Tips On Family Devotion!

ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,
I am very encouraged by the number of people, both in our church family as well as those outside our church family, who are following JAVA WITH JESUS each morning. If you are not following along but would like to start a daily time in the word, it is not too late. Easter is coming so why not start now and finish up celebrating next Easter by having read through the entire Bible. Why not do it with Family? Family devotions have seemingly become a thing of the past since social media and other things have separated us from personal contact even among our own families. With that said, I would like to pass on some tips for a Family Time In The Word.

These are just some ideas and tips I read about in an article entitled, 10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017; By Tim Challies.

Ideas for Family Devotions
Read the Narratives. Read through the big picture of the Bible by focusing on the narrative (story) parts. In the Old Testament, read Genesis, parts of Exodus (you might skip the building of the tabernacle, for example, and the giving of the ceremonial law), parts of Joshua (perhaps skipping the division of the land), Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, Esther, and so on. For the New Testament, focus on a couple of gospels and Acts. Read the passages aloud, one section or one chapter at a time. Ensure that each day you read enough for it to be significant but not so much that you lose the attention of the children. Over the course of a year you should be able to make your way through much of the Bible’s big story.

Read Big Beliefs! David Helm’s Big Beliefs! is one of my favorite books of 2016 and my family has been using it each morning, five days a week, since it released. It includes a daily reading plus a short devotional and a couple of optional discussion questions. It’s targeted at ages 8-12, but younger kids will be able to stretch up for it while older kids will be able to stoop down. It is framed around the Westminster Confession of Faith and teaches a broad systematic theology. We love it!

Read Around the Table. Sometimes it’s best for mom and dad to do the reading from their own Bible, and especially so when children are young. But as children get older and more adept at reading, it may be best to get each child a Bible so they can follow along. When you do this, you can have each person take a turn reading aloud. It may be too clunky to read one verse per person, but perhaps each person can read a few verses at a time. Or perhaps you can have one person read each day’s entire passage. This gets children comfortable with reading (and perhaps praying) in front of others while also pushing for deeper engagement with the text.

Read Long Story Short. Marty Machowski has released two excellent books that are ideal for family devotions: Long Story Short and Old Story New. Long Story Short is a family devotional program designed to explain God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament and is suitable for children from preschool through high school. Old Story New is the sequel and walks children through the great truths of the Christian faith in the New Testament. Both include daily readings, discussion points and prayer suggestions, and are designed to be completed in about 10 minutes per day. (You might also consider his book Wise Up which focuses on Proverbs.)

Just Read the Bible. This is the simplest suggestion of all: Just read the Bible a book at a time. Younger children tend to do best reading narratives, but as children grow older they need the whole Bible. Consider reading the epistles slowly, a few verses per day, taking time to discuss and apply them. Or read all or some of the Psalms, or whatever else seems interesting and applicable.

Focus on Proverbs. The proverbs contain timeless wisdom and are written specifically for young people. Young Christians need the proverbs! Proverbs are meant to be treated like a lozenge or hard candy, to be savored over time rather than quickly chewed up. Consider reading the proverbs slowly over the course of weeks or months. Read five or six each day, but pause on one or two of them, considering what they mean and how they can be practically applied. It’s unlikely you will ever read five or six without encountering at least one that is especially fitting for your family.

Read One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters. Nancy Guthrie’s One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters is part of the One Year collection of resources and is meant to be read around the dinner table, though I’m sure the breakfast table will work equally well. As the meal comes to a close, family members can take turns turning to the dinner-table devotion for that day, designed to be done together as a family in 10 to 15 minutes. The result, says the publisher, “is a meaningful daily discussion in which every family member can participate, drawing the whole family closer to God…and each other.”

Read a Catechism. The majority of today’s Christians have forgotten about catechisms, but as believers we have quite a legacy with The Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism and others like them. The Gospel Coalition has combined the best of those two (while making them a bit more Baptist-friendly) with the New City Catechism. Catechisms approach the Christian faith in a question and answer format and invariably include Scripture to go along with them. If you structure your time around a catechism, do ensure you give attention to an associated Scripture passage.

Read Morning and Evening. Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening remains a devotional classic, and for good reason. Spurgeon’s reflections are deep, timely and suitable for quick reading. You may have the best success with the edition edited and modernized by Alistair Begg. You will need to put some effort into finding a suitable and significant reading to go with each since Spurgeon’s devotions are typically based on a single verse.

Mix It Up. Consider deliberately mixing up your devotions for 2017. Perhaps spend a month reading a book of the Bible, then follow with a devotional book for a while. Maybe through the summer you can switch to the Proverbs, then head back to reading an epistle as you head into fall and the gospels as you approach the Christmas season. Variety is the spice of life, right? Variety will keep your children engaged and, equally important, keep their parents engaged.

10 Tips for Family Devotions
1. More important than how you do family devotions is that you do family devotions.
2. Keep family devotions simple, especially when starting out. Five engaging minutes are far better than 20 rambling ones.
3. Family devotions is not only about gaining knowledge but also about establishing patterns and displaying priorities.
4. The foundation of family devotions is simple: read and pray. Better said: read, teach and pray.
5. Family devotions don’t need to be fun, but they must not be drab either. Focus on engagement, not entertainment.
6. The benefit of family devotions is not only gaining knowledge but also relating to God together as a family.
7. Do not grow discouraged if your children look bored. Measure long, not short and let your kids be kids.
8. Ask for tips on family devotions from others in your local church. Glean from their successes and false starts.
9. Expect that God will work through family devotions but do not demand that his work take a certain form.
10. Dad, take responsibility for family devotions. Lead your family by leading them to the Word and leading them in prayer.
Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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EASTER is coming!

ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,

I know most, if not all of you, have heard the statement, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” It is a phase used to express hope in the face of the horrible crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that the resurrection is coming. New hope, new life, a new beginning for those who put their faith in Jesus’ death burial and resurrection.

While I know this is not the week before Easter, I do know Easter is coming and will be here before we know it. I would love for us to be ready more than just having a new outfit to wear. I want us to be ready spiritually as well.

How do we begin now to prepare for Easter coming? I am glad you ask…LOL I read this article, Nine Considerations for Church Members This Easter, By Thom S. Rainer. I would like to share his insight with you now so we can begin to put them into practice and be prepared for the coming of Easter.

Easter will be one of the highest attended days of the year for our church. It may be the highest.

There will be some people you don’t know. Some of them are guests. Others are members who attend infrequently.

You have an opportunity to make a gospel impression on these people with a few simple acts. Indeed, you have an opportunity to make an eternal difference. Here are nine servant actions for you to consider.

Pray as you enter the property. Pray for the guests. Pray for the services. Pray for the pastor and the sermon.

Park at the most distant spot available. Save the closer parking places for guests.

Greet people. They may be guests. They may be members. It’s okay to introduce yourself to either.

Look for people to help. You know the place well. Many others will not. Be a guide. Help someone who looks like he or she needs help.

Sit as close as possible to the front of the worship center. Save the back rows for guests and late entrants, so they don’t have to walk past so many people.

Sit in the middle. Don’t claim that aisle seat where people have to walk over you or past you.

Sit closely. Your worship center may be packed. If so, be willing to sit cheek to cheek.
Volunteer to serve. As the number of attendees increase, so does the need for volunteers. The parking team, kids ministry, and church greeter ministry are a few of the areas that will need more volunteers to help serve and minister to members and guests.

Pray as you leave. The Holy Spirit is likely working in many persons who attended. Pray for His continual work of conviction and comfort.

These are simple acts. They are acts of service. And if you survive doing these acts of kindness and service on Easter, you just might be able to do them on other days of worship as well. So to prepare, because Easter is coming, let’s start putting these things into practice today as we get ready for Easter to have on our very best Christ-like heart of servitude and worship.

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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MEMORIZE THE WORD! Getting The Word into your Heart.

ThePastorsPenHave your children or youth ever ask you how grownups deal with problems or unexpected situations? If so, Tell them we pray. A discussion may ensue about the difference between bedside prayers and those uttered in the heat of the moment, when the car is careening from the roadway or we’re late for a flight. Are both kinds of prayers equally effective?

I believe the answer to that question has to do, in part, with our memory. Yes, God hears the prayers of His people—even believers who don’t know Him very well. But if we have a reservoir of faith built up through the discipline of memorizing Scripture, we benefit more from the act of praying. Having biblical truth stored in our minds and hearts may not change God’s response to our supplications, but the Holy Spirit works through the message powerfully to change us.

“One thing has become clear to scientists: memory is absolutely crucial to our consciousness,” says Janellen Huttenlocher, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. “There’s almost nothing you do, from perception to thinking, that doesn’t draw continuously on your memory.” Assuming this is true, it stands to reason that if a person’s memory is infused with Scripture, his or her consciousness will be informed by God’s Word. The Bible tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). And how much more, then, is such transformation possible when we commit Scripture to memory?

Think about it: how do you know what you know? The knowledge you have is available to you now only because of your previous experiences. Even before you finish reading this sentence, its first few words are already part of the past. And by the time you reach the end of this Pastor’s Pen, you’ll have to draw on your memory to decide what you think of it. This is the case with everything in your life. Your memory provides a framework for you to interpret and interact with the world. It allows you to file information and events as past, present, or future.

Now, consider your prayers. When we petition God for the future, we draw on memories of what we know about His character and our past experiences with Him. This enables us to commune with Him in the present. The more time we’ve spent with Him, the more memories we have—and the more knowledge we have about Him, the richer our prayers.

THE CASE FOR MEMORIZATION
Asked if memorizing Scripture enables her to live according to the Bible’s dictates, Sophie LaFleur—17-year-old winner of the Chairman’s Oratory Award at the 2009 Bible Bee—said, “[Scripture is] so ingrained in my heart that I can just say it. I know it without looking it up. It becomes so much more a part of every moment of your life. As you lie down and go to sleep, whenever it’s quiet, verses will come to mind.”

Theologian John Piper, an ardent proponent of memorizing Scripture, tells a story about his initial motivation for doing so. Early in his career, he was called to a hospital when a good friend’s wife suffered a heart attack. About 20 family members huddled together waiting to hear if the woman was alive or dead. Piper’s friend embraced him and asked for a word from the Lord. “My mind went blank. It was horrible,” he recalls. “If I had my Bible, I would have opened it to a psalm.” That night, Piper dropped to his knees and promised God he would never again find himself in such a situation. He opened the Bible to Psalm 46 and began memorizing: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help (v. 1). To this day, he can in trouble quote the entire psalm verbatim.

Moses instructed Israel: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).

Margaret Taylor, wife of Living Bible translator Ken Taylor, has spent most of her life attempting to carry out this command by helping children internalize God’s Word. In fact, the Living Bible came about as a result of her husband’s vision to reword Scripture so children could more easily understand it.

Many have spoken with Margaret about the importance of learning Scripture by heart and the ability of young children to do so. “Our grandson and his wife have five children,” she said. “They memorized Isaiah 53 and recited it for us at Christmastime.” According to Taylor, the youngest weren’t expected to memorize, but the four-year-old learned the passage simply from hearing his siblings repeat it so often. “The children [don’t] necessarily [understand],” Taylor said. “But that doesn’t matter as long as the verse gets inside them. Later they will [understand], and they will be grateful.”
Well, we all need to improve and practice our scripture memory skills. It is not a children’s drill, remember this helps us as grownups, adults if you will, when we face those difficult situations in life.

Next time we will look at many of the benefits of memorizing the Word and getting it into our hearts.

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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The Word Is Alive! Getting to the Heart of Scripture.

ThePastorsPenIN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD. It’s how the story begins, both The Old & New Testaments.

In the very beginning, God speaks the word, and light tears into the formless void. There’s a reason Genesis 1 tells us that creation began with light. In the second part of the story, when the Creator stepped into creation in the form of a flesh-and-blood human baby, Scripture says that He was “the true Light” (John 1:1-9). Jesus was again bringing life to the world but this time as more than the mysterious agent of creation: He was the Word incarnate—the light to all mankind—come to redeem His creation.

As an old man, John, who’d walked and talked and eaten with Jesus, looked back on those years and wrote of the experience: “We saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). The disciple had seen the One through whom all things sprang into existence—and came to know Him. “That which was from the beginning,” he wrote to the early church, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1 NIV).

The Word made flesh. It’s the key to the entirety of our faith. While some would assume that, like many other religions, our belief is centered on a holy book, the Bible itself speaks other-wise. Rather than a long litany of divine commands, we recognize the Old Testament as an elaborate, intricate buildup to—and the New Testament as a celebration of—the person of Jesus Christ. Taken as a whole, the written words point to the Word.
While inspired by God, the Bible is an incredibly unique anthology, written by many human authors spanning millenniums. There we find everything from moving narratives and violent sagas to worship songs and angry prayers; genealogies and love poetry to historic records and cryptic prophecy. A stranger to its pages might wonder why, exactly, believers call such a diverse range of writings God’s Word. But if you allow Scripture to ask you deep questions—’piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit” (Heb. 4:12)—and let it inspire you to ask some of your own, it becomes apparent that every verse pulls the reader toward the same desire, the same center: the Word in the flesh. And He reveals the heart of a Creator who longs to be with His creation—a Father who will do whatever it takes to bring His children back to Him.

From the very beginning, the story of Scripture is about the Word.

A few decades ago, a group of linguists were welcomed by a community in Indonesia. The purpose was to live with the tribe, learn their language, and create a written alphabet so the Bible could be translated. Considering the scope of the project (66 different books, with 1189 chapters) the translators initially figured that following standard procedure would be the most logical: start with a gospel book from the New Testament and get straight to the story of Jesus as soon as possible. But as they gradually learned the new language’s nuances and the culture behind it, they came to realize how important elaborate oral storytelling was to the tribe’s identity. The plan changed. If ever there was an epic story to tell, it was this one. And the story of Christ didn’t just start with His birth.

That year, the translators labored over their spoken language skills while one of them, an artist, drew hundreds of large, symbolic illustrations that followed the Bible’s narrative arc. Finally, they announced that they were ready. All the surrounding villages were notified, and on the day the storytelling was to commence, the entire tribe gathered to listen. And the translators started at the very beginning.

The process took days as they moved from character to character: the first people on earth who hid from God; their son who killed his brother; Abraham, who climbed up a mountain to sacrifice Isaac; Moses, who led his people out of slavery; David the teenage shepherd who became a warrior king and legendary poet The storytellers told of sin and loss and exile and God’s continual acts of redemption. And then they finally came to the end of the Old Testament—400 years of silence and waiting. The tribe hung on every word.

All this, and they still had yet to explain “the plan of salvation,” who Jesus was, and, for that matter, what any of these stories had to do with one another. Yet, the day The New Testament began, the translators started to tell of a baby born in the darkness of night in the town of David, and something astounding happened. The audience erupted in excitement. “This is the One!” they said, cries of recognition rippling through the crowd. “This is the One everyone’s been waiting for! He is the sacrifice, the Lamb of God who will take away the people’s sin!”

This is why Scripture says of itself that the Word is alive—because the Word Himself, to whom the Bible points, is living and active (Heb. 4:12).

The Word of God goes beyond its written message, and even beyond history or prophecy or song. It goes beyond the ancient commandments and even the parables Jesus told. When taken in as a whole story that points to the Word Himself, the written letters are illuminated by God’s Spirit, revealing His grace and truth to us.

John ends the closing chapter of the Bible with these words of Christ’s: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). He is the first word and last word. Which is why, as Scripture says, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). It is His Word—alive, moving in and through us—that ignites the words and writes them on our hearts.

God’s Word Is Alive! His Word should and does impact the lives of believers, His followers. Can you answer these questions in your own life? Tim Keller offers a group of “questions designed to wake up sleeping Christians.” His questions focus on three hallmarks of a growing relationship with God.

These questions would make good small group material or could also be used when mentoring someone one-on-one. They also serve as excellent fodder for self-reflection!

What evidence of God’s presence is there in your life?
How real has God been this week to your heart?
How clear and vivid is your assurance and certainty of God’s forgiveness and fatherly love. To what degree is that real to you right now?
Are you having any particular seasons of sweet delight in God? Do you really sense his presence in your life? Do you really sense him giving you his love?

What evidence is there of Scripture changing you?
Have you been finding Scripture to be alive and active?
Are you finding certain biblical promises extremely precious and encouraging? Which ones?
Are you finding God’s calling you or challenging you to something through the word, in what ways?

What evidence is there of a growing appreciation for God’s mercy in your life?
Are you finding God’s grace more glorious and moving now than you have in the past?
Are you conscious of a growing sense of the evil of your heart, and in response, a growing dependence on and grasp of the preciousness of the mercy of God?
How do you answer these questions? Seriously, Think About It!

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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We Are Transformed By The Word.

ThePastorsPenWe live in a digital age, constantly propelled by new electronic devices. Technology changes so quickly that keeping up with the latest developments can be overwhelming at times. Before we’ve figured out one gadget, a new one takes its place. In fact, learning how to use all the current technical gear may leave us feeling intimidated and confused.

That’s the way many folks—even Christians—feel about the Bible. They own one but don’t understand how to use or interpret it.

Finding it big and confusing. they don’t know where to begin reading or how doing so will affect their troubles. if at all. The result is that such people simply don’t bother with Scripture. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort.

The truth is, how you and I handle something depends on its value to us, and many people simply don’t realize the absolute treasure God has given us in His Word. Consider this: If I gave you an old shoebox, you’d wonder, What am I going to do with this? But if there were fifty thousand dollars inside, you’d cherish the box for what it contained and make use of every dollar.

Likewise, nothing you or I own is more precious than the Bible. People who ignore Scripture suffer as a result–going through life’s hardships without ever realizing the riches at their fingertips. But those who embrace God’s Word discover benefits that money could never buy.

Using the Bible Effectively

Is anything keeping you from the blessing of God’s Word? Some people tell me they don’t read Scripture because it’s too difficult to understand. So I’d like to provide you with some simple and practical ideas to help you use this holy Book and comprehend what it says.

Read. The first step is to open your Bible and begin reading daily, even if in small portions at first (Prov. 8:33-35). I suggest meditating on the Word first thing after you wake. This isn’t always possible, so choose a time when you can focus all of your attention on reading without interruption. The Bible is not just for emergencies. Sure, we can find help in times of trouble, but God wants to reveal Himself to us each day. Apart from prayer and worship, reading the Word is one of the primary ways we get to know Him. Those who read Scripture only during times of crisis miss the joy of an intimate relationship with the heavenly Father, which develops through consistent fellowship with Him.

Benefitting from the Scriptures In the life of a believer, the Bible:
Guides (PS. 119:105)
Gives wisdom (PS.
Strengthens (Ps. 119:28)
Provides peace (Ps. 119:165)
Reveals hearts (Heb. 4:12-13)
Protects from sin (Ps. 119:9-11)
Produces hope (PS. 119:49)

People often ask me, “Where do I begin?” Start with one of the gospels, like John, or an epistle, such as Philippians. Even if you read just a chapter a day, in a week or a month you will have covered an entire book. You could try reading one chapter of Proverbs each day for a month, or Psalms if you’re going through a hard time. As you open your heart to God, His Holy Spirit will guide you in your readings. All that’s required of you is to make the effort to begin.

You might wonder, How much should I read each day? Bible reading should be a matter of quality, not quantity. In other words, you should be more concerned with how effectively Scripture is changing your life than with the number of pages you’ve completed. As you go through the Bible, are you storing the Lord’s truth in your heart or merely finishing the task of reading?

The goal is character transformation and an ever-deepening relationship with the Savior. If you’re not experiencing greater Christlikeness and intimacy with God, you may need to go more slowly and thoughtfully. Sometimes reading less will actually allow the Word to really permeate your soul.

Meditate. Meditation is simply a conversation with the Lord about the passage you’re reading. If a section is difficult to understand, meditation is the process that will make the meaning come into focus. But this can’t be done in a hurry. It’s a discipline that requires silence, stillness, and concentration. The process involves focusing on one particular verse or passage at a time—pursuing the truth of the text until it sinks into the depths of your being. Word by word and phrase by phrase, ask the Father to reveal both the meaning and the application He wants you to make in your life.

The process is slow and thoughtful, but as you continue, the Bible’s pages will come to life with significance. Remember, your goal is to gain a deeper understanding of God and yourself. Ask Him to show you His ways, search your heart, and reveal any changes you need to make. If a verse doesn’t make sense, look to the Lord to guide your search for answers.

Through the process of contemplation, exploration, and prayer, the Lord’s transforming power is released in your life, and He enables you to face every difficulty or situation that comes your way. Therefore, begin reflecting on God’s Word today by trying the meditation exercise at the end of this Pastor’s Pen.

Study. So often we read the Bible only when we’re longing for a verse to help us through a moment of need. But how often do we really look for the Lord—examining Scripture for understanding about His ways? Do we care enough about Him to search out His character and learn who He really is? One of the greatest benefits of investing our time in thoughtful Bible study is an ever-increasing love for our Savior. The more we learn about Him, the more we love Him, and that increases our desire to continue meditating on and studying His Word. What a wonderful cycle of joy!

Don’t let the word study scare you off—this doesn’t have to be some abstract, academic process. As you go through the Bible, are you storing the Lord’s truth in your heart or merely finishing the task of reading? Think of it as a more intense form of meditation. Any believer facing a challenge or difficulty would greatly benefit from seeking deeper understanding of his or her situation through Scripture (Isa. 55:9-11). For example, if you’ve been badly hurt and have trouble letting go of your bitterness, research what God says about forgiveness.

Having some basic study resources will greatly enhance your time in God’s Word. Those who are computer savvy might want to invest in some Bible software or check out Bible study websites. If you prefer books, a Bible dictionary and a concordance (an alphabetical listing of words in Scripture) would be good investments. Just make sure the concordance is the same version as your Bible. If you need further help in understanding difficult passages, try using commentaries.

You may be thinking all this sounds somewhat difficult, but I assure you it’s not. The truths discovered through your study time have a way of sticking with you more than those handed to you by teachers or pastors. Don’t be afraid—jump in and discover the endless riches of the Word.

Apply. This last step is very important. If you want become a spiritually mature Christian, application of what you learn is essential. As we spend time reading the Bible, the Lord reveals what He wants us to do, whether through direct commands, principles, or examples. But if we ignore His promptings or refuse to obey, we’ll get stuck and stop growing. Why should God reveal deeper truths if we haven’t done the last thing He said? In that case, our understanding of Scripture will be limited, our walk will suffer, and our spiritual fruit will dry up.

Doing what God’s Word says is not always easy. When the Lord tells us to step out of our comfort zone or do something we don’t want to do, we may be tempted to back off. But at such times, remember that obeying God is always the best path. The Father both uses and blesses those who say no to self and yes to Him (Prov. 3:5-6).

Making the Bible a Priority

The Lord has so much to give us if we will make Bible reading a priority in our lives. He wants us to long for “the pure milk of the word” so that we can grow into mature believers (1 Pet. 2:1-2). Few of us will miss a meal, but how often do we skip spending time in the pages of Scripture? How can we be so careful to feed our bodies, which will one day die, and yet starve our spirits, which will live forever?

If you’ll start seriously “tasting” God’s Word, you will begin to develop a hunger to go deeper. Not only that, but the more familiar you and I become with the Bible, the more we will value and delight in it (Ps. 119:111). Instead of feeling an obligation to read, we’ll long to spend time hearing from our Savior and growing in our understanding of His character and ways. We’ll become walking treasure houses—filled with wealth that cannot be stolen from us, even by death (Matt. 6:19-21).

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION EXERCISE

Read Psalm 1:1-3 and begin a conversation with the Lord, working through the following questions.
VERSE 1:
• Do I take advice from those whose ways are contrary to Yours? Am I missing some of Your blessings because of my choice of friends?
VERSE 2:
• Lord, what is my chief source of enjoyment? How can I begin to enjoy You more?
• What do You mean by “meditates day and night”? How can I do that?
VERSE 3:
• How can I become like a fruitful tree? What kind of fruit do You want me to yield?
• What does it mean to prosper? What blessings await those who honor You?

The Bible’s greatest purpose is to reveal Jesus as God’s Son. It tells us that a personal relationship with Him is the only way to be saved from sin and death.

First John 5:11-12 says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
Friend, do you know the Savior? There’s no better time than now to confess your sins and invite Him into your life. You can use the following prayer or your own words:
Lord Jesus, I believe You are truly the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in word, thought, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing, and let me live in relationship with You from now on. I receive You as my personal Savior, accepting the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross. Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You. Amen.

Now tell someone, get into the word, get into church, and follow the Lord in Believers Baptism.

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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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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