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

The Beatles, Christianity, and Culture

https://www.facebook.com/Yesterday/

I recently went to the movies with my daughter-in-law to see “Yesterday,” a tale of a struggling musician who, through some twist of fate, finds himself in some kind of alternate reality where he’s the only person who knows who the Beatles were. He proceeds to introduce the world to the music of the Fab Four as if it’s his own. Comedy and conflict ensue. We enjoyed the film; it’s a fresh premise in a summer of adaptations, sequels, TV-to-movie offerings, and no less than three live-action Disney remakes. Plus, I have spent the last couple of days getting reacquainted with the Beatles catalogue.

Which, for me, is to say, I found some albums on Spotify. You see, in one of those unusual quirks of my personal history, I own NO music by the Beatles. For someone whose life has been marked by the music on my various radio stations, turntables, tape decks, and CD players, it seems unthinkable that I would not have any Beatles in my possession.

Except, it’s not that unthinkable, when I delve into my early history. This whole re-immersion has caused me to ponder my upbringing and engagement with rock-n-roll. The “what if the Beatles didn’t exist” premise of the movie is closer to reality for my childhood. The Beatles may as well not have existed in my household. No Beatlemania there. My dad would scoff at those “long-hairs” as beneath him. No chance to catch the Ed Sullivan appearance that was so defining for many of my peers; no sir, we went to church on Sunday nights. When I purchased a couple of packs of Beatles trading cards, my mom let me know they were not welcome. And when John Lennon famously proclaimed that they were more popular than Jesus, well, if he’d announced that he was the Anti-Christ, it wouldn’t have been any more reprehensible.

This is not to say that my childhood was overly-repressive or joyless. I was, after all, saved by the aforementioned Jesus during one of those Sunday night services that caused me to miss the end of the 4:00 football games and the Ed Sullivan show. I suppose Beatlemania arrived in my life well before the more independent and rebellious times of my junior high and high school years. So, I was more or less obedient to my folks and never learned to like the Beatles.

Plus, my parents, though flawed as all are, were simply trying to live out their beliefs in a world that didn’t always embrace our Christian faith. I can’t fault them for that.

H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture identifies several ways that Christians have attempted to engage the authority of Christ when facing the culture around them. My folks were clearly in the “Christ against culture” camp. Things like drinking, smoking, and certainly rock-n-roll were vestiges of the secular city and were entities to be opposed as a Christian.

I’ve come to see Christ as the Transformer of Culture. There are certainly evil things in the world, but I’ve lost the “anything that is not Sacred is to be disregarded” mindset. In the common grace of God, John, George, Paul, and Ringo can produce something truly human that might just touch my soul in a way that can only be described as divine. So, I’m listening…and thinking.

Excuse me, Sgt. Pepper just ended. I need to “Get Back” to where I once belonged.

For a more complete discussion of Niebuhr’s book and the Christ and Culture debate, go here.