Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Time in the Word Struggle - Part 5

Let's talk tools.

We're still on methodology and now that I've laid a foundation, we can build on it. To review, the goal of our study is to know God better. We are reading His Word and making observations about His person, asking ourselves, "What is He revealing about Himself through this story?" So very simply, we are reading and making observations in a notebook. Before we add tools, I want to add one more facet to your simple study.

After you finish reading and observing your portion of scripture, write this sentence in your notebook and complete it: Because God is _______________, then I need to ________________. Do this after each section you study. This will help you draw the connect between the character of God and your calling to be an imitator of Christ. Try to be as specific as you can in the application section.

For example, after reading the opening verses in Luke, what would that sentence look like? How about: Because God is trustworthy in the compilation of His Word, then I need to be grateful and treat His Word with respect, as a precious gift from the Father.

Or if you just read the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter sinking with a lack of faith, I would write: Because God is all powerful and calling me out of my comfort zone, then I need to step out in faith and witness to my neighbor, knowing that Jesus is right beside me and won't let me sink, but has His arms around me, holding me above the stormy sea. Try to make the application specific - not Because God is compassionate, I need to be compassionate, but Because God is compassionate, I need to be patient with my children and quick to forgive. See the difference?

On to tools. Now that you've got the basics down, perhaps you would like to go a bit deeper. Again, there are many different methods and tools, and if you've already got a plan in place, run with it. These are simply suggestions.

As I said earlier, I like hard copies in front of me. First I am going to list some great resources that can aid in your study. Then I will list some online resources, if that's your thing. Here are some books I recommend:
  • A pictorial dictionary - I have Zondervan's Pictorial Dictionary, but there are several good ones out there. This is exactly what it says - a Bible dictionary. So as you read your section, if there is a word or person or place that you are not familiar with, grab your dictionary and look it up. It will help you understand the context or meaning a bit better. Caution - if you look up Leprosy, don't do it on a full stomach...
  • A Bible Handbook - I have The MacArthur Bible Handbook and it basically goes through the whole Bible, book by book, outlining and noting timelines, theological themes, historical events and key people. So if I was going through Luke, I might read the chapter on Luke before I begin or use the outline as my section guide.
  • Wilmington's Guide to the Bible - this is a BIG book that is similar to a Bible handbook. It outlines each book of the Bible, gives charts, diagrams, and timelines. It also lays out the Biblical support for the major doctrines of the church, so if you wanted to do a topical study rather than a book study, you could look up "the Doctrine of Salvation" and just work your way through the outline and the scripture associated with it. This is an old school resource that I love and can't imagine not having around...
  • Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps and Timelines - this is a great resource for...well, charts, maps and timelines. It has great illustrations of the Temple and Tabernacle, explains a lot of history, has a great section on Nebuchadnezzar's statue and is full of wonderful pictures and facts. This is supplementary - if you were reading through Exodus and were in the portion on the Law and the Tabernacle, this would be a nice resource to give you a better picture than your imagination, perhaps.
  • A Bible Commentary - Here's one last suggestion. If you are going to go through a specific book, like Luke, you could buy a commentary by a good author/pastor that would be reliable in helping you understand that book. I use John MacArthur and Kent Hughes for almost every study I do, because I trust their knowledge and I think their styles compliment each other. MacArthur is Truth - he hits hard with a bat, giving the Hebrew and Greek meanings of words, and just says it like it is. Hughes is Grace - he incorporates lyrics of hymns to emphasize the truth, sharing stories of changed lives and church history that sheds light on the passage. Truth and Grace. If you are not sure, check with your pastor on good, reliable commentaries.

As for electronic tools, here are a few sites that can go to for research:
  • - this is a great site for not only Bible translations, but it has study tools you can use
  • Logos Bible software - this is a program that you would put on your computer that has hundreds of resources for your study - you'd need to purchase it and get familiar with it
  • - again, another online resource with lots of study tools...
Alright, this is enough for today. Just one more thing - we can get excited about tools, but I want you to get excited about your Bible. You have the Holy Spirit and His Word - you don't need anything else. Tools can enhance the study, but I don't want them to do the work for you. Don't read what MacArthur says and not make your own observations. That's the danger with using tools. The purpose of time in the Word is for you to seek after God, not seek after a good pastor who's already done the work for you. That's why I recommend the dictionary and handbooks, and the charts book, but maybe leave the commentaries alone for a while until you develop your own method of study first.

Make sense?

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