4 Things we Think are Bible study

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“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:” [Hosea 4:6a]

This warning from God ought to bother us. It ought to give us pause and make us ponder if the same problem is occurring today. It is.

The problem of a lack of knowledge is a common theme from Genesis, through the Old Testament and into the New. The Hebrew writer seemed exasperated that the Christians of that time had not grown in knowledge, stating they needed to have the basics taught all over again. [Heb 5:12]

It’s as if the craving for God’s word is waning [1Pet 2:2]. The Lord’s church used to be known for being a people “of the book.”

What Happened? As our lives were filled with more “conveniences” like cars, electric lights and heat, fast food, and numerous other things that have made the basics of life so much easier, we have somehow become busier. Where is all the time these ‘time savers’ have given us? How have we gotten so busy that there’s no time to spend time in God’s word? When will we find the time to start “seeking first the Kingdom of God?” [Matt 6:33]

When asked, nearly everyone agrees that we should regularly read the Bible, but hardly anyone does. Folks say to me, “I don’t like to read,” or “I just can’t find the time to read the Bible.” Still others say, “I just don’t know it as well as I should.”

MAYBE BEING BUSY IS JUST PART OF THE PROBLEM. One of the results of a busy life are the shortcuts we take to do more of the things we ought. We’re all looking for shortcuts or ‘hacks,’ from drive-thru food to Google. The study of God’s word has suffered from short cuts that allow us to believe that we’ve studied God’s word when in fact we have not. Here are four shortcuts to the study of God’s word we think are making us more spiritual.

4 Bible study hacks that are not.

LOOKING over the text but not studying it. It’s possible to read the bible and still miss what is being taught. I speak with people who read through the bible yearly, yet also doesn’t recognize water baptism. This is not new; the Pharisees were guilty of missing the lessons about Christ. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” [John 5:39-40]

Reading AUTHORS other than God. Or worse, watching a lifetime movie and thinking we’ve had a Bible study. There are some good books and authors, but none of them compare to the actual text. One religious man recognized that he read more about the Bible than he ever read of the Bible. Once he began reading the Bible, he came to the knowledge of the truth and obeyed the Gospel. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [2Tim 3:7] Let’s remember that the writings in the Bible are from the Lord. [1Cor 14:37]

CLASS attendance without studying at home. I love our corporate Bible studies, but let’s not become deluded into thinking that one or two 45-minute sessions count as meditating over God’s word. It’s a confirmed fact that I seldom miss a meal, but the ‘bread of life’ provides a much greater nourishment, the feeding of our soul. Miss a meal, but don’t miss an opportunity to read the Bible at home. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” [John 6:35]

KNOWLEDGE in Social media memes which sound right but are very wrong. Our modern age has brought about a wonderful access to information. Most of us carry around, in our pockets, access to the knowledge of the world. Most of us also know that some of that knowledge is completely wrong. Just because we see it on the internet doesn’t make it true. The abundance of warnings in the Bible against false teachers should be sufficient to make us want to verify what is said online. The teaching of the Apostle Paul was vetted by the Bereans, and he didn’t mind it one bit. They’re called ‘more noble’ for doing it. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” [Acts 17:11]

As we approach the new year, let’s take a look at how much we’ve studied of God’s word, and make a resolution to commit to a daily diligence to show ourselves approved unto God. [2Tim 2:15]

—- spencer

The Restoration Plea

 

IT’S BEEN WRITTEN, BY THOSE WHO lived closer to the time, that there were 6 causes leading up to the RESTORATION MOVEMENT in the United States.

  1. DISSATISFACTION with human creeds: The first was a product of the REFORMATION movement that sought to transform the Catholic church. The Protestant denominations and their leaders had been forcing creeds upon the world as tests of fellowship. These creeds became sources of strife and were at best the opinions of men. Many of the creeds contained ideas that were objectionable to thinking people. The creeds set aside the authority of Christ and kept Christendom divided.

Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” [1Cor 1:12-13]

  1. TEACHING babies were lost because of the false teaching of total depravity. The error was taught that a person was born a sinner. That meant that babies were lost spiritually from birth. Infants were doomed at birth if ‘unbaptized.’ The dogma goes onto teach that a person was eternally lost or eternally saved as God elected them regardless of their faith. This made man a mere toy in the hands of his Maker.

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” [Mark 10:14]

III. THE MYSTICAL conception of conversion. Calvinistic theory teaches that every conversion had to have ‘miraculous accompaniments,’ such as a dream, vision or some other sort of mystical occurrence. It can be easily seen that this mystical theory of conversion appealed only to people who were temperamentally emotional.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:35-36]

  1. NEGLECTING BIBLE STUDY. Strange as it is to say, but Protestants knew very little about the bible. JD Tant, a Presbyterian preacher before becoming a Christian, was criticized for using too many scriptures in his sermons. The protestants had effectively hidden the scriptures behind their speculations as did the Roman Catholic church did with her traditions. The average denominational exhorter would more likely send you to the Psalms of David or Jeremiah to find out what to do to be saved over the book of Acts.

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16]

  1. RAMPANT SECTARIANISM. Not only were they ignoring the Lord’s prayer for unity, they were defending denominationalism. The arguments were that denominations were needed to suit the style preferences of the people. They became blind to the theological mess their reasoning had created.

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” [1Cor 1:10]

  1. RELIGIOUS STAGNATION and a widespread decline of morals. Perhaps because of the aforementioned problems in denominational religion, the world grew skeptical and attacks against the bible and against the Christian faith increased. Skepticism was seen in the colleges & universities of the United States and the spread of irreligious activity was enhanced. Public morals dropped, intemperance, gambling and even debauchery prevailed to an alarming degree, even among their own clergy.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up,” [1Cor 5:1-2a]

WHAT WAS THE SOLUTION?

The pioneers of the RESTORATION movement stood on plain & simple high ground, the word of God.

  • “Where the scriptures speak, we speak; where the scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
  • They opposed anything that could not be supported with the Authority of Christ.
  • They rejected all sectarian names and creeds. During a debate over creeds, they petitioned an unbiased Frenchman who had heard the entire debate to decide who was right. The Frenchman asked the man with the New Testament who made his creed. “Jesus Christ” was the answer. Turning to the man debating for a creed he asked the same question. The creed holder said, “it was adopted in the city of Philadelphia, in the year 1742.” The Frenchman said, “Very well gentlemen, that is enough. If you follow your creed, Mr. Christian, when you die, it will take you to Jesus Christ. Follow yours, Mr. Baptist, and when you die, you will go to Philadelphia.”
  • “Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the church, or be made a term of communion among Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament.”

The ‘pioneers’ of that day were only coming to the truth that many others had already been practicing in this country. Whenever someone takes the seed of the Kingdom, the word of God [Matt 13:19] and understands it, they too can become just a CHRISTIAN when they obey the Gospel of Christ.

References: adapted from, “Sermon Outlines on The Restoration Plea” by C.C. Crawford, 1927 second edition 1956.

I don’t know

One of the biggest obstacles to personal evangelism is this question, “What if they ask a question that I don’t know the answer?” The feeling of terror, the strong impulse to say something so as not to appear stupid. What do you do?

Before we proceed, we need to be reminded that none of us are expert at every question that may arise, but take heart, God is, and He has given us everything we need for faith, doctrine, and instruction for how we ought to act. [cf. John 20:30-31; 2Tim 3:16-17]. The following are some suggestions on how to handle a question for which you don’t know the answer.

FIRST; Never let what you don’t know stop you from telling what is certain. If we did that, there’d be no personal evangelism whatsoever. Our efforts will become more productive as we mature, but we’ll never mature if we don’t put what we know into practice.

One way to look at a hard question is as an opportunity to learn and to grow. You may not be able to answer it this time, but you’ll be ready the next. [Heb 5:12].

SECOND: When asked a question for which you don’t know, resist the temptation to make one up. That’s much more dangerous for it may pass along error. Silence is a much better answer than giving a bad one. Look at Job’s friends, they were in a much better position when they said nothing at all. If you are asked and you don’t know just say, “I don’t know.” What’s better, not giving any answer or giving a bad one and needing to go back to the person for correction? Here are 3 things you can say instead of making up a wrong answer:

  • Compliment them: Say, “That’s a great question, I don’t know.” This will make the person feel like you’re really listening and respect them. Admitting that you’re human demonstrates humility, a most valuable attitude as we go about teaching others.
  • Ask for more information: By asking them to clarify the question you may discover that you do know the answer, or it will give you clarity as some people ask a question seeking direction for a different underlying issue.
  • Ask if you & they could look up the answer together: By doing this, you show them how much you value the truth and that you’re willing to learn. This also affords you an opportunity for another study. Here’s a tip from my experience, SET A DATE & TIME for when you will come back together to discuss the answer. Otherwise, you may never have the chance again.
Here’s how this might sound;

“That’s a great question, you may be the first person to ever ask me that question. I have no idea what the answer might be, but you’ve piqued my curiosity. I don’t know the answer, but I know who does, God and He’s written so many answers to our questions in the bible [2Pet 1:1-4]. Why don’t we write this question down and study it? Then we can meet again, same time next week over coffee, to see what we can learn?”

Following are some helpful ideas about this situation;

Not knowing the answer is not a problem, it’s awareness and an opportunity. None of us knows everything and people dig deep to try to stump us. See it as an opportunity for more personal study and a way to set up a regular home bible study with this person. Here are 2 more considerations:

  • This may be a topic you’ve never considered and now see why others are struggling with coming to the knowledge of the truth.
  • Hard questions sometimes show us how folks are thinking about things that other underlying issues, ie Authority, how God communicates, defining words biblically etc.

The ramifications of faking an answer can be devastating. You may be wrong and teach a lie. Your friend may see through it and not trust you for any spiritual advice. Lastly, they may see it as an attempt at hiding something which never helps at developing trust.

May all our connections lead to more finding & obeying the truth, just like God wants [2Pet 3:9].

Spencer

WHY MEMORIZE BIBLE VERSES? Part 1

 

Years ago, a young Christian was facing a choice. He could either take the lengthy final examination for his theology class or quote Hebrews. Not quote a few verses of Hebrews, no sir, he needed to quote the ENTIRE BOOK of HEBREWS. [13 chapters & 303 verses].

He chose the latter and quoted the entire book from memory. An astounding mental feat to be sure, but is memorization even necessary? We have smart phones apps and google that can return to us any inquiry of the bible we want. That is, if you know what you’re looking for.

Therein lies the rub, to get any benefit out of God’s word, you need to know what’s in it. Here are 8 reasons why we should commit to a bible memorization plan.

1: DEFENSE FROM SIN. An integral part of our defense against sin is the Armor of God [Eph 6:10-20]. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, the active piece that serves for both defense & offense. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” [Psalm 119:11]

2: HELP IN TIME OF NEED. God gave His children the avenue of prayer to give us help in our time of need [Heb 4:16], but how would you know that without study? Additionally, when a sudden problem arises, we most frequently utter some form of profanity. Wouldn’t it be better to immediately draw into our conscious mind a piece of God’s word to counter the negatives we all face in everyday life? Memorizing Bible passages can give us an inventory of alternative utterances to the worldly expressions. Oh, and stop pretending that a euphemism is a cleaner alternative to the real cuss word, we know what you’re saying. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” [Phil 4:8]

3: AS A BIBLE STUDY AID. As you begin to read & study your Bible you may find it difficult to understand. However, a person that commits to memorization will find that the Bible will become clearer as you connect the stories, especially the connections between the Old & New Testaments. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” [Romans 15:4].

Since the Word of God shall also be present at the judgement, a thorough understanding of it would be helpful. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” [John 12:48]

4: FEAR of EVANGELISM. Let’s admit it, we’ve all experienced fear whenever an opportunity arose to share the Gospel. Bible memorization can alleviate that fear. Inherent in the verse; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” [1Peter 3:15] is the idea of memorization. We know what is right, but could we prove it to them? Memorization is a great way to build your confidence in directing another through the scriptures as you show them the plan of God’s Salvation.

One fellow said to me, “I have John 3:16 and that’s all I need.” The extent of his bible memory plan was one verse! Others have committed to memorize “Jesus Wept” but have no idea where to find it. [John 11:35] Another person half quoted 1Peter 3:21 in an attempt to disqualify baptism. Because he didn’t know what it really said nor where it was located, he had a false belief that will leave him lost. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

Next week we’ll look at 4 more good reasons to commit to a Bible Memorization Plan.

Click Here for a good place to start memorizing Bible Verses.

THAT’S SO FRUSTRATING!!

We all face frustrations in our lives. It’s a part of life for just about everyone. It comes because of unresolved problems or unfulfilled goals, desires, or needs. [These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33] The definition of frustration is;

(n) the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.

Frustration is often manifested by feelings of discouragement, anger, and annoyance. Since each of these is condemned by scripture, we need to learn how to handle frustrations in our lives.

I’d like to offer a modification to the current definition of frustration:

the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because they DON’T KNOW HOW to change or achieve something.”

ANGER:  Col 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

DISCOURAGEMENT:  Ps 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

The regular definition has a feeling of inability, helplessness and hopelessness. That’s just not true. We DO HAVE ABILITY to do something about those things that frustrate us. There is hope.

OVERCOMING FRUSTRATION: Below are a few ways we can minimize or even eliminate frustration using the example of evangelism.

LEARN / GROW: Ask Yourself, “What Is Working?” Arguing with folks is very counterproductive. Has anyone ever been won over by an argument? Evangelism used to be frustrating when all I ever did was use conjecture without ever opening the Bible. When we study, we can turn to passages and show them to people. Their anger with us then becomes anger at the Bible and they know they can’t do that.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. [2Peter 3:18]

LOOK AHEAD: Many sorrows come upon us because we just don’t pay attention. When speaking with someone about salvation they often jump around from subject to subject. Knowing ahead of time about this, we can prepare ourselves to remain on the subject at hand.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, [Ephesians 5:15]

TRY AGAIN: We will face Mockers which can be very aggravating. However, it’s not new, Paul faced mockers when he preached [Acts 17:32]. What did he do? He kept on preaching, he just took those who wanted to hear and spoke with them.

So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed. [Acts 17:33-34a]

AUTOPILOT: Critics of the Lord’s church will use about 10 of the same arguments (i.e. thief on the cross, just love, the Roman road etc.). Rather then let that bother us, prepare an answer. If we’re going to get the same objections from most everyone we preach to, learn the answers. Now, instead of frustration, it makes me smile which always improves the interaction.

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. [Col 4:6]

STOP FIGHTING GOD: We often believe that just because we’re having a conversation with someone that we’re doing God’s will. Not so. When we face the mockers, the disinterested or the haters we end up in an argument and, fighting against God. Jesus explicitly told us not to do this.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. [Matthew 7:6]

REMAIN POSITIVE: We need to acknowledge that we can’t change people, they must want to change. Once we admit that the only way things will change is when we change, then we can have a new perspective about frustrations and recognize them as just challenges to overcome. Challenges are good and very rewarding. [Mat 5:10-12]

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. [John 14:27]

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-10]

A life of frustration is no way to live and can never glorify God because it contains no joy, it has no hope and it leads to sinful attitudes.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. [Galatians 5:22-23]

WHEN YOU READ…

…ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ [Eph 3:4]. The beginning of a year is a great time to press reset, and to evaluate how our year went and to plan for the next. James reminds us that our plans should first be aligned with God’s [James 4:12-16]. The only way to know the will of the Lord is through a continual study of His word.

As we’re making our resolutions, let us include the reading of God’s word. There are several reading programs available. Whichever one you choose, here are a few suggestions…

Tips on Reading the Bible Daily

1 – Start today — there is no better time. This time next year will you be wishing you had started today?

2 – Schedule it. Find a time that works best for you. I like reading in the morning, but you decide what’s best. A friend of mine cannot read the bible at night, as the things he learns excites his mind preventing sleep. Others might find that it calms the mind, allowing God’s word to comfort. Whatever time you pick, just do it. Nothing ever gets done until a deadline is set.

3 – Read for the sake of understanding, instead of just trying to plow through that days reading. Before you begin, say a prayer, asking God for wisdom [Jas 1:5]. Then read, allowing His wisdom to grow inside of you.

4 – Keep a Bible handy, EVERYWHERE. We have bibles placed throughout the house, in our cars and on our phones. This does two things. First, they act as reading reminders as we go about our day. Second, having the bible within reach allows us to pick it up during those moments of waiting. It’s amazing how much time we spend in waiting rooms, or simply waiting for someone else.

4.5 – Replace some of your Facebook time. The average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day. This 100 minutes is accumulated over the course of the entire day. Reading at pulpit pace, aloud, not too quickly, it only takes 960 minutes to read the entire New Testament. This means that you can read the NT in just 10 days using our social media time. I’m not telling you to give up Facebook, but what if you just used SOME of your social media time to read the bible on your phone? You’re already looking at your phone anyway.

Whatever system you decide, let the word of God dwell in your hearts.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Eph 6:17]

What do I do now?

The Franklin St church of Christ in Borger, Tx

IT IS WITH GREAT joy that we announce a new sister in Christ, Margie. Just as there is joy in the heart of the one who obeys the gospel, there is also much joy in heaven and we are also full of joy for her [Luke 15:7, 10].

After a person obeys the gospel, the most oft asked question is, “what do I do now?” However, this question is asked by both the new convert AND the members of the local congregation. The new convert, full of joy and gratitude, has a desire to serve and to do what is right. The older members want to help them, but where do you begin?

For the answer, let us turn to Acts 2, the place where the church of Christ began.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. That’s where we are with Margie, and all others who obeyed the gospel recently (a young man was also baptized into Christ on the same day.) Nobody joins the church; the Lord adds to the church [47].

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Here’s where we find our answer to the question, “what do I do next?”

Continue in the apostles’ doctrine. The Apostles’ doctrine is Christ’s doctrine. Jesus said to the Apostles, that in addition to making disciples, as one who has all authority, teach them “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Mat 28:19-20]. Paul said about his letters, “let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” [1Cor 14:37]

So, the first thing we need to do is to continue to learn through study of the Scriptures what Jesus expects from us. The most effective way to do this is for the new convert and the “old” members to get together and study the scriptures. We need to note that “continue” means to do them. It’s not enough to learn what Jesus wants, we must obey Him [John 14:15]. We can also learn when we gather to worship on the first day of the week.

And Fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The new Christians worshiped together. They had fellowship, which means that they were in partnership with one another. This partnership begins when we, “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” [1Cor 1:10]. The partnership also includes the collection of money for the work of the church. (As you continue to study, you’ll begin to understand the work God has given the church is to spread the Gospel, Teach the saints and practice limited benevolence). The Philippians gave money to spread the gospel, and were in fellowship in the gospel [Phil 1:3-7].

One of the parts of worship (there are 5 activities in sound worship) the disciples ‘broke bread’ which is to remember the death of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Supper” the first Christians met on the 1st day of the week, Sunday, where they would take unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to commemorate His death. The Apostle Paul wrote the early Christians how to properly observe this important part of our worship [1Cor 11:23-34].

They also prayed. Prayer is the privilege of the saints. Christians are called saint in the Scriptures [Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1]. In obeying the gospel through baptism, we have “put on Christ” [Gal 3:27] and have been given access through Him to the “throne of grace” [Heb 4:16]. Prayer is an incredible part of becoming a child of God. We know that God does not listen to sinners [John 9:31] but He hears us!

God is not our “genie in a bottle,” to gift us with everything we want like a spoiled child. Rather, He wants to help us in our time of need. It says in Hebrews 4:16; “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Temptation doesn’t stop when we become Christians, neither do troubles & pains, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” [1Cor 10:13]. So, all Christians need to pray.

Finally, let us note one more thing from Acts 2…

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. As you begin your journey as a new Christian, and every Christian, let us never forget from whom we received the gift of grace. We received it from God through Christ Jesus [Eph 2:8-10]. May we never forget, may it never grow old and may we never grow tired of praising God for His indescribable gift.

Thanks be unto God for his indescribable gift.

2 Corinthians 9:15

What is the key to effective evangelism?

IS THERE A ONE WORD ANSWER to getting more bible studies? The key to evangelism is not probing, listening, preaching, talking, assessing, pain, and especially not manipulating. The key that opens the heart is HARMONIZING.

But you’d never know that from most or our actions. Evangelism is about understanding the other person and their needs. Their fears. Their desires. And their sense of need for the Gospel. People have different motives to respond, and it’s the evangelist’s job to uncover them – and harmonize with them.

REALITY: No two opportunities are alike.

We must adapt to uncover the motives and objectives, understand the opportunities and barriers, meet the needs and desires, and harmonize with the person and the personality. This is the point Paul was making in 1Corinthians 9…

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. [1Corinthians 9:19-23]

Ever since becoming a Christian, I’ve searched for magic verses, those one or two passages that answer every error. I’ve collected tracts with hopes that these one sheet papers could somehow win souls without much difficulty or controversy. And I’ve tried different methods & systems designed to lead people to obey the Gospel. Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” tract, verse or method. It’s not that these can’t work, rather that they don’t always work. What I’ve found is that I focused too much on getting through the material rather than focusing on and HARMONIZING with the individual. One instance, a person had asked a specific question, though I knew the answer was much deeper, they couldn’t hear it. I never heard from them again.

No one tract, verse or method will work all the time — BUT specific elements of any may apply. I’m NOT saying don’t learn the tract, verse or method — all Bible knowledge is valuable. What I am saying is be yourself, not the method.

REALITY: People don’t always respond the way you expect or hope.

Here are some more clues:

  • The more we believe in Christ, the Scriptures, and yourself, the more opportunities you’ll have. [Romans 8:35-39 …height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.]
  • The more care we show toward others, the more people will come to know, respect us, and listen to us. [1Corinthians 9:19-23]
  • The more we follow up and follow through, the more growth God will provide. [1Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.]
  • The more we study, the more we will know how to react to any situation. [2Timothy 2:15-16 Study to show thyself approved unto God]
  • The more we harmonize with the person’s situation, and offer answers they can apply — answers they perceive as truth, the MORE CONVERSIONS. [Acts 18:28 ‘Apollos’…showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.]

Always Keep this in mind. We are all EVANGELISTS, and people are expecting us to ask for a change. Don’t disappoint them. Just remember that God gives the increase and it’s our duty to serve Him. When people see that in us, they will be more likely to respond.

As mature Christians, our job is to identify with the person and take what we’ve learned in the Scriptures to lead them to the truth about Christ, which is the only true motivation that leads to conversion. Without a conversion to Christ, there is no conversion.

Harmony is understanding, not manipulating. It’s sensing the tone of the situation, and comfort level of the person — And gives them enough trust to hear.

Even though I haven’t found the perfect “system of evangelism,” I am still searching for “the best way” to teach. And what I have discovered along the way are elements, mostly personal (non-manipulative), that when mastered will create an atmosphere where people will listen to the Word.

Here are four elements to master in acrostic form, when mastered, are the surest (and shortest) formula to long term success. A.M.E.N. These have nothing to do with systems, manipulation, or pressure. These words, elements, and characteristics create harmony.

  • ATTITUDE – a positive & joyful countenance. [1Peter 3:15]
  • MEANING – Having a firm understanding of what you are saying and what you are affirming. [1Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 5:12] “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” [1Peter 4:11].
  • EMPATHY – Love is kind…does not envy…does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; [1Corinthians 13:4-6]
  • NECESSARY – Realize that without evangelism, neither you, I nor anyone else can be saved and that it’s necessary for our own salvation as we seek to obey Christ. [Matt 28:18-20; Romans 10:13-17]

Every evangelist I have ever met wants to have more meaningful studies — and the best way to do that is to never manipulate. Manipulation makes people defensive, reluctant, and distrustful. Mastering these elements will make people attracted to you, like you, trust you, believe you, have confidence in you — and then — study with you.

A Survey of the Bible

SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD to stop to take in the entire landscape. This is what we are doing with our Wednesday study of the Old Testament.

One of the primary reasons many people haven’t made the effort to get to know the Bible is that they feel it is intimidating and confusing. Without a basic understanding of how the Bible is written this can often be the case. To help develop an overall picture of the Bible, turn to the Table of Contents. You will notice that the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books that are divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Let’s notice how the Old Testament can be outlined.   

The Old Testament is made up of 39 books. Here is how they can be grouped and categorized:

Genesis to Esther: History books (of the Jewish people), Mostly chronological, starts at beginning of time and goes to about 400 BC.

Job to The Song of Solomon: Poetry books, not chronological, all written sometime during the History section, designed to teach lessons about everyday life kinds of things: Job – trials, Psalms – worship/prayer, Proverbs – wisdom, Ecclesiastes – philosophy, Song of Solomon – love.

Isaiah to Malachi: Prophecy books, not chronological, all written sometime during the History section, basically they were preachers inspired by God to warn the people of judgment and foretell certain future events. 

The New Testament is made up of 27 books. Here is how they can be grouped and categorized:

Matthew to Acts: History books, not chronological, Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John are all self-contained histories of Jesus’ life. Acts is the history of the early church (or followers) of Jesus.

Romans to Jude: Letters to churches or individual Christians, not chronological, many written during the time frame of Acts’ history, designed to teach lessons about everyday life kinds of things: worship, morality, love, relationships, trials, philosophy, wisdom, etc.

Revelation: Prophecy book, written to correct and warn early Christians.

Recognizing these things will be extremely helpful in your reading of the Bible. Simply understanding the context of what you’re reading will make the Bible less confusing. Knowing the above should give you confidence in your ability to understand God’s Word.

The Outline of the Bible:

overview

Study the chart above. Notice that the three periods of time are divided by how God delivered His laws to mankind. The first was through patriarchs or heads of families. Second was through Moses and the prophets. And finally He delivered His will to man through Jesus.

The Patriarchal Age. This period starts in Genesis 1 at the creation of the world. Adam & Eve disobey God and are made to leave the Garden of Eden. After many years the earth is full of evil and God decides to send a flood to destroy all that will not repent. Noah and 7 of his family are the only ones who are saved. Over 400 years later a man named Abram (later Abraham) is chosen by God to become the father of the Israelite nation (Gen. 12).

From this time on the Bible specifically traces the History of that one nation. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and after Jacob’s name is changed to Israel he starts the family. The Israelites (also called Hebrews or Jews) begin to grow as a family after Jacob has 12 sons who later become 12 tribes. At the end of Genesis they are a still a small family who have moved to Egypt. They are taken into captivity for a couple hundred years and grow to be a large nation.

The Mosaic Age. God chooses a man named Moses to deliver the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Moses leads the people out of Egypt to a mountain called Horeb (later Sanai). Here God delivers his law for the Israelites.

After the Israelites wander for 40 years in the wilderness, they go into “the Promised Land” (Canaan) under Joshua’s command. Once they settle the land God leads the people by appointing a series of Judges (who were basically military leaders) for around 350 years. After this the people want to be lead by a king like the nations around them. God warns them it’s a bad idea but grants their request by giving them Saul, David, and then Solomon. After Solomon’s reign (925 BC), the nation divides into two groups – Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  The northern kingdom of Israel grows increasingly evil and at God’s decree is taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 BC never to return again. Later, the southern kingdom of Judah is punished by being taken into captivity by the Babylonians. After 70 years they returned to their homeland and rebuilt their nation. It is their descendants who are the Jews of today and through whom Christ came.

During the time of these two kingdoms, the Prophets wrote their books. Almost all of them spoke of the coming of a Savior or Messiah. Most of them also spoke of a new covenant that would be enacted when this Savior came.

The Christian Age. This is the final way that God has revealed His will to mankind. We are now living in this age. The Bible teaches that once the Messiah came, so did the new covenant.

According to the Bible people today are to follow the New Testament. This is one reason why there are so many churches today doing so many different things yet all claiming to follow the Bible. There are many religious groups who say they follow the Bible but for some reason have missed this important Bible teaching. Can you think of any religious practices you’ve seen before which are only found in the Old Testament?

Jesus Has All Authority:

The Bible teaches us 4 things that are NOT our authority for religious practice. 1) The Old Testament, 2) Our own initiative to change something God commanded (like Nadab & Abihu), 3) Emotion or good motives (like David & Uzzah), 4) The traditions of men. If none of these can accurately define for us what God wants from us, where must we look?

4 Easy ways to improve your Bible reading

LET’S FACE IT, WE ALL could be doing a better job of reading our Bibles. It’s just that we’re very busy. Although true, it’s still no excuse. After all, we are instructed to study… “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…” 2Timothy 2:15

Instead of trying to keep pace with one of the myriad of Bible reading plans, let’s take an approach that emphasises STUDY over just reading which could work better with your own busy lifestyle.

Study for the Bible classes. The congregation here at Franklin St. church of Christ, has determined to study through the whole Bible during our two weekly Bible class hours. This will take us about 5 years to study (not just read) the entire bible. By preparing for each Bible class, you’re reading the Bible!

Study Topically. So many of us keep a bookmark of “biblical references” in our Bibles. We keep them handy so that we can refer to them when a question arises during our personal work. What’s wrong with taking a few moments each day to study through one of the topics on the bookmark? For example, you could dedicate a week (just a few moments a day) to read all of the scriptures pertaining to baptism or the plan of salvation etc. I have personally used this method to improve my readiness when doing personal work.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” 1Peter 3:15

There are other resources you can use to engage in this type of study, topical Bibles which simply list every scripture on a given subject, as well as concordances. Other trusted resources like, “Ready Reference for Growing Christians” or “Nichol’s Pocket Bible Encyclopedia” can be very helpful in your studies. Doing this is called reading your Bible.

Read what you can, when you can. Another strategy you can use is to keep a Bible handy. Download an app on your phone, or keep a pocket Bible in your purse or in your car, so that you always have God’s word with you to read during those many moments of pause. You know those moments of pause, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or at the orthodontists office etc. Keep a Bible in every room of your house for quick access to His word. A friend of mine keeps her Bible open on the kitchen counter (away from the sink of course) as a constant reminder to take time to read. This too is called reading your Bible.

Make an appointment with yourself and God. Someone once told me, “nothing ever gets done until a deadline is set.” Make an appointment, or set an alarm on your phone, to spend time reading His divine instruction for your life. As an examle, set a goal to read the Gospels in a month. Everyone has time to read the Gospels. Look at these stats….

Matthew:        1 hour, 14 minutes
Mark:              46 minutes
Luke:               1 hour, 18 minutes
John:               1 hour, 3 minutes
The Four Gospels:  4 hours, 21 minutes

Looking at it another way, you could read…

  • Mark in the typical span of 1 or 2 quarters of NFL football.
  • John in the time lost watching commercials in 4 hours of TV.
  • Matthew in the average span of 4 Major League Baseball innings.
  • Luke in the typical length of 1 half of an NBA game.

Please understand, I’m not advocating that you give God the crumbs that are leftover from your day, what I am saying is there are multiple opportunities, during a day, to read the bible if we would just make it a point to take advantage of the time.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:16

This verse from Ephesians should serve as a warning. Let us use the time remaining to protect ourselves from the evil that vexes our souls daily. What better resource do we have to do that than God’s own Word?