Gold Miners' Bible Study – Taking Bible Study To a New Level
We have discovered a new method of Bible study that allows a family or group to quickly go deeper into the Word of God using modern technology. It adds a new, exciting dimension to Bible research. It allows a family to dig in the Word and meditate on it together. Since we have started studying the Bible in this manner, our family has uncovered a multitude of insights that we might never have found otherwise. Many of the articles on this website are the results of this method of Bible study. Thanks to our setup, we can do more research faster than before.
The results are wonderful! In addition to gleaning more insights from a passage, we now have a written record of the things the Lord shows us. We have cross-references that help us understand God's commands better. And it helps our family to digest the Word of God. Furthermore, it allows us to put everything together and share it with others.
So what do we do? We use a free, powerful Bible program called e-Sword to view Strong's numbers, to search through commentaries, and look up cross-references. e-Sword puts a multitude of resources at our disposal: Bibles, commentaries, lexicons, dictionaries, reference books, cross-reference lists and more. We use these resources to dig into the Bible and find "gold nuggets". (Hence the name "Gold Miners' Bible Study".)
Then, via our networked computers, we pass the insights, verses, etc. around. Mom logs these insights into a word processor, keeping a record of the things the Lord has shown us. In about 30 to 45 minutes, we may log 20 or more insights on one passage. It is definitely a fun and exciting method of Bible study.
Would you like to do the same thing with your family? Then read on!
The following picture shows the setup on Mom's computer.
Mom does the secretarial work of entering into Microsoft Word the insights and cross-references that we send her. She has Word in the upper left-hand corner, displaying the document at 90% zoom, and the window shrunken to fit in the upper half of the screen.
Under the verse we are studying, Mom makes a numbered list of the insights and cross-references that we send her. We prefer numbers to bullets, as they make it easier to reference various points if something needs to be corrected.
Next to the Word window is the NetMeeting Chat window. We paste insights and cross-reference verses into Chat on our computers and send them on to everyone. Mom copies them out of her Chat and pastes them into Word.
On the bottom half of the screen is e-Sword, shrunken and moved around to make space for everything else. Mom can look for cross-references when she's not copying insights into Word.
Below you can see the configuration on my computer:
As you can see, it looks similar to Mom's. However, what I'm viewing on the upper-left-hand part of my screen is the Word window on her computer. Thanks to NetMeeting's "Share Program" feature, everything she does in Word comes up on our computers. This is really handy for allowing us to see what's being put in without having to look over her shoulder. That way, we can say, "Oh, I phrased that wrong. How about..." or "Mom, it looks like I misspelled "difference". Two lines down..." Then, too, we can make sure that she changes it properly to convey the message that we wanted to convey.
On the upper-right corner, again, is Chat, which I use to send insights and cross-references.
On the bottom is a shrunken e-Sword window. I can get the whole e-Sword program on the screen if I shrink e-Sword down far enough. This allows me to use the resources at the bottom.
e-Sword is the most powerful free Bible program we have found. Because it's free, it doesn't cost a fortune to put it on multiple computers. It features multiple Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries and lexicons, as well as some other materials. It has an easy-to-use interface that packs a lot of punch.
For example, you can select a verse by typing in its reference, or select the book and chapter from the Bible tree. The commentaries that have notes on that verse will show a little "bubble quote" with an "I" in it. Their tabbed interface allows you to quickly browse through the commentaries that are doctrinally sound.
If you see a word in the Bible that you want to look up in Nave's Topical Bible, or get the definition of from Webster's 1828 Dictionary, you just click on the word. The dictionary window will indicate which dictionaries contain a definition, just like the commentaries.
When you see a reference in the dictionary or commentary, you just put your mouse pointer over the reference and a little box, known as a ToolTip, instantly pops up with the referenced verse. You can copy the verse so you can paste it elsewhere. Or if you want to pull up the verse in the Bible window, you just click on the reference. When you're finished, you just hit the "back" arrow button on the toolbar to return to the previous verse. The same thing applies to Strong's numbers. We use this feature quite a bit.
I won't describe all the features of e-Sword here. I would encourage you to get yourself a copy, even if you don't try the Gold Miners' Bible Study.
This setup allows us to dig deep into the Bible, getting cross-references and insights that we might never have found otherwise. Often, one or two of us might look at cross-references, another one search through the commentaries, another one meditate for insights or look through Nave's Topical Bible or Torrey's Topical Textbook and find cross-references there, and of course Mom puts everything into Word. Sometimes everybody searches for cross-references. Once in a while, we'll break off and discuss the passage verbally, since we're all together in the same room. However, if we come to an insightful conclusion, someone will write down an insight that encapsulates our discussion. It's not unusual to get 20-30 insights and cross-references in about 30-45 minutes of Wisdom Search time.
If you think you'd like to try the Gold Miners' Bible Study setup, read on to find out how to set things up yourself.
What do you need to do Gold Mining? Here's a checklist:
- Enough PC's for everyone who can read
- Those computers in the same room
- Those computers networked together
- NetMeeting (Part of Internet Explorer)
- A word processor – Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, Corel WordPerfect, OpenOffice Writer, etc.
I'll deal with each below.
Enough networked PC's in the same room for everyone in your family who can read
The PC's you use for Gold Mining don't have to be latest greatest. They can be bottom-line budget PC's, or even seven-year-old used ones. Here are the minimum system requirements for Gold Mining:
- 233-300Mhz Pentium II, or AMD equivalent
- 64 MB of memory
- 6-10 GB hard drive
- Windows 98, Me, 2000, or XP
What if you don't have enough space to set up enough desktop computers in one room? Then get notebook computers. You can use them in the living room, around the dining room table, or at your relatives' house. The system specifications above apply to notebooks. There's no need to go out and buy all brand-new notebooks. However, I would encourage you to get at least one notebook either brand-new or with a new battery, so that you can use it as a truly portable computer in situations where you can't plug it in. The others could have bad, old or even no batteries – like mine. For family Gold Mining in the home, where you have easy access to electrical outlets, it's not a problem to plug the notebooks in.
Most computers made in the past five to six years come with wired network (Ethernet) ports built-in. (Don't confuse it with a modem port.) Adding an Ethernet port may be necessary if you have a broadband modem already plugged into the existing Ethernet port, or if your computer doesn't have an Ethernet port already. If you need an Ethernet port, you'll need either an add-in PC Card for a notebook, a PCI card for a desktop, or an adapter that you plug in the USB port.
Virtually all new notebooks, in addition to an Ethernet port, also come with wireless networking capabilities. If you are going to use notebooks, I would encourage you to go with wireless networking — it will simplify your setup. For computers without a wireless adapter, you'll need either an add-in PC Card for a notebook, a PCI card for a desktop, or an adapter that you plug in the USB port. You'll also need an access point.
So, to recap:
For Ethernet networks:
- An Ethernet port on each computer (may need to purchase add-in card or USB adapter)
- One cable for each computer
- One hub with enough ports to plug all the computers into it
For wireless networks:
- A Wi-Fi adapter on each computer (may need to purchase add-in card or USB adapter)
- One access point
For more information on networking, visit www.homenethelp.com
Windows, NetMeeting, e-Sword, and a word processor
To my knowledge, this setup only works with Windows. If you're like about 90% of the population, you have Windows and that won't be a problem. If you use a Mac, or run Linux or some other operating system, you may be able to have a variation of the Gold Miners' Bible Study with different programs.
NetMeeting might already be installed on your computer (check Start > Programs $gt; Accessories > Communications). If it's not installed, use the Add/Remove Programs tool in Control Panel to install it.
You can download the latest version of e-Sword from www.e-sword.net. I would encourage you to send a minimum donation of $15. They will send you a CD with the latest version of e-Sword and a lot of various, otherwise separate, add-ons that would take you a long time to download. It is well worth the relatively small donation. Then you can download any other resources you think would be beneficial that are not included on the CD.
If you don't have any word processor besides Wordpad, consider buying Microsoft Works Suite. In addition to Microsoft Works, it includes Word, Picture It!, Streets and Trips, Money, and the Encarta encyclopedia. If you really want to go cheap, you could try the free OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org). However, in our experience, OpenOffice did not do well with something very central to e-Sword Bible Study: numbered and bulleted lists. In my opinion, it is best to buy something like Works instead. Microsoft also makes a Student and Teacher edition of Microsoft Office. Homeschoolers, public and private school students, and teachers can buy a copy, which they can install on up to three computers.
Setting It All Up
Step 1: Connecting everything
Now that you have all your computers together, it's time to put everything together. The first step is to set up the network if you don't already have one. I have not setup a wireless network, but About.com's Wireless/Networking site has a lot of good information on wireless networking (Wi-Fi). This section will deal with Ethernet (wired) networks.
- Install any needed adapters:
- If you are adding a PCI card, open your computer and slip the card in an empty PCI slot (See a graphical overview here)
- If you are adding a PC card (which is what you use for a notebook), slip the card into an empty PC card slot.
- If you are adding a USB adapter, plug it into any available USB port.
- Plug in the hub, and set it in a fairly central location.
- Run a network cable from each computer to the hub.
- Configure the network. This website has complete instructions for configuring various versions of Windows.
Step 2: Install necessary programs
- Install NetMeeting if necessary. You'll find it under Start => Programs => Accessories => Communications if it's installed. If not, open Control Panel, click "Add/Remove Programs", and click "Add or Remove Windows Components". You'll find NetMeeting under "Communications". Check the little box beside it. Close out everything you just opened.
- Insert the e-Sword CD you ordered. It will automatically start the install program. It's pretty self-explanatory.
- If necessary, install Works, Word, or whatever word processor you'll use. That should wrap up your program installations.
Step 3: Get everything off the ground
- Start NetMeeting on all the computers. When you start NetMeeting for the first time, it will run a setup tool to configure your personal settings. You don't need to fill in anything except the "First Name", "Last Name", and "Email Address" boxes. Make sure that you uncheck the "Log on to directory server when NetMeeting starts" box. And don't worry about the audio and microphone tests—you don't need either one.
- Start e-Sword on all the computers.
- Start Word on the "secretary's" computer. Use e-Sword's "Copy Verses" tool to copy the verse(s) you will meditate on into Word.
- Resize e-Sword to fit in your screen with everything else.
- Go onto one of the computers (it doesn't matter which) and view the NetMeeting window. Type a computer name in the box at the top of NetMeeting. For example, if Bob's computer is named "bob", type "bob" into the box. Hit Enter or click the yellow telephone icon. Then hustle over to Bob's computer and click the "Accept" button on the box at the bottom of the screen. Repeat the procedure for all the other computers until everyone is listed in the "Name" box.
- Click the Chat icon at the bottom of the NetMeeting window. This will fire up the Chat program, and, presently, Chat will appear
on everyone else's computer, too.
- Go to the secretary's computer and click the "Share Program" button at the bottom of NetMeeting. From the list that pops up, select "Microsoft Word" and click "Share". You'll see a window pop up on all the other computers. Close the "Share Programs" box and minimize NetMeeting. This should bring Word to the forefront; if not, click on it. Each person will need to move things around on their computers to set everything up the way they want it.
- Now get everyone together. Ask God to give you understanding into His word and to give you insights. Then turn to your computers and get rolling. A good place to start is with the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge cross-reference guide—the "TSK" tab in the commentary window on e-Sword. Copy applicable cross-references into Chat by pressing F4 while a pop-up verse is up, then clicking on Chat and pressing Ctrl+V. Then remove "King James Version" if you don't want it before hitting Enter to send the verse. Type in insights the Lord gives you. Check the cross-references on one of the cross-reference verses. Copy nuggets of truth from the commentaries into Chat. Look up the meanings of words. Check Nave's and Torrey's topical guides for applicable subjects. Above all, focus on digging into God's Word! It may be helpful to assign one person to search through TSK, one person to look through commentaries, etc.
- If the secretary is copying the insights into the word processor as everyone else sends them in via Chat, he or she can periodically clear out the things already copied over. Use the Edit => Clear All command in the Chat window.
- If you find that e-Sword is not copying a cross-reference you have popped up, trying clicking on an unused area on an e-Sword toolbar and then retrying the copy. If you find it annoying to have to click on e-Sword each time you come back to copy more cross-references, download and install the TweakUI tool, available here. Installation instructions accompany it. Then open Control Panel, click "Tweak UI', and then click "Activation follows mouse (X-Mouse)". You may also find it helpful to punch something between 200 and 500 in the "Activation Delay" box. Otherwise, while navigating the Start Menu, if your mouse pointer slips out of the menu, the menu will close and you will have to re-open it. This trick will automatically activate e-Sword whenever you bring your mouse pointer back over it.
- Adjust the settings on the ToolTips, to make the font bigger or smaller, depending on what you want. We also lock in the ToolTips to always use the KJV translation rather than the active translation. Otherwise, if you have the Strong's numbers enabled and you copy a verse out of a ToolTip, you will copy the Strong's numbers.
- In Chat on the secretary's computer, click View => Options to set Chat to use the same font and text size that you use in Word. Then you won't have to change the formatting. Also, uncheck "Person's Name" under "Information display".
- Use e-Sword's "Copy Verses" tool to copy multiple verses. It can strip off unwanted formatting, version names, etc., and meld multiple verses together.
- In the "Call" menu, click "Automatically Accept Calls". That way, you don't have to run around clicking "Accept". Note, however, that after you shut down NetMeeting on Windows 2000/XP, it will uncheck this option.
Some Final Thoughts
Imagine this scenario: all the families of your house church mine for Gold during the week. All the families have at least one notebook, which the father brings to the meeting on Sunday. The group invests together in a cheap projector, big TV, large monitor, or the like. Each of the fathers, in turn, shares with the rest of the group the insights his family had on the passages that the church was studying together the past week. Via Wi-Fi or some other type of networking—maybe even a simple CD or USB drive—all the fathers pass their data to one appointed secretary who merges everything into one big commentary, and then posts it to the church's blog. The fathers can also use their notebooks as Bibles, even doing some research on what the pastor is saying, while he is preaching. Wow!
Imagine a further step: hundreds, thousands, millions of house churches around the globe, blogging their insights to the Web. What a commentary resource! In this way, the insights could be preserved, and not confined to one house church. The ideas are simply thrilling. We could blow the porn people out of the water! Atheists would develop filtering services to keep God out of their lives on the Internet. Teenagers searching for porn would have to wade through blog after blog that had posted insights on "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out..." (Matthew 5:28-29a) Talk about an influence for God! Okay, I'm dreaming right now, but none the less...
This is an incredibly helpful tool for pasture-based spiritual feeding. It has great potential to enable the church to dig into God's Word in a way never imagined possible before. Go for it!
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