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Category Archives: Bible Observations
I am gifted (and I mean that word in the fullest sense of the word for it has nothing to do with me) with an ability to read fast and comprehend well. It made a very full schedule in seminary, work and ministry very workable in that I usually had all my semester’s reading done no later than the first month. I honestly had a sense of guilt when I would watch fellow students groan as they saw the reading requirements in each class knowing that it was a crushing burden for some of them.
Having said that I also read for a living. I have piles of books everywhere you might look. My kindle is full of them, not to mention my truck seat, my wood shop, my office both at home and church as well as scattered all around my house. So though I read fast and well I have also learned over the years to read better. That is what I want to share here.
There is nothing I can do personally to help a person read faster. The best tip is to not let yourself sound out the word with either your mouth or mind. Just let your eyes go over it. The moment you start pronouncing you dramatically slow down. See? Easy, just stop doing that.
But the reality is that it isn’t easy so I decided to give you a few pointers on how to read well rather than to read fast. For those of you checking out already because you are saying you are too busy read this.
1. Have a pencil and take notes.
To those who are believers of keeping your pages clean I say in the words of Nero Wolfe, “Pfui!” Keep your fiction clean. But a serious book needs serious notes. Develop your own system but make notes. I have a hierarchy of marks I do in my margins. I seldom underline anything. An asterisk is very important. A check mark is a key point in a larger point in the paragraph so that I can find it quickly without rereading the whole paragraph. Draw a line down the side of the paragraph that is useful. If the author says that there are three reasons for something, stop reading and skim read to find where each of them are noted and highlight them. I usually circle them or make a small “1,” “2,” and so on. Then go back and read through carefully now that you know he is making and argument. Note conclusions (I usually put a “concl” in the margin). Just doing these little things will allow you to engage the author rather than be a passive reader led down any path the author desires. Click on the image to see a larger view of a sample page.
• Be awake.
Sounds obvious but it is amazing how many people will try to read near the end of the day after working hard. That is silly. Plan a time to read. For most at work it would be during lunch or one of the mandated 15 minute breaks. It means you stop working for just a short time and intentionally read. For mothers it means reading while naps are taking place or once dad comes home.
• Don’t get too comfortable.
But don’t be uncomfortable. Reading is a task so get a good chair and sit properly. Don’t dismiss this too quickly either. I get better reading done on a dining room chair (all wood) than I ever do lying on a couch (which is my position for reading fiction). When I need to study I am always, always upright in a chair.
• Good lighting.
Ummm, you have to be able to see the pages.
Four free, cheap ways to improve how you read. You are welcome.
I recently returned from a trip to Brazil to teach a group of young seminarians the subject of apologetics. The first part of the curriculum is essentially an overview of the various systems of apologetics out there. For those who don’t know about what I am writing, apologetics is essentially the defending and declaring of the Christian faith to a non-Christian world. In many ways it is a subset of evangelism though in many ways it has become a way to gather a following and sell books.
The various schools of thought on this is not important to my article so I will spare you of a description of each. Frankly it can be very boring as you read and interact with many writers who argue their points and then you try to interact with them. The reason for it is simple, there is no basis for the average student to properly interact with the positions. Read that sentence again because it is very important. The men are being introduced to a huge subject and they usually do have sufficient knowledge to have a good, thoughtful opinion, much less a conviction.
The second part of the coursework is then a proposal for a specific type of apologetics that is borne from a sound exegesis of the key biblical texts related to the nature of man, especially due to the presence of sin, the ability of man to make a free decision unaffected by sin, and the nature of the way God converts a soul. These are not merely theological ideas that we should place on a table and all talk about like they are objects picked up off of the seashore. These are biblical statements and they mean something. And again this is where conviction comes into play.
As I taught the second half of the course I watched to see what types of reactions, comments and questions were raised in light of passage after passage being unfolded and laid before them. It is same thing I do when I preach. I labor to unfold the biblical passage before the people and I watch. Especially when it is on a subject over which I know there is dispute. When I say something like, “Notice the way Paul wrote this . . .” I want to see how many look down to examine the text. I can say that for the most part my church is eager to do so, making my job in preaching much easier than other pastors.
But I also see the one who will sit with their arms folded and are unmoved. They are convinced and nothing will change that. With my students in Brazil it was the same thing. I wanted them to raise questions but I wanted those questions to flow from the biblical text. Not some author and certainly not from their own thoughts. And this is where I now make my point of this post.
Convictions exist in every human. But for a Christian those convictions ought to flow from a willful submission to the biblical text. And if it doesn’t then those convictions come from something other that God’s Word. When you learn to submit yourself to the bible then you become a person in a consistent state of change. As you mature and as you learn you realize that certain texts were misunderstood by you. Others become more clear and certain and you see that your first thoughts were good but not as deep and full as they could have been. Regardless, a healthy Christian is one whose first question on anything is, “What does the bible say?”
I remember years ago finishing a sermon and a person came up to me visible angry. He told me that what I was teaching that night was not what the majority of the church believed. I looked at him and asked one question, “Did I properly deal with this passage or not?” He said that I did but that he did not like it nor approve of it. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that his problem wasn’t with me but with the Lord.
Convictions. Powerful things they are. Just make sure they flow from the Word of God and not anything of this age.
I grew up in my formative years in Idaho, a bastion of Mormonism. I remember vividly my father trying to find a solid church when we moved there and having no luck. There were no Assemblies (meaning Plymouth Brethren) and the Baptist and E V Free churches were dead even to my seventh grade brain. There were really only two choices, become a Mormon, which wasn’t happening or attend a Nazarene church, which is what we did. Regardless, most of my friends were Mormons, I briefly dated a Mormon girl and I had a few friends in the Nazarene church leave and convert to Mormonism. There were countless conversations with them and I was always fascinated by the poster that most of them had on a wall somewhere prominent in there house of the story in pictures of Joseph Smith and Moroni.
I don’t run into Mormons much anymore. We had them stop by a few years ago and I was able to sit with them and my children and challenge their assertions and point them to Jesus. Not their Jesus, but the true Jesus. They left unconvinced but I have always thought about where they are now, did the Word of the Gospel take root? Or did Satan come and pluck it away?
Perhaps you have Mormons who you know or who are missionaries walking in your neighborhoods. Are you prepared to engage them? I found this article by Loren Franck to be very revealing as he confesses to lying frequently while he served his missionary term. I encourage you to read it so that you might better understand what may come your way if you get a knock on your door one day.
The Bible predicts a dreadful fate for liars. For instance, while banished on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John saw that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Similarly, the beloved disciple writes, liars are doomed to an eternity outside of God’s presence (Revelation 22:15). Because Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), lying is extremely serious sin.
As a full-time Mormon missionary from 1975 to 1977, I lied for the church countless times. Like my colleagues in the South Dakota-Rapid City Mission, which served the Dakotas and adjacent areas, I spoke truthfully about my background, but touted many Mormon teachings that contradict the Bible. After my mission ended, however, I examined these doctrines more closely. The harder I tried to reconcile the contradictions, the more evident they became. So, after extensive prayer and study, I resigned my church membership in 1984. Cheated and betrayed, I lacked spiritual life for the next 17 years. But God, knowing those who are His (John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19), drew me to Christ (John 6:44) and saved me in 2001. My spiritual emptiness was replaced by the abundant life only the Savior can give (John 10:10). And now, like millions of Christians worldwide, I have everlasting life through my faith in Him (John 3:36; 6:47).
I can’t remember all of my missionary lies. Some were small, others grandiose, but all were false and misleading. Here are ten I’ll never forget.
The Gospel Coalition is involved in all sorts of interesting activities right now. If you are unaware of the recent withdrawal of Tullian Tchividjian from the organization you can read some interesting and frankly important information here where Kevin DeYoung does a nice job giving a synopsis (maybe) of the issues. They are not little ones and they center around the nature of how a Christian deals with sin and the commands of the Scripture. Tchividjian essentially makes any serious obedience unnecessary because we are under grace. Though I appreciate his love of grace in all that I read of him I find that he misses the point almost completely on how grace now frees us and empowers us to obey our Lord. Secondly, I see him having an inappropriate understanding of the relationship between Law and Grace which makes any movement forward in this whole thing essentially a waste of time.
The following are a few useful articles for you to read if this little post piques your interest (honestly, just following the links on DeYoung’s article will keep you busy):
- Todd Pruitt He has several more excellent links and some very useful comments after them.
- Tullian Tchividjian We see here some of his ideas. “Are we free to fail?” “Are we free to be ordinary?” Of course we are, Jesus did it all. And therein lies the problem. Note how this article is filled with skin-tingling thoughts but really light on clear biblical exposition to support it. Here he gets irritated with the claim that he is pushing a view that celebrates failure though he doesn’t really address it in reality.
- Jen Wilkin This is the article that seemed to irritate Tullian.
- Jared Oliphant Responds to Tullian’s response.
- Carl Trueman Asks some very, very, very, very practical questions. The kind that tend to not get asked but should in debates like these. I have to invite him to preach at our church some day.
If you are interested, here is a three part series I did on the doctrine of sanctification. If you listen to them you will see the great chasm between myself (along with others) and Tchividjian. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Regarding Josh Harris and CJ Mahaney stepping down, I am glad they did. Many troubling things over several years have caused me to take a big step backward to wait until more comes to light. Pretty shocking and sobering to read that a pastor and brother-in-law of Mahaney now admits under oath that he knew of the molestation and never contacted the authorities. One wonders if this is truly the very first time he admitted it to anyone. My mind is boggled.
This is a great little graphic that take Joel Osteen’s seemingly good confession about the bible (which he consistently demolishes) and puts it in a better light. I have no idea where this came from, I shamelessly stole it off of a Facebook post. If I need to give credit then let me know. Enjoy. . . .
My wife, Kim, was pregnant with our first child when I packed up our belonging in Houston, Texas and moved her across the country to Los Angeles so I could attend bible college at The Master’s College. Thus started a ten year journey that involved four children, seven moves, and four different jobs. I was with her with each birth and she approached each of them with bravery and calm that was nothing short of impressive.
This woman is the reason my children know how to read and how to think. They were taught by her and countless times I would be locked in my study and I would hear her singing with the little ones as they learned their letters and their sounds. When they fell it was always into her arms that they fled and always found a gentle word and plenty of sympathy. It was because of her diligence that they learned to memorize bible verses and to read through the bible several times before they were adults and out of the house. She formed their worldview and she provided them a place of comfort and instruction. The gospel was constantly on her lips but also modeled in her ways.
She instructed them in the ways of obedience. “First and Fast” is a phrase they all knew. When it was time for a rebuke, she did not shirk from that duty. And when it was time for discipline it was given faithfully and diligently, filled with the faith of the fruit that was to come. Because of her diligence our children were a joy to be around, each of them a billboard to her skills as a mother.
She prayed and still prays for them. Her greatest pleasure even today is when the family is raucously gathered together at our house (raucously because that is the only way the Henry’s know how to gather together). Today she is now a grandmother as well. I hear her playing upstairs even now with her little grandson and granddaughter and the memories come flooding back to my mind.
She is a woman of excellence and she captures well the words of King Lemuel, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the way of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her.”
My son-in-law wrote a solid piece over at his blog where he entertains the question of what is the focus of the bible for the Christian in relationship to God. Is it focused upon our personal intimacy or upon a right and true knowledge of God? What do you think? Below is a bit of his post, I encourage you to read it all.
Are the New Testament authors more concerned with believers understanding proper theology and doctrine (knowledge), or are they more concerned that believers maintain a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus? What is their tone? What is their burden? The question itself is a bit misleading because it implies, in some sense, the pursuit of proper knowledge is mutually exclusive from a personal relationship with Jesus, or at the very least, presupposes a proper relationship with Jesus can be found outside of a proper knowledge. Perhaps Paul can weigh in.
Read the rest here . . . .