As we grow in our walk with Christ, knowing God’s word (and seeking it with zeal) is one of the most important things we can do. After all, he’s revealed himself to us in two primary ways: Through his Holy Spirit, which we received as a gift when we became Christians, and in his Word.
This post is the second of 15. In each post, I’ll be examining my personal “Top 15” things leading to successful bible study. I want to be clear that this may not be your top 15. But I’ve observed that over the last six months, all of these things play an important role in my spiritual journey. Maybe a few of them will be valuable for you, too.
Click the link to view yesterday’s post on The Message.
Element number two: A good Study Bible.
Bible – New Living Translation
(Life Application Study edition). Having a study bible is a really good idea; the important things for me to find were:
- A translation that made sense to me from a readability perspective
- Reference notes to other relevant scriptures in each margin
- Forewards to each book of the bible establishing authorship, historical content and key themes
- Footnotes for translation issues
- Study notes for important passages
I found what I was looking for in Zondervan’s New Living Translation Study Bible
. This bible also includes many historical maps (e.g., Paul’s missionary journeys), timelines, and analyses of key themes. While those features aren’t absolutely necessary, they are incredibly handy. When studying the new testament, I usually read the message first, and then follow up with the NLT to make sure I’m not falling pray to an overly liberal translation in the former.
One note: It’s really useful to buy a study bible translation that matches up with your church or study group’s primary translation. I DIDN’T do that, and I have often regretted it. My old church (Southeast Christian in Louisville, KY) used the New International Version. I was in a study group there (Discipleship Curriculum) for two years and memorized over 100 passages from scripture … in a version that was different from my primary bible. It was a pain, and often confusing. My current church (the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX) seems to use the English Standard Version primarily, so I’m out of luck there as well. I generally prefer the NLT to either of those versions, but the multiple-translation issue isn’t worth the headaches it causes. My advice: Give your church a call and ask which translation they use most frequently, and go with that one.
Tomorrow’s Post: YouVersion Mobile
It’s taken years, but I have finally gotten into a nice rhythm in terms of studying the bible. As we grow in our walk with Christ, knowing God’s word (and seeking it with zeal) is one of the most important things we can do. After all, he’s revealed himself to us in two primary ways: Through his Holy Spirit, which we received as a gift when we became Christians, and in his Word. My morning prayer almost always ends with David’s plea from Psalm 119: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
This post is the first of 15. In each post, I’ll be examining my personal “Top 15” things leading to successful bible study. I want to be clear that this may not be your top 15. In fact, this list might not be applicable to another person on earth. But I’ve observed that over the last six months, all of these things play an important role in my spiritual journey. Maybe a few of them will be valuable for you, too.
I’ve divided these elements into 5 categories; the first of them being Source Materials (Bible study has to start with a bible!). And source material number one, for me, is The Message
Bible – The Message. You could argue about the importance or priority of many of the items on this list … but it’s pretty obvious that if you’re going to study the bible, you’ve got to start with the source materials: The bible itself. It might be that you find a single translation or bible that works for you; I actually haven’t found a translation that works for me at the exclusion of all others. I have to confess that I wrestled with putting The Message number one on my list. After all, it’s only the New Testament! However, I study the bible primarily so that I can know the person, character and example of Christ. And I don’t just want to know him in an academic sort of way; I want to know him as my best and most loyal friend. The Person who gave up everything – in a way that stretches the very meaning of that word – so that I could know my Creator and spend eternity with him.
Because The Message is written in modern vernacular, it feels much more personal and relevant to me. It speaks to me the way a friend would. And because of that, it touches my heart and my mind in a way that no other translation does. I will note, however, that The Message seems to be a pretty liberal translation. That’s why my general practice is to read every passage twice: First in The Message; then in my New Living Translation study bible.
Element number two comes tomorrow: The New Living Translation Study Bible.