Complete the following: Give a man a fish and he eats [or you feed him] for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats [or you feed him] for a lifetime.

What is this saying about? Your efforts to help someone are most effective when you teach them to take care of themselves. Lets consider the saying more carefully. So, don’t give away anything? No, that’s not the point. The saying has to do with the relative merits of making someone self-sufficient as opposed to your regularly providing for their needs [this has many ramifications]. The second line here is more accurately stated as “train a man to fish…” because you go with him to get the right gear, set up the line, bait the hook(s) show him where to fish, etc. He needs more than you’re telling and showing him. He needs to practice, to be corrected, and build his skill level.

Does anyone disagree with this principle? I’ve never heard of anyone disagreeing with it in principle, but in practice, we often revert to giving away fish. I liken giving fish to teaching, meaning that knowledge and wisdom gained through study, research, and hard work is freely conveyed to others who have expended no effort of their own. The key to learning and becoming proficient at almost anything – plane geometry; a second language; playing a banjo; boxing; pruning peach trees; etc. involves both instruction and focused supervised practice. It is through these that one gains proficiency, and without the discipline of the exercises, there will be little progress. Improvement is the expectation of practice.

There is a basic assumption at the root of this course – the Bible discusses real truth, not something vaguely religious which seems to work psychologically. This means that when we consider the Gospel or witness to someone, we are talking about real moral guilt before the God who is there. We are not merely offering him relief from guilt-feelings. When we read the Bible, we are reading history. The death of Jesus is not just an ideal or a symbol but a space-time event, the meaning of which the Bible explains.

One of the goals of this series of classes is to gain a clear understanding of what you believe and why you believe it to be true. Our approach will be (1) examine what the Bible says and (2) think through what it means by what it says. For example let’s say I’m using a plumber’s snake to unclog a drain at Bill’s house and I remark “this will solve all your [drainage or life – double entendre] problems.” Bill says “yeah right”! His actual words sound like he is agreeing with me, “it sure will, our worries will be over.” But is that what he means? No, he is actually saying exactly the opposite, “not very likely.” He is using the language of affirmation to express sarcasm. [shaded part added in follow-up e-mail]

So, let’s practice.

1. Begin by writing a short statement describing your impression of what the Old Testament is about.



·        Employ the following METHOD OF STUDY where appropriate [your training workout throughout this study]: write out the passage or a portion of it, then observe and comment - focus and think through what you are reading by interacting with the passage, dialoging with it: reorganize the wording; identify [label] what is being stated; describe; categorize; summarize; draw conclusions; question; follow leads; state implications; note what it doesn’t say.  My interaction and comments are [bracketed].

EXAMPLE: Interact with Mk.1:14-15.

What is the context?    [What was Jesus doing? What does He show?] Jesus came into Galilee preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, [1] 'The time is fulfilled' [What question and answer does this invite?] [Does this language remind you of other statements in the NT?] Try a cross reference study: (Rom.5:6, "at the right time"; Gal.4:4-5, "when the fullness of time had come"; Eph.1:7-10, "as a plan for the fullness of time")    [What question occurs to you?]
[2] 'and the kingdom of God is at hand'
[How does this help us?];
[3] 'repent and believe in the Gospel'
[What does this have to do with the foregoing?].

The Trouble with Habits

A habit is an acquired behavioral pattern characterized by regular indulgence or practice. The trouble is that bad habits are usually easily picked up, but developing good habits requires a disciplined approach. Interacting with scripture as we’ve been doing here is a good habit and those who stick with the Key program will have plenty of practice. The Christian life involves four areas of personal discipline. Exactly which areas a person needs to work on depends on what he naturally gravitates toward, enjoys, and practices the most. Check out the article on my site entitled MEANS OF GRACE. Rate your enjoyment/preference for each of the 4 areas. The area you least prefer is the one you most need to develop good habits in. [shaded part added in e-mail]

Becoming Aware of One’s Own Framework

Christians tend to adopt the beliefs and thinking of those who brought them to Christ or raised them in Christ. We absorb our concepts of Scripture and what being Christian means from those around us. In other words, we become acculturated through our group or church – the subculture we find ourselves in. This is a problem because there is much contradictory teaching within various Christian circles. That’s why there are so many expressions of Protestantism (for example) – Presbyterian; Methodist; Baptist; Assembly of God; Christian Reformed; Church of Christ; etc. There are real theological differences involved here. Theological differences refer to disagreements over various aspects of the truth as revealed in God’s word. No one thinks that what he believes is wrong. Truth matters and it’s up to each of us to seek it out.

Here is the problem. Each of us already has a truth grid or framework in place in his mind1 and we tend to either reject or fit into it what we learn or hear or read in the Bible. Because our understanding is shaped by what we have already accepted as true, we often don’t recognize the implications of what we read as different or as a challenge to our initially embraced impressions. One tendency is to make it all fit together, even when it doesn’t, and this is detrimental to correct thinking and reasoning. This course will help you become more aware of your own assumptions and enable you to be more objective in both understanding and reasoning. [shaded part added in e-mail]


1.  People accumulate a reservoir of accepted notions and ways of seeing and thinking about things that functions to judge viewpoints and concepts later encountered.  The formation of this network of accepted ideas and methodology of thinking is not usually deliberate or conscious.  As a consequence of not making truth and right thinking priorities, we end up with of contradictory and conflicting “truths” and “reasonings” at the heart of our perception matrix.  One of the benefits of this course is an awakening to the existence of such a framework leading to an examination of one’s presuppositions and logic methodology.  For Christians it means replacing some of these basic presumptions with Biblical concepts and correct logical thinking.  This is one reason each person must do his own homework.