Saturday, April 17, 2010

I'm a New Christian - Now What?

[Recommendation: This is fairly long. You might want to cut-and-paste it into a Word processor to make it easier to read.]

So you’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer and given your life to Christ.  Congratulations and welcome into the church of Christ and the Kingdom of God!  I rejoice with all of the angels in heaven that you have joined us.

             But now what?  What should you do next?  I’ll attempt to give you some guidance here so it doesn’t seem so out of reach.  It’s really not all that hard, but so many people are left hanging there, feeling like they might do it ‘wrong.’  If you’ve given your heart to Christ, then you’re secure, so there isn’t any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it.

             However, there are some approaches you can take that will leave you in the spiritual wilderness a lot longer than you need to be.  We want to move you quickly into God’s Promised Land of a fulfilling and wonderful relationship with Christ, so here are some ideas.

Get A Bible

            Let me be very clear at this point.

The most important job you have to do is to fall madly in love with Jesus, and be totally and absolutely filled with joy for knowing Him!

            The reason your joy is so critical is because it motivates you to know Him more and spend more time with Him, and because people are watching.  When other people see you moping around miserable and depressed and wracked with guilt, they see nothing in your God that they don’t already have in the world.  For you to draw them in -- your fulfillment of the Great Commission -- you must present to them a God who brings them something they don’t already have -- that deeply-rooted joy and peace, in spite of their circumstances, that only He can bring.

             So exactly how do you do that?  By reading the Bible and finding Jesus in there.  Read your Bible with the intention of finding out who He is and of entering into a fully-satisfying relationship with Him.  That’s the goal of your reading the Bible.  Not to educate yourself about doctrine, find out about the Jews, or any of a dozen reasons people will read Scripture.  Your job is to fall madly in love with Jesus, learn to have that Godly fear of Him, and feel the joy and peace He gives in the inner-most core of your being.

             As the first step to this glorious goal, you need to get a Bible.  If you already have a church, then you might want to find out what they use and use that, but if it takes you several months to find your church, then don’t wait.  Go ahead, refer to Appendix C, “How to Select the Right Bible,” and get started.  The section below called “How to Use the Bible,” will help you learn where to get started with the Bible and how to proceed.

Get Into A Church

            Beyond getting a Bible, the single most impacting thing you can do is to get into a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving church.  I’ve said it several times throughout this book, and I want to underscore it here: Please find a home church.

             So exactly how do you find the right church?  Just like you do anything else -- you shop around.  If you take a year to find just the right church where you feel at home and it becomes your family, then it takes a year.

            Now, having said that, let me caution you about being a ‘church gypsy.’  Searching for your home church is one thing, making a conscious decision never to have a home church is something different altogether.  You must have a home church.  There is just way too much support they provide, training you can get, and friends and family you

can make to miss out on that.  If you ‘church hop,’ then that says you have no intention of getting serious and getting involved, and that will leave you in the Christian wilderness, wandering around aimlessly, your entire Christian life.  You don’t want that, and God doesn’t want that for you.

             Now, not every church is built for every person.  Certainly, every person should be welcome in every church, but not every church is going to be a good fit for you spiritually.  If you go into a church and it doesn’t feel warm and welcoming for you, then please just say, “This church isn’t a good fit for me,” and start again next week

somewhere else.  If you get in there and they never bring up Jesus or read from the Bible, then it definitely isn’t the right church.  If they’re not Biblically-grounded and Jesus-focused, then move on.

             When my husband and I were in church-hunting mode, we often went to two sermons a Sunday and occasionally on Saturday night as well.  For several months, we went to a different church every week or twice a week.  Some were bad experiences for us, and some were luke-warm, and a few were wonderful.  That’s probably pretty normal, so don’t give up.  Keep up the search until you find your home.  If you find one that has possibilities, go for several Sundays in a row to get a sense of it.  If you have a friend who recommends a particular church, then by all means check it out.  Remember, though, that it has to be a good fit for you, and that might not be the same church as your friend’s.

Get Involved

            When you are a brand new Christian, the tendency is often to either get neck-deep in ministries and Bible studies, or not to get involved at all.  Resist both of those temptations.  Once you’ve found a church home, talk to the pastor or one of the elders about how you might get involved in something you can handle.  At this early stage in your Christian walk, it’s far more important that you get involved in some good Bible studies so you can grow in your relationship with Christ and learn how to read the Bible than it is serving in a ministry.  Get involved in the studies first, and then branch into ministries later.  Trust and rely on your pastor’s guidance on this.

Small Groups

            Once you have your home church, get involved with people at the church.  Most churches these days have what they call “small groups” or “community groups” or something like that.  These are groups of up to 15 or so church members who get together on a weekly or bi-monthly basis to fellowship and study the Word together.  They pray together and lift each other up, and they help each other when the needs arise.  It is truly the best way to turn your church into your family.  You just need a closer connection than sitting in the pew on a weekly basis can provide.

            So, to list them out:

*      Get a Bible.

*      Get into a Bible believing, Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving church.

*      Get into a Bible Study.

*      Get into a Small/Community Group.

And fall in love with the Lord.


My first recommendation in selecting the right Bible is to get into a good Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church and find out what the pastor uses.  That’s the Bible you should probably start with if you have a church.

             However, if you don’t have a home church yet, or you’d like to find something that’s a more personal choice and better fit for you and you’re content to just deal with the differences from your church, then I’ve added the rest of this section for you.

             As of this writing, has 27 different versions of the Bible listed on their ‘using’ pulldown menu.  That’s pretty daunting when you’re standing in the book store trying to figure out which one to buy for yourself, so I’ll try to help you narrow down the possibilities.

             I’m only going to hit on a few of them here, largely because these are the ones I’m familiar with, and can speak more knowledgably about.  I’m no expert on versions of the Bible, though, and if I’ve misrepresented any of them here, I offer my sincere apology.  I urge each of you to go on-line and do your own research to fill in any holes I’ve left.

Basics Of Bible Versions

            So here’s my best attempt at explaining them from my humble perspective.

            The reason there are so many versions of the Bible is because different people have different needs, different ways of studying, and different desires and goals.

            The first thing you need to be aware of is that there are ‘translations,’ and there are ‘interpretations.’

            This explanation is a little simplified, but it will do for our purposes here.  A translation is where the translators have taken the original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and are attempting to keep the English version as close as possible to that.  The purists want, to the greatest extent understandable, a word-for-word translation from the original language to the English.  You would think that would be the ideal for everyone, and for people who consider themselves purists, teachers, scholars, and academicians, it is.  The downside to that, though, is that it leaves the English a little harder to understand because the original languages don’t work in quite the same way the English does.  So to stay pure, some of the English becomes a little challenging to say the least.  The trade-offs are between purity in accuracy, and understandability.

             On the other end of the spectrum are the interpretations.  An interpretation is where the translators thought about a section of Scripture and essentially rewrote it into their own words to try to capture the essence of what the original languages were trying to convey.  These are typically easier to understand, but since they are not pure to the original languages, you have to be very careful about deriving hard-and-fast doctrinal assumptions from them.  One of the interpretations doesn’t even have verse numbers because the sentences simply don’t correspond to the original languages well enough.

             Interpretations fall broadly into two main categories: verse interpretation and paragraph interpretation.

             In the verse interpretation, the translators took the original language and rewrote the Hebrew or Greek text into more understandable English, but stayed within the parameters of the single sentence or verse.  In paragraph interpretation, you won’t have verse numbers because the Hebrew and Greek sentences have been lost in the translation.

The result is a ‘discussion’ of what the original languages were trying to convey in more common language.

             Then there are the rest of them that fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

             Both extremes, as well as those in the middle, have their advantages and disadvantages.  I use several different versions that span that gamut and I get a lot out of all of them.

             I’m going to repeat my word of caution here, though: There are many examples where the simpler, more ‘understandable’ versions have lost a great deal of accuracy in the translation.  Some of them even come a little too close to heresy for comfort in my opinion.  Just be very careful about relying solely on the ‘more understandable’ versions, and always compare them with the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), or New King James Version (NKJV) for anything you are going to take to heart and apply to your life.

             So what I’d like to do here is to give you some specific versions and some guidance on the type of studying you can do with each.

             The first three Bibles, KJV, NASB, and NKJV, are what I call the ‘pure’ Bibles.  They are pure because the authors were very serious about translating, word for word, from the original languages.  The more you deviate from the original languages to achieve understandability, the more you risk inaccuracy and possibly even heresy.  The translators have to be very careful, and from what I can glean from the many debates I’ve heard on this topic, these are the one’s most scholars believe are the most accurate.

King James Version (KJV) -- The original printed English Bible, printed in the early 1600’s under the authority of King James of England.  It was written in the language of the day, hence all the “thee’s” and “thou’s.”  They understood it because that’s the way they spoke.  The KJV is extremely accurate to the original Hebrew and Greek, so is a very good one for the purists and scholars.  It is reported to be the easiest to memorize because of its poetic nature, and once you get used to it, it is quite beautiful.  Beginners find it extremely difficult to understand because of that same feature.  My understanding is that this is the only version many Baptist churches recognize as the authoritative Word of God.

New American Standard Bible (NASB) -- I have heard radio commentators arguing about whether the King James or the NASB is the most accurate to the original languages.  I would suggest that since the authorities can’t agree on that, then unless you are going for your doctorate in theology or something, it doesn’t matter much.  In my early walk, I found the NASB to be easier to understand, so that’s what I started with.  Since then, however, I’ve become much more familiar with the language of the KJV, so I go back and forth.

So far in my own studies comparing the two to the versions of the Greek Bibles that I have, I have found a dozen or so differences between the KJV and the NASB in the New Testament.  For most of them, the differences are insignificant and don’t change the meaning much.

New King James Version (NKJV) -- This is essentially just the King James Version with the “thee’s” and “thou’s” changed to “you” and “your.”  I’ve never heard anyone address whether this is more or less ‘pure’ than either the KJV or the NASB, but I have read that it is a very good translation.

            If your goal is to become a serious student of the Bible, then I’d recommend you get both KJV and NASB, and possibly the NKJV as well.  Read them and compare as you go.  The differences you will find are enlightening.

New International Version (NIV) -- The New International Version is a translation, and does a reasonable job of staying fairly close to the original languages.  I’ve never heard anyone recommend it, though, for those who see themselves as serious scholars and purists.  The target audience for the NIV, in my opinion, is the person who wants to be somewhat close to the original language but isn’t as focused on looking up the Greek or doing the other more complicated word studies.  Since the translators didn’t feel the need to be exactingly pure to the original languages, it tends to be the easiest of the better translations to understand.  However, I have seen some websites that do a verse-by-verse comparison with the KJV, claiming that some of the differences are fairly extreme and almost heretical, so caution is encouraged.  If you want to use the NIV, then I’d recommend you also get a KJV, NASB, or NKJV, and compare as you go just to be safe.

New Living Translation (NLT) -- The New Living Translation, although it is still something of a translation, is starting to creep toward more of an interpretation.  You will have verse numbers, but each verse is only loosely tied to the word-by-word Greek.  As it turns out, though, there are good examples of verses in the NLT that, in spite of the fact that they aren’t as ‘pure’ to the original language, do a better job of conveying the intention of the original language than do the more literal translations.  The reason for this is because the English language just struggles trying to duplicate the richness of the Greek and Hebrew languages.  If you restrict yourself to only using one or two words to convey what a single Hebrew or Greek word uses, then you might not have any very good choices in the English.  They had to make some compromises in depth to stay pure to the verbiage -- not accuracy, just depth.  The NLT translators, on the other hand, have given themselves license to use as many words as they thought they needed to to convey the essence of the original language rather than the letter of it.  I never use the NLT as my primary study Bible because it’s just too far from the original languages, but I will use it occasionally to help me understand the NASB and KJV when the pure translation wording is difficult.
God’s Word (God) -- This is a newer translation/interpretation hybrid that approximates the NLT idea.  I find this version to be slightly easier to understand than the NLT in some texts, but as you get more understandable, you tend to get less accurate to the original languages, so again, there’s the tradeoff.

New Century Version (NC) -- Of all of the interpretation/ translation hybrids, I find this one to be the easiest to understand.  Remember, though, that it also makes it the least literal to the Greek and Hebrew, and the least accurate of those I’ve listed here.

The Message

The Message is by far, the book that epitomizes the term ‘interpretation.’  This book has no verse numbers because the sentences do not approximate the original sentences closely enough.  As such, it is the easiest to read, but has lost a lot of the original language.  It’s a wonderful book to read casually, and I have one, but I would never use it as my primary source of Scripture.  Use it as a wonderful narrative and as a way to capture some of the nuances of the original languages, but use one of the pure translations for Biblical study.

Study Bibles

There are also what they call ‘Study Bibles.’  They are still the versions listed above (plus those I haven’t listed), but they have ‘helps’ with them.  These ‘helps’ are comments, maps, cross-references, concordances, etc.  There are women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, Bibles for teens, Bibles for children, Bibles for students, Bibles for military people, and more.  There are prophesy Bibles, and ‘Finding Jesus’ Bibles that show you where Jesus is throughout the Old Testament.  Each of these has the same original Bible at the core as the versions listed above, but with additional comments and other aids to help the reader understand more.  Some also have wide outer margins for jotting down notes as you read.  That’s what I have, and I love it.

             Bibles can be fairly expensive, so spend some time doing some research and looking over several of them before you start buying.

             So, let’s boil it all down for you:

            I am a serious student, and I want to go very deep, possibly into the Greek and Hebrew some:  King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), or New American Standard Bible (NASB)

            I want to study Scripture, but I need something a little easier to understand:  New International Version (NIV)

            I have a pure Bible (one of the first three), but I’d also like something I can use to help me with difficult passages or gain additional insight:  New Living Translation (NLT), or God’s Word (God), or New Century Version (NC).

            I have a pure Bible, but I’d like something I can read casually when I have some time to just relax in the Word:  The Message

            My apologies to those versions I have not listed here, and I deeply pray I have not misrepresented any that I have included here.  I know each version has its pros and cons, and absence from this list should not imply in any way that they have no value.  The reader is strongly encouraged to go on-line to get more information and talk to your pastor about the versions that are available and the one that’s right for you.


Getting Started

When I first started reading the Bible, I was a bit overwhelmed at what I was reading.  It was huge, and I had no idea where to start.  I’d tried a few times in my life starting at Genesis (Don’t you start reading a book at the beginning?), only to get bogged down half-way through Abraham, not understanding what I was reading, having no idea how my life would be changed by it, and just couldn’t maintain the energy it took.

             That’s probably a familiar story to some of you.  Some of you might have actually made it all the way to Exodus or Leviticus before you crashed and burned, but I don’t know too many people who started their Bible study that way who got beyond Leviticus.  Some boring, nasty, bloody stuff if you don’t know what you’re reading.

             So I’d like to spare you that misery and give you some guidance on where to start.  But before we get there, there are a couple of things you need to know.

            As I said in the text of the book, the Bible is organized into the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The word ‘Testament’ means Covenant, or Promise.  The Old Covenant is that God would make Israel a great nation and give them Canaan, ‘the land of promise,’ the land flowing with milk and honey.  The New Covenant is with the Christians, and says that God has given us Jesus, the Messiah, to die to save us from our sins.  The Old Testament is the Jew’s Bible, and the Old Testament and the New Testament together comprise the Christian’s Bible.

             If you’ve never compared the size of the Old Testament with the New Testament, it’s an interesting exercise.  Grab your Bible, divide it up in your hands with the Old Testament in your left hand the New Testament in your right.  The difference in size between the two will surprise you if you’ve never done it before.

             Now, understand that you will definitely be getting to the Old Testament in your reading, but you need to start with the New Testament.  If you don’t understand the end of the book, the beginning of the book will just be a bunch of boring, bloody history about the Jews.  It is so vastly more than that, but the richness and the depth of it will be lost on you if you don’t have as your foundation the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  You already know that if you’ve read the body of this book, and if you haven’t, you’ll get there.  If you don’t know Christ, then you won’t know what to look for in the Old Testament to find Him there.

             So start with the Gospel of John.  It’s the fourth book in the New Testament, after Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

             Then, and this is fairly important, you need to learn a little history about the Apostle Paul.  The Gospel of John will introduce you to the other Biblical authors, but the Apostle Paul doesn’t show up until Acts.  If you don’t read about him, you won’t know one of the primary writers of the New Testament.

            So start your reading in this order:

*      Gospel of John to learn that Jesus is God in the flesh, and learn about the disciples

*      Acts Chapter 7 to learn about Stephen (the first martyr)

*      Acts Chapter 8 verses 1-4 to learn who Saul was and what he did

*      Acts Chapter 9 verses 1-30 to learn about the Apostle Paul

            Actually, starting from Chapter 9 and then all through the rest of Acts is mostly about Paul.  The book of Acts is about the early church, so it wouldn’t hurt you to read the entire book of Acts after you’ve read John to get a bigger picture of the early church.  The sections in the above list are pretty pivotal, though, so don’t skip them or read them too thoughtlessly.

             Once you’ve read John and the story of Paul, the exact order you take to read the rest of it is up to you.  You can make your decision based on your church’s direction, the book where your pastor is preaching from right now, or the Bible study you’re in.  Don’t skip the above readings first, though.  They’re very good stuff.

             And don’t just skip around chapter by chapter or verse by verse.  When you select a book, read from Chapter 1 verse 1 through the end of the book before you move to another book.  If you don’t do that, you miss way too much of the context and you’ll never get to know the authors, or the Great Author, God.

             I heard a sermon on-line that suggested you read a long book, then a short book, then a long book, and then a short book until you’ve made your way through the entire New Testament.  I thought that was good advice, so I pass it along to you.

             As a new Christian, spend most of your early time in the New Testament.  When you get a little more familiar with it and who Jesus is, then the Old Testament can come alive to you if you know how to find Jesus there.  There are many sections in this book to help you do that, if you haven’t already read it.

             Some general information about the books of the Bible might be helpful.

            The New Testament is divided loosely into the following sections:

*      Gospels -- The stories of Jesus, from four different perspectives to four different audiences for four different purposes.

*      Acts -- The history of the early church of Christ and how the Gospel was spread throughout Asia, and then to the rest of the world.

*      Paul’s Letters (called The Pauline Epistles) -- The letters written by the Apostle Paul to churches and to specific individuals.  Paul wrote these letters to instruct, encourage, admonish, and guide the people of God.

*      Hebrews -- a letter written to the Hebrew, or Jewish, people to help them see how the New Testament fits into the Old Testament.  Scholars aren’t sure who wrote Hebrews.

*      Remaining Letters -- Letters written by the Apostles John, James, Peter, and Jude to the Christians that were living in the area to encourage them through their trials and to give them guidance.

*      Revelation -- The revelation directly from Jesus to the Apostle John, showing us how the world is going to end, how Satan and his minions are going to be defeated, and the glory of the return of Jesus Christ.  If you’re not a believer, it’s a very frightening book.  If, however, you are bound for the Kingdom of heaven, it’s the most exciting book in all of Scripture.  Whenever you have tough times and a battle with the enemy, you can proudly and confidently say, “Yeah, but I know the end of the story, and we win!”

            Bible reading is the window into seeing and getting to know Jesus Christ, and your opportunity to have Him as your Counselor, your Comforter, and your Friend.  In falling in love with Him, you will experience that profound joy and peace that He alone offers.  If you view and have an approach to reading in the right manner, you will find it to be extraordinarily comforting, fulfilling, and exciting.  If you don’t find that to be true for you, then find people who do feel that way and study with them.  Their knowledge and their enthusiasm will rub off on you, and you will never regret it.

What’s A Verse?

            Okay, you’ve bought a Bible and flipped it open.  What on earth are all those numbers at the beginning of sentences?

             When the original authors, way back in the mid first century, wrote the individual books of the Bible, those numbers didn’t exist.  As a matter of fact, the chapter numbers didn’t exist.  Each ‘book’ was actually just a letter written to someone, and was one long dialogue without any divisions of any kind.  You would never divide a letter you’ve written to a friend up by chapters and the like, and neither would they.

             The chapters and verses were added centuries later.  They added them because we needed some way of organizing our study and communicating our thoughts to each other.  Adding the chapter divisions helped us do that, and then later adding a chronological number at the beginning of each cohesive thought added significantly to that communication.

             So the numbers at the beginning of those thoughts are the ‘verse’ identifiers.  Notice that the verse isn’t necessarily a complete sentence, and sometimes a verse will actually have more than one sentence or combinations of partial sentences.  Some of the sentences in the Bible are fairly long and complicated and actually comprise several distinct thoughts, so they divided the sentences up that way.  You’ll notice that many of them start with the word “and” or “but.”  As a matter of fact, you’ll even find some chapters starting with the word “and.”

            So when I say, “John 3:16,” I’m saying go to the book of John, which follows Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the New Testament, flip over to Chapter 3, and then within that chapter, go to verse 16.  It says:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

So what about the letters behind the verse designation in some things I’ve read, like “John 3:16b.”  They’re not in the actual Bible, but you might find them in commentaries and the like.  The “b” refers to the second part of the verse.  In the case of John 3:16, the “b” would refer to “that He gave His only begotten Son.”  In this example, there may be “a,” “c,” and “d” as well.

             Now, when I say, “go to the book of John,” you might say, “That’s easy for you to say, but where is the book of John?!”

             Great question.  Actually, you’ll eventually get used to where the books are in the Bible, but for now, the Bible has what every good book has: a table of contents.

 Flip to the beginning of your Bible and you’ll find the table of contents with page numbers.  Skim down the 66 books listed until you see “John,” or “The Gospel of John.”

Remember that the Old Testament is a whole lot bigger than the New Testament, so John will be close to the end of the Table of Contents, relatively speaking, even though it’s early in the New Testament.

             Also, some Bibles have small black indents in the edges of the pages with shorthand for each of the books.  John would be listed as “Jn” or “Joh” or “Jno.”  You’ll get used to it after a while.

             If your Bible doesn’t have that, then you can go to a Christian Bookstore and get pre-printed tabs that you can add to your own Bible.  I have to tell you, though, that I did that when I was a new Christian, and I found that they tore the pages of my Bible.  I guess you can be careful and not do that, but I found them to be a problem, so I took them off.  Again, it’s about preference and trade-offs.

Why Are Words In Italics?
            As you read, you’ll notice that some of the words in the text are in italics.  This has to do with the Greek.

             The translators of the Bible tried to convey the clearest meaning of the Greek and Hebrew into English the best they could while staying pure to the original languages.  The problem, as I’ve stated before, is that the Greek and Hebrew are very rich, and there are occasions when there simply was no English word that adequately conveyed the subtle nuances of the original language.  When that happened, they would sometimes insert an additional word in the text to further explain what was originally meant in the text.  When they did that, they would put the inserted word in italics so the reader would know that there was no Greek or Hebrew word from which this word was translated, but that it was added by the authors for clarity and depth.

             When you run across those words, read the sentence again without the italicized word to see if it makes a difference to the meaning.  If it does, then take the time to figure out what the translator was trying to do with the added word and look the root word up in the Greek.  That’s one of the places I’ve found some really fun treasures.

Why Are Some Words In All Capital Letters?

            When you run across words that are in all capital letters, the translator is telling you that they are quoting something out of the Old Testament.  Again, this can be a great source of treasures.  When you see that, find out where in the Old Testament that quote comes from and go look it up.  You will have some very fruitful treasure hunts that way.


            Many Bibles have in the back what they call a “Concordance.”  A concordance is simply an index of the words in the Bible.  If you get a “Complete Concordance,” which is a separate book, then you have the work of some wonderful individuals who went painstakingly through the Bible and made a list of every single word in the Bible and grouped them in alphabetical order.  Then, for every word, they listed every single verse where that word appears.

            So, for instance, you’d have the following as one of the words in your concordance (this is the NASB version):


Lev 19:7

Eza 10:19

Mat 11:6

Mat 13:57

Mar 6:3

Luk 7:23

Act 25:8

Rom 5:14

Rom 9:33

Rom 14;20

1 Co 10:32

2 Co 6:3

1 Pe 2:8

            So if you were to read your NASB Bible, cover to cover, and count the number of times you found the word “offense” in the English, you’d find thirteen of them.  The full concordance will list all thirteen verses where that word is found.

             The concordances will often have a short segment of the actual verse itself as well, so you can more easily find what you’re looking for.  So, if you were interested in how the word “offense” is used, or if you wanted to find a particular verse and you knew the word “offense” was in the verse, then you would go to the Concordance to find out where it is in the Bible.

            The Concordance you have at the back of your Bible is a condensed version of the full one.  You won’t have all the words listed, and you won’t have all of the verses listed for the words it does have, but it is still handy and it will serve a purpose.  If you think you’re going to want to be doing that a lot, though, getting a complete concordance will be a good investment.

             The other thing the Concordance provides is the “Strong’s Number.”  For almost every English word in the Bible (barring those in italics), there’s a Greek word that that English word was translated from.  The Strong’s Numbers are in the right-hand margin, to the right of the column where the verse is provided.

            To use the Strong’s Number, go to the back of the Concordance.  The numbers are in numeric order.  Look the number up on that list, and you have an abbreviated definition of that particular word in the Greek.  You’ll notice that sometimes the same English word actually has a few different Strong’s numbers.  That’s because the Greek is an extremely rich language, and there is often more than one Greek word that can be translated into a single English word.  That’s why looking it up in the Greek can be so helpful.  Sometimes there are subtle nuances in the Greek that the English cannot convey.  Spend time looking them up, and you’ll be thrilled at some of the treasures you can find.

Margin References

            Many Bibles have margin references on each page.  You’ll see them, usually on the inside or outside margin, of every page that has Scripture.  Sometimes they contain comments, and sometimes they are just references to other passages of the Bible that might have something to do with this one.  It could be that the same story is located in another Gospel and it will tell you where it is; it could be that a specific word is used somewhere else in the same way; it could be that the idea is represented in a different section of Scripture in addition to this one.

            In any event, there are too many of them to stop each time and look it up, but if you are on a specific verse and it has some special meaning to you today, then you might want to take a minute to check out the referenced passages as well.

             One way I have found my treasure-hunting to be particularly fruitful is to go to the references to the Old Testament when I’m reading in the New Testament, or to references to the New Testament when I’m in the Old.  I highly recommend checking out those references whenever you come across them.  You may end up with an empty hole, but more often than not, there’s a nugget for your efforts.

            There’s a lot of information online about how to read the Bible, and your church small group and Bible study will be an invaluable source of information.  Avail yourself of those rich resources and really learn how to use your Bible.


Here I’d like to share with you some of the resources I’ve used in my years of study of Scripture.  The books are all available on-line at or at your Christian book store and a host of others sources.  The web sites are the web addresses that were in place as of this writing.


Application Commentary of the New Testament, by Jon Courson

Application Commentary of the Old Testament Vol I, by Jon Courson

Application Commentary of the Old Testament Vol II, by Jon Courson

Bible Knowledge Commentary by the Dallas Theological Seminary

Jamison-Fawcett Brown Commentary

Matthew Henry Commentary

Resource Books

Zodhiates, Spiros; Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN 37422

-         Also available in Old Testament, plus

-         The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary: New Testament (Word Study Series)

-         The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary: Old Testament (Word Study Series)

Web Sites -- All highly recommended -- On-line Bible resources -- Jon Courson -- Ravi Zacharias -- John MacArthur, Grace to You -- Alistair Begg -- Calvary Chapel Radio on-line -- Chip Ingram, Living on the Edge -- Michael Youseff, Leading the Way -- Lon Solomon, McLean Bible Church -- Frontline, a Youth-oriented branch of McLean Bible Church

      There are many other fabulous resources.  Hunt around, but be careful. There are also many “false prophets” masquerading as God’s sheep and shepherds.  Be discerning, and if you have any doubt, talk to your pastor.


At November 09, 2011 10:17 PM, Blogger anonymousch said...

Here's your "now what"?

Try a very long line of christians and churches giving you guilt trips about things like having to get your parents saved to insure your salvation, also guilt trips about being one case someone trying to physically slap you out of your depression, in two other cases someone treating you extremely callously and excommunicating you from a church, another treating you as a rebel when you were depressed because you saw what you knew was wrong going on among church members and reported it, another case several pastors ignoring you when you were in despair, one calling the authorities to have you hauled away to a mental institution (and another years later suggesting he would do so) -- both because they didn't want do deal with your mere suicidal feelings (not threat of suicide), another lying to you to take financial advantage of you twice, etc...

That's the likely "now what?" if you suffer from depression and are not god's chosen. That's me. More stabs in the back per year than anyone who actually was ever saved, and the reason why is that god saves who he will, and if you are not one of his, you will be driven out one way or another, if it takes 10 times, or a 1,000 times to learn your lesson that you are not his and never were.


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