Spiritual disciplines are practices which invite us into deeper relationship with God and one another. Through intentional spiritual practices, patterns and rhythms in our daily lives, we can bring ourselves before God to be transformed from the inner depths of our heart and soul. Spiritual Disciplines are the doorway to a deeper, more intimate, walk with God as we create space for God’s grace and love to work within us.
In 2016, CUMC will join United Methodist churches in the Virginia Annual Conference on a spiritual journey to engage in spiritual disciplines as we follow Jesus, who modeled a life of prayer. For more information about practicing spiritual disciplines and to read about the “Spiritual Discipline of the month”, click here.
Bible Study Tools
Everyone should have a good study Bible for individual and group study. In fact, having a study Bible can be wonderfully interesting and educational. A study Bible provides some commentary, usually explaining words and verses and providing historical, geographical, and often, critical context. Since it is so readily available on the same page as the verse being commented upon, the commentary in a Study Bible, even though limited in scope, is extremely useful to the reader. Here are a few of the available Study Bibles in common use:
Wesley Study Bible (NRSV)
As God transforms readers through study, they will be inspired to transform the world. Contributors from across the Wesleyan family join together to help one experience God in fresh ways. The Wesley Study Bible offers easy-to-understand explanations of core terms that cover eternal life, forgiveness, grace, heaven, holiness, justice, and mission. The Bible has extended references to works by John Wesley.
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV (2003)
The NISB uses the New Revised Standard Version as its text base. Also like its competitors, it has excellent scholarly introductions to each book, extensive explanatory notes, background articles, and maps. From time to time, it inserts a “Special Note” among the footnotes that makes an interesting observation on the text to help the reader appreciate the larger issues at play within the Bible as a whole. For instance, at 1 Samuel 2.9 there is a special note that calls attention to two distinct points of view in the Bible about justice/theodicy. These special notes are more information than the reader needs to understand the particular passage at hand (and as such can be easily skipped over because they are slightly indented and set off from the surrounding, more text-specific notes), but they are like little windows opening onto a much wider world…and should not be overlooked. In addition, there are almost 100 brief essays (“Excurses”) on thought-provoking topics like “Sibling Rivalry in Genesis,” “Interpretations of Rahab,” “Suicide,” “Anti-Semitic Interpretations of Isaiah,” and “Responsibility for the Death of Jesus.” Senior editor is Walter J. Harrelson. Software edition on CD-ROM is also available.
The New Oxford Annotated NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha, Third Edition (2001)
Oxford University Press, 2001. Students, professors and general readers alike have relied upon The Oxford Annotated Bible for essential scholarship and guidance to the world of the Bible for nearly four decades. The third edition includes a full index to all of the study material (not just to the annotations), and one that is keyed to page numbers, not to citations. And, to make certain points in the text clearer for the reader, there are approximately 40 in-text, line drawing maps and diagrams.
HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version (1993)
The Harper Collins Study Bible was compiled under the direction of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) who, with the American Academy of Religion (AAR) is one of the most respected academic bodies in the field today. Wayne Meeks, a noted and respected scholar (primarily of New Testament and early Christian era studies) was the senior editor for this edition. Generously annotated throughout, practically every other verse has a footnote. Variants in source texts and translations are highlighted, as are competing traditions of interpretation of the text (and yes, taking the text literally is still an interpretation, and a tradition of interpretation, for which there must be justification in the interpretive framework). Brief essays establishing context, historical background, textual difficulties and transmission history appear at the beginning of each book. This book contains the apocryphal books which some Bibles exclude; these are included and their status explained for those who are unfamiliar with these texts.
NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture, NIV (2005)
Readers who desire a more intimate knowledge of the historical context of the Bible will appreciate the NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Full of informative articles and full-color photographs of places and objects from biblical times, this Bible examines the archaeological record surrounding God’s Word and brings the biblical world to life. Readers’ personal studies will be enriched as they become more informed about the empires, places, and peoples of the ancient world. Features include: * Four-color interior throughout * Bottom-of-page study notes exploring passages that speak on archaeological and cultural facts * Articles (520) covering five main categories: Archaeological Sites, Cultural and Historical Notes, Ancient Peoples and Lands, the Reliability of the Bible, and Ancient Texts and Artifacts * Approximately 500 4-color photographs interspersed throughout * Detailed book introductions that provide basic, at-a-glance information * Detailed charts on pertinent topics * In-text color maps that assist the reader in placing the action – Amazon.com.
A Commentary is a collection of articles written by scholars commenting on the meaning and context of Books and Verses of the Bible, much the same as that provided in a Study Bible, but much broader and deeper in nature. The typical “one-volume” Commentary is over 1000 pages and can provide invaluable insight to the serious Bible student which would otherwise simply not be available. Here are just a few examples:
- The Oxford Bible Commentary
- The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, by Charles Laymon (Abingdon Press)
- HarperCollins Bible Commentary – Revised Edition
In addition to these “one-volume” commentaries, there are numerous commentaries written about specific books or groups of books of the Bible. You can search bibliographies found in Study Bibles and one-volume commentaries, or do a search at the library or on the internet.
Here is a great example of a multi-volume commentary:
New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in 12 Volumes
Abingdon Press. Key features include: The entire Bible (including the Aprocrypha/Deuterocanonical books) in 12 volumes (both NIV and NRSV translations); the biblical text divided into coherent, manageable units; introductions to each book that cover essential historical, socio-cultural, literary, and theological issues; an ecumenical roster of contributors; comprehensive concise, and up-to-date general articles; numerous visual aids such as maps, illustrations, charts, and time lines. Also includes a detailed, critical Commentary providing a close, exegetical reading of the text, and “Reflections” that present a detailed exposition of issues raised in the discussion and dealt with in the Commentary.
A “concise” concordance contains most important key words in a particular version, but not all of the articles, conjunctions, etc. An “exhaustive” concordance contains links to all the words. It allows students to locate even the most obscure verses quickly and easily, and helps them conduct thorough, revealing word studies based on the original Bible languages. Thus it is crucial for scholars to select a Concordance that works with the Bible translation they use. For example, a Concordance written for the NIV will not locate words used exclusively in the KJV, such as “affrighted.” Probably the most famous Concordance is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (KJV). It’s newest version is entitled The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible-21 Century Edition. Other concordances that use the NRSV translation are also available.
Other resources which can make your Bible study easier and more effective include Bible dictionaries and atlases. Most good Study Bibles and Commentaries will cover word meanings and provide maps, but specific reference books can add depth not found elsewhere.