Free Book on Jerusalem

In doing a recent series of lessons on the city of Jerusalem throughout the Bible, I cast a wide net to find resources of a historical, geographical, and archeological nature concerning this great city in the Old and New Testaments. One very valuable resource has been a free (for download) 250 page book written by Galyn Wiemers from Entitled, "Jerusalem: History, Archeology and Apologetic Proof of Scripture," it contains over 500 photos, maps and charts along with much explanatory text. Most or all the photos seem to have been taken by Mr. Wiemers during visits to Jerusalem. In addition to the free book, he has made available most/all the photos for download in color from his website as well. He also has provided over 270 Old Testament maps for free download. He has granted permission for the use of this material when used in Bible teaching. Here are the links to get these great resources:

Jerusalem book and photos link

270+ maps for Old Testament

Be sure to look around his website for four additional free books, Bible study materials, hundreds of audio lessons, and more. Mr. Wiemers is a teacher and minister in the Evangelical Free Church, so will no doubt differ from me in his understanding of some points of Scripture. However, overall I am very impressed with his materials.

Books That Changed My Thinking (1)

As I look back over 40+ years of Bible based education and training, and then studying and ministry, there are a few books that have had a profound effect on my thinking. This is the first of several posts on some of those books, and why they impacted me.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell. This was not the first book on Christian evidences I bought, but it was the most comprehensive and logically compelling. The foundational tenets of the Christian faith are rooted in history. While some appeal to “science” as if it is the be all and answer to all, much of what we all know and/or believe is rooted not in science (a fairly recent invention as we know it), but in history – evidences, eyewitnesses, documents, monuments, etc. Mr. McDowell has continued to expand and refine his writings in this area, and many other very good ones exist as well. But this title was instrumental in making me re-think what I had accepted on faith as a child and then had heard denied (without evidence) in university philosophy and religion classes.

The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict is the updated and expanded version of this very impactful text. In a world where many consider truth relative and have no good reason for believing what(ever) they do believe, this approach to Christian truths is foundational!

Creating a Teaching Series, Part III

Having a theme and resources for my series, now came the execution. There was no shortcut for reading, research, note-taking and “assembling” all my material into individual lessons. Ultimately well over 100 hours of research, study and organizing took place. The final series, which I entitled “A Shadow of Good Things to Come,” consisted of 27 separate lessons, each delivered during the Sunday morning service at the Tanglewood Church of Christ in Odessa, Texas.

Here is how I ultimately laid out the series:

        1 Introductory Lesson
        6 Lessons on Jesus in Prophecy
        2 Lessons on Jesus in Types
        3 Lessons on Jesus and the Sacrificial System
        3 Lessons on Jesus as Priest
        7 Lessons on Jesus in the Holy Days of Israel
        2 Lessons on Jesus in the Tabernacle
                   3 Lessons in Drawing Conclusions

If you still have an interest in this topic:

  • Here is a free Adobe Acrobat file containing the titles of the 27 lessons and a brief summary of each. Click here to open and download.
  • The 7 lessons on “Jesus in the Holy Days of Israel” are available as a set of 4 audio CDs. E-mail me for price.

(Some have asked for copies of my actual outlines. At the present time I do not have those in a downloadable form. I do hope in the future to make them available on this website.)

Article last updated August 25, 2011.

Creating a Teaching Series, Part II

In Part I, I selected a theme and identified some key parts of the teaching series I wanted to present. Now it was time for step two: gathering research resources.

Resources for me come from several sources:

  • My already existing personal library. I do a quick survey of what I have.
  • Input from fellow instructors and teachers. I share my intended subject with a few trusted and experienced co-workers and ask what they would use for resources.
  • Visit the local Christian bookstores (Mardel’s) and Sunset Extension School Bookstore, and online bookstore (Christian Book Distributors). (See my earlier series on Finding Good Books at Bargain Prices.)
  • Take note of reference works quoted or footnoted in the reference works I already have. Continue reading

Creating a Teaching Series – Part I

In late 2006 I wanted to prepare and present an extended series of lessons on the New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament themes — in particular those pointing to Jesus Christ. I chose the title from the three NT passages which refer to the OT as containing shadows of the New (see Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1) — “A Shadow of Good Things to Come.”

Out of this study and presentations came the audio series we have entitled, “Seeing Jesus in the Feasts of Israel,” as well as many other sermons.

Fortunately I kept fairly complete notes documenting my methodology as well as the results on my study and research These three articles will first outline my subject development process, and then the execution and presentation of the study.

First came some brainstorming. As I thought about and examined various NT passages, I could see the various ways the authors connected Jesus to the Old Testament. I began to develop a rough set of ideas of what ought to be included:

  • OT prophecies — Jesus is said to have fulfilled, or been the fulfillment of OT predictions.
  • Sacrificial system — Jesus was the “Lamb of God” and his death was a sacrifice for sin.
  • Priestly system — Jesus in Hebrews and elsewhere is called our High Priest.
  • Holy Days & Holidays — Jesus is called our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), the Firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-26), and our Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:8-9).
  • Clarify concepts and vocabulary — shadow, prophecy, types.
  • Other possible areas

In our next part, I will talk about useful reference works in developing this series.

Article last updated August 19, 2011.

Ask Questions, Seek Answers!

My granddaughter, Natty, is constantly reminding me of one of the most valuable skills a good Bible student can have . . . the willingness to ask questions and seek the answers! At age 7, her favorite questions are, “What’s that?,” “Why?” and, “How come?”

In The Elephant’s Child, by Rudyard Kipling, we have this insightful set of verses entitled, “Six Honest Serving Men:”

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.

But different folk have different views;
I know a person small –
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes –
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

How true it is that we learned much more quickly as children, partly by asking lots of questions and waiting around for the answers. As we have gotten older, we’ve grown busy with other things, and stopped learning! Both in preparing and in teaching lessons from the Bible, we need to be asking questions and seeking the answers… then helping our listeners do the same.

Article last updated August 16, 2011.

Presenting Lessons in a Series

There are times when a single, definitive, and passionate message needs to be delivered from the pulpit for those under my care. However, the majority of the time, a series is in order. This is already true in our Bible classes where a study guide or Bible book provides weekly lessons for a quarter or more. A lesson series provides time and opportunity to explore a book or topic in detail. All that the scriptures say on a given subject can be explored. More detail and background can be presented. The church can be led to see the cohesive nature of revelation and its grace and truth for us.

A series also gives me a structure and direction for my preaching. I usually know what I will be speaking about for weeks to come. I am a “bi-vocational” preacher – a new word for me! I work Monday thru Friday at the Sunset International Bible Institute; I preach and shepherd at the Tanglewood Church of Christ every weekend. Preaching in series makes it less of a challenge to develop my weekly sermons.

Therefore it is my practice to preach almost entirely in series. While not entirely followed, my general plan is to alternate a study from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and then a topical study. At least one series each year focuses specifically on Jesus – perhaps a gospel or his miracles or his teachings. A separate series is always being pursued at the Sunday evening services. Topical studies are usualy 3 to 12 lessons; book studies up 100!

In this series of posts (yes, this is a series as well), I will present and review some of the series I have found most helpful in teaching and feeding the flock at Tanglewood. Gradually I am posting the audio files of these lessons under the FREE RESOURCES section of this website; CDs with the MP3 files are also available for a small charge.

Keep checking back for posts which begin with “Teaching Series.” Perhaps you will find these useful in your teaching ministry as well.

Article last updated August 15, 2011.

“Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts”

Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts, Editors & Major Contributors: J. I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, William White, Jr. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. © Copyright 1995, 1980. Suggested retail about $30.00. (Update: currently out of print at publisher. A few copies are available by calling the Extension School Bookstore at 800-687-2121.)

I consider this reference work one of the most valuable in my library. As we said in our article entitled, “Know the Author’s Setting,” the biblical writers wrote within certain historical, cultural, and linguistic settings. Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts (NIEBF) is a one-volume resource providing many of the background facts which help illuminate and clarify the scripture.

This 746 page book (plus index and maps) was first issued under the title of The Bible Almanac in 1980. NIEBF is the revised and updated version.

NIEBF is different from “Bible handbooks” which take the Bible book by book and briefly outline and provide background. Instead, it approaches the Bible’s background topically. It has 45 chapters on topics such as Bible Chronology, Text and Translations, Pagan Religions, Animals and Insects, Agriculture, Languages and Writing, Geography of Palestine, Worship and Rituals, etc. Such an arrangement allows zeroing in on a specific topic while still getting the broader setting.

While called “Illustrated,” the book is mostly text; most of the photos are less than quarter-page size black and white. Clearly the focus is on the information, not the illustrations. In the Editor’s Preface, J. I. Packer says:

“History is the backbone of the Bible. Prophets’ and apostles’ sermons, with psalmists’ praises, must be slotted into their place in the history, or the organism of Holy Scripture will not work in our minds as it should to bring us knowledge of God. Spine trouble limits what a person’s other limbs can do, and uncertainty about Bible history – by limiting our insight into the rest of Scripture –limits what God’s Word as a whole can do for us. Without some historical study a vast amount of the meaning of Scripture gets lost. Not that a man who has no historical aids to Bible study cannot understand the Word at all; on the contrary, its saving message is spelled out so often and so clearly that only the spiritually blind can miss it. But with historical aids one will understand Scripture much more fully that one could otherwise. This is where Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts will help.”

Let me give some examples of its usefulness from a recent study on the Book of Esther. Here are just a few of the topics illuminated by NIEBF:

  • Get the historical background by reading Chapter 9 on “The Persians.”
  • Chapter 43 (“Outlines of the Books of the Bible”) provides a sensible outline of the book.
  • Learn more about the Feast of Purim from Chapter 27 on “Worship Rituals.
  • Susa is talked about in Chapter 45, “Places of the Bible.”

Any book is only as good as the information it contains. NIEBF treats the biblical text as truth and an accurate record of history. Its editors and contributors are recognized as conservative biblical scholars. Add this book to your library. You will be using it often.

Article updated August 13, 2011

TV – An Overlooked Potential Resource

We recognize the danger inherent in the “one-eyed monster” of television. It seems that few networks and production companies are willing to promote wholesome, family and value affirming programs. And sadDiscovery_Times.jpgly, that may be because even those who profess Christian faith do not support it! But there is programming which can be a positive resource for those of us who teach the Bible.

History_Channel.jpgI have found documentary style programs on networks such as History Channel, History International, Discovery Channel, and Discovery Times. Subject to careful weighing of some of the claims and worldviews presented, there are still some good things broadcast.

Here are just a few of the types of shows I have added to my resources:

• Specials on controversial topics such as The DaVinci Code, the James Ossuary, and Mary Magdalene
• Numerous specials about Rome and the Roman emperors
• Various historical presentations on Greece, Babylonia, Persia & Assyria
• A recent one-hour special on Pontius Pilate; another on Herod the Great
• Shows on Masada, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran, Jerusalem, etc.
• Documentaries on the history and teachings of Masonry, Mormonism, Islam, and other religious faiths

The above is just a sampling. Some programs affirm historical Christian views; others provide “the other side” and give us the opportunity to critique and consider the strength or weakness of contrary views. Small clips of some of these can be used in classes or messages. A quotation or reference can be used if a video clip is not appropriate. But the main thing to realize is that these are available right in our own homes, free of charge. Always limit their use consistent with giving proper source credit, and copyright and fair use laws.

A challenge is get recorded programs off your DVD or TiVO into your computer. Several possible solutions can be found by searching the internet using Google or Bing.

Article updated August 11, 2011

“Know the Author’s Setting”

A most basic element of effective Bible study is illustrated well in this drawing taken from Getting More From Your Bible, by Terry Hall. Understanding the history, culture, background, language, and even geography surrounding a biblical author’s writing will make it more likely we will accurately interpret what he has written.

We plan to continue with more articles illustrating and expanding on this basic principle – that an author is always writing within a context. Each biblical writer’s original audience was very aware of that context, and needed little or no explanation from the author. Today, we need to practice “due diligence” and, as much as possible, put ourselves into the same position as the original recipients of the writing.

Here is a non-religious example to illustrate. Looking through some personal papers once belonging to your great grandmother you find a letter. As you scan its contents you notice a number of things. It is addressed to someone whose name you do not recognize named Martha. The date is in the early 1860s. The address is in South Carolina. The contents are a mixture of personal expressions of longing and fondness along with references to war. With the clues referred to we would correctly conclude that the setting was the American Civil War in the South, and this was a letter home from a soldier. Without these basic bits of background (context), much of the real message of the letter would be lost. The same is true of the Scriptures. More to come. . .

(Getting More From Your Bible, by Terry Hall was copyrighted 1984 and published by Victor Books. I have not been able to locate the author to gain his permission to use this drawing. I have kept this book these 20+ years because of its contribution to effective Bible study.)

Article last updated August 10, 2011

Using Matthew’s Gospel as a Sermon Series

“Sundays with Matthew”
A Bible Book as a Sermon Series

“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching,” Luke tells us in Acts 2 about the earliest church. In 2004 I made the commitment at the Tanglewood church in Odessa, Texas to, figuratively speaking, help them sit at the feet of one of Jesus’ disciples. June 6, 2004 I began preaching through the Gospel of Matthew. May 21, 2006 the last message was delivered. Two years, 90+ sermons, and over 55 hours of public exposure to the text – what was the result?

Continue reading

Internet Resources: Handle With Care!

The internet provides an amazing, even dazzling, variety of resources which can be useful for Bible study. However, it is often difficult to discern the theological and foundational beliefs of those behind various websites.

I am starting a series of articles highlighting some of the sites I use regularly. I will try to include the “bias” (not intended in a critical sense) of these sites. Surely we have all learned how to take advantage of the good and filter out that which seems out of sync with our own understanding of God’s Word whether from books, the media or the internet! I expect my readers to do that even with the material I present here; I certainly instruct my weekly congregational audience to compare what I say to the Scriptures.

Here are some of the “red flags,” or danger signs, I look for in printed, verbal and internet based teaching; these would lead me to avoid, or at least use with extreme caution, these resources.

  • Is it advocating some novel or supposed unknown “truth?”
  • Is there any claim, explicit or implied, that this website, ministry or organization is the unique source for truth concerning God’s will, His dealings with mankind, or salvation?
  • Is there any claim that one can only come to true understanding through the help of this person, organization, or material?
  • Is an effort being made to deny or “explain away” seemingly plain statements in Scripture?
  • Is there an effort to insist that some particular teaching(s) are the filter or foundational principles through which all others are to be understood?
  • Are there parts of Scripture teaching that are consistently ignored while implying the teaching that is provided is a comprehensive presentation of God’s will?
  • What is the purpose of the teaching — better understanding. . . or the profit of the teacher or learner? (“God wants you to be rich,” etc.)
  • Is the author, organization, or group claiming “a special revelation” or a unique prophetic gift or “word of wisdom” from God? This would, if true, put them on the same level with inspired men in the Bible.

It is my firm conviction that the Scriptures are God’s revelation. Therefore, it is not hidden or only available to a select few, but rather open to all who desire to understand and know His will. This does not mean there will not be differences, difficulties, and areas of misunderstanding. Like any significant topic of study, there should always be constant growth and advancement in understanding; differences on some points will continue even among serious students and scholars in a discipline.

I hope you will continue together with me in seeking truth and understanding!

Article updated August 5, 2011