...Your Christian Education and Access to Excellent Bible Study Tools?
Last night I had an enlightening talk with a friend after Bible Study. The "poor" fellow was terribly lost during our discussion time. I had noticed this, but I wasn't sure why. Our last study was through the book of Ecclesiastes and he stayed with us okay, but this time we are in James. I assumed that this study would be much easier.
Well, it turns out that in preparing for our study my friend read something in Matthew Henry's commentary that got him confused about the twelve tribes and the dispersion. He was afraid to stop us and ask for clarification and remained confused. I apologized to him and assured him that we want to know if we're leaving him behind or "feeding the giraffes." Often times we miss the simple stuff.
My friend loves to study his Bible, and wants to learn as much as he can. He came to saving faith about two years ago while living in a shelter. While at the shelter, he heard hundreds of sermons and Bible lessons; an average of two per day. On top of that he spent a good deal of devotional time each day in prayer and reading his Bible. Through all of this listening and studying (and occasionally teaching), he became familiar with and memorized many precious verses. However, he never got a sense of the connectedness of the Scriptures. Well, come to think of it, I didn't grasp very much of the connectedness of the Scriptures until I was in college.
My first tools for Bible study where Matthew Henry's Commentary (the one-volume edition), and Nave's Topical Bible. I borrowed these from my dad when I left for my first year at college. Soon after arriving I was encouraged to purchase a Strong's Concordance. These simple tools helped to open up the Scriptures for me, although I still had a long way to go.
Thinking of this, I decided to give my friend three books to help him in his studies. I gave him a copy of Cruden's Complete Concordance (my favorite concordance), a Bible dictionary, and a Bible handbook. I showed him how to use the concordance to see where a word shows up in different passages. A light went off at this point, and he said, "So that's how they found those other verses we read." I was amazed at how much I take for granted in Bible study. Well, needless to say he was delighted to figure out how this works. I then showed him the Bible handbook and opened it to the entry for James. I showed him that it gives background information about the author and how to fit the date of the letter of James into the events recorded in Acts. He again was amazed to learn that all of the NT epistles can be fit somewhere into the history in Acts. One of the notes in the handbook mentioned that the letter of James is probably the earliest NT writing. That about blew him away! He (like many people I known) thought that the order we have the books in the Bible is the actual order in which they were written. I wish we had more time, but I think that that was enough for him at one time. I think that he'll be better prepared for our next study. Lord willing, I will, too.
It became clear to me that I had taken for granted the many resources I have available to me; not to mention the years of solid preaching and teaching I've received. I often preach and teach assuming that everyone already understands the things I've known for years. What arrogance! What insensitivity! This was a good "wake up call" for me.