How To Get More Out of Your Bible Study

by Aren Haggard

One of my favorite TV shows, maybe you’ve seen it, is Sherlock Holmes. What makes Holmes the famed detective that he is, is his ability to come upon a crime scene and pick up on subtle nuances, ask the right questions, see the things that others miss and put all the pieces together. While none of us will be quite like Sherlock, we can all be great Bible detectives with the right tools and good methods. Below are a few of my favorites that I believe you will find helpful.

 #1 Concordances, Commentaries and Parallel Versions

Some will prefer to grab a book off the shelf, which is something I do as well, but if you want all of your information in one place, let me offer a couple of websites. 1) Biblehub.com gives you dozens of parallel bible versions (so you can see how a passage reads in each version), several commentaries for each passage as well as cross references. 2) BlueLetterBible.com is my primary source when I want to know what was said in the original language, and where that same word is used elsewhere throughout scripture.

 #2 How to Use Commentaries

Do not, I repeat, do not use commentaries as a be all end all for Biblical interpretation. No matter who wrote them. An appropriate way to use commentaries is to first study a text for yourself, and then see if anyone else is saying the same things you are. If no one is, go and study again just to be sure. Commentaries can also be great tools find information about nuances in the original language (of course cross reference to other tools like Vine’s and Strong’s), discover cross references you had yet to find, and find plausible explanations for things that are giving you pause. Again, commentaries are tools, not scripture. Even some of the finest brethren have been wrong within the pages of their commentaries.

 #3 Ask Questions When Studying

Questions are a powerful tool when trying to gain an understanding of the Bible. When I come across a peculiar or oddly specific word I ask myself “Why that word, why not another?”. And after going to my tools and resources 90% of the time I find a Greek or Hebrew word that gives me a deeper understanding of the author’s intent. When I notice a detail that an author chose to include I say to myself “Okay, I know that God doesn’t waste any words, “Why do I need to know that?” Undoubtedly, when I go to my resources I find things like, that name was mentioned because that person later became a Christian, or that detail was mentioned because of a fulfillment of prophecy, or some other telling reason as to why such a detail was included. This list goes on and on as to what questions to ask, here are a few more you should find helpful. “Who is the author speaking to?” “Does this apply to me, and if so how?” “What does the rest of the Bible say on this subject?” “Does my conclusion agree with the rest of scripture?”

 I hope you find these resources helpful. My prayer for you is that you will love God’s word, pour over it time and time gain, and discover priceless treasures that will draw you closer to God and give you a better understanding of Him and His will for your life.

 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. –Acts 17:11

Jesus Tells it Like It Is!

By Aren Haggard

In Luke Chapter 11, Jesus is invited to eat dinner with a Pharisee and some of His friends. As Jesus sat down to eat, the Pharisee marveled that Jesus didn’t wash His hands first. To many in Jesus’ day, including this Pharisee, this was a matter of cleanness, though there truly was no precedence under the Law of Moses for such a requirement.

What ensues is quite the lambasting from Jesus towards this Pharisee and his friends, and a great lesson about who we never want to become as followers of God.

In verses 39-41, Jesus tells the Pharisees they’re like dishes that are clean on the outside and dirty on the inside. Don’t be a dirty bowl. Be honest about what’s filling your heart and mind and make sure those things are clean too!

In verse 42 we find that the Pharisees would tithe even the smallest of herbs but had completely lost sight of things like love and justice. Don’t be a micromanager! Certainly be concerned about following God to the utmost of your ability, and always seek the truth, but remember that the love and concern we should have for others can’t be replaced by attention to detail in other doctrinal matters.

In verse 43 Jesus calls out the scribes and the Pharisees for being attention hogs and thinking that they deserved the best of everything from everyone. Don’t be a prima donna! If anyone had the right to demand the very best it was Jesus, but instead He chose to be a servant and seek the best for others.

In verses 46-52 Jesus turns to the lawyers, those experts of the law of God, and reprimands them for making the law impossible to follow, and laying unbearable burdens upon the people. Don’t be an albatross! As Christians we should strive to take the load off of those around us, help them through life and bring them closer to God.

Jesus was hard and straight-forward with the Pharisee and his friends, but only because their souls and the souls of the people they taught and influenced hung in the balance. Jesus told it like it was because one day He will tell it like it is. Either He will say “Depart from Me I never knew you” or “Well done good and faithful servant”.

Be a Friend!

By Aren Haggard

World renowned businessman, philanthropist and multimillionaire,
Holton Buggs, has one self-proclaimed secret to his success. “You
won’t out-friend me!”, he says proudly to a crowd of thousands who had
gathered to hear him speak. Not his speaking ability, his acumen for
finance, or his sales skills, but his friendship skills, Holton says, have
made him millions. If Holton can add zeros to his bank balance with this
ideology, could we help add people to the Lord’s church with the same
way of thinking? I think that not only the obvious answer but the Biblical
one is a resounding yes!

First of all what’s the alternative? Make enemies? Keep everyone at
arm’s length? Is that what Jesus set out to do? Certainly not! Think
about the interactions Jesus had with people.

Jesus constantly looked for ways to connect with others. Whether it be
one-on-one like the woman at the well, at lunch with Levi and his
friends, with a crowd at his house in Capernaum or on the cross with a
thief, Jesus was always making friends (Lk. 7:34). How many people
could we reach with the gospel and bring into the family of God if we
made more of an effort to simply connect on a regular basis?

And let’s not forget the apostles! God’s plan for building His church and
opening the doors of the kingdom hinged on the work that the apostles
of Christ would do in the first century. But years before they were
apostles they were friends (Mk. 2:19). They were the men that Jesus
traveled with, ate with and shared some of His deepest secrets with.
They were with Him in his final moments, watched on as He was
crucified, mourned his death and looked longingly as He ascended into
heaven. Through this close bond He would teach and instill in them
what they would need to do the Lord’s work after His departure (Jn.
15:15).

Holton Buggs might be a wonderful friend, but he’s got nothing on
Jesus! The friendship of Christ would send Him to the cross (Jn. 15:13)
with the motivation that through His death He would make millions of
friends (Jn. 15:14).

This week let’s begin to be more like our Savior. Connect with others,
get to know them, be a friend.

To Find Heaven Find Focus

By Aren Haggard

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.
We all have twenty-four hour days.”
― Zig Ziglar


They just seemed to know. From the first time I met them they all
had this laser focused picture of what the future looked like, almost
as though they had been there already in a time machine and
returned with the utmost certainty that they would achieve their
dreams. Paige would be a marine biologist, Jared would go into
sports broadcasting and Luis would work with helicopters. They told
me this when we were just kids, and now as an adult they have
proven to me the significance of knowing where you are going.
Paige went on to do marine biology work in Hawaii before joining the
Peace Corps. Jared works for Fox Sports. Luis is a helicopter
mechanic in Afghanistan

Napoleon Hill said in his famous work “Outwitting the Devil”, there
are drifters and non-drifters. Those who wander aimlessly through
life, and let life happen to them, and those, non-drifters, who know
where they are going day in and day out refuse to be taken of
course. My friends were certainly non-drifters. How about you?
When we are baptized into Christ we have a resolve about us, a
focus and aim that say “I want to be forgiven of my sins. I need a
Savior and I want to go to heaven!” For most of us nothing was
going to keep us out of that water. But now what? Are we still just as
determined?

The psalmist wrote of those who were completely committed to go to
Jerusalem to worship God, “Blessed is the man… whose heart is set
on pilgrimage.” (Ps. 84:5)

We will only be blessed with heaven if we set our hearts on it and
resolve to do whatever is necessary each day to get there. To find
heaven we must find focus.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and
rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the
revelation of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 1:13

Equality

By Aren Haggard

Long before the days of “Googling” practically anything you want to
find out more about, I recall sitting at an Apple Macintosh during
computer lab time in second grade. I donned gun-metal grey
headphones, the kind you picture an air traffic controller wearing,
and clicked on a little icon next to a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. For the very first time I would hear his famous “I Have a Dream”
speech. Even as a young white kid who had experienced little
racism in my life, I was moved, deeply stirred, by the words of Dr.
King.

In the wake of the shootings and riots in Ferguson, MO and the
subsequent backlash that has been seen throughout our nation, it is
plainly evident that many still feel that the dream that was cast so
eloquently in 1963 has still to yet be fully realized, that is the dream
of equality. What can we do? What should we do?

The truth is, we can’t control everything we would like. We can’t
force the people in our country to act or think or believe a certain
way. What we can do however is make certain that equality,
something God had in mind long before Dr. King, is always found in
the church.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither
slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for
you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)

The church must be the place where we are not judged on our
income, or level of education, on the color of our skins or the
language that we speak. Regardless of race, gender or lot in life if
we are Christ’s then we are family, we are brethren, we are equal.

Now more than ever we must be a beacon of light to a world full of
injustice, racism and hatred. We must let the world know that we
have abandoned the gross inconsistencies of the past, in that even
many Christians saw people of color as less than, and have grown
to be the people that we are called to be in Christ. That we have “put
on the new man” who is “renewed in knowledge according to the
image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor
Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor
free, but Christ is all and in all.” (Col. 3:10,11)