Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hamlet and Providence

This is going to be a short post  because I just finished the first draft of a fifteen page paper on Hamlet. The two most quoted works in the English language are The Bible and Shakespeare. The irony is that Shakespeare himself quoted and alluded to scripture often. I feel quite written out and a bit raw, but I thought I'd share a thought from Hamlet that's strikingly biblical and alludes to Matthew 10:29.  When confronted with his death, Hamlet, believing himself morally justified, gives himself to providence, ready to die if need be.

Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be
not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come:
the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves,
what is’t to leave betimes, let be.
(Shakespeare V.ii.219-223)

I include Kenneth Branagh's poignant performance:

The more horrible tragedy remains, however, for those of us who believe and see Hamlet's actions in a different moral light. Hamlet, though religious, does not know salvation, and though he thinks himself justified, is both a murderer and avenger. He ends his struggle with moral absolutism by comparing himself to Fortinbras, Claudius, Pyrrhus, and his father, all of whom were violent and unjust men. He surrenders himself to rage and blood lust and, once begun, he wills himself on a path of destruction, blindly calling providence his guide, unaware that he remains unjustified. But in this moment, misguided as he is, he seems to glimpse the soveriegnty of God, though not clearly enough to repent of his actions and prevent the death of two whole families and the political destruction of Denmark.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sermon Notes

In keeping with starting with the basics. I thought I'd share about some simple sermon note taking.

For a long time, I was not a note taker during sermons. I preferred to lean forward and try to absorb what was said through concentration. However, many times I encountered sermons that were so full of scripture and so full of developed thought that I felt compelled to begin taking notes. This is still something of a challenge for me because, truth be told, I honestly would prefer to sit still and just watch the Pastor, but I cannot express how much note taking has helped me learn scripture as well as learn about God. It is often easy to miss a small, but valuable biblical point or let a mentioned scripture slide past your attention. Though taking notes can be hard work, and sometimes makes me feel disconnected from the Pastor, since I can't make as much eye contact, I cannot express how much it has helped me learn.

During my first semester at college, I had to take a rather irritating class called Freshman Seminar. Despite the many hoops that needed to be jumped through, I did learn some valuable things about note taking. Your brain actually retains and learns information better if you spread your notes across the page, include spaces and margins, and draw lines and boxes. Grouping and separating information visually, helps the brain classify and encode your notes. Using bullet points, numbers, indentations etc. helps make visually appealing, but more effective notes. I like to draw boxes around the scripture addresses so that I can find them easily and look them up. I've gone through my notes a number of times and retaught myself the sermon by looking at the bullet points and going through the scripture on my own.

The notebook I currently use is a large (7.5 x 10 in) Piccadilly Notebook with plain pages. I like the Piccadilly notebooks for their excellent paper and the fact that they're hardback and include a ribbon and a pocket in the back for storing other notes and miscellaneous items. I also tend to greatly prefer unlined paper for whatever I happen to be writing. The Piccadilly Notebooks may not be as durable as Moleskines (the elastic tends to be weak), but I think they are superior in many other ways (they're cheaper). I'm hoping to keep my sermon notes in these for a long time to come.

As you can see on the right, the size works perfectly when matched with a Cambridge Wide Margin (which I'll post about sometime) as well as a Study Bible.

I've been blessed to be able to reread sermons that have convicted me and touched my heart. I'll leave you with my sermon notes from a sermon that shocked me and that I've reread multiple times since I heard it. "You're Dead" preached by Pastor Jim Gay.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writing All Over the Inside of Your Bible

The end of the semester (and end of college) madness is upon me. I will also be speaking three times in the next three days (during one of these times I will be witnessing to a roomful of professors, and I would appreciate any prayers), so this post is going to be short, sweet and a little more personal.

One of the nice things about carrying a cheap Bible is that you don't have to be afraid to write all over the inside. I've gotten into the habit of writing down prayers, especially when I'm in public or when I'm in earshot of someone and feel the need to keep things in the prayer closet. I'm getting ready to graduate, which is a mixed experience. The campus ministry has been my life for three and a half years and I'm passionate about its future. I recently found the need to pray, but I was in earshot of someone and so I wrote it down on the only thing available at the time: the inside of my ESV Pew Bible. I was emotional and made the decision without thinking about it, but it seemed oddly appropriate.

 I look back at what I wrote now and realize what a pathetic, helpless child I am, and how much I need God. Reading prayers that I've written in times of stress or emotional duress is a humbling experience that makes me love God more and more for being someone I can come and cry out to. If you have a cheap Bible or don't use the notes pages in the back, think about writing out a prayer sometime. Now that I've taken the first step, I'll probably fill up the inside of the cover and the separating pages. I'm a very private person, and so sharing my prayer life with the internet is a bit of a stretch for me; I would ask that you not peruse the pictures too closely or try to decipher much of my stressed out all caps scrawl.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

ESV Study Bible-Notebook Study

It's often good to add a project to our normal Bible reading routine, perhaps including a commentary, book or study aid. Last summer I made use of my ESV Study Bible and coupled it with a Piccadilly Leatherlook notebook both of which were gifts I had received for the previous Christmas. The project was simply to take informed but personally insightful notes on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

The ESV Study Bible has a large number of advocates and there are reviews all over the internet detailing just how wonderful it is. I will say that as someone who remains generally suspicious of Study Bibles that I love the ESV Study Bible. Its notes, maps, introductions, definitions, study notes and plethora of other materials are study aids, as they should be. What I love so much about the ESV Study Bible is that its aids are highly informative rather than highly interpretive. You can check out a number of introductory (meaning advertisement) videos here.

For those of you who have not yet been introduced to what is probably the most comprehensive Study Bible ever made, I will post some pics below. You can click on the picture of the back of the box above to read a brief description of the features. I own the Black TruTone edition.

The other material part of the project is the Piccadilly Leatherlook Journal with the word FAITH across the front. It seems that this notebook has been discontinued by Piccadilly, a Moleskine competitor. The notebook features thick, rich cream colored paper which is luxuriously lined on only one side of the page and features two ribbons. It does have a sewn binding and the cover is imitation leather and quite flexible.

On the negative side this notebook does not lie flat on the table--at all. In fact, one of the reasons I used it for this project was because you almost need a heavy book like the ESV SB to hold the left side of the notebook down while you write on the right side. On top of that the sheer impracticality of the line spacing, margins and use of only one side of the page, joined with the word FAITH on the front and the two ribbons makes it almost seem like a prestige item: as if to say, "Look at me, I'm taking notes. I'm spiritual." This is of course ridiculous, we take notes because we are foolish and unskilled in the wisdom of God and need to put forth effort to interact with it.

The project itself is very straightforward, but I thought it would be good to start with basics. I simply determined to take thorough notes on the Gospels, breaking the verses into sections and writing notes that were informed by the ESV SB tools, but not dominated or heavily influenced by them (often what I wrote had nothing to do with the notes at all). This forces you to respond to what you read. You must observe and analyze in order to create a note. Many times what I wrote was somewhat obvious, but that's okay because the goal is to respond regardless and let yourself be surprised by how the Holy Spirit enlightens your understanding.

Taking your own study notes forces you to do your own study, to pray about verses and ask God what they mean. It's a good rule to force yourself to write about portions you don't understand, even to do research and come back and write down what you find. However, I like to always take scripture to God in prayer before I go to some other materials to discover the interpretation. It's rewarding to hear and learn directly from God. Matthew 11:29

One of the things I learned during this study is that much of the healing that takes place in the Gospels are examples of intercession. Numerous examples show an individual or group literally bringing someone sick or possessed to Jesus for healing. In these instances the sick themselves do not ask for healing but someone else on behalf of the sick. The sick themselves do not make a statement of faith or belief in Jesus' power to heal, but the person who brought them. In the same way we should bring people to Jesus spiritually. We should ask God for healing (be it physical, emotional, spiritual) on their behalf, and we should ask in our faith for them. This is a definition intercession: to touch someone in prayer with one hand and touch Jesus with the other. There are many powerful accounts of men, women and entire cities obtaining healing on behalf of the infirm by their personal expression of desire and faith for those people. Matthew 9:18, Matthew 14:34-36 and Matthew 15:21-28 are only three of a vast number of examples in which people came to Jesus and implored Him on behalf of someone else. These are examples for us in prayer. Though we are not able to physically approach Jesus, we have even more power to approach the throne of grace and ask for others because we love and obey Him: John 14:13.

Simple projects like these are the bread and butter of Bible study. Simply grabbing a notebook and jotting down simple notes (or long complicated thoughts) can be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth within His word. It makes a difference to do more than just read but to participate. It engages our mind and heart in an analytical, synthesizing, creative and spiritual process. It's also a step of faith because as you set pen down to paper you are telling God that you believe that He will give you something to write and reveal new truth and understanding to you that will make the effort worth it. Such an attitude allows God to bless you.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Little More About Bible Reading Project

As the introductory post describes, this blog is dedicated to the study of God's word, and I want to make sure it stays that way. In committing to that vision, I'd like to outline some basic organizational structure to help keep me as the author responsible to you, the reader. My goal is to discover new and creative ways to interact with God through His word and inspire others to the same discovery. I do not want this to be a journal or a platform or pulpit for my own thoughts, though I do intend to occasionally share the fruits of study. My hope for this blog is only to help keep the passion and fire for the Bible alive through constant and inventive interaction that inspires learning and more importantly interaction with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.


I hope to post 2-3 times per week, with one large "Project" post featuring a pure interaction with the text of the Bible surrounded by "side-dish" posts featuring interesting topics surrounding that interaction. I will try to post the longer "Project Posts" on the weekends and keep the smaller posts on weekdays.


I was raised in a family that clips coupons and uses each tea bag twice. I live in a wealthy country and am part of a wealthy culture but I hold to a firm personal conviction that possessions clutter our lives and often waste our resources, when they could be better used to further God's kingdom. I struggle to obey Jesus' command in Matthew 6:19-21 . I intend to put my treasure where my heart is and invest in eternity. This may limit the number of different (or expensive) Bibles you see on this blog. Many of them were gifts, and I only have one real quality bound Bible, which I recently purchased and hope will last me my lifetime. I operate under a personal conviction to limit and decrease the number of possessions I currently have, and moving in that direction means certain sacrifices. 


I covet your participation. It is rewarding to know that people actually read what I write. Though I have benefited greatly from this blog already in the opportunity to constantly think about innovating my Bible study, I hope that God uses this to aid others in their Bible study as well. There are a few simple ways you can encourage me and help me maintain a better blog.

1. Subscribe and/or Follow. This delivers the newest posts to your email or your Google Reader, and lets me know that people are actually interested and reading.

2. Vote on the Poll. I intend to keep a (rotating) poll up and running on the left of the posts, by counting the votes I know roughly how many people are participating rather than just browsing (though that's okay too). 

3. Send me a message on the Chat Box. The Chat Box is on the left and doesn't require you to sign up for anything. If you have something to say that doesn't relate to a specific post, you can post it there and give me a chance to respond to you instantly.

4. Write a comment on a post. I recently realized that comments were not working, and I remedied the situation. If you like a post or have any feedback, click on the post title and then write a comment on the bottom of the page or click on the "comments" label below the title and let me know, so I can learn what is most helpful or interesting to readers.

5. Email me. You can email me at I would love to hear feedback of any kind, and if you send me a picture of your marked up Bible and/or notes etc. and a short description I'd be glad to post it.

I hope this blog is a blessing. I have a long list of ideas for posts, so there's definitely more to come. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Adding Ribbons to My ESV Pew Bible

As one of my previous posts suggested, I was intrigued by Matthew Blair's project on The Foolish Galatian, detailing how to add ribbons to your Bible. Seeing as my Pew Bible came without ribbons, I decided to forgo my quaint collection of homemade bookmarks and add some ribbons to my Bible. I'm not going to put step-by-step instructions here since Matt has already done that; I'll just detail some of the unique aspects of my project. So run over and check out his fantastic step-by-step instructions.
I gathered some ribbons from my mother's sowing kit, a sharp knife and some Gorilla Glue since I'm on a shoestring and can't go out and buy 5 minute epoxy.

As you can see on the left, the Pew Bible's binding is actually glued to the cover. Usually there's a space between the cover and the actual block of pages which are sewn or glued together (glued in my cheap Bible). Because of this, I had to make an incision and cut the cover away from the binding in order to make a place for my ribbons. If you have to do this be extremely careful. Use a very sharp knife because any tearing or pulling will harm either the cover or the binding, but additionally, be gentle because if you are using a sharp knife any small slip will create an incision in the cover.

As you can see below, I then pried the cover away from the binding with a pencil.

The rest of the project went much the same as Matt's.  I applied a small portion of glue to the ribbons and placed them inside the space, spacing them evenly apart. I placed glue on both sides of the ribbons in order to glue the cover back in place. I had to use an even smaller amount of glue than Matt because Gorilla Glue expands 3-4 times. After that I pressed the spine with my Riverside Complete Works of William Shakespeare (both hefty and expendable, only worldly wisdom there, but I include a link to buy it below just in case you're that serious about duplicating the project). The results are below!

Here is the final product in all its home applied, penny pinching glory. Why do I need three ribbons, especially in such a cheap Bible? Well I don't need them per se, but it makes keeping my place a lot easier, and I like to stay in three or four places at once. So, one ribbon for the Old Testament (deep blue), one for the New Testament (silver gray), and one for wherever I need to be besides (lavender). I'm currently using the purple to mark my place for a small group where we read the psalms before praying together. Besides all that, it's worth it for the pure aesthetic value. It makes my Pew Bible more than just a Pew Bible. This method works on plenty of more expensive Bibles, just check out Foolish Galatian or Google the project to see the results of others' work.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Memorizing the Ten Commandments and The Beatitudes with Inspiks

"The Beatitudes...should be attitudes" is the common quip. They are one of the most quoted portions of scripture, and I should be living out these "attitudes" every day. They should define me; they should describe my heart on this earth. In spite of all this, I found myself struggling to paraphrase them all.

The Ten Commandments are much the same. God has asked me to love Him with obedience, I but when asked a few months ago to list the Ten Commandments I struggled to recite them while counting on my fingers. Sunday School hadn't stuck like I thought it had.

I want to know these words and hide them in my heart and let them change me. a Christian Graphic Design website has created a beautiful set of wallpapers featuring both the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments. They are free to download. I'm using them to memorize these crucial pieces of God's word.

Just set them as your desktop background (you can rotate them if you have Windows 7) and read and memorize every time you approach your computer. You can download both sets of wallpapers here.

Inspiks also features professional quality sermon art, church graphics, program and series logos, website graphics, and just about every kind of Christian graphic you can think of, all for free under the creative commons licensing.

They feature a number of wallpapers and graphics that can help memorization of individual scriptures. Keeping scripture around us and applying our mind and heart to it, can turn aesthetics such as desktop backgrounds into a way to keep the light on our path. I'll leave you with one of the Beattitudes that has given me the most hope in my Christian life: as rendered by Inspiks.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gideon Pocket NT (NKJV)

In the midst of different methods of Bible study, and moving through the Bible at an even pace, it's often good to take some time to remain in a few key passages in order to study, memorize and get the word into your heart. I spend every morning rereading and memorizing certain passages that I want to be in my mind and heart. The Bible I use for this is a small, compact Gideon New Testament NKJV, which I carry with me everywhere.

As you can see it's not pretty. A current Gideon NT should look more like this:

However, after carrying it around in my pocket for two years in rain, snow, mud, construction etc. subjected to daily perusal, the green (glorified cardboard) cover became ripped and ratty. I impulsively "rebound" it with Gaffer's Tape (a strong cloth-like tape, the strongest tape I've ever come across: check it out here). Since then it has held up decently, but it still takes a heavy beating and I may rebind it with imitation leather at some point and post the project here.

Having a New Testament in my pocket constantly has been a fantastic asset. There are many times when I'm stuck in waiting rooms or some such situation and I can whip out my Bible and study the word. There have been numerous times when I needed it for evangelical opportunities and Bible discussions. Theological discussions often arise during car rides, hikes etc. when many don't have access to a Bible, which often leads to argument and a non-biblical discussion. Carrying a pocket NT changes all that and ensures that you always have your sword with you.

A pocket NT works as an evangelical tool, and if you carry a Gideon Bible, then it cost you nothing and you can give it away freely to anyone who might take it. I've used my NT a number of times to talk to unbelievers, and if a friend ever needs a Bible, you have an extra copy to use or loan out. Additionally, it's a lot easier to memorize scripture when you have easy access to it 24/7. I highly recommend carrying one. Members of the Gideons International hand them out regularly at the campus I attend (My info says I'm a graduate but not for a couple more weeks), and you should be able to find a way to contact the Gideons through your local fellowship.

As you can see I highlight and underline (a little sloppily) in this bible and use post-it flags. This is one of my daily reading portions: Ephesians 1:17-2:10, which I am trying to memorize. I marked the progression of Paul's identification of us with Christ. Paul describes how Jesus was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God, and then says AND YOU, going on to describe how we are crucified with Christ, raised with Christ and seated with Christ at the right hand of God. I wanted to track that statement and keep reminding myself that Christ has exchanged His overcoming life for mine, giving me a place in Him at the right hand of the Father. I was alerted to this portion in a sermon by Paris Reidhead (Victory Part 1 and Victory Part 2 over at

The portions I currently read and study everyday in the NKJV Pocket NT are:

Psalms 130
Psalms 101:1-4
Psalms 51:10-12
Revelation 12:11
James 4:6-10
Romans 6:1-14
Romans 8:1-4 (I hope to expand this and memorize the chapter)
Ephesians 1:17-2:10
Ephesians 6:10-18

in that order. How's the memorization going?...Well I'm trying. I've heard it said that it's easier to memorize and retain a chapter than an individual verse. We'll see. I have been greatly blessed by searching my heart with these words every morning, and God has given me rich opportunities to use my pocket NT for His glory.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Resurrection Day!

1 Corinthians 15:55-58
 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
-King James Version

 Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
   Who got the last word, oh, Death? 
   Oh, Death, who's afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.
-The Message

Happy Easter! I thought I would leave you with these scriptures and one of the books on my shelf copyright 1966: A nice red Methodist Hymnal I picked up at a book sale, open to one of my favorite hymns: Low in the Grave He Lay (or Up From The Grave He Arose). I always feel that this one doesn't show up enough, especially since many fellowships don't sing hymns regularly. I once heard a sermon recording (courtesy of of Leonard Ravenhill (author of Why Revival Tarries and other classics) urging the organ player to "really crack the ceiling on the chorus." It included his brilliant rendition of the classic hymn as he belted into the lapel mic. 

O Magnify the Lord with me let us exalt His name together! He is risen Halellujah! 

Jesus rose from the dead, come on get out of your bed! - Keith Green

-Robert Lowry 1826-1899

Bookend Pics were found at


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bible Project Philosophy

I just read this phenomenal post over at The Foolish Galatian, and I thought I would post it here as an example of exactly the kind of philosophy that lies behind this blog. I hope to take up a number of the projects he describes, and I am intrigued by the ribbon-adding project. Perhaps I will find myself applying ribbons to my ESV Pew Bible and Amplified.

ESV Pew Bible: Highlighting and "Connecting the Dots"

My newest Bible reading project started when the English Standard Version Pew and Worship Bible I ordered arrived in the mail. This cheap hardcover Bible far exceeded my expectations.

I chose the ESV pew Bible because I already had a project in mind. For a year or two now I have been highlighting my Bible with multiple colors, each keyed to a different topic. Pew Bibles have thicker pages, which allows less bleed through when highlighting and writing. This Bible cost between $10 and $15, but still has a quality binding, lovely text block and attractive cover.

Contrary to notebooks etc. thick Bible paper is much cheaper than thin paper. Though for most of my purposes thick paper is preferable due to the amount of writing and highlighting I like to inflict upon the pages.  The text block of the pew Bible is paragraphed with double columns, and allows some margin space at the bottom for brief notes, when the translation notes don't interfere. The spine, though glued, seems quite durable and shows no sign of buckling, and it allows the Bible to lay flat on a table, always important. My only disappointment is the lack of concordance, which makes this Bible less than ideal for study and reference work, but with Biblegateway on the web, I shouldn't be lost for long.

The ESV is without a doubt my favorite modern translation and may be my favorite translation of the Hebrew or Old Testament. I lean towards more literal, word for word translations and the ESV's connection to the King James is attractive to me. It is also apparent that Crossway (the ESV's publisher) has made a number of good publishing decisions and continues to produce quality editions. Many of my Bible projects involve the ESV, the chart below from Evangelical Bible shows the ESV's place amongst the translations.

You can find out more about the ESV at

This specific project involves highlighting individual verses according to Holiness, Prayer/Intercession, Humility/Weakness, Love and Special Interest, as well as underlining and connecting key words, phrases or concepts.

As you can see the beginning of the Gospel of John has been highlighted in blue because I consider it one of the most powerful and beautiful passages in all of scripture. Verse 5 "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not over come it," is surrounded in orange because the verse continues a dichotomy between light and darkness that began with God's creation of light in Genesis 1. Genesis 1:4 states, "And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness." This separation immediately reveals the holiness of God and His continuing action, which separates light from darkness not only in the physical sense but also in our lives as He separates us from Spiritual darkness and brings us into the light. Our Father separates us from the darkness of sin and the world to make us a unique, peculiar and holy people set apart for Him.

As you can see, I have also used a small plastic ruler to under line and box in the word "light," connecting the phrases through the passage and tracing the image through the text because I am also using this project to trace the dichotomy and separation of light and darkness and its relation to the gospel message.

Now, some of you Bible aficionados may be enraged, as you see how I have disgraced the page with wet highlighters and a cruel ballpoint pen, and I admit that I showed little mercy in applying my classifications to the page, but let's take a look at the back of this page and see exactly what damage was done.

That's right, the underlining is virtually invisible from the back of the page and the highlighter barely gives a colored shadow to the text. How did this miracle happen? I insist I used nothing but ordinary Bic Brite Liners and a Bic Round Stic ballpoint pen. The pages are just that good, and with a gentle touch, this Bible is not ruined, wrinkled or damaged in any way. And if you think my method is ugly take a look at the comparison to my Amplified Bible (which I have read and highlighted cover-to-cover and will probably be an upcoming post.)

Highlighting creates a colorful, perhaps gaudy text reminiscent of the Rainbow Bibles that are sometimes sold. My method is very much like creating your own Rainbow Bible. The act of identifying and classifying certain passages with themes and topics engages your analytical brain. Trust me, you'll find yourself realizing things about passages you never did before, such as how Phinehas's execution of the fornicators in Numbers 25 actually relates to intercession.

All you need for this project is a Bible (preferably a pew Bible or a cheap version with thick pages) five color highlighters a pen and a small plastic ruler. This project simply consists of reading the entire Bible cover to cover with those five concepts in mind, stopping along the way to underline, connect words and phrases and perhaps jot notes regarding new insights. This helps trace subjects through the Bible and give a holistic sense of a concept like holiness.

I originally started this project to focus on humility. "God opposes the proud but gives graces to the humble" (Prov 3:34 and James 4:6). Humility is the key to recieving grace, only the weak and humble will find Christ's grace truly sufficient in all areas of their lives. I found myself surrounded by failure and besetting sin, until I began to truly humble myself before the Lord. I continue to humble myself and confess my weakness daily, and I hope to keep humility in focus as I study the Word.