Archive for August, 2009


Third – Recognize the different types of reading.

All reading is not created equal. We don’t read everything the same way, in other words. Even the same book, article, story, or document can be read differently at different times. As we prepare to read something, we need to decide what type of reading we’ll engage in.

The first type is reading for familiarity. When we’ve finished, the goal is to know what we’ve read. We want to have a familiarity with the content. We don’t need to know everything about it, but rather have a general knowledge. As it relates to the Bible, reading for knowledge means that we’re attempting to be familiar with the content. After we’ve read  Jeremiah 1 or John 1 or Ephesians 1, we should be able to answer the question, “What did I just read?”

The secon type is reading for understanding. The goal in this type of reading is understanding and comprehension. It’s a deeper level of reading than the first. Not only do we know what we’ve read, but we also know what it means (not completely, of course, but a good understanding). If we were asked to, we could give a summary of what we’ve read and an outline of the author’s argument. In terms of reading the Bible, this takes it to the next level.

The third type is reading for mastery. This is the most intense and difficult kind of reading. The goal is to have a thorough and an almost exhaustive knowledge of what has been read. You could pass a test if you were asked to do so. In terms of the Bible, this is the most serious form of reading and study.

For those who are reading the Bible for the first time, or who haven’t read it for awhile, the first type of reading is highly recommended – read for familiarity. You don’t need to understand everything you’re reading yet and you certainly don’t need to master it yet. Both of those will come in time. But for now, read with the purpose of being familiar with the content and build from there.

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Random Thoughts


Where do the people on TBN buy their clothes? Remind me not to shop there.

If the federal government can’t successfully manage “cash for clunkers,” why does anyone think it can manage health care with less cost and more quality?

Memo to the driver of a Prius on southbound I-5: Somewhere in your zeal to “save the planet,” can you please figure out what a turn signal is and use it, and stop darting in and out of lanes thus endangering every other driver. Just a thought.

Football is just around the corner. Yes!

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Our Christian faith and the doctrines we believe (and to which we cling tenaciously) have to mean something. It’s imperative that we answer the question, “So what?”

When someone desires to formally become a member in most evangelical and Bible-believing churches, they’ll be asked a series of questions which will be doctrinal in nature. “Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God?” “do you believe that you are a sinner in need of salvation, and that Jesus Christ is your Saviour?” “Have you put your faith and trust in Christ alone for your salvation?”

These are all good and proper questions, but we need to go a step further. After the initial question is asked – and assuming it’s answered correctly – we should inquire as to what difference it makes in the potential member’s life.

For example, after a man or woman affirms theat they believe the Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative Word, we should ask them what that conviction has to do with the way they treat the memebers  of their family. How does admitting you are a sinner in need of a Saviour effect the way we do our jobs? When a person states that they are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, they should be asked what that conviction means in terms of how they treat their neighbors. Before we point the accusing finger, however, we need to remember that we have to be ready to answer questions like this ourselves.

How does our belief in and commitment to Jesus Christ effect the way we live? Our belief and commitment is demonstrated in our conduct. Would we be able to say, “Being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ influences the way I drive”? Or, “Because I’m a Christian, I treat people who serve me – like waiters, hair stylists, and grocery clerks – with respect and gratitude.” Hopefully, we’re able to say these things.

Strongly-held beliefs, convictions, persuasions, and opinions are part of what it means to be a Christian. But we cannot forget it has to mean something. Belief is never alone – it always leads to behavior. As James put it, “faith without works is dead.”

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In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus heals Bartimaeus by restoring his sight. It’s interesting to note that Bartimaeus had spiritual sight even though lacked physical sight, while the disciples of Jesus had physical sight but often lacked spiritual sight.

As I studied the passage and prepared my sermon, I did some thinking about the contrast between being spiritually blind and having spiritual sight.

What are the distinguishing marks of spiritual blindness? (This list is not exhaustive, but rather representative.)

  1. You see yourself, and everyone else, as an accidental product of time and chance.
  2. If God exists at all, He’s there to meet your needs, bless your plans, keep you safe, and get you through tough times.
  3. You don’t see yourself as a sinner. Consequently, you have no recognition that you need to be saved or rescued.
  4. You think that you, and your desires, are “the center of the universe.”
  5. You think that Jesus, if he existed at all, was nothing more than a good man, a good teacher, or someone who was “very spiritual” and “really cool.”
  6. You think that the Bible is a bunch of gibberish that makes no sense and is simply the work of a number of human beings.
  7. You think that prayer is a waste of time – a kind of wishful thinking or an exercise in talking to yourself.
  8. You think morality is relative to the individual, circumstance, and culture.
  9. You think people that sacrifice or deny themselves anything are absolute fools.
  10. You think worship is a waste of time unless it has something to do with you specifically

What are the distinguishing marks of spiritual sight? Once again, this list is not exhaustive, only representative.)

  1. You see yourself as a creation of a loving and sovereign God. You are a human being made in the image and likeness of God, possessing dignity, value, and worth.
  2. You know that God exists. He is the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Judge of the entire universe. His purpose is to glorify Himself, not you.
  3. You know that you are a sinner and that you owe God a moral debt you cannot pay. Consequently, you know you need a Saviour to rescue you.
  4. You know that neither you nor your desires are “the center of the universe.” That place is reserved for God alone.
  5. You know that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man – perfect humanity united with undiminished deity in one Person forever. He is Saviour and Lord.
  6. You know that the Bible is God’s revealed and inspired Word – our final authority for what we believe and how we are to behave.
  7. You know that prayer is both the tremendous privilege and awesome responsibility of expressing your thoughts and feelings to God.
  8. You know that morality is determined by God and not by anything or anyone else, especially ourselves.
  9. You know that God calls His people to sacrifice and deny themselves. the reward may not come in this life, but it will certainly come in the next.
  10. You know that worship is a faithful response to God’s gracious revelation. It’s an encounter with the true and living God and never a waste of time, energy, or effort.

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J.C. Ryle, in Practical Religion (p. 97) wrote this:

Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. By reading that book we may learn what to believe, what to be, and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace.

Happy is the man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!

Two of the most basic disciplines (yes, they are disciplines) of the Christian life are Bible intake, as Don Whitney calls it, and prayer. Without both of these, there will be no growth in holiness, sanctification, or godliness.

Personally, when I commit myself to Bible reading/study/meditation and prayer, I grow. On the contrary, when I neglect them, I don’t. Our mind cannot be renewed if we spend little time in God’s Word and our heart cannot be drawn to God without prayer.

No doubt, there are other activities which will help us in our spiritual growth, but none more important than the Bible and prayer. So, hang in there and don’t give up! Keep reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word. Keep praying. Don’t give up! If you haven’t started either of these disciplines, it’s never too late.

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Some teenagers don’t want to be seen with their parents (thankfully not all of them!). “Drop me off a block away from school” or “Mom, don’t hug me in public!” they may say. They’re embarrassed by their parents and may even be ashamed of them. They aren’t always that way, but it’s a difficult time for everyone involved.

It may be the same with us and God, too, from time to time. We may be embarrassed by Him. When a co-worker, friend, or classmate finds out we’re a Christian they call us a “holy Joe” or “deacon” or “preacher” or “goody two-shoes.” We’re tempted to think it might be easier and we might be less ashamed if we weren’t associated with God.

But listen to what it says in Hebrews 11:13-16 —

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Emphasis mine)

In Hebrews 10:32-11:40, the author extols the example of faithfulness and obedience of many of God’s people. They lived, and died, by faith. They knew God was in control of their future even if their present seemed to deny it. Their ultimate trust was in the true and living God, the sovereign and good God. Of such, “God is not ashamed to be their God.”

It is a bold statement of God’s amazing grace that He is not ashamed or embarrassed to be associated with His people. The Lord is not ashamed to say, “This is My child!” How can He say that? Because He is not ashamed of His Son Jesus Christ – who perfectly obeyed Him and was perfectly faithful while on earth. His righteousness (Christ’s that is) was imputed to us when we trusted Him for our salvation (it all comes back to the Cross and the Gospel)!

God is not ashamed of us. Why, then are we ashamed of Him? We shouldn’t be and don’t have to be by the power of His Holy Spirit who has been poured out on us. He is not ashamed to be called our God, may we not be ashamed to be called His child.

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A Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study released in May indicates that over half of those raised in atheistic or agnostic homes have abandoned disbelief.

The New York Times called this “defecting to faith” (rather than defecting from faith which we hear far more about these days).

Half of those who converted to some form of theism (belief in a supreme being, not necessarily the Triune God of the Bible) said they had spiritual needs that were unmet. One writer suggested, “Perhaps they missed the holidays.”

Another confirmation that the kingdom of God grows like a mustard seed and a bit of leaven put into a lump of dough (Matt. 13:31-33).

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Our weakness and short-sightedness appear as much in our prayers as in anything. We cannot order our speech, when we speak to God, by reason of darkness, both concerning him and concerning ourselves. It is folly to prescribe to God, and wisdom to subscribe. (Emphasis in original)

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(This is the second in a series designed to give some help to people who have never read the Bible or who haven’t read it much. If you do read and study God’s Word regularly – which I hope and pray you do, may these tips be helpful to you, also.)

Second: Get a good translation.

Not all Bibles are created equal. Yes, the Bible in its original autographs (the actual writings of Moses, Paul, John, Isaiah, etc.) is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, but translations of the Bible are only as good as their faithfulness to those original manuscripts. Some are better and some are worse.

If you’re having trouble understanding what you’re reading, the chances of continuing are very slim. Language that is too difficult or too easy will lead to frustration on the part of the reader.

That being said, if you want to make the most of your Bible reading, choose a translation that you can understand. Pick a specific passage (Genesis 1 for example) and read it in several different translations. After you’ve done that, choose the one that reads the best to you.

There are several translations I recommend if you have not read the Bible before (or haven’t read it much): the New International Version and the English Standard Version (which is quickly becoming my favorite translation – I use it when I preach).

If you have some familiarity with the Scriptures, I recommend the New American Standard Bible, the New King James Version, or the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Read the Bible through in one translation for the sake of continuity. Try a different one the next time for the sake of variety.

Unless you’re an expert in early 17th-century Victorian English, avoid the King James Version. When your familiarity with the Bible grows, the KJV can be used for study and comparison. It’s language is beautiful and poetic, but if you haven’t experienced it previously, it will be tough sledding.

A word about paraphrases (like the original Living Bible, The Message, etc.): They’re good for comparing and getting another “take” on a verse or passage, but don’t use them for your regular, consistent Bible reading.

Warren Wiersbe said it well, the best Bible translation is the one you read.

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My sermons are now available online at Immanuel Community Church’s website if you’re interested in hearing them (and therefore, me). Click on “Messages” and you’ll find them. There is only one sermon up right now, but more will be added soon. I’m currently preaching through the Gospel of Mark.

May these sermons encourage you and glorify God!

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