When?

I liked today’s study.

As you read about Jesus in the various Scriptures – especially, in the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. You soon get the impression that Jesus prayed a lot.

The key verse, which Selwyn uses is: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus … went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.’ [Mark 1:35, NIV]

He then writes about this verse, his conclusion is excellent: “On this Good Friday, as we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we read about His attitude to spending time with God, His Father. Communion with God was high on His list of priorities.

If Jesus, who knew unclouded communion with God, needed to pray, how much more do you and I?”

This Good Friday, is a perfect time to spend time with God, in a solitary place with no distractions.

Where?

Selwyn starts today’s study with this introduction: “The next question we need to ask is ‘Where?’  This question leads to the actual location of incidents recorded in the Bible. Where did the event take place? At the back of many Bibles there is a set of maps because it is important to have some idea of the geography of the Bible lands.”

I recommended that if you have the opportunity to visit Israel – it’s well worth the time. It’s small size, the difficult terrain – and, the differences between the mountainous regions and the fertile areas in the north along the Jordan River are all useful to see, such a visit is valuable in gaining a perspective of what it would have been like (two thousand years ago) to travel by foot or by donkey.

One of the outstanding features of today’s study, I found, was the prayer: “Father, am I apathetic? Am I content to read without questioning or searching for more information? Help me, not to assume anything, but to search and research whenever necessary. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

What?

I think that the advice Selwyn gives about asking the question ‘What?’, is comprehensive.

He writes: “It is helpful to ask of a certain text or passage: Just what was happening in this portion of Scripture? What are the events? In what order did those events take place? What was happening to the characters? If the passage is pursuing a particular point then ask yourself: What is the argument? What is the writer really trying to say?”

You can see that by asking those types of questions, you systematically cover a range of aspects. A disciplined approach to Bible study ensures that we cover the text in depth – this means we spend more time seeking the answers to these question – time, which God’s Spirit will use to great affect.

Your views?

Who?

Selwyn writes: “We said yesterday that another way of ensuring we learn as much as possible from the Bible is to ask five questions: Who? What? where? When? Why?”

He then looks at Psalm 88, which mentions that it was a poem of Heman the Ezrahite; but who was Heman? To answer this question requires some detective work to trace references to Heman in the Books of Chronicles & Kings.

The conclusion is interesting: “You may wonder why the Bible mentions so many different people. The reason is this: God wants us to see the processes people went through in order to reach the conclusions they came to. Understanding that can give us an insight into how to reach our own conclusion in times of difficulty.”

Over the next few days – Selwyn will cover each of these five question, but as I said earlier; the hardest question is “Why?’

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I heard today, of the death of a close friend; someone that I had spent a lot of time with, in my early years. As I know they had a passionate love for our Lord, there is one aspect of their death, which I need not worry about. Yet, it’s the unexpected nature of such news – I was not aware that she was so seriously ill – there was no warnings of her pending death. It’s the loss, of not being able to share the good things which our Lord has done in our respective lives. It then becomes a question of patience – waiting for the day,when our Lord returns and we will be; all (those who are in-Christ)  re-united.

The five interrogatives

I think that Selwyn’s approach to study of the Scriptures is one of the best ways to get the most information out of any passage. The use of the five interrogatives, as questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Is a technique that has found widespread use in many disciplines, besides journalism (as mentioned by Selwyn). For example, these questions are also used in developing information technology architectures.

I’ve found that the last question is the most difficult one: Why, is it so? The sort of answer we, from a human perspective, might put forward is probably far from the actual reason – as God sees it. This is why that I can’t stress loudly enough – we need the Holy Spirit’s help in gaining a better understanding of God’s ways.  Human intellect is flawed – if we try to unravel the reasons behind God’s actions using our own abilities – we will most likely deceive ourselves.

In today’s study, Selwyn goes on, in more detail, about the ways we can explore the question: Who?

He writes: “I have chosen Hebrews 11 for our reading today as this perfectly illustrates the point I want to make. This chapter lists more than a dozen figures from the Old Testament, but unless you ask the question ‘Who are these people?’ and are willing to go back and read what is said about them, you will not fully appreciate the strength of their faith. … Exploring what the Bible says about its characters is illuminating and gives a greater insight into their struggles and victories.”

I fully agree with Selwyn on this point; and, in general, an understanding of the New Testament is difficult if we don’t have a good, general knowledge of the characters of the Old Testament. Their life stories are all part of the large sign which points – towards Jesus.

 

Blind spots

Selwyn continues to look at the issue of self-deception … ‘where the clear distinction between right and wrong has been blurred by specious arguments that have as their end, self-interest’.

He goes on to ask this question: “How do those who are self-deceived become awakened to their condition?”  I totally agree with Selwyn’s response – only God’s light can break through the dark wall of deception.

I think that self-deception starts with a weakening of our conscience in regard to its ability to identify sin. Usually, our spiritual sight become blurred and darkened concerning some form of sin in our lives – a type of sin which we like – a type of sin which deep down we don’t want to address.

In, 1 John 1:5-10 (NIV), we read: ” … This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. … “

I think that one of the first steps back into the light of truth; is to invite God into our lives to search all the hidden places in our hearts and to expose any sin by the light of His powerful Word. It starts with the humble attitude that we all sin – and, often it’s a matter of seeking God’s help to identify it, to repent, and to seek God’s forgiveness and purification. Sinful people tend to present themselves as ‘good, as any other’ person; we know

Self-deception

Selwyn writes about David and how he deceived himself into thinking that he could get away with greed, adultery and murder. David’s story demonstrates to us, that even a ‘man, after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14),’  can stray a long way from God.

However, the great news is this: God so loves us that He does not leave us in this condition. Nathan, God’s prophet, came to David and exposed David’s self-deception and sin. We too, can depend on God to use a variety of means, to get us to see ourselves clearly in a truefull mirror. To highlight the deception in our own lives, to bring us to repentance and to lead us back into communion with Him.

In his introduction, Selwyn writes: “We continue discussing the fact that one of the ways in which we can ensure God speaks to us through His Bible is to apply the truth it reveals.

In connection with this, something we must be on our guard against is the matter of self-deception.” 

A good way of guarding ourselves from all sorts of spiritual problems is to be an active member of a Bible study group. Often those close to us can see issues developing and alert us, in a gracious way.

One of the best reality checks is to develop a close relationship with a mature Christian, who has a well worn Bible. 🙂  A genuine, spiritual mentor can provide invaluable help as they are open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and they can become our ‘Nathan’. It’s a hard road if you try to walk the Christian journey by yourself – do you agree?