One common thread among many fine craftsmen is that they have a number of tools at their disposal. In fact,
most would have several variations of the same item (whether it be hammers, chisels, etc.) just in case one
wouldn’t do the job as well as another. The same applies to the student of the Bible. If we want to be skillful
in our interpretation of the Bible, we will have to be comfortable using the many "tools" that are at our
We must realize, though, that not every tool will help us get the job done. A woodworker would never use
a screwdriver to hammer in a nail. And although a sledgehammer may look like it is closer to what is needed,
that still won’t work effectively.
So too it is with good reference materials; if I want to see a map of what Judea looked like in the time of
Christ, I probably don’t need to use a commentary. However, if I want to know the cultural background of a certain
passage I am struggling to understand, some commentaries might be helpful. Listed are the reference materials that
will be most beneficial to your study of the Word of God. Some of this material is also available on computer
software. The references are grouped as:
James Hansen's personal note: I was born and raised in San Diego, California.
My parents put me in a Christian elementary school for educational reasons, and it was there in my first year
that I placed my faith in Christ.
Jack Eckdom, my fourth grade teacher, explained the Gospel to me. I understood what sin was (what rambunctious
child doesn't?) and how Jesus is the One Who paid the price for those sins. The offer had been made, and I warmly
embraced it. Grace seems to be so easily understood by children, doesn't it?
My newfound love for the Lord lasted with me through my early teenage years. However, when I entered my second
year of high school, I walked away from the Lord. It wasn't a big blowout of faith, more like a slow erosion of
passion. And yet, the Lord was faithful to pursue me back into fellowship with Him.
A traveling evangelist spoke at our high school during my senior year, and I have never been the same since.
It was then that I renewed my love for prayer, for going to church, and for reading the Bible. It was also during
my late teenage years that I felt the Lord was calling me into vocational Christian service. Little did I realize
that my recommitment to Christ would lead me to be a pastor and a teacher at a Bible college.
Some people's spiritual journeys keep you on the edge of your seat. Mine, however, hasn't had a lot of fireworks;
but it doesn't make my faith any less meaningful or significant. Not only do I remember the simple trust I had when
I first became a Christian, I try to embody that same faith today as an adult. In other words, though I was saved
by grace (Eph.2:8-9), I'm to live by that grace as well.
"May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world
has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal.6:14)
James Hansen is a pastor at Antioch Bible Church, located in Redmond, Washington.
He has served on staff since 1995, and teaches in the areas of theology, hermeneutics and the arts. He is currently
the Academic Dean of Antioch Bible Church’s Bible College, the imago Dei institute-Cascade (iDi-Cascade).
This educational ministry of Antioch Bible Church that offers college level courses to adults wishing to deepen
their Christian education, experience and worldview. Through classes in theology, Biblical studies, the arts, church
history and life integration, students are challenged to gain a well-rounded view of their Creator and His work in
our current culture.