Monthly Archives: January 2018

Why Read & Study The Bible?

ThePastorsPenSome people may wonder why believers get so excited about the Word of God, but there’s a reason it’s the best selling book of all time. There has never been another collection of writings like the Bible, and there never will be. It is the Book of books—truth worth living by and dying for.

That’s why we devoted this entire issue of the Pastor’s Pen to celebrating Scripture. No other writing contains the mind of God and reveals the true path to salvation. The Bible’s doctrines are holy, and its precepts are binding. This sacred Book provides light to guide us, food to nourish, comfort to cheer our hearts, and an anchor in times of storm. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s walking staff, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.

We celebrate the Bible translators living in distant villages, scattered across the globe—those laboring to translate at least one book of the gospel into obscure languages so that all people can know the Lord. We rejoice in the countless pastors who stand in pulpits around the world each Sunday, whether under thatched roofs or in great cathedrals, and proclaim the life-changing message of Scripture. And we give thanks for the millions of lives being transformed by its timeless truth. Let me say it again: There is no book like the Bible, and there is no god like our God.

I’ve been a Christian long enough to tell you this: There’s not a single promise in God’s Word that He has ever failed to keep. Scripture has encouraged me in times of adversity and given me strength when I felt weak. This is the Book I know I can turn to again and again and be reminded that my sins have been forgiven—and that no matter what happens, I have a loving Father in heaven, a helper in the Holy Spirit, and a Savior in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword”
(Heb. 4:12) because God speaks to us through its pages, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot “hear” His message to us if we don’t regularly come to the Bible, humble and ready to learn. Therefore, make His Word a regular part of your daily life, and you’ll come to love it as well.

I grew up in a home without a dishwasher. To be more accurate, I grew up in a home of two children. We were the dishwashers.

Then, one summer in high school I had to go stay with my Aunt and Uncle while my Grandfather had surgery. And it all went well until I broke their kitchen.
Being a helpful young man, I loaded the dishwasher after lunch one day and decided to run the wash cycle. I fished around under the sink and found a container of soap. Dish soap.

Did I mention that my family didn’t have a dishwasher?

I loaded that little dispenser area with the blue gel and my cousins and I went into the playroom. 20 minutes later I returned to find small-size mountains of bubbles building on the hardwood floors, overflowing from the dishwasher like lava from an industrial volcano.

I thought back to that mortifying experience as I started writing this post. And this is the first time I’ve been grateful for such an embarrassing mistake.

Sometimes we approach the Bible like an unfamiliar machine. Afraid that we’ll somehow get something wrong and ruin the whole experience. Well, I have good news.

You can’t break the Bible.

There are however, some helpful things to keep in mind (and heart) as you get started reading God’s Word.

How to Read the Bible:

Ask. Talk with God. Let Him know that you want to hear from Him. Quiet your heart. Put away your to-do list and don’t give space for random thoughts of squirrels and shiny things. I keep a notebook nearby to write down things that may distract me from my time with the Lord—once I get them down on paper I don’t have to give them any further thought.

Seek love not knowledge.

“Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b, NIV).

It’s easy to read scripture for the sake of knowledge. To know things. To check it off the list. That’s the lesser option.

Look for the love in what you read because God is love. We don’t want to settle for knowing about Him. We want to know Him, and that level of knowing comes when He talks with us through what we read. I spent so many years learning facts and trivia about God. Knowing Him is WAY better.

What version to read? We are blessed with access to many translations of the Bible. Many new believers like to read the New International Version (NIV). The most accurate translations for in-depth study are considered to be the King James (KJ), the New King James (NKJ), or English Standard Version (ESV). There’s no harm reading other versions, in fact, I like to read the same passage in multiple versions to see what wording God may use to speak to me. I especially enjoy the modern and creative wording of The Message (MSG) version, although these same creative liberties make it difficult to use for word study. Please hear me though, creative words may inspire, but they don’t replace the direct translation of the original word meaning, which we’ll talk about in a bit.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ” (John 3:16-17, NIV).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16, ESV).

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:16, MSG).

Look at:

Context. What’s happening in this scenario? Who is the audience? A particular verse may speak to you, what does that verse mean in context of the whole passage?

Word meaning. What is the meaning of the word in the source language? The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and a few books in Aramaic, and the New Testament was written in Greek. Looking up words in the source language gives a depth of understanding you don’t get when just reading in English. For example, I may read “For God so loved the world” in John 3:16. My mind naturally thinks of “love” as affectionate or romantic, but that’s not what this verse means. In the original Greek, “love” in this verse is agapaō which means good-will, to be fond of. God’s love for us, the love that led Him to give Jesus for our sins, was not an emotional response. It was prompted by love of good will. If you’re interested in doing word studies I like using the free website Blue Letter Bible. Pick the KJV and check the box for “Strongs” and it will show you concordance links next to words so you can easily see what they mean in the original language.

Connections. Next, we want to look for connections within the passage and to other passages. How does John 3:16 relate to the rest of the chapter? What other passages speak to the same topic? For example

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).

Application. How does this passage apply to your life? What is God saying to you through it?

Where to start reading? A great place to start reading is with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as they give four different accounts of the life of Jesus, based on the perspective of their authors. Psalms and Proverbs are also great books to begin with as Psalms is full of praise and Proverbs is basically tweetable-sized tidbits of wisdom.

Reread. Read the same passage multiple times. Sometimes I’ll do this in one sitting: I read the whole chapter, then go back and reread looking for key words or phrases that stick out to me. You can also reread the same books over and over. God uses familiar passages to say new things. All. The. Time.

Ask. If you don’t understand something, ask. Ask God. Ask friends or leaders you trust to help you discern what a scripture means. Google to find other passages of scripture that speak to the same topic. Read trusted commentaries from Bible scholars and then ask God to help you discern how you should receive their interpretations.

Implement. Even considering all of the steps above, this step is one of the easiest ways to “break” the Bible. We must do what it says, otherwise, it’s a bigger mess than putting the wrong soap in the dishwasher. When we don’t apply God’s Word to our lives we settle for pride and deception and not the blessed infilling of God’s transforming love.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:22-25, NIV).

Know that God longs to speak with you through His Word. Seriously LONGS. Like more than I desire chocolate. Respond to Him, He’s willing, ready, and waiting.

Is reading the Bible new to you? If so, jump into it. Start. Reading and doing something is better than not doing anything at all. But if you will implement the plans set forth in this Pastor’s Pen you may just fall in love with the reading of the Word.

Until next week, Love and prayers

Pastor Rick Signature

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Two Things of Significant Importance!

ThePastorsPen(PART # 1)
Well hello on this Second Sunday of the New Year 2018. I just want to encourage us as we get into this new year to remember two things of great importance. One, is being in the Word; two, is faithfulness to the church. Let me take a few lines to comment on each. I will do one this week and the second, next week.

First, let me deal with the significant importance of being in the Word. How please and filled with joy I have been this past week with the number of people who came to the altar this past Sunday committing to reading the bible through this year. Many of you have been following the Facebook post Java With Jesus. In that little post I am doing a brief daily scriptural image and devotion as well as publishing the passages to read for that day to accomplish our goal of reading the Bible through this year, over the next 365 days. Thank you for following up on your commitment. Several have asked for their own printed copy of a through the bible in 365 list. I have those available today to those who want them. Also if you wish to customize and set up your own reading plan you can go to https://www.bible.com/reading-plans and do your own reading plan there. Or you can friend me in the YouVersion App or at the http://www.bible.com and follow along with us there. The app and the website associated with YouVersion will even read the scripture passages to you.

Why is reading the Bible on a regular basis so significantly important? Well here are a few reason for you to Think About!

1. It helps us live life better. Proverbs 6:23 (KJV) 23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: Matthew 4:4 (KJV) 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
2. To do God’s will: It helps you obey God and not sin.
3. To guard yourself from false teachings and false prophets.
4. To spend time with the Lord.
5. You will be convicted more of sin. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
6. To know more about our beloved Savior Jesus, the cross, the gospel, etc.
7. To give us encouragement.
8. So we don’t start getting comfortable: Make sure Christ is always first in your life. You don’t want to drift from Him.
9. It’s exciting and it makes you want to praise the Lord more. Psalm 103:20-21 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Psalm 56:10-11 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?
10. You will know God better.
11. For better fellowship with other believers: With Scripture you can teach, bear each other’s burdens , give biblical advice, etc.
12. To defend the faith.
13. To defend against Satan.
15. Hearing God’s voice: His Word gives us direction.
16. It helps us grow as believers.
17. It helps us serve God better. 2 Timothy 3:17 It gives the man who belongs to God everything he needs to work well for Him.
18. To use your time wisely instead of turning your mind to mush. Ephesians 5:15-16 So then, be very careful how you live. Don’t live like foolish people but like wise people. Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days.
19. For spiritual discipline. Hebrews 12:11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. 1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Many people have died standing on the words of this book. We should read it, it is important that we do.

Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read …” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, …?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (1 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense.

We need to set a daily time when you’re in God’s Word. Instead of watching TV in the morning get in His Word. Instead of scrolling up and down Facebook and Instagram like the daily news open your Bible because it’s more important.

I love each and everyone of you. The Lord loves you more. He has written His love letter of instruction and guidance to us, let’s take the time to sit down and read it.

Until next week, Love and prayers

Pastor Rick Signature

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The Pastors Pen Logo smallGreetings Church Family on this first Sunday of the New Year, 2018. At the beginning of every new year, there is much talk and contemplation about what the new year will hold and how we plan to live out the new year. Well, the ole saying of the Chinese philosopher Laozi has it, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” or “Even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point.” So as we start the journey through 2018 I would like to encourage us to make it a year of journey into discipleship.

Becoming a Christian is the most significant decision you can make. This means you are taking the first steps on a life-changing journey as a follower of Jesus. Following Him not only guarantees eternal life in heaven but also opens the door to infinite growth and discovery on earth. The further you move along the path as a disciple of Christ, the more you’ll be transformed into the person you were always created to be.

As a boy, Michelangelo presented himself to a master sculptor to be his pupil. The old man said, “This will take all your life. Michelangelo replied, is life for? ”

Michelangelo knew that for life to have any real meaning one must be committed to something. A person who is not committed to something or someone will live an empty, miserable life. On the other hand, the happiest people in the world are those who have committed their lives to something.

The NT calls those who have committed themselves to Jesus Christ “disciples.” Traditionally, the word disciple” has been defined as “student” or “learner. ” However, our English word disciple” comes from the Greek word MATHETES, from the root word “math,” which means ” thought accompanied by endeavor ” Therefore, the word “Disciple” in the NT does not refer merely to a student or learner who goes to a teacher or classroom and sits down to listen and accumulate academics.

Real NT discipleship is much more than that, as we shall see. At least five things are involved in real discipleship.
I . Real Discipleship Involves Taking on Jesus’ Yoke. – Matt. 11:29
II. Real Discipleship is Continuing in the Word. – John 8:31
III. The Third Aspect of Real Discipleship is Love For One Another – John 13:34-35
IV. Real Discipleship Involves a Cleansed Life. – 1st Cor. 3:1-3
V. Real Discipleship Involves Surrendering. – Luke 14:25-35

This is a wonderful blessing, but it carries significant responsibilities as well. Those who follow Jesus have work to do—both in their own lives and in the lives of others.
As we begin this journey down the path to discipleship I pray we will explore the foundations of following Jesus and find answers to the kinds of questions all disciples ask, including:

  • What does it mean to become a disciple of Jesus?
  • How do I make Jesus the center of my life?
  • How do I connect with God in a deep and personal way?
  • What does my relationship with Jesus look like in community?
  • How do I model Jesus in my everyday life?

As we take this journey we will use and study a series of resources founded on Jesus’ model of discipleship. Created by experienced disciple makers across the nation, it offers an intentional pathway for transformational discipleship and a way to help followers of Christ move from new disciples to mature disciple makers.

I have done a lot of study on a massive research study that sought to discover how the Lord often brings about transformation in the hearts of His people. I have read and studies, and highly recommend the book, Transformational Discipleship. I have basically wanted to know more about how disciples are made.

Why you ask. Well a quote I read years ago and the lack of discipleship in the church of today as well as the great need for us to be reaching our community for Christ has haunted me and I cannot get this quote and these commands of the Lord out of my mind. What is the quote you ask. In 1933 Scholar and Biblical Apologist said, “While it is important to win the unsaved to Christ, leaders must increasingly endeavor to convert Christians to Biblical Christianity.” We may call this discipleship or the fulfilling of the second part of the Great Commission. Either way, we must be discipled if we are to be fulfilling our biblical mandate from our Lord.

I have also learned, based on my intense study and interactions with people, that transformational discipleship is more likely to occur when a godly leader applies truth to the heart of a person while that person is in a teachable spirit or attitude.

Let me say I love each and everyone of you. And, I want to invest in you. I pray that together we can all learn to better pursue the following of Christ as disciples. I pray that Jesus and His Word sanctify and transform us. I hope each of us will adopt a flexible, teachable posture or attitude that will enhance our hunger for the Lord. I pray that we will take this Journey Toward Discipleship seriously, that we will grow together, be faithful in our learning and safe guard our opportunity to experience the grace of God and the truth of God.

Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths: Which is the way to what is good? JEREMIAH 6:16

I hope and pray our time together on Sunday Nights will be used of the Lord in your life and mine so that we can grow as disciples. And I know that as we apply the truth of God to our teachable hearts, transformation will occur.

Thank you for having a desire to be a disciple.

Pastor Rick Signature

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