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Bible Thought Study Tools

Biblical Meditation

1My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. 2Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. 3Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. 4Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: 5That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.

Proverbs 7:1-5

Solomon’s Command to Meditate

We hear a lot of talk these days about meditation. One of the common phrases we hear about meditation is that it means “to empty your mind.” I know that is an oversimplification of what is often meant by the word, but it is one you hear often. And that is very much in contradiction to what biblical meditation is.

The idea of the words translated as meditate in the Bible (Joshua 1:8, Psalms 1:2, etc.) is to turn over an idea in the mind. It is often compared to a cow chewing her cud. Spending a long time working out every nutrient from the grass and food. It means to think about and to allow that idea to affect your daily life. This is exactly what Solomon is speaking of here.

Solomon is telling his reader to keep (pay attention to, heed) and lay up (hide like a treasure) his words and commandments. Then he says that if you will keep his commandments, you will live.

Red bow tie tied around finger.

The reader is to bind his words and commandments on their fingers. (I wonder if that is where we get the idea of tying a string around the finger as a reminder?) And to write them on the heart. The idea is that it would be something you are carrying with you and constantly thinking about. That is what the Bible means when it says to meditate.

Example of Biblical Meditation

If you are around me long, you will find that I hear phrases that remind me of songs. Then, I must sing the song. And if I don’t have a song that quite fits, I will often just make one up.

You can know what I have been listening to recently because of the songs that immediately come to mind. That which is freshest is what has been filling my mind in recent days. It may be old fashioned hymns, gospel songs, cowboy music or Broadway show tunes.

Solomon Tells Us Why We Should Meditate

Solomon’s example is that of a young man being lured by a strange woman. As we learned a couple of days ago, when Solomon uses this term, he is talking about a woman that is not your wife. In this case he specifically says she is a prostitute.

Solomon implores the reader to heed the words of wisdom and understanding so that he can see beyond the temptation of the moment. We should have God’s Word hidden in our heart and ready to call to mind immediately in any situation.

By spending time in God’s Word regularly you can begin to ingrain the wisdom of the Bible in your mind. Like playing music on my ukulele, or listening to music will cause those songs to come to mind more quickly, having regular contact with the Bible will help you quickly remember what God has to say on a subject.

How to Meditate on God’s Word

There are various ways to fill your mind with the Bible. First, I think reading the Bible is a primary way to fix God’s Word in your heart. We have the written Word, now we need to read it.

Reading certainly isn’t the only way, and it may not be the best way for you. There are plenty of places these days to get the Bible in an audio format that you can listen to over and over. I’m a fan of BibleGateway for much of my study. They have audio bibles. There are also many apps you can get for your phone. One I have used before is from Bible.is, but there are many others to choose from.

Hearing God’s Word preached and explained is another way you should be filling your mind with the Bible. Also, hanging out with people who will help remind you of what God’s Word says in a given situation. These would be the people you get to know through regular church attendance.

But just hearing God’s Word and reading it does not mean that you are meditating upon it. Take time to think about what you have read. That is where the biblical meaning of meditation comes in. Spend time mulling over the words. Ponder them. Maybe even pull out a dictionary or commentary to help you get a better understanding of a passage.

There are many Bible study tools that you can use to help you learn more about God’s Word. I have written about how to use a concordance as well as given a list of books that can be beneficial as you study the Bible.

Take time to hide God’s Word in your heart. Maybe even tie a ribbon on your finger to help you remember a Bible truth.

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Study Tools

How to Use a Strong’s Concordance

If you’ve done much Bible study you have surely run across Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. It is a great book. But, being familiar with Strong’s and knowing how to use Strong’s may be two very different things for you.

Strong's book coverTwo Main Uses

There are two main ways to use a Strong’s Concordance. One is to use it to help you find verses where you know one of the words in the verse. The other primary use is finding information about a word in your Bible that you are interested in.

Find Verses When You Know a Word

If you know any word that appears in a verse you are able to find the verse you want using a Strong’s Concordance. This is assuming at least two things: you actually know the word and not a mis-remembered derivative, and that the word is in the King James Version of the Bible. Strong’s contains every word in the King James Bible. Knowing any word in the verse will help you find the verse, but it is much easier to do if you pick a less common word.

If, for example, we wanted to find the verse that said something like, “effectual fervent prayer” does something. Maybe I don’t remember the rest of the verse, but I can at least remember these three words. Prayer is probably the most common of the three words. So looking up “effectual” or “fervent” would probably yield few results. (They each occur fewer than 10 times).

In the front section of a Strong’s Concordance (which is about 1/2 the book) is list of all the words in the Bible. Look up the word “effectual” (or “fervent”) and see if you can find a verse that fits the one you were looking for. Once you do you can find that the reference is for James 5:16.

Find More Information About a Word

As you are reading in your Bible you may come across a word that you would like to know more about. Maybe you suspect that it is related to another word. Or, you aren’t sure you understand the definition of a word. While Strong’s Concordance is not necessarily a dictionary, it is a good place to start in learning about a word. You are able to look at all the ways that same Hebrew or Greek word is translated in the Bible and get a very good picture of what the word means.

To do this you first find the word you are interested in. This is done the same way as above when looking for a verse. Find the word alphabetically listed in the first part of the concordance. Then find the listing for the verse where your word appears. Take note that the English word you are looking at may fit several original words. You have to look through the columns to find the exact reference for the word you are interested in.

Over to the side margin of the column where the word and its reference appears will be a number. If you are in the Old Testament, the word will be translated from Hebrew. Therefore the number you see in the margin will point you to the Hebrew section of the concordance. If your word comes from the New Testament, then the number will appear in the Greek section of the book. It is important to know which section to look in because most of the numbers can be found in 2 places. You need to pay attention to whether the word is a Hebrew or Greek word.

Once you find the number corresponding to the word that interests you, then you can find the word in the corresponding section towards the back of Strong’s. Now look at all the different ways that word can be translated. You will also see what that word is related to. Looking up a couple of parent words may give you a broader understanding of the original word.

It is an interesting study to find a word and trace every use of that word in the Bible. Strong’s can help you do that.

An Easier Way

While knowing how to use the paper book is helpful, there is a much easier way to get this information. There are many good apps for phones or tablets that contain all the standard Strong’s information. The app I use is called MySword for Android. There are certainly many apps for iPhones and Windows phones that also contain Stronhg’s information. If I am at my computer, my website of choice for looking up Strong’s numbers and explanations is BlueLetterBible. It gives you many more tools to choose from besides Strong’s. There are some great Bible dictionaries there too.

Strong’s Dictionary

While I said that the Strong’s Concordance is not a dictionary, James Strong did write one for us. I have never used a paper copy of this book, but I am sure this is equivalent to the information I get in the tools from MySword and BlueLetterBible.

I enjoyed teaching this information to a Sunday School class this weekend and thought you might enjoy it too.

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Study Tools

Alliteration: Helpful or Not?

I have a love-hate relationship with alliteration. Mostly hate. I am talking about when alliteration is used in sermon outlines and Sunday school lessons. I see the value in alliteration in poetry—when applied by a skilled writer.

Meaning

Typically we think of alliteration as the use of the same beginning letter for the points in a message. This can be a consonant or vowel sound, though most of the time it is a consonant sound. Also, alliteration is usually related to the sound of the words. It is not necessary that the letters themselves be the same.

Memory

One of the benefits to alliteration is that it can actually be helpful in remembering the points of a message. There have been studies that show there is greater and quicker recall of information when paired with alliteration.

Manhandle

However, if words are manhandled to make them fit an alliteration scheme, then the whole idea usually does not work as well as the speaker or writer would hope. An example of this is the Sunday school lesson I am studying for tomorrow. There are 14 pages of notes! The short version of the notes—which will be handed out to the students—has 4 big points and 4 sub-points under each one. All of these points are alliterated to each set of 4 on their outline level. That makes 16 words that are alliterated. With that many words that are supposedly important, I doubt anyone will walk out of class tomorrow with the ability to remember even the 4 big points.

Manipulate

In my recent study of the book of James I looked at outlines written by various authors. Many of them had an alliterated outline. Certainly there is nothing wrong with alliteration if it stays true to the text. But some of these outlines seem to manipulate the meaning of the text so that the author can keep his cute alliteration.

Multivocal

Alliteration is also not helpful as a memory tool when the speaker uses an obscure or marginal word that the listeners aren’t going to remember anyway. By the way, multivocal means “having more than one meaning.” The fact that I had to look the word up and then have to explain it should be a sign that it is a terrible word to use for alliteration purposes.

Main Message

I am not totally against alliteration. I use it myself sometimes. But it should not be forced to the point that you obscure the meaning of your message. And certainly the meaning of the Bible text should never be manipulated just so that it will fit with your alliteration.

[Yes, I intentionally did some bad alliteration with my paragraph headings. I would be curious as to how you might alliterate the points in this article: either better or painfully worse. Leave a comment below with your alliteration or comments on the subject.]

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Study Tools

James: Key Verses

Each chapter in the book of James has a two to four themes. If you want to learn the content of the book of James you can learn the themes along with key verses which will help you know what is contained in each chapter and in the book.

I would encourage you to commit these verses to memory. Learning key verses for books of the Bible will help you know what is contained in the book. And, in this case, each of these verses will give you a greater idea of what is in each chapter.

James 1

Greeting — James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Trails and Temptations — James 1:12

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Doers and Not Hearers Only — James 1:22

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 2

Partiality — James 2:1

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

Faith Without Works — James 2:14

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

James 3

Controlling the Tongue — James 3:5

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Wisdom — James 3:17

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

James 4

Worldliness — James 4:4

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Judging One Another — James 4:11

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

Boasting About Future — James 4:14

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

James 5

Warnings to the Rich — James 5:1

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Patience in Afflictions — James 5:8

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Prayer — James 5:16

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Wandering Christians — James 5:20

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Image with link to a memory course for the book of James.While I have listed these as the key verses to help you learn the topics in each chapter, there could be other verses that you may find to be better in helping you remember each chapter’s content. If you do have another verse that you prefer, post that in the comments below. I am curious as to what stands out as important to others.

For the most part, this list came from a memorization course on the book of James that I am doing. Check out the Master of Memory course if you would like to memorize the book as well.

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Study Tools

Library for Bible Study – Books for Deeper Study

The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

—2 Timothy 4:13

Going through some of my Bible college notes I came across a list of books we were told we should have for a well-rounded library of Bible study tools. Today you can get much of this material online and in Bible study software. But it is nice to pull a book off the shelf and flip through the pages while studying–especially if you have to go back and forth between pages looking for connections between concepts. Most reference books you wouldn’t want to read cover to cover, but there are a couple that would make great devotional material for someone more serious about Bible study.

Here is the list with Amazon links. Obviously Amazon is not the only place you can get these. See if your local Bible bookstore has them so that you can browse through the pages and see if you really want or need the book. Some of these titles have Kindle editions available for them. For the multi-volume sets the Kindle version might be better since you can easily search for the information without pulling 25 lbs. worth of books off your shelf.

Though it wasn’t on the list I got in school, one of my favorite Bible handbooks is Halley’s Bible Handbook.

If you are interested in building a lasting library, look for hardback versions of these books. For the Bibles, the hardback version will be cheaper than leather covers–even bonded leather. They won’t get beat up as easily either.

I hope this list helps you get started in serious Bible study. If you have a book that you recommend either in place of one of the books listed or in addition to the list, leave a comment below and share it with the other readers. I am curious as to what others are recommending in the 20+ years since this list was given.