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There are many true things about you. You may be a student. You may be a mom. You may love someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. You may make music or lattes. Life may be incredibly difficult, or you may feel like you’re living the dream.
These things may be true—but are they the truest?
Fried chicken is food, true, and so is a kale salad. But Jesus declared that He is the truest food. See, other things may have the appearance of being able to satisfy the deep needs of our bodies and even our souls, but Jesus declares that He is even truer food and truer drink.
So even among truths, there are true things and there are truer things.
Jesus wants to get to the truer things, the things so deeply true about you that they have the power to change everything else, including the merely true things.
What if the truest thing about you can cause you to reimagine your entire life? What if the truest thing about you can drown out all the noise and speak the words that you’ve waited for your whole life?
What the Gospel demands we ask is this: what does God say is the truest thing about us?
We aren’t always comfortable asking that question, and sometimes we only pretend to ask it. We give an answer we think we ought to give, an answer that identifies us as one of the good kids or a good Christian or a good citizen. Those answers are too easy. They’re cheap. All our lives we’ve been trained to answer that question in particular ways for particular people.
We define ourselves differently to different people. I’m a good worker, a good parent, I’m a failure, I’m beautiful, I’m hideous, I’m loved, I’m not.
And maybe you answer it differently when you’re by yourself, when you ask it of yourself. Dancing alone, driving alone, sit- ting at a cafe alone, tapping snooze on your alarm for the seventh time, the tenth time, because there isn’t one single reason you can come up with for getting out of bed on a sunny Saturday.
You answer it differently every time because you feel different every time you’re asked. A different person with every shifting truth.
Here’s the problem: you’re clinging to true things about your- self that simply aren’t that true. You’re elevating things that are merely true—or half-true, or true some days but not others—to the level of “truest.” I know you’re doing this—because I do it too. We all do. It’s the human condition.
Be clear: many destructive things we believe are very much true! We do fail, we did lose the money, we aren’t as beautiful, we were abused.
The problem is that we have pushed many of these merely true things down to the most fundamental layer of who we are and in so doing have built our whole lives and identities on them.
These things can be true, but we need to discover that they are not, and never will be, the truest thing.
David Lomas is the Lead Pastor at Reality/SF and the author of the book The Truest Thing About You (David C. Cook) which launches today! You can follow him on Twitter @davidlomas
Ask a group of pastors, seminarians, professors, or serious Bible readers, “What one commentary series on the Old Testament would you most recommend?” and you’re likely to hear: “NICOT.” Eerdmans’ New International Commentary on the Old Testament blends scholarship with application in a readable and engaging manner. Few, if any, commentary series are consistently this good throughout the series. And I don’t know of any other series that has such broad ecumenical appeal.
NICOT in Olive Tree has 23 volumes, spanning 26 biblical books. The bundle includes the 2010 volume on Hosea. The only volume currently in print that is not here is The Book of Judges, by Barry G. Webb (2012). (Judges is not available in any other Bible software at the moment.)
General editor Robert L. Hubbard Jr. writes of the series:
NICOT delicately balances “criticism” (i. e., the use of standard critical methodologies) with humble respect, admiration, and even affection for the biblical text. As an evangelical commentary, it pays particular attention to the textʼs literary features, theological themes, and implications for the life of faith today.
As I preached through Isaiah this past Advent, John N. Oswalt’s two volumes on that book were the first commentary I turned to after spending time with the biblical text. While it was always clear that Oswalt knew Isaiah and his milieu well, the author would find himself swept up at times in praise of the God Isaiah preached. On Isaiah 2:2, for instance, he writes:
What Isaiah was asserting was that one day it would become clear that the religion of Israel was the religion; that her God was the God. To say that his mountain would become the highest of all was a way of making that assertion in a figure which would be intelligible to people of that time.
Until persons and nations have come to God to learn his ways and walk in them, peace is an illusion. This does not mean that the Church merely waits for the second coming to look for peace. But neither does it mean that the Church should promote peace talks before it seeks to bring the parties to a point where they will submit their needs to God.
Oswalt is representative of the authors in NICOT, in that he loves the text (and its grammar, history, and background) and loves the God who inspired it.
NICOT in Olive Tree has hyperlinks to biblical references and commentary footnotes, which you can easily and quickly view in the Bible Study (computer) app through the Quick Details corner (by hovering over the hyperlink), or as a pop-up window (which can then also pop out and keep your place in a separate window). It’s just as easy to tap a hyperlink in the mobile app.
There are two ways I’ve used NICOT so far.
1. I use NICOT as my starting point in the main window.
After some time in the biblical text, I have made my way through parts of NICOT by starting from the commentary. I can use hyperlinks to read the verses being commented on, as well as any other references. I can keep a Bible open in the split window and have it follow me along as I read through NICOT.
Using NICOT this way, there are quite a few ways to get around, both by looking up a verse in the commentary, and by navigating its Table of Contents. You only need to use one of these options at a time, but here they all are:
Note that from the Go To drop-down menu, I can keep following the sub-menus till I get to a specific place in the commentary (Introduction to Malachi in the instance above). One could also do this from the Go To item in the toolbar, which allows for both verse searching and Table of Contents navigation.
2. I use the Bible in the main window and NICOT as a supplement in the split window.
This has the advantage of letting me use NICOT as one among multiple resources in the Resource Guide, as shown (in part) here:
In both of the above setups you can take notes in NICOT, highlight, and bookmark your place. You can also do a search on a word or phrase in the commentary, with the results appearing almost instantaneously. One may wish, for example, to find all the times Oswalt refers to the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, which is an easy and fast search to run.
In reviewing Olive Tree I have found it to have the most versatile, smooth, and customizable Bible app I’ve seen on iOS. I write more about the Bible Study iOS app here. The fact that Olive Tree is cross-platform makes it appealing to many. Though the desktop app is well-designed, I would like to see a future update where you can create a saved workspace with multiple resources open in various tabs and windows. That, I think, would take the app to the next level.
But everything is here to help you work through NICOT in a way that you couldn’t in print. There are a couple of options (one free and one paid) for Hebrew Bibles, too, if you want to use NICOT in tandem with the original language. (NICOT uses transliterated Hebrew.)
NICOT volumes consistently top the charts of the Best Commentaries site. Preachers and professors, parishioners and pupils will all find much to mine here, as they seek to better understanding the Old Testament and to more faithfully love the God whose goodness its pages proclaim.
Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is the pastor of a great church in a seaside community near Boston, a youth ministry consultant, a husband and father, and a follower of Jesus. At his blog Words on the Word he records his thoughts on the Bible (particularly as written in Greek and Hebrew), books about the Bible, pastoring, leading worship, parenting, youth ministry, music, the Church, and more. Read more about Abram here.
*Thanks to Olive Tree for the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), given to me for this blog review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review.You can find the product here. For a little while longer, it’s $349.99 for the series, which is 50% off its regular price.
By Guest Blogger: Mitch Claborn
Just the other day, I completed a year long Bible reading plan, using the Bible Study App from Olive Tree. For this trip through the Bible, I used the M’Cheyne reading plan. Each day, there are 4 reading selections. Upon completion of the plan, one has read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. Here are some of my thoughts as I look back on my year-long journey through God’s Word.
God’s Word is Consistent
Some people don’t or won’t read the Bible because they claim that it is inconsistent. These are people who have never read through the Bible completely, or who take small passages completely out of context in order to support their claim.
The truth is that God’s Word, expressed in written form in the Bible, is wonderfully, marvelously consistent. From start to finish it is a story of God’s love for humanity. Throughout the story, mankind rejects God again and again yet His love for us never fades nor falters, never dwindles nor diminishes.
Again and again in the Old Testament, God sent prophets to try to talk some sense into His people. In most cases the prophets were ignored, or even persecuted and killed, but God never stopped trying to get Israel’s attention. (See 2 Chronicles 36:15 – 16.)
Finally, when the time was just right, God sent His son Jesus. The Law, with its system of ritual and sacrifice was inadequate for salvation, but Christ was the perfect substitute. Christ’s coming to earth, His death on the cross for us and subsequent resurrection from the dead remain the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. One simply cannot read through the Bible without seeing God’s love in action, demonstrated time and time again.
A Process, Not a Task
There was a point in this past year, about midway through the reading plan, where I started treating the reading as a task to be completed. For a while, I started reading two days’ assignments every morning, so that I could finish sooner. The Holy Spirit was quick to point out the error in my thinking.
Reading the Bible should be a process to experience, not a task to complete. It it the process of reading God’s Word that is valuable, not the completion of the book as if it were simply a novel or a historical piece. The value is in the journey, not the destination. I will never be finished reading the Bible. This is an especially difficult lesson for me to learn, as I am a very task oriented person, but I’m getting there.
Daily Reading is Crucial
In the middle of Job’s excruciating trials, he didn’t fail to place a high value on God’s word. Job 23:12b I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. For a Believer, God’s word is spiritual sustenance. It is absolutely crucial for Christians to feed every day on the wisdom found in the Bible, to absorb into our minds and our hearts the truths that await us there. Reading God’s Word should be as much of a part of our daily routines as eating breakfast (or whatever meal it is that you never do without).
Knowing That I Don’t Know
As I read God’s word, I constantly discover things that I’ve never noticed before, even in passages that I’ve read many times before. Grasping a previously unknown truth brings a joy like no other.
This in no way implies that I understood everything I read as I went through the Bible this past year. There are many places that I read through more than once trying to understand just what was going on, and some of them are still a mystery to me. This might seem like failure to some, but I consider it a blessing. The more I read and understand about God’s Word, the more I discover that I don’t know. I’m perfectly OK with this. On my next trip through the Bible I’ll understand more and find yet more that I don’t yet understand. Comprehension of God’s Word is a continual, ongoing process.
More Bible reading. And after that, still more reading and studying of God’s Word. I plan to go though some of Olive Tree’s shorter reading plans, starting with “14 Days on Love”, and then start up another long term plan, probably Prof. Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System.
Keep on reading!
I am an IT nerd by trade, a husband of one, father of four and grandfather of six. I drink decaf coffee and work in various ministries, in and outside of the church. You may find more of my writing on my blog: http://www.mitchclaborn.com/ or follow me on Twitter @MitchClaborn.
Guest Blogger: Tom Possin
As a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question. Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second. Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.
The Two Travelers and the Farmer
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”
“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.
Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.
Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.
“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”
“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
-North American Folk Tale (Source uncertain)
This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak. We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood. To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.
After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.
The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:
- Observation – What the text actually says.
- Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.
- Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?
Text first, original audience second, our perspective last. The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.
Tom Possin is the Director of the School of Biblical Studies at Youth with a Mission of Montana – Lakeside. He has been a missionary with Youth with a Mission since 1991 and taught the inductive bible study with the School of Biblical Studies since 2002.
From Guest Blogger: Andy Deane, author of Learn to Study the Bible
Studying the Scriptures is supposed to be exciting! That’s why King David tells us in Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Like me, I hope that you have found this verse to be true. Maybe, like me, you have also discovered that having plain honey multiple times a day can get repetitive. I’m not saying that God’s word becomes boring over time. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I love that God’s word is so diverse and continues to excite and bless the reader taste after taste. The Scriptures are not to blame if we lose our taste for them. The Bible is designed to be a continual blessing to the believer. But believers may sometimes need to mix up how they study the Scriptures to make sure to avoid the ruts that their method of extracting the honey can bring about. Sometimes when we use the same approach to studying each and every day, the approach can become repetitive. It’s not God’s word that needs new spice, it’s the method of study that needs variety. That is why I wrote Learn to Study the Bible. With forty different ways to study the Scriptures, you always have a fresh way to prepare and digest your daily manna from heaven.
I’d like to share briefly the three ways that I personally enjoy studying the Bible.
FAVORITE VERSE BIBLE STUDY METHOD:
To start, please consider buying a new Bible to use with this method, or at least a new color highlighter. Begin by reading one to four chapters of the Bible a day. Remember that reading one chapter a day will get you through the entire New Testament in a year with one hundred make up days for when you miss a day of reading. Four chapters a day will get you through the entire Bible in a year in less than 25 minutes of reading time. The key is that each day you underline only one favorite verse from each chapter you read. That’s easy when you are in Leviticus but extremely difficult when you are in Matthew! After you are finished reading the entire book, go back and circle one favorite verse from the verses you underlined in the whole book. Write a few sentences in your Bible about why that is your favorite verse for that book. After you’ve read the whole Bible, you’ll have 1,189 favorite verses underlined (one from each chapter) and 66 all-time favorite verses (one from each book). Think about how valuable that Bible will be to you because of this investment. As you turn to any page in Scripture you will remember which verse spoke to your heart the most. You might even consider putting the date next to the verses you choose to connect them to your daily journal to enhance the experience even more. These will become the verses you choose to memorize since they have meaning to you. It’s a simple but fruitful and personal way to study the Bible.
TRANSLATION COMPARISON BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Not every student of God’s word is going to have the blessing of learning the original biblical languages. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand on the shoulders of scholars who spend their lives steeped in these languages, and this is the beauty of the Translation Comparison Bible Study Method. Every translation of the Bible represents the understanding and choice of dozens of skilled language scholars. When you see a unique word in a verse, you can be sure an important decision was made to choose that word over another word. This method helps you notice the different word selections that scholars made when creating English translations of the Bible. You’ll also learn how to prayerfully meditate on why these words were chosen over other words and how that can impact your understanding of the text. Learn how to compare Bible translations for spiritual growth and profit by reading a chapter from the book for free by visiting this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/167983176/Translation-Comparison-Method.
DAILY BREAD BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Sometimes our biggest problem is rushing our reading of a passage of Scripture. If we simply slow down and chew on God’s word then we would be blessed by it. Slowing down is exactly what the Daily Bread Bible Study Method will force you to do. With this method, you’ll learn techniques that invite you to take the time to make sure you’re squeezing all the meaning you can out of the Scriptures. If you’ve struggled with understanding what your pastor means when he tells you to “meditate on God’s word,” then this method is for you. Read another free chapter from the book by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/16565590/The-Daily-Bread-Bible-Study-Method.
I hope these three Bible study methods that I use personally will bless you as you experiment with them. Remember that however you mix it up, keep it exciting—don’t let your Bible study time become dull or a duty. I hope you’ll enjoy and use one of these methods, but don’t forget that you should never become devoted to the method—only to the Savior to whom the methods lead!
Remember Moses and the burning bush? Remember my question to you, “What’s your burning bush?” Well, I have some news for you: it wasn’t really about Moses, which means it’s not all about you, either. But before you “click” out of here, let me explain the overwhelming affirmation from God in this.
Go all the way back to Genesis 12, and 15. Genesis gives us the original covenant between God and Abram, verses 2-3 “I will make you into a great nation” and, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.
Then later in chapter 15:13-14, God reassures Abram of the covenant and adds this:
Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions”. (NIV)
We usually read the passage about Moses and the burning bush as being Moses’ calling. Where he received his purpose, call and direction from God. Sure, this happened, but is this why it happened? I think not.
Isaiah had a vision of God in His throne room and overheard (I stole that from Oswald Chambers, in “My Utmost For His Highest”.) the call for someone to go on His behalf (Is. 6-1-8). Esther was made queen, but for what purpose (Est. 4:14-16)?
Now look at Exodus 2:23-25.
23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them. (NRSV)
God saw the plight of the Israelites and remembered his covenant with them (through Abram), and for all the nations that would be blessed as a result.
Four hundred years later, enter Moses …Exodus 3.
We too often read and interpret the Bible in an egocentric manner: all about me. Sure, God wants to communicate, lead, and empower us, but He also wants to bless others (even accomplish His greater plans) through us! Moses was called, but it was so that we could be here, part of the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, today.
What’s your burning bush? What could that call mean for the Kingdom of God and all of mankind? This shows overwhelming faith …in us! God believes so much in us, as we respond to him, that he is willing to use us to create HIStory (HIS-story, get it?). Be looking for the little things that keep drawing your attention, and never take for granted the power that God wants to unleash through you. Sure He’s speaking to us. But really, it aint about us at all… it’s SO MUCH BIGGER!
Jeremy West has been on staff with Youth With A Mission since 1995. He teaches and runs training programs globally in the fields of discipleship and leadership development.