Thank you, Laura Bartlett, for inviting me to review Hebrews of the Life Application Bible Studies series. I am currently preaching through the book of Hebrews, so this affords me the opportunity to evaluate the information and questions of this Bible study guide.
The study guide is broken into two sections. The first section contains the NLT text in single column paragraph format with cross references in the margins. Below the NLT text are the study notes that are found in the Life Application Study Bible. In fact, it appears that the first section is a reproduction of the NLT Life Application Study Bible for the book of Hebrews. I have never examined a Life Application Study Bible so I was interested to see if the study notes would be thorough and useful. These notes are fabulous. The name may be a bit misleading because the study notes are not merely life application points. Many of the study notes give necessary background and information concerning the text. The study notes also give explanations to many of the verses. The layout is excellent and encourages the student to read the text and use the study notes when the student has any questions. The study notes are so useful and valuable that it caused me to purchase a Life Application Study Bible so that I could have the study notes for the other books of the Bible and for my studies.
The second section contains questions concerning the text studied. The question section is broken down into 13 lessons, making it useful for curricula on a quarterly system. Each lesson has on average 15 questions for the student to answer. These questions are broken down into further subsets: Reflect, Read, Realize, Respond, and Resolve. Most of the questions are useful in helping the student move through the text. My only criticism is that some of the introductory questions in each lesson are “icebreaker” questions rather than questions concerning the text. Questions like: “With what person in history would you most like to have a conversation?” are not relevant to study but are for those small group settings where the teacher has nothing to get the class talking. In my opinion, come up with a question that will get people talking about the scriptures. Thankfully, these kinds of questions are few. Typically, the questions do a good job in encouraging the student to examine the text and then make life applications. Bible study has no value if we do not take what we learn and let it change our lives to be different people.
There is generous space given to each question for the student to write. This is important because people will constrain their answers to the space provided. Subconsciously, we are constrained by box, spaces, and lines. So it is good to give the student ample room to explore and expand upon each question. The teacher must make sure that the class does not think the goal is to answer the questions. The goal is to examine the scriptures with great detail and allow our examination to change us. Classes are not useful when the teacher turns a tool is turned into a crutch. Explore the text and let the questions help you find some things you might have missed. Don’t study the questions simply trying to find the answers. Such an approach is studying the study guide and not the scriptures.
Used properly, I believe the NLT Life Application Bible Studies series will be helpful for individual students as well as for group study. If you are wanting to dig deeper into the scriptures but need some guidance, these study guides can help you with difficult texts and exploratory questions to help you come to a deeper knowledge of God.