Summer in the Psalms: Introduction

Summer in the Psalms Graphic

There are a handful of questions that many wrestle with on a regular basis…

     How could a good God allow bad things to happen? 

          Why did God create the world if He knew there would be so much suffering? 

               Does God really have a purpose for my life? 

While we may wrestle with questions such as these throughout our lives, there’s one other question that impacts our lives in the most significant way possible: Who is God? 

Fortunately, the Psalms do an excellent job of answering this question, helping us to better understand the character and nature of who God is. The Psalms frequently mention the strength of God. The love of God. The humility of God. The strength of God. The wisdom of God. And much more.  

But how do we find these character traits of God in the Psalms? Well, there are a few key words that often appear right before a statement describing His nature and character. One specific Hebrew word that is used hundreds of times throughout the Psalms is most often translated in English as for, because, surely, or that. When key words such as these appear, we frequently find an answer to the question, “Who is God?” nearby. 

Here are a couple of examples: 

Example: Read Psalm 1 (see v.6) “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.”

Question: Who is God?

Answer: One attribute of God is that He watches over the way of the righteous. 

Example: Read Psalm 3 (see v.5) “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

Question: Who is God?

Answer: One attribute of God is that He sustains me. My strength comes from Him! 

This Scripture Reading Guide (for June, July, August) has been designed to guide you through many of the Psalms throughout the summer. Every day, you will have the opportunity to read just one or two Psalms that will help you answer the question, “Who is God?”

You’ll benefit most by writing down an answer to this simple question every day.

Those who follow the South Ridge Blog will receive an email every day throughout the summer with a link to the Psalm reading for the day.

How many attributes of God will you discover?

What will you learn about God and your ability to connect with Him?

Let’s read the Psalms together, and find out.

 

A Daily Reading will be made available here on the South Ridge Blog from June 1 – August 31, 2018. Those who follow the blog will receive an email every morning with the daily reading. 

What Study Bible is right for me? (2018 Edition)

A few years ago I wrote about of few of the most popular Study Bibles available. However, since then a number of newer or updated Study Bibles have been released. As such, I wanted to share some new insights.

Why use a Study Bible?IMG_1219

The 66 books of the Bible were written thousands of years ago, to people in cultures that are very different than the Western Culture in which we live today. As such, a good Study Bible will help you, the reader, better understand the purpose and meaning of the Biblical text.

Which Study Bible is ‘best’?

This is a ridiculously challenging question to answer. I often respond by saying, “The ‘best’ Bible is the one you’re reading.” But most people who are looking to study God’s Word want more info. than that. They’re looking to invest some money into a Bible that they’ll likely be reading for years and years. So which one is best… for you?

Well, every Study Bible has different features, different scholars, different goals, and in the end, each one provides a different study experience for the reader. Below is a simple breakdown of several options available today. Which one you may choose to read and study with is up to you, but I’ve done my best to offer some recommendations depending on what you think may be most beneficial for you.

Please note that the following list and information is provided in no specific order. Also note that the majority of these Study Bibles are large and heavy. As such, information on digital versions are available at the end of this post.

NLT Study Bible (Translation: New Living Translation)

screen-shot-2018-05-28-at-7-54-14-pm.pngWho is the NLT Study Bible for?The NLT Study Bible is generally a perfect fit for somebody’s first Study Bible. The translation is easy to read and understand, the commentary notes are written in a way that bring clarity to the text, and the book introductions help bring some clarity to who wrote each book and it’s purpose. For those who want to take the extra step of studying some key Greek/Hebrew words, there’s a way to do that as well. The NLT Study Bible may not be the most colorful one available today, but it’s often the one I recommend to most people seeking their first Study Bible.

If you want to have a closer look here’s a sampler that offers additional insights into the NLT Study Bible.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Translation: New International Version)

Who is the NIV Zondervan Study Bible for?

Released in 2015, the NIVZSB is another excellent all around Study Bible that brings additional insight and clarity to the text. I would place it as another excellent option for somebody’s first Study Bible. The commentary notes are a little lengthier than the NLT NIVZSB6Study Bible, and as such it’s quite heavy. Nevertheless, it’s also gorgeous, with a colored font to make headings and commentary notes easier to find, as well as charts and images that really pop.

A few years ago I did a personal study of the Psalms, and the NIVZSB became my go-to resource when looking for a brief summary of the purpose or meaning of each Psalm. All in all, it’s another excellent Study Bible.

If you want to have a closer look, here’s a sampler that offers additional insights into the NIVZSB.

ESV Study Bible (Translation: English Standard Version)

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 7.57.05 PMWho is the ESV Study Bible for?

Personally, I would only recommend the ESV Study Bible to a college graduate and/or somebody who wants to go deeper into the biblical text than the NLTSB or NIVZSB will go. Honestly, that’s pretty high praise for the ESVSB, because the NLTSB and NIVZSB are quite in depth!

But when it comes to the ESV translation, I confess I’m not a fan. While the ESV text does an excellent job of providing a more direct translation of the Greek/Hebrew text than the NLT or NIV, it also has the possibility of making it more challenging to read as the verbiage may come across a bit archaic.

Still, the ESV Study Bible footnotes are regarded as some of the best of the best out there. And on passages where a number of different scholarly views are held, the ESV will often list the 3-4 different views, without telling you which is the ‘right’ one. Finally, the book introductions are probably some of the best that are offered in a Study Bible. It’s likely the heaviest of all the Study Bibles mentioned here, because it’s got A LOT of information provided.

If you’re interested, here’s an intro to the book of Ephesians, that’ll show you the quality of notes and book introductions of the ESV Study Bible.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Translation: New International Version)

Who is the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible for?

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is perfect for the college graduate or History Education major who has a real interest in ancient cultures. While I wouldn’t recommend it to just anybody, it is currently my go-to Study Bible each and every morning. Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 6.52.59 PM

To be clear, the NIVCBSB generally steers clear of theology and notes that answer the question, “What does this text mean?” What it does really well, however, is answer the question, “What did this text mean to the people who first read it?” It’s an important distinction, as we may not often think about the Code of Hammurapi and other cultural laws known to the people in ancient Israel. Nor may we consider the cultural significance of Jonathan giving his tunic to David in 1 Samuel 18. But for those fascinated with ancient culture and/or archaeology and don’t mind reading commentary written in a scholarly manner, the NIVCBSB is excellent.

If you’re interested, here’s a sampler of the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible that includes the full books of Genesis and Matthew. You’ll likely be able to decide very quickly if the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is for you or not.

ESV Archaeology Study Bible (Translation: English Standard Version)

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 8.00.41 PMWho is the ESV Archaeology Study Bible for?

The ESVASB was just released in 2018, and was published by a different publisher than the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, with different scholars contributing. In other words, the ESV Archaeology Study Bible has a slightly different focus than the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. That said, I would still only recommend it to those with a high interest in ancient cultures and/or archaeology.

At this time, I don’t have much to say about it as I’ve only read a few excerpts. That said, the few that I did compare with the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible were similar, but the ESVASB noted some more details on archaeological discoveries that the CBSB didn’t cover. And in other places, the CBSB had more details on the ancient cultures that the ESVASB didn’t cover.

If you’re interested, here’s a sampler of the ESV Archaeology Study Bible that includes the full book of Philippians.

CSB Study Bible (Translation: Christian Standard Bible)Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 7.18.49 PM

Who is the CSB Study Bible for?

The CSBSB is an updated version of what was formerly known as the Holman Christian Standard Bible. It has a number of similarities to the NLTSB, NIVZSB, and ESVSB noted above. Honestly, the biggest difference between these four are the translations used. For those unacquainted with the CSB, it reads very much like the NIV.

Admittedly, one thing the translators of the CSB did well is with the translation of John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son…” The phrase in this way is the best translation of the Greek.

The one thing that most sets apart the CSB Study Bible from some of the others already mentioned is that Greek/Hebrew Word Studies are available throughout the commentary, and the editors really made them stand out. These word studies bring additional clarity to the text without the need to flip to the back of the Study Bible.

If you want to have a closer look, here’s a sampler that offers additional insights into the CSBSB.

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These Bibles are HUGE! Isn’t there a better way?

I’m not going to lie, I read kindle books on my iPad a lot. A lot a lot. Like, almost every day. But over the past five years I’ve slowly moved from reading God’s Word digitally to reading it on paper. There’s just something about reading/studying the Bible distraction free. And distractions come a bit too easily to me when I’m staring at a screen. But I digress…

Almost all of the Study Bibles mentioned above are available digitally. What’s the best way to read them?

  • AVOID Study Bibles on the Kindle app. They’re generally hard to navigate, and will likely cause more frustration than it’s worth.
  • USE an app or software program designed for Bible Study. Olive Tree and Logos are both excellent.

Regarding Olive Tree: Study Bibles often go on sale, and their customer support may be willing to provide it a lower cost. For example, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible has it’s own app (designed by Olive Tree) for $19.99, but the same Study Bible provided as an in-app-purchase runs $29.99. A simple email to customer support will likely land you the IAP for the same price of $19.99, and you can run it all within the same Olive Tree App with additional Study Resources. Olive Tree is also available on Mac/PC, and your resources, highlights, notes will sync between devices.

Regarding Logos: Logos is a premier Bible Study software, with a ridiculous number of resources. If you really want to dive into the Biblical text and have several commentaries, bible dictionaries, word studies, and a ton of additional information, it’s the go-to software program. That said, you get what you pay for, and you’ll be paying a lot for a package on Logos. Still, the software itself is a free download for Mac/PC and the app is free as well. Those who download the app can also receive a free copy of the Faithlife Study Bible, which is yet another excellent resource. Finally, individual books / Study Bibles can be purchased directly from Logos, so buying a large package isn’t necessary. And like Olive Tree, all resources, highlights, and notes will sync between devices.

The main benefit of any software or app is that you can read your preferred translation right next to your preferred Study Bible. So if you want to read the New Living Translation next to the ESV Study Bible notes, you can do that.

What do I use?

Short answer: both

Long answer: I use Olive Tree for basic Bible Reading / Study Bible use (excellent in a Small Group setting or personal reading) and I use Logos for deeper study.

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Have a question about one of these Study Bibles or perhaps another one not mentioned here? Feel free to leave a comment I’ll do my best to answer!

Cultivating a Life Without Shame: Day 5

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     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 119

  • What does Psalm 119 teach about the greatness of the Word of God? 
  • What is the most memorable lesson you’ve learned about the dangers of shame this week? 
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week?
  • Take 10 minutes to write out your own prayer to God today. 

 

Note: A “Summer in the Psalms” Reading Guide will be available every day through June, July & August. Stay tuned! 

Cultivating a Life Without Shame: Day 4

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     Day 4: Shame Cannot Define You

Christian author and speaker Christine Caine speaks regularly about the impact that shame can have in our lives. She has noted that she was left nameless on her birth certificate because her mother wasn’t sure she would keep her. This pattern continued, as later in life a social worker wrote that her mother wasn’t progressing and didn’t seem overly attached to her child. Later in life, a professor wrote that Christine should find something she’s good at, but that public speaking wouldn’t be a career in which she could do well. (Christine shared all of these things during the Passion 2018 conference in front of tens of thousands of college students.)       

Her story is important, because it shows that if we experience one moment of shame in our lives it doesn’t mean that our entire life story is shameful. Just because we may experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse, it doesn’t define who we are. Only God can fully define who we are. Only God can oversee our whole story. Only God can help us identify the areas of shame in our lives and completely uproot them. And when all shame, envy, judgment, worry, hurt, and fear has been uprooted, we can fully grow into the people God has made us to be.

As you read today, consider this: Who or what is defining your life story?  

READING:

     Psalm 57:2; Psalm 138:8; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Proverbs 19:21; John 15:5

Who or what is defining your life story? 

If somebody asked you if you were fulfilling the purpose God has for your life, how would you respond? 

Of all of the topics covered throughout this series, which one had the greatest impact on you? Why do you think that is?

In what ways has this series led you to more fully abide in Christ (see John 15:5)?

God is inviting you to live a life completely free from shame. What does this reveal to you about His nature and character? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that I have allowed other things to define my life. There have been moments in my life that have led me to hold onto fear, hurt, worry, judgment, envy or shame that have ultimately led me away from the wonders of who You are. While these memories may never leave me, continue to instill within me that You and You alone will define my life. I will rejoice in You and You alone! I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Shame: Day 3

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     Day 3: The Lies That Lead to Shame: Part II

Have you ever paid close attention to Scripture verses that mention the devil throughout the Bible? As you read passages such as Genesis 3:1 and Matthew 4:1-11, you quickly see a pattern.

The first thing you may notice is that the devil knows the Scriptures really, really well. He may be foolish thinking that he’s better than God, but he’s not unintelligent. He knows the Bible inside and out. 

The second thing you may notice is that the devil challenges the Word of God and what it really says. In Genesis 3:1 the serpent asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Then in Matthew 4:1-11, The devil encourages Jesus to throw Himself off the temple, going on to quote an Old Testament passage stating that God would protect Him. Clearly, the devil is cunning, and will try to get us to believe lies that ultimately lead to shame. To combat this, we must replace these lies with the truth. 

In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As you read today, consider this: What steps can you take to hold to Jesus’ teachings, remind yourself of the truth, and be set free from shame? 

READING:

     2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 6:12; John 8:31-32; Genesis 15:6

What steps can you take to hold to Jesus’ teachings, remind yourself of the truth, and be set free from shame?

If it’s true that the devil is real and also knows the Scriptures inside and out, then how important is it for you to know the Bible well? 

Moving forward, what are some steps you will take to get to understand and know the Scriptures better? 

God is inviting you to live a life completely free from shame. What does this reveal to you about His nature and character? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today I simply want to live my life by abiding in Your Word! While there are parts of the Bible that I may not fully know or understand, I still believe that You have provided the Scriptures for my benefit. May Your words regularly be used to teach me, correct me, reprove me, and train me for everything that is righteous, and holy, and good. And may I come to know Your Word so well that I’m able to regularly encourage others. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Shame: Day 2

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     Day 2: The Lies That Lead to Shame: Part I

In Genesis 2:25, sin had not yet entered the world. Regarding Adam and Eve, this verse says, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” It’s an extremely important verse in the Bible because it shows that God created the world in such a way that we would never experience shame. 

But after sin enters the world, Adam and Eve recognize their nakedness, and they hide from God. God walks through the Garden of Eden and asks them two important questions. First, He asks, “Where are you?” And second, He asks, “Who told you that you were naked?” In that moment, God knew that Adam and Eve had experienced shame, and they only experienced it because they believed a lie from the enemy. 

Now imagine for a moment that God is asking you the same questions. First, to anybody hiding from Him, He asks, “Where are you?”. And second, to anybody experiencing shame, He asks, “Who told you that you were stupid? Who told you that you were fat? Who told you that you were lazy? Who told you that you were ugly? Who told you that you’ll never amount to anything? Who told you…?” As you read today, consider this: There are many lies that lead to shame. Which lies do you hear most often? 

READING:

     Jeremiah 23:23-24; Hebrews 4:12-13; Psalm 139:7-12

There are many lies that lead to shame. Which lies do you hear most often? Which one lie do you hear most often? 

When you hear these lies, how do you find yourself responding to them (eg. hiding from God, believing the lies, shaming others, etc)? 

How would you respond to God if you heard Him ask the question, “Where are you?”

God is inviting you to live a life completely free from shame. What does this reveal to you about His nature and character? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that I have believed many lies that have only brought me shame. By believing these lies, I have not only hidden from you, but have also used these same lies against others, leading them to experience shame. Forgive me for the times I have done this, and forgive me for the times when I haven’t fully trusted You. I no longer want to believe any of the lies that the enemy may throw my way. Instead, I simply want to focus on the love and grace that You and You alone can provide me in full. May I continually rejoice in that! I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Shame: Day 1

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     Day 1: Shame vs Guilt

Pause for a minute and think about this: what is the main difference between shame and guilt? 

This is a question that both secular scholars as well as christian counselors have wrestled with for a number of years. From a biblical perspective, it’s an interesting question as the Bible seemingly has a different way of seeing shame vs guilt. 

Shame often leads us to try to hide from God. For example, in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, they immediately experienced shame and they tried to hide from God as a result. Guilt, on the other hand, leads us back towards God. Psalm 25:3 notes that those who hope in God will ever be put to shame. The Bible says that we are all guilty of sin (Roman 3:23) but we may still experience life by calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). 

Another way of thinking about is this: Shame says, “I’m a terrible person,” but guilt says, “I did something terrible.” Shame says, “I’m such an idiot for forgetting to do that,” but guilt says, “I made a mistake, and I’m going to learn from it.”

As you read today, consider this: Have you considered the difference between shame and guilt? 

READING:

     Genesis 2:15-3:19

Have you considered the difference between shame and guilt? 

Based on the examples in today’s reading, would you say that you struggle more with guilt or with shame? 

Like Adam and Eve, is there anything in your life you’re trying to hide from God, or are you yourself hiding from Him? What do you think would happen if you stopped hiding and entered fully into His presence? 

God is inviting you to live a life completely free from shame. What does this reveal to you about His nature and character? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today has helped me to see that I regularly experience more shame in my life than I may have realized. This week, I pray that You will root up any shame in my life that has led me to hide from You. While this process may be painful, I believe that it will help me to better know You, and better know the plans that You have for my life. May I continue to know You more and more each and every day. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Envy: Day 5

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     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 73; Proverbs 23:17-18

Read Psalm 73. What does this Psalm say about the consequences of envy (see vv. 3 and 21-22).

  • What is the most memorable lesson you’ve learned about the dangers of envy this week? 
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week?
  • Take 10 minutes to write out your own prayer to God today. 

Cultivating a Life Without Envy: Day 4

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     Day 4: Dealing With Envy

Imagine for just a moment having a life without envy. 

  • The guy next doors gets a new truck, and instead of resenting it, you celebrate with them. 
  • A colleague with three years’ less experience gets the promotion you applied for, and instead of criticizing your superiors, you thank them for the time and energy they poured into the process. 
  • A person with tremendous political authority gets arrested for breaking campaign finance laws and instead of celebrating, you pray for them and for those who will be taking over the office. 
  • Your favorite sports team loses the championship. Instead of ridiculing the officials or the fans from the other team, you congratulate them for a great season. 
  • A friend loses twenty pounds and instead of remaining in self-pity, you send a card congratulating them on their diligence. 

As you read today, consider this: Imagine a life with no envy. Imagine others rejoicing with you when you rejoice, and mourning with you with you mourn. Imagine doing the same for others. What would that look like? 

READING:

     Romans 12:1-21

What are three ways your life would be different if you regularly lived without any envy towards others? 

How regularly do you rejoice with others when they rejoice, and mourn with them when they mourn? 

What steps can you take to hold yourself accountable to having less envy? (Example: I will regularly write down all of the good things that are happening in my life.)

What steps can you take to allow somebody else to hold you accountable to having less envy? (Example: Who can you give permission to speak things like, “I’ve noticed you seem envious or jealous when _______ happens. Can we talk about ways to rejoice in that and not loathe them or experience self-pity?”) 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today’s reading has helped me to see that there are many times in my life when I do not rejoice with those who rejoice or mourn with those who mourn. But that’s the kind of person I want to become. Continue to lead me, guide me, and hold me accountable to being the person You’ve created me to be. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Envy: Day 3

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     Day 3: The Result of Envy: Part II

Have you ever stopped to consider your level of contentment in life? Perhaps it would be better to ask it this way: On a scale of 1-10, how content are you right now? 

As you may have guessed, one of the things that leads us away from contentment — is envy. Not only that, but envy is the one thing that has the potential to completely suck the joy out of our lives. 

Regarding the seven deadly sins, scholar Joseph Epstein writes that each of these sins may lead to a temporary satisfaction…except for envy. He writes, “Giving into sloth and laziness, is rather pleasant. Giving into a loss of temper, entails a release that is not without its small delights. And lust, greed, pride, bring quite a bit of pleasure…Only envy is absolutely no fun at all, draining all joy from you from its very first moment. We have all felt envy’s desperate deep soul-destroying lacerating stabs.”

From a Christian perspective, all sin leads us away from our ability to fully trust God (Galatians 5:19-21). But in his research, Epstein concludes that envy is the one thing that most drains joy from our lives. As you read today, consider this: On a scale of 1-10, how content are you right now?

READING:

     James 4:1-17

On a scale of 1-10, how content are you right now? Is it possible that envy is the one thing that is completely sucking the joy out of your life?

Think about a time in your life when you were experiencing the most contentment and joy. What was that season of your life like? Were you experiencing much envy? 

What scripture verse in James chapter 4 stuck out to you most in your reading today? How will you apply this verse throughout the rest of the week? 

God is inviting you to root out any and all envy you may be experiencing in your life. Have you scheduled a time to meet with a trusted friend to talk with them about your envy? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, while I may not be living in complete discontentment, I realize that I could (and should) have more contentment than I’m currently experiencing. Today, my desire is to simply praise You for all of the good I have in my life, and not disparage others for what they have. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.