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The Bible and Millennials

Greg Strand – October 24, 2014 2 Comments

Evangelicals affirm sola Scriptura and absoluta Scriptura, the Scriptures alone are the absolute authority, the norma normans, the norming norm, of everything we believe and profess/confess. We affirm this in our EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 2: “The Bible – We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”

To continue reading this article, which focuses on two contemporary approaches to the Scriptures – the Bible basher and the progressive Evangelical millennial, see the post on the reachstudents’ blog.

Look at the Book: Studying the Bible

Greg Strand – October 1, 2014 3 Comments

The Lord has used John Piper in significant ways, personally in my life, and in Evangelicalism more broadly. He has been a faithful minister of the Word for many years in the context of the local church. He exemplifies the pastor-theologian model well.

One of the ways the Lord used Piper in my life was through the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. I was privileged to attend one of the early Conferences with Sinclair Ferguson being the keynote speaker. This was the day when it was held in the small chapel in the old facility of Bethlehem Baptist. We filled up with chapel with about 75 people.

This Conference incrementally grew over the years so that they had thousands in attendance. Later they added the Desiring God Conference which focused more on the Christian life more broadly beyond pastoral ministry. This year marked the last Conference. Since Piper has retired from his pastoral ministry in the local church, he determined that he will give himself to a new and focused ministry in this next and last chapter of his life. It is, not surprisingly, a ministry of the Word.

This Conference was a transitional Conference, marking the last of the previous form and the first of this new ministry, Look at the Book. The Conference, held last week, was described in the following manner:

This will be the twelfth and final Desiring God National Conference, at least as we have known them. Unlike past conferences, John Piper will give five sessions himself. In two, he will unfold the biblical foundations for reading your Bible, and in the other three, he will model his method of inductive Bible study, taking Romans 8 — the greatest chapter in the Bible — as his text. After September, we’ll be reinventing our annual National Conference as regional Look at the Book events that focus on learning to read the Bible for yourself in different passages of Scripture. Look at the Book: Reading the Bible for Yourself – Romans 8

In his own words, Piper explains his excitement for and focus of this new ministry, which was written prior to the Conference.

This is not the launch of Look at the Book. It’s a preview. It’s a ten-minute demonstration of the kind of thing I will be doing at our National Conference this September, and then with several texts each week when we launch Look at the Book online this fall.

Some of you may recall from my legacy post that I feel an excited sense of calling for this next chapter of my life to take people with me into the kitchen. That is, the place where sermon-food is prepared. Presentation is one thing; preparation is another.

One of the differences between presentation (preaching) and preparation is that presentation is well-ordered, and preparation is messy. Banquet tables are clean. Kitchens are cluttered. My kitchen gets so messy that sometimes I can hardly find the ingredients. You’ll see what I mean.

But this is real. This is how I do it.

Without circling things, and underlining, and drawing lines, and making notes, and doodling in the margins, and making connections, and marking repetitions, I would be utterly adrift in a biblical text. My mind is a muddle until I make the muddle visible on paper, and then begin to sort it out with the pencil.

So if you ever feel muddle-headed about Bible passages, you might be encouraged to join me in the process of sorting things out.

Here are the links to the five messages given by Piper at last week’s Conference. The first and last also have manuscripts.

Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism

Free from Judgment, Fighting Sin, Full Assurance (Romans 8:1-8)

Groaning Creation, Groaning Saints, Groaning Spirit (Romans 8:9-25)

Predestination, Justification, No Separation (Romans 8:26-39)

Greatest Book, Greatest Chapter, Greatest Joy

Finally, the ongoing fruit of this new ministry was also released last week, immediately prior to the Conference. A number of videos of Piper going through the process of meditating on a text of Scripture were made available, the first installment of many more to come. Here is how Look at the Book is explained.

Look at the Book is a new online method of teaching the Bible. It’s an ongoing series of 8–12 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear John Piper’s voice and watch his pen underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes — all to help you learn to read God’s word for yourself. His goal is to help you not only see what he sees, but where he sees it and how he found it.

All of the teaching/modelling labs completed thus far have been posted (in order listed on the webpage):

Isaiah 48:9–11: For My Name’s Sake

Luke 12:32: Fear Not, Little Flock

Matthew 28:18–20: I Am with You Always

1 John 5:1–4: The Victory That Overcomes the World

2 Chronicles 16:8–9: The Eyes of the Lord

Romans 11:28–32: Our Disobedience and God’s Mercy

Lamentations 3:31–33: He Will Not Cast Off Forever

2 Peter 1:3–4: Precious and Great Promises

2 Timothy 3:14–17: Breathed Out By God

2 Corinthians 8:1–2: An Abundance of Joy

I plan to use these as a supplement to our family devotions.

The spiritual discipline of reading and meditating on the Scriptures is as old as God’s revelation. It has always been a common practice for the people of God. And yet, even good things can become common-place and the benefit and fruit of the discipline is lost. Paul exhorted Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:8). Though there is little to no spiritual growth without Spirit-empowered discipline, discipline can be for purposes other than godliness.

Thomas Cranmer noted this in the preface of The First Book of Common Prayer written in 1549. He writes of the importance of reading through the Bible annually, but also cautions against the good and godly discipline being misused or abused.

There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted: as, among other things, it may plainly appear by the common prayers in the Church, commonly called Divine Service: the first original and ground whereof, if a man would search out by the ancient fathers, he shall find, that the same was not ordained, but of a good purpose, and for a great advancement of godliness: For they so ordered the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over once in the year, intending thereby, that the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers of the congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation of God’s word) be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth. And further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) should continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.

But these many years passed, this godly and decent order of the ancient fathers hath been so altered, broken, and neglected, by planting in uncertain stories, Legends, Responds, Verses, vain repetitions, Commemorations, and Synodals, that commonly when any book of the Bible was begun, before three or four Chapters were read out, all the rest were unread.

Cranmer recommends this for “Clergy” and “Ministers of the congregation” so that they might be edified and nourished themselves, and that they might be better shepherds as they lead God’s people to graze on the Word and to guard against those who are against the truth. Additionally, it is also for the benefit of the people of God so that they will grow in their knowledge of God and become more passionate in their love of God, His truth and living the Christian life. In Cranmer’s words, pastors ought to “be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth. And further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) should continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.”

This is an excellent reminder to all Christians as they engage in the spiritual discipline of reading the Scriptures on a daily basis with the goal of reading through all of God’s Word annually. May we engage in Bible reading for the purpose of godliness.

Praying Scripture

Greg Strand – January 3, 2014 Leave a comment

When I served as a pastor in local church ministry, every January I preached on the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. Though these are not the only spiritual disciplines, they are two of the foundational God-ordained disciplines that are foundational for spiritual growth. It is true that any spiritual discipline can be undertaken for wrong reasons and with wrong motives. The solution to that is not to avoid the disciplines but to engage in them by the Spirit for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:8).

Yesterday I focused on the discipline of Bible reading, while today the emphasis is on prayer. One of the important things I learned when I was a seminary student at TEDS regarding prayer was the discipline of actually praying Scripture, praying the Word back to God. Furthermore, I also learned the importance of connecting as many of my prayer requests as possible to Scripture so that what I requested was formed and shaped by God and His Word, of learning to desire what God desired. These two emphases of praying have profoundly shaped how I think about and engage in prayer – communion with God the Father, through God the Son, by/in God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18).

Andy Naselli recently wrote a helpful article giving “12 Reasons You Should Pray Scripture,” which supports what I write above. I list below the reasons he gives for praying Scripture, while commending the whole article to you.

  1. You should pray Scripture because God’s people in the OT and NT did.

  2. You should pray Scripture because Jesus did.

  3. You should pray Scripture because it glorifies God the Father.

  4. You should pray Scripture because it helps you focus on what is most important.

  5. You should pray Scripture because it helps you focus on praying.

  6. You should pray Scripture because it is entirely truthful.

  7. You should pray Scripture because it helps you pray confidently.

  8. You should pray Scripture because it kindles your affections.

  9. You should pray Scripture because it helps you express yourself appropriately.

  10. You should pray Scripture because it keeps your prayers fresh and specific.

  11. You should pray Scripture because it keeps your prayers in scriptural proportion.

  12. You should pray Scripture because it helps you understand Scripture better.

A few questions of application:

  • What plan do you have in place to nourish your prayer life?
  • How are you intending to grow in prayer in this coming year?
  • What needs to change in your prayers such that they reflect the Scriptures?

Bible Reading Plans 2014

Greg Strand – January 2, 2014 5 Comments

With the beginning of each new year, I begin a Bible reading plan that guides my reading through the complete Bible in the course of the coming year. It has been an excellent discipline for me for many reasons, not least of which that this is one of the foundational spiritual disciplines of the Christian life.

Over the years, I have used Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan numerous times, along with D. A. Carson’s devotional commentary to accompany this reading plan, For the Love of God. This plan along with the devotional commentary has been extremely fruitful in my life. It has you read in four different places in the Bible, a couple of passages from the Old Testament and a couple of passages from the New Testament. It is a rigorous plan in that you read through the Old Testament one time, and the Psalms and the New Testament two times.

For those who are pursuing credentialing in the EFCA and needing to study and prepare for the writing and defense of the EFCA Statement of Faith, I have compiled a bibliography to aid in the process of discerning the best of books to read under each of the articles of the Statement of Faith. In this bibliography I begin with the important exhortation to read the Bible, and not just or only other works. There is one Book we ought to master, or more accurately, to be mastered by, so though we certainly read other good books, we give special attention to God’s Word, the Scriptures.

The most important discipline in which to engage is the faithful reading of the Bible.  I would encourage you to find a Bible reading plan that brings you through the Bible in one year, and then make the daily reading a part of your life.  A great guide that has been used profitably by many is Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading guide, which brings you through the Old Testament once, and the Psalms and the New Testament twice.  A great help in this regard are the two volumes written by D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Crossway).  One of the daily Bible readings from M’Cheyne’s guide is explained, and the reading is also placed in the context of the whole Bible.  (Carson is working on volumes 3 and 4, which will complete this excellent series. When this is finished, every chapter of the whole Bible will be commented upon canonically, theologically [both biblical and systematic] and devotionally.)

This past year I used and completed The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan, which I am using again this year. The Discipleship Journal Plan has you read four different texts of Scripture each day for 25 days each month, thus allowing for further study on some days or catch up on the reading, if necessary, and allows you to read through the whole Bible.

Remember, as those created in the image of God, we are verbivores, i.e. we live or die based on the Word of God (Matt. 4:4).

Here are some sites to consider as you ponder the Bible reading plan you will use this year.

Bible Reading Plans (Ligonier)

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 (Justin Taylor)

Reading (Crossway)

Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan (Navigators)

Bible Reading Plans