The Pastor’s Desk

Grow Series: Seed – Treasuring God’s Word

Rather than put that audio of the past 2 weeks messages or even the transcript, I wanted to share the “booklet” that I distributed at church. This “booklet” is informational and contains much of the same heart as the last 2 sermons that were preached he at Goodhope Nazarene. I hope this information is useful to you.

The B-I-B-L-E! Yes, that’s the book for me. 

Your word is a lamp for my feet,

a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

 

What is the Bible?

There are many ways to answer this question. Some say Scripture is a legal contract between God and man. Others say it is God’s instruction book for Life (BasicInstructionsBeforeLeavingEarth). Some have called the Bible, “God’s love letter to humankind.” All of these definitions have value and capture an element of what scripture is. When I think about what the Bible is there are 3 big ideas that come to my mind.

  1. The Bible the primary way that God speaks to us today.
  2. The Bible is an epic collaborative story about God, the creator, seeking out his lost children.
  3. When that story is told it acts as a beacon that leads His kids to Him – A trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the banquet of Christ.

The Church of the Nazarene makes this statement about scripture in the fourth Article of Faith:

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith. (Luke 24:44-47; John 10:35; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21)[1]

Christian do and should have a high view of scripture. However, along with our view and definitions of scripture, we need to make sure that our daily life habits match our understanding of scripture. Are we reading the instructions? Are we pondering the love letter? Are we learning the story? Are we allowing God to speak to us through Scripture on a daily basis?

Hopefully, this booklet will be of use to you as you seek to make scripture a part of your daily Life.

Where to Start

 The first thing you need to do is get a Bible translation that you can understand. The question is often asked, “Which version is best?” or “Which translation should I get?” Each translation has its purpose and its strong points and to compare each one in this booklet would be too much. The best answer to “Which one?” is the One you will read and understand. Take some time and go to a Christian bookstore or visit a Bible website like BibleGateway and read different translations see which one you like and understand and go with that one. If you need more assistance in this or want more information about Bible translations talk to your pastor.

Once you have a translation that works for you then make time to read each day. There are a lot of resources out there that can give you a schedule on reading the Bible through in a year and other similar types of reading plans (if you need help finding something like this ask your pastor).

Some, when reading the Bible, will start at the front and try and read it through to the end. Usually, when people attempt this they only get so far before giving up. If you are new to the Bible I would recommend starting with the story of Jesus in one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

Not a hotdog eating competition

 It is also important to remember scripture reading is not a hotdog-eating contest. The point is not to see how much and how fast you can read. Scripture is the primary way in which God speaks to us today. Approach it that way. Begin with prayer asking God to speak to you and to help you understand as you read. Read a chapter or a section and stop and think about it, pray some more, write down any thoughts you may have about it in a notebook or even in the margins of your Bible. Thank God for speaking to you and look for ways to incorporate what God has communicated to you into your daily Life.

Stay Encouraged

You will sometimes read and you will come to things you do not understand. Or sometimes you will read and it will seem empty and pointless. Sometimes you may forget or get sidetracked for a day or two and not read anything. It is times like this that discouragement can sink in and it can cause us to give up. Stay encouraged and don’t give up.

  • If you don’t understand something write it down and ask! No one knows or understands everything. It is okay to ask. When you ask others or talk to others about scripture you will not only learn and gain understanding but you will also gain deeper friendships with those around you.
  • If it seems dry and empty. Talk to God about it and let him know. Ask him to breath life into your reading. Also remember not every meal hits the spot but every meal is beneficial to our physical health and nourishment. The same is true with our spiritual health and scripture reading.
  • If you forget a couple days you may be tempted to just call it quits. Don’t do that! Just start again today.

As you are faithful in seeking God in His word your life will be filled more and more with the love of God. Also as you seek God the enemy will fight against you to keep you from encountering God. Be strong and courageous the Lord is with you.

Make a Plan

Stop right now and make a plan.

When will you make time in your day for scripture and prayer?

What book of the Bible will you begin with?

Who can you ask to keep you accountable and who are some people you can ask when you have questions?

More than Reading

Engage God in scripture it is about more than reading. Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to study, meditate upon, and memorize scripture. It is my hopes that this booklet will give you what you need to get you started engaging God through study, meditation, and memorization of Scripture.

Study

In Acts 17:11 we learn that the Bereans were more noble than others because they searched the scriptures to find out if what Paul said was true.  They didn’t simply take his word for it but they studied to find the truth. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he tells him to “Study to show himself approved” (2 Tim 2:15) then later in that letter he tells Timothy that scripture is useful in teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The study of Scripture is beneficial and it is also necessary for understanding

We sometimes think we can simply open up the Bible and read it and completely understand it. While that is often true it is not always true. Just think of how many times the Bible has been used and applied incorrectly by well or ill-intentioned people. Additionally, even with the things, we can understand think of how much more we can understand when we properly study the passage. To be faithful stewards of scripture and rightly handling the word of truth we need to put in the effort and study. But how?

How to Study the Bible. [2]

There is a popular three-step Bible Study method that is easy to learn and easy to follow. It is a method that can be used by someone just getting started studying scripture as well as someone who is a veteran. It can be used for short studies or long in-depth studies.  The three steps are:

  1. Observation
  2. Interpretation
  3. Application

Step 1 – Observation

In this step, you observe as much as you can in the passage. Start by reading the passage 2 or 3 times. Take a look at the surrounding context. Look at the passage in different translations if you are able and notice any differences in word or phrasing choices.

Ask these type of questions.

  1. Who wrote it and who did they write it to?
  2. If it is a narrative who is speaking and who are they speaking to? What happened to cause the conversation or actions in the passage?
  3. Who are the characters in the passage? What do we know about the characters
  4. When was it written?
  5. When does the story take place?
  6. Where does the story take place?
  7. What are the keywords or ideas in the passages?
  8. Are there any repeated phrases?
  9. Is there any cause and effect or comparisons?
  10. Ask other questions of curiosity. Any question that comes to mind as you read the text write it down.

Do your best to answer the questions. First, see if the passage itself offers an answer. See if the context offers an answer. Refer to outside resources such as Study Bibles, Commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and concordances.

Realize that not all the questions will be answered and that is okay! Also, understand that there will be different opinions about some of the answers and that is okay too! This first stage is an exploratory process where you are trying to see and understand exactly what the text says and who it says it to.

Final notes regarding the observation step, throughout this step, pray, pray, and pray some more for God’s guidance and wisdom. Also, don’t get overwhelmed! depending on your time and ability this first step can be involved and in-depth or as simple as you want it to be. The idea is to do what you can and what God leads and always remember you can ask your pastor or other teachers for help.

Step 2 – Interpretation

In the first step, we do our best to determine what the Bible passage said in this step we do our best to discover the meaning. The question we are trying to answer is “ What is the main idea/ intent,/message of this passage? To discover this we take everything we learned in the first step and do our best to sort it all out. When considering the meaning or purpose of a passage we must consider 5 things

  • Context – what is the flow of thought are we jumping in at the beginning middle or end of this thought process? How do the  surrounding verses relate to the passage? How do the surrounding chapters tie into the passage? How does the passage fit into the content of the whole biblical book?
  • Cross Reference – Can we gain insight on this topic from other places in scripture?
  • Culture – how does the culture of the book/writer factor into our understanding. We need to remember the Bible wasn’t written down the road last week, but thousands of years ago on the other side of the world. The historical/ cultural context of the Bible is hugely important.
  • Conclusion – after considering all of the above make a conclusion about the meaning and purpose of the passage.
  • Consultation – Check what other people have said about this passage with the use of study notes, commentaries, sermons etc. Do they agree or disagree with you? Does your conclusion need to be adjusted? Always be cautious if your conclusion is drastically different than Biblical scholars and the historical teachings of Christianity. Additionally just because 1 commentary disagrees doesn’t mean you are wrong look at various thoughts and weigh them out and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Step 3 – Application

Step 3 is the end goal. We want to become more like Christ and we want his will and way to be done in our lives. Therefore, after we have done the above work we then figure out how the passage impacts our life.

Ask the following questions after every passage of Scripture you study:

  • How does the message of this passage affect my relationship with God?
    ●How does the message of this passage affect my relationship with others?
    ●How does the message of this passage affect me?

The application step is just about simply answering these questions. The idea is acting on what is discovered in scripture. As you actively try to faithfully respond to what God reveals to you God, our creator, will bless you and you will be transformed more and more into the image of Christ.

Meditate

What is meditation? In some systems of thinking meditation is the clearing of one’s thoughts and mind. It is the image of the person sitting cross-legged chanting something over and over again. However, this is NOT what is meant by meditating upon scripture. Meditating upon scripture is not the act of emptying your mind but filling it with God’s truth as found in Scripture. Take a look at Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.[3]

This passage answers some questions for us. Meditating on God’s law is something done by those who delight in it. If we delight in scripture it will be on our thoughts often. Meditating on scripture is something that can be done day and night. In other words, it can be done throughout the course of a normal day. It can be done while we are out and about doing other things and it can be done as we sit quietly before the Lord.  When we keep God’s word before us and in our minds, it will lead to stability, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. So how do we meditate on Scripture?

The Hebrew word for meditate in Psalm 1 is hagah.  The possible definitions of this word will help us understand what is meant by it. The Dictionary of Biblical languages gives these definitions.

  1. growl, i.e., the sound of a lion (Isa 31:4)

2.meditate, ponder, give serious thought and consideration to selected information, with a possible implication of speaking in low tones reviewing the material (Jos 1:8);

3.speak, utter, i.e., talk in normal tones so others can hear (Job 27:4; Ps 37:30; 71:24);

4.moan, groan, lament, i.e., make soft sounds expressing grief and sorrow (Jer 48:31);

5.plot, plan, i.e., to think and so decide a course of action, with a focus that verbal exchange takes place (Ps 2:1);

6.decide, weigh, i.e., make a judgment about something after a thought process (Pr 15:28);

7.mutter, i.e., to speak in low, hushed tones (Isa 59:3, Isa 8:19[4]

We can see from this range of meaning that to meditate on scripture means to think about it, consider its meaning, speak it to yourself, speak it to others, use it for decision making. Essentially it is letting it fill every area of your life! Isn’t that much more exciting than sitting cross-legged and saying “ooohm”!?

As you do your reading and studying of scripture pick a verse or two that is particularly impactful to you and keep it on your mind throughout the day. Share it with others, preach it to yourself, quote it to yourself, pray it and look for ways to put it into practice.

The more you read scripture the more you study it and memorize it the easier it will be to meditate on it.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16[5]

Memorization

If you grew up in church then you will remember your Sunday school teachers encouraging and bribing you to memorize Bible verses. However, somewhere along the line as we got older something happened and we simply stopped trying or even considering memorizing Bible passages. If you didn’t grow up in church and came to faith later in life then you may or may not have considered memorizing Bible passages. Why should we make scripture memorization a part of our Christian life?

  1. We saw previously the exhortation in Psalm 1 to meditate on God’s word this becomes easier when we know his word.
  2. Memorizing Scripture helps us fight sin (Psalm 119:11, Matthew 4)
  3. Jesus memorized scripture (Matthew 4)
  4. When we know scripture we can encourage one another with it and share it with unbelievers
  5. The list can go on and on.

But!?!

I already know what most of you are thinking. I can’t memorize because [insert reason here]! It is true some people have an easier time memorizing things than others however the more you work on memorizing the better your memory becomes. So if you wish you could memorize bible verses better and if you wish your memory were better then simply start doing your best to memorize scripture and as you put in the effort your memory will improve.

Also, I think we convince ourselves it is something we can’t do and that our brain simply doesn’t memorize stuff, but take a moment and think of all the music lyrics you know. Think about the movie lines you can quote. Think about all the people’s phone numbers you know and how you remember who used to live in that house down the street 30 years ago. Consider how you can walk into a grocery store to the correct aisle and the correct shelf and the correct position on the shelf and grab the brand of peanut butter you like. All of this is not meant to guilt you but to encourage you and say your memory is probably better than you think!

Tips

Here are some tips to help you memorize scripture.

  1. – You will never be able to do it if you don’t try. Even if you don’t get it quickly or perfectly isn’t being able to paraphrase a verse and know about where it is better than not trying and not knowing at all?
  2. Repeat – repetition is our friend. The more you repeat something the more it lets your brain know it is important. Your brain stores the most important information closest to the surface for easiest access.
  3. Put it to music. Sing the words of the verse to a tune. You can make one up or you can find people who have already done this. Using different parts of your brain will help cement the verse in your mind.
  4. Visualize the verse or assign images to each phrase. We are visual and spatial people. If you read Psalm 23 while picturing a shepherd and sheep. Put it together as a movie in your head that will help you remember the words. Optionally assign an image to each phrase. The images are easier to remember and as you remember each image you will remember the words that are attached to it.
  5. Pray – Ask God for help — we do believe God helps us right?
  6. Find a friend to memorize with you. You can practice together and hold one another accountable.
  7. Write it down and carry it with you. Look at it throughout the day
  8. Read it out loud
  9. Choose a verse that is meaningful to you.
  10. Try – you will never memorize it if you don’t try. There are 52 verses listed on the back of this booklet to help get you started. Go ahead and give it a try!

[1]http://www.nazarene.org/articles-faith#4

[2] This section is adapted from.  https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/tips/3-simple-steps-for-studying-the-bible.html

[3]Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

[4]Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament)1997 : n. pag. Print.

[5]NIV

Christians are Hate -Filled Hypocrites and other Lies you’ve been Told

I was recently reading through the bookOrganic Outreach for Churches” by Kevin G. Harney. This book is all about how churches can naturally and organically reach people around them. One of the points he makes is that our outreach is stifled if we do not love the church. After all, why would we invite others to be a part of something that we really aren’t that fond of ourselves?

But how can we really get excited over the Church when every time we turn around we are seeing a story about a Christian leader caught in a scandal, or a group of Christians picketing a funeral, or researchers that claim that the church is declining at a rapid rate and we are losing all our young people and no one likes Christians. We don’t want to be a part of something like that much less invite others to join us Its like when one of my brothers or sisters would pull a forgotten Tupperware container out of the fridge and upon opening it would exclaim, “Ugh that stinks … here you smell!”

Um no thanks!?

Is the church perfect? Well of course not, but are there great reasons to love her? Absolutely! Here is the thing, we know the church isn’t perfect but did you know that Christianity is doing much better than we are led to believe?

Kevin Harney suggested in “Organic Outreach another book. A book that sounded incredibly interesting. A book that for the time being (until I read something else) has become my favorite book.

“Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…And Other Lies You’ve Been Told” By Bradley R.E. Wright.

This book is full of great information and sprinkled with just enough sarcastic humor to keep it fun. He looks at multiple assumptions and popular opinions about Christianity and looks at the data to determine if it is true.

To put it simply – We can all calm down —- things are NOT as bad as we have been sometimes led to believe.

  • Christianity is not on the brink of extinction.
  • We are not losing all of our young people
  • Christian’s do love each other and we are not just as sinful as the world.

While all of these things run contrary to the sensationalist headlines that would lead us to believe Christianity is on its way out and we are all hate-filled hypocrites, this good report shouldn’t be a surprise to us.

It shouldn’t be surprising that God’s church is thriving.
It shouldn’t be surprising that people’s hearts and lives are truly transformed by the power of Christ – after all, didn’t he transform your life and weren’t you added to his kingdom?

 

Wright writes, “ This positive message is very different from what we often hear from Christian leaders, teachers, and researchers. Their message can go something like this: American Christianity is rapidly dying, and Christians are immoral, disliked, and not very good at being Christians, So…go invite your friends to join us.”

If you have $6 and a little bit of time jump on Amazon and get a copy and perhaps it will help you go with confidence to your friends, families, and neighbors inviting them to join the Christian movement that is sweeping the world and changing lives for the better.