Monthly Archives: July 2012

How Can I Get Started Studying the Bible?

Dear church family,

Many times people pick up the Bible and say, “Where do I start?” Many people seldom read a book from beginning to end and even fewer, it seems, ever read the entire Bible, The Word Of God. So you may be one of the ones who feels like this new convert. So,

Here’s A Bible Tip 4 U!

Question: I’m a new Christian, and I want to learn more from the Bible. I have an old Bible that belonged to my grandmother, and it’s difficult to understand. Where do I begin? How can I get more out of reading the Bible?

Answer: It’s great to hear about your desire to read God’s Word. Many Christians long to know more about the Bible, but like you, they feel frustrated because of the strange words and unusual writing styles. If you’re reading an older version, such as the King James Version, the Bible can feel particularly foreign to you. How can you begin to understand what you are reading?

The first step is to purchase a Bible that you can use at home and at church. You might ask your pastor what version he uses when he preaches. It’s helpful to own a copy of the same version so that you can follow along during his sermon.

Many people want to know which Bible version Chuck Swindoll or some other famous preacher uses. Chuck preaches from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) because he believes that this version represents the most accurate translation of the original text. I personally preach from the King James Version because it is the most widely accepted translation in this area. However, I study from many translations. The Bible was originally written in ancient Hebrew and Greek, with a few sections in Aramaic. Therefore, any English Bible is a translation. Some Bibles present a nearly word-for-word translation, while other versions offer a looser, more contemporary translation.

The NASB (New American Standard Bible) translators determined to keep their version as literal in regard to the original text as possible. This is the genius of the NASB, but we must also recognize that for many people this is a drawback, since the literality may produce a rather wooden rendering. The NASB is not as smooth nor as idiomatic as other translations.

Although Chuck preaches from the NASB, he owns other versions and reads them occasionally. In recent years, he has come to highly regard the New International Version (NIV).

Every version has virtues and limitations. Some Bibles contain study notes to help you understand the text or articles to help you apply what you reading. To learn more about Bible versions, you might read The Complete Guide to Bible Versions, by Philip W. Comfort. This book provides a list of the various versions of the Bible along with a quick overview of the history and philosophy of the translation.

The Bible is not a typical book; rather it is a collection of sixty-six books written during various times and by different authors. With an ordinary book, you begin on page one and read to the end. But because the Bible is a collection of books, you may approach it differently. Here are a few approaches to reading the Bible:

Scheduled Bible Reading

Many people follow a Bible-reading schedule, such as one of the schedules listed on the Web site: http://www.bibleplan.org. Imagine that Bible reading is like taking a bus tour of a large city. On a bus tour, you cover a lot of ground without spending too much time in any one place, and that’s what scheduled reading should be. The idea is to become familiar with the major themes, stories, and chronology of Scripture. Then, if you want to study a particular passage, you can “get off the bus” and spend focused time in that specific place.

Devotional Study

Think of the Bible as a long banquet table full of delicious entrees. You may step up to any section and select a morsel of truth. Christian devotional books take this approach. Each day the book includes a meditation on a verse or two to guide your reading.

However, be careful not to use the Bible like a crystal ball. Some Christians try to find a message from God by closing their eyes, flipping open their Bibles, and pointing their fingers at a verse. The flip-and-point method often leads to frustration, because the verse might not mean much to you. Or worse, it leads to error, because you may take the verse out of context and interpret it to mean something that the author never intended.

If you wish to read what the Bible says on certain topics like discouragement, hope, or eternal life, you can purchase a topical index, such as A Topical Bible Guide by Bob Phillips. This small book is worth its weight in gold! It contains verses on one hundred topics of interest, and you can pick a few verses to read as a devotional study for the day. Write down the verses on cards to carry with you, or look up and underline the verses in your Bible. You’ll be able to remember the verses more clearly when you know where they are found in your Bible.

Book Study

You can also select a certain book of the Bible to study. If you’ve never read the Bible before, you may want to look in the table of contents and find the book of Mark. Mark is a fast-moving account of Jesus’s life and is perhaps the easiest of the four gospels to understand. As you read a selection every day, ask yourself, “What is the author trying to tell me about Jesus in this passage?” Dig for the timeless principles that the Bible is teaching, and apply those principles to your life. For example, in Mark 1:21-28 when Jesus is casting out the evil spirit, He demonstrates His authority over demons. The author is teaching the truth that Jesus is the greatest authority in the physical and the spiritual realms, and you can feel confident in His power.

You may want to jot down the Biblical principles you discover in a notebook or prayer journal. As you examine the verses, ask yourself a few application-type questions.

*  Are there any promises that I can claim in these verses?

*  Is there a command that I need to obey?

*  Are there any sins that I need to avoid?

*  Is there an example to follow?

*  What encouragement or comfort may I gain?

*  What new perspective is God showing me?

God has given us His Word to nourish us through every stage of our Christian development. It is “pure milk” for newborn believers (1 Peter 2:2) and “solid food” for the mature (Hebrews 5:14). You can feed on the Scripture every day for the rest of your life and never exhaust its storehouse of nourishment. May God richly bless your study of His Word.

Building Blocks For Families

The writer of Ephesians tells us in chapter 5 verse 12 that we ought to be “imitators of God….and live a life of love.”

A child identifies his/her parents with God, whether or not the adults want that role. Most children “see” God the way they perceive their earthly fathers and parents. Doctor James Dobson writes about this in his book The Strong Willed Child, page 171. This is a great book, check it out!

On The Lighter Side:  

“I told the search committee their background check didn’t go far enough.”

Bible Trivia

What was the one thing Elijah left behind him when God took him to heaven? (Answer in next week’s Pastor’s Pen.)

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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

(1st Sam. 15:10 – 23)

Dear church family,

Here is a devotional thought for the week:

The Spirit Makes Obedience Possible

Scripture I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. Ezekial 36:27, HCSB

Thought The Spirit makes obedience possible. Living in you, the Spirit prompts you to answer God’s invitation. Listening to the Spirit always leads to the right decision when you face a crisis of belief.

Prayer Spirit of God, live in me. Take away the self-centeredness that makes me ignore You, O Holy Spirit. Bring to pass what You have purposed for me. I love You. Amen.

This devotional is courtesy of Experiencing God Today.

VERSE OF THE WEEK:

Psalm 25:11 (KJV) 11 For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

“So, you thought you would get away from the church for a day, huh? Don’t you feel guilty? What about all your parishioners? And you call yourself a pastor!”

Here’s A Bible Tip 4 U!

By: John Piper

Having promises at hand that suit the temptation of the hour is one key to successful warfare against sin. But there are times when we don’t have a perfectly suited word from God in our minds.

When Paul says to put to death the deeds of the body “by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13), I take him to mean that we should use the one weapon in the Spirit’s armor that is used to kill. Namely, the sword. Which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

So when the body is about to be led into a sinful action by some fear or craving, we are to take the sword of the Spirit and kill that fear and that craving. In my experience that means mainly severing the root of sin’s promise by the power of a superior promise.

So, for example, when I begin to crave some illicit sexual pleasure, the sword-swing that has often severed the root of this promised pleasure is: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I recall the pleasures I have tasted of seeing God more clearly from an undefiled conscience; and I recall the brevity and superficiality and oppressive aftertaste of sin’s pleasures, and with that, God has killed the conquering power of sin.

It is a beautiful thing to be the instrument of God’s word-wielding power to kill sin.

Having promises at hand that suit the temptation of the hour is one key to successful warfare against sin. But there are times when we don’t have a perfectly suited word from God in our minds. And there is no time to look through the Bible for a tailor-made promise.

So we all need to have a small arsenal of general promises ready to use whenever fear or craving threaten to lead us astray.

Here are a few of my most proven weapons:

1. “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10)

I have slain more dragons in my soul with that sword than any other I think. It is a precious weapon to me.

2. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

How many times I have been persuaded in the hour of trial by this verse that the reward of disobedience could never be greater than “all things.”

3. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18, 20).

How many times have I strengthened my sagging spirit with the assurance that the Lord of heaven and earth is just as much with me today as he was with the disciples on earth!

4. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).

What makes this weapon so compelling is that God’s helping me is made the occasion of my glorifying him. Amazing arrangement. I get the help, he gets the glory!

5. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:19).

The context is financial and material. But the principle is total. What we really need (not just want) will be granted. And what is need? Need is what we must have to do God’s will. What we must have to magnify our Savior. That is what we will be given as we trust him.

Be constantly adding to your arsenal of promises. But never lose sight of the chosen few that God has blessed in your life. Do both. Be ever-ready with the old. And every morning look for a new one to take with you through the day.

These things will help make Obedience easier and more often attainable in your spiritual walk with the Lord.

Remember, God wants total custody, not just weekend visits!

 

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A New Look for the Pastor’s Pen

Dear church family,

I have been doing the pastor’s Pen for some time now and thought I would give it a new look. Let me know what you think. The new format will change some from week to week but will have many repeating features.  If the entire Pastor’s Pen is not in the Prayer Bulletin you can find it online at the church website and click on the Pastor’s Pen Button

One section will be the Verse of the Week. God’s word instructs us to hide His word in our heart so that we might not sin against God. Scripture memorization can help us be more successful in our Christian lives. Learning scripture can be especially helpful in overcoming temptation and facing doubts and discouragement.

VERSE OF THE WEEK:

Romans 3:20 (KJV) 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Now on Thursday morning at eleven, our Women Against Pornography, Day Care Centers, Beards, Guitars, and Humorous Cartoons and Messages by the Pastor will hold their weekly meeting and Bible Study on Loving Acceptance.

 A BIBLE STUDY TIP 4 U:

Write and take notes as you read the Bible. Have you ever read a portion of Scripture – perhaps even several pages or chapters – only to realize that you have no idea what you just read? Your eyes may be reading words but your mind is thinking about the phone call you just received or your day’s schedule. If you wish to know God, you must know His Word, advised C. H. Spurgeon.

How to make the Word come alive within you:

  • Write out portions of the Word. Do you remember in elementary school when the teacher would instruct the class to copy a list from the blackboard? The teacher knew you were more likely to grasp and remember the concepts if you copied the words. God knew how prone His people were to forget what He had told them. Over and over, He challenged them to remember Him, to remember His law, to remember what He had done for them. Taking time to write out specific passages from the Word forces you to think about what you are reading and to observe the details of the text more carefully. You could begin by writing out paragraphs of scriptures on index cards, then meditating on or memorizing those passages.
  • Write in your Bible. Underline verses you find particularly meaningful to you. In time your Bible will tell a story of your personal journey of faith during a specific period of time. Circle repeated words or phrases. Write cross references in the margin as well as noting the meaning of specific words or phrases.
  • Record insights. When John was in exile, he was given a vision of heaven. The Lord appeared to him and said, Write on a scroll what you see…Write, therefore, what you have seen (Rev. 1:11,19). Likewise, you can write what you have seen in scripture. Use journals to record your observations and insights that the Holy Spirit has shown you while reading and meditating on the Word. Each time you write, record the date and passage you are reading.
  • Record your responses. Ask yourself, What should I do? God told Ezekiel that the problem with His people was that They sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice (Ex. 33:31). How does this truth apply to my life? What changes need to be made in my life?
  • Record milestones in your spiritual pilgrimage. When the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites, God used the occasion to teach the eager Joshua to rely, not on his natural strength or ability, but on the power of God revealed each time Moses raised his arms. Not wanting Joshua ever to forget that the Amalekites were his eternal enemies and that He alone had the power to overcome them, the Lord said to Moses, Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered (Ex. 17:14). This is perhaps the first Biblical illustration of what we call journaling. When you have spiritual achievements (understanding the death of a loved one, coming to terms with your frailties, learning about obedience), write them down as a reminder of the providence of God.

 Pastor Rick

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