Is the Bible God’s Word?

Literary Criticism is the field of study that evaluates, analyzes, describes, and interprets literature or written works.  It does not mean “to criticize literature” as in “to find fault with it,” but it is simply the science of examining if a work of literature is what it claims to be; was it written when it claims to have been written; was it written as a true report or a fantasy (novel); what the meaning or point of this literature is.

Masked ManIf someone did not want you to know him, how hard would it be to discover his personality, his characteristic behaviors, his likes and dislikes?  Almost impossible, we would guess.  But if he was willing for you to know him, could you discover these things without his cooperation?  Perhaps to a small degree.  But to really know another personality, he must be accessible, cooperative and self-revealing.  You can not know anyone who chooses not to reveal himself or herself.  So God, the Infinite Personal Creator, has chosen to reveal something about Himself that we can not discover apart from His accessibility, cooperation and self-revelation.

SON OF GODFor many, their experiences with Jesus, called the Christ, are sufficient evidence that He is the uniquely born Son of God, that He is the agent of creation, and that He is the savior of their souls, that He has promised eternal life and will deliver on those promises when this life ends.  But for many, especially those who have grown up under different religions, and even for some who have grown up in Christian societies, there is an intellectual hunger to know that the basis of their relationship is found in a book that is an accurate self-revelation of God, a cooperative expression of what He is like, and one by which He has made Himself accessible.

To accurately assess whether Jesus is who He said He is, these must decide if they believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, that it is an accurate report of how the Creator has interacted with His creation throughout history.  For many, this faith is simply the acceptance of what they were taught as children.  This is fine if what you were taught as a child was true, but what about children who are taught that Vishnu or someone else created them?  Or if they were taught that we evolved out of nothingness and will someday merge into the universe, absorption into the infinite as Buddhism teaches? Or if the child was taught that Mohammed received words from God that contradict what the Bible teaches?  What if what you were taught as a child is untrue, whether it is based on the Bible, the Vedic literature of Hinduism, the Three Jewels of Buddhism, the Quran, or some other religious textbook?  How would you know if what you believed was the Truth?

Let’s say that you assume the Bible to be the Word of God.

Bible StudyHow accurate is the translation of the Bible that you read?  How do you know that it is an accurate transcription of what was revealed to the author?   Did something get twisted in the times before it was written down, when the stories were being carried by oral traditions?  Did editors change the stories to make them more exciting or remove details to save heroes from embarrassment?  And who decided which books of the Bible were the inspired word of God?

Read the next few blogs over the next few Sundays and we’ll address some of these questions, but let me give you the straight conclusion to begin.

There is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible.   There is no book in history that has more power to change the human condition than the Bible.  There is no book in history that is more important for knowing the God Who Is There than the Bible.

IMG_2557 “The Word of God can create life, and transform human personality.  It is the stimulus that causes conviction, the summons that calls me to repentance, the solvent than cleans the guilty heart, and the pattern for a life of holiness.  Other literature may be uplifting and wise, but the scriptural Word of God is revelatory and authoritative.” Merrill C. Tenney, The Bible, The Living Word of Revelation.

See May 17, 2015 for more information on the Reliability of the Bible.

Do you agree or do you believe?

“Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality, faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.”  Hebrews 11:1  Amplified Bible

I discussed prayer from the first blog, Please, Pass the Salt, (January 4, 2015) to extensive details of prayer in six subsequent blogs starting with January 11, 2015, how a godly life should be Marked by Prayer.  We went on to discuss the conversational nature of prayer (March 1, 2015), different types of prayer (March 8, 2015),  prerequisites for prayer (March 15, 2015), God’s triune nature (March 22, 2015), and ended up with Where Do You Pray? (March 29, 2015). Though not part of the Marked by Prayer series, this blog is important to understand for a foundation of prayer.

James tells us, You believe that there is one God. Good,” but then goes on to qualify the reader’s “faith” with this: “Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19.  So there must be more to faith than mere mental agreement!

tornado pre1Growing up in eastern Kansas, every spring was an adventure as storms would come through what was know as “Tornado Alley.”  It starts in central Texas and draws a straight line through Oklahoma for Kansas City, Kansas.  Now tornadoes are strange natural phenomena that can seem to come out of nowhere.  The sky can be warm and clear blue overhead and in minutes turn dark and be filled with the gray-green wind clouds spitting tongues of violently circulating dust and debris in the tornado.

tornado approachSo if I was to approach you on such a calm clear day with only some mild clouds on the horizon, what would you think if I told you to gather your children home, buckle down anything loose in your yard, and take shelter quickly?  You may look at the sky and think, “Aw, C.A. is just a worry-wart,” and though you “believe” me that a tornado could come, you might go about your daily activities with little change.

Jim CantoretornadoNow suppose a man approached you with a Weather Channel hat and jacket on and said, “I’m Jim Cantore, and you need to gather your children, buckle down anything loose in your yard, and take shelter quickly!,” you would probably instantly spring into action, call for your children to come to safety, and act according to what you “believe” because you trust Jim Cantore and the Weather Channel.  And you would be wise to do so.  The Weather Channel has resources of radar, jets flying above the storm clouds, detection devices, computer algorithms and a host of experts to predict weather patterns!

Well, this is what “faith” in the Bible is: trust that what you cannot see is true, convinced of a reality even though your five senses do not see it yet; “the assurance of what you hope for, the proof of things you do not see.”  Faith results in acting on what you believe, much more than just mental agreement!

Now suppose I tell you that you can pray to Jesus, the Messiah or the Christ, and find Him to be the Son of God, eternally existing with Father and the Holy Spirit as the One True God.  He can provide your life with meaning, give you peace in times of trouble, supply joy when there is no earthly reason for it, change your heart from hatred to love, and empower you with eternal life when you leave this world.  Perhaps I am not “expert” enough for you to extend faith in Him, but the evidence is there if you are willing to examine it.

Frank Morison, a British lawyer, tried to use the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection to show it could not stand in a British court of law.  He assumed the evidence would get the case thrown out for its lack of merit.  Instead he wound up following Jesus and writing Who Moved The Stone?, validating that even a court must admit that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Lee Strobel was an investigative crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune newspaper when his wife started attending Bible studies.  He thought he would show how silly the belief that Jesus arose from the dead was by investigating it as an “unbiased’ reporter (though he was actually very biased against the resurrection).  But as he investigated he was forced to the honest conclusion that Jesus had risen from the dead and he became a Christ-follower, eventually writing The Case for Christ.  Josh McDowell was a law student who criticized any religious beliefs until he was challenged to make a rigorous intellectual examination of the claims of Jesus: that He is God’s Son, that he inhabited a human body, died on a cross for the sins of humanity, was buried and resurrected three days later.  Thinking the challenge was a joke because it would be so easy to refute these preposterous claims, he set out to prove that Jesus could not have risen from the dead.  He wound up writing Evidence That Demands a Verdict and challenging others all across the world to examine the evidence for themselves.

And this list could go on and on, with Augustine, Lew Wallace, Peter Stoner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and C.S.Lewis, among many others who went on intellectual missions to disprove the resurrection or at least to dismiss it, and wound up becoming devoted followers of the One they at first ignored.

So where do we get our information on which to base our faith?  Next week, April 26, 2015, we will begin to examine the Bible to see if it is reliable as a resource.

“The Bible is the autobiography of God.  If you want to know Him, read the Books.”  Steve Elliott

Construction Woes – Hurry Up and Wait

IMG_3020It seems the start of this project was blighted with delays, first rains, then inconsiderate tradesmen.  Randy Burke of Burke Concrete kept me dangling for four days after the footers were poured on March 24th, promising to come and pour the kneewall by the weekend, texting back each day I called him, but eventually passing Saturday without even a response.  It seemed so strange, and I am wondering if I offended him when he worked for me on Alliance Builders’ first house.  A couple strokes and many years ago, I don’t remember, but he remembered me very well when we met on the 24th, and seemed polite and enthused about working together again.  Maybe he was just busy with bigger fish to fry, but it just seemed very unprofessional to keep me waiting, one day at a time, and then not even bother to tell me to get someone else, or to see if we had.  Fortunately I had not waited for him to clean the lot after the footers were poured.

Well, we did find other more reliable concrete guys in Mike Beyers of Bluegrass Poured Wall. His crew scheduled the work as well as they could with the rains that we have had so often. They delivered the forms on 7 Tuesday, but couldn’t get to the pour until Friday morning.

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We had permission and planned to back the concrete delivery trucks over the lot behind us, but the rains Thursday night made this untenable.   Even if they had not become stuck in the mud, they would have tracked out so much into the neighboring street that we would have received some unwanted notice from neighbors.

So we hired Prime-Time Pumping to channel the concrete to the kneewall forms.  Well, the kneewall went in and after a nice dry weekend for a change, they pulled the forms out on 13 Monday, but threatening rains had me worried we would have another swimming pool and mud bath before we got the backfill done.

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But as I was leaving the site, having seen Bluegrass PW’s guys clearing the forms, our footer guy, Eli Farmer, came by with his skid-loader to do the backfill!  That guy is worth his weight in gold . . .  well, at least my weight in gold.  He’s a big guy with more muscle on his arm than in my whole body! 😀

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As he did the backfill, Ian and I put the “drain-tile” in place. This is the black perforated tube that will allow moisture that collects by the footer to drain away.

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So now we’re ready for delivery of our Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) on 17 Friday, and construction gets to be fun again.

Marked by Bible Reading and Study (Part 3)

“A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Bible Reading and Study. Be sure and understand, knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God. This is an important distinction to make because far too many people think that because they can quote volumes of Scripture or name all 66 books of the Bible or discuss theology like a . . . well, a theologian, that they know God.”

Grand CanyonThere are many Bible Study books about the words, topics, people, places, and cross-references in the Bible.  Why should I (or you) take on a project when we could much more easily just read what someone else has discovered?  The reason is simple: There is joy in discovery!  To simply read what others have discovered leaves one with a sense of longing for something that is meaningful, significant, and original.  Standing along the rim of the Grand Canyon or riding a camel into the Gobi Desert cannot be replaced by reading that someone else did it.  Discovering for yourself an insight into what happened on the day of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be replaced by reading that someone else had a similar insight.  Their books may be helpful (hey, I wouldn’t want to ride into the Gobi without someone’s map), but they should only introduce you to your own investigation into what is true.

Joy of Discovery

I read aloud Deuteronomy last week, and in my “heart language” it took about three hours, but then I am very familiar with the names and words, having read it many times before.  Let me encourage you to set out on a Bible reading plan for the rest of 2015.  Alternatively, pick up a daily devotional such as My Daily Bread, and follow its daily reading plan that will take you through all 66 books in the course of twelve months with just a small portion each day.

The value of reading the Bible in the way I suggest, a book at a time, is that you get a “big picture” of each book, more of a sweep of what the God has inspired the author to write.  This is especially valuable if you have not read much of the Bible before now.  Even parts that you do not understand have a way of getting into your soul.

One mother explained it to her wayward son like this:  She had him look at a strainer with which she had strained some tomatoes.  It was messy with bits of vegetable and spots of red juice all over it.  She told him to run it under the hot water for a minute.  Afterward, she asked him how much water the strainer held compared to what he had run from the faucet.  To his amusement he told her only tiny bits that stayed in the tiny squares of the stainless steel.  “But what is different about the strainer?” she asked.  “Well, obviously, the water cleaned it so all the junk is gone,” he replied.  She told him, “That’s how it is with reading the Bible; even if you do not retain much of it, it cleans out the junk in our spirits.”

TombstoneHowever, Bible Study holds even greater rewards for the person willing to commit the time required.  This blog is just a quick survey of different methods of Bible study for the person who wants to really make sense of this crazy world.  Understanding the Bible is like understanding an “Owner’s Manual” in which you find all you need live a full and satisfying life now, and prepare for the next life after this “dash” is over.

First there is “Book Study.”  This is a very simple form of Bible study, but reveals most accurately what the Bible teaches.  For this type of study it is often helpful to access books or online materials about the history, culture and times of a book.  But do not depend on these to reveal what the Bible teaches, but simply to put it into its context.  Each book was written first to a specific set of “hearers” and it is best understood if you can put yourself in their place.  Discover for yourself what it was that they heard.

Second is “Word Study.”  With today’s computerized versions of the Bible, this is particularly easy.  A “lexicographer,” one who writes a dictionary, begins with a word, and examines how the word is used by various people, and draws the meaning of the word from its usage.  This is essentially the same thing as a writing a dictionary, but your “users” are the verses in the 66 books in the Bible.  Discover for yourself how the verses use the word.

Simply read every passage in which a word is used and make notes on significant issues around the word’s use.  For a start you can consider words like “faith, believe, faithful, etc.”  Or if you are interested do a study of what the Bible teaches about “idols, idolatry, Baal, Asherah, etc.”  Almost any subject mentioned in the Bible can inform your lifestyle and choices if you study it, e.g. money, husbands and wives, children, festivals, demons, angels, honesty, holiness, sin, love, endurance, virtues, etc., anything.

Closely related to the Word Study is the Topical Study.  This is similar but involves more rigorous investigation.  For example, one could study the Characteristics of God, which would involve looking at all the things the Bible says about Him.  You may also need to look at longer passages of the Bible to understand His behavior in a situation.  Discover for yourself His character as He reveals Himself to you.

Knowing GodAnother topical study is The Names Of God, whenever He describes Himself.  Or the topic could be salvation or divine healing or the return of Christ or faithfulness.  Again, any topic mentioned in the Bible can be developed into your personal study, and a trip of discovery that will excite you!

A special type of Topical Study is the Biographical Study.  Some biographies are fairly complete in books in which they are mentioned, e.g. Noah, Lot, Job, Esther, Ruth.  But there will be other references to these people that will help you understand what God was teaching through them.  Of course, some villains are available for study in this way, too: Lucifer (or Satan), Pharaoh, Balaam, Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, as examples of how not to live!  Discover for yourself who these people were!

Students from my Basic Ecology Class will remember (some with pain 😦 !) the lesson we had about Deductive and Inductive Reasoning.  Well, Inductive Bible Study is the last method I will mention here.  This is moving from specifics to general principles, as when we see the sun rise every morning, we induce that the sun always rises every morning.  This is sometimes called the Synthesis Bible Study, or Chapter Analysis method, but it is basically to examine a portion of the Bible verse by verse, situating it in its context, and analyzing what the message of the chapter is.

There are as many ways to study the Bible as there are students.  The important thing is to “study to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)  So hit the books, all 66 of them.  But do so prayerfully, so that you will not become puffed up with pride.  Rather get to know Him who dissolves all human pride like July melts snow, in our hemisphere, anyway, and embark on your own “discovery mission.” 🙂

Of course, there is the question of the reliability of the Bible?  Is it God’s word?  Has it been carried through the centuries without contamination of human ideas?  We’ll look at that soon, beginning April 26, 2015.

Draining the Swimming Lane !!

IMG_2943IMG_3007Well, after putting in 70 yards (~70 cubic meters) of concrete, we received loads of blessings of rain, and kind of wished friends in California could get some of it, so that we could get the kneewall done across the rear of the property.  At the left is the drying concrete; on the right is the new swimming lane!

At first it just filled the trench above the rear footer that was below grade, so we had about three feet (1m) of water in our moat or swimming lane. Of course, swimming there would have been a bit difficult with running into rebar sticking up every four or five feet!

IMG_3008But the real frustration came with later rains that caused some cave-in of parts of the tall sides. So we had to hire a back-hoe to come and dig trenches to release the water, and he cleaned up a lot of the dirt that had fallen down from the tall sides.  The fence above the site had to be restaked at two points that had fallen in with the dirt!

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A couple of dry days was not evaporating our swimming lane fast enough, so we called on our footer guys to come back and drain it.  Sylvester got very creative with his backhoe, bracing it with the bucket to get across the moat, so he could clean out a lot of the mud that had collected there. The photo below still looks a little wet, but we are on “clean” concrete at this point, with wall forms stacked in the dry gravel.

IMG_3013So now we’re ready for the kneewall . . . except we had deluges of rain again tonight!!

So I’ll probably have to shovel out a little more mud before the guys start in morning.

Marked by Bible Reading and Study (Part 2)

IMG_2557“A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Bible Reading and Study.  Be sure and understand, knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God.  This is an important distinction to make because far too many people think that because they can quote volumes of Scripture or name all 66 books of the Bible or discuss theology like a . . . well, a theologian, that they know God.”

IMG_2559This was the first paragraph of the blog of 2015/01/25, but it bears repeating as we begin to talk about Bible Reading and Study.  Let me also recap the content of the Bible.  It is not one book, but rather a library of 66 short books, many of which can be read in a few minutes if the translation is your “heart language,” i.e. the language in which you dream.  The longest ones (except for Psalms) would take a reader a few hours.  (Psalms, the longest book of the Bible, is also without a plot or unified direction of teaching, but is a collection of songs that express the human longing for communion, protection, and eternal life with Father.)

The Bible is the Word of Truth, God’s expression to show us how to live now and eternally, a “final rule for faith and practice” and reveals His character and attributes.  It is not of human origin, even the Psalms, but “you must understand that no Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Without the time nor your interest in what is called “literary criticism” (the evaluation, verification, and interpretation of literature), I will leave this to the student who wishes to discover more by recommending a couple of books:
The Bible, The Living Word of Revelation by Merrill Tenney;
Biblical Inerrancy: The Historical Evidence by Norman Geisler;
Encountering the Old Testament by Arnold and Beyer;
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittel, Friedrich and Bromley;
and websites:;;;

So the first principle of Bible reading is to set a time and place to do so.  There is no correct liturgy to be honored here.  There is no requirement to be in a specific position or face a certain direction.  There is not any “correct order” of books to read, though I will make some recommendations for your ease.

What I wish to propose is that you read the entire Bible during 2015.  Even starting in April, this is not an impossible task, because as noted, it is a collection of short books.  Since any good project normally takes some planning, I strongly recommend that you set aside certain times each week to read some of the books.  Longer books can be broken into a couple of sessions, although I do not recommend this for simple reading.

In fact, I challenge you to read the Bible aloud during 2015!  If however, you are in a situation where Bible reading could get you into trouble, simply read it silently.  If there is no danger to your reading the Bible, then why not enjoy your freedom and be grateful to our God that He has given you such a blessing?!!  Read it in your “heart language” rather than in a foreign translation, even if you would like to use it as a tool to improve your English.  You can read it in English in 2016 or even later this year as a separate project if you want.

Most languages are available at
You will find the Mongolian Bible at
The Turkish Bible is available for online reading at

Simply set aside some time each week when you can capture up to four hours alone and without interruption so that you can read a book from start to finish at one sitting.  You will not need four hours every week, but that should be enough time to read books like Deuteronomy or Isaiah in one sitting.  Others will only take 10 to 15 minutes.  You may be able to read several at a time, although they are digested better if you read one at a time and take at least a short break between books.

This can be done alone or with someone, e.g. a spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, or roommate or business colleague.  You may want to alternate reading chapters or sections if you are doing this aloud together.

The books can be divided into History, Wisdom Literature, Prophetic Literature and Life Lessons.  There are other ways to catalog the books, but this will suffice for most purposes.  The Old Testament (OT) are the books written before Jesus was born; the New Testament (NT) books were written after his death and resurrection. [Testament simply means Agreement, and we’ll discuss this later in other blogs.]

The History books of the OT will start with Genesis through Esther, followed by the Wisdom Literature, and ending with Prophetic Literature.  In the NT, the History books include the four biographies of Jesus and the story of the early spread of the Good News (Matthew through Acts), followed by the Life Lesson books of letters written by apostles to early Christ-followers, Romans through Jude, and finally, the last book of Prophetic Literature in the Bible, Revelation.

The following lists all 66 books in some additional divisions for our understanding of the material they present:

The Old Testament (Agreement)
History (Law):
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Wisdom Literature:
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
Prophetic Literature:
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

The New Testament
History (Biographies ~ Gospels):
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
The Acts of the Apostles
Life Lessons:
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, Jude
Prophetic Literature:

If you have never read any of the books of the Bible before I recommend beginning with Luke and Acts in the New Testament.  From there I would encourage you to read 1, 2, and 3 John with at least short breaks between these tiny books.

Then “switch gears” and read some Old Testament with the prophecy of Malachi first, then History such as Genesis and Exodus, followed by Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Esther.  Pick up more Prophetic Literature with Isaiah, Hosea, Joel and Amos.

Come back to the NT for Matthew, Mark, Romans, and go on to Titus, Jude, Philemon, and James.
Back in the OT, pick up with 1 and 2 Samuel, Song of Solomon, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum and Habbakuk.

Back to the NT for 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians;
Back to the OT for 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah and Lamentations;
The NT again for Philippians and Colossians, 1 and 2 Peter;
The OT for Leviticus, Numbers, and Job;
The NT for 1 and 2 Timothy and Hebrews;
The OT for Deuteronomy, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zephaniah and Haggai;
The NT for 1 and 2 Thessalonians;
End your reading of the OT with Zechariah;
And end the NT with the Gospel of John and Revelation.

Intersperse readings of any of these texts with some of Proverbs and the Psalms which are divided by letters of the Hebrew alphabet. One chapter of Proverbs or Psalms per day will complete these book in 181 days.  I do not recommend reading these at a single sitting because of their length, lack of plot and lack of theme teaching.  These are best digested in smaller portions throughout the year’s project.  (Watch out for Psalm 117 and 119!!) 😀

This is just a suggested order of reading to take you from easier books to more difficult ones, from clear action stories to more complex philosophical ones, from historical events to future events.  If you wish to read in any other order, “more power to you”!  Read on!

So get started soon, while this is still doable in 2015, and if you will, let me know if you are taking on this project and your progress in it.

Four caveats:
1. Do not expect to understand everything you read nor understand why God does some things the way He does, on your first reading. Some of the reasons involve study of the culture and society and first “hearers” of these words. As a child does not understand all its parents’ decisions, there are things we will learn as we “grow in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
2. Do not allow anything to discourage you in this quest. Opposition may come from unexpected corners or from those opposed the Jesus, but He will help you if you allow Him to do so. If you miss a planned session simply pick up with the next one where you left off, so if it takes you a little into 2016, no worries. Just do it.
3. Do not waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to pronounce strange names, especially if you are reading aloud. For example, when reading 2 Samuel and you come across a name like “Mephibosheth,” if this poses any problems pronouncing it, just call him “Little M” or some other nickname and keep going.
4. Finally, do not allow knowledge of the Bible to “puff you up” (Colossians 2:18-19) and so miss out on getting to know Him better. This is HIS WORD you are reading, and it should lead you closer to Him and help you hear Him better.

Next week, April 12, 2015, we will look at different methods by which to study the Bible.