6 Ways Bible Reading Enhances Your Church Experience

Regular Bible reading is crucial in the life of the believer. We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Though there are many ways Bible reading benefits the Christian, here are six ways it will enhance corporate worship.

1. It will Combat Dryness

A loss of appetite is a sign of illness, not health, and daily Bible reading can cause the dryness that you sometimes experience in church to dissipate. As you feed on the word throughout the week, you will grow stronger and hunger for more of it, which means you will go to church with a heart prepared to worship. This also has a positive effect on every other point listed below.

2. It will Enhance the Sermon

When your pastor reads the scripture, you will be familiar with the context of the passage and understand where it fits in the overarching story of redemption. Having a bigger picture of what is being proclaimed, keeps you from missing the main point of the passage, even if it is not explicitly stated.

3. It will Enhance the Worship Music

You will recognize many of the passages of scriptures alluded to in the music, which will enrich the truths they are communicating. You will also be mindful of the role and importance of music throughout Scripture. You may even find yourself singing a song of ascent on your way to church.

4. A Greater Ability to Minister to Others

Since God often brings recently read scripture to mind, you will be better able to contribute to discussions and the edification of others. In times of fellowship, you will be able to apply the scripture to people’s lives as they talk about their daily joys and struggles.

5. A Greater Sense of Community

Scripture has a way of breaking through the masks we try to wear. It will reveal the fight of faith that is taking place within you and produce contrition. Understanding your struggles with sin brings about compassion and gives you greater patience and understanding of others struggling with sin and living in a fallen world.

6. Greater Communion with Your Savior

Since the word prompts you to prayer and setting your mind on things above, you will have greater communion with your Savior as you spend time in the house of the Lord, and in the end, this is what it is all about.

This list is designed to let people know a few of the ways daily Bible reading will enhance the corporate worship in Bible teaching churches. If you attend a church that neglects the Bible, and pop psychology is the main course, attending those types of churches while engaged in daily Bible reading will frustrate you. This frustration happens because you will find that motivational “preaching” neglects the central themes that run throughout Scripture and replaces theology with therapy and redemption with a self-help regimen. Of course, even that frustration is a good thing.

D. Eaton

Four Ways Incense Typifies Prayer

Old Covenant Altar of Incense
May my prayer be set before you like incense. – Psalm 141:2

All throughout the Old Testament we see incense playing an important role in the way God prescribed that the people should worship Him.  There was even an altar of incense in the Holy Place.  As we look at this, it is important to remember the ceremonies of the old covenant were pictures and shadows of what Christ would accomplish in His atoning work on the cross, and incense is part of that picture. Ultimately, incense is a picture of the sacrifice of Christ which is the sweet aroma that goes before the Father on our behalf, but in another sense, incense also typifies prayer.

John Owen in his commentary on Hebrews lays out four ways incense is like prayer.

1. Incense was beaten and pounded before it was used.  Likewise acceptable prayer proceeds from a broken and contrite heart. 

Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  Elsewhere we are told that God “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  In order for our prayers to be as incense we must be broken enough to be aware that we are poor in spirit, knowing that our sinfulness has separated us from God, and that only through Christ our mediator do we have peace with Him.  If we approach God in any other way we are like the tax collector leaning on our own righteousness, and he went away unjustified.

2. Incense rises toward heaven, and the point of prayer is that it ascends to the throne of God.

One of the major points made in the book of Hebrews is that Christ is exalted and sitting at the right hand of the Father.   Yet we are encouraged to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence.  When we pray, we are doing that very thing.  We are bringing our praises and petitions to the throne of God.  In doing this we need to remember three things.  First, we are approaching a throne, and we need to approach it with reverence and not flippancy.  Second, we need to remember that it is a throne of grace in the sense that we have no merit there.  We make our petitions without making demands.  Third, we need to remember that it is a throne of grace in a different sense.  Though we have no merit there, we still find favor because of the merit of Christ and His righteousness.  So for our prayers to be as incense, we need to be aware of the great heights they are reaching when we commune with the exalted Christ.

3.  Incense requires fire for it to be useful, and prayer has no virtue unless is set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit.

By this we are not referring to some mystical experience.  The very fact that a believer desires to go to the Lord in prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit.  The natural man desires to be independent and self-sufficient.  Prayer is not his natural disposition.  Most prayer will never take place apart from the Spirit’s work.  The only prayer that would take place without Him would be prayer that is not in accord with the Word of God: for example, prayers to false gods, and ritualistic prayers by those who believe they will be heard because of mere formality.  We must pray in accordance with the Word of God.  When this happens it is because the Spirit is moving.

4.   Incense yields a sweet aroma, and our prayers are a sweet aroma to the Lord.  

This seems to be at the heart of the cry of the Psalmist.  “May my prayer be as incense,” means, may it be a sweet aroma to you.  In Revelation 8:4 we see that the smoke of incense rose with the prayers of the saints.  This seems to signify that there is a sweet fragrance associated with our prayers, and the sweet fragrance is due to the fact that we approach the Lord in Christ’s name.  This teaches us that our prayers are pleasing to the Lord, and the very fact that we can bring pleasure to God is something that should cause us to drop to our knees with joy.

As you spend time with the Lord in prayer this week, may you approach him with a broken and contrite heart, may you be reverent and hopeful as you understand the exalted nature of the One with whom you commune, may your prayers be set on set on fire by the Holy Spirit, and may you approach Him with joy knowing that your prayers bring him pleasure.  In so doing, your prayers will be as incense before the Lord.

D. Eaton

Trusting God With Your Greatest Fears

And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. – Genesis 43:14

Jacob had lost Joseph, or so he thought he had, and he was terrified of losing Benjamin as well.  So much so that we are told his whole life was bound up in Benjamin. If Benjamin were to die Jacob believed he would not survive either.

Even after years of being a man of great faith, fear still found a way to grip Jacob, and now a famine had hit the land. The only way the family was going to survive was if Benjamin would to go to Egypt to appease the man who had spoken harshly to Jacob’s other sons. Jacob’s hand was forced: send him or the entire family starves. The prospect of doing this terrified him.

It is at this point we see Jacob’s faith conquer the fear of losing Benjamin.  When Jacob says, “If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved,” it is as if he looked his greatest fear in the face and declared, “even if Benjamin, and possibly the other sons are taken away by this man in Egypt, God can still be trusted.” He seemed to realize that God’s ways are higher than his, and what He does is always good.

One of the great things about being a Christian, whose primary goal is to see God glorified, is that we know God can be glorified in times of both ease or pain. In fact, His glory is often more clearly seen in our times of struggle and frailty than when we think we are strong. What looks like failure can be the Lord’s hand guiding us to fulfill the desire of our heart: to see His name hallowed. Knowing this Jacob could resign to the fact that God could be trusted no matter what was to come.

It is interesting how anxiety can often be worse when the danger is not even present, yet when trouble actually comes, the Lord gives us the strength we need. Some have said that anxiety is fear looking for a cause. It swims around within us doing its work of pointing out all the possibilities of danger, then when it finds something that causes us to tremble, rational or not, it sinks its teeth in and won’t let go.

What is it that gives you the greatest fear? Is it illness, financial problems, loss of a loved one, or even something like loneliness? Maybe it is time to look at it directly in the face and say, “even it it all comes true it cannot touch my life, because my life is hidden in Christ.” Nothing in life or death can separate me from His love.

In the end, Jacob feared the man in Egypt, but the man in Egypt turned out to be Joseph, his son, who was seeking to bless him. Likewise, as believers, the troubles we fear can only touch us if the Lord allows them, and if He does so, it is only for a greater purpose. It is not until we understand that God is sovereign, and that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him, that we can look at our greatest fear and say, “come what may, God can be trusted.”  It is at that moment, when your faith in God wins the battle over fear, that you will find a peace that passes all understanding.

D. Eaton

Strength for the Weary

As I sat there I could feel my body trembling. It was as if it was having trouble supporting its own weight. I wondered if it would ever end. I knew I had felt like this many times before, and He always brought me through. The problem is the weakness of my body also has the tendency to bring down my spirits as well. I even felt the failures of my past as if they were fresh. I wondered where this was leading. What was the purpose of it all? My soul was starving, and I was desperately looking for something to give it strength.

As I sat there I was surrounded by people who had no idea how I was feeling. What they saw was a man in business attire who had just come from a day of work, and he had a smile on his face. What they didn’t know was that smile was forced, which can be both a bother and a blessing.

Then it happened, one of the people I was supposed to be leading read a passage of scripture, and six words burned in my ears. “He gives strength to the weary.” At that moment the Spirit illuminated that truth in my soul.  Even with my body still struggling to find its strength, my heart was lifted up with hope and comfort.  “He gives strength to the weary,” and I was weary: I qualified. The amazing thing is that the way He chose to do it was by simply reminding me of this truth in His word. It took no special mending of my body, nor did I need to be propped up with the things of this world.  He did it all with the power of His word. It is true, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” My soul was starving and it had found its nourishment.

I don’t know where you are, but if you are child of God through faith and you find yourself weary, worn, and ready to give up, I want to remind you that He gives strength to the weary. My prayer is that He is doing it right now: that He is using this devotion to infuse you with faith and fortitude.  Know this, one day you will look back on this situation, whether in this life or on the beautiful shores of eternity, and you will say, “He pulled me through. He gave me the strength I needed.” The One in whom you trust does not faint or grow weary, and His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. – Isaiah 40:29

D. Eaton