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Getting the Most from God’s Word

 

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Hey family,

This past week we spent some time breaking down how to study the Bible.  I cannot express how important it  is that we are continually in God’s Word. How important???…

‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:14-15‬
14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Our #1 purpose is to exalt Jesus in our lives & to the world.  It is clear here that we are sent to preach so that others may hear and believe.  Isn’t that what happened to you? You believed the message of the Gospel because someone presented it to you.  It goes without saying that I will never be sent if I first am not exposed to the Gospel.  Paul goes on to say…

‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:17
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Everything hinges on our exposure to and continual study of God’s truth.  If we don’t know truth we will never be sent to preach and they will not hear and ultimately not believe.  That being said… we must be immersed in His truth always.

Following is a quick overview about how you can get the most out of your time in the Word.  Let this be a launching point to go deeper than ever before.  Feel free to ask question and comment.  This content was compiled from multiple resources.  Let me know if you would like more in depth resources for your journey.

2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

The Greek phrase translated “correctly handle” (orthotomeo) also means to “guide on a straight path.” As we study the Bible, it’s important we do our best to stay on the straight path when it comes to interpreting and understanding it.

ONE – OBSERVATION

Observation is the first and most important step in how to study the Bible. As you read the Bible text, you need to look carefully at what is said, and how it is said. Look for:

  • Terms, not words. Words can have many meanings, but terms are words used in a specific way in a specific context. (For instance, the word trunk could apply to a tree, a car, or a storage box. However, when you read, “That tree has a very large trunk,” you know exactly what the word means, which makes it a term.)
  • Structure. If you look at your Bible, you will see that the text has units called paragraphs (indented or marked ¶). A paragraph is a complete unit of thought. You can discover the content of the author’s message by noting and understanding each paragraph unit.
  • Emphasis. The amount of space or the number of chapters or verses devoted to a specific topic will reveal the importance of that topic (for example, note the emphasis of Romans 9 and Psalms 119).
  • Repetition. This is another way an author demonstrates that something is important. One reading of 1 Corinthians 13, where the author uses the word “love” nine times in only 13 verses, communicates to us that love is the focal point of these 13 verses.
  • Relationships between ideas. Pay close attention, for example, to certain relationships that appear in the text:
    • Cause-and-effect: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21).
    • Ifs and thens: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
    • Questions and answers: “Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty” (Psalms 24:8).
  • Comparisons and contrasts. For example, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:21).
  • Atmosphere. The author had a particular reason or burden for writing each passage, chapter, and book. Be sure you notice the mood or tone or urgency of the writing.

After you have considered these things, you then are ready to ask the “Wh” questions

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Who are the people in this passage? What is happening in this passage? Where is this story taking place? When in time (of day, of the year, in history) is it?  Where is this happening?  How is this taking place?

Asking those additional questions for understanding will help to build a bridge between observation (the first step) and interpretation (the second step) of the Bible study process.

 

TWO – INTERPRETATION

Interpretation is discovering the meaning of a passage, the author’s main thought or idea. Answering the questions that arise during observation will help you in the process of interpretation. Five clues (called “the five C’s”) can help you determine the author’s main point(s):

  • Context. You can answer 75 percent of your questions about a passage when you read the text. Reading the text involves looking at the near context (the verse immediately before and after) as well as the far context (the paragraph or the chapter that precedes and/or follows the passage you’re studying).
  • Cross-references. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. That is, let other passages in the Bible shed light on the passage you are looking at. At the same time, be careful not to assume that the same word or phrase in two different passages means the same thing.
  • Culture. The Bible was written long ago, so when we interpret it, we need to understand it from the writers’ cultural context.
  • Conclusion. Having answered your questions for understanding by means of context, cross-reference, and culture, you can make a preliminary statement of the passage’s meaning. Remember that if your passage consists of more than one paragraph, the author may be presenting more than one thought or idea.
  • Consultation. Reading commentaries, which are written by Bible scholars, can help you interpret Scripture.

 

THREE – APPLICATION

Application is why we study the Bible. We want our lives to change; we want to be obedient to God and to grow more like Jesus Christ. After we have observed a passage and interpreted or understood it to the best of our ability, we must then apply its truth to our own life.

You’ll want to ask the following questions of every passage of Scripture you study:

  • How does the truth revealed here affect my relationship with God?
  • How does this truth affect my relationship with others?
  • How does this truth affect me?
  • How does this truth affect my response to the enemy, Satan?

The application step is not completed by simply answering these questions; the key is putting into practice what God has taught you in your study.

 

Read slowly… Sometimes we are in such a hurry to check that daily Bible reading box on our yearly plan that we miss the richness of the text

 

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” –Acts 17:11 (NIV)

LET IT BE SAID OF US…

 

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Our Father in Heaven

Anybody else grow up watching Sesame Street?  Yea well, I know I’m dating myself, but when Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father in Heaven” I think of Sesame Street.  In particaular Grover, a weird blue puppet with red lips and nose.  There is a certain skit in which Grover teaches children the difference between “near” and “far” which ironically enough is what I want to talk to you about this morning. (Watch Grover’s teaching session HERE…)

NEAR…

GOD IS NEAR!  Is there anymore intimate word to speak to Him than father?  I’m not diluded enough to think that everyone had a great relationship with their earthly fathers.  Even still, we all have this understanding of what a good father should be whether we experienced it or not.  A father is loving and accepting no matter what.  He disciplines with his right hand as he simultaneously curls us in for a hug with his left.  He teaches us life lesssons as throws he throws us in the deep end always ready to jump in with us if necessary.  So when we describe God as Father he not only comes close but we get a sense of intimacy as well.  He is the one we cry on, ask for wisdom about life decisions and even rant to at times.

This theme of describing God as Father runs throughout scripture.  In Isaiah(6:9) there is a list of names by which God is called and one is… EVERLASTING FATHER.  The word for “father” (Abba) that Jesus chooses to use is one of incredible intimacy meaning closeness, intimacy and endearment.  This would be a new concept for the disciples.  In the Old Testament God was not seen as an approachable God much less a father figure.  Through the life of Jesus a new era was ushered in of closeness between God and His creation.

Think about it.  If we are calling Him Father, what does that make us?  Bingo… His children.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God… 1 John 3:1

We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High.  So calling Him father isn’t some religious effort to get on His good side.  It is merely calling what He is… Our Father.

FAR…

As Grover so eloquently put it, things can also be FAR from us as well.  God as my intimate Father is not only near to me, but he is also far.

Our finite minds can never understand God fully.  No matter how hard we try there are some things that our minds will never be able to understand and reconcile about God our Father.  It is in this vein that we recognize Him not only as an intimate Father but also the creator of this universe, the sustainer of all life and whose name is above all names.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
– Isaiah 55:8-9

I believe it to be an incredible revelation to understand God in these terms.  That He is so close that He can embrace me as a loving Father and yet at the same time so grand & holy that He can never be fully understood.  That our Father resides in heaven only confirms His authority in this world and our lives.  It also reminds us that we are not citicens of this world.  It keeps in focus that our sole responsibility is to the Kingdom of God and not to the finite world in which we live.

As Jesus begins His teaching regarding prayer we are being reminded to whom we are praying.  He is not this unknowable God who cannot be reached, but is rather a loving father that is eager to have intimacy with his Children.  And at the same time is a God who is to be revered at a distance because of his grand majesty.  In essence, God is neither near or far, but rather near and far at the same time.  Thanks Grover for the Gospel lesson!

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Intro to the Lord’s Prayer

So here goes a great journey into the meaning of the Lord’s prayer.  This could possible start sounding like blah, blah, blah… only because everyone has taught on this prayer.  Confession… I will probably not say anything revolutionary or new but hopefully this will be a reminder of the depth of Jesus’ teaching concerning prayer.

These articles are written with a particular person in mind.  For those of you out there who struggles in a big way to engage in a steady and profitable prayer life… this goes out to you.  I salute all those who fall short, as I often do myself, in having a successful prayer life.  Do you describe your prayer life with uplifting terms such as: shallow, empty, quick, boring, struggling, rare,  or confusing?  Maybe you have said, “I’m going to get around to it soon”, “sometimes I pray and sometimes I don’t”, “but when I do it’s always, ‘God, help! ‘”  Well then, welcome to the club!  Most of us out there struggle with prayer.  Andrew Murray wrote in With Christ in the School of Prayer,

At first there is no work that appears
so simple;  later on, none
that is more difficult.”

And why do we find it so difficult?  Well the simple answer is the Satan tinkles in his little underoos (hopefully you know what those are, just in case you don’t chick  HERE … I prefer to think of him wearing the Wonder Woman ones)  when the people of God engage in meaningful prayer.  So, needless to say he does everything in his power to distract and discourage from us doing so.  But, if you can press through and find a way to pray like never before you will find that God’s promises will begin to unfold before you in a beautiful array of blessings.

We often run from prayer simply because we don’t know what in the world were doing.  Not that it is rocket science, but remember the enemy distracting you thing?  Bingo!  Do you actually know what prayer is?  It’s nothing more than having an intimate conversation with God, like you would your spouse.  I always like to imagine I am sitting across from Him at a bistro table sharing a cup of coffee and having conversation.  Yeah, some of you uptight ppl out there are having a conniption fit because somehow you think I’m diminishing the holiness of God.  Well, I believe God is close.  Close to me!

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you… (James 4:8)

He is a God that can be approached and drawn close to.  He is my father, best friend and lover of my soul.  So you just go ahead and shout at Him from a distance as I enjoy my Cafe Mocha rubbing elbows with the God of this universe!

Which finally brings me to the Lord’s Prayer…

Jesus had just finished up praying and after doing so one of the disciples strolls up to Him and asks him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Whichever disciple this was he must have drawn the short straw.  Notice he didn’t ask for Jesus to teach “me” to pray, but rather “us” to pray.  He was asking in behalf of all the disciples.  You can almost see the timidity in his face.  These disciples had grown up in the Jewish traditions which would have required them to pray three times a day and now after all these years they are essentially telling Jesus they don’t know how to pray.

Is it that they didn’t know how to pray or that they saw something remarkably different in how He prayed?  It’s fair to say that what they witnessed in the private prayer life of Jesus and the resulting public display of power that pressed this ever important plea to learn how to pray.

Jesus responds by giving these men what we refer to the Lord’s Prayer.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind reciting this prayer, but that is not what He had in mind.  Mattew records Jesus as saying,

” Pray then like this:”  -Matthew 6:9

He was giving them a guide or blueprint, if you will, to guide our prayer lives.  If you disect it you will find seven petitions, three of which is towards God and the last for our dealings with man.

I can’t wait to dig into these specific blueprints for your prayer life.  Starting in my next post we will deal with prayer that is directed at God Himself.  In doing so we direct the focus where it should be… on Him.

Pastor Greg

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Old School Prayer Meeting (say what?)

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You know as a kid I can’t forget the countless hours I spent in church.  That’s back when I was drug to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and even Wednesday evening.  I say drug in jest only because I have always had a passionate love for God’s church.  One of the things I miss from those early days of faith is the way in which those old saints would “pray through” at the altar.  If you aren’t familiar with that terminology it simply means to cry out to God until you receive what you are praying for.  Believe me, I fell asleep in the pew many times waithing for them to “pray through”.

Somehow along the way our faith, my faith, has become to dignified and refined fo such things.  In the world of multiple services and the uber busy family life we don’t have that kind of time to spend at the altar anymore. (insert frowny emoji here)   Have we forgotten that prayer is the essence of a believers life?  How sad…

Recently I received a fresh revelation as to the importance of prayer in my life and the life of my church.  As such, we are reviving an old school service… The infamous prayer meeting.  This is a time to gather as God’s people to do one simple thing… pray.  There won’t be hipster worship leaders, an eloquent message or (dare I say) and offering.  We will simply cry out to God.  Cry out to Him for:

  • Forgiveness
  • Revival
  • Restoration

We will declare His:

  • Majesty
  • Holiness
  • Rightousness

And we will wrap up… (drum roll please) when we recieve.

Join me in starting your own prayer meetings.  Get up at the crack of dawn and find a solitary place.  Grab a co-worker and pray during lunch.  Emplore your church leaders to start a service.  It doesn’t matter what you do… just do!

PG

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Prayer

Prayer Makes History

Take a look through history and you will see that great moments in the church started with great moments in prayer.  Without fail the moments in our past that were highlighted with the move of God were fueled by men and women who had incredible prayer lives.

It is no secret one of my heroes of faith is E.M. Bounds who was relatively unknown in his own time.  He lived in the south during the Civil War and was captured twice as a prisoner of war.  Following the war he spent the rest of his life in service to the church.  It is his life of prayer that pulls me to read his works and always walk away challenged to be a better man.  For to him prayer was a natural as breathing air.

(Who wouldn’t like Bounds?  Look at that awesome beard!)

The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon the earth.  Great throes and mighty convulsions in the world have come about as a result of these prayers.  The earth is changed, revolutionized; angels move on more powerful, more rapid wings; and God’s policy is shaped when the prayers of His people are more numerous and more efficient.  -E.M. Bounds, The Force that Shapes the World 

Isn’t it the case that we mostly pray out of obligation rather than joy?  We pray religiously over our food, the kids at night and definitely don’t forget the offering on Sunday (glad I didn’t forget that one).  When was the last time you were driven into intimate prayer just…. well just because.  Because you wanted to dine with Him, because you just wanted to know Him better or because you want to see Him move in great revival.  And boy do we need revival.  

Dr. A.T. Pierson once said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.” (more on that next time)

God shapes the world by prayer.  The more praying there is in the world, the better the world will be and mightier the forces against evil everywhere. Prayer, in one phase of its operation, is a disinfectant and a preventive.  It purifies the air; it destroys the contagion of evil.   -E.M. Bounds, The Force that Shapes the World

While in college I spent a summer serving a church in North Carolina.  I don’t remember much about that summer, but one thing sticks close in my mind still.  I would walk into the pastors cramped, dated and overly-stuffed office always noticing one thing.  Right behind his desk stuck to one of the dusty shelves was a hand made sign that simply read…

PRAYER CHANGES THINGS  

As simple as that sounds it impacted me deeply. I do know that the Lord has used that simple sign to confirm in me what is most important in this treacherous journey of faith.  It is my constant intimacy with God in prayer that will in affect create the greatest moments of my life.  And if I believe that prayer makes history, my intimacy with God will in affect create the greatest moments in the lives of others as well.

ThAbIt,
PG

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Morning Mind-dump

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  • My weekend was awesome… how about you?  I had to dig up my septic system, glove up and get to work.  I kind of felt like Indiana Jones with all my discoveries.   I bet your weekend wasn’t as awesome as mine.
  • I have an amazing wife.  She is so encouraging and supportive of all that I do.  She works harder than most men I know and sacrifices for everything she loves.  Bonus:  She’s also hot!
  • I’m proud of my son Jameson.  He went on Saturday and tried out for the semi-pro team the Atlanta Silverbacks.  The talent level was out the roof and he understands his chances are small.  However, I couldn’t be more proud of him for just trying out.  How many of us just sit on our dreams only bc the chances of success are slim?
  • I work with the best youth pastor in the land.  Blake Kitchens is not only my dear friend, but is also a rockstar youth pastor.  He loves these kids (my kids) with a great amount of dedication and passion.  He works full time, is a full time student, dates an amazing woman (also full time), leads worship at a college ministry and still has time for ministering to our youth….  He also regularly prays for the sun to stand still!
  • I have packed my coffin
  • The people at Hope Fellowship are amazing.  I love doing life with you guys.  All I have to say is this…
    • Get in – Sit down – and Hold on…. cuz this is gonna be a wild ride
  • I drink way too much coffee.  I’m talking about lots of coffee.  Is that bad?
  • GA primaries are tomorrow… I hope you are planning on showing up.
  • The Cochran bunch is crazy busy.  Three playing school soccer and multiple in the band.  Lots of games and concerts coming up.
  • Why do my hands smell like poo?

PG

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This one thing IS holding you back

OBEDIENCE… Could that be the missing link to our success?  Could it really be that simple?

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Sometimes, and I dare say, most of the time ministry becomes a chore. Speaking for myself, I get so busy doing the work of ministry that I neglect the ministry of the inner man.  Run like this for a season and you will quickly find out how ineffective you can be without feeding the soul.  Isn’t that what the church has become? An engine of incredible ministries while neglecting the spiritual disciplines that drive us to intimacy with God.  This may seem like a soap box, but if you would meditate on in for just a moment I believe you will also agree.  And let me clarify that the church, my church, does incredible ministry in and out of the church.  My question today is, how much more effective would we be if we were to retreat from the busyness of ministry and charge hard into the presence of God?

Reading this morning in Joshua 1 we can definitely see this in action.  Moses is dead and Joshua is given marching orders from God.  The promise is the same, the orders are the same, but a new man is at the helm.  While Moses was in the drivers seat we see constant disobedience from the people and a couple episodes from the fearless leader himself.  Now we see a changing of the guard and Joshua is faced with the same decision Moses previously had.  In chapter 1:6 we see the weight of this call to Joshua…

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”

It is apparent that it is Joshua’s court to whether or not these people will ever see this promise fulfilled.  As we read on we see exactly what this depended on…

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you…. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Joshua 1:7-8)

It’s simple really.  Live according to My Words, keep them close, let them be your compass and you WILL see my promises fulfilled.  This goes way beyond church attendance, taking good sermon notes and even being involved in ministry.  It boils down to one thing… OBEDIENCE.

Church, it’s time to rise up and take God at His word.  Our Obedience to his life giving word is the key to our success.  Whether that be our personal endeavors or more importantly our call to take the Gospel to every nook and cranny of this crazy world of ours.  Today is the day you take back your time and passions and begin to walk out in complete obedience to God’s call on your life…

PG – ThAbIt

P.S. – You can’t walk in obedience if you don’t know His Word.  Get your Bible out today and begin to discover His love, His story and His call on your life.

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