in Bible and Theology.

There are many other things I could be doing.

Why then teach the Bible in an Apostolic Church in ????????.

Why spend so much time on Facebook and Skype debating with Trinitarians and other religious groups?

Why write books on the Bible?

It’s because ladies and gentlemen–the Bible has changed my life–and it can change yours too!

In fact, with the ever-increasing evil present in our world, this book holds mankind’s only hope.

But there’s a problem of grave concern in the body of Christ and that is severe Biblical illiteracy!

Christians simply don’t know what is in this book and they certainly don’t know how to use it.

My goal is to help change that, to the best of my ability.

“People learn how to use the Bible mostly from their pastors and teachers in church – so preachers and teachers have a better opportunity than anyone else to teach good Biblical theology and model a hermeneutically sound use of the Bible.”

What is “hermeneutics,” you ask?

Hermeneutics is a $30.00 word that simply means how we interpret the Bible.

In these sessions we are learning how to do proper Hermeneutics; that is how to properly understand Scripture.


In our first session, we gained a general overview of how to do effective personal Bible study.

But basically, all we did was show you the car.

Today, we’re going to kick the tires and take a peek under the hood.

We learned that there are only three major steps in personal Bible study – Observe – Interpret – Apply.

Observation – Interpretation, and Application.  Just three simple parts.

Today, and over the next three sessions, we’re going to get more intimately involved with each of these components, beginning with observation

Observation asks the question, “What do I see?”

We’re asking seven key questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How? And lastly, and most importantly:
  • Now what?
  1. Who?

Who are the people involved?

Who are they interacting with?

What else do you know about them from other stories?

If you are studying and you encounter the Apostle Peter? What can you recall about him from other parts of the Bible?

  1. What?

What do you know about these people?

What are they saying?

What are they doing?

What’s happening in the passage?

Remember Bible study is a process – it’s a building process.

Understanding grows as you put the pieces together.


Is it a miracle?

What kind of Miracle?

Is it a story?  Can you tell it?

If you can’t tell it, you don’t know it.

You need to go back and reread it – study it until it becomes a part of you.

I asked one of my seminary professors once, how many times they read a passage of Scripture before teaching or preaching it?

Their answer was – dozens!

What I took away from that is to read it as often as needed to make it second nature.

The bottom line is can you tell the story?! 

Is the passage a command?

I’ve been reading the book of James did you know there are 58 sharp commands in that book – not suggestions – commands!

So ask yourself “what does he want me to do?”

Is it an explanation?

Is it an example?

  1. When?

What time is it?  Early morning?  Night time?  What morning?  What night?

Mark 1:35 King James Version (KJV)

35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

What day was it?  The day after the busiest day in our Lord’s recorded ministry.

(By the way – did you know that there are only 52 specific days in Jesus’ ministry recorded for us in Scripture).

But this particular day was so filled with miracles and ministry that it left our Lord completely drained to the point that his very first priority that morning was communion with his father.

Many of us would be tempted to sleep in.

Not only are we interested in the timing of a particular event but as well – what came before – and what after.

What produced it – what did it produce?

  1. Where?

What’s the location?  Where did the events take place?

This is where you’ll find a good map comes in handy.

You know– those maps in the back of your Bible?

Have you ever looked at them for more than a minute?

Most people never use them so they have no clue where particular events happened.

I have a funny but sad story – I was teaching a class one afternoon and a lady with a PhD stuck her hand up and asked me where in South America we can find the Dead Sea?

Where did Paul’s journeys take him?

There are three of them.

Where did he go and what did he do there.

Where all did Joseph travel in his journey?

Where did the Exodus take the Children of Israel?

What about the Promised Land? Where is it? How big is it? (About the size of the State of NJ)

  1. Why?

Why did God include this particular passage or event in the Bible?

John tells is there are many signs not included in that book so we must ask ourselves why did he include the particular seven he did mention?

He tells us!

It’s because each of the signs was meant to produce faith –belief in the Son of God!

Why in Romans 13 does Paul suddenly introduce the topic of the Christian responsibility to government?

Do I have a responsibility to my Government?

Paul seems to think so!

Why is that there; in the greatest theological treatise in the New Testament?

Actually, it’s because theology impacts every area of life.

  1. How?

How were things done?

How did they travel?

  1. Now what?

We now know the who, what, when, where, why and how.  So– now what?

What do we do with this information?

How does it affect my life?

How does it impact my behaviors,

My marriage,

My family,

My job,

My neighborhood,

My finances.

Not only do I seek answers to the first six questions but I must discover the seventh by asking how does it apply to me?

Only then am I ready to move on to the next step.


Example of observation

Mark 4:35-41 King James Version (KJV)

35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

OK, now,  what can we observe in this passage?  What do we see?

The first question involves context:

What precedes this passage and what follows?

Well if you go back in Mark Chapter 4, you’ll see the oft-repeated statement – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

He’s giving them a lesson on listening.

We find here a series of parables – he even takes the time to explain one so that they don’t miss what he is saying.

Then beginning at Mark 4:35 and continuing through Mark 5:43 we find a series of four miracles.

This is often referred to as the miracle section of the Gospel of Mark.

The first of these is the calling of the storm.

So, let’s look again at our passage:



Who is involved?

Well, we have Jesus and the disciples.

Jesus the world’s greatest teacher has just spent the day instructing these disciples.

At the end of the day, Jesus says, “Let’s go to the other side.”

Then what happens?

If Jesus falls asleep and a great storm comes up?



What does Jesus say?

Well, we’ve just seen that he said, “Let’s go over to the other side.”

Yet in the middle of the lake, the disciples are convinced they are drowning.

What do the disciples say?  They ask: “Jesus, don’t you care!?”

Translation – “Will you at least help us bail?”

Remember, these are professional fishermen they had seen this kind of storm before.

In the natural, they had every right to be afraid.


What does Jesus say next?

Peace!  Be still!

What happens?  Immediately there is calm.

This is clearly a miracle of the first order.

Then Jesus asks the pertinent questions:

“How is it that you have no faith?”

“Why are you of all people, so fearful?”

See faith and fear do not mix!  It’s like oil and water.

What did the disciples say next?

“Who is this that even the wind and the seas obey him?”


When does this take place?

What time of day is it?  Well, the text tells us it’s at night.

Scary enough, a storm like that in the daytime– just imagine it happening at night it adds color and significance to the scene.



Where did this take place?

The Sea of Galilee –

It’s a large lake–8 miles wide, 13 miles long.

Its 690 feet below sea level.

If you don’t know where it is– look it up?  That’s how we learn.

Next, ask yourself the question;



Why was this written?

Well, it was written for a number of reasons: the first of which is that it is teaching us that when Jesus Christ is in our boat – it can’t sink.

The disciples are involved in a teaching moment and in order to be taught, you must be teachable.

Here Jesus uses the most desperate of situations — life-threatening even to professionals — to teach trust in him.

He had said, “Let’s go to the other side.”

He didn’t say Let’s go halfway across and sink.

When you and I are teachable in life’s moments then, and only then– we will be able to take the giant steps the disciples are making.

See the big lesson here is trust – Jesus is teaching his disciples– and us –to trust in him.

It’s easy to talk about.  But to do?  Wow!

Do we trust him in all things?



How did Jesus do the things He did?

One view says that because He was God the Son, sometimes He acted like a man—other times He acted as God.

Does that work for you?

It doesn’t work for me. How come—because Philippians Chapter 4 tells us that He did not partake of His divine attributes.

In every way, He was 100% fully human.

When Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith—the implication is that they could have done exactly what He did with the storm.

Or else, His rebuke was uncalled for and out of place.

We must understand that– everything Jesus did—He did as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit.

This was a lesson in trust but it was also a lesson in acting on your faith.


And finally, the crucial question:

Now What?

We put this passage into application in our own lives!


By trusting Jesus in the storms of life and stepping out and exercising our faith with the authority and power given us In Christ Jesus!

How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor–Part 1

(or for the Less Adventurous)

How to Effectively Read the Bible


When I was a young boy, I won a Bible in a Sunday School contest—Inside the Pastor had written: “This book will keep you from sin, OR sin will keep you from this book!”

Wise words that ring true today!  Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives!

The Christian has only two options—you are either in the Word and the Word is conforming you to Christ—or you are in the world and the world is pressing you into its mold.

You’ll either be conformed to Christ or conformed to the world.


There are more Bibles in Print today than at any other time in history.

Most households have at least one and often half a dozen—but, in most cases, they aren’t read—they aren’t studied—and more importantly they are not applied.

Why is that true?

I believe it is simply because the majority of people simply don’t know how.

That was my problem for a long time. I didn’t know how to read and understand Scripture, so I just didn’t bother.

I’d read for Sunday School and follow along with the Preacher, even memorize key Scriptures—but study? Hardly.

I didn’t know where to begin or how to go about the process.

So, in this first of four parts, I want to ask three pertinent questions:

  • Why Study the Bible?
  • What is Personal Bible Study?
  • What is the Process of Personal Bible Study?
  1. Why Study the Bible?

          There are three reasons that conspire to build a convincing case as to why effective Personal Bible Study is not optional—it’s essential.

First, it is important because:

Effective Personal Bible Study is essential for Spiritual Growth.

In I Peter 2:2 we read:

1 Peter 2:2 

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

There are several things I want to call your attention to in this passage:

  1. First of all, it speaks to our attitude toward the Word of God.

It’s the attitude of a newborn baby. Just as a baby eagerly grabs for the bottle—you grab for this Book.

All of us who have had children know what it is like to hear a screaming baby in the middle of a night of sleep.

That child must be satisfied and just as soon as he gets the milk he needs—all is calm.

But secondly, he speaks to your appetite.

Just like a newborn baby—“desire,” “long for,” develop an appetite for the Word of God.

All of us have had the experience of developing strong dislikes for certain foods and then suddenly developing a strong appetite for those same foods.

When someone tells me they are not getting much out of the Word –that’s more of a commentary on them than it is the Word—it requires the development of a spiritual appetite.

But don’t miss it! This verse sets forth the aim of the Word—“that you may grow thereby.” Notice carefully—not “Know” but “Grow

You cannot grow without knowing but, it is possible to know and not grow.

  1. There’s a second reason personal Bible study is important:

Effective Personal Bible Study is essential for spiritual maturity.

Let’s look at Hebrews 5:11 – 14

Hebrews 5:11-14 King James Version (KJV)

11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The writer says I have a difficulty and that is there is a deficit in hearing.

When by virtue of time—pay attention to that—it’s time to go on to college but, instead, we have to go back to first grade and learn our ABC’s all over again.

But there’s only one way according to this and that is that we discipline ourselves to develop Godliness through exposure to the Word.

  1. There is a third reason for personal Bible study:

And that is:  effective personal Bible study is essential for spiritual effectiveness.

And the passage we want to look at is Second Timothy 3:16—17

2 Timothy 3:16-17 King James Version (KJV)

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God-that means all 66 books—nothing included which should have been excluded—nothing excluded which should have been included.

And He said it’s all profitable—and is profitable for four things:

  • First of all, it’s profitable for doctrine or teaching
  • Secondly, it’s profitable for reproof
  • Thirdly, it’s profitable for correction
  • Finally, it’s profitable for instruction in righteous living

It not only tells you what’s right—it tells you what’s wrong.

It not only tells you how to correct it—it tells you how to continue living it righteously.

My question to you is how can you afford not to study with such convincing reasons as this?

And always remember—there is no growth outside of Effective Personal Bible Study.


  1. What is Effective Personal Bible Study

The very first thing that you need before you perform any study is a good definition.

So let me define for us just what is effective personal Bible study.

I want to suggest first, that personal Bible study is Methodicalness.

That is, involves taking certain steps in a certain manner in order to guarantee a certain result.

Not any steps—not any order—not any result.

In this course, we’re going to concentrate on Three basic steps in personal Bible study.

#1-Observation—this is where I ask the question:

“What do I see?”

#2-Interpretation—the process of interpretation is where we ask:

          “What does it mean?”        and lastly, we have:

#3—Application—this is where we ask the all-important question:

          “How does it work?”

You simply cannot rearrange these steps—without finding yourself in error.

Good observation will lead to good, accurate and clear interpretation.

In fact, careless observation will lead to a faulty interpretation resulting in an illegitimate application.

See, it’s not simply methodicalness—is methodicalness with a purpose—with a view to becoming more receptive and reproductive.

So, I want you to bear the steps in mind as we continue over the next few weeks to examine in detail effective personal Bible study.

You show me a man or woman that is effective in public ministry and I’ll show you someone who is also effective in personal Bible study.

In fact, what happens in the pulpit is a direct result of what happens in the study.

Personal effectiveness comes from proper preparation.

What we have to understand—absolutely must understand—is that if we’re going to reach this generation with the Word of God-we’re going to have to spend more time alone in the study—in a logical-methodical-helpful process.

There is great Joy to be found in effectively conveying the truth of God’s word to another person and see that light go on.

There is simply no substitute for firsthand knowledge of an acquaintance with God’s Word.


Let’s talk about four reasons:

  1. It enables you to think for yourself

See most people don’t think—they simply rearrange and repeat the ideas of others.

It’s Secondhand knowledge.

They’re are an echo, not a voice.

I discovered as a freshman in college that this makes one a very mediocre student.

Real conviction comes from personal Bible study because God is revealed in his word.

2. Secondly, personal Bible study enables you to evaluate the opinions and thoughts of others.

I pick up a commentary– it says this or that—I decide maybe I’ll read a second commentary—bad decision—because the second commentary contradicts what the first one said– now what do I do?

Do I simply toss a coin in the air?

No, it’s my personal Bible study that enables me to evaluate what I’ve read in both of these commentaries and I see that in one there is some truth, but it misses some things.  The other also has some truth.

Together they give me the full picture.

3. The third reason for personal Bible study is that it will give you the personal joy of discovery.

Why is it that more people don’t get excited about sharing the truth with others?  It’s because, frankly, they get everything secondhand—they haven’t seen the truth for themselves.

4. And the fourth reason for personal Bible study is that it will enable you to fall in love with the author.

Do you have a favorite author? A favorite Bible Teacher or writer?

How do you demonstrate that love?

You read what they have written.

See, you can’t fall in love by proxy—it’s a deeply personal experience.

Think about it!  If someone you care about writes you a letter—do you read it?—or do you leave it sitting dusty on a shelf?

That’s why Paul said-“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into of the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them—that what?  Love him.  (I Cor 2:9)

Just think of it!

God wanted to speak to you in the 21st century and he wrote his message in a book.

Read the book!

In the coming weeks, we are going to look, more closely, at the four components of effective personal Bible reading and study. I hope you’ll join me!