The 10,000-Hour Rule

I occasionally have my hearers ask me how I know so much about the historical background of the Scriptures. Perhaps they heard something I taught which connected in a way they had not thought of before, or learned something which had previously eluded them. My response is pretty uniform: I have spent most of my adult life seeking to know more about the Scriptures!

In 2008 a book called Outliers: The Story of Success, by author and New Yorker magazine writer Malcolm Gladwell became a best seller. Gladwell had previously written The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2002) and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2007) – all three books examine the relationship between success, inspiration (i.e., genius), hard work, and opportunity in business and careers.

I mention these books because of their proposal that circumstances and opportunities often outweigh innate talent. But he especially emphasizes over and over that real competency at something (including, I would think, Bible knowledge or teaching) is greatly determined by his so-called “10,000-Hour Rule.” This “rule” states that truly successful or capable people in a given field have invested at least 10,000 hours working at their passion or interest to get to their skill level. He acknowledges that opportunities and “being in the right place at the right time” played a part, but pursuing and working at something consistently and persistently for thousands of hours over 5 or 10 or more years have the most profound effect.

Where am I going with this? Certainly Gladwell was not writing about spiritual pursuits but about business. And probably there are many things in his books with which we would take issue. But I think his fundamental proposition stands firm. There are no true shortcuts to success in Bible knowledge and application. Spending 10-20 hours per week for 10 or more years reading, studying, teaching, analyzing, outlining, and exegeting the Bible has its reward. That may not be the message a microwaveable, fast food, instant gratification generation is looking for, but it is the lesson it needs.

Bible Manuscript Resources on the Internet

Center for the Study of New Testament DocumentsAs a follow-up to our post about the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project, here are some additional places on the internet where you learn more about the Bible’s transmission, along with images and other resources.

As a parenthesis, let me urge all Bible teachers and preachers to become familiar with how our Bible came to us. Critics speak as if the origins of our Bible text are questionable or doubtful. An overwhelming amount of evidence shows just the opposite. Learn the facts and strengthen the faith of those who look to you for instruction!

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is dedicated to digitally photographing as many New Testament manuscripts as possible both to preserve their images for future generations as well as to make them accessible for study. Headed by Dr. Daniel Wallace, Greek scholar and Bible translator, their website is a growing project with much material now available and much more anticipated in the future. In addition they have a physical where visitors can come in a personally see some of their work. Also available are 25 videos on iTunesU, a free area of the Apple iTunes website devoted to education. Short videos on textual criticism, disputed passages, how early manuscripts were created, etc. are available.

The Codex Sinaiticus Project provides his resolution images of every page of one of the most important early Bibles. This is especially valuable because the original codex (book) is divided up among 4 different museums in four different countries and does not physically exist any longer as one book.

British Library Digitized Greek Manuscripts – 284 lesser known and otherwise inaccessible early Greek manuscripts, both biblical and classical.

NT Resources by Rodney J. Decker, Th.D. is an extensive list of links to internet resources for the study of Greek, manuscripts, translation, and more.

Bible Researcher provides information and resources for both Old and New Testament textual studies.

BibleWorks 9 Software now incorporates actual images of early manuscripts next the the Greek text and English translations – a real innovation I have not seen anywhere else.

Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project

Both the scholarly world and the internet are buzzing over the new website just launched by the Israel Museum and Google. http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/ is an amazing resource for Bible students (like me) who are seriously interested in the early Bible manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the connection of the Qumran Community to the history of New Testament times.

The website gives us its purpose: “The Israel Museum welcomes you to the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project, allowing users to examine and explore these most ancient manuscripts from Second Temple times at a level of detail never before possible. Developed in partnership with Google, the new website gives users access to searchable, fast-loading, high-resolution images of the scrolls, as well as short explanatory videos and background information on the texts and their history.”

At present the five digitized documents include the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the War Scroll. These alone are magnificent and impressive. But there’s more! From the quotation above we see that:

  • The images are high resolution, which means even when greatly enlarged on-screen they are very sharp.
  • The Isaiah scroll is searchable. Typing chapter and verse highlights the appropriate place in the scroll and shows the English translation. It is very impressive.
  • Short videos and explanatory text are available for helping the viewer to understand what they are seeing and why it is important.
Beyond the images of the scrolls, there are also pages on the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, their significance, the Qumran Community, and the Shrine of the Book museum where many scrolls are kept and displayed. More scrolls and more features for working with the images are planned.
If you have comments, feel free to e-mail us at rcravy at gmail.com.

Bulletin Articles Now Available

Church bulletins and newsletters with solid teaching content seem to be a dying breed. Most now are filled only with news, events, and calendars, or have a rather anemic “feel good” paragraph or two in place of substantial biblical teaching. Yet the bulletin is a great way to get good, solid, effective Bible teaching into the hands of members and visitors alike. Studies have shown over and over that we all remember a larger percentage of what we read than what we hear; and printed teaching can be read over and over as well as saved for later reference.

I really urge those who are responsible for their congregation’s newsletter to consider how best to meet the needs of your people. Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep.” We should do the same!

Today we are starting to make available to our readers both evangelistic and teaching articles for free download and use. The articles are at the bottom of the FREE RESOURCES page. We will continue to add more and more with time, so continue to come back.

If you have questions or comments, you are welcome to e-mail us at rcravy@gmail.com.

Charles Valentine Art Available

My very good friend and fellow believer Charles Valentine turned 70 this month. His unique talent as an artist and illustrator as well as his fervent desire to see others come to know Jesus has endeared him to many. For over 35 years he has provided artwork for various publications and teaching materials around the Sunset church and Sunset School. More recently he has poured himself into a wonderful website designed especially for children all around the world – www.childrensbiblestudy.com.

He has now started making available prints of some of his beautiful art as a way of helping fund his children’s website and other works. Prints are available in both 8 x 10 (on sale for $37.50) and 10 x 16 ($50 sale price) on his www.charlesvalentine.com website.

I want to urge all who read this website to go visit Charles’ sites, and if you appreciate his “Majestic God” series of art prints, bless yourself and his ministry as well by purchasing one or more!

Pictured is his “Church Bird” print. Happy Birthday, Charles!

Books That Changed My Thinking (3)

Like many others, I was affected and convicted deeply in early adulthood by a little novel written by Charles Sheldon entitled, In His Steps. In it he imagined how Christians might act differently if, in any given situation, they would ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” Even today we encounter the “WWJD” thinking. But that novel left a big question in my mind at the time — how can I really know what Jesus would do? This led me to the following title which has had an even greater impact on my understanding, life and teaching than In His Steps. It is a book which actually answers, at least in large part, the central question raised by In His Steps.

I originally found Me Be Like Jesus?, by Leslie B. Flynn sometime in the late 1970s in a local Christian bookstore. It apparently has a storied history, but it continues to address a need among those of us who want to be like the Lord Jesus. It was first published in 1962 in hardcover by Zondervan under the title, The Power of Christlike Living. The paperback was later printed and reprinted numerous times by Victor Books under the title I knew: Me Be Like Jesus? Around 1995 I was able to contact Mr. Flynn, a Baptist minister in upstate New York, because I could no longer find copies to give away to other. It has now been printed again (1997 to present) by Magnus Press (San Jose, CA) under the title, Jesus in the Image of God. It is available through Christian Book Distributors for $10. Personally I liked the Me Be Like Jesus? title as best describing its content, but the current version has only minor changes in conent from the earlier printings. Enough of its provenance; what is it about?

To quote from author Flynn’s Preface:

But what is Christlikeness? It is not physical resemblance, not cultural similarity, nor following Him in every outward circumstance, nor conjecturing what Jesus would do in certain cases. Rather, Christlikeness is to have the mind of Christ, to catch His spirit, to cultivate His qualities, to apply His attitudes to every condition.

The imitation of Jesus is a New Testament imperative. The Gospels and Epistles spotlight qualities in Jesus’ life which we are commanded to imitate in our own Christian walk. This book singles out several such traits, and helps us see more clearly these specific ways to demonstrate Christlikeness.

In 11 chapters Mr. Flynn shows that we are called to be like Jesus (“conformed to His likeness” – Romans 8:29) in 10 very specific ways. Here is perhaps the best known example: love one another. He commanded that we love each other as He loved us (John 13:34) Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to imitate Jesus in this quality in Ephesians 5:1. Space does not permit me to show how the author amplifies this quality, and each of the other nine a very biblical and practical way.

My encouragement to you is to purchase this book! And if you are a preacher or small group leader, plan on teaching it to others! It is one of the most practical studies you can do on Christian living!

Addendum: Leslie Flynn passed away in 2006. He was the author of 43 books, and a minister for the Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, NY for 40 years. Click here to read his obituary.

Books That Changed My Thinking (2)

My parents were baptized and became New Testament Christians when I was five years old. From that time on I was (and have been) in Sunday School and worship assemblies without fail. Being constantly exposed to Bible teaching is one thing. Knowing how to study on my own was quite another.

At Florida College I was required to take a course called Hermeneutics, taught by Roy Cogdill. I do not believe I had ever heard the word “hermeneutics” before that time. But that course and its textbook completely changed my understanding of the Bible and how to study it.

The text was Principles of Hermeneutics, by Clinton Lockhart. Written in 1901 by a scholar and college president, the style is stilted and dense by comparison with most modern books. But, my what a revelation to my mind! For the first time I learned that there are actually well accepted and reasonable “laws” to describe how we understand human speech; and these laws therefore apply to our interpreting of the Bible.

Now I began to understand that fundamental biblical interpretation is not a mysterious process. Nor is the meaning of a passage of scripture based on what I want, think, hope, wish, imagine, or may have been taught it to mean. Instead it is rooted in the author’s purpose, and shaped by the circumstances, method and language he used to write his portion of holy writ. Look at just a few of the laws or rules discussed in Principles of Hermeneutics:

  • Axiom 1: “The true object to speech is the impartation of thought.”
  • Axiom 2: “The true object of interpretation is to apprehend the exact thought of the author.”
  • Axiom 7: “An author’s purpose determines the character of his production.”
  • Axiom 13: “Truth must accord with truth; and statements of truth apparently discrepant can be harmonized if the facts are known.”
  • Axiom 15: “Every communication of thought, human and divine, given in the language of men, is subject to the ordinary rules of interpretation.”
Rules having to do with harmonizing passages, context, vocabulary, figurative language, prophecy and more are included in this slim book of 250 pages. This is a science for genuine Bible students, but will not appeal to those who wish to teach and preach from emotion, sensationalism, or popular topics of the day. Nor is it a set of Bible class lessons or Sunday sermon topics.
There are hundreds of other books on hermeneutics, but I think few of them will serve and guide the student better than Principles of Interpretation, by Clinton Lockhart.
Where can you get this book? It is published by Gospel Light Publishing Company in Delight, Arkansas (www.gospellightbooks.com) or from Sunset’s Extension School website (www.extensionschool.com). Cost is about $10-12.

Books That Changed My Thinking (1)

As I look back over 40+ years of Bible based education and training, and then studying and ministry, there are a few books that have had a profound effect on my thinking. This is the first of several posts on some of those books, and why they impacted me.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell. This was not the first book on Christian evidences I bought, but it was the most comprehensive and logically compelling. The foundational tenets of the Christian faith are rooted in history. While some appeal to “science” as if it is the be all and answer to all, much of what we all know and/or believe is rooted not in science (a fairly recent invention as we know it), but in history – evidences, eyewitnesses, documents, monuments, etc. Mr. McDowell has continued to expand and refine his writings in this area, and many other very good ones exist as well. But this title was instrumental in making me re-think what I had accepted on faith as a child and then had heard denied (without evidence) in university philosophy and religion classes.

The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict is the updated and expanded version of this very impactful text. In a world where many consider truth relative and have no good reason for believing what(ever) they do believe, this approach to Christian truths is foundational!

Lesson Series on “The Fundamentals of Worship” Available

This is an 8 message series on “The Fundamentals of Worship.” Its subtitle might well be, “Worship: It’s Not About Me!” The most fundamental aspect of worship is the object and reason for worship – an eternal, all-powerful and self-revealing God! At a time when so many want to talk about what they like or want in worship, isn’t it time we go back to find out what is fundamental to real worship? I believe this study puts the focus on the right questions and issues concerning worship. Click here to go to our page with the MP3 files.

Creating a Teaching Series, Part III

Having a theme and resources for my series, now came the execution. There was no shortcut for reading, research, note-taking and “assembling” all my material into individual lessons. Ultimately well over 100 hours of research, study and organizing took place. The final series, which I entitled “A Shadow of Good Things to Come,” consisted of 27 separate lessons, each delivered during the Sunday morning service at the Tanglewood Church of Christ in Odessa, Texas.

Here is how I ultimately laid out the series:

        1 Introductory Lesson
        6 Lessons on Jesus in Prophecy
        2 Lessons on Jesus in Types
        3 Lessons on Jesus and the Sacrificial System
        3 Lessons on Jesus as Priest
        7 Lessons on Jesus in the Holy Days of Israel
        2 Lessons on Jesus in the Tabernacle
                   3 Lessons in Drawing Conclusions

If you still have an interest in this topic:

  • Here is a free Adobe Acrobat file containing the titles of the 27 lessons and a brief summary of each. Click here to open and download.
  • The 7 lessons on “Jesus in the Holy Days of Israel” are available as a set of 4 audio CDs. E-mail me for price.

(Some have asked for copies of my actual outlines. At the present time I do not have those in a downloadable form. I do hope in the future to make them available on this website.)

Article last updated August 25, 2011.

Creating a Teaching Series, Part II

In Part I, I selected a theme and identified some key parts of the teaching series I wanted to present. Now it was time for step two: gathering research resources.

Resources for me come from several sources:

  • My already existing personal library. I do a quick survey of what I have.
  • Input from fellow instructors and teachers. I share my intended subject with a few trusted and experienced co-workers and ask what they would use for resources.
  • Visit the local Christian bookstores (Mardel’s) and Sunset Extension School Bookstore, and online bookstore (Christian Book Distributors). (See my earlier series on Finding Good Books at Bargain Prices.)
  • Take note of reference works quoted or footnoted in the reference works I already have. Continue reading

Creating a Teaching Series – Part I

In late 2006 I wanted to prepare and present an extended series of lessons on the New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament themes — in particular those pointing to Jesus Christ. I chose the title from the three NT passages which refer to the OT as containing shadows of the New (see Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1) — “A Shadow of Good Things to Come.”

Out of this study and presentations came the audio series we have entitled, “Seeing Jesus in the Feasts of Israel,” as well as many other sermons.

Fortunately I kept fairly complete notes documenting my methodology as well as the results on my study and research These three articles will first outline my subject development process, and then the execution and presentation of the study.

First came some brainstorming. As I thought about and examined various NT passages, I could see the various ways the authors connected Jesus to the Old Testament. I began to develop a rough set of ideas of what ought to be included:

  • OT prophecies — Jesus is said to have fulfilled, or been the fulfillment of OT predictions.
  • Sacrificial system — Jesus was the “Lamb of God” and his death was a sacrifice for sin.
  • Priestly system — Jesus in Hebrews and elsewhere is called our High Priest.
  • Holy Days & Holidays — Jesus is called our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), the Firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-26), and our Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:8-9).
  • Clarify concepts and vocabulary — shadow, prophecy, types.
  • Other possible areas

In our next part, I will talk about useful reference works in developing this series.

Article last updated August 19, 2011.