Week Four: Tools for Worship – Your Bible and Study Tools
“Looking back over the years, I realize the Bible isn’t magic, but it is corrective; it isn’t an answer book, it is a living book; it isn’t a fix-it book, it is relationship book. When I confront God’s word, I am confronted; when I read God’s word, it reads me; when I seek God’s presence, He seeks me”. – Mike Yaconelli
When my mom passed away in July of 2013, I inherited her bible. It immediately became my favorite! Not only did it have my mom’s notes and highlights all the way through it, it had part of my dad’s too. What a treasure it has become, like an insider’s secret passageway to what my mom was thinking, what she was feeling, what she believed strongly in! Now that same bible has my notes and underlines added, and I want to pass it down one day, too.
Looking back, this kind of intimacy written on the pages was, for me, what illustrated most just how intimate my Lord was inviting me to be with Him, and see Him in ways many may not simply because they aren’t looking. It reminds me of one of my favorite regional parks that for me is like a zoo without bars because it is so full of wildlife and beauty. I’m always amazed at the number of people who walk through it with their head down, staring at their smartphone. That’s the way I was once with scripture – I was walking through verses with my head down, not seeing the beauty. Jesus began using my mom’s scribbles to draw me into a deeper relationship that ultimately changed my perspective of just how intimate He has been in sharing with us His heart through scripture, if we are only willing to explore it!
Q: What bible study tools are you currently using that help you in your quest to know God at a deeper level and understand His ways?
Over the years I have had several favorites and for several reasons. The key is finding a bible that fits your style and what you need in the moment, one that you really like. Discover your preference. What translations do you prefer? Do you like to hold a physical book you can mark up or pass down as a heritage? If you are a visual learner like me, sometimes having a physical bible helps you to remember visually where a scripture was found, because you can picture in your mind where it is on the page.
Do you prefer everything online? That works too! These days it is much easier to have apps available on your phone and not have to contend with the many physical books those apps have come to replace. It is also nice to be able to compare and study one translation over another.
Concordances, Commentaries, Biblical Atlas, Biblical Timelines, Bible Dictionaries & other study aids.
Allow yourself to be insatiably curious about anything and everything God-centered. Learn to ask things like:
- Why does this translation use that word or that phrase? What does it mean?
- What was taking place historically during this time?
- What is the context surrounding this verse? Who is the intended audience?
- What is the background of the people in this portion of scripture? What was their culture like? What are their traditions? What are their beliefs and how do they differ from mine?
Because we tend to interpret scripture based on our upbringing, culture, and society, questions like these can help us have a fuller awareness and understanding. What one scripture means to you could have an entirely different impact or meaning to someone in another culture or country or period in history.
Also, be aware that although commentaries are often written by theologians, these theologians are just ordinary people like you and me, also trapped in time and influenced by culture. Commentaries are not meant to be taken as an extension of scripture but are designed to be an aid in helping us to expand our knowledge surrounding it.
Having grown up as a Baptist, a very popular bible was one that included commentary by American Theologian C.I. Scofield. I remember a twist on the words to a song that went “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness… “. This was humorously interpreted as “My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Moody Press”.
The important thing to remember is that there are multiple commentators, some popular ones even today, and that none of them will be 100% correct 100% of the time. It is okay to debate or even disagree with things they have written.
Illustration: Types of bibles, commentaries, concordances, maps & other study aids, both physical and online can seem overwhelming, especially if you aren’t fully versed in how to use them. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions or want an illustration on any of them.
The bible I use most often is known as a Reference Edition Bible. Using it as an example, let’s do a simple verse study of Matthew 9:13 so that you can get an idea of the references. The verse states “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” See the screen shot below.
Notice in the middle section of my bible associates Hosea 6:6 as a reference to what Jesus was saying. When taking a look at Hosea 6:6 and comparing different translations, here is what we see:
- NKJV “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
- NASB “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”
- NLT “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”
The middle section also references Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32, and 1 Tim 1:15, all which are references to Jesus coming to sinners, not to the righteous.
Using the Bible Hub app I downloaded to my phone, when I read the original language translation of this verse, the word “Mercy”
- in the Old Testament (Hebrew) is reference 2617, translates goodness, kindness
- and in the New Testament (Greek) is reference 1656, translates “mercy, pity, compassion”
Likewise, the word “Knowledge” (found in Hosea) in Hebrew is reference 847, translates “knowledge of God, to know”
I keep a journal. In mine, I happen to write in it from both sides. On one side you will see my written prayers. I find it very helpful to me at times to personally to write out my prayers, what I am speaking to Jesus, as it helps me to stay focused and not be so easily distracted. Flip the journal over and starting from the other side are my thoughts, notes, ideas, dreams, visions, studies, revelations, -in other words everything I feel that Jesus is speaking to me or teaching me in the moment.
It generally takes me anywhere from six to nine months to complete a journal before starting a new one. One practice I’ve started to develop is to go back and re-read the first prayer written in the old, just as a reminder on perhaps where I was at the time or see how far I’ve come. I have also flagged or tabbed my journals if there was something that particularly resonated with me, so that I could later go back and remind myself again what it was the Lord had shown me. Perhaps a journal could help you in your journey as well.
- Write out your prayers and thoughts
- Book/Sermon notes
- What the Lord is teaching you
- What you are praying for and how those prayers are answered
SONG: “10,000 reasons (Bless the Lord)”