Book Review: The Parables of Jesus by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Parables of Jesus by John MacArthur
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Image taken from the book’s buy page on Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

The Parables of Jesus by John MacArthur looks at several parables of Christ and breaks them down.

It’s been a bit since I listened to this on Audible, so it’s hard to pick out details.

What I do remember is that MacArthur spent the beginning expressing the value of parables but cautioning that it isn’t the only form of teaching. It certainly wasn’t the only method Christ used, and when he started using them, there was a specific reason.

I think this was the biggest take away for me. The reason that’s so is that I own a MacArthur study Bible, so many of his comments and thoughts are already in the notes of the study Bible. That’s not to say that his detailed analysis full of historical context isn’t great; it’s my favorite part of any of his books. I simply value new information more than information I’ve already consumed.

I do think this would make a great companion piece to one reading the Gospels though. It’s like a study guide or Cliffs Notes for a few specific parables.

This is also a good book to read for someone who wants to focus specifically on the parables. Again, one shouldn’t only obsess on the parables, but a period of study devoted to them is beneficial for anyone.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2As is usual for books by MacArthur, I always enjoy the simple, literal approach  he takes.  Even in parables, he pays close attention to what each figure or subject represented.

My favorite might be the story of Lazarus and the rich man. He provides some interesting insight I found thought provoking. Reading MacArthur’s work is always motivating. I like Biblical books that challenge me to dig back into the Bible, and his books always do that.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur
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Image taken from book’s Goodreads page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur is another book in the vein of Twelve Ordinary Men.

This story talks about 12 heroes from the Bible, but they may not all be the heroes you’re thinking of.

This didn’t have the staying power or resonance that 12 Ordinary Men had on me, but it was nice to read. Most of the stories show how people pass from fear to faith, so people who are struggling with spiritual issues of courage would certainly benefit from reading it.

The book also does a great job of showing how it is God who equips men who can then serve Him to do His will.

I think what I liked most about this book was the insight it gave regarding God’s grace and patience when calling people to action. This book talks about a few judges (from the book of Judges), and each of them had moments of extreme doubt. Honest, humble prayer always yielded results. That is an encouraging thought.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2I don’t know if there are more books from MacArthur of this sort, but I still think Ordinary Heroes was the strongest of the batch. However, this book is still a nice look into characters of the Bible. It lets us study those characters and glean insights about how God works (or can work) in our lives.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Musings on Christianity 15

Musings on Christianity 15

Am I Saved?

For an embarrassingly long time, I felt that the mere fact that I sinned meant that I wasn’t saved. I had this idea in my head that the saved don’t sin, and that’s just not true (1 John 1:8). I lacked the Biblical knowledge to understand the relationship between Christ and the redeemed.

I’d encourage any to read John MacArthur’s Saved Without a Doubt. That book is a much deeper analysis for people who ask themselves this question. For the purpose of this work, I’m going to focus on issues I faced and realizations I’ve had.

I’ve been formally baptized at least three times. The first was because everyone I knew was baptized. It was the thing people did at church. The second time was (if I remember correctly) because I went to a different church. The third was when I finally understood what baptism represents.

Baptism is not the means by which one is saved. Here’s what should be the sad part. In my trials of faith and sanctification, I’ve had some sins that took a long time to turn from. If you can believe it, several, several, times I’ve gone into my own bathroom and baptized myself.

On one hand, I could say that this was extremely charming but completely unnecessary. You see, I mourned my sin. I hated it and the hold it had on me. I mistakenly thought each time, “This time will be the last.” 

On the other hand, I was just being silly. Nothing about what I did was Biblically sound. My heart may have been in a good place, but no amount of bathing was going to keep me from sinning.

It could have been the last time I committed whatever sin it was. Each time I faced temptation, I clearly remember ways the Lord provided me an escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). I imagined myself the rope in a tug of war between Christ and sin.

I think that idea is what gave sin power over me it never should have had. We are not ropes in a tug of war. If we have faith in Christ Jesus, if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

When we accept Christ as our savior, sin loses its hold on us. We become dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11).

But over and over again I tried to free myself with my own power. I was under this impression that I had to help Christ somehow. The brain-twister is the fact that that just isn’t how it works. Christ has overcome sin (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Each time I thought I’d do something, each time I tried to stand on my own, I fell, and I fell hard. But when I turned to Christ, when I gave myself to him, sin lost its hold on me. Not all sin, but one of the larger sins in my life that I felt particularly convicted of. For some, it might be lying. For others, it might be addiction. The sin is less important than the breaker of sin’s chains.

So, the circular reasoning then says, “But that means I shouldn’t ever sin again.”

Well, we shouldn’t, and we don’t have to. Sin has no dominion over us (Romans 6:14).

However, we’re still living in the flesh. Have you ever felt that all you tend to do is what you hate about yourself? Have you ever felt that all the good things you want to do, you never seem to do? This is the war that wages in your own mind (Romans 7:16-24).

This sort of turmoil can lead one to believe they are wretched and cast out, forsaken because you persist in the sin you mourn (Romans 7:24).

This is the salvation that Christ gives! His grace covers our sin and frees us from our iniquity. He gives us comfort when we mourn our sin (Matthew 5:4).

The trick is how sin is overcome because those who believe and long to follow his law and seek his righteousness will have it (Matthew 5:6). It is Christ who overcomes (1 John 5:4).

What I think happens is we forget this. We turn from Christ seeking to defeat temptation ourselves. We can’t. We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5).

All of these thoughts led me to a statement I still sometimes think to myself: “I wish the decision to do the right thing removed the temptation to do the wrong thing.”

For those of us who live in the flesh (which is everyone), temptation isn’t removed. In the resurrection, we’ll have perfect, sinless bodies, but only after that resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). 

In the meantime, stand strong, and we stand strong not by our own power, but in the power of Christ and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). Another book by MacArthur, Standing Strong, goes over this in great detail. I’m going to focus on the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

If I had only known about that one tool, if I had only sought to study that weapon, the only weapon we use against temptation, my struggle would have been much easier. You see, we don’t deny temptation by our power or our will. We’ll lose every time. And that’s the mistake I kept making. I made promises to myself (promises I never really intended to keep because they were only deals with myself).

Our Savior taught us how to use it, but I didn’t read the Bible until just a few years ago, so I was hopeless.

Just after He was baptized, the Spirit led Christ into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted by Satan himself. (Documented in Matthew 4.)

And so Satan attacked. Christ didn’t simply cast Satan out. Christ didn’t speak some new command or special phrase. He didn’t resist by simple refusal. What he did, was speak the Word. This is how one uses the Sword of the Spirit.

When Satan dared Christ, who hadn’t eaten in 40 days and nights, to turn rock into bread, Christ quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 (Matthew 4:4), using the Word of God the way an expert swordsman uses his sharpened blade. 

One would think that’s all there is to it. But just as someone can misinterpret the Bible, Satan can flat out manipulate it. Just look at what Satan does next:

He took Christ up to the top of the temple and quoted Psalm 91:11-12. If we don’t study, we can actually be more dangerous with the Word than if we didn’t read it, just as an untrained swordsman is especially dangerous to himself.   

Christ, however, an expert in the Word because He is the Word (John 1:14), knew how to counter that false use of the Bible. He countered that promise of Psalm 91 with a more important, and relevant verse, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16).” 


A third time he was tested, and again Christ went to the scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13-14.

This, my friends, is how we defend ourselves against temptation. We turn to the Word of God. My friends, if you believe and proclaim Christ, you are saved. If you mourn sin and yearn for righteousness, you will be comforted and satisfied. These things are guaranteed. If you stumble, you will be protected because once you belong to God, nothing, nothing, can take you from him (Romans 8:38-39). 

Your salvation is assured in Christ, so this means your question is how to withstand temptation. My question was how to resist. The answer is simple: Study the word. Read it. Read it the way you’d eat healthy to grow strong. Read it the way you’d exercise to be fit.

Then, when temptation comes, seek the word. This isn’t a thing I can do as readily as Christ. Sometimes I know a verse right away. Sometimes, I have to look up parts of the Bible until I find one that helps my heart, and even the process of searching the Word for help is help in itself, and the verse you find then becomes another pass of the whetstone to sharpen your sword.

Doing so will also give you assurance in your salvation. As you read and study, you’ll learn more about Christ, and what He does for you.

For our panel: What verses can we study to learn more about salvation? What are some great, basic verses someone very young in the faith can memorize to start with? What are some verses we can turn to if we stumble? Would any of you care to speak more in-depth about the other components of the Armor of God?

Book Review: Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur

Book Review: Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
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The cover for this book was taken from it’s Amazon buy page for review purposes. 

I picked up Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur mostly because of how much I enjoyed Twelve Ordinary Men.

This book gives insight into how God related with women in particular. He naturally discussed women like Ruth, Rahab, Mary (Jesus’s mother), Mary Magdalene, Eve, and Sarah.

I think Magdalene was of particular import. Leaving her out leaves a lot of women who saw their value in giving birth (Mary and Sarah to name the two I most readily recall).  Magdalene is a particularly interesting person in history for me. She wasn’t a famous mother. She was a redeemed woman who had a Christian love for Christ. Where a number of women trusted in God, hoping that he would bless them with a child (Heck, me and my wife are doing that right this moment. This isn’t a bad thing to want.) Magdalene had a unique role.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2The Samaritan woman was also discussed in this, and I found her chapter of particular interest as well.

I’ll honestly say this book didn’t have the same level of impact as Twelve Ordinary Men. I think the number twelve was taken because of the other study, but I was a bit worried that a theme would arise from this that MacArthur may not have intended. You’d expect Eve, Jesus’s mother and Sarah. I mentioned the Samaritan woman and Magdalene, and there are critical as well. Rahab makes sense to show how God can use a person’s sin for good and can even forgive those sins. (Rahab lied about knowing where Joshua’s spies were, which is a sin, but God used that to protect his people. He also forgave that sin and even blessed Rahab by including her in the lineage of both David and Christ.)  I guess my concern is that some may feel the emphasis on woman having children and finding husbands (in Ruth’s case), will cause interpretive issues  for someone unfamiliar with Dr. MacArthur’s work and (more importantly) scripture.

I still found it enlightening, and I still enjoyed it. Something I’ll add is that now that I’m simply reading MacArthur’s books because I find value in his theology and insight, I’m naturally not as drawn to these as previous ones. That’s not because these aren’t good or valuable books. Instead, I’m not reading to fill a need. I’m not reading to understand something I’m struggling with or learn about something I can’t quite figure out.  I’m just reading because I like it. That’s going to shade my opinion of these books in comparison others I’ve read. 

I’d recommend this book to women of faith who may be wondering more about how God choose to work in their lives.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul by John MacArthur
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The cover to this image was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

At the time I bought The Gospel According to Paul, I was particularly enamored by that apostle (he is called one though he was untimely born and isn’t one of the 12). I still love his epistles and his story; I only give that information to explain why I bought that book.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve read it (Sept. 7, 2018). I don’t honestly remember too much. I was perhaps being unfair because I wanted the same fulfillment I get from reading one of Paul’s epistles, and it’s pretty unfair to expect that. I do know that it covers some of the constants in Paul’s writings.

The Gospel belongs to God. I assume the clarification here has something to do with Paul’s use of “my gospel.” He does this the same way us Navy folks say “my ship” or “my command.” We’re taught in the Navy to take ownership. This is to build a person to care or defend things like they’re his own. MacArthur clears that up.

Then there is that thing Paul does so well, which is (and this is my paraphrase here) the summary of how and why we are saved. Faith over works. The death and resurrection of Christ is our sole hope for salvation.

I’m positive there was more, but this study just didn’t hold me the way others from MacArthur do. I could read 12 Ordinary Men 100 times and still be satisfied. Perhaps part of the reason this story doesn’t resonate with me is I’d studied Paul’s works a lot before reading it, so the material just wasn’t particularly enlightening. Please know that I don’t mean this to imply I know everything about Paul and the Gospel. That’s not my intent at all. What I mean is that I was pretty familiar with the terms and concepts MacArthur covered, so I didn’t get that really cool jolt a person gets when particularly difficult passages or concepts finally click.

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Image of Dr. MacArthur taken from his web site for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I’d recommend this to anyone not familiar with the Biblical explanation of salvation. This would also be particularly interesting if you’re curious about Paul, but another reason this didn’t meet my expectations is that I truly wanted to study the man  more. If anyone is aware of a good, historically-based, biography on Paul is, I’d be interested in reading it.

None of this is a nock on the book or MacArthur. I just had to note what I thought it was (a biography of Paul with narratives that demonstrate his representation of the Gospel) with what it actually was (a simple study of how Paul taught the Gospel.)

It’s still an interesting story and a great addition to MacArthur’s bibliography.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

Book Review: Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Controversial Issues by John MacArthur is a book that offers Biblical perspective on a great number of issues. It was compiled by MacArthur and the leadership team at Grace Community Church, according to the book’s Goodreads page. I read this because I truly desire to have a Biblical mindset in all I do.

This book was honestly hard to read. This has nothing to do with grammar or structure. It’s hard to read in some places because of the blunt nature of the story. It doesn’t belittle or demean in any way (at least not from my perspective), but it doesn’t leave any room for doubt on what the Bible says about a great number of things.

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Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

I honestly intend to read this again not that I’ve had some time to do more Bible study and prayer. There’s a natural instinct people have when they hear any religious leader speak on what might be earthly sensitivities. Some of the information on this book challenged me. 

To be clear, while I have a great amount of respect for Dr. MacArthur, his books are not a replacement for Scripture or doctrine.  I don’t think he’d ever want them to be. As hard as it may have been to face some of the subjects this book covered, I think any person should at the very least search his or her own heart and question the motives for their beliefs. I’d take it one step further and say that I’d like to read this book and then reference the associated (or attributed) Scripture for further understanding.

I find myself bucking at some of the stances, but that might be a result of the hardness that’s in my heart. Some of these stances are ones with which I agree fully, but that might only be out of self validation.  I feel another read-through with intense study on the associated Scripture is the best way to seek truth.

This book isn’t for people who are only curious or passingly interested in Christianity. A stance this strong on issues this hotly contested is a mirror that challenged my reflection. My perspective is that faith is something people grow in. I’m in a different place in my walk than others. The problem is, this is an argument commonly given by self-proclaimed believers who say words but don’t grow in the faith and aren’t becoming more sanctified.

As I type this, I think about the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23). Hardened hearts aren’t going read this story and find anything but frustration. Hearts enamored by the things of this world will be choked off from any wisdom one might glean from these words.

Truthfully, the only singular authority in the Bible is God. Men study it to learn His meaning for His word. A book like this for me forces a person to seek that Word and let it change his heart for the better.

What I know this book does is provide information, a stance, and a Biblical platform to guide these. I don’t have any metrics, but I would hypothesize this book has to be among Dr. MacArthur’s most contested. The truth is in the Bible, and I hope to reflect on those passages and pray on their wisdom.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur

(NOTE: Why two MacArthur books in a row? It was just next on the list. You can go to my Goodreads page to see what’s coming up. I’m honestly happy to have quite a back-log of reviews coming, but (outside of special circumstances) I read books in the order I have them on my TBR (my Christian books are read based on when I finish the previous book) and I review them in the same order they appear on my “Read” bookshelf.

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The cover for this book was taken form its Amazon page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur was a book I chose because I’m heavily invested in leadership.  As a Sailor, I truly wanted to see others succeed. As an instructor, I wanted it all the more. Great leaders are honestly rare. I’m not laying claim to that title because leaders are proven worthy by the growth and development of those they lead. I have seen some amazing leaders, and I’ve seen people I didn’t think were effective leaders at all. This book gave me the chance to look at leadership through a biblical perspective.

After reading Twelve Ordinary Men (TOM) and the Bible as a whole, I was a bit surprised at the passages MacArthur chose to look at. I expected Jesus or maybe Peter. Instead, MacArthur looks at two passages featuring Paul.  I don’t know MacArthur personally, but if I had to guess, I’d assume he did this because through TOM we already saw Christ’s leadership and Peter’s natural leadership traits. Paul was the new area to investigates.

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Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

I can’t exactly remember how many leadership traits MacArthur covers (which means perhaps it’s time to read this again), but I know he covers them in numerical order. A lot of the traits he discusses are accompanied by Biblical examples of how Paul demonstrated those traits, which I found helpful.

A number of the traits he covers are traits I had already sought out. Some surprised me (though again, it’s been so long I can’t recall them).  But the valuable part of this book was establishing good leadership traits and observing them applied through the Apostle Paul. The memory that sticks out for me the most was how Paul handles what most would consider their “I told you so,” moment. This is a moment I’ve been guilty of several times  in my life.

If I were still enlisted, I’d give a copy of this book to any of my Sailors who became petty officers. I’d also give copies to chiefs.  It’s just full of applicable, actionable guidance for people who want to be leaders.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: Anxious For Nothing by John MacArthur

Book Review: Anxious For Nothing by John MacArthur
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Image of the book’s cover was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. 

I have been, and feel I will always be, a man of ambition. I’m constantly after something. I’m task and goal oriented. The bulk of my earthly motivations are built around a specific and (usually) measurable goal.

There are a lot of advantages to this. I consider myself reliable. People tend to come to me for results, and I would like to think I deliver. My drive has helped me to publish the books I’ve published and be recognized at work.

But that drive wears on not just me, but those around me. I say again, I’ll always be a man of ambition, but I don’t want my ambition to cause more selfishness than I already tend to demonstrate. I don’t want my ambition to push those I love away or blind me to things that I already have.

Those are the reasons I choose to read Anxious for Nothing as my next book by John MacArthur. Reading this has given me a new perspective on how to separate drive from stress. I’m still growing in this, but having a biblical perspective on life has already dramatically reduced my number of rants. I’m certain I used to have a daily average. Not only is this frame of mind sinful, it’s also just exhausting. I’d be mad at a coworker. I’d be annoyed at one of my friends. I’d be frustrated over my sales. All of these things are self centered. This book is essentially a blunt reminder that we trust God to provide for us. For one (such as myself) who seeks to move and do, that action can become sinful (and unhealthy) if it leads to stress and resentment.

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Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

This book points out that fact, and it provides biblical reasoning for why that thinking is unnecessary. It’s hard for me to do, but the more I let go of my own pride, the more I find things working out. I don’t currently further endorse the phrase “let go, and let God.” My problem isn’t with the literal words, but the connotation they might have. If I just sit in my chair without eating or drinking, I’m going to eventually starve to death.

So rather than detract from MacArthur’s valuable insight, I choose to focus on a single verse:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

The more I focus on that, the more I find my other efforts bearing fruit. MacArthur’s book is an arrow pointing to a frame of mind that can truly bring peace to anyone working with stress or frustration. I’d recommend it to anyone, but it’s probably best suited for believers who may be feeling overwhelmed or stressed about their daily life.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: 12 Ordinary Men by John MacArthur

Book Review: 12 Ordinary Men by John MacArthur
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Image taken from Amazon for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

12 Ordinary Men by John MacArthur is a book that looks at the original 12 Apostles. I’ve already read this book twice, and I intend to read it again at some point.

What this book does is help the reader see just how human the Apostles were. They were chosen by God, and developed into the foundations of the Christian church, but they were just men. Not only that, they weren’t from a high station.

I appreciated the person-by-person structure of the book. I was honestly most impressed with Andrew, Peter’s younger brother. Why? Because all Andrew did was introduce people to Jesus.  While I wish I had more in common with Andrew, I see more of myself in Peter and John.

Like them, I’m aggressive. I’m task oriented. I’m driven. I have ambition. I value truth over most things. These aren’t inherently sinful traits, but they can lead one to stumble if no one is there to temper those traits into positive leadership.

I’m comforted in that while I see that I need to develop certain skills and bring back others, they are traits that could be useful to my Savior if I seek to serve Him more.

If any are wondering, this book even takes a look at Judas. It’s as comprehensive as it can be. It uses some church history writings to fill in some gaps, but the primary source of reference for the information is, of course, the Bible.

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This image taken from MacArthur’s web site for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

I’d recommend this book to any people in leadership. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to see personal growth. Seeing a detailed character study allowed me to see parts of myself and truly contemplate how I’m acting. This is probably my favorite book by MacArthur to date.

By looking at how Jesus developed his Apostles, we also get a unique view of Him, and that’s always a plus.

I’m honestly a big fan of this particular book. Any Christian looking to evaluate their walk with Christ would do well to read this.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur

Book Review: How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur

(NOTE: As with last week, please don’t worry about the For a Few Credits More review. I simply review things in the order that I finished them, and this was next on the list.  It looks like I’ll review the next story in that anthology in next week.)

Bible studyAfter I finished reading the Bible all the way through, I was happy I’d done it, and I truly felt better, but I didn’t feel wiser. Anyone who just sits and reads the Bible is doing a great thing in any area of study, reading, or literature, but I wanted to understand it.  This is where How to Study the Bible by  John MacArthur comes in.

MacArthur establishes a few prerequisite for the study of the Bible. I understand them in one context, but I’d still challenge anyone to read the Bible all the way through and not be changed by it.  Detractors might say that anyone who reads anything with an affirming mindset will only become more convinced, and those people are correct. I leave these choices to the individual.  If you are saved and open to the Holy Spirit, I do believe you will find more value. I just also feel that anyone who does the same thing I did, read it and see what you learn and feel, will be positively impacted by it.

MacArthur provides a few key aspects that boil down to a concept called hermeneutics, which is the interpretation of the Bible. It’s not what people think. It’s a way to understand the context, language, and syntax used when the Bible was written.  Understanding the audience and the purpose of the information is key to having a greater concept. Reading the Bible isn’t about looking for affirmation to one’s thoughts; it’s about reading the Bible to better understand what it says. Where most people get frustrated with people who carelessly through scripture around, I’d advise others to go to the source interpret what it says rather than look for evidence to what you think.

The basic mechanics of study involves the approach to reading and making sure one understands the aforementioned hermeneutics.  From there, it’s reading with a purpose.

I’m currently trying this.  As early as I can in my day, I read my New Testament section.  I started in Romans because it’s my second favorite book in the Bible. I read it (the whole thing) once a day for thirty days. (I’d say it took about 45 minutes a day.)  One twist I added (because I find making a thing your own increases effectiveness of learning) is I started tracking what Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) Romans connected or cross-referenced with most.  I’m doing this with the John MacArthur English Standard Version Study Bible.  So in the notes, each time I saw a Gospel mentioned, I made a mark.  I did this both in the Bible and on a note pad I kept around.  If you’re curious, Matthew was mentioned more than 16 times (That’s just what I have on my notepad and doesn’t include the totals from the marks I made on the book). Mark was mentioned more than twice. Luke was mentioned more than seven times, and John was referenced more than 19 times. Again, these are just the numbers I have right in front of me.

I also took notes. I tracked words or phrases that come up a bunch of times, just to see if I could identify themes. Matthew won the overall count, so I broke that book of the Bible into chunks of seven. I read Matthew 1-7, and I just finished Matthew 8-14.  As I type this, I’ve just read Matthew 15-21 for the first of 30 times. That’s how this book recommends going through the New Testament. That might be a bit more than I can chew, but I’m torn between wanting to dedicate the time I read and the amount I read with how intently I can read it. I have pages of notes on Romans, and not so much on Matthew. I am reading it, and a lot is sticking. I also find the Epistles a bit easier as they’re clear messages rather than narratives as the Gospels are. Still, I read what I committed to reading and try to hold on to what I read (The repetition of 30 times helps).

The end of the night is for my Old Testament reading. That’s just starting at Genesis 1:1 and working through it. I read about a chapter a day there.

What I’ve discovered is pretty cool.  Doing this, I see a the connections. Many argue the Old and New Testaments conflict.  There’s a reason for that. Jesus came to further explain and uphold the law (Matthew 5:17-20). One thing Jesus did was com and separate a legalistic, ceremonial sense of justification from the real source of salvation (his death on the cross and resurrection).  But we see other things. As I read about Rahab, I found Matthew 1:1, and realized, “Hey! That’s the same woman from the Old Testament!” Those connections are simply astounding. And, the conflicts are resolved when one has the context for it.

I guess I’m going to digress here because this was a major sticking point in my growth with Christ. The Pharisees and Sadducees had started to rely on the Law and ceremony. They’d become hypocritical.  Jesus quotes the Old Testament at least once a chapter. The Law is still the Law, but through Christ we have Grace. Through the Law, we are condemned. We need the law to understand how impossible our salvation is on our own.

Christ helped us better understand the law and how we are to act individually and with each other. (The sermon on the mount is pretty much all about that. Matthew Chapter 5-7.)

Reading the Old with the New makes it easier to understand the context of the law and appreciate the grace God gave us through his son Jesus Christ.

I have a few other plans regarding how I’ll read and study the Bible. My intent is to read it again and again. The trick is, I want to look at it in every way I can, seeking to understand what it says more than evaluate how I feel about it or what it means to me. This is something people do too often. First, Word of God is our Sword of the Spirit. We use it to fight temptation and stand strong. In terms of apologetics,

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we use it to understand context. I’m wary of those who use it to attack a brother. I have a plank in my eye, I don’t have time to look for the speck in my brother’s eye (Matthew

7:3-5).

I’m not saying any time someone quotes scripture at you, they’re being a hypocrite. But the spirit of why one is doing something matters.

I’m thrilled with this book and the approach it offers. If you’ve read the Bible, and it doesn’t make a ton of sense, I wouldn’t stop there and say, “It’s not real.”  First off, the Bible isn’t like a story to read (It can be, but that’s the lowest use of it).  It’s a manual. It’s a reference book. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a single text book I’ve read once through and considered myself a master at the subject.  But to study anything effectively, one needs a study approach, and this one is really giving me more insight.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt