Bible Study Tools: Help or Hindrance?

Tools can be important when you have a job to do, but they can also be a hindrance.  I remember (vaguely) studying about the Industrial Revolution in school.  In the late 1700’s, manufacturing was done in homes, by hand.  Generations of families passed down the secrets of their trade, and they made their living by providing the necessities of life for their neighbors, specializing in their line of work.  You bought your candles from the candlemaker, your dishes from the potter, your clothes from the dressmaker, your flour from the miller, etc.  The Industrial Revolution brought a shift to power machines, factories, and mass production.  Great progress was made in transportation, communication, and the variety of goods available, but the changes also brought child labor, dismal and unfair working and living conditions for the working poor and shut the doors on many family businesses.  In many cases, fine craftsmanship was also lost for the sake of cheaper goods.

Today we have machines and technology to do almost everything for us.  We do a week’s worth of wash in a few hours, spending only minutes loading and unloading the washer and dryer; in the past laundry was given its own day of the week!  We throw a frozen entrée into the oven and walk away until the timer rings; in the past you would need to kill the beast, prepare it, then carefully watch the fire, feeding it just enough wood to cook the meal without burning it!  We send out dozens of emails to the far corners of the world in a few brief minutes; in the past one hand-written letter took an evening of thoughtful contemplation, a new quill, and a pot of ink (to make two copies-one to send and one to keep), not to mention the days spent traveling across the country in the saddlebag of a pony, or across the ocean on a ship.

While I love not having to take a bag of clothes to the river and beat them clean on a rock, (and if you make me cut the head off of a chicken to eat, I will probably starve), I do think our fast-paced lifestyle of seeking the shortest, quickest, and easiest method to accomplish something can have a negative effect on our lives, especially our spiritual lives.  We have grown used to instant information.  Answers to our questions are at our fingertips with online search engines.  Honestly, now you don’t even have to type it in.  Just ask Siri or Alexa!

The danger is that we are missing the beauty of real study, and real inquiry.  There’s a great satisfaction in digging for knowledge and truth, and in studying our Bibles this is especially true.  The Bible is not just another book.  It’s a supernaturally-inspired written revelation of the God who created us, and its words are not just a historical record; they are alive and active and speak to our soul.  To relegate Bible study to simply downloading someone else’s Podcast or a quick read through today’s devotional in “Our Daily Bread” is cheating ourselves of something precious and real.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the Bible study tools we have available (and in future posts, I hope to share some that are helpful).  In an instant, I can find a scripture just by entering a few of the words I remember into biblegateway.com.  Many great study resources are now online or in digital form for easy use, sites like blueletterbible.org and biblestudytools.com.  And access to teaching from great saints of God (past and present) is a wonderful blessing.  But they are only tools to help me open the chest that contains the real treasure: the word of God.

Peter tells us like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2).  Just like a baby, our inner man, our spirit, craves the milk of the word itself – not a substitute.

But as we grow, we require more than milk; we need meat.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us to keep digging for that spiritual, life-changing treasure in God’s word, as we go on to the deeper truths found in scripture:

For by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Paul says much the same thing when writing to the church at Corinth, a church that was notably immature and fleshly in their spiritual walk.  And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.  Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.  For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

It takes real work to grow spiritually, and it doesn’t happen if we expect it to be quick and easy.  Satisfying ourselves with the milk of cultural Christianity cannot sustain spiritual maturity, and results in flesh-driven, carnal Christians.

I love devotionals (I write devotionals).

I love reading blogs (I write blogs).

I love the little push of encouragement I get from my Facebook friends who take time to post memes that make me smile and cause me to ponder on God (I post on social media, too).

But these are only dusty fragments compared to the real jewels of sitting down with my Bible and digging in.  There’s no replacement for the hard discipline of giving my time, my attention, my thoughts, my focus, and my intellect, and the truly hard work of surrendering my will.  There’s just not a tool or technology that compares.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

So now what?  Yes, we know we need to be in God’s Word, but how do we practically make that happen?  Here are some simple ideas that can get you started.

  • Choose a short book of the Bible. Old Testament books like Esther, Ruth, or Jonah or New Testament books like 1 Peter, Titus, or 1 Timothy.  Any of Paul’s shorter letters would be an excellent start.
  • Commit to reading through the whole book one time every day, for an entire month.
  • As the words start to become familiar, keep a journal on what you are learning, and what God is showing you. (I do this on my computer because I can type as fast as I think, and I can move things around later as I learn).
  • Look for repeated words and phrases.
  • Make a list of the characteristics and attributes of God that you discover.
  • List what you learn about the people in the book or letter.
  • Look for a key verse that summarizes the theme of the book or letter.
  • Write down application steps as God speaks to you. Are there promises?  Commands?  Sins to avoid? Actions to take?
  • At the end of the month, write a letter to a Christian brother or sister whom you trust, sharing what you’ve learned from your study. Include questions that still aren’t answered.  Or, you could just meet with that person and discuss all that you have learned.  I’ve heard it said that we haven’t truly learned something ourselves until we can teach it (articulate it) back to others.

Let’s ask God for a Spiritual Revolution, one that essentially takes us back to the basics and satisfies our soul with the simplicity of His word.  Let’s put down the Bible Apps on our phones.  Let’s close out our email and shut down the Facebook App.  Let’s just simply open our Bibles and ask the Master Craftsman to work on us with the tools of the Spirit and see what a masterpiece He makes of our willing and surrendered hearts.

***

What Bible study tools have you found most helpful in your pursuit of God’s Word?  Leave a comment below and share how they help you dig into God’s Word.

 

4 thoughts on “Bible Study Tools: Help or Hindrance?

  1. I’m a user of E-sword. I’ve always found the built-in word processing power it has to be very helpful for note taking, and its search capabilities to be helpful for comparing passage with passage. When I would normally be spending hours thumbing through a concordance just to find one text, the search capabilities of E-sword enable me to speed things up by narrowing the search range to specific books of the Bible. So far as Bible Study software is concerned, people usually point to Logos as being better [except it costs money which automatically loses it a lot of points with me]. I don’t see anything wrong with tools, but I think the tendency you’re pointing out to rely more heavily on the podcast than on actual Bible study is not good. Especially since hordes within the Church do not practice discernment.

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    1. Thanks for your recommendation of E-sword. Just to clarify, I’m not sure where you saw that I recommend relying on podcasts? The point of the blog was the exact opposite, that we must rely on studying the Bible itself, not on others. I agree we must be discerning and true to scripture. (I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a podcast actually!) But thanks for the insights on Bible software! Have a blessed day!

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