Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Fallacy of Full-Time Christian Work

TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1, by Os Hillman

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." - Colossians 3:23-24

"I didn't know you were in full-time Christian work," said my close friend as we were driving. "I didn't realize that," she went on. I responded, "Every person who has followed the will of God in their life is in full-time Christian work." God calls some to the mission field, others to be accountants, and others to be advertising executives, and still others to be construction workers. God never made a distinction between sacred and secular. In fact, the Hebrew word avodah is the root word having the same meaning of "work" and "worship." God sees our work as worship.

We have incorrectly elevated the role of the Christian worker to be more holy and committed than the person who is serving in a more secular environment. Yet the call to the secular workplace is as important as any other calling. God has to have His people in every sphere of life. Otherwise, many would never come to know Him because they would be separated from society.

I learned this lesson personally when I sought to go into "full-time" service as a pastor in my late twenties, only to have God thrust me back into the business world unwillingly. This turned out to be the best thing He could have done for me, because it was never His will for me to be a pastor. He knew I was more suited for the workplace.

We are all in missions. Some are called to foreign lands. Some are called to the jungles of the workplace. Wherever you are called, serve the Lord in that place. Let Him demonstrate His power through your life so that others might experience Him through you today and see your vocation as worship to His glory.

Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Enjoy Bible Study

by John MacArthur

There's nothing I enjoy more than studying the Bible. Yet it has not always been that way. My real passion for studying Scripture began when as a college student, I made a commitment to explore the Bible in earnest. I found that the more I studied, the more my hunger for Scripture grew. Here are three simple guidelines that have helped me to make the most of my study time.

Read the Bible

First, I begin with reading the Bible. That seems obvious, but quite frankly, it's where many people fail. Too many Christians are content with a second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They read books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. Books are good, but collateral reading can never replace the Bible itself.

There are many good Bible reading plans available, but here is one I've found most helpful. I read through the Old Testament at least once a year. As I read, I note in the margins any truths I particularly want to remember, and I write down separately anything I don't immediately understand. Often I find that as I read, my questions are answered by the text itself. The questions to which I can't find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.

I follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. I read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. I began doing this when I was in seminary, because I wanted to retain what was in the New Testament and not always have to depend on a concordance to find things.

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what's in that book. Write out on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you'll begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you'll develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

Divide longer books into short sections and read each section daily for thirty days. For example, the gospel of John contains 21 chapters. Divide it into 3 sections of 7 chapters. At the end of 90 days, you'll finish John. For variety, alternate short and long books and in less than 3 years you will have finished the entire New Testament--and you'll really know it!

Interpret the Bible

As I read Scripture, I always keep in mind one simple question: "What does this mean?" It's not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application; we must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.

Gaps to Bridge

The first step in interpreting the Bible is to recognize the four gaps we have to bridge: language, culture, geography, and history.


The Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Often, understanding the meaning of a word or phrase in the original language can be the key to correctly interpreting a passage of Scripture. Two books that will help you close the language gap are An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, and Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, by Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr. You don't need to know Greek or Hebrew to use those books effectively.


The culture gap can be tricky. Some people try to use cultural differences to explain away the more difficult biblical commands. Don't fall into that trap, but realize that we must first view Scripture in the context of the culture in which it was written. Without an understanding of first-century Jewish culture, it is difficult to understand the gospels. Acts and the epistles must be read in light of the Greek and Roman cultures. The following books will help you understand the cultural background of the Bible: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, also by Edersheim, and The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, by Ralph Gower.


A third gap that needs to be closed is the geography gap. Biblical geography makes the Bible come alive. A good Bible atlas is an invaluable reference tool that can help you comprehend the geography of the Holy Land. Of course, nothing helps like seeing the land first-hand on a tour.


We must also bridge the history gap. Unlike the Scriptures of most other world religions, the Bible contains the records of actual historical persons and events. An understanding of Bible history will help us place the people and events in it in their proper historical perspective. A good Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia is useful here, as are basic historical studies.

Principles to Understand

Four principles should guide us as we interpret the Bible: literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis.

The Literal Principle

Scripture should be understood in its literal, normal, and natural sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they were intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms, and we must allow it to speak for itself.

The Historical Principle

This means that we interpret Scripture in its historical context. We must ask what the text meant to the people to whom it was first written. In this way we can develop a proper contextual understanding of the original intent of Scripture.

The Grammatical Principle

This requires that we understand the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original language. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? You'll find that when you ask some simple questions like those, the meaning of the text immediately becomes clearer.

The Synthesis Principle

This is what the Reformers called the analogia scriptura. It means that the Bible doesn't contradict itself. If we arrive at an interpretation of a passage that contradicts a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, our interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its full meaning.

Apply the Bible

Having read and interpreted the Bible, you should have a basic understanding of what the Bible says, and what it means by what it says. But my Bible study doesn't stop there. I never study God's Word just to get a sermon. My ultimate goal is to let it speak to me and enable me to grow spiritually. That requires personal application.

Bible study is not complete until we ask ourselves, "What does it mean for my life and how can I practically apply it?" We must take the knowledge we've gained from our reading and interpretation and draw out the practical principles that apply to our personal lives.

If there is a command to be obeyed, we obey it. If there is a promise to be embraced, we claim it. If there is a warning to be followed, we heed it. This is the ultimate step: we submit to Scripture and let it transform our lives. If you skip this step, you will never enjoy your Bible study and the Bible will never change your life.

Bible study is not optional in the Christian life. It is both the obligation and the privilege of all believers. If you are not involved in regular, systematic Bible study, you are missing one of the primary means God uses to bring us to maturity (1 Peter 2:2).


Related Resources:

How to Study the Bible - Audio Series
How to Study Your Bible - Booklet

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Manliness (Part 3)

Biblical Stability

John MacArthur so lucidly exhorts that "you need to be certain of what you believe." This could go without saying but it needs to be said. Thank you Pastor MacArthur. Without further delay, the last installation on Biblical Manliness.

The true mark of Christian Manhood is Doctrinal Stability. Do you abide in God and His Commands (John 15:1-11)? There are clear implications along with this: you need to be certain of what you believe. You need to understand it. You need to be able to defend it against everything—ranging from the changing winds of whatever happens to be in style at the moment all the way to human trickery and the cunning craftiness of Satan himself. Because the enemy will offer all kinds of counterfeit doctrines that look good and sound OK—false doctrines where the error is so carefully nuanced it's hard to put your finger on what's wrong with it. He will tempt you to set aside what is precise and carefully defined in place of dumbed-down doctrinal formulas that don't necessarily sound dangerous—but are.

Compare the apostle’s vision of manly maturity with John Eldredge’s famous “sine qua non of manhood.” Eldredge says, “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”

That is a little boy’s lie. That’s the stuff of children’s fantasies. You simply won’t find a description of manliness like that in Scripture. Instead, Scripture says what motivates real men is a love for the truth; a contempt for error; and a passion for being used by God in the work of snatching people from the grip of the father of lies.

I keep hearing about churches who (in order to appeal to ostensibly “masculine” instincts) have moved their men’s fellowship to the pub, where they discuss theology as a hobby and share their views on life as Christian men over beer and cigars.

Let me point out that there’s nothing particularly manly about that. It’s still a private hen party, but you’ve just substituted beer and cigars in place of tea and crumpets.

If you want a taste of what real manhood looks like, do some gospel ministry in a hostile environment. Stand up for the truth in some venue where it is under attack. Get a solid, manly grasp on the Bible and stand up and teach its hard truths in a way that helps make the truth clear to people who are struggling to get it. Contend earnestly for the faith when some nice-sounding heretic wants you to sit down and have a friendly dialogue about it. Be the kind of man Paul describes here: someone who is steadfast and sure, with a solid grasp of classic biblical truths that have gone out of vogue. Stand against popular opinion when you know you should, and do it every time the opportunity arises.

That’s the real gauge of “mature manhood” as Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:13-14. A grown-up man is firm and steadfast in the truth. That means he is disciplined, knowledgeable; anchored; he understands the truth well and is devoted to it. He has his senses trained for discernment.

Oh, and by the way: that doesn’t happen to lazy people. You have to be diligent to get to that point. Read Hebrews 5:12-14 for the classic prescription of how to move out of adolescence into that kind of mature manliness. Read the first verse in Psalm 1 if you want to see an example of it.


Manliness (Part 2)

Biblical manliness (Eph 4:13) is about authentic character. It’s not about bravado, and it’s not about boyishness. Going out into the woods with a bunch of other men, putting on war paint, making animal noises, telling scary stories around a campfire, and then working up a good cry might be good, visceral fun and all, but that has nothing to do with the biblical idea of manliness.

When the apostle Paul writes about the characteristics of true Christian manhood in Ephesians 4, he focuses on one vital mark of spiritual maturity: “That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (v. 14). You want to be a man as opposed to a little boy? Grow up in your grasp of the truth. Get a grip on sound doctrine and quit being influenced by every new trend and every undulating breeze that blows across the evangelical landscape. Quit chasing the evangelical fads. Get anchored in the truth, and learn to defend it.

God's Way of Manliness (Part 1)

Real Manliness is defined by Christ-like character. Not just the gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-ordered fruit of the spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, and a stouthearted willingness to opposer error and fight for the truth - even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.