Friday, February 25, 2005

Quick Note: I'm Away

I'll be away for the next three days speaking at a women's retreat. Just thought I'd let you know. You can look for more helpful posts next week after my return.

Blessings to you all!

Another Great On-Line Tool!

I've been checking out several blogs and web sites lately, and I found another great "one-stop-shoppping" Bible study resource. Just about everything you need for lesson preparation (resources, references, and Bible study tools) is available at this site.

Called The Smart Christian, it encourages a thinking approach to Christianity. Good stuff!

You'll find the page devoted to Bible study tools here. You'll find the site's theological resources here. You'll find other general reference sources here.

Don't forget to check out the history reference link and other resource links offered at this site. You'll find a ton of neat study aids.

That's it for now,

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

ANNOUNCING: "Featured Site"

I've added a new feature to this blog: a sidebar offering called "Featured Site."

The "Featured Site" section on the right will contain a link to a new, excellent on-line resource I've stumbled upon and highly recommend. I'll try to highlight a new featured site at least twice a month.

This week's "Featured Site" is John Piper's site Desiring God. This outstanding resource offers all kinds of helps for Bible study teachers or leaders:

  • An On-line Library (on-line line book references)
  • An On-line Study Desk (a ton of Bible study aids and tools)
  • Weekly audio sermons (you can listen on-line)
  • Daily radio broadcasts (you can listen on-line)
  • The "Fighter Verses" Bible memorization system
  • The complete English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) and 25 other versions on-line
  • Daily devotionals
  • Today's News and Links sections
  • Easy-to-use search features that allow you to search the site by topic.

Just the On-line Study Desk feature is worth the visit to this site.

If you've never read John Piper's works, I'd encourage you to do so; his is a unique and penetrating voice that drives us out of complacency into deepening relationship with God--the true God of the Scriptures who if far greater and more wonderful than we know. You'll find no superficiality, quick fixes, or "cheap grace" here.

Please note that when I visited this site, the "store" feature (where you can purchase products) was not operational. This, however, did not affect my ability to search the databases or to use the on-line resources.

So, check out I hope you like it. Let me know what you think.

That's it for now,

Monday, February 21, 2005

On-Line Resources and Software

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm a book person. And a paper person. There's just something about the feel of pages beneath my fingertips that brings out the creativity in me. That's why my office is loaded with books, many of which I use in my Bible study lesson preparations.

But I'm a computer person, too. And I've found some nifty computer resources (on-line and in software form) that have made my life as a Bible study teacher easier.

The best of the on-line Bible study resources I've found are listed as links on the right side of this web page in the sidebar entitled Bible Study Tools. These sites contain just about anything you could want or need by way of Bible study references. Take some time to familiarize yourself with what's available. Though there may be a small learning curve to begin with, you'll find that these resources save time in the long run. To check out these sites, all you have to do is click on the links I've provided, then explore!

I've found software tools to be helpful, too. Though there are many excellent Bible software manufacturers and tools out there, the one I prefer is NavPress Software's WORDSearch with LESSONMaker, STEP compatability, and Zip Script features (co-published with IExalt). I have the package entitled the WORDSearch Discipleship Library with a bunch of add-ons, but Navpress and IExalt offer many different combinations covering many different price ranges. You can check them out at the WORDsearch home page or Christian Book Distributors.

An additional piece of software I've enjoyed (an add-on to the above that can be used on its own) is the Discipleship Journal Anthology, again a Navpress product. This CD-ROM contains nearly all the content from past issues of Discipleship Journal dating from 1981 to 2000 (issues #1 through #120). The searchable anthology comes in WORDsearch compatible or Logos editions, and has been a springoard for ideas and lesson preparations on a host of subjects for me.

I should admit that I'm partial to DJ. I've read the publication since they started in the early 80s and have written for them quite a bit over the last six years. I value their commitment to biblical integrity, their passion to equip believers, their heart for missions, and their willingness to take on challenging topics. It's a great publication--one I still receive in magazine hard copy form. And being able to search (via computer) back issues for topics on which I'm teaching and speaking is a dream-come-true for me. Before, I plodded page-by-page through old hard copies; now I can search with the touch of a button.

Logos makes some good software, too. I just happen to prefer WORDsearch. Others use Logos and highly recommend it. My suggestion would be to investigate both product lines and decide what suits your need best. For me, WORDsearch fits the bill.

In the meantime, don't forget to check out the on-line resources I've listed in the sidebar on the right. You'll find plenty to keep you busy there.

That's it for now,

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Good Books, List #1

The following list is a compilation of books I've used and recommended for Christian leaders in past issues of Teachers' Tips, Tools, and Topics. Future lists will include new material I'm reading and recommending, but I wanted to provide this list for your perusal in case you missed or didn't have access to previous reviews. Here's the short list:

Title: I Exalt You, O God: Encountering His Greatness in Your Private Worship
By Jerry Bridges

Review: “As the world becomes ever more impersonal, hectic, and stressful, our hunger grows for the reality of God’s Greatness in our lives.”—from the book jacket.

If you’re looking to stimulate greater worship in your personal devotional life, then this offering by Jerry Bridges is the book for you. I Exalt You, O God moves readers to consider the wonder and awesomeness of God. Arranged into 31 daily readings, this brief devotional helps you to focus on four aspects of God’s nature (His Greatness, Holiness, Wisdom, and Love) through biblical teaching, interaction with Scripture, and guided prayers (penned by the author). It motivates and equips you to offer richer, truer praise and thanksgiving as you consider the very person and nature of God.

Title: How to Live Right When YourLife Goes Wrong
by Leslie Vernick

Review: “Despite the abundant availability of both self-help books and Bible-study materials, many of us find it difficult to apply what we learn and make that long head-to-heart journey of change. Is it possible to achieve a deeper, more permanent change of heart? Yes….” —Leslie Vernick

If you are looking for a practical, simple-to-use, and easy-to-understand model for spiritual growth to pass on to your students, Leslie Vernick’s How To Live Right is the book for you. Using the acronym TRUTH, Leslie provides specific steps for walking in truth and for practicing Christ’s presence. It is an easy-to-remember method for applying God’s truth to everyday life and circumstances.

Title: Speaking with Bold Assurance
By Bert Decker and Hershael W. York

Review: “This book is for everyone who hungers to be a more effective communicator of God’s truth, whether you are sharing yourself, your life, your story, or you insight into the Scriptures. Whether speaking to a large group or to just one person, the powerful principles of communication [described in this book] will make your more competent and comfortable speaking” (from the Introduction, page 3).

This book addresses the essentials of public speaking (and teaching), and provides an easy-to-implement means for simplifying lesson preparation (called the Decker Grid System). It's a great resource for improving your up-front skills and your lesson preparation.

Title: Tozer on Christian Leadership: A 366-Day Devotional
Compiled by Ron Eggert

Review: “‘Your calling,’ said Meister Eckhart to the clergy of his day, ‘cannot make you holy; but you can make it holy.’ No matter how humble that calling may be, a holy man can make it a holy calling…,” and so begins Tozer’s devotional meditation on the call of God.

We all need encouragement in our callings, not just as teachers, but as leaders in general. This collection of A.W. Tozer’s writings provides encouragement for the leader’s soul. Tozer once stated, “The rewards of godly leadership are so great and the responsibilities of the leader so heavy that no one can afford to take the matter lightly.” This book helps us to take our callings seriously and to develop Christ-centered, Spirit-led ministries flowing from our personal union with Christ. Using daily Scripture readings, brief reflections, and guided prayer, this devotional is designed to help leaders shoulder the responsibility of the call to lead in a God-honoring way.

Title: Prayer
by Ole Hallesby

Review: This is probably the best book on prayer I've read (and I've read dozens of books on prayer). A brief, easy-to-read, immensely deep and practical gem, I return to this classic every other year or so, just because I find it so refreshing and motivating.

That's enough for this first list. I hope you find something helpful among these titles. I certainly have.

That's it for now,

Friday, February 18, 2005

Essential Bible Study Resources

Leading and teaching Bible studies requires us to have sound resources. Here's a list of essential minimum resources I suggest for every Bible student’s library:

with cross-references, book outlines/analyses, and basic concordance. Recommended translations include the NASB (New American Standard-updated edition); NIV (New International Version); ESV-English Standard Version (2001), NKJV (New King James Version): or NLT (New Living Translation). Prices range from $20 to $40 for a basic hardcover Bible.

2. An EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE for the translation you use most. These run from about $25 to $50 each depending on sales.

3. A BIBLE DICTIONARY –recommended titles include:
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Three Volumes edited by J. D. Douglas, (based on the former New Bible Dictionary); Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (R. Youngblood, editor with F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison); The New International Bible Dictionary (J.D. Douglas & Merrill C. Tenney, editors); Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary (M.C. Tenney, editor); Holman Bible Dictionary edited by Trent C. Butler; Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible edited by David Noel Freedman; and Richards’ Complete Bible Dictionary by Larry Richards.

4. AN ENGLISH DICTIONARY—current collegiate editions will be most helpful.

5. BIBLE HANDBOOK—recommended titles include:
Zondervan’s Handbook to the Bible (formerly entitled Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible) edited by Pat and David Alexander; The Illustrated Concise Bible Handbook by Lawrence O. Richards; and Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version by Dr. Henry Halley (Zondervan) (this is an update of the original Halley’s)

6. A TOPICAL BIBLE—recommended titles include:
Zondervan NIV Nave’s Topical Bible (Kohlenberger, editor); Nave’s Topical Bible, Revised and Enlarged by Orville Nave (Zondervan publishers); Baker Topical Guide to the Bible (Walter A. Elwell, editor); NKJV Macarthur Topical Bible by John Macarthur, Jr. (Thomas Nelson/Word publishers); and Where To Find It in the Bible: The Ultimate A-Z Resource by Ken Andeson (Thomas Nelson/ Word Publishers).

7. A PARALLEL BIBLE (or two or three additional Bible translations that differ from what you normally use)—recommended titles include:
Today’s Parallel Bible (includes the KJV, NIV, NASB, and NLT listed in side-by-side columns) (Zondervan publishers); Comparative Study Bible, Revised (includes the NIV, KJV, the updated 1995 NASB, and the Amplified Bible in side-by-side columns) (Zondervan); the
CBD Parallel Bible (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT); and The Essential Evangelical Parallel Bible (NKJV, ESV,NLT, The Message).

8. A GOOD BIBLE ATLAS. My personal favorite is the Holman Bible Atlas.

These are the tools I use regularly and find the most helpful. These are also the resources I'd recommend every Bible study teacher and small group leader have at their disposal. Many are available at Christian Book Distributors and at Amazon for used or reduced prices.

Happy resource hunting!

That's it for now,


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Our First Love

I was cleaning out a closet recently when I stumbled upon a box of old letters. Among past birthday cards, faded valentines, and many dogged-eared Christmas greetings was a stack of envelopes rubber-banded together. These were the letters that my husband and I had exchanged in the summer of 1981.

At that time, I was a single college senior working with teens in a Christian summer resident camp, while Don was interning at the Ligonier Valley Study Center (a Christian studies institute headed by R.C. Sproul). We wrote regularly, sometimes daily, for the entire summer, and as a result of that correspondence, moved from being best friends to becoming engaged on Sept. 1st, to being married four months later in January 1982.

What was it about those letters that moved us from friendship to intimacy? How did we grow from being ministry partners to becoming life partners, without the benefit of dating ? (no, we never dated). God used our written words to move us from “knowing about” each other to truly “knowing” each other. He used our written dialogue to deepen our love in ways that activity together could never have accomplished. Writing, reading, talking and listening (on paper), worked together to make us one of heart, mind, and purpose, all through written words.

The same might be said of our relationships with God. Doesn’t God use His written Word to make us of one heart, mind, and purpose with Him? Isn’t it through His Word, that God reveals Himself to us? Isn’t it there that we prayerfully move from knowing about Him, to truly knowing and loving Him? Isn’t it there that we develop our passion for Him?

As I read through our old letters, I remember how I longed for the camp mail to arrive, and how I eagerly leafed through piles of correspondence looking for the handwriting I’d grown to love. I savored each letter, reading it again and again to catch a glimpse of the man I was beginning to love in ways I hadn’t before. I read his letters to learn from him and about him, and to discover what I could from content that was there. I read with a heart that was eager to listen and learn, and that deeply longed to know, love, and be loved by the author.

Oh, that I had one tenth of the same passion for God’s Word that I had for those letters!

The last three months have been incredibly busy for me. Despite my activity “for God,” my intimacy with Him suffered. Oh, to be sure, I regularly studied the Bible for my lesson preparation, and I prayed regularly for needs. But I rarely drank of His Word simply to delight in the Author. I rarely prayed purely to grow in love for, and intimacy with, the lover of my soul.

During this teaching season, may we recapture the delight of our First Love. May we hungrily search the pages of His letter to us (God’s Word) for glimpses of His grace and glory, and may we know a joy and intimacy with Him like we’ve never known before.

That's all for now,

(This entry is adapted from an entry in the November, 2000, hard copy of Teachers' Tips, Tools, and Topics, c. 2000 by Joan Esherick.)


Welcome to Teachers' Tips, Tools, and Topics on-line!

For those of you who used to receive our hard copy version of Teachers' Tips, Tools, and Topics, you'll remember how valuable our newsletter turned out to be. Now we're starting an on-line version!

I'll try to update this blog weekly to give you additional resources for your teaching. And I'll post information from past hard copy entries here for those of you who are new to our newsletter.


That's all for now,