This is one of those areas where I have difficulty in properly expressing my thoughts. This is because I write the same way I speak, and, in most cases, it is much to blunt for the average person’s sensibilities. I have begged the Lord to help me with this, but — so far — He has seen fit not to answer that prayer. Therefore, I beg you to accept that I do not mean to sound harsh in what I am about to say. In fact, if anything, I am pleading with the reader to a point just short of begging.
This blog is intended to help believers learn and understand how the Lord’s Word applies to our daily lives and to the world in which we live. It is my hope that others will benefit from me sharing and explaining what the Lord has taught me about His Word. But it will only help if people read and remember my posts. Even though I write each post to stand alone, they are meant to work together. Each post is a small piece to a greater picture, and the fuller understanding of that picture only comes when you have read and understood all the pieces. The OYL is intended to be understood this way, as a whole. Everything is interconnected. Each post supports every other. To get the most from this blog, you have to see it this way.
You also have to do your homework. Whenever I want to make sure something I say is clearly understood, or I mention something about which I think the reader might like more information, I try to link the reader to additional references which agree with the Lord’s Word. But those links cannot help if they are not used. On top of that, I might not provide a link for everything. It is up to the reader to make sure they understand what I am discussing by either following the links I provide, or searching for more information on whatever it is they do not understand. I have also made it so the reader can ask question after every blog. I monitor all comments on The OYL, and I will do my best to answer any question that may be asked. But education is a personal effort, and unless an individual puts forth the effort required, they will never learn. So I can only implore you to read and to research and to question until you are satisfied that you understand whatever it is you are reading. Now, don’t get me wrong. This does not mean you have to agree. It just means you owe it to yourself to make sure you understand well enough to either agree or explain why you disagree.
Finally, you will find a great deal of help with understanding how to study any subject under the REASON page at the top of this blog. But to save time, I have taken the liberty to tailor some of the most important principles to the subject at hand. When it comes to understanding Scripture:
1 — Assume the Scriptures are true. Whether or not one agrees with the Bible, before one can deal honestly with its claims, one must allow for the possibility that it is true. Only then can a believer properly understand it, or a skeptic properly object to it. Anything less is intellectual dishonesty.
2 — Know and understand the Scriptures. This is closely related to #1. If one wishes to know something, or even if one wishes to refute it, one must first know and understand what is being said. In this case, that requires a great deal of study as the Bible cannot be understood without first understanding the ancient Hebrew culture and language, to include their poetry and figures of speech.
3 — Look for a harmonized understanding. One of the most important claims made by the Bible is that it is the Revealed Word of God. This means that it cannot be in error, nor can it contradict. Therefore, in trying to understand it, we must look for an understanding that brings everything the Scriptures say into harmony with itself. We cannot exclude a single piece of Scripture. It must all fit neatly into our understanding of what it says.
4 — Do not make assumptions or force things to fit. If you find something in Scripture you do not understand, do not assume the Bible is wrong. Do not try to force things to fit. Simply accept that there is something you do not understand — yet. Do as the Scriptures instruct: keep studying and praying and asking the Lord for His understanding. He will reveal things to you as you are ready for them, and even then, only as He wants you to know and understand them.
5 — Be patient and persistent. Scripture teaches that the Lord reveals Himself to those who seek Him with a sincere heart. It also tells us that He reveals Himself to those who persist, or chase after Him. Therefore, be sure you are sincere, patient and persistent — and pray continuously for wisdom and understanding.
6 — Put in the work required to understand. This is more than just being patient and persistent. It means you have to read your Scriptures, then study them. This will almost certainly mean you will need to go outside of your Bible. You need to find teachers who can help you understand the things you do not understand, and that requires work. The OYL exists to help you with this, but it cannot and should not be your only source of help. So do your homework.
7 — Hold to what you know. First, until you can explain it, you don’t really understand it. This applies to anything. Once you can explain it, you know it. Then, work in whatever new understandings you learn on top of those you already have, making sure they all fit together properly. This will build your understanding layer upon layer — exactly the way Scripture says we are to learn it. Once you know something, hold to it. Unless someone can show you where, how and why you are mistaken, do not let go of your understanding (remember, Scripture provides its own witness, so anyone who seeks to correct you should be able to show you their Scriptural evidence in at least two or three places). By following this practice, we make ourselves less susceptible to wondering with whatever new teaching we encounter. In other words, we can be more assured of having a firm foundation in our understanding of Scripture.
8 — Do not accept anything I say as fact. This is true with all things, but it is especially true when dealing with the Lord’s Word. By all means, hear me out, and carefully consider everything I have to say. But after you do so, do exactly as the Scriptures instruct you and test everything I say against the Lord’s Word. If I am in error, show me. I will accept correction. If you have questions, ask. Just be sure to do everything you can to make sure that your understanding matches with the Lord’s Word, and never take anything for granted in the process.