My Favorite Bible Study Resources

If you read and study the Bible seriously, you know that it is essential to have some reliable resources to assist you. For example, it helps to know the background and human authorship of any book of the Bible you are studying.  What is the time period of the book? Why was it originally written? It is important to have at least a basic understanding of Biblical hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) in order to accurately grasp what you are reading. It is essential to correctly identify the literary genre of the book you are studying, i.e. What kind of literature is it? History, poetry, prophecy? How does that affect the way we read and understand the book?

Here are the resources I rely on the most (in order of importance to me) as I read the Bible:

1. The Reformation Study Bible. The Bible text is the English Standard Version. Published by Ligonier Ministries, Lake Mary, FL 1995.

The publisher says: “Widely considered one of the best tools available for Bible study…This foundational resource was created by more than fifty scholars and features thousands of in-depth study notes, 96 theological articles, 19 in-text maps, colored maps, and 12 charts to help you understand the Bible better.”

An updated edition of this Bible is due out in 2015.

2. Ryken’s Bible Handbook: a guide to reading and studying the Bible. By Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, and James Wilhoit and published by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 2005.

I love this book. It is a treasure chest of Bible information and help. I have used it to teach adult Sunday School classes. If you only have one Bible resource in your library, it should be this one.

3. Knowing Scripture by RC Sproul, Intervarsity Press (Second edition) 2009.

Here’s why the publisher’s website says you need this book: “[Dr. Sproul] … presents in simple, basic terms a common sense approach to studying Scripture and gives eleven practical guidelines for biblical interpretation and applying what we learn. With a minimum of technical jargon, Sproul tackles some of the knotty questions regarding differences of interpreting the Bible, including

* discovering the meanings of biblical words
* understanding Hebrew poetry, proverbs and parables
* approaching historical and didactic passages
* being careful with predictive prophecy
* discerning how culture conditions the Bible
* choosing and using Bible translations, commentaries, Bible software and other helps”

4.  Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. This is a classic and has been a mainstay for over 70 years. But this is not for the faint of heart. If you are just starting you may want to pick up Summary of Christian Doctrine by the same author or Concise Theology by JI Packer.

5. Logos Bible Software.  I have a number of resources in  my software library, too many to list, including commentaries, Bible dictionaries, maps and charts, etc.

I hope you are building a library of Bible study resources. What are your favorites?

Why I keep reading and re-reading the Bible (2)

Continuing from yesterday’s post here are the other four reasons I keep re-reading the Bible:

5. The Bible instructs me in how to live.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

6. It informs, assures, and reminds me of God’s promises to me.

2 Peter 1:3-4  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

7. It warns me of spiritual danger.

Proverbs 27:12 The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.

8. It is the foundation of life and of my life. While I go through various seasons of life, God’s word keeps me centered on the things that never change and the One who never changes.

Psalm 119:89 Forever, O Lord, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.

If you keep on reading and re-reading it, what are your reasons? What can you add to this list?

Eight reasons why I keep reading and re-reading the Bible (1)

1. I believe it is God’s Word.

2 Timothy 3: 16a All Scripture is breathed out by God…

2. It teaches me the way to salvation.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

3. I believe it is essential to my growth and service for God.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17 All Scripture is… profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

4. The Bible is too profound to completely absorb even in a lifetime of repeated readings.

Romans 11:33-36

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Seven things I am thankful for today

Thanksgiving day.  It seems like a good time to remember the things that  I am thankful for.  Here’s my list:

1. God’s grace, mercy and faithfulness which have been poured out on me over the past 50 years of knowing Him. He has sustained me in faith, blessed me with His providence, provided all I need and grown me in grace. He has not dealt with me according to my sins, but has removed them from me as far as the east is from the west. He has proven the truth of Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

God has used many means to bring this about, especially His church and His word.

2. Family. Mary, my faithful and loving wife, has been His greatest gift besides my salvation. Her passion to know God is a constant encouragement and challenge to me. I am grateful for my parents (Dad would have been 99 today) and my children and grandchildren. Their lives are a tangible connection with the past and with the future.

3. A place. Although my life here in this world is temporary, I am glad for the privilege of living on the same land I lived on as a child, with good and, sometimes, painful memories of growing up.

4. Work. I am thankful for abilities to teach, preach and write that I can still use for God’s glory.

5. Health. I am blessed with better health than many my age so that I can still walk and hike in the mountains, hear and see others, travel to see family and friends, and enjoy work and recreation.

6. Finances. God has always provided for us and continues to do so. Although we depended on donor support as missionaries and the salaries of a pastor and a teacher, we have never missed a meal, gone homeless, or suffered the lack of any basic needs.

7. Purpose and hope. I am thankful for a compelling reason to live fully for God’s glory all the days that He has assigned me on earth, and for the promises of God to be with me to the end of life and, because of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ and His atonement for my sin, to receive me to Himself when this life is over.

I think that covers the main categories.

What are you thankful for today?

A Perspective on Beheadings by Rick Perrin

I rarely re-post other blogs but this one is different.  My former pastor, Dr. Rick Perrin, has written an insightful article on beheading and what the book of Revelation says about it.

Warning: this is not for the faint of heart.

Click here to read.  May this blog post serve as a reminder to those of us who believe in Christ that it is time to put on the full armor of God and to pray.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.  Ephesians 6: 10-20 (ESV)

Is reading through the Bible in a year a bad thing?

In a thought-provoking post my good friend, Derick Dickens, says that we should stop reading through the Bible in a year. You can follow his reasoning at Complete in Thee. What he is arguing is that mere, casual Bible reading, even annually, will not result in a deep knowledge of God’s truth or a well-developed grasp of Biblical theology.

I don’t think the problem is that so many of us merely read the Bible through every year and, therefore, fail to go any deeper. The truth is few ever read the Bible through even once in their lifetime and, therefore, fail to fully grasp its truth. Since the Bible is all God-breathed from Genesis to Revelation we should aim to read it all, whether annually or otherwise, on a continual basis. We should also recognize that, by itself, casual reading will not suffice for a deep knowledge of God’s word. I make a distinction between reading and studying. What Derick is recommending is Bible study and his method is a good one.

No, reading through the Bible in a year is not a bad thing.  Don’t stop reading through the Bible, in a year or in a lifetime, but know that it is not enough.

I say, keep reading through the Bible, but add serious Bible study and don’t forget to make diligent use of the means of grace which includes hearing the preaching of Scripture.

What’s Important?

On this day, when a widely loved and respected celebrity has died unexpectedly and by his own hand, I read these words from the Puritans and am reminded that we all have an appointment with death and God.  What is truly important today?

From “Openness” in The Valley of Vision

I hasten towards an hour

When earthly pursuits and possessions will appear vain,

When it will be indifferent whether I have been rich or poor,

Successful or disappointed,

Admired or despised.

But it will be of eternal moment that I have mourned for sin,

Hungered and thirsted after righteousness,

Loved the Lord Jesus in sincerity,

Gloried in his cross.

May these objects engross my chief solicitude!

For the complete text of this prayer, click here.

Learning to Trust God’s Providence

I read this prayer from the Valley of Vision today and thought of some who are going through difficult times right now.  The prayer is entitled “Peril”.

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
for better, for worse, without comfort,
and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
sweetens every fear,
reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
brings real good out of seeming evil,
makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
and to teach me to live by faith upon
thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
give me the name Naphtali –
‘satisfied with favour’ –
help me to love thee as thy child,
and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

God has a good purpose in our trials, fellow Christian.  He will see us through whatever is ahead. Trust Him.

My thanks to Tim Challies for posting this at the link below.

Memorial Service for Dwight Hill

For those who may be interested, here is the link to the memorial service for Dwight Hill, held on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at Neighborhood Church in Chico, CA.

Here is the program of the service:

Welcome- Alec Hill (Dwight’s brother)

Sharing thoughts about Dwight – Ruth Hill (wife), Julie Jones (daughter), Wes Hill (son)

Reading of Psalm 112- Sawyer Jones (grandson)

Solo by Rick Keene “I will praise Him still”

Sharing thoughts about Dwight- Skip Gray, Doug Hignell, Rob Pock, David Ong

Song: It is well with my soul

Final thoughts and closing: Alec Hill