The Pastor/Teacher’s Toolkit: Bible Dictionaries

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A few weeks ago we kicked off our new Pastor/Teacher’s Toolkit series, and looked at all the ways Bible surveys can help with sermon and lesson preparation.

Today, we look at another important tool in the kit, Bible dictionaries.

The Bible is full of names, places, and terms that aren’t familiar to modern readers. But Bible dictionaries provide important background information to illuminate these, including:

  • Concise definitions of unknown words
  • Cross-references to other occurrences in Scripture
  • Historical and cultural information
  • Original language insights
  • Customs and descriptions of daily life
  • Theological observations and practical applications.

Delving into this material helps us understand what the Bible is actually saying. Bible dictionaries in print are helpful and informative, but using them in WORDsearch unlocks their potential even more.

Imagine this scenario:  You are studying Revelation 3 for a sermon or Bible study next week. When Jesus addresses the church in Laodicea in verses 15-16, He says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”(ESV). What does Jesus mean here when he uses the term ‘lukewarm”? What would that mean to the original audience? And what is Jesus wanting the church to be like?

To begin finding answers, open Revelation 3  in WORDsearch, and right-click on the  word “lukewarm.” From there, select the option “Definition for lukewarm.” The Word Definition box opens, providing you with definitions from all of the dictionaries you own that contain an entry for that term. You can easily switch between your dictionaries to compare the various definitions and explanations.

For example, the Holman Bible Dictionary states:

LUKEWARM: Tepid; neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:16). The city of Laodicea received its water from an aqueduct several miles long. The lukewarm water which arrived at the city served as an appropriate illustration for a tasteless, good-for-nothing Christianity.

Suppose now that you’d like to find out more information about the city of Laodicea. You can repeat the process by right-clicking on Laodicea to once again access your dictionaries and a definition. Here you learn more about the original audience and how they would interpret and understand what Jesus was saying.

Looking again at the Holman Bible Dictionary, you find:

…Laodicea is best known today to readers of Revelation where Jesus criticized Laodicea, using imagery drawn from its daily life (Rev. 3:14-22). First, Jesus said Laodicea is neither cold (like the cold, pure waters of Colossae) nor hot (like the therapeutic hot springs of Hierapolis). Laodicea is lukewarm and provides neither refreshment for the spiritually weary nor healing for the spiritually sick (Rev. 3:15-16). Despite their apparent spiritual uselessness, the Laodiceans were claiming a spiritual wealth equal to their material wealth; and further, they were claiming to have acquired both by their own efforts. In reality, however, the Laodiceans, while they may have had material wealth, were spiritually poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17)—an obvious reference to the textile and banking industry and medical school of Laodicea. According to Jesus, what the Laodiceans needed more than anything else was the true gold, white (not black) garments, and ointment that only Christ could give (Rev. 3:18). A true spiritual foundation is laid only in Christ, not human effort.

Now that you’e found these helpful insights, you can copy and paste any of the information into your word processing program – using WORDsearch’s or a different one. Having read the definitions of just two words, you now have several specific insights that help you understand Jesus’ meaning and how it can be applied to believers today.;

It is obvious from these entries that Jesus’ metaphor would have been well-understood by the Laodicean church: be hot and healing, or cool and refreshing, but don’t be lukewarm and complacent. Instead, make yourself useful to the Lord and others. Jesus is also telling the Laodiceans not to trust in their material wealth, but in Him and His saving work.

As this example shows, Bible dictionaries are an essential tool for studying God’s Word. Not only that, but looking up words in WORDsearch is easy and fun! Any time you need to know more about a person, place, event or term, you are only a few clicks away from becoming more knowledgeable student of God’s Word.


The Pastor/Teacher’s Toolkit: Bible Surveys

bible survey, student, pastor, teacher, wordsearch bibleWith 66 books written at different times, by different people, and for different purposes, the Bible can be confusing even to seasoned students of Scripture. One can easily get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture—you can read an Old or New Testament book and miss its overall themes and messages. Fortunately, there exists a tool that can remedy this problem and bring clarity to potential confusion—the Bible survey.

As the name suggests, a Bible survey gives a big-picture look at every book of the Bible, while an Old and New Testament survey does the same for those respective portions. Typical surveys will examine each book and discuss the author, the date of writing, the historical background, the book’s overall themes and messages, and provide an outline. The format is similar to what you find in most study Bibles, but the discussion goes into greater depth, which is ideal for sermon preparation or small-group lessons.

In addition, many surveys provide maps, charts, photos, and diagrams that serve as helpful visual aids.

There are many Bible/OT/NT surveys available, and often what distinguishes them is the level at which they’re written. Some surveys are intended for beginning Bible college students (i.e., a lay audience), while others are written for seminary or graduate students. One example of a very accessible volume is Ed Hindson and Elmer Towns’s Illustrated Bible Survey. This survey features the topics listed above, along with introductory chapters on how we got the Bible and how to read the Bible, along with practical reflections on biblical truths.

A more advanced set of books covering just the New Testament are the volumes by Craig Blomberg included in our two-volume bundle. The first volume covers Jesus and the gospels, while the second explores Acts through Revelation. One of the differences you’ll notice right away is the number of footnotes, which are much more plentiful in Blomberg’s volumes. These indicate places where Blomberg is interacting with other biblical scholars on issues like authorship and date, as well as on more academic topics like textual criticism, sources, and literary genre. But even on topics like this, Blomberg explains the issues clearly, and his writing is easy to follow.

A third survey, David deSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament, covers the standard topics, but also features a section on practical implications for ministry at the end of each chapter. This is ideal for students as well as those serving in pastoral ministry.

Using a Bible survey in WORDsearch can dramatically increase your productivity in studying the Word, in preparing lessons, and in researching for sermon preparation. Surveys in WORDsearch allow you to:

  • Quickly find the most important elements of a book you’re studying:  Who wrote it, when it was written, its historical background, themes, messages, and outline.
  • Use the outlines and other vital information to help shape and organize your sermons and lessons.
  • Easily read linked Scripture references that appear in the text.
  • Search the survey for keywords, Scripture references, people, places, and other important terms.
  • Use the WORDsearch word processor to take notes and paste text from the survey.

For all of these reasons, a good Bible/OT/NT survey is one of the essential tools in the pastor’s, teacher’s, or student’s Bible study toolkits.

How do you benefit from a Bible survey? Share with us!

How to Install the WORDsearch App on Kindle Fire

NOTE: The WORDsearch app will not work on any 1st Generation Kindle Fire devices that operate on the Android 2.3.3 platform, but should load on 2nd and 3rd Generation Kindle Fire models with the following instructions.

Open your Kindle Fire to the home screen.

KF1Scroll your finger down from the top of the screen (where it shows time and battery life) to Options. Select More…

KF2On the menu that opens up, you should see Settings. Underneath Settings, choose Device.

KF3From the Device page, make sure that option Allow Installation of Application From unknown sources is ON.  If it’s currently OFF, please change it to ON.

KF4After you have completed the above steps, click on the following link from your Kindle Fire to download the app.

You may see a pop-up screen that says Download File? To access this linked file, it must first be downloaded to your device. The file can be found in Downloads. Select the OK on this screen.

From here, you will need to access your Downloads folder. The easiest way to do so is to first make sure your web browser is open. Then, in the top left, click on the three horizontal lines.

KF5From this menu, select Downloads.

KF6From here, you should see the download titled WS_Prod_1131-1.apk or something very similar. You can click on that line to begin the installation of the app by accepting the terms and tapping Install.


The application should download. You will then be given the option to open the app. You should also be able to find the app when you click on Apps on your homepage and are on the Device selection within the Apps page.

Once the app has launched, please see the sign-in instructions below.

  • If you are already a registered WORDsearch customer, enter your email address and password in the section called “Already a Member?” to get access to all the books in your account.
  • If you are a WORDsearch customer, BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE AN ONLINE ACCOUNT, tap or click here to setup an online account.
  • If you are a WORDsearch customer and you have an online account, but you have forgotten your online account password, or if you are receiving an error such as “Could not log-in, check your user name and password.” when trying to log-in, tap or click here to go to our log-in page, then click on “Forgot your password? Click here.” to have a replacement password emailed to you.
    NOTE: If you are not receiving the replacement password email, check your Spam folder, your Junk Mail folder and even the Trash folder in your email program. The replacement password email could be there.

To learn more on how to use this app, click here.

Quick Tip – Sentence Diagramming

Teachers will diagram a passage to help them see the relationship of ideas in their text. Wayne McDill calls this “diagramming the text structure” in The 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching. Haddon Robinson calls it a “mechanical layout or diagram” in Biblical Preaching. Both books are available in WORDsearch format. Read them both for more information.

The sentence diagram shows the relationship of ideas in a biblical text so we see how one phrase relates to another. WORDsearch users can do sentence diagrams in Greek, Hebrew or English using the WORDsearch 10 word processor. If you do, you will more easily see the structure of a text to help better communicate the main idea along with the development of that idea in a sermon or Bible study.

Prepare New Document

Before starting a new document, change the copy settings to remove all the verses and reference information. They get in the way of a good sentence diagram since verses often split a single sentence artificially dividing thoughts.

Under Options select Settings and then Bible Copy. Uncheck all the items under the Contents section and make sure Position is set to None as seen below.


If you don’t want to change settings, just delete the verse numbers and reference identifier.

We’ll use Ephesians 2:8-10 as an example. Start with the first phrase. We used the HCSB, which says, “For you are saved by grace …” Hit the return key after the word “saved.” Keep the first phrase close to the left edge and move the second line starting with the word “by grace” to position it below the word “saved” since the phrase “by grace” shows how we are saved. That phrase explains something about the word “saved” in this passage. Positioning it there shows a visual relationship.

We want to decide how much of the next part of this verse will remain on this line. We decide that “by grace” refers to “saved” but “through faith” also refers to “saved.” So, we hit the Enter key and use the space key we move “through faith” under “by grace.”

Keep moving through the verse doing the same with each phrase. Position the next phrase so that it shows its relationship to the previous phrase. Use new lines and spaces to accomplish this. We do this to visually show the key ideas of a passage. See our example of the finished product below.


Once completed, we see that there are two main ideas in this passage shown with the two major sections of our diagram above. The first talks about our being saved. The second about God’s creation.

McDill suggests marking main verbs and theological terms, so I use underline and bold formatting options. Use the link button at the right end of the Word Processor toolbar to create a link to the verse and then save the document for later use in WORDsearch.

We see two main section, which means we either have one or two messages. I think they go together so the one Big Idea might be summarized as, “God graciously saves us creating us for good works.” Look at our diagram which shows a possible outline that might look like this:

  1. God saved us by grace
    1. God’s grace initiates salvation
    2. My faith is the response
    3. God’s gift is His response
  2. God’s grace earns Him all the glory
    1. Grace is His gift
    2. It’s not my work
  3. God’s grace created his new creation.
    1. He created us to do good works
    2. He created this idea before time
    3. He created it for us to walk in

The first two points come from section one of the diagram while the third explains the second section. Most preachers will take this and polish it to make it more memorial and interesting for hearers to listen to. They might come up with some aurally appealing wording or use a structure based on some overarching illustration.

The sentence diagram doesn’t replace good exegesis, but it does take us a step closer to doing good exegesis. Now use other WORDsearch tools to look up key ideas in bold or italics.

Kevin Purcell has been preaching for over 20 years and has served as a pastor for 15 years. He is currently the pastor of High Peak Baptist Church in Valdese, NC. He is married to Barb, a teacher, and they have two sons. 

Quick Tips – Home Screen Basics on iPad and iPhone

Everything  looks a little different on the new iPad and iPhone WORDsearch App, so here are some basic tips about the home screen and what you can do.

Entering Your Library

To enter your library, tap on the WORDsearch App’s icon.



The app will open to the home page, and your books will look transparent. NOTE: This is not the store like in the old app, this is the books you own. It will show All Books by default.

Allbooks HOME

The book that is selected will appear a little bigger than the others, and  scrolling down will show you a short description of the book.


Downloading a Book

To download a book, tap on the book cover. You can scroll through the books by by swiping through them , either from left-to-right or right-to-left.

When it starts downloading you will see a little blue bar appear on the cover.


When the book is finished downloading, the cover will become more solid looking.

Finding a Book in the Library

To see your books in different categories,  hold your finger on All Books and swipe left. You can swipe through all the categories. To go back, swipe right, and you can go back to an earlier category. The categories are listed in alphabetical order.


Another way to see the categories is to touch the arrow shown in the red box below.


The categories will come up in a list view that you can easily tap to view books in that category.


Another way to find a book in your library is to use the Search bar at the top of the home screen.


The Search bar will filter your books by title, author or short name so that you don’t have to look through all of your books.


List View

To see your books in list view, tap on the left icon that looks like three lines in the left of the home screen.


You books will appear in a list view, with the ones you have downloaded in bolder font. You can download books from this view as well by just touching the title of the book. In this example, I own all volumes of 52 New Testament Sermon Starters, but have only downloaded Volume One.


To go back to shelf view, tap on the first icon.


Purchasing Books

You can access the store by touching the shopping cart icon at the top of the screen.


To go back to the library from the store, touch Library.


To change settings, log-in to other accounts and sync your library, touch the little head icon in the left-hand corner of the home screen.


This is also where you can set your Default Bible (the bible that will pop-up when you touch a Bible reference in a commentary or book in the reading pane).


Touch Settings, then Default Translation to choose which one you want. It must be a downloaded Bible.


From the home screen you can also do a Search within text. This is where you can search your library’s contents for a term.


Type the term in the pop-up pop and touch Search.  It will show you how many times that term appears per category.


Tap the category to see what specific books include your term.


 Tap the book you would like to see results from to see where in the book it mentions your search term.


Tap the result, and it will take you to that part of the book in your reading pane.

SearchResOpenBookHopefully these tips will help you use your new iPad app a little better! Have you found any tips that could help out other users? Let us know!