Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review of Torrey's How to Study the Bible

Torrey’s little book on Bible study is composed of eight chapters of good, practical suggestions. He organizes the bulk of the material into particular approaches to study, such as topical, biographical, typological, etc.

The strongest (and longest) chapter is that on individual book study, chapter 2. It contains a step-by-step how-to methodology to approach a book study. This is where Torrey’s little book shines. Most of the other introductory texts contain principles (“observe intimately”, etc). Torrey just cuts to the chase and serves up a recipe for how to move through a study. It’s almost like Robert Traina’s old book, Methodical Bible Study, in pamphlet form.

In a strange inconsistency, Torrey recommends that the beginner choose 1 Thessalonians for his first study, and specifically cautions against 1 Peter, explaining that it contains some significantly difficult texts. Then Torrey goes ahead and uses 1 Peter as his model for the rest of the chapter.

The remainder of Torrey’s book is fairly so-so. Chapter 3 deals with topical study, and it’s pretty good. By the end of this chapter Torrey has shot his wad; there’s not much left. The remaining chapters are all three and four pages long, and are of limited value.

Having said that, this is a good little purchase for someone interested in learning how to study their Bible more carefully. I’d read just chapter one and two, and leave the rest. Chapter two alone is worth the price of the book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review of Mayhue's How to Study the Bible

I am preparing a church-level class on Bible study, and I am in the midst of the searching for an appropriate text. It was with great hope that I approached Mayhue’s appropriately-named brief piece on Bible study. Mayhue has a good reputation, according to friends of mine who have attended Masters.

First things first. This is a good book, maybe a very good book. Mayhue has written it at a level appropriate for a general church audience. There’s no off-putting jargon or terminology, it’s written at a level accessible to almost any reader, it’s not too voluminous, and there are good questions at the end of each chapter. This is very likely the text I’m going to pick. While my review below may sound rather critical, I have a feeling that this book will wind up being my “best-in-class” choice.

Mayhue loosely structures the book around the 2 Timothy 2:15 admonition to “cut it straight.” Part One, Making Straight Cuts, contains 5 chapters covering topics such as studying the Bible for God’s approval, an explanation of how the Bible came to be, useful tools for Bible study, and then two chapters on how to study the Bible. Boiled down to bullet points, Mayhue’s steps for Bible study are: affirmation, preparation, observation, investigation, interpretation, correlation (tracing a theme through Scripture), personalization, appropriation, proclamation.

The tools for Bible study are dated, and not commensurate with the level of the book. If a student is going to get Greek helps, for example, I would also assume that he’s going to choose a more advanced book on Bible study. More than likely, he’s going to use web-based resources.

One of the reasons I am just a little lukewarm about this text is because it is too homiletical for my tastes (meaning forced, so that the points have “good homiletical structure” at the expense of plain meaning), and it seems a little lightweight in the observation department. By way of example of the aforementioned two characteristics, I am told to observe singularly, observe carefully, observe thoroughly, observe systematically, observe intimately. Mayhue does an excellent job of fleshing out what he means under each point, but you won’t know what he means intuitively from the title of the point. This part of the book is too brief: most of the errors of the average Bible reader that I encounter start with an inadequate observation of text and context. I would have liked a little more under this heading.

In Part Two, Avoiding Crooked Cuts, Mayhue covers a number of errors and mistakes made by readers (and scholars) of the text. His examples are quite good, but he seems to have invented his own category names for each error, which won’t be helpful if a student using this text then moves on to a more advanced one. This section also carries the distinct feeling of a guy who’s grinding a bit of a theological axe in some of his identification of errors: you can feel the tension between Reformed and Dispensational theology (which makes sense, as it is a tension primarily located in one’s hermeneutics).

Part Three is a short piece on Living Out Your Cuts. Mayhue encourages the Bible student to live consistently with the results of his study. It’s a great admonition.

Strengths of the book: its accessibility, its practicality, its illustrations, its questions at the end of each chapter.

Weaknesses of the book: a little light on observation and correlation, and Part 2, on fallacies, seems a bit uneven.

Overall recommendation: this book is great for a believer who is beginning to understand that there is more to Bible reading than simply letting the book flop open at any uncertain place. It’s a good book for a believer who wants to sharpen their skills in understanding Scripture. It’s a great step up into the rewarding world of Bible study.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Honduras, Friday: A Day at the Beach

NOTE: This is my final Honduras update. Saturday was a travel day, returning to the States, and I won't bother to record it.

Friday was our final full day in Honduras. We got an early start to visit one of the beaches. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive.

At one point we had to cross a rickety bridge (they called it "the old bridge"), because the new bridge had been destroyed in the 2009 earthquake, and had not yet been rebuilt.
 Here's what's left of the new bridge.

 The Beach resort we went to was nearly deserted. It was wonderful. What a great way to unwind from a pressure-filled schedule. The water was bath-tube warm, and beautiful.

 Here's John Schmidt, getting a well-needed rest.

Pam and Pastor Raul's wife (who is named Doris!).

Pam and Alysia . . . 

Chris and Doris . . . 

Robb and Sherry . . . 

And Carlos and Lori . . . 

Honduras, Thursday Night

Thursday night the Hondurans of Betania threw a big "thank you" party to celebrate the week of ministry. Some of the women and guys dressed in traditional garb.

One of the things that the Hondurans wanted to be sure that we knew, was that Honduras beat Spain in soccer at the Olympics. Everyone who was wearing a Honduran soccer shirt (BFCers and locals) were asked to stand in the front.

Each member of our team was honored with a gift, a small momento of our time with them.

I was presented with a plaque to bring home to BFC, expressing Betania's and El Socorro's gratitude. It will have a favored spot, either in our auditorium or on the mission wall.

From the left you see Pastor Montoya's wife, Lori, Carlos himself, their married daughter Kimberly, and Mark and Beth Thompson.

Many of our ladies wanted a picture with this lovely young Honduran, clothed in traditional garb. She patiently took on all comers.

Jackie is in her element. This snapshot portrays the wonderful attitude she and our other team members had all week long..

Mark's family was incredible, serving in every way imaginable!

Carlos laughed when we stood for this shot. Said it was an inverted Oreo cookie: white on the outside instead of the middle! What a godly couple, with a godly family!
 The evening ended with a wonderful and generous meal. The food was delicious, and the fellowship was great. We'll not soon forget how graciously treated we were by this wonderful church family!

Honduras, Thursday, Day 6

It was the last day of planned and structured ministry. The busy schedule was beginning to wear us thin. We also needed to shift some people back to the construction team to finish the floor at El Socorro.

We were all a little weary, but we also had the routine mastered. At the first school we had difficulty holding the student's attention.

One of our world-class puppeteers looks over the audience
One of our world-class stage hands  . . .
Doris gives some last minute coaching about the height of the puppets above the stage.
Mark has the speaking duties this morning. I'm running the camera.
At least, most of the time I'm running the camera. Occasionally I wind up on camera.
This is the story of Zaccheus (Spanish: Zaccheo). The puppet with his mouth open is Zaccheus.
Precious people, wonderful faces . . .

The last school of the day may have been our best of the whole trip. The students were well-disciplined and attentive, and even the teachers seemed engaged.

Goodbye, until next time . . .

After returning to MEDA for lunch, we were driven over to Betania for the final VBS day. A torrential downpour required that we make adjustments to the schedule, but the Hondurans seemed to take it in stride and it was a great afternoon. This is the end of their rainy season, and it rained at least a little nearly every day (and some days, a lot more than a little!).

When we arrived at the church, the children were eagerly waiting for us.

The coming rainstorm . . .

This little guy has in his hand the craft of the day (one of Gideon's torches). We also gave out trumpets (kazoos). From then on, the VBS sounded like a giant bumblebee nest, with the thrumming of all the kazoos.

Think about the amount of work required to hold a VBS in your church. Then think about about planning one that you are holding 1800 miles away. All the little parts of a craft for all the children must fly with you, travelling in carefully packed, bulging suitcases. All the glue, scissors, crayons, etc. Thank you to all the BFC team, many who did not travel with us, who cut out shapes, organized, planned, purchased supplies, etc. Your labor made our ministry a success.

This is Ingrid, one of our teen interpreters. She is a delightfully pleasant young lady, and extremely helpful. I am so impressed by the spiritual quality of their teens. It is clear that they love Christ. Ingrid is just one example of many.