Monday, August 31, 2009

Focusing on What Really Matters

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commenting on Phil. 1:10 ("that you may approve what is excellent," or "that you may have a sense of what is vital"):
The difficulty in life is to know on what we ought to concentrate. The whole art of life, I sometimes think, is the art of knowing what to leave out, what to ignore, what to put on one side. How prone we are to dissipate our energies and to waste our time by forgetting what is vital and giving ourselves to second and third rate issues. Now, says Paul, here you are in the Christian life, you are concerned about difficulties, about oppositions and about the contradictions of life. What you need is just this: the power to concentrate on that which is vital, to leave out everything else, and to keep steadily to the one thing that matters.
The Life of Joy: Philippians, vol. 1, pp. 54-55. (Posted by Justin Taylor on Between Two Worlds)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bible Study Resources

This is a follow-up to the previous post about digging into the biblical text. Show me the resources!

If you are looking to study the Bible properly, I recommend starting off with a good study Bible. It will provide you with comments on the text, background information to each book, cross references to other relevant Scriptures, and sidebars with information on specific topics. After that it is good to slowly build your library with the other resources mentioned below. You can get them all from Amazon.
  • A Study Bible - a Bible with a running commentary from Bible scholars and book introductions that provide the background and setting of each book. Suggested: ESV Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, NASB Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible
  • A Language Dictionary - provides definitions of key words in the text. Suggested: Vine's Expository Dictionary
  • A Bible Dictionary/Encyclopedia - provides background information on key words and ideas in their original setting. Suggested: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • A Commentary on the Whole Bible - provides a running commentary from Bible scholars that is more comprehensive than a study Bible, but still fairly brief. Suggested: The Expositor's Bible Commentary
  • Individual Book Commentaries - provides the most comprehensive commentary for each individual book of the Bible. Suggested: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Any commentaries by Gordon Fee, Douglas Moo, I. Howard Marshall, D. A. Carson

Really Studying the Bible vs. "What Do You Think?"

Ever been involved in a "Bible Study" like this? You gather together, open to a passage of Scripture and say, "What do you think?" Honestly, that's a terrible way to study the Bible. If you've ever been in a study like this with someone who knows the Bible very little but has a lot of opinions you know why it's terrible. Who determines what the text actually means? When everyone just says what it means to them, it's really hard to correct an off-the-wall or even slightly wrong interpretation.

The best place to start is by asking these questions:

  • What did the author mean when he wrote this text?
  • How would the original audience understand the text?
  • Why did God include this in the Scriptures for us?
The first two questions probe the author's intended meaning. The text was written in a specific time, language, culture, and setting. What was it? What was the author intending? How did the recipients understand it in their setting? Remember that God guided the authors of Scripture to write to a specific audience at a specific time, insuring their words were inspired and personal. In the last question, you are moving toward application (i.e. what does it mean to me?), but only after you have first asked what did it mean back then.

So this all leads to a final question: How do you find out what the original setting was? And for that we need resources. See the next entry, "Bible Study Resources."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Starting Ephesians: Chosen by God

On Sunday, I begin a teaching series on the book of Ephesians. I'm excited for at least three reasons:
  1. The sovereignty of God is demonstrated so amazingly in regard to our salvation. He has chosen, predestined, elected, sealed, made alive, and reconciled those who are His. Looking forward to some good discussion on that!
  2. The explicit connection in Ephesians between deep theological understanding and practical Christian living. Chapters 1-3 contain deep theology, the necessary groundwork for proper thinking. Chapter 3:14-20 act as a transition where Paul cannot control his deep thanksgiving and awe in regard to the salvation provided through Jesus Christ. Then, Chapters 4-6 show us how to put this theological understanding into practice. Theology leads to Worship which leads to Christian living.
  3. Ephesians 2.1-10 is my favorite passage of Scripture (Colossians 1:13-20 a close second). I can never get over it no matter how many times I read it and preach it.
I plan to blog throughout the series, looking forward to some good discussion on God's sovereignty, our free will, predestination, etc. Follow the audio messages here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Website for OBF

For those of you that are a part of Oxford Bible Fellowship, check out our new church website (the links are now fixed).

Busy for Jesus...And Getting Worn Out

Kevin DeYoung, a pastor across the street from Michigan State University, offers some great insight into the busyness of many Christians trying to "do" so much for Christ. Some of us really need to hear this.

"No doubt some Christians need to be shaken out of their lethargy. I try to do that every Sunday morning and evening. But there are also a whole bunch of Christians who need to be set free from their performance-minded, law-keeping, world-changing, participate-with-God-in-recreating-the-cosmos shackles. I promise you, some of the best people in your churches are getting tired. They don’t need another rah-rah pep talk. They don’t need to hear more statistics and more stories Sunday after Sunday about how bad everything is in the world. They need to hear about Christ’s death and resurrection. They need to hear how we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. They need to hear the old, old story once more. Because the secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us."

Read the whole post here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

National Geographic & Worship

I subscribe to National Geographic partly because I think pastors should read more than just theology books and partly because creation is theology in motion. Creation speaks without words of the greatness and brilliance of God (Ps. 19). Often National Geographic does a great job of displaying this whether they realize it or not. So, enjoy these great pictures and have yourself a worship experience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fix Your Eyes

This morning someone gave me a copy of the book Unfolding Destinies by Olive Fleming Liefeld. Olive was one of the five widows of the Ecuador missionary martyrs in 1956. The sacrifice of these five men and their families sparked a movement of young people into missionary work. Jim Elliot was the most famous of these martyrs and the one whom I have read the most. In a letter to his sister he once wrote:

Fix your eyes on the rising morning Star. Don't be disappointed at anything or over-elated either. Live every day as if the Son of Man were at the door and gear your thinking to the fleeting moment. Just how can it be redeemed? Walk as if the next step would carry you across the threshold of heaven. Pray. That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.

Excerpt from Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot.