According to the old saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Most Bible study aids—especially daily devotionals—give people fish. They provide insights and applications for each text. But the aim of this Bible Savvy blog is to teach you how to fish for your own takeaways from God’s Word.
That’s why I would encourage you to read the Encounters with God devotional (if you’re using Scripture Union’s daily Bible reading schedule and commentary) after you’ve made your own observations from each day’s passage. No peeking until you do.
I follow this same approach when I’m preparing sermons. I love to dig into scholarly Bible commentaries as I study a text. But, as a rule, I only do that after I’ve meditated on the Scripture passage for myself, determined its central theme and broken it down into an outline. If I start with the commentaries, I tend to be captivated by the observations that their authors make—and miss making my own.
Today I read Acts 3:1-10. I hope you did, too, since that would mean you’re using SU’s schedule. (By the way, keep noising around this schedule to friends and family. There’s no bigger favor you could do for someone else than encourage them to develop the habit of daily Bible reading.) As I read this passage, I was making observations. There were four things I was looking for—and which I’ve encouraged you to keep your eyes open for:
Truths about God
Repeating words or ideas
Here are a few of my observations (in no particular order). I share them—not to give you a fish or two for the day, but—to provide you with an example of how to fish for yourself. The theme of the passage, which I picked up from my Bible’s section heading, is: Peter heals a lame beggar.
A repeating word throughout these 10 verses is walk or walking (once in v.6, twice in v.8, a final time in v.9). I’ll have more to say about this is a minute.
Something striking (to me) was that Peter and John were headed to the Temple at the time of prayer (v.1). Interesting. These early believers gathered at regularly scheduled times for corporate prayer. Something striking to my wife (one of the blessings of following the SU Bible reading schedule is the opportunity to compare notes with others who are doing the same) was Peter’s command: Look at us! (v.4) Sue’s takeaway from this was that before God does a miracle in our lives, he demands our full attention.
Something striking to the writer of SU’s Encounter with God devotional (which I only read after I’d done my own study of the text) was the fact that this healing took place outside the Temple gate. God’s Spirit doesn’t just work within the context of religious institutions today (i.e. church), but also in our work places, neighborhoods, schools, health clubs, etc. We should be ready to serve as Christ ambassadors in these locales. This is where we’ll encounter people who need Jesus.
If you’ll review the four kinds of observations I’ve encouraged you to make for each passage, you’ll notice that the only one for which I didn’t pick up something from Acts 3:1-10 was truths about God. Not that there aren’t truths about God in this text. But I already had several observations to chew on from the other three categories.
The one observation I chose to make into my personal application was that repeating word. Walk. It struck me that while walking was an extraordinary miracle in the life of the lame man, it’s an ordinary miracle in mine. I love to walk. I walked five miles with my dog yesterday afternoon. Beautiful day! In my journal, I called my insight from Acts 3:1-10: Ordinary Miracles. Then I took time to praise God (as the lame man who was healed did) for the miracle of walking.