NT Tuesday: Be Affectionate & Honor One Another

SubwayLast week we looked at the Biblical imperative of “build up one another“. This week we will look at being devoted to one another or outdoing one another in showing honor. Paul writes in Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor”

We want to look at two thoughts that are contained in this verse, but first the setting for the verse. In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul, in a most systematic and concise manner, expounds on God’s gospel according to His Son, Jesus Christ. He then exhorts us to live in an entirely different manner based on the truth of the Gospel. In fact, the difference was supposed to be so remarkable that we would appear to be like a living sacrifice! (A living sacrifice – think of how odd that sounds).

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Titus 3:3 – What We Were By Nature

This is the 28th video in a series of teaching videos on the book of Titus. You can find the first video here.

Does Christianity really change people?? Watch this video to discover that it does and to see how real the change is.

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Jump to the next post in this series.

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Do We Really Need To Take Notes?

 

In all honesty, a post like this can be counterproductive. I’ve argued for two posts that there should be some theological methodology for taking notes and that there are some goals while taking notes. In this post, I want to point out that none of this is really necessary and that might wind up cancelling the previous two posts.

Here’s why: we moderns tend to think that if something isn’t necessary then it isn’t really important and might not even be helpful. We Evangelicals happily point out that liturgy isn’t necessary and then often condemn liturgical churches while ignoring our own liturgies (Open in Prayer; Make announcements; sing three songs; introduce the speaker with a benediction; Prayer before speaking; the message; Close in Prayer). I’ve seen the same thing done to sports, movies, exercise, and voting.

And then, things that we want people to do, we underscore as “necessary” and add a guarantee to the thing (ie: note-taking is guaranteed to increase your love for the Lord). So here are 8 reasons why note-taking isn’t necessary.

Note-taking is not a guarantee to Spirituality. I don’t care how many notes you take; or how often you take them; or how big your digital files of notes are—none of them promise that you will grow in Christ.

Note-taking is not a guaranteed mark of maturity. I’ve been taking notes since I was in High School and the main reason then was to stay awake while someone was preaching.  Indeed, it is still a great way for me to stay awake. Think about that next time you see me clacking away on the keyboard during a service.

Note-taking is not the fast track for bearing fruit. Sure, note-taking might be a practice in discernment but that doesn’t make it the reward of discernment.

Note-taking can be distracting. You might distract yourself when you’re focusing on how you’re taking notes, and you might very well distract others who are near you: typing is sort of loud!

Note-taking has the danger of pride-inducement. Let’s be honest here: anything we do has the danger of pride-inducement. Preaching, teaching, writing on a blog, not-taking-notes, and taking notes. Moreso when you look around and see no one taking notes…

Note-taking can be a useless endeavor. The only good that might come out of it is if you die, someone else might get them and learn something. That being the case, we should try to do Something with our notes. Maybe start a blog. Or print them out and hand them to your local elders / pastors. Or (crazy talk) study them.

Note-taking won’t increase your love for the Lord. Oh it might help, but so would looking at a sunrise, or going on walks through the park, or visiting an art-show at the Museum, or listening to Mozart. No, note-taking isn’t an additive thing. As I said in my first post, it is closer to an expressive thing. I take copious outlined notes because I love God and what He has said in Scripture; others jot down notes because they love God and what He has said in Scripture; and yet others give rapt mental attention because they love God and what He has said in Scripture.

Note-taking isn’t for everybody. Yeah, there, I said it. Now I’ll have seventy-five percent of my readership (three of you) walk off agreeing that you don’t have to take notes. Go back a couple millenniums and you’d find a culture that was so deeply oral that listening was note-taking and examination would come later. Some people just can’t take notes and need to focus on smaller bits to the capacity of their mind (like kids). Others might draw the message after the fact and you realize that their brains were engaged. For most of us, I think that note-taking is the way to go. We do it with school, our jobs, and even our spouses before we go shopping—why exclude this helpful tool within the walls of the church? Even so, some people just can’t.

(Crossposted at The Bible Archive)

 

 

 

 

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NT Tuesday: Build Up One Another

Open Bible MarkLast week we looked at exhort one another. This week we will look at “building up of one another” or “edifying one another.” Romans 14:19 NASB reads “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (I had to “resort” to using the NASB because the ESV does not use the terms “one another” in its translation of this verse.)

The verse follows an exhortation by Paul to mature Christians to not allow their freedom to participate in certain liberties to be a stumbling block or a hindrance to other Christians as they walk with Jesus on the path that He leads them. Rather than causing “differences” to become an issue, Paul argues, we should spend time strengthening each other.

A similar thought is also found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 – For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

God, in His manifold and infinite wisdom, has designed the body of Christ to be knit together. Believers are not individuals running around on their own individual crusade or left alone to deal with their own issues, problems, challenges, or successes. Rather, our Father has designed a body where each member is joined together with each other and with Jesus Christ as our Head. He has designed this body so that each member is needed and vital. He has designed the body so that each member is necessary for the mutual upbuilding of the other members. In other words, we need each other. We need each other in our walk with the Lord, we need in other to be better equipped to use the gifts given to us, we need each other for encouragement, exhortation, prayer, confession, etc.

Because we need each other – and let’s think selfishly for the moment – the more we can positively impact one another, the better off we will be because the body, as a whole, will be in better shape. It’s sort of like the exhortation to husbands to love their wives like their own bodies. We can extrapolate that verse from marriage and apply it to body life – “believers edify the other members of the body as you want to be built up yourself.”

I want to make one more observation about Romans 14. Notice what Paul says. He says we are to “pursue the things which… edify one another”. That, to me, sounds like it needs to be purposeful, not random. In other words, we need to proactively and decidedly behave in such a way that it builds up the other members of the body. We need to structure our day, our week, our month around being edifying to other members of our body. That takes time, investment, sacrifice. But it would seem that it would be a wise investment and it seems that it would be pleasing to Jesus.

Until next week – fulfill your ministry and build one another up! Hey, why not invite them to the Shepherding Conference at Greenwood Hills later this week (shameful plug!!)

 

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Photo credit: CreationSwap/Krist Adams

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How To Take Notes

 

So with my previous post on the theological methodology for note-taking in mind, and as part of a textually minded culture, I think we should be taking notes—no matter the tool (computer, notepads, mp3 recorders, stenography). In this post I want to six goals for taking notes.

1. Note the verses used.

If the preacher is speaking on a specific text, note what that text is. If you’re recording an mp3, label it according to that text (if that helps) or put that information in the meta-data. If you’re taking notes highlight the main text (maybe in the heading, maybe in the color, or maybe even in the document name). If the preacher cites verses, write them down and tie why they’re being cited. Most of us will not remember these things but this process will help us examine the thought flow in the light of the text.

2. Note the main points.

If the speaker is emphasizing something, it is likely (though possibly not) important to the message: list it as a point. You might not want to spoil your mp3 recording with you whispering “important” at key points, but it might mean you jot down a time mark with the key point that is being made. Likewise here, you shouldn’t be inserting what you expect to be the main point. If it takes a while for the point to become clear, leave the heading blank and insert after the point is made.

3. Note point substantiation.

Usually (though admittedly, and sadly, not always) the speaker substantiates his or her points with either verses, or a logical argument, or an illustration, or an example. Take note of how that point is substantiated. Here you shouldn’t be running off and adding further [, that is, your own] substantiation. [We’re simply noting what logic or verses the speaker uses to substantiate the point; or if he assumes the point note the assumption. This is note-taking, not helping the preached message.] 

4. Summarize the general message.

Break down the entire message into a basic thrust or three. What was the important take home point? What did it teach about God? What was mandated of the listeners? Why was this all important. I usually do this close to the end of the meeting, after the concluding points and closing prayer while the whole thing is still fresh in my mind. For you it might mean doing it later.

5. Ask how it relates to the Gospel.

If the Scripture points to Christ and the Gospel, we should rightly ask what the preacher unveiled about the Gospel in a positive way (yes, the message clearly reflected Christ and God’s Gospel in this point here, there and the other) or negatively (no, the message laid on me a demand—something I had to do—when I know that I don’t have the power to do it. It preached “law”). If “no” was there ever a solution found in the Gospel or was it strictly demand and command?

6. Ask how it relates to the rest of Scripture.

Look up the text and the immediate context—does it support the speaker’s point? Read commentaries and equipped teachers—do the given translations match what is actual? Is it supported in the text (all of it) which preaches God’s Gospel? With so many tools on our e-Bibles I’ll offer a warning: don’t do this while the message is being preached!

Next I’ll answer if note-taking is necessary. Yikes!

(Crossposted at The Bible Archive)

 

 

 

 

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NT Tuesday: Exhort [encourage] One Another

Large crowd of peopleLast week I explained why I thought that the “one another” verses in the New Testament ought to be considered a New Testament principle. Simply put, principles should change our practice – it’s that simple. If we are going to adhere to New Testament principles, than our lives (not just our meetings, but our individual lives) ought to look much, much different than the world.

Last week we looked at “pray for one another” and “confess our sins to one another”. This week we will look at “exhort one another.” The verses are found in Hebrews 3:12-13 “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

A couple things are really interesting as you meditate on this verse. First, if we are going to exhort one another (or encourage, if you feel more comfortable with that word) every day (EVERY DAY!), that presupposes a close state of fellowship. How often do you go from Sunday to Wednesday and then Wednesday to Sunday never seeing or hearing from a member of the local Body? I hope the answer is NOT often. (Thankfully, and mostly because of my amazingly hospitable wife and the blessing of owning a business where I employ members of the local body, I NEVER go through a week without some form of fellowship with a member of the local body on a daily basis!) Now, one might ask “How does that happen?” And the answer is “Not by accident.” You have to plan on investing in the lives of the Lord’s people – through visitation, phone calls, text messages, emails, etc.

Secondly, we also see the necessity of this. Exhortation or encouragement from another believer is a spiritual vitamin! There is so much emphasis on taking care of our physical bodies that it seems that people are so busy juicing, training for races, dieting, fasting, etc. that they have no time for the Lord’s people! The Lord Jesus said to Peter “feed my sheep” and He wasn’t talking about organic grass, He was talking about feeding their spirit.

Ask yourself – today, have you spent more time ministering to your own physical body than you have to the Lord Jesus’s Body?

A person cannot encourage or exhort his fellow brothers and sisters without entering into close fellowship and without faithfully attending the meetings of the local assembly. Hebrews 10:24-25 provides a similar command as the one we are looking at in Hebrews 3.

We cannot live our lives in a bubble – we ought not to be isolated from a lost and dying world that needs to hear about God’s Gospel according to His Son, nor can we live separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are going to be obedient to the Word of God and truly encourage and exhort one another every day, then we must live purposefully, fixed on that goal, we must allow other Christians to exhort us, and stop blaming the elders for not doing the job – this proves that the New Testament principle of relating to one another is not an “elder” thing – it’s a believer thing.

Until next week – fulfill your ministry!

 

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Photo credit: Public Domain

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How To Think Theologically About Note-Taking

In the How to Study Your E-Bible series, I listed digital tools for note-taking with respective methods (recording mp3’s, outlines, ipads, etc). I mentioned that the process should be easy, accessible, and personal but in this first of three posts I wanted to highlight seven points of a theological methodology for note-taking.

One. Reject passivity with the preached Word of God. If we believe that God is speaking the text (notice my phrasing and check out my argument if you need convincing) or at the very least speaking through the text (a weaker claim though still valid enough for this point) then we would do more than just hear what is being said.

Two. Listen to the preached word as an expression of loving God (Luke 10:27). Now get this: the ancient Jews didn’t think the heart was the seat of emotions like we moderns do. So we read the text and think “ah, love the Lord with all of your feelings.” They thought the seat of emotions was the kidneys (or the bowels it reads in some places). The Heart was more like the seat of personhood—what we often mean by Mind. Likewise, what we moderns mean by soul is usually “My Immaterial Self” but the ancients saw Souls as “The living person”—more like the living body. God says “Love me with all of you!” Not just emotions. Volition. Strength. Body. Mind.

Three. Intentionally seek obedience opportunities (Acts 17:11). As the Bereans weighed what was said, so should we—but that shouldn’t be the end of the process. The Bereans were nobler not because they only researched to see if those things were true, but upon seeing them as true they acted on them by believing.

Four. Have more care with Scripture than the compiled message. The compiled message includes a whole mess of things that the preacher is relying on: style, humor, illustrations, etc. But these things are all within our realm of generating. God’s wisdom is above us (Isaiah 55:8-9; see also Job 28:12-28; Jeremiah 51:15-17) and against the Sinful Us (1 Corinthians 1): we must realize that he alone is wise (Rom 16:25-27) relying on the message over the messenger.

Five. Acknowledge the weight of the wisdom of God. By this I don’t mean listen to intangible inner feelings or urgings to authenticate the message; what I mean is that if Scripture is the Word of God, we must realize that they are the words on which we live—its potency, sufficiency and necessity is vital. The preacher up front is not vital (which is why I really don’t like when preachers say that God has laid this message on their hearts) but his Word definitely is.

Six. Give ear while trusting the Holy Spirit. By this, I still don’t mean some internal intuition, like a Spiritual Spidey Sense, that warns you of the mishandling of Scripture: the Holy Spirit isn’t the Force.  What I mean is that God speaks Scripture, and we must trust what He has said (and is saying) over against what an individual is saying no matter how flashy he or she says it. We might find this confirmed in church history or by Bible commentators as the Holy Spirit also worked in history illuminating people throughout Church History.

Seven. Plan to do hard thinking. Too often modern-day Christians make arguments for ignoring swaths of Scripture in favor of “meditating” on a three word subset of a verse. This is merely setting up our own imaginations as the final authority while using the Word of God as a springboard. It’s dangerous, foolish, and unabashedly childish. With this meditative/devotional approach we sacrifice the explicit teaching of Scripture with a thin veneer of something we call Spirituality but is merely modernity’s romanticism having sway—in other words, we’re enthroning emotions like the rest of the world and think we’re Spiritual Jedi’s while doing it. And unfortunately, this comes out with how we treat preached messages. We walk away with a take home bit that we “meditate” on and think we’re being spiritual.

Next I’ll look at how to take notes.

(Crossposted at The Bible Archive)

 

 

 

 

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An Assembly Website – How?

August 2012 Precious SEED Magazine CoverAs mentioned in a prior post one of my favorite publications is Precious SEED International magazine.

The most recent issue (August 2012 vol. 67 no. 3) arrived in my mailbox yesterday. Among the many excellent articles is one with much practical help regarding how an assembly can establish a effective website.

The advice is solid and concise — containing much wisdom in planning and then building an assembly website. The article also warns of several common pitfalls to avoid, such as: “Whilst getting ideas together during the planning phase will come relatively easily, the practical implications of delivering can prove to be problematic.”

If you have an interest in seeing your assembly establish an effective website (or you would like to see your assembly’s present website improved), I highly recommend reading the entire article, Creating An Assembly Website – How?

If you are interested in more information regarding Precious SEED Magazine and its history look here.

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NT Tuesday: The Importance of Corporate Prayer

Ocean Waves

In our continuing series on New Testament Principles, I’d like to take a look at the importance of prayer for the believer who wishes to be guided by New Testament principles. Specifically, I would like to consider the importance of the individual believer participating in corporate prayer.

In Acts, the church is said to have been continually devoting themselves to four functions. One of these functions is prayer. Again, I would like to point out the phrase “continually devoting themselves”. That’s a lofty characterization – does it describe our prayer life? Our assembly’s prayer life?

When we think of New Testament principles, many of us do NOT automatically think of prayer and yet, it was mentioned early on as an important activity of the church – an activity that was modeled after watching the Head of the Church, The Lord Jesus Christ, while He walked on the earth He had previously created.

Prayer is prevalent in the disciples of Jesus Christ (both pre-and post Pentecost). In Acts 1:16, the disciples are seen “in one accord… devoting themselves to prayer.” Those that were going to dedicate themselves to feeding the flock and teaching the Word, also were mindful of the importance of devoting themselves to prayer. So much so, that they chose Stephen and other men to serve at the tables so that they had more time to engage in this vital activity.

When Peter was imprisoned, the church devoted itself to making “earnest prayer” for him. Acts 12:5. Their earnest prayer was heard by a prayer-hearing God who answered their prayers and freed Peter! Peter showed up at the prayer meeting, much to their surprise. (How much better would it have been if they were standing at the front door waiting for him as a sign of faith that God would answer their prayer?!) Alas, their surprise at God’s answer to prayer seems to be a New Testament principle, as well. But it ought not to be! We pray to a prayer hearing, prayer answering, all powerful God. His power toward us!!!

When it was time to appoint elders, they did so “with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23). Paul also saw the necessity and the vitality of prayer. While travelling to and in Macedonia, Paul went to “the place of prayer” on the Sabbath Day.

In Paul’s epistle to Timothy, an epistle with the stated purpose of teaching Timothy how he ought to conduct himself in the household of God, Paul mentions prayer several times. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul says “First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all the people.” Note that it says “first of all.” As a means of emphasizing the importance of prayer – before he gets to anything else, Paul wants Timothy to know the importance of prayer. Paul also, in vs. 8 of that chapter, indicates that he desires that men everywhere would engage in praying!

Paul’s epistles are filled with prayers. The Lord Jesus’s life, while here on earth, was filled with prayer. Our lives – individually, but equally important – corporately – should be filled with prayer! It’s a New Testament principle!

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Titus 2:15b – Do Not Despise Those Who Serve God

 

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:15 ESV

This is the 24th video in a series of teaching videos on the book of Titus. You can find the first video here.

It takes courage to serve God and it takes maturity to respect those who do. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that someone is more gifted than I am or has been directed by the Lord to correct me. I need to accept that at times I need the Lord to use his servants to do this.

Titus was being told to take some tough action, now Paul says ‘don’t let anyone despise you”. It’s God’s work not ours – we must respect those he calls to serve.

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