Bible Study Tools

Discipleship, Personal Growth

Currently I am reading through the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament.  I’m a guy who’s grown up in church, even been to seminary, and I still have to slow down and think through some really hard to grasp passages.  Ezekiel no doubt is an entire book that takes some extra time and thought – what is this about, who is it written to, what do these visions mean, how does it apply to me?  If it is difficult for a seasoned believer to understand complex Bible passages or books, imagine being a new believer or unchurched?  Wouldn’t it be great to have some tools to help in the journey of understanding God’s Word?  Here are four great tools to get in anyone’s hands to help in understanding the Bible.

The Bible Project.  Just this morning while reading through Ezekiel, I clicked on youtube to this great resource, pulled up the comprehensive flyover of the book and got my bearings on the who, what, when, where of this important writing.  The link I gave here takes you to their actual website.  Simple, clear, and visual, this tool is like a quick map to gain your bearings, and even today I learned new things.

The Bible App.  Thank you LifeChurch for your creation of and investment in this app.  I use it daily, weekly!  From looking up a passage in relatively any translation or even language, to unique Bible studies and reading schedules, this app is the ultimate.  I use it for my daily reading using my favorite format that is reading through the Bible in chronological order.

Understanding the Bible by Max Anders.  The Bible is a library of books in your hands; sections of history and poetry, prophecy and letters.  One thing it is not is a novel.  It does not read in sequence according to years, it is chopped up.  Anders takes the Bible and helps the reader grasp the grand sweep of history through the Bible, how all the books flow from creation to eternity, where and how a minor prophet relates to Moses and the Gospel writers.  This book is a must for new believers or seasoned saints.

Logos.  The new believer to the mature can certainly use Logos and its tools, but this is likely more appropriate for the deep divers, pastors and teachers who rely on the languages behind the Bible translation used and technical commentaries.  It certainly is for the Bible student who is looking to offload a library full of physical books for an even bigger digital library; a library that instantly pulls a search or query from all those books into one click.  It really is incredible and I am grateful for this amazing tool.

There you have it.  Four powerful resources to help anyone get to know the Bible better!

Family Values

Marriage and Family, Personal Growth

A couple of years back, the Griffin crew headed up to one of our all-time favorite spots, Red River, New Mexico.  It is a great mountain town in the Enchanted Circle of New Mexico.  We have skied there, hiked there, shopped there, fished there and yes, have had intense go-cart and putt-putt golf competitions.  Recently a family who is dear to us headed up that way, and I made mention of two great hikes, one up to Middle Fork Lake and the other to Lost Lake. 

From Lost Lake you can scramble on up to the top of New Mexico, Wheeler Peak.  Both lakes are beautiful, but you have to pick a direction.

In life, knowing your direction is key.  Core Values, that is the direction or vector you choose in life for yourself, your family or for an organization can either be accidental, or they can be thought through and chosen.  Either way, you are definitely headed somewhere.  Wouldn’t it be better to choose your direction?

For my family, there are identified values.  These guide our heading – which by the way, we may not know the ultimate destination or outcome until we get there – but these values set the course.

Here are our Griffin family values:

Lifelong learning

We are committed to the pursuit of learning and stretching ourselves – about God and all He has created, from history, cultures and languages, to the arts, sciences and nature.

Launching pad

Our family is a launching pad, for each of us – to go, explore, build relationships and community, and challenge ourselves through mistakes and success.

Christ-likeness

Our desire is to be like Jesus – to obey His commands to love God and love our neighbors.  To be filled with the Spirit and display the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and most of all, love.

Unconditional love

In a world filled with pain, painful choices, and the pain we may endure or cause, regardless, we are committed to unconditional love and acceptance.  We are committed to a bold love that can say “no”, that challenges, rebukes, corrects, forgives and restores.

Joy

We pray that our home is filled with much joy and laughter!  Life is hard – why make it more difficult by being unkind?  Slow to speak, slow to anger – a gentle answer turns away wrath.  Peace.

 

There you have it.  These values keep us on the path to what I believe will continue to be a very fulfilling and rewarding future.  Which trail will you choose?

Take 5

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

You are familiar no doubt with the phrase “let’s take five” – to take a five or ten minute break before returning to work.  Most places of occupation have some type of work break through the day.  These short bursts of breaks are effective in many ways, from quick energy boosts to regained focus (coffee doesn’t hurt either).  In an even greater sense, you are likely able to accrue longer periods of time to be away to get some valuable rest and relaxation.

Recently, I traveled with my family to the Florida gulf coast and wow, was it a stunning place!  The combination of miles of powdery white sand and incredible crystal clear waters provide for hues of vivid color that look as if edited with a image filter.  But even more, the beauty of that time, even time in traffic (thanks Alabama) with my family was a huge boost; a massive recharge to my soul.

If you’re like me and serve in ministry, we are awful good at guilt tripping ourselves that this time away is not okay, or a waste or idle.  How could we take a break when there is Kingdom work at hand?  True, there is no off switch on the mandate we are given; but in order to avoid personal burnout, moral failure, and/or the neglect of our families these times are critical.  Thankfully I serve at a church and with a group of ministers who understand the value of the recharge!  Thank you Jesus for your example of going off to the hillside to spend time alone with the Father.

I learned a very valuable and handy concept from one of my good friends about how to think about time and how we invest it.  Jeremie Kubicek penned a book from his insights in dealing with leaders and their management of time called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time.  And no, we are not talking simply about how to handle your schedule and appointments.  Rather, Jeremie helps us explore our presence behind the schedule – where’s your focus and attention?  He explores and unpacks how to maximize the types of time we have every day, every month, and every year.  He shares these times of focus in the form of gears, like selecting the right gear at the right time in a car.

Which takes me back to family vacation.  Through the concepts of this book, I not only understand the importance of the gears and what gear vacation time is, but how to use this gear/time to the fullest by how I set my mind during it.  I fully engaged the right gear for the right time.  When I returned to work, I returned with my soul energized and refueled with my most important relationships – to God, and to my family – empowered.

Premarital Counseling Assessments

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

Through the spring and early summer, odds are you have attended a wedding or two and perhaps led the ceremony.  Such good times!  And as you know, these times of immense excitement also bring anxieties about the readiness of the couple for this lifelong journey.  I have experienced this concern from the couples wondering if this is right and if they are ready.  But there are others who also want the best for them and want to help them be prepared, including their families and ministers.

If you are responsible for working with couples on this important part of the journey, there are tools out there that are great resources to assist you!

These premarital counseling tools can help you:

  • Assess couple preparedness/success for marriage:  Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly assess strengths and weaknesses for this particular couple in the area of finances, romance, communication styles or family background to name just a few?  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a “dashboard” warning so to speak of issues that could cause grief for this couple in the years ahead?
  • Manage the counseling sessions: It can be intimidating for ministers to think of how to structure premarital counseling – what should be covered, how long the sessions should be, how to find and ask the right questions, and give the right coaching exercises.
  • Launch the couple with tools for the future:  How fulfilling would it be to give resources and concepts to the couple for the journey ahead!  Assessments like the ones I’ll mention give practical help to daily life like budgeting, dating and romance, conflict management, healthy communication and spiritual growth!

Back in 1995 I was introduced to my first premarital counseling assessment called Prepare-Enrich and I have used it for many years.  It is extremely helpful and very thorough asking the couple to individually rank “most like me, least like me” type questions about finances, physical intimacy, family background, personality, communication and conflict management to name a few.  The concept is this, while you could spend hours asking questions of the couple about the previous list, you would then also need to work to figure out what are areas of strength and what areas need attention because they could cause trouble.  For this assessment and the next, they do this task for you.  This is not about ease, but rather about precision.  Why talk in length about financial management if the assessment shows this is not a great area of concern for that particular couple?  I also like that it allows me the opportunity to simply reflect back to the couple, “Here is an area that we need to address, because you indicated disagreement about this statement on the assessment.”  This is far different than, “I think you have a problem here.”  There is cost involved and an amount of training to be a facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich tool.  Walter Mullican here in Oklahoma is a great contact for how that works.

But, I have added a new assessment as an option and I have been using it most recently with my premarital couples.  Developed by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, it is called SYMBIS, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.   I like the fresh view that it gives in its format and delivery, and while much of the content would be the same as mentioned above (as with all premarital content), how it shares it is fresh and I believe unique.  In short, the bonus for me with SYMBIS is that its up to date personalized report for the couple is thorough and available for them through the sessions.  The facilitator report and guide is also very thorough and walks you through each session’s content.  Prepare-Enrich is also thorough and provides workbooks and reports, but to me it seems to take a bit more searching for and connecting of the areas that need to be addressed.  As with Prepare Enrich, there is training and cost involved to become a SYMBIS facilitator.  Dr. Parrott leads the online training through recorded video segments and brief content mastery quizzes.  Either way you go on the assessments, the cost is worth it, the training is worth it.  You’ll be glad you did, and the couples certainly will be as well!

Share in the comments of any tools for this aspect of ministry you have found useful!  Keep at it!