Bible Study Helps: What books should you have on hand?

Our Big Word Bible Studies run very much like a small group. It’s not a class with a teacher lecturing, but  rather a joint effort of exploration through Scripture. Yes, I provide the guides, but our meetings progress like a discussion. We share, we pray, we think, we learn.

At some point of each season, however, the conversation will stop. The people in my living room will look at me and ask: “So, what’s the answer?”

I don’t always have one.

I write the studies to get you thinking. Sometimes they’ll be enough for you for now. Sometimes, though, they’ll leave you wanting more. This is intentional. I want you to fall in love with God and His Word, so much so that any study you use will not be enough — be it one of mine, Beth Moore’s, Kay Arthur’s, John MacArthur’s or anyone else’s.

The natural next question:

Where do you go when the study in your hands isn’t enough?

Here are few references I recommend having on hand.

bible atlasBible Atlas & Companion (Barbour Publishing, 2008) : You can get this for less than $10 online, but I found it at my local Christian bookstore for the bargain price of $5.95.

This book features 75 full-color maps (built from NASA imagery — la dee da!) and over 50 photographs and illustrations. The reason I like this book over other Bible atlases is its organization. Well, and I’m a visual person, so I love the quality and the abundance of color. It’s an attractive book and it’s tremendously user-friendly. Organized chronologically, the book makes it easy to find what maps, landmarks and artifacts are relevant to the part of the Bible you’re currently studying. I used this extensively with our in-home group while we studied Judges and 1 Samuel. This week we pulled it out to view a map of the battle of Gibeon and even saw a photo of the cistern there, as it looks today.

This book is available both in softcover and electronic formats.

whos whoThe Complete Who’s Who in the Bible, edited by Paul D. Gardner (Zondervan, 2001) : I have an older edition of this book. Mine is from 1995. I cannot speak to the updated version, but this volume is amazing. I have yet to find someone listed by name in the Bible that isn’t included in this book. It’s organized like a dictionary with all the characters listed alphabetically. Each entry includes a short (sometimes longer) bio with Scripture references, cultural context, known genealogy and highlights of accomplishments or notoriety.

This book is currently available (the newest edition) in hardcover only. I actually prefer that for my reference books. An e-version is being released, however, in about two weeks. You can pre-order it now via Christianbook.com.

women of the bibleWomen of the Bible by Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda (Zondervan, 2010) : This is actually a 52-week devotional. It spends one “week” dissecting one of fifty-two women from Scripture. It’s not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it definitely hits the big players and in a big way.

Characters are organized chronologically. Every chapter includes these sections, divided into daily assignments for Monday through Friday:

  • Her Story: a portrait of her life
  • Her Life and Times: background information and cultural details
  • Her Legacy in Scripture: a short study of her presence in the Bible and how it applies to us today
  • Her Promise: Bible promises that apply to her life (and ours)
  • Her Legacy of Prayer: tips for praying in light of her story

Other features I appreciate: You can search by character name or by theme (Friendship, Illness, Mothering, Witchcraft, etc.) I like that they provide the meanings behind names and traditions. The book is intended as a devotional, but I find it to be a great resource.

be restoredGood commentaries are always helpful. There are many that I reference, but Warren Wiersbe’s books always rank among my favorites. For 2 Samuel, that book is Be Restored (David C. Cook, 2010).

This commentary actually covers both 2 Samuel AND 1 Chronicles. It is exhaustive in its information, contextual, historical, and cultural. I love how he weaves so much of the New Testament into the study. Once in a while his opinions come off a bit preachy, but the tone is so conversation and the text so saturated with information that it’s easy to overlook the minor points where we disagree.

These books (There 50 books in the “Be” series.) also include questions for reflection and personal application at the end of each chapter.

Your Turn: What are your must-have Bible study resources?

Talk to me!

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