Steps of Healing: Bible Study and Prayer

How do these help in divorce? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Some of you might be wondering why I didn’t bring this up first? One reason is most of us already know this. Many of us get tired of hearing just to read your Bible and pray when we have a hard time.

I will also say sometimes I find these to be difficult. I have read the Bible all my life and it’s hard to sit down and look at a text and try to find something you haven’t before. I really question people when they say “I get something new out of the Bible everyday.”

This also relates to prayer. Many of when we’re Christians around other Christians want to present our best spiritual sides. Greg Koukl has talked about these people such as they say something like “I was thinking about you while I was memorizing Jeremiah” or “You came to my heart during my third prayer time today.”

Most people don’t want to present spiritual struggles. They just want to present spiritual successes. Color me skeptical if I meet someone who only has successes to talk about and no failures.

So with Bible study, for me it’s reading a chapter of both testaments in the morning before I get up. I pray beforehand and I pray after. Those can be good times to learn something, but there’s also one other interesting way I read the Scripture.

Before I go to bed, I read just one verse of a book and go through it and just think about that while I go to sleep. Sometimes, I don’t get a lot, but sometimes I do. Right now, I’m going through the book of Revelation and reading it slowly is a great way to approach the text differently.

Now as for prayer, prayer can be difficult for me since it can be hard to know how to talk to ordinary people and so much more so, a divine person. I’m also super-skeptical of many people who talk about listening in prayer, which I never hear being spoken of as a regular practice in the Bible.

For prayer then, I do so in the morning and in the evening and in the evening, I email a mentor every night after that and tell him how my day went as well. I really encourage everyone else to get such a mentor. It really helps keep you accountable and helps to know that someone cares about you enough to hear you talk about every day.

I also regularly do what I call minute prayers. When I meet someone at work who is struggling with something, I offer up a quick prayer. When I am driving, if I hear sirens coming from somewhere, I also offer up a quick prayer. (Rest assured, no closing my eyes then.) If anything, I think minute prayers reflexively can be one of the best items because it really does show your constant dependence on God.

However, I also think in prayer, you have to be real. If I want to complain, I complain. Jeremiah did. Job did. The Psalmists did. It’s okay. It’s not like God doesn’t know in my heart that I’m upset and hurting over something. I might as well tell Him.

For instance, when I get in a state where I really want to have another woman in my life, which is incredibly often, I tell Him so. At earlier times when I was in the even worst pains of agony, I let Him know. God is said to be a counselor, but if you can’t share your deepest troubles with Him, you must not think He’s a real counselor.

Ultimately, I just think you should be real. This also includes with fellow Christians that you trust. Something I have been told about my writings on divorce either here are on Facebook is that people appreciate that I am candid about what is going on. I have no wish to present myself as a spiritual giant to you. I don’t see myself as one anyway.

All of us have problems and struggles in life. If someone acts like they don’t, they’re not fooling me and I suspect they’re not fooling you either. Let’s just be real.

And if talking to someone means you need to get a therapist, go for it. I have one and he’s a great guy and we talk weekly. I’m also working on my health insurance and going to see a psychiatrist at least for the time being. No shame in that either. It’s actually okay to be a Christian and need help.

I hope these basic tips help you. After all, if you are on this walk, you need all the help you can get. Stay strong, fellow travelers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Does The Bible Always Give Something New?

What should we expect in our study? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes, I hear people say that every time they read the Bible, they get something new out of it. Now to some extent, this could be true. Imagine if you become a Christian and you grew up in a world that didn’t have a Bible. For quite a while, you will see new stuff because you didn’t grow up with a Christian background. However, if you study every day, after a while, those passages will grow familiar. You won’t see brand new things every day.

My concern here is for new Christians. Like I said, if you grew up without a background knowledge of Christianity, it could be different, but what if you did have one? Does this mean you will see something new every time? What if you don’t? Does this mean that you are a deficient Christian?

Too often in the church we tend to speak in high spiritual language and I suspect we’re doing it to look like really good Christians in front of others. Very rarely do you see some of these people who say this talk about a deep and personal struggle that they’re having. It’s understandable to an extent. I’m going through Lewis’s A Grief Observed again and thinking about how he wrote it under an assumed name at first. I’m glad we know who wrote it today. Some of the best comfort I receive in church is not from people in the church, especially leaders, sharing their strengths, but sharing their weaknesses.

We all know there’s a tendency in church to make us all look better than we are. This is particularly so with testimonies. Greg Koukl once said if you were in a band in college and became a Christian, you were a disenchanted rock star. If you smoked some marijuana, you were a recovering drug addict. It’s too easy to hear a testimony and wonder “Why isn’t my life like that?”

To get back to the Bible, this is not to say that there is limited knowledge in the Bible. We can study that book forever and I suspect there will always be more to uncover. It is to say not every session is meant to have the heavens open up with trumpets sounding. Sometimes a Bible study will just reinforce something we already know and need to be reminded of. Sometimes we could even get bored. How many people say they want to read through the whole Bible and Genesis and Exodus have some great stories for them, but then they get to Leviticus and start to get weak?

There is also another way to get biblical insights. Some of my best insights nowadays come from reading books about the Bible by people like biblical scholars who look back on the text with the insights of the original languages or the original culture and they point out matters I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. Then I can go back to the text and see that in there and say “That does put this text in a new light.”

Some of you might be shocked about that. “Going to someone else to understand the Bible?” Yeah. We have this strange idea often that it’s me and the Holy Spirit. However, if that is what you think, why are you even reading this blog to see what I have to say? Let’s take it a step further. Why care what your pastor has to say in church on Sunday? What do you need him for?

My ultimate concern here is overselling Christianity. We might be giving to some Christians an impression that isn’t really true, but makes us look good. Now if it is true for you, then by all means share more often. Tell us what you’re discovering. Now my great fear with that sadly is if my suspicion is right, you might have discovered something heretical. We’ll see if we can start discussing to find out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Reading The Bible Slowly

Should you take your time? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I do Bible reading generally in the morning with a chapter in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. I have also started doing Bible reading at night, except at night, I do it differently. I do this at two different times as well.

One time is when my wife is ready to go to sleep. I stay up some, but we pick a book of the Bible and go through it together. For now, we use the NET to go through and follow the paragraphs in there and just read one a night. I find that when I read the Bible out loud and to my wife in the evening, I tend to notice aspects of the text I haven’t noticed before.

The second time I do this is right before I go to bed. This time, it’s not out loud so I don’t wake up the Princess. It’s also shorter and I go by my memory. I pick the text that I am going through and usually read no more than two verses. You can vary this as you see fit. If I was going through the Gospels, I might read one pericope at a time for instance. That could depend on the length. If you wanted to go shorter, it’s your study and that’s up to you. Also, if I am finishing a chapter, I can go and add on a final third verse.

Right now, I am going through Hebrews at night. This is giving me plenty of insights into Hebrews that I never noticed before. What I do is go through the text and try to get it as ingrained on my memory as possible and then go to bed and ask questions about the text and explore what it means. I try to also connect this with the reading that I have done before. This helps keep the passage in its context for me.

I also have a commentary on Hebrews here that I have been going through as well. Having another guide helps me realize things that I might not have noticed on my own. I find this to be an incredibly helpful aid.

This also can give me something else to think about when I try to go to sleep at night. It’s not a perfect success as sometimes anxiety does still pop up, but when I have a text, at least I can think about that instead of any things I regret during the day or any time during the past or any concerns about tomorrow. If I want to pray about something I have found out, I can do that as well.

Going through slowly allows me to take my time and savor over a text as it were instead of being in any sort of rush job. Doing this at night means there is no interruption. Going before I go to sleep means I have something to think about. Again, this is just my suggestion, but I find it helpful for me and you can vary it as you see fit if you want to try it. After all, it’s your study and not mine.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Elements of Biblical Exegesis

What do I think of Michael Gorman’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Elements of Biblical Exegesis is meant to be a guide for students who are writing exegetical papers, and indeed it will be a helpful one. Gorman works with writers on all levels, including those who know the Biblical languages well and those who have no real knowledge of them. The rules listed in this book can help you if you’re writing an exegetical paper, but they can just as much help you out if you are sitting in a Sunday School class or small group meeting and you’re discussing a passage of Scripture and people are sitting together all talking about what the passage “means to them.”

Of interest from an apologetic nature is the discussion on textual criticism as well as the listing of Bible translations and dealing with the hermeneutic of suspicion where the text is seen as guilty until proven innocent. In fact, Gorman rightly says we should read from all perspectives, not just our own. After all, it is the critics of our position that can often open our eyes the most to the problems that we need to answer for our position. Gorman regularly says that all such reading is going to be beneficial. (Even reading mythicist material as that shows you just how crazy you can go when you don’t really know how to do history.)

Of course, internet atheists I regularly encounter will want nothing to do with a work like this, and sadly too many Christians won’t either who just have this idea that the text should be plain and clear to them. One of the great problems we have in the church is that people no longer work at the text. We go to seminars to learn how to improve our marriage and work at that, and we should! We go to seminars to learn how to be better parents and work on that, and we should! We go to seminars to learn how to better manage our money and work on that, and we should! We go to all of these and while we think we should work at every other area of our life, when it comes to understanding what we say is the greatest facet of our lives (Or we should say it is), we think all the answers should be handed to us.

Also, towards the end of the book, Gorman gives a long list of recommended resources. I am sure that the list is helpful, but if you go straight through a book like I do, then it can be a bit tedious in reading. Still, if you just pop open the book and want to know if a resource is a good one, then that is a helpful tool to have.

Finally, the book concludes with three exegetical papers, two on a NT passage and one on an OT passage. These are helpful examples to have nearby and the reader of the book will be pleased with how simple the final product looks and even without thorough knowledge of the original languages.

This will be a helpful guide to those who really do want to study the text for all that it’s worth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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