Sep 07

The Purpose of Bible Study

One question that is the same from new believers as it is from those who have been Christians for a while is, “how do I study the Bible?”  There are countless numbers of books that have been written on this subject.  Some methods of study include reading one book at a time, others are a topical method (where you pick a topic such as love and read all the references to love), there is the word study method (this is where you pick out a key word of a verse and then to fully understand what it means you find all the other places in Scripture that that word is mentioned), and of course the ever popular “let me just open my Bible and see where I open it to and I will read and study from there” method.

However, the correct Bible study method doesn’t revolve around a methodology, but rather proper Bible study is the result of asking the right question.  Many people study the Bible because they want to become a better Christian or they want to be a better teacher or preacher.  Those reasons by themselves are not necessarily wrong, but they flow from the question, “what does this Bible story or passage teach me?”  Again please understand that we should all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).  But is that to be the sole reason for our Bible study?  I believe the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”  If were to look at Colossians 1:12-29 I believe we see an entirely different purpose for study.  At the outset let me say this text is not the primary teaching text for why we should study the Word of God, but I do believe it holds something valuable for us.  Notice the end of Colossians 1:16 where it says, “All things were created by Him, and for Him.”  Did you catch that, we were created by God and for God.  If we were to read the entire context of Colossians 1:12-29, Paul is revealing many truths about who is God, specifically Paul reveals things about Jesus Christ.  If we are going to learn the most and enjoy reading God’s Word while getting the most out of it we must ask ourselves the question, “what does this story or passage teach me about God?”  Do you see the difference between the question we ask many times and the question that we should really be asking?  When ask “what can I….”  That question places the focus on us.  However, God wasn’t created by us or for us.  Rather by asking what we learn about God in this passage, we make God the focus.  It is when we ask this question and approach our Bible study from this perspective that we really learn the Bible and grow spiritually.  The entire Bible is about God, and if we are going to grow spiritually, then we must know who we are to grow more like.  Remember we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:16), we are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10).  At the time of Passover, Jesus was in the Temple and His disciples were with Him.  The time of His crucifixion was fast approaching.  There were these Gentiles that came looking for Jesus.  When Philip met them and asked them what they wanted, they had one simple desire, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”  Dear pastor, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, and all Christians, let’s make that our aim as we study, preach, or teach the Word of God, to simply know Him more as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word.  Knowing God, what He is like, what He expects, how He deals with sinners and the sinners saved by grace is a pursuit that will last a lifetime, but when we get to the end of our life, we will know what lies ahead of us because we will know the One who created the heavens and the earth.

By His grace and through His strength, may we live for Him!

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Sep 06

Football or Golf? Part 4

Today I want to examine the players (church members) and their roles within the team (the church).  I remember growing up and playing baseball.  I would many times play catcher or shortstop for the first three innings and the pitch the second three innings or vice versa.  As I grew up, I played anywhere from pitcher to catcher to shortstop to third base to even first base.  But as I got to high school I had a decision to make, what position would I concentrate on?  I needed to make that decision because playing so many positions, I could never excel at any of them because my time was divided.  In football there are those rare guys like Deion Sanders who would play “both ways” (offense and defense).  Don’t get me wrong “Prime Time” as Deion Sanders was known was good on either side, but I think he could have been great by concentrating on one side of the ball.  But this isn’t about Deion Sanders and where he should have played.  The point is we as Christians need to realize that God has given us a spiritual gift that He expects us to not only use, but also to grow and nurture.  If I wanted to be the best pitcher I could be, I needed to give up the other positions I enjoyed playing so I could become a student of pitching, work on my skills, and improve my overall performance as a pitcher.  Ephesians 4:11 says, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”  Notice the word “some” in this verse.  In other places in the New Testament, Paul talks about the diversity of gifts.  The point is, we are not to try to do everything in the church ourselves.  Rather we need to concentrate on where God has gifted us and use our gift, study our gift, learn how others use that gift in other churches and ministries to glorify God.  When we simply concentrate on the area of service God has called us to and gifted us in, the entire church operates better, and you become stronger in your faith because you are doing what God created you to do.  One problem with trying to do more than God has called you to do is pride.  When you do a lot of things within the church, it is easy to fall into the mentality of “they need more, or this church won’t survive if I leave.”  The truth is God didn’t and doesn’t need you, He desires to use you.  Our pride leads us to look around at others and judge them because they are not doing as much or as good of a job as we are.  In all honesty that is probably because we won’t let them and because we haven’t trained them which is what Ephesians 4:12 tells us we are to do.  Another problem with doing more than what God has called us to is the issue of  burnout.  As a pastor I read articles almost everyday where pastors are walking away from ministry because they are burnout, or that the current volunteer force is getting burnout and walking away from ministry in the church.  Reading those articles always brings me back to the question of “why is this happening?”  And while it probably isn’t the only reason, part of it has to be that we are taking on more responsibility than God gave us.  So the answer to this is to be laser-focused as Christians and churches and do what God has called us to and equipped us for, nothing more and nothing less.

By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him!

 

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Sep 05

Football or Golf? Part 3

Yesterday we say that “free agency” (members leaving) within “teams” (the church) is for the most part inevitable.  As a pastor, it can cause great distress when people leave the church.  Instantly your mind is flooded with the questions of why or did I do something, or countless other questions.  However, I want to encourage churches this morning to see that sometimes “free agency” is not only inevitable, but that it can also be a good thing.

Ephesians 4:16 says, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”  Again we should notice that the body is fitly joined together.  In other words it is not only assembled properly, but it is also held in place.  How is that done?  Well we find the answer in the end of verse 15 when Paul writes, “even Christ.”  In other words it is Christ who has brought each person to that particular church.  He did it to make the body closer to what He desires it to become.  Therefore, we need to realize that sometimes God give a person a new assignment within the same church, but sometimes God moves them to a new location.  This is where open communication between a pastor, leadership, and church members comes in.  When someone leaves, we need to discuss why.  Rather than judge their motives, we need to hear them out.  If a person has left for an unbiblical reason, then we are to admonish them using God’s word (Mt. 18:15).  To admonish means that we warn them mildly or we counsel them against their wrong practices.  This is vastly different than judging them or telling them they are wrong.  On the other side, if we speak with the person and they tell us that they have been praying about God’s leading in their life, and they sense He is leading them to a new ministry, and we see that they are not doing anything unbiblical then it is our job to pray for them and encourage them.  As a pastor, it is always interesting that preachers encourage their people to get out of the pews and begin serving God, but when someone tells us that God is changing their assignment, we get very upset and tell them they are wrong.  I understand the hurt of losing people and how others in the church can begin to question leadership when people leave.  But if the person is leaving because God has told them to get out of their father’s house to a land He will show them (a reminder of God’s call to Abraham in Gen. 12), then who are we to tell them they are wrong.  We can rejoice that if God removes one, then He already has another person in mind to bring to the church.  That person may not do the same thing that those who left did, but consider it God supplying His church with what they need, when they need it!  What it all comes down to is this, an exercise in faith.  Do we trust God to provide for us personally as well as a church?  God is undefeated since eternity past and the Bible says that He is going to win in eternity future.  I think we can trust Him as our head coach and general manager to lead us in the right direction!

By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him!

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Sep 04

Football or Golf? Part 2

I wanted to continue and further expound on the “team” concept from yesterday.  Today, we want to look at the purpose of the team.  Yesterday, I wrote that a football team is made up of offense, defense, and special teams.  Each specializes in their area, but their part is not greater than the whole.  Each aspect of the game is needed if you are going to be successful in scoring more points than your opponent.  So how does this work on God’s team?

In professional sports there is something called free agency.  Free agency is where a player is let go by his team either by cutting him from the team or not signing him to a new contract.  Either way, the player is then free to go and sign with whatever team he desires to.  With the creation of free agency came a lot of change to teams.  The reality in this, the guys on your favorite team today will most likely not be there in five years.  And this definitely has its drawbacks, but it can also be beneficial to a team and player as well.  In football each coach whether offense or defense has their own scheme.  It is the philosophy they use and the plays they create to score or keep the other team from scoring.  If a new coach was hired and he had a different philosophy than his predecessor and it meant that you didn’t get to play as much, would you want to stay on that team?  Or let’s say you were a coach and you noticed that someone on your team simply couldn’t execute the plays you called, would you want to keep them on your team?  So free agency allows players and teams to obtain the best players for their philosophy or system.

In God’s philosophy sometimes He moves people whether it be through death, moving to a new town, moving to a new church, or simply moving to a new assignment within the church.  Now I will admit it can be difficult when God moves you or changes your assignment.  But we must realize that God is the owner and general manager of this team, and He is going to put His people where they can succeed in fulfilling His purpose.  Ephesians 4:16 says, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”  Notice, God puts people exactly where He wants them, and when they use their God-given gifts for His service, the body is built up (edified).  So I challenge us all to see new people coming in or a change in assignment as a blessing from God, because He is putting you and I in the best position to fulfill His purpose which as stated in Luke 19:10 is, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Lord willing, we will talk about why “free agency” in the church is necessary.  If the blog helps you or you just have a general comment, question, or critique, I encourage you to leave your comment here or you can reach WBC on Facebook or Twitter.

By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him!

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Sep 03

Football or Golf?

I want to say at the outset that this post is in response to a sermon I heard at Diamond Hill Baptist last night as my family and I worshiped with them.  Pastor Baldwin was preaching on what hinders revival, and he was going through 1 Corinthians 12.  During his sermon, he said something that stuck with me all night and even into this morning, which is why I am writing on it.

In our life, are we more like a golfer or a football team?  A golfer is a self-motivated person who is just one person playing against the rest of the field of other single golfers.  A football team is broken down into offense, defense, and special teams.  However, the entire team works towards the same goal, to make sure they score more points than the other team.  In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Paul is writing about the body of Christ and how it is to function.  While many in churches today say they are on the same team, it becomes more evident that there are more golfers than quarterbacks, running backs, offensive linemen, defensive lineman, or even kickers.  Not only do some individuals operate as though church is about them, but groups form of those individuals, and suddenly church becomes more about pleasing those people than glorifying God.  1 Corinthians 12:21 says, “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”  The truth is we need all people using their God-given spiritual gifts to bring glory to God and build up His kingdom.  Paul wrote in verse 14, “For the body is not one member, but many.”  When we begin to think that church is about “me” or making “me” happy or giving “me” what I need, then our focus has been taken off of God.  Therefore, God’s blessings will not flow through the church because the church was created by Him and for Him, as all other things were according to Colossians 1:16.  When the church becomes about “me” and the group of “me” what follows is inevitable and that is division in the church.  But Paul says in verse 25, “That there should be no schism (division) in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”

If you or I or the churches we are a part of are going to be a part of accomplishing God’s will, then we must die to “I.”  We must trade in the golf clubs and the hat so everyone can see our face for shoulder pads and a helmet where no one sees us, but they see the team name.  Church cannot be about us or it is no longer a church, but rather a simple social club, and God desires so much more than that for us.

By His grace through His strength, may we live for Him!

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Aug 23

The Least of These

We have all heard the Bible verse in Matthew 25, “is as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethen, ye have done it unto me.”  We have all seen the infomercials on television and the images of a child in a third world country who is hungry, poor, and dying.  Why do the advertisers show pictures of these children?  It is simple, when you can put a face to a need it pulls on a person’s heart strings a little harder.  While there are those who are hungry, poor, and dying here in America, it is still a less seen sight here than in third world countries.  The question becomes, when we see those images whether of children here in America or elsewhere, what do we do?  Many of us say to ourselves or to those in the room “we really need to do something.” However, the reality of the situation is many times this, we do nothing because it doesn’t really effect us.  After all, many times we are sitting in front of our televisions with dinner or snacks.  What should a Christian do?   Let’s return to Matthew 25.  Jesus says (paraphrasing heavily here) that when He was hungry, thirsty, alone, and naked you took care of me, because as you were taking care of those people it was as though you were taking care of Him.  Jesus didn’t just call us to feel sorry for them or think about helping them.  Jesus shows that those who belong to Him will help those that He leads them to help.  This is clear because later in that same passage there were those who did not help the poor, hungry, and alone people and it was shown that they were not part of His kingdom.  I am not talking about a social gospel that so many people want to push.  Rather, I am talking about the fruit that should be evident in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.  While we may not be able to help everyone, God will not only give us the grace and strength to help those He leads us to, but He will also provide for us the means with which to take care of them.  The key here is this, always remember that every person is a member of someones family, and if someone in your family was poor, hungry, or alone, wouldn’t you want someone to come along who was not only able but also willing to help your family member?

By His grace and through His strength, may we live for Him!

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Aug 20

Milestones

Today I took two of our three boys to their first day of school.  This isn’t anything really new as Eli has been going to school for three years now (Pre-K, K, and 1st grade).  But it was the first time I took Eli as a first grader to school.  It may seem small and insignificant now, but these first days of school are adding up until the day it will be his last day “first” day of high school.  Time passes so quickly and many times we forget details that we think we will always remember.  It is the same in our spiritual walk with Christ as well.  I have shared from the pulpit and many other places the need for all Christians to journal about their relationship with Christ.  It is important to record the highs and lows so that your faith can grow stronger as well as you can receive encouragement in the difficult times of life.

We see a somewhat similar incident in the Old Testament in the book of Joshua.  The Israelites are preparing to enter into the Promised Land, but there is just one small obstacle standing in their way.  In this case, it is the Jordan River.  Some people may not think crossing the Jordan River is a big deal even at flood stage, because the Israelites had already crossed the Red Sea.  It doesn’t matter if it is a river or a sea, it is still a huge deal to get approximately two million people across a body of water.  So on the morning of their crossing, Joshua took 12 men (one from each tribe) and told them to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan River and carry it to the other side.  Once on the other side they would use those rocks to create a memorial.  Who was the memorial for?  Joshua 4:6-7 says, “That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.”  Notice the memorial was not only for the people of that day, but also for their children, to remind all of them yesterday, today, and forever of the faithfulness of our Lord.  That is why I stress writing in a journal about your walk with Christ, to strengthen your faith, and to be able to show your children and future generations that they can trust God for today based on how He took care of you yesterday.

One final note, cherish these milestones in your walk with Christ and with your children, because all too quickly things change.  Never miss an opportunity to tell your children that you love them, that you are proud of them, and never miss an opportunity to share with them why you placed your faith in Jesus Christ.  You are your child’s primary teacher-teach and live carefully because little eyes are watching!

By His grace, through His strength, may you live for Him!

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Aug 15

Creation

I have been enjoying the week here in the Outer Banks with the family.  The past couple of days we have spent the morning hours at various national parks helping the boys earn their Junior Ranger badges and patches.  I must say as a side note, it has been really neat to see the boys work hard and then get sworn in as Junior Rangers.  Today’s trip was to Bodie Island Lighthouse.  During one of the ranger talks our eldest son, Eli, asked a question, “how was the island made?”  I thought that was a pretty good question coming from a six year old.  A simple question that only required a simple answer.  However, what ensued was anything but simple, and it revealed man’s craziness in trying to explain away the awesome power of our God.  Rather than giving the simple, truthful answer of “God made it,” the ranger began his “simple” answer by saying “well the easiest answer is to begin with geography.”  The simple answer went on for about another 10 minutes in which all I could understand was that it took millions of years and if the Outer Banks are left undisturbed for thousands and thousands of years, the process could be duplicated.  Now please understand that the Ranger did a nice thing by trying to answer the question, and he gave his answer based on what he has been taught.  But it reminds me of the truth of Romans 1:22-25 says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”  Notice it says “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”  Also notice “and changed the glory of the uncorruptivle God into an image made like to corruptible man.”  Finally notice they “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.”  This accurately describes the plight of man.  I found it interesting that the ranger also admitted that the process done in the 1930’s of building dunes to preserve the island was actually found to be shrinking the island in the 1970’s.  This proves once again that God’s plan is perfect, and all men do when they try to make it better is actually destroy God’s masterpiece.  Let us all be reminded of the truth in Psalm 72:18-19, “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”

By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him!

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Aug 09

Personal Tragedy

Many believers and non-believers have correctly identified the hardest question for a Christian to answer.  The question is, why does God allow bad things to happen to children?  Some of the most intelligent and educated theologians turn silent when posed with that question.  It has been a question that has been around for centuries and it will be around in my estimation until eternity.  It is a question that has returned to my mind as a baby, only one month old, in our family stares at the last day of his life, a life that doesn’t seem to have even begun.  While I cannot answer the question posed, I pray that God’s Word will speak to us and give everyone who has, is, or ever will be effected by this question some comfort.

The first place I must start is in Isaiah 55:8 which says,”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  There are certain things that the infinite, Almighty God allows that cannot and will not make sense to our finite minds.  While that may seem like a cop out, it doesn’t change the fact that it is the truth.  God does and allows things to occur with an eternal perspective, while you and I do things from the perspective of the here and now.  God’s desire is that everyone would come to a saving faith in Him, not making sure that we have the easiest life here on earth.  The next place that I go during these difficult times is to the book of Job.  If there was ever a man who understood what it meant to suffer personally it was him. In the span of a day he lost all of his possessions (and he was rich), he lost his family (including his wife telling him to curse God and die), and he lost his health (by being covered with boils from head to toe).  On top of that he had three friends who rather than listening to him and empathizing with him, they tried to blame him for everything that had happened (with friends like that who needs enemies?).  Yet we see in Job 1:20-21, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped (bold added for emphasis), and said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.'”  The easy thing to do when tragedy strikes is to blame God, yet we see that Job blessed God.  Rather than focusing on what he lost, Job was grateful for what he had been given.  The final passage I turn to is 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says, “And He (God) said unto me (Paul), ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'”

I know that my family and I are not the only ones who are hurting right now.  There are many people who are suffering tragedy right now.  I wish I could take your pain away, but I can’t even take mine away.  But I pray that this will help you know that God does care, He does love you, and He can help you get through the pain.  I want to leave you with one more Scripture that paints the picture that I so long for.  It comes from Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

By His grace, through His strength, may we live for Him!

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Aug 08

Stephen Strasburg and Christians

Most people outside of the baseball world have no idea who Stephen Strasburg is.  He was selected first overall in the 2009 Amateur Baseball draft as a pitcher.  He is very talented, but has had some arm problems since arriving in the major leagues.  Many orthopedic surgeons attribute that to him throwing a lot of pitches and a lot of innings during his career.  So this year the team he plays for, the Washington Nationals, decided to put him on an innings limit.  The said he will only throw 160 innings, by the way the average number of innings thrown by a pitcher in the major leagues is around 200 or more.  The innings limit sounded like a great idea at the beginning of the season, especially since the Nationals thought they would be good but not a great team this year.  However, what has transpired is that they are a really good team, leading their division.  Stephen Strasburg is their best starting pitcher, and he is nearing his 160 innings limit (127 innings pitched at the time of this writing).  So the Nationals management is faced with a dilemma.  Do they change their minds on the innings limit and go for the playoffs and a potential World Series title (extremely slight chance they would win it), and potentially risk Strasburg’s arm getting hurt and potentially shortening his career?  Or do they play their best now and hope for the playoffs, stick to the innings limit for Strasburg, and build towards a brighter future?  You know we as Christians face a similar dilemma.  Are we going to live for the moment and enjoy the things of the world.  Or are we going to enjoy the life God has given us here, but always look forward the eternal life to come?  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters…”  Are you willing to delay full gratification now, or are you going to be an enjoy-at-all-cost person?  It may not always be easy to wait, but if we are faithful to God and we wait, it will be worth it.  Day by day, through His grace, may we live for Him!

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