As I recently explained in my Hermeneutics class, there are “tools” and then “Cool Tools”. If you get your hands on the Cool Tools, reading God’s Word becomes infinitely more exciting. People think the Bible is boring only because Google and Facebook turned reading into a mind-numbing, button-pushing, exercise in futility—the Bible has no “likes” button, so what good is it? Cool Tools are a breath of fresh air for the Google-handicapped
Bear with me as I make a case for a “Cool Tool Christmas,” which turns Christmas gifts into a significant foundation for a lifetime. I still leverage Cool Tools purchased a quarter century ago, even though tools are cooler now on PCs, tablets and smart phones.
There is a mysterious, marvelous aspect to the Bible people don’t usually get. The problem is the time gap separating us from the experience of earlier Christians, and the gap is filled with worn-out, religious fluff deposited by centuries of politics and culture wars (Europe is the birthplace of “Culture Wars”, FYI, not the USA).
Clearly the Bible itself was profound and revelatory for countless generations in the pre-Facebook era. With the right tools, the Bible opens up worlds of wonder like it did for the original audiences, when Jesus People sprang from nowhere in the 1st Century. Their excitement filled the Roman Empire with a million-plus voices in one generation, despite the cruelest suppression. As a 1st C witness described it:
“Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy… Hebrews 10:34
Wow. The persecution was bad, but the honor of possessing “the Oracles of God” brought confidence and purpose unlike anything the Romans delivered. Yet that honor can be lost, as he describes:
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Hebrews 10:35
Christianity grows anemic where people “throw away this confident trust” and lose “the great reward.” The exclusive source for “confident trust” is a personal encounter with God’s Word, it says:
So faith [confident trust] comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:17
The modern Industrial Church relies far too much on “The Big Show” and singalongs, but almighty Rome already tried using lavish and sophisticated entertainment to hold the loyalty of their citizenry. It seems to work, but only for a short while.
People’s hearts are gripped by the “overwhelming glory of the new way” revealed in God’s Word (2 Corinthians 3:10). This is not poetic imagery. Something motivated real people to pay with lost property and lives, even “joyfully”, it says in Hebrews. What else could bring such motivation, if not “overwhelming glory” of some kind? Such is the latent glory in God’s Word which ignites the birth of a universe:
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
When God’s “light” shines “in our hearts” it is mind-blowing. “Overwhelming glory” waits to be unlocked by a willing heart, but only a willing heart. Reading His Word is tedious and complicated only because, “it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.” (Hebrews 5:11) God’s Word confuses the unwilling heart, so “They look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
The willing heart makes a deliberate choice to pick up a few tools and excavate the Oracles of God from centuries of dirt—dead traditions and edicts suppressing the “overwhelming glory” of God’s free gift. The Cool Tools strip away church history and brings us closer to the original text that thrilled the original audience.
Legacy of Courage
Tools can empower average Jesus People to encounter the Oracles of God fresh and alive, without any religious certificate or church official breathing down our necks. Check out the Battle for the Bible aired by PBS to taste the price our predecessors paid to give us this liberty and release His Word from institutional vaults.
It is an overlooked privilege rarely known in history, and even much of the world today to dig as deep into God’s Word as we want to. Chinese Christians would trade their firstborn (figuratively) for some of the Cool Tools we get for a song here in America. Censorship in the Islamic world makes it hard to openly use these tools. We owe this legacy of courageous saints a grateful, ostentatious display of our wealth of God’s wisdom for mankind.
Peace From God
Is it possible we feel so harassed and harried because we don’t spend time with God’s wisdom? Our minds are diced apart with a flood of fractured Facebook quips and Googlized thoughts, while stabbing away at life without God’s wisdom—an exhausting, frustrating combination.
After a session diving into layers of His love and wisdom brings “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,” and the time investment “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) His promise describes prayer combined with thankfulness, which is precisely what should occur during in-depth Bible study, with Cool Tools—sharing in God’s marvels, seeing Him revealed, getting to know Him.
“I’m actually tingling!” a younger brother told me as he studied the Bible for the first time with some of these Cool Tools. I knew what he meant.
These Cool Tools often are composed by some of the most brilliant minds ever to wade into the academic world. They could be making millions with great fame in the World System, but instead devoted their gifts for our sake, defending God’s Word against a host of uneducated Postmodern critiques (“Nobody knows what the original writings were!”), or surreptitious attacks by fame-seekers like Bart Ehrman or Brian McLaren.
Christians today need to be conversant with a host of rumors circulating against the Knowledge of God. Nobody can learn all the arguments and counter-arguments, but anyone can know where to look up reliable data to meet the need.
The software available today makes it possible to link together a number of the Cool Tools, so as you change Bible location, all the tools follow along. Major software vendors include:
Olive Tree: available on the PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android and Palm. Olive Tree has been around for a long, long time, and their expertise is portable platforms. They have been punks on the block for a long time, but now are offering very formidable tools.
Logos: available on the PC, Mac, iPad, Android. This is a fat, complex, expensive system which delivers tons of useless, public-domain works from centuries ago (not useless if you’re an English major familiar with Chaucer and Shakespeare, I suppose). This system is largely used in seminaries by those with long hours of idle time, because it sure does take a lot of time to learn it.
WordSearch: available on the PC and iPad, but not Android. This software is user-friendly and practical (we used their Youth Meetings series quite a bit). For those leading Cell Groups, discussion groups or discipleship, it’s hard to ignore their teaching outlines and meeting ideas. NavPress originally created it, which is the publishing arm of the Navigators discipleship movement.
Next time I will review some of the particular Cool Tools I find immanently useful.