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Suggestions on How to Read the Bible

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

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I started my journey with God’s Word way back in August of 1973. While I’d had some sort of conversion experience over three years earlier, I didn’t really grow. In fact, one would be very hard pressed to identify me as a true believer during that season of my life.

But the Lord patiently and lovingly pursued me, a reluctant young man who really wanted to be a true Christian. But there was no power in me to pull it off, and I knew it—in that condition I finally surrendered to Jesus. The result: I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, and things began changing in my life. Radically changing.

One evening my friend Stan and I were hanging out, and he said, “Hey, how about if we read the Bible?” “Sounds good to me,” I said. He suggested, “Let’s read Galatians!” I said “Fine. What’s a Galatian?” Obviously, I was virtually ignorant of the Bible … but that night I had a new start. It didn’t take long for me to develop the habit of daily Bible reading, a habit that really got me going in my growth as a Christian.

So I began reading the Bible all the way through, from cover to cover, year after year. It never gets old. Oh, I’ve been through plenty of dry times in my Bible reading, I think that’s somewhat normal. I had to learn to approach Bible reading in new ways, from different angles. Keep it fresh.

I remember one year in my pastorate in Monterey, CA. It had been my custom to encourage the fellowship to accept the challenge of reading through the entire Bible that year. A gentleman who was in the church (a very respected believer with a fruitful ministry) came up to me after that morning’s service and admitted that before that year, he’d never read through the entire Bible. But now he excitedly told me that he’d done it that very year, as a result of my challenge. I’ll never forget his words to me: “Bill, I cannot even begin to tell you the changes that God has worked in my life this past year, and I owe it all to the reading of God’s Word!” Those words were music to my ears, like Handel’s Messiah to my soul.

So here are some things I’ve learned about reading the Bible. Perhaps this may be helpful to some of you.

1.       I’ve learned that reading the Bible is a relational encounter with God.

Through the Bible, God speaks to us. Therefore, I read as a listener, as a learner, as God’s child. I desire connection with God as I read, and God desires the same connection (infinitely more I do).

2.       I’ve learned that the Bible reveals Jesus, and Jesus illuminates the Bible.

The message of Jesus is told throughout the Bible, Genesis – Revelation. And Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, shines His light on the Bible to my heart. I cannot truly get what God wants to give me through His Word without Jesus.

3.       I’ve discovered the blessing of reading the Bible out loud.

Reading the Bible out loud slows everything down for me. It helps me focus. When the words are in my head only, my mind can more easily wander. When they come out of my mouth, it’s easier to stay on track. I see the words (the eye gate), and I hear the words (the ear gate).

Not only that, but if I’m reading aloud, I’m closer to being in a conversational mode with the Lord. It’s easy to pause, and just talk to the Lord about what I’m reading. Confession happens, there can be a faith commitment to a promise He’s made, or I might pray for strength to obey something I’ve been commanded.

Frequently, I’ll address Jesus directly as I’m reading the gospels. Instead of reading “Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee,” I’ll read “Some time after this, You crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.” It personalizes the narrative, and brings me into fellowship with Jesus.

4.       I’ve used a Bible reading plan to help me with discipline.

There are many great plans out there, but I’m the kind of guy that likes to order the same thing at a restaurant! So if it works for me, I typically stay with it.

Having said that, I prefer a plan that has me in the gospels every day, and that is designed for a 25 day per month reading schedule. I want to be in the gospels every day because it’s all about Jesus, and I want to know Him better. And the 25 day plans allow me some catch up days, as well as the ability to linger on a passage and not read as many chapters on that specific day.

The good folks at The Navigators (www.navigators.org) have great plans, which are the ones I’ve used. But like I said, there are many great plans out there, usually available for free by download.

I print out the plan I’ve chosen, and then fold it up and keep it in my Bible. Then when I’m done for the year, I either start all over with the same plan I used, or with a new one that looks like a winner.

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5.       I like to read the Bible from one translation every year.

I do this primarily for the purpose of Bible memorization and familiarity. I find that by reading in in the same version I study from I am committing more Bible to memory than I even realize. That’s how it works for me, anyway.

One other note on this suggestion: it’s usually a good idea to read the Bible with the same translation used in your church … especially if your church is a Bible teaching church that teaches through the books of the Bible. Again, this is very helpful for Bible memorization and familiarity.

So please let me encourage you to try it out! Accept the challenge, and read through the Bible this year! It’s not hard, really … if one averages 85 verses a day, he/she will have read through the entire Bible in one year.

Some will protest by saying they don’t read well enough. My response: I’ve met plenty of believers over the years that have actually greatly improved their reading skills by reading the Bible! Also, there are many audio Bibles available online or via smartphone apps. By reading along with the audio Bible, you’re reading God’s Word!

At the end of 2017 (or even during the year) please write me and let me know how it went. Your testimony will be powerful, and encouraging to others to read!

 

 

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2016 in Pictorial Review

December 10, 2016 Leave a comment

2-Poimem Ministries-Logo Final

Here’s the link to what we’ve been up to this past year. It contains mostly pictures … let me know if you want to sign up to receive these updates. They go out every several months or so.

God bless you! And thanks for reading.

http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=402ca9421c467de147acbbb6e&id=90ea894837&e=[UNIQID]

 

 

 

 

From Guilt to Glory!

January 11, 2015 2 comments

WeNOCONDEMNATIONlcome to this devotional on the book of Romans, the book of the gospel of God. This guided study through Romans chapters 1-8 will help you to understand the universal human need for the gospel, the message of the gospel, and the practical implications of the gospel in the lives of true believers.

Every day or two, an attempt will be made to publish the next lesson. In all, there will be 35 individual studies. Feedback or questions are always welcomed.

Get ready … this could be a life changing experience for you!

HOW TO USE THIS DEVOTIONAL

First of all, in order to get a handle on the overall message of the book, read all of Romans.  Be sure to look at the big picture of Romans before you get into the specific passages. Take a moment and actually read through all 16 chapters, which is how the book was meant to be read! This will help you to frame the book and see the forest before you start examining the trees. 

Next, carefully read each day’s Bible passage, in its context. When a Biblical cross reference is given, take the time to turn to that passage and read it as well. Be sure to observe what the passage is saying (its details), to try to understand what a passage means (interpretation), and then to focus on how the passage might apply to your life. 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTIONAL 

This part devotional, part commentary on the book of Romans chapters 1-8 was written by Bill Holdridge, Pastor and Founder/Director of Poimen Ministries, a ministry focused on helping senior (or lead) pastors of churches. 1 

All scripture quoted in this book is from the New King James Version of the Bible. 2 

Some of the material contained in this introduction is from the excellent work by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible. 3 

For Further Review questions at the end of each day’s lesson include all three elements of inductive Bible study (observation, interpretation, application). But the greatest focus is upon application. What does this passage have to do with our lives as believers? What does is speak into my life? This is the ultimate goal of all Bible study and devotions, to learn that we might grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is important to take time to go over these reflection questions and apply them to your own life.     

KEY CONCEPTS IN ROMANS 

The epistles make up the third major section of the New Testament. The Gospels are the Proclamation of Jesus Christ. The book of Acts contains the Propagation of Jesus Christ. The Epistles are the Explanation of Jesus Christ, and the book of Revelation tells of the Consummation of Jesus Christ. 

From the perspective of its human authorship, the letter to the Romans is considered to Paul the apostle’s greatest work, his magnum opus. Its logic, flow of thought, depth of theology and doctrine, and thorough explanation of the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ make Romans the go-to book for discovering the implications of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. Once its message is learned, it provides the interpretive basis for understanding the rest of the New Testament letters. 

To quote author Bruce Wilkinson, “But Romans is more than a book of theology; it is also a book of practical exhortations. The good news of Jesus Christ is more than facts to be believed; it is also a life to be lived—a life of righteousness befitting the person ‘justified freely by His [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24). 3 

The epistle to the Romans was written from the city of Corinth near end of Paul’s third missionary journey (55-56 A.D.). He wrote this epistle through an amanuensis (a dictation secretary) named Tertius (Romans 16:22). After it was written, the letter was carried to Rome by a woman named Phoebe, who was a servant in the church in Cenchrea, a city close to Corinth (Romans 16:1). 

The historical importance of the book of Romans cannot be overstated. The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther came to understand the gospel of grace and led Germany and other parts of Europe into true faith in Christ through studying Romans. John Wesley was converted to Christ after hearing a reading of the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. 19th century Bible scholar Frédéric Louis Godet commented that “The probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.”

Paul’s purposes for writing Romans are evident from other places in the New Testament. Overall, the epistle served as a great preparation for his eventual coming to them.

We know from Acts 19:21 that he wanted very much to see this city, the greatest city in the Roman world.

Acts 19:21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

He also wanted to teach the church there and be encouraged by their faith (Romans 1:11). 

Romans 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established…

When in Rome, Paul wanted to win more people to Christ (1:13). 

Romans 1:13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 

He desired that the Roman church help by supported his intended travels to Spain (Romans 15:24). 

Romans 15:24 …whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.

From Romans 15:24 we also learned that his purpose was to enjoy the company of the Roman Christians, at least for a time (Romans 15:24). 

Overall, a main purpose of the book was for Paul to prepare the Roman Christians for his visit by laying out a systematic presentation of the gospel he had been preaching for over 20 years.

The theme of Romans is the gospel of God (Romans 1:16-17). After having studied the Psalms to discover how one could be saved, the reformer Martin Luther asked the question, “Is righteousness something I must strive for to gain it, or is it something I receive?” It was while pondering this question that Habakkuk 2:4 almost flew off the page at him: “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This same O.T. verse was quoted by Paul in the key passage of the epistle:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. {17} For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

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1 “Poimen” (pronounced poy-main’) is the Greek word for pastor or shepherd. Poimen Ministries is featured at www.poimenministries.com

2 The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 

3 Talk Thru the Bible by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, © 1983 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Biblical Hope

January 10, 2015 Leave a comment

No God No Hope Know God Know HopeFor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:18-25) 

When counting the cost of following Christ, one must consider what it means to suffer with Him. Will we do it … are we willing to suffer according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2)? Can we do it … shall we stand in suffering’s face, or will we stumble and fall? 

Answering our own self-doubts is easier when we look at things from the perspective of future, eternal glory. When present sufferings are compared with what God has in mind for His sons and daughters, any and all present sufferings seem like nothing. They vanish in the light of what God has promised to us. Yes, it is true … a future glory beyond all description awaits faithful believers, therefore we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 

This hope is the key in dealing with life as it is in this fallen world. Hope is confident expectation. The believer confidently expects God to fulfill His promises. Why even the material creation hopes for a far better day, even though it suffers the futility and groaning of the present bondage which resulted from the curse of sin (Genesis 3:17-19). 

The groaning of the believer is due to the weakness of the flesh. He longs to be delivered, to receive his new body. When this happens, the redemption of the believer is complete (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Right now, the only unredeemed part of his existence has to do with the body. 

Our confident expectation of our future redemption came to us when we were saved. We were born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a hope which is invisible to us now, and for which we patiently wait with complete expectation. Like a child waiting for the family trip to Disneyland, there is no doubt that it will happen. It is just a matter of time. 

For Further Review

1.  In your own life, have you considered the cost of suffering with Christ? How does God motivate us to go through with it?

2.  Think about and briefly describe some of the ways the creation groans, and then the reason believers groan within themselves. What does creation and believers have in common re: the way this groaning occurs?

3.  What is hope, Biblically speaking? How does Biblical hope differ from mere wishful thinking? What is your hope based upon?

4.  What are some benefits of hope? How does Biblical hope help us in our present lives here on earth?

 

Death … or Life and Peace?

mind-set-on-the-spirit-is-life-and-peaceFor those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

The mind is a powerful thing, the part of a person that thinks, reasons, feels, and remembers. One’s mindset is his particular way of thinking: his attitude or set of opinions about something (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).

Numerous passages in the New Testament emphasize the importance of having the right frame of mind, of filling our minds with the right thoughts, of using our minds to focus on God’s direction for our lives. For examples, consider 1 Peter 1:13, 2 Timothy 1:7, Colossians 3:2, Philippians 3:15, Philippians 2:4-8, Ephesians 4:23, and Romans 12:2.

Here, Paul the apostle writes of two very distinct, disparate approaches to life. One is the mindset of the flesh; the other is the mindset of the Holy Spirit. Each approach or mindset has its own predictable and definite results.

The mind occupied with the things of the flesh is death (or the absence of life, as in Galatians 5:19-21). The flesh life is at enmity with God; it is opposed to God … and hostile to Him. He cannot and will not bless the life which is lived in the flesh.

The mind oriented in the direction of the ways of the Spirit is life and peace. This kind of lifestyle is pleasing to God, mainly because He authored it. The Spirit enabled life comes from God Himself, therefore He recognizes and loves it.

A believer in Christ has the capacity to operate in either realm at any given moment, but never both at the same time. Therefore, we must choose the way we live, either flesh or Spirit. We utilize the means of grace to make a Spirit directed choice; the promises of the Bible, Christian fellowship, the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and believing prayer.

While God loves the believer whether he/she makes the right choice or not, the actual lives we lead are can only be pleasing to Him when we live them His way.

For Further Review

1.  What is the orientation of your own mind? If you were to be honest with yourself, what do you think about and focus on most of the time?

2.  Consider the fruit of the way you are living. What is being produced overall: the fruit of Galatians 5:22-24, or the works of Galatians 5:19-21? What is the root cause of either result?

3.  Think about it: what does it mean to utilize the means of grace to make a Spirit directed choice? How do we do that?

 

Have You Ever Wondered What God Requires? (see note at the end)

righeousnessFor the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4) 

The answer for death is life. The answer for inner spiritual conflict is also life … specifically, the life of Jesus Christ conferred upon us by the Holy Spirit. 

The law was weak and ineffective to make us righteous or more like Jesus. Its weakness was not because anything was wrong with the law; it is holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). No, there is nothing at all wrong with God’s law. But there is something drastically wrong with what the law has to work with … the flesh. 

Remember, God always has a solution. His solution for the law’s ineffectiveness was to send His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. [Note the specificity of the language used; God did not send His Son in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. Jesus never sinned, and did not inherit the sin of Adam.] God, sending His Son to die and be raised for us, did it because of the sin problem. God condemned sin at Calvary, and by extension, in us. 

All of this was so the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. In other words, God wants the law to have a powerful effect on us, but He does not accomplish His wishes by using our flesh to do it. Instead, He fulfills the law in those who walk according to the Holy Spirit. 

What this means is that the primary need for believers is to walk with the Spirit. All sins and failures that happen in our lives are due to this one fact: we have failed to yield to the Spirit and operate by the Spirit’s power. 

NOTE: Title taken from “When You Gonna Wake Up” by Bob Dylan (Slow Train Coming, copyright 1979 by Special Rider Music). “Do you ever wonder just what God requires? You think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires.” 

For Further Review

1.  What is the righteous requirement of the law? In other words, what is the main thing the law demands? See Matthew 22:34-40 to help with your answer. Use one word to summarize what the law’s requirement is. What one word describes it?

2.  Why is the law unable to produce this righteous requirement in us?

3.  What did God do to remedy this problem?

4.  In your own words, summarize the primary need for believers if they are going to fulfill God’s desires and what the law requires.

 

What Is Justifying Faith Like?

December 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Abraham_Isaac_BornAnd not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:19-25) 

What is justifying faith like? To what can it be compared? How does one know that he or she has exercised saving faith? Again the answer is found as we look into the life of Abraham, the father of faith for us all. 

An incident in this notable patriarch’s life demonstrates justifying faith for us … the incident of the conception and birth of the promised son, Isaac (Genesis 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1-7). It would be a miraculous birth, given the fact that in their old age neither he nor Sarah possessed reproductive potential. God would have to do something! 

So the promise of God came. Abraham believed God’s promise, without reservation. He didn’t look at himself and what he was capable of. Neither did he look at Sarah and what she was capable of. From a human perspective, there would be no child. From the perspective of God’s ability and God’s promise, a child was certain. 

Abraham’s faith grew stronger and stronger as the days advanced. His growing faith brought glory to God, as it honors God when we believe that what He says is true. It shows confidence in who He is. 

As Paul states it, Abraham’s faith is the kind of faith that trusts God’s promise in salvation. Like in Abraham’s case, justification is miraculous. As Abraham could not look at himself for hope of a future son, so we cannot look at ourselves for any hope of eternal life. We have nothing with which to save ourselves. We are empty, bankrupt, hopeless apart from the finished work of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Absolutely hopeless. 

Why did Jesus die? For our offenses! 

Why did He rise from the dead? As proof that Christ’s death for us was sufficient, that it worked! Without the resurrection, we’d still be in our sins. 

For Further Review

1.  Read the story of the birth of Isaac (Genesis 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1-7). In your own words, how is Abraham’s faith a great example to us today?

2.  Look within: why would be impossible for God to declare you righteous?

3.  Look to Calvary and the empty tomb: upon what basis could God declare you to be righteous before Him—without fault, guilt, sin, blame?

4.  Write out your thoughts about your own position with God. Where do you stand with Him? How does He view you? What is the basis for your answer?