Category Archives: Scripture

Disappointment and Boring Bible Study

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In the course of my ministry discipling other men, I’ve found no habit more difficult to pass along than Bible study. For some, sharing the gospel comes naturally. The extroverts dig right in. For others, confession becomes a habit of life that is a constant life-giving source. I can name off many that have become selfless servants, gifted encouragers, worship leaders, self-styled theologians or even the near-mythological oft-spoken-of “prayer warriors”.

Perhaps no habit of Christian discipline has left them all more frustrated than regular Bible study. Maybe you have been a part of a mentoring relationship or accountability group before where conversations enter the shame spiral when the question comes up: “How’s your time in the Word?” or “Have you been reading your Bible?” I sure have been.

There’s a lot of reasons that regular Bible reading is hard. Sin. Lack of proper past teaching. Laziness. Distractions.

But I think there’s an even bigger factor holding many people back from vibrant Bible study.

Disappointment.

Do you remember the first time you really got the gospel of grace? When you heard it like you had new ears and saw it like you never had eyes until just that very moment. When the gospel was so real and tangible that you felt like it was wrapping you up in a hug.

And they told you then that to meet with this God every day — the way to hear from God himself — was to open up your Bible. And so you did. At first it was ok, then really great and then it was a legal manual. Then it was chronologies. Then it was Tiglath-Pileser (who?) and exiles. Then it was prophecies in metaphors you didn’t understand, with backgrounds you didn’t know. Then your Study Bible made it less “hearing from God” and more “you better have that homework done before school.”

And you felt disappointment. I get it. You heard the famous preachers and teachers talk about their rich, deep times in the Word. You heard about tears and joy and being filled with the Spirit, and you thought that if you ever cried over those pages it was because of frustration and not filling, shame and not surprising joy.

Our disappointment tells us that when Beth Moore or Rick Warren, Billy Graham or John Piper, J.D. Greear or Kay Arthur open up their Bibles in the morning, the pages glow. A cloud of understanding—the shekina glory itself—descends upon them. They meet over those pages with God like Moses met with him in the tabernacle: face to face. They’re special and for them it’s always been that way. And what’s more: it is not and never will be for you.

Let me tell you something important: that’s not true. Bible reading isn’t a spiritual gift. It’s a spiritual discipline. These men and women, as well as every believer from the widow’s Sunday School class to the church fathers, have learned to love and revere the Bible through discipline. Paul knew this. He did not tell Timothy  “one day it will just come to you,” but “Train yourself for godliness.

Meet Disappointment with Discipline

In our Bible study, we will all have days where we feel as if we are hearing nothing and understanding little. We will all have days we are tempted to read Philippians again for the 32,413th time. Some days, we should give in to that urge. Above all, however, we need to press into the whole Word of God. Seek intimacy over newness. We need to refuse to come to the Word expecting something new, shocking, or entertaining. Instead, we need to come to the Word of God for God. Intimacy with God is the prize.

In those difficult times of Bible study, we need to follow the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

There is no promise that the moment we ask, the instant we set our hearts to seek Him, or that when our hand is still upon the knocker that He will reply. But He will reply. Everyone who loves their Bible and loves time with the Lord in Bible study has gotten there through struggling, praying, seeking. There is no other way. Days where it seems the heavens are shut up are sowing for us a bounty of glory in ordinary, boring Bible study. We need to wrestle with the Word like Jacob wrestled with God: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” We must train ourselves for godliness.

It’s hard. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. There’s a reason attack of the yawns happens when we sit down in front of the Word. There’s a reason everything else suddenly seems pressing and interesting. But if we will discipline ourselves to be in the word, what awaits us on the other side is glory. In 2 Corinthians, we read that when the covenant words (The Scriptures) are read that, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 

That’s why we press in. Intimacy with God in His Word changes us. When we discipline ourselves to look into His Word to see Jesus, the Word itself changes us more and more into his image. Jesus is on every page. It will take countless days, failed attempts, successes, frustrations, and joys. Over time, you will see the beauty of Bible study, because of your prolonged exposure to the beauty of Christ. That’s what we ask for, seek for, knock for: that by the Spirit we would see Jesus and become like him.

The pages won’t glow. But you might.

 

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?” 2 Corinthians 3:7-8

 

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

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Scripture Memory For Everyone: The Verse Box

This is my second post on Scripture Memory. In my last post on Scripture memory (over a year ago!), I gave you 8 reasons why you should work hard at Scripture Memory. It would be instructive to you to read that post first by clicking here. At the end of that post, there is a video made by my college pastor, Trace Hamiter, explaining how to do Scripture memory through a verse box. What I want to do in this post is not restate what I’ve already said but instead to explain to to you how to build a verse box. This method of Scripture memory has completely change how I think of Scripture memory. It’s no longer intimidating. It makes sense. I have a mission. I have a plan. It’s easy.

So, without further ado, here’s how you get started on a ‘Verse Box’ and begin memorizing the Word of God.

**Note: this method can also be used for catechesis. I have friends who are moms that have found this very helpful in teaching their kids Scripture and catechism.
***Some preacher friends of mine have used separate boxes for illustrations, quotes, etc. I have done so myself.

Supplies for the Box

All of the following can be bought at Target or Wal-Mart (cheaper Bibles and pens, too!) or whatever fair-trade, Gluten-free local store you shop at.

1. BIBLE

First thing’s first. If you’re going to memorize the Scriptures, you’re going to need a Bible. Here’s an important rule here: Memorize the translation you use! Do not memorize everything in the NASB if you never read anything but the NIV. I would recommend you memorize in either the ESV or HCSB if you aren’t committed to a translation, but it’s up to you. I do not recommend you use the KJV (archaic language) or the NASB (though an excellent translation, the language can be a bit wooden in many cases which makes memorization harder).

 

2. NOTECARDS 

For this method of Scripture memorization, you’re going to need 3×5 notecards (not bigger, not smaller). 3×5, not 5×8.

3. NOTECARD DIVIDERS 

Though not needed immediately, these are going to come in handy later (after you’ve become a walking Bible database). In phase 2, you’ll need 6-7. In phase 3, you’ll need 30.

4. Index Card Box

You’ll want to get a sturdy index card box. See mine below. Duct tape label is optional, but I believe duct tape makes literally everything better. I leave that between you and the Spirit.

Alternative Index Card Holder. These are good and portable. They don’t hold as many cards, however, and break easy. If you start with this, buy 5, not 1. It will tear up.

 

 

6. Main Section Dividers

Main section dividers are for your every day Scripture memory. These are the most important things to get. A typical start would be green in the front, yellow in the middle, and red at the back.

Alternative section dividers: These are my section dividers. Regardless, have 3 dividers which indicate 1) Verses you know word-perfect, 2) verses you are comfortable with but haven’t nailed yet or verses whose references you can’t remember, 3) Verses you don’t know at all or hardly know.

7. A Good Pen

Everyone needs a good pen for these. For my part, I use the Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point fountain pen (see below). This is, without a doubt, overkill. Whatever you choose, make sure it doesn’t bleed through the cards. Try to have a certain pen that you use with consistency. I generally discourage doing cards in different colors.

Using the Box for Scripture Memory

Phase 1:

Step 1: Dividers

Put your Main section dividers into the box. Cards go behind (or in front of — it’s up to you) these accordingly. Thee main dividers indicate the following:

  • Green: These are verses you know. For a verse to be considered ‘known’ you must be able to recite it perfectly, word-for-word with no stumbling. you must know the exact reference. Reading the reference you can give the verse, reading the verse you can give the reference. You can say it fast, slow, whatever. You know it. However well you probably know John 3:16, that’s how well you want to know these. (This is my ‘Got it!’ tab)
  • Yellow: These are verses you kinda know. You may even reference these verses in your daily life. You still mess up some of the words, forget the reference, or get things mixed up. Maybe you need the first word to get started. That’s ok! No big deal. Keep them behind this tab until you nail them. When you first start out, you will probably have the most verses here. (This is my ‘Meh.’ tab)
  • Red: These are verses you don’t know. Some of them are verses you’ve just started to memorize. Some of them are verses you don’t know at all. When you do you time with the Lord and read a verse you want to memorize, write it on a card and stick it here. Even if you don’t get to it for weeks, this tab will hold it for you. This is where cards go when you first start to learn them and it’s where they stay until you are familiar with them.

Step 2: The Cards
Every Scripture Memory Card should be handwritten. Part of the memorization process is writing the cards, reading them in your own writing. If you have bad handwriting, slow down and take your time. I would insist that you write them, though. Trust me on this.
I don’t advise that you do more than 2-3 verses on a single card at a time when memorizing in isolation. I make exceptions for this. I memorized Ephesians in college using this method and I memorized 2 Cor. 4-6  two years ago using this method. When I did those, I left all the cards in order regardless of how well I knew them and each card was full. Except times like these, however, try not to do 4-5 verses. Practically, a bunch of cards that are super long can be discouraging because they take a long time to memorize. You may work weeks with little progress and quit. Instead, try shorter cards with only a verse or two and you’ll move very quickly! There are TONS of great verses to memorize before getting to chunks anyway. Let’s get started on those cards.
The front of the card should have a reference:
The back of the card should have the verse written out. Don’t cram the card.
Here’s a trick I learned from my friend Joe for cards that are really hard to learn. If you’re working on a single verse that you just can’t seem to make progress on, give it a shot. Write the first letter of every word and include the punctuation on the front of the card with the reference.That way, looking at the reference, you can work your way through the verse with what you know and familiarize yourself with the word order.
Romans 13:14 is where I had to do this. Those last few words leading into “to gratify its desires” always gave me trouble.
Step 3: The Verses 
You need somewhere to start.You’ll want to start your box with 30-50 verses– don’t freak out! I know that’s a lot. Remember, most of them go behind the “Don’t Know’ and “Meh” (or yellow) tab. The first thing you need to do is figure out which verses you already know perfectly. John 3:16. Romans 5:8. Romans 3:23. Genesis 1:1. It doesn’t matter what they are. Write them down and put them behind the green tab. Starting with an empty green tab (Got It!) is discouraging. If you don’t know any, I’m so glad you’re starting! Odds are, however, you know at least a few. Get them in the green.
Next, find new verses to add.
Here’s a helpful list of verses I often give to people: VerseBox_Starter
Otherwise, Dr. Tim Beougher, Evangelism professor at Southern Seminary recommends these verses.
Step 4: The Box
Put the box together. Put in your divider tabs. Put in your notecards. I put my notecards in front of the tab. Why? At the back I put about 50-100 blank notecards to add more stuff. (Also, I suggest buying good notecards. Cheap ones bleed and wear out.)
What now?  Memorize Scripture!
Every day is Scripture memory day. When you wake up, when you do your quiet time, before bed, during breakfast….you decide. But every day, find time to memorize scripture.
You can pick verses just for Evangelism, just for theology, just to fight sin, just for anything, really! One important note I will make is to not take things out of context. For example, memorizing Jeremiah 29:11 out of context may be unhelpful since you are not an Israeli exile or if you don’t understand God’s wonderful plan for you in Christ includes suffering for his name (Phil 1:27). Romans 13:14 is fine out of context. Not all verses are. Make sure you understand what you are memorizing!
There are 3 steps in your Scripture memory process:
  1. Go through every verse behind the green tab. It’s so incredibly easy to lose the verses you ‘know’. Don’t believe me? Did you ever learn a foreign language in high school? Do you know it now? Probably not. This is the same principle. You have to keep doing those verses! Every day, if you do nothing else (even if you don’t get to any new verses or ‘yellow tab’ verses) do these.
  2. If you have made it through green tab verses you know and have time, try to make it through your yellow tab verses. Don’t feel the burden to do all of them. That’s great if you have time, but even better is quality time with 4-5 of them. Do these until you can move them to the green tab. No pressure!
  3. If you’ve run through all the green tab verses and moved many yellow tab verses to the green, grab 2 or 3 from the red tab and start new verses.

You will find it helpful in your Scripture memory time to pray through the verses. This has been the most important use of Scripture Memory for me. For more information on praying Scripture, go here.

Also, meditation on the verses is key. Here is what you need to know about meditation.

John Piper has a helpful sermon on this.

For a practical guide to meditation, go here.

You may struggle with legalism on these. DON’T! Scripture Memory is a tool. It is commanded and it is an encouragement, but it does not and will never give you right standing before God. Don’t trust in how many days in a row you did Scripture memory for your self worth. Donald Whitney, one of the world’s leading authorities on spiritual disciplines, has written a helpful article on resisting legalism in spiritual disciplines. Read it here.

Phase 2:

How can there be more? Well there is! The good news about this Scripture Memory box is that it works. In fact, I have never met anyone EVER for whom this did not work. I doubted it and refused to do it for over a year. Then, struggling in my stubborn way, I switched to this and all of a sudden I was zooming through verses!

So what do you do when you have 50 verses behind the green tab, 40 behind the yellow tab, and 40 behind the red tab (Trust me– this will happen)? MORE TABS! This is where the 7 dividers come in handy.

Adding New Tabs

Once you have 30-40 cards memorized, the green tab can become burdensome to go through. Add 6-7 tabs (Some folks exclude Sunday), one for each day of the week. Once a card has been in the ‘green tab’ for a month or so, move it behind a ‘day tab’. Then, when you do your Scripture Memory time every day, do what is behind the green tab and add the ones assigned to that day. Try to keep the day tabs even so you don’t have 10 on Monday an 2 on Thursday. Even them out. This way you see every verse once a week.

Phase 3:

Adding Even More Tabs!
I don’t have a picture of phase 3. I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but I know plenty of folks who have. One friend of mine has multiple boxes, because this method has been so effective.
In Phase 3, keep your ‘day tabs’ and add tabs numbered 1 to 30. Yes, thta’s a tab for every day of the month. At this point, Scripture Memory time becomes ‘green tab’, ‘day tab’, and ‘day of the month tab’. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take that much more time. This will come once you have hundreds of verses. Don’t start the ‘day of the month’ tabs until you have 150 or more tabs behind your ‘day tabs’. I promise you, however, that if you stick to this you will get there within 2 years. Because of my switch to ‘large chunk’ memorization, my individual verse box memorizing slowed significantly. Stick to it, and you’ll know hundreds soon enough.

Conclusion

Remember, this isn’t the Holiness Olympics. You aren’t gaining right standing with God by memorizing Scripture. You are, however, equipping yourself to recite the Scripture when you are discouraged. You are equipping yourself to use these verses in Evangelism. You are equipping yourself to have a biblical theology. You are equipping yourself to know God more truly according to how he has revealed himself.

What are you waiting for?

Start memorizing!

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Inerrancy Panel at MWBTS | President Jason Allen hosts SWBTS President Paige Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler

As a young Southern Baptist seminarian, I really benefited from MWBTS President Jason Allen’s recent conversation with SWBTS President Paige Patterson and Conservative Resurgence leader Judge Paul Pressler. At the end of the day, our faith’s orthodoxy will rise and fall with our faith in the Bible as the true, inerrant word of God. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these men and ought to listen to their story.

Of particular importance to me was the discussion on Adrian Rogers. In the Southern Baptist Convention today, it’s clear that we don’t agree on everything but I think we can agree on this: standing in uniform agreement upon the authority of Scripture, the SBC is better today because of the work of men and women like Adrian Rogers. Dr. Patterson is right. To be known as a man of God is the highest honor. Adrian Rogers was such a man.

So, without further adieu, enjoy this video with 2 SBC heroes (also featuring a less than conspicuous hat/jacket combo I couldn’t stop looking at — sorry, had to!).

 

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/92213890″>Inerrancy Panel Discussion with Judge Paul Pressler and Dr. Paige Patterson</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mbtskc”>MBTS</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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The Sufficiency of Scripture

As Protestant Christians, we are a Sola Scriptura people.  For those of you that haven’t brushed up on your latin lately, that means we are Bible men and women.  As in, Scripture Alone is the foundation for our faith.  Sadly, it seems my generation does not care much for it.  Obviously, they think Scripture is important, but not important enough to seek out and dig into.  We think Scripture is important, but just not all that useful, you know?  Scripture is important, but doesn’t make much sense.  You know?  There’s nothing wrong with supplementing the Word of God with something else.  Something more life giving.  So we surround our selves with other things.  And what is happening?

We are drowning in a sea of anecdotes, of new revelation from the Holy Spirit neither audible nor discernable as true or not.  We are drowning, sucked into a whirlpool of anything to do our work for us.  We are begging others to do the work of exposition, exegesis, and prayer for us that we may easily know the best Christian clichés that make us sound holier than our time in the Word of God reflects. Many times we get caught up in thinking that our ability to make Scripture ‘easy’ for ourselves and others to understand comes from a lacking in personal holiness or standing with God.  We love to ‘encourage’ others by telling them to work hard out of gratitude to Christ; instead of what we ought to be doing, which is reminding one another of our full, complete credited perfection in our standing with God through Christ.  Only then do we seek holiness.

______________________________________________________

I am fighting the battle of not being ‘that guy’.  But at risk of being a ‘meanie’, I’m going to.  I was reading a twitter feed for a local campus ministry today.  I won’t name them, simply because I do not feel like it.  Figure it out.  Anyway, it said some fun things.  Here are some examples:

  • When I want what God wants, I become unstoppable.
  • The more vulnerable we allow ourselves to be with our secrets, the more people stop seeing us for our good deeds and start seeing God in us!
  • The problem with the church is that they don’t get people involved, they are to exclusive instead of being inclusive to Gods Glory.
  • Everyone has an opinion about everything you do in life. Make sure that you are only listening to the ones that love you and care about you.
  • God gives us chances to change our life, but we are too busy believing in the perception that we think we are to notice.
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not judging the heart behind the tweets.  I don’t even know who is tweeting them. But I think they are a fine example of people who are taking the Word and making it what they want.  Are these little tweets Satanic?  Certainly not!  Are they gospel centered? Also no.  
You see, we want clichés.  We think they are more relatable than Scripture.  And let me say also, there’s nothing wrong with anecdotes or summaries of the gospel or Scripture.  But it certainly seems that one has replaced the other.  I had lunch today with a good friend, one Mr. Will Haynes.  He and I were talking about the deep need for this campus to know the DEEP truths of Scripture.  It has become quite obvious, he said, that people simply do not care.  They just want simple truths to make them feel good about themselves and get them through the day.  I agree.
There was a time when people needed to hear that God wants them to do the impossible.  I do not think that time is over.  But what if we changed these tweets around to what is really needed?  What if they said the following? (compare with the above):
  • But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 ESV) [P.S. He was answering ‘Who then can be saved?’ not ‘How can we get 300 people to our laser light show worship service’]
  • “…the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
  • The problem with the church is everyone seeks their own glory.  We would rather start our own para-church ministry on a campus with at least 40 of them than serve in a God-ordained institution. (Not sure that would fit on twitter.)
  • God has spoken.  Seek out the Scriptures.
  • In Christ, our perfection in God’s eyes has been fulfilled.  As we look to the cross, our lives are being transformed.  It’s not about our ‘effort’.

I am a bit nervous about this post, to be honest.  I don’t mean to scapegoat anyone.  But I’m tired of seeing Auburn students carrying around “Jesus Calling,” a book where a woman claims to have direct revelation from the Holy Spirit, making those who do not feel less holy than she and undermining the Word.  I’m tired of hearing students say “I don’t believe in a God who would…” as if God is subordinate to our whims of who he should be.  They might as well say, “I’m too lazy to seek out the true character, word and will of God”.  

[If you want to see what this looks like, check out @scottywardsmith on twitter.  Woah.]
So what’s the solution?  
The Truth.  
Not a metaphysical or theoretical truth, but The Truth.  The God-man himself, Jesus Christ.  We must look to Christ. In Exodus 14, the people essentially ask Moses “Why have you led us out into the desert to die?  Were there no graves left in Egypt?”
And how does he respond?
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15 ESV)
It has never been about your effort, your anecdotes, or your inability to see the truth of Scripture.  God has always acted disproportionately to the ability of man.  And I think, if we do as the Isrealites did, looking to the salvation of the Lord, which does not depend on us, we shall go forward.  Currently, it seems we are running in circles.  May we go forward, seeking earnestly the God who has saved us through the Scriptures he has given us- not wishing to be unique, special, or and individual or but only to be found in Christ.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV)
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