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Logos Sermon Prep Part Five: Taking Notes for Observations and Questions

Logos Bible Software helps preachers and teachers prepare their messages thanks to some useful Logos sermon prep tools, but the Notes feature gets more use than any other feature besides offering a library of Bibles, books and reference books. I use Notes extensively for the following:

  • Recording my thoughts about a text.
  • Keeping rack of ideas for how to preach a passage.
  • Record things learned in research of a text.
  • Write down questions I need to research.

I use a process called Inductive Bible Study in my Logos sermon prep, where the student reads the text and thinks about the context of the passage before every consulting third-party tools like lexicons, Bible dictionaries, atlases, concordances and commentaries. Those tools help me check my conclusions, find information I couldn’t get from my simple observations and learn about things like cultural backgrounds, geography, and language studies.

Taking Notes in Logos Sermon Prep

Bible software notes attach text and more to a specific word, phrase, verse or passage.  Some programs will also let you record them as topics unattached to anything in a book. In Logos, you can also add notes to other kinds of books and even to tools, like a Passage Guide generated for a passage of Scripture.

I attach notes to the passage I’m studying, a range of verses or a single verse. I almost never attach them to a single word in a verse, but you can if you like.

Logos lets users create a new Note document for each message or keep on document for all notes attached to a book or the Bible. If I were starting over today, I’d attach one note to each book of the Bible. Instead I have a large notes document called Bible Notes and record all of my notes in that document. I create other documents for other books I read.

Creating and Using the Notes Document in Logos

Create Logos Notes Document

To get started, create a new note document, if you don’t already have one you want to use. Open Logos and then click on Documents from the toolbar. Then in the window that pops open click on Notes. A new window opens with the new notes document in it. It has the title “Untitled Notes”. Click that name in the new document and it turns into an editable text box. Give it a name like Sermon Notes or Ezekiel Notes. I call mine Bible Notes.

The ensuing Notes Document will look like a simple word processor. It has the same control box in the upper left corner that all Logos windows show. Click it to see the menu that pops up. Users can sort their notes using different things like name, reference, and date to name a few. This also lets users print their notes or export the note as a passage list or sermon document.

Purpose of Making Observations

After I read and re-read my passage, I take notes on the passage using nothing but the English text at first. I do my language study at a later date. This has a few benefits.

  • My first thoughts are not clouded by the views of another researcher.
  • This lets me think through the text for myself with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration only at first.
  • I am going through my passage again, which helps me to internalize the message of the text.

What kinds of observations do I make? I record thoughts and ideas about almost every word in a verse. Let’s take John 3:16 as an example.

John 3:16, CSB
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

“For” connects this verse with the previous passage. This tells us why Jesus was “lifted up” (John 3:15).

God is the one who actively showed us his love in the work he did in giving us his son.

The term “loves” shows this is an ongoing, active love. Is this present tense and from agape?

God’s love is directed not just at his people or Christians, but the entire world. The world refers to all of humanity making his love universal even if salvation isn’t universal.

How does he show that love? “In this way” denotes the means of his demonstration is presented in the ensuing phrases.

The above observations only cover the first part of the verse. I will go over the entire verse putting a note for nearly every word and definitely every phrase.

The underlined part of the observations shows a question that I will need to find an answer by doing a word study of the word “loved”. It’s a good idea to mark the questions so you can easily find them in your research phase. When I do the research, I will add the answer either replacing the question with the answer or putting the answer right after the question and then removing the marking (underlining in this case).

Finish this step by going through every word or phrase in your passage. I also add a note to the entire passage by selecting the range of verses and choosing adding a single note to all the verses using the steps below. In that passage note I will write about the context of the passage showing how it fits in the chapter, the book and the entirety of the Bible. I’ll also give a brief outline fo the passage showing the flow of thought. Later I’ll come back to this note and record my passage Big Idea.

Working  with Notes Documents in Logos

add note in logos

When you discover something you want to record in a note, create a new note for that verse, word or passage. You can do this by selecting it and right-clicking it. Then choose either the “selection” or the passage in the right-hand column of the pop-up. Use selection (the top item in the list), which shows the text of the words you selected, if you want to add notes to those words or a word and not to a passage. The note will attach to that translation of the Bible only. For example, I’ve got the Christian Standard Bible open above. If I open the same passage in the KJV, that note won’t show up because it’s attached the note to the words I selected in the CSB and note the verse reference.

To add the note to a verse reference that will show up in any translation that includes that verse, choose the reference. It will attach the note to say John 3:16 instead of that translation of John 3:16. That way when I close CSB or open KJV the note will still show up.

After you pick between selection or the passage, click on Add note, Add note to “Bible Notes” or Add community note.

  • Add note – this is a new feature that relates to the new Notes features that Faithlife is adding to Logos. These notes will show up in the desktop, the mobile apps and the Logos Web app. Logos is in transition and the new notes feature will become the default soon. Some users might not see this yet in their installation of Logos. You can convert your old notes to the new version when it ships in the final form. For now, I’d avoid this I you don’t use the web app.
  • Add note to “Bible Notes” – you will add your note to the Notes Document you created above. Its title will show up instead of “Bible Notes”. If your preferred Notes Document doesn’t show up in the pop-up, then open the Notes Document first from the Document’s menu.
  • Add community note – Community Notes are public to all people who use them. You can turn these off or on from the Visual Filters toolbar button in the Bible’s window. It looks like three dots arranged in a triangular shape (see below).

community notes

I add all my notes to my “Bible Notes” document and will convert them later when the new notes feature gets launched. I’ll write a full review and how to article about the new notes feature when it ships, so keep an eye out here.

Other Ways to Record Thoughts and Research

In addition to a Notes Document, users can record research or thoughts using other kinds of documents in Logos. I don’t use these features as much, but other users swear by them and use them more than notes. They include…

  • Clippings – select text from a commentary, dictionary or other reference tool while studying your passage and shave it to a Clippings Document. Think of this like note cards that you used to use while researching a paper in college or seminary. Clippings helps copy a bunch of snippets of information from other books. At this phase we’re focused on the Bible text only, so it’s not the best tool for the Observations phase of inductive Bible study.
  • Passage List – keep a list of key passages. You might use this to keep cross references from a search performed on a word in your passage.
  • Sermon – write your sermon within Logos and then export it or preach from the document in the mobile version of Logos. You can also convert a Notes Document into a Sermon Document.
  • Word List – Like a Passage List, but for Greek or Hebrew words instead of passages. Make a list of every theological term in a passage to help you know what word studies you need to do after you’ve finished taking notes on the English text.

Kevin

Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.

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