Article link: David Mathis on reading the Bible

I have a passion for God’s people to know God’s Word. In short, it’s a passion for biblical literacy. That’s not my term; you see it used often. I define it as –

A biblically literate person is able to apply the skills of language, literature, and logic to passages of the Bible, comparing one with another, so that the reader is able to accurately determine the meaning of a passage and to grasp its place in the greater story that God is telling.

25 Bible Passages You Should Know, Mark Knox

There are many articles, books, and tools that can help the believer better understand the Bible. David Mathis has written an excellent one on DesiringGod.org. He’s said it so well. Read it. Share it.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-read-the-bible-better

I am writing a book, 25 Bible Passages You Should Know. Read about it here.

Thoughts on writing a book

I’m writing a book.

Yeah, I know; I’m nuts. There are a million reasons why that’s a fool’s errand. But there are a few compelling reasons to give it a go. One is my passion.

I have a passion for the Bible, and particularly that God’s people know it. There is so much error about these days, and it moves so quickly. God’s people are confused, undiscerning. Apollos was “mighty in the Scriptures.” (Acts 18:24) Many today are not.

A number of years ago, I began a list to identify what I thought were the 100 Most Important Passages in the Bible. I’m pretty sure the list is incomplete, but it got me thinking on this theme. If I had to boil down the Bible to its most important parts, what are they?

Now, I know that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) But that’s not to say that we couldn’t point someone to some of the key passages to begin our understanding. Whether it’s the “Romans Road” of the Gospel, or even a solitary verse like John 3:16, we make choices all the time to decide what to study and teach.

So, the idea for the book, 25 Bible Passages You Should Know, was born.

As I begin to work on this book (and hope to complete by the end of 2020), I want to explain some of my thoughts at the outset.

  1. This book is for the purpose of biblical literacy.

    As I said earlier, my passion is for God’s people to know God’s Word, and many don’t. So the focus is going to be more on the content of the Bible than on the application of the Bible. Besides, I believe the better the knowledge of the content, the better the application. Too much writing in popular Christian literature today leads with application. We’ve become a Church full of Christian “How-to” books. While there will be practical implications, this is not a “How-to” manual.

  2. This is not a book of “favorite passages.”

    One of my friends with whom I shared my idea said, “You better put in Isaiah 1; that’s my favorite passage in the Bible!” Well, that’s a great passage, but it’s probably not going to make the cut. I told my friend, maybe volume 2. There are many passages in the Bible that are personal favorites, but in choosing passages, I turned my eye toward those that would give the reader a strong historical and theological framework to understand the message of the whole.

    Some of your favorites won’t be there. Some of mine won’t as well. Sorry, Hebrews 12.

  3. The process of selecting only 25 passages is tougher than I imagined.

    Initially, I thought I might complete my mind game from earlier and include 100 passages. But as I imagined how deep I might go with each passage, 100 was just too many. I thought about 13, which is handy for teaching curricula, since 13 weeks constitutes a quarter, and this might fit well for church groups to use as a study tool. I eventually settled on just over 2 dozen as a sweet spot.

    My planning board has undergone numerous changes as I move passages from the Maybe Pile or onto the Cutting Room Floor. Just yesterday, I realized that I’d omitted an extremely important passage. Even as I write, the selections will probably change.

    I believe in the end I will be moderately satisfied. If Chris Bruno can write a book, The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (2015, Crossway), I can do this.

  4. I am targeting this book to both new and long-time believers.

    This is not a scholarly text. There will be theology, and I’m not avoiding some of the tough questions. But in my ministry with believers, I’ve found many who simply don’t have any grasp on the story and structure of the Bible. Therefore, they lack the ability to study the Word for themselves and are especially susceptible to false teaching.

    Therefore, I’m targeting my book to this kind of reader. I hope that a new Christian will be able to absorb the writing without feeling overwhelmed. And I hope that a saint further along in the process will be challenged to thinking more deeply about the Gospel and the story of Jesus.

    I anticipate very little analysis of original languages, only so much as is necessary. I won’t avoid theological discussion, but it won’t be every little nuance or questions.

I invite your prayers as I pursue this. I need discipline to write when I’m tired or have other things I want to do. I need wisdom to know what to say and what not to say.

As I finish here, I want your feedback. What passage(s) would you include? It will be interesting to see if yours match mine.

Five Intelligible Words to Instruct

I was reading in 1 Corinthians 14 the other day, and I came to Paul’s words comparing and contrasting speaking in tongues vis a vis speaking in prophecy, one being unintelligible and the other being understandable and therefore edifying to the church. In verse 19, he says, “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand in a tongue.”

Now, I know that Paul is speaking in hyperbole in order to make the point of his preference for prophecy, but my literal mind questioned, “What could you possibly say in 5 words that could instruct?” And my mind answered, “Challenge accepted!”

So, I began to list some 5-word sentences/phrases that are rich in doctrinal truth and teaching, some directly from Scripture and others inferred from the Bible. Any of these would make for some great self-talk or preaching-the-gospel-to-yourself talk.

May these 5 words spur you on to deeper thinking and talk.

In the beginning God created. (Gen. 1:1)

The Lord is my shepherd. (Ps. 23:1)

God sovereignly saves believing sinners. (Eph. 2:1-10)

In all ways acknowledge him. (Prov. 3:6)

All things work for good. (Rom. 8:28) This cannot stand alone, without the surrounding context to show for whom all things work for good – namely, “those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Without those qualifiers, this would be sentimentalism.

I am crucified with Christ. (Gal. 2:20)

God so loved the world. (John 3:16)

There is now no condemnation. (Rom. 8:1)

We have peace with God. (Rom.5:1)

He chose us in Christ. (Eph. 1:4)

He predestined us for adoption. (Eph. 1:5)

Put off your old self. (Eph. 4:22)

We groan as we wait. (Rom. 8:23)

Maybe 5 words is all you need. For all the volumes of books and blogs, 5 words can say much.

What are some truths you can express in only 5 words?

Article link: Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

In light of recent announcements of a couple of well-known Christian influencers announcing their abandonment of the faith they once professed, I hope to have some comments of my own in the next few days. In the meantime, Cogent Christianity has posted an extended quote from John Cooper of the rock band Skillet. Very insightful thoughts from a well-known musician. Think I’ll have to become a Skillet fan.

https://cogentchristianity.com/2019/08/13/skillets-john-cooper-on-apostasy-among-young-christian-leaders/

Please give this a careful read, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Thoughts on the Sovereign Sender

When we discuss the sovereignty of God in salvation, an objection is usually quickly raised. “If God has determined who will be saved, why should we bother to evangelize and preach the gospel, if it’s going to happen anyway?” Such a question, while understandable, exhibits a deficient knowledge of both the Bible’s teaching and the doctrine of sovereignty itself.

As the 1689 London Baptist Confession states, “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.” (Chapter 3, “Of God’s Decree,” paragraph 6, emphasis added) God has ordained that he will save the elect by the preaching of the gospel, and not apart from it. We read in Romans 10: 14-15a, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

Paul final question in that series takes the sovereign work of God back to the very sending of the messenger. We don’t often ponder this, that the Sovereign Lord is working not only in the calling and saving of the elect, but also in the sending of those through whom the gospel is proclaimed.

When Jesus saw the crowds that his preaching and healing were drawing, he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37) I’ve often found this fascinating. Why didn’t Jesus just say that the workers are few, so GO! Why did he instruct them to pray for the Lord of the harvest to SEND workers? As I considered this recently, it became clear to me that the emphasis here is that God is the Sovereign Lord of the harvest, and this includes not only the reaping of elect souls but also the very sending of the messengers.

Paul echoes these thoughts in 1 Corinthians 3:5: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.” The Sovereign Lord has not only chosen his elect but also assigned those through whom the Word is preached.

This is an amazing truth and so necessary for our thinking. It is only in this way – that God is sovereign over every step in the chain of redemption – that we can maintain the glory going to Christ. If we only understand the ends being foreordained but not the means, then we rob God of his glory. And God will not share his glory with another. (Isaiah 42:8)

So ponder these truths. Praise the Sovereign Sender, who in his grace appointed the preachers, the parents, the Sunday School teachers, the youth pastors, the friends who would boldly proclaim the gospel to you and reap the harvest.

Question: Who in your life was instrumental in bringing the gospel to you? Have you thanked them? Have you thanked God for them?

Article link: Trade Self-Help for God-Help

Inasmuch as this blog at times becomes advisory – whether of leadership, productivity, or the like – it would be easy to think of my writing as in the genre of “self-help.” And while some of the things I write share similarities to self-help literature, my articles are intended to look at the various topics from a biblically-informed world-view.

That said, “self-help” would not be an apt description for my writing. This leads me to commend to you a wonderful article from Desiring God by Greg Morse, entitled “Trade Self-Help for God-Help.” This article embodies the perspective I share when considering issues that could better our lives, a perspective that puts God and Jesus Christ clearly at the center.

Enjoy.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/trade-self-help-for-god-help

How to increase your value at work

There are numerous ways you can increase your value to your employer, and by so doing, you may just be able to increase your pay as well. Let’s examine these.

  1. More output

You could simply work harder and faster. This is the simplest path to value. However, creating value in this way is largely in the purview of workers, not leaders. Front-line workers are able to bolster their worth by becoming more efficient at their tasks. Ironically, it is these workers that are often promoted to leadership, even though sheer output is rarely an indicator of leadership prowess. Being the leading worker does not make one a leader of workers. But if you are a leader, you could work with your team toward higher volume.

  • Enforce higher standards

You could take the level of your work to a higher plane. This is different than “more output;” this is doing things better – higher quality, more cleanliness, more cost-effective, and so on. If you are a leader, you can “inspect what you expect” to achieve higher standards.

  • Take ownership

Within your given roles, you could assume more responsibility and ownership, becoming less of a steward and more of an owner. This means you’re less likely to report problems to your superior and more likely to solve them yourself. Assuming your leader is willing, you could improve your benefit to the organization by not having to “bug” your boss for a decision. Over time, work to earn the trust of your superiors to assume this level of ownership.

  • Take on new roles, add new skills

Here it gets a little bit touchy. If you’re like me, you probably think you already have enough on your plate to take on something else. However, one of the simplest ways to improve your value is to have a varied skill-set. And if you try to do this by working 60 hours instead of 50, you’ll be largely ineffective in pulling it off. So, in order to add new skills to your arsenal, you’ll have to eliminate parts of your current roles. This largely happens through the art of delegation. Which leads us to –

  • Build the bench

Developing leaders around you is not only good for freeing you up for new roles, it’s also directly related to your value as a leader. The leader who would rather “do it herself” has reached the end of her effectiveness as a leader. Fear of training yourself out of a job should never enter the mind of a great leader. If you develop others and duplicate yourself, you’ll be free to take on new roles, and more importantly, to…

  • Step back and envision a better future

There are “leaders” who largely manage what is, and then there are those who exercise “heads-up leadership” and see a brighter future. These are the most valuable, but all too rare, of supervisors. Since most leaders are “doers,” ceasing one’s activity to plan, to envision, to dream is difficult – but it can increase your work worth.

  • Self-development, knowledge growth

Leading others begins with leading oneself. Leaders should be learners, even if it’s not directly related to job training and development. All to often, we see professional development as a necessary evil and not to be pursued unless it’s attached to a pay increase. But great leaders don’t think that way. If you pour into yourself, even if there’s not an immediate connection to your work, you will increase your capacity to lead others.

Discussion question: In which of these areas could you take some steps right now to increase your value?