I thought it was what I wanted, and there it was under the Christmas tree in 1965. I opened the black cardboard-ish case and proudly took out that Silvertone flat-top acoustic. $19.95 from Sears. I was a twelve-year-old girl who loved listening to the radio, and I wanted to play all those songs on the guitar.
I really tried. It came with an instruction record and booklet. I got a few songbooks with chords. I asked everyone I knew who played to teach me some songs. After several years I still sounded terrible and couldn’t manage to play anything smoothly. The music-making wasn’t satisfying.
When other people started letting me try their guitars, I finally realized what the problem was. My cheap plywood instrument was the problem. The strings were always stiff and were strung too high above the neck. Playing chords took a lot of finger-power to press down on the frets. I built up some pretty good callouses while learning on that piece of junk.
When I bought a better acoustic, I realized a nicer, well-built guitar was easier to play and sounded much better, no matter who played it.
My point is your resources matter. The tools you use make a difference. Whether we are talking about kitchen utensils, gardening implements, or Bible study aids, we should carefully choose the best we can afford. If we have to start with the cheap stuff, so be it. Get what you can out of it, but try to work up to something better.
I heard Chuck Missler say to treat your Bible study library as you would your favorite hobby. Then he asked with a grin, “How many of you spend more money on your hobby than you want your spouse to know about?” Golf, hunting, fishing, scrapbooking, shopping, photography, music, reading, and (eek!) gardening.
You may be doing well just to read your Bible. Don’t stop doing that, but it contains some things that are hard to understand. Most of us seek answers to our questions about it. Where do you go for that information? According to the Scriptures, our lack of knowledge can be a serious thing. It may cause you to think your Bible is a Sears Silvertone.
There are so many excellent resources available that help us understand different aspects of God’s Word. Sure, we can get information from the Internet, but reliable, trustworthy, academically sound resources usually come with a price.
I’ve got lots of different Bible translations in print and compare them frequently. I make extensive use of good cross references. I’ve got several Study Bibles that give brief explanations in context. I enjoy several commentaries which offer a wide variety of theological perspectives. Then there are atlases, theological word books, Bible dictionaries, a big old Strong’s concordance, archaeology information, and many other superb helps. And yes, I use several digital study sources.
Consider it a hobby and spend accordingly, but only if you plan to use them. Don’t treat them like a collection of ceramic figurines that just catch dust on your shelves.
Keep in mind that every one of these materials is not without a perspective. The slant of some is more evident than others since they are created to be marketed to specific theological populations. I think it’s good to understand the spectrum of Christian thought, but only if you’re clear on the rock-solid basics of orthodoxy.
I’ve got a thirst for knowledge about the Word of God. It will be a never-ending quest till the day I die because there’s so much to discover about the Scriptures. I used to tell people in church training sessions, “We never graduate from Sunday school.”
I realize many people have neither the time nor the inclination to do in-depth Bible study on their own. But when that bug bites, it’s good to know what to do to scratch the itch. You can’t get it with just a weekly Sunday morning sermon.
There are plenty of theological Sears Silvertones out there. They may be all that beginners can get their hands on. They have a certain twang, but they aren’t meant for anything more than singing around the campfire. Some people may want to toss them into the campfire.
Look for good resources that can take you into the depths of the Scriptures. You want sound theology that can encourage your daily walk in discipleship as well as improve your knowledge base. Excellent study material can help you have a more intimate relationship with the Lord. And that sounds like music to my ears.