Tag Archive | bible study

Real life Christian confession, Bible reading, study, and stuff

Real Christianity Confession Time:

I had a terrible week last week. I encountered some adverse conditions and I became petulant, grumpy, irritable, and self-pitying. I forewent Bible reading, rationalizing that I was too upset and couldn’t think just now. Of course, in adverse conditions, Bible reading is the first place one should go, not the last. But there you have it.

By the grace of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit I recovered my equilibrium. I attended to some things I’d neglected the last week all day on Saturday, and on Sunday I devoted myself to church service, prayer, and small group fellowship. I’d promised the Lord that on Monday (today) I’d get back to it with a vengeance, since I was home from work on Thanksgiving break and had all the time in the world.

So by 11:00 this morning, I’d done-

10 chapters of Bible reading,
1 chapter read in Hidden Life of Prayer,
1 chapter read in Gerstner’s Theology in Dialogue,
1 chapter lesson completed in Jess Pickowicz’s Biblical Doctrine study,
Lecture 1 of Hebrews by Dr Abner Chou listened to, plus NT overview
4 pages of notes on legal pad

I am a Theology BEAST. Sadly, by a few days from now I know that I’ll be a theology wimp. I tend to slide. I start out good but slacken, then speed up and then slow down. Goodness, I totally understand Paul when he said,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. (Romans 7:15).

O Lord, have mercy on this weak woman, and help me stay consistent in Bible reading and study!!

Here are some thoughts and insights gained by the Spirit during today’s studying bonanza.

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rich young ruler verse

EPrata photo

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” (Matthew 19:16-18a).

This made me laugh out loud. Which ones? Like we can pick and choose? Whether as Gill’s Expositions says, the Rich Young Ruler

Whether those commandments of a moral, or of a ceremonial kind; whether the commands of the written, or of the oral law; of God, or of the elders, or both; or whether he did not mean some new commandments of his own, which he delivered as a teacher sent from God:

or whether the Rich Young Ruler had the original ten laws in mind, asking “which ones” just shows how blind he was. No one can keep any of the laws perfectly their whole life. But the man confidently replied to Jesus’ answer as to ‘which laws’ that “all these I have kept”. Some believe that the Rich Young Ruler was indeed Saul of Tarsus. If he was, then the Lord’s mercy is great. If he wasn’t, I pray that mercy came to that young ruler sometime before his death, when eternity becomes fixed.

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I do my daily Bible reading in the NKJV. The verse at Psalm 18:4 says,

The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.

Me too, David, me too.

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The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation— (Psalm 18:46).

A GREAT verse!

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Job 18: man, this is rough, very rough, It’s not only rough because Bildad is heaping scorn on Job, and telling him to snap out of it, but Bildad is excruciating in his detailed list of what and how the wicked endure the coming punishment. Read Job 18 if you begin to lose your compassion for the lost.

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For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. (Matthew 19:12)

Yes.

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Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

God is generous. We may only understand Him through His word, and we can only understand the word via His Spirit, but He has given to us His Spirit. Freely.

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“You don’t want to just know the word of God. You want to know the God of the word.” Dr Abner Chou, The Master’s Seminary, Hebrews lecture #1.

Read the word to gain an understanding of who Jesus is, to commune with Him, to understand His revealed attributes, commands, precepts, and plans. Every time I let Bible reading go and then return to it, I am refreshed and wonder why I let it go in the first place. I am a silly person, stumbling and bumbling along. No doubt I’ll mourn my wastrel ways when I get to heaven and see the glories Jesus has set before us. All I can do now is try again. And again…

Time of refreshing

I’d had a hard week, a long one. It had been a few days since I’d read my Bible. I was 6 days overdue for reading the pages in the book Biblical Doctrine I’m studying with an online group, and the new weekly study was going to come out the next day. If I didn’t do some reading I’d be a week behind in the study, and I was already a few days behind in Bible reading. When I read the ten pages suggested for the Doctrine study, I always also read a chapter in The Hidden Life of Prayer by David MacIntyre. I hadn’t read that either, even though it would only represent a few pages of reading and wasn’t especially hard or time-consuming.

It infuriates me when I do this. I exclaim aloud as Paul did in Romans 7:15-20, 24 why do I do the things I don’t want to do and do the things I don’t want to do? Who will deliver me from this body of death?

I didn’t desire to be behind any more. Nor did I want to neglect my God any further. I buckled down and read all my pages, the Bible, the weekly Bible Study, and my chosen book on Prayer. I took a leisurely two and a half hours to do it, though given the number of pages, the actual reading time could have been shorter. But the amazing thing is, the longer I read the Word, and the deeper I went into the Doctrine study, the more relaxed I became. I wanted to stay with it. I enjoyed it tremendously. I luxuriated in reading a bit, then lifting my eyes and praying in exultation, pondering a while, then reading some more. I was amazed when I finished, it felt like just one minute had passed.

When I finished I felt refreshed and relaxed. I felt good, through and through. Why is that?

I confessed my laziness to several of the men in my Bible Study group the next night. I mentioned the amazing feeling afterward, the energy and freshness I’d felt when I concluded my personal session. Why is that? And why do I put it off when I know that the Lord is worth the discipline, and that I’ll be receiving the gift of His presence through the scriptures, not to mention the bonus of the fresh and energized feeling?

They both said,

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; (Psalm 19:7).

The answer is simple- the scriptures refresh like no other activity, item, discipline, food or drink on earth. They refresh totally because they are not from earth.

His word revives the very soul.

bible reading 1

Can we interpret the Bible by finding out what this verse means to me?

Have you ever gone to a Bible study and either they use a curriculum or the Bible itself, and the teacher reads a passage and then opens it up for comments by saying “What does this verse mean to you”? What is happening here is the teacher is confusing interpretation and application. There’s a book called Multiplyfrom Multiply Movement, which is David Platt and Francis Chan, written in 2012. Here is an excerpt fromlink to chapter 9 of their free book-

Know the Difference between Interpretation and Application 

Maybe the most common mistake made in Bible interpretation is when people focus too much on “what this verse means to me.” It’s not uncommon for Bible study groups to go around the circle as each person shares an individualized interpretation. Often these interpretations are made with little study and are heavily influenced by opinion and desire. Many times, the various interpretations are incompatible with one another. In this type of setting, the focus is not on what God is saying through the Bible. Instead, each person is focused on what he or she thinks the verse means. Whether it’s clearly articulated or not, this approach reveals the assumption that the Bible has a personalized meaning for each Christian. It might mean one thing to me, but another thing to you.

I’ll use an exaggerated example here, by saying, one man might respond by saying ‘Yes, this passage says to me that I can sin with impunity.” And the other man says, ” What it means to me is that I have to follow the Law.” Can it be both? No. As with any text, the author had one thing in mind when He wrote it. The fact that there are many different interpretations doesn’t mean that we can sow our own agenda into the Bible, come out with different interpretations, and think that that’s OK. It isn’t.

Sometimes when we talk about “what this passage means to me,” we are actually talking about application, rather than interpretation. With interpretation, we are asking what the passage is saying and what it means. With application, we are applying that meaning to our specific situation. Ultimately, each passage has one meaning, but it might have many different applications.

Application depends on our specific life situations, so we may all read the same passage and walk away with different applications. Interpretation, on the other hand, is all about discovering what God has actually said and what He intended to communicate. We should all read the same passage and walk away with the same meaning. Source:Multiply.

The Multiply book is free in pdf format and there are also 24 videos to match each week’s lessons.

In the Ligonier online class Principles of Biblical Interpretation, lecturer RC Sproul always says that there is ONE intended meaning for each passage in the Bible. There might be many applications, but the Author intended one meaning. I can give an example of this. In the passages describing the rapture and in the larger context of God’s plan for humankind in history, some interpret the rapture to occur before the Day of the LORD, or during the Day of the LORD, or after the Day of the LORD. Since it is one event and it happens only once, there can’t be an interpretation of the rapture that includes ‘what it means to me’ with three different timings.’ Only one of those timings is right and the other two are wrong.

John MacArthur at Grace Community Church preached against personal revelation and preached how to interpret the Word properly in this sermon from 2013.

And here is a general lecture on How To Study Your Bible: Interpretation from MacArthur.

Can we understand the one meaning the Author intended? With study, prayer, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, yes. Some passages are admittedly more difficult to understand. Also, we know we can’t understand all of the Bible in the same way the LORD does. However let me end with this story I’ve told and re-told. It fascinates me. Shortly after the Soviet Union fell, John MacArthur was asked by some pastors in the split-off nation of Kazakhstan to come give them a crash course in theology on various topics. The Communist Soviet Union had banned Christianity and when it fell, the secret pastors, new pastors, and new believers needed to get a good foundation in the open. MacArthur came.

At the end of the week, they asked to be taught on eschatology. MacArthur spent 8 hours teaching them from the Bible about last things. At the end of the teaching, they said, “Good. This is what we believe.” Having no access to commentaries, external sermons, or other teachings, and relying solely on the Bible, these pastors on one part of the world believed the same thing as another pastor in another part of the world, because they had interpreted rightly and understood the one intended meaning.

Won’t it be wonderful when we’re there and we all understand the same, and have a strong union in Christ with no error or sin? Meanwhile, in order to reduce the possibility of error, pray fervently and often, study diligently and well, and do not fall for the ‘what this verse means to me” claptrap. Stay true to discovering the wonders of the single, intended meaning of the passage you are reading.

Onward and upward!

Did God really say “You are precious to me, you are honored, and I love you”? Women’s ministries today

Sure, I walk around every day in Renaissance hair and a wedding dress
clutching a crumpled leaf. FYI, read to the end regarding this very verse.

Over these last ten and twenty years we have become used to women’s ministers and Bible teachers preaching the consistent message of female empowerment of one sort or another. They put out messages like, “You are beautiful”, “You are wonderful.” “Jesus created you with a cosmically important job that only you can do”. These Bible teachers seek to encourage women, which is good, but they do so by appealing to our self-esteem and growth on the basis of strengths and qualities we possess. What their message boils down to is that we become God-approved by becoming more of ourselves. The cumulative message from all these teachers leads to a place no Christian wants to be. The end result is not growth, but apostasy; not encouragement, but despair.

Here is an example of the mixed messages we see, these are from Christine Caine, founder of Propel, a female empowerment ministry. Caine is an activist, not an evangelist, though she claims the opposite.

Live an unexplainable life, because you were chosen uniquely for a cosmic task ONLY you can accomplish (not God?) so press through and take risks. But don’t be arrogant, self-assertive or self-confident about it! #Mixed messages, Mrs Caine.

That’s the trouble with appealing to women’s emotions and qualities. While these teachers want to make affirmations to women that we are sensitive snowflakes melting in love with Jesus who is in turn melting in love with us, we also possess power, accomplish important tasks, and live a risky unexplainable life to accomplish it all. That is why the encouragement turns to despair- it doesn’t add up. The cognitive dissonance grates.

While previous generations of Bible teachers like early Kay Arthur and Elisabeth Elliot taught that our power is in God through submission to Him within the limits of the roles He has outlined for us, these past few generations of Bible teachers teach that our power is in us as women and it demonstrates sanctifying growth when we act on it, which God affirms by giving us more power.

Blogger Phylicia Delta wrote this week on the topic. It’s a good essay that makes the point, from which I’ll post some excerpts below-

Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful

If I judged Christianity by its women’s conferences, I’d be led to believe that the Bible is no more than a series of compliments from God to man. Instead, the real story is far less complimentary and far more humiliating. Jesus didn’t come to earth because we were beautiful, special, or great. He came because we were too grossly sinful to bridge the gap between ourselves and God.

That’s not a message we want to hear from the stage of Extraordinary Women, is it? But it’s the one we need, because women who think they’re pretty awesome don’t need a Savior. [emphasis hers]

The truth is that I’m not beautiful, special, or all that unique. I’m born into sin, bent to rebellion. My insecurities and fears are too deep, pulsing through Adam’s blood in my veins. They can’t be rooted out with shallow “encouragements”.

The solution is simple. Stop preaching the easy message, and start preaching the right one. Stop exalting us as women and start exalting Christ.

A few days later, I noticed this satirical post from the Babylon Bee, which makes the point about the end result of all these esteem-laced female “encouraging messages”.

Woman Unsure Why She Needs Jesus After Preacher Spends 30 Minutes Telling Her How Amazing She Is

TWIN OAKS, AZ—According to reports coming out of Hope Community Church, first-time visitor Brittany Wilson remains unsure about why she needed “this Jesus guy” in her life after the pastor spent the entire Sunday sermon reiterating how awesome, amazing, unique, and special she is.

“The message was super-encouraging. It was all about how I need to let the goodness within me shine and ‘just do me,’ without worrying about all the haters,” Wilson said after the service.

“But then the pastor said I needed Jesus, out of the blue. Like, what? It made no sense. I’m not sure what He has to offer that I don’t, based on how wonderful the pastor said I am.”

Do you see the devastating cumulative effect of the mixed messages? The point of these particular kind of women’s studies and Bible teachers is to appeal to the pride of life. Satan did it in the Garden with Eve. Resist, ladies! The main way to resist being deceived is to stay in the Word. Read and study the Bible. Another way is also feed on good and solid books and studies, like this one-

Women’s Ministry in the Local Church

I have not read this book but it is on my ‘to-read’ list.

There is a way to do women’s ministry biblically. This book addresses that. Here is the publisher’s synopsis:

Susan Hunt and Ligon Duncan walk through the Scriptures to help readers better understand what it means to have an effective, biblical women’s ministry in the church. The benefits of women’s ministries are great: training and discipling, evangelizing, and reaching out to the poor and needy. This book, written by seasoned ministry leaders, provides many proven tools to help start a women’s ministry in your church.

Here is a verified purchaser’s review of the book:

This book was very helpful in understanding the biblical view of women’s roles in the church. It encourages the empowerment of women in a positive way. This is an excellent guide for developing a meaningful ministry to women of all ages within the church body. Women want to know how God can use them to make a difference for His kingdom and this book addresses that concern very well.

As for the difficulty with many female Bible teachers in this day and age, and the Instagram, Pinterest, & other Social Media picture verses they put out… the Isaiah 43:4 verse above is a partial verse! Usually when a partial verse is written, it’s proper to indicate so, either by stating it or by putting a or b after the verse to show if it’s the beginning part of the verse one has excerpted or the latter part of the verse you’ve excerpted. In this case, the verse should read Isaiah 43:4a since the author saw fit to only paste the first half of it.

The FULL verse reads:

Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable, and I have loved you: therefore will I give men for you, and people for your life.

The word “since” here is key. It connects the former verse to the latter verses. It is a concluding thought. As a reader one must have the previous verses in mind when arriving at the conclusion, which in this case begins “Since”. Excising the since off the verse destroys both the meaning and the context.

So first, ladies, when you re-post a social media verse like this, check the actual Bible to see it is at the address stated and if it is the entire verse.

Secondly, CONTEXT is key. In the verse, God has been talking to the Prophet Isaiah to tell the NATION ISRAEL His message, not special snowflake ladies in the 21st century. Moreover, He is not telling them that He is so in love with them, as the way the verse is presented over the photo. He is saying that he is setting apart the NATION and will keep it intact, even to the point of KILLING men (nations) to do so. Puts a different spin on the whole thing, doesn’t it? Barnes’ Notes explains the verse:

Since thou wast precious in my sight – This verse contains another reason why God would defend and deliver them. That reason was, that he had loved them as his people; and he was willing, therefore, that other people should be overcome in order that they might be saved. 

Thou hast been honorable – This does not refer so much to their personal character, as it does to the fact that they had been honored by him with being the depository of the precious truths of his religion. It means that he had made them honorable by the favors bestowed on them; not that they were honorable in reference to their own personal character and worth. [emphasis mine]

Therefore will I give men for thee – As in the case of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba Isaiah 43:3. He would cause other nations to be destroyed, if it were necessary, in order to effect their deliverance, and to restore them to their own land.

Puts an entirely different spin on things, doesn’t it?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this two-fold lesson. Firstly, we looked at women’s ministries and how their skewed emphasis perverts the mind of women into thinking their inherent worth is the reason God is so concerned with them. I quoted from two articles, one was a well-written article from Phylicia Delta and the other was a satire piece from the Babylon Bee.

Secondly I used as an example one of the women’s ministry photos I found on Pinterest to demonstrate how verses are twisted to falsely emphasize how God is allegedly concerned with women as special women He is in love with. Double check all memes before posting, please.

Now that you are aware of these discernment issues, what can we do about them? You can buy the above mentioned book by Duncan and Hunt about Women’s ministries. You can pause before clicking the meme to check that it’s actually a verse, the whole verse in context, and the correct address. You can check out the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) offered for free at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary called Biblical Theology of Womanhood I and II. It’s free. I have not taken it so I can’t say one way or another if it’s good. I have signed up. I’ll let you know. There are many free courses, usually MOOCs, that can be taken either through colleges or seminaries or places like Ligonier or other parachurch ministries. As always, use your prayerful discernment when submitting to teaching.

Ladies, don’t be taken in by pop psychology self-esteem teaching. We love who Jesus made us to be, but we love him more for who He is.

How to witness-lite

I was saved when I was 43 years old. At the time just before grace came and released me from spiritual bondage, I was working two jobs. In the morning I’d work from 6:30-10:30 putting up Post Office mail. Sorting the mail behind the wall of PO Boxes, I could hear the conversations occurring in the lobby. There was a particular Bible-believing pastor who used to come in and cheerfully greet everyone. It wasn’t one or two seconds before he would mention Jesus. Not ‘Lord’, or “Him’, or ‘God’, but he’d say “Jesus”. Things like, “Isn’t it a great day on Jesus’ world?” or “How are you on this day Jesus made?”

I’d become inflamed when I heard the name of Jesus. I believed that there was a God, the existence of the world in its complexity made it obvious. I was one whom the verse in Romans 1:19-20 applies,

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

However, I was also one for which the previous verse applied, too,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.


And, what truth was I suppressing? Jesus, for He IS the truth. Therefore any mention of Jesus by anyone, with all its attached concepts- sin, repentance, wrath, inflamed my heart and mind and I suppressed it all.

When I’d hear that name I’d push the mail into the PO Boxes a little harder, I’d grind my teeth, I’d mutter to myself, “Why doesn’t he shut up? Doesn’t he know nobody wants to hear that bunk? Doesn’t he know that nobody’s listening??”

Of course, lol, I was listening.

Soon after that, my carefully built fortresses I’d built in my heart and mind were as wafers and wisps in the face of Jesus’ power who, in His irresistible grace, in His timing, instantly crumbled them all down. I became a believer.

The lessons there were some I never forgot. Please allow me to share these few tidbits.

I know we feel funny when we witness to people. Sometimes we think we have to approach people in a way to share deep, complicated, theological truths in a private setting. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for missing an opportunity, or failing to be clear, or for being fearful we’ll forget critical component.

When we speak to each other as believers, or when we to those we interact with as we go through our daily life (clerks, tellers, cashiers, etc), we should say the name of Jesus, specifically. Saying His name in the public square has power. Not as in magic genie power, but because the name of Jesus is the only name, the name above all names, and the name upon which we come to salvation, the name of Jesus incites people.

Secondly, have conversations about Jesus in the public sphere. Speak of him in the college cafeteria, in the meeting before it begins, at the coffee counter. Just a quick exchange with the friend you’re with of what you learned about a specific verse, or reciting a scripture, or an insight regarding a parallel verse. Others around you hear these conversations. You may never know who heard them, as the pastor never knew I was listening, but the Holy Scriptures have impact upon whom the Lord decides they will have impact. Speak His truths in public, the word will not come back empty.

Of course we do want to witness as to the full message when we can. But when we can’t, don’t feel like you’ve failed. Speak His name or a few verses to someone in the public square. The name of Jesus and His word has power to chip away at the hardest of hearts.

Truly, truly, pay attention now! Amen

John is a profound book. John 3 is an exceptionally profound chapter. It is there we find Jesus speaking with Nicodemus about how to be saved. Is there anything more important than that?

In modern times we have word processing software to help us emphasize different words of phrases we want the reader to note. We can highlight, bold, italicize, underline, or print selected words in a different color. The Hebrews used to repeat a word they wanted the hearer or reader to note for emphasis.

In John 3:3, John 3:5, John 3:11 Jesus says three times in the same conversation about being born again, “Truly, truly.” Not only is the word doubled, but the doubled phrase is used several times in quick succession. This means PAY ATTENTION. In John 5 in the section about the authority of the Son, Jesus again repeats “truly, truly” several times for emphasis. (John 5:19, John 5:24, John 5:25).

It is only in John we see the double wording, even in the same stories told in other chapters, where there is a single “truly.”

The born-again teaching’s importance is emphasized by Jesus’ introduction of the doctrine by proclaiming, “Verily, verily”—or “Truly, truly,” “Most assuredly,” or “Amen, amen,” depending on the translation. All of His “Verily, verily” statements appear in the book of John, and they are used by Christ only when He is about to teach on a profound matter. The doubled “verily” denotes that what follows is of especially weighty and solemn significance, so we are to pay special attention. (Forerunner Commentary, John Ritenbaugh)

In other words, when coming across the doubled “truly” the reader should pay careful attention to the words being presented.

And it is interesting to learn about a literary device which will enhance our understanding of and love for the Word. But it goes even deeper than that. We can intensify our understanding by learning that the phrase “truly, truly” is the Hebrew word “amen.”

Charles Spurgeon explains the depth of meaning behind the word amen and why it is a title for Jesus, in a sermon delivered in 1866 called The Amen. (Revelation 3:14). In the sermon, Spurgeon says that there are three ways Amen is used; when an individual or the congregation is asserting, consenting, or petitioning. He explains at one point,

He was also “the Amen” in all His teachings. We have already remarked that He constantly commenced with “Verily, verily I say unto you.” Christ as teacher does not appeal to tradition, or even to reasoning, but gives Himself as His authority.

Spurgeon’s sermon on Amen (“truly, truly”) is wonderful and I recommend reading it.

In the sermon, Spurgeon makes note of another sermon, this one delivered by Abraham Booth, called The Amen of Social Prayer. Spurgeon recommends Booth’s sermon for its thorough explanation of the use of Amen. Spurgeon said,

Should you desire still further to enquire into the use and meaning of this remarkable word, there is a valuable sermon upon it in the works of Abraham Booth, which you may read, as I have done, to great advantage. If anything should lead to the revival of its use more generally in public worship, it will be a matter of great congratulation.

So note we have traveled a ways away from the initial reading of the Bibles passages in John 3, whereupon one may notice a repeated use of a phrase containing a repeated word. That’s the Bible, ever deeper, ever higher, ever more interesting. Jesus says truly, truly, (amen & amen), and He IS The Amen.

[By Elizabeth Prata]