I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. -Psalm 119:15
The habit of laying up a text of Scripture in the morning, to be meditated upon while engaged in the business of this world through the day, is both profitable and delightful. It is as a refreshing draught to a weary traveler!
Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living, than the habit of getting a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day’s thoughts and words and experiences.
Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live, and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.
A devotional book which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning, that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough, is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives, is the application of the great teachings of Scripture to common, daily, practical life.
Here is the latest video class I taught through the Gospel Project. In this lesson, we look at Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. We will look at why the people loved the teaching initially and why they wanted to kill him a few minutes later.
We will also seek to understand a couple key phrases. -“Physician, heal yourself.” -Luke 4:23 -“No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” -Luke 4:24
Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!
2. Study Scripture Deeply
Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different; parts, casts great light upon itself.—We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.
3. Study Scripture with Help
Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.
4. Study Scripture with Others
Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other’s knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.
5. Study Scripture for Spiritual Growth
Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.—If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. ” Knowledge puffeth up.”
6. Study Scripture with Humility and Prayer
Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, James i. 5. ” If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6 “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. ” If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”
7. Study Scripture by Practicing What You Know
Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. ” I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
We first looked at J.I. Packers description of the Restless Experientialists. Now we move on to the entrenched intellectualist. May we avoid both extremes.
“Think now of the entrenched intellectualists in the evangelical world: a second familiar breed, though not as common as the previous type. Some of them seem to be victims of an insecure temperament and inferiority feelings, others to be reacting out of pride or pain against the zaniness of experientialism as they perceived it, but whatever the source of their syndrome the behavior-pattern in which they express it is distinctive and characteristic. Constantly they present themselves as rigid, argumentative, critical Christians, champions of God’s truth for whom orthodoxy is all. Upholding and defending their own view of that truth. Whether Calvinist or Arminian, dispensational or Pentecostal, national church reformist or Free Church separatist, or whatever it might be, is their leading interest, and they invest themselves unstintingly in this task. There is little warmth about them; relationally they are remote; experiences do not mean much to them; winning the battle for mental correctness is their one great purpose. They see, truly enough, that in our anti-rational, feeling-oriented, instant-gratification culture conceptual knowledge of divine things is undervalued, and they seek with passion to right the balance at this point. They understand the priority of the intellect well; the trouble is that intellectualism, expressing itself in endless campaigns for their own brand of right thinking, is almost if not quite all that they can offer, for it is almost if not quite all they have.”
Out of the 60 books I read this year, eight were given five-star ratings. Here are my favorites regardless of the genre and in no particular order.
The Autobiography of Spurgeon – Vol. 1 – Charles Spurgeon
This book is significant in length and full of thoughts of a man filled with the Spirit of God. Not only will you learn more about his story, but it will be delivered to you in a way that exalts the living God. If you are one to underline or make notes in your books, be sure to have a pen ready because this book is full of great spurgeonisms.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi
I pick up this book because I was moved by hearing of Nabeel’s untimely death near the end of 2017, and I am so glad I did. Not only will you be moved by a beautiful true story of conversion, but, along the way, you will also pick up several apologetic arguments delivered in an accessible and engaging way. As a fellow Christian, I was given a glimpse into the heart of my brother in Christ as the Lord patiently called him to himself over the course of several years. I highly recommend this book.
The Letters of John – Colin Kruse
Ligonier lists this book as their number one commentary on the letters of John, and I can see why. Even if you don’t agree where he lands on every issue, Kruse’s clarity and precision are unmatched. This commentary is perfect for anyone who will be teaching through the letters or simply studying alone at home.
The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen – Sinclair Ferguson
I picked up this book because I wanted to learn a little more about a man of faith I admire, and I ended up being ministered to. Sinclair Ferguson presents some of the biblical truths that centered John Owens life in such a way that it had me rejoicing in those truths as well. It is a short and easy read, and you won’t be disappointed.
Voices from the Past – Richard Rushing
A little over a year ago I received Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, as a gift, and what a gift it was. This devotion is a collection of writings from great Christian writers like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and Thomas Watson et. al. If you are looking for substance in your daily reading, this is the book for you. Rarely will a day go by where you are not given something that spurs you on in godliness. It will comfort you where you need to be comforted, and it will convict you where you need to be convicted.
The Gospel Come With A Housekey – Rosaria Butterfield
What an encouraging book this is. I enjoyed this book more than her autobiography, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In this book you will be challenged to put your gospel love into practice by opening yourself and home in a way that focuses more on the people present than the usual way it is done, being more attentive to our homes than the people to whom we are ministering. This book will challenge you.
The Diary of David Brainerd – David Brainerd
This is not a book to read quickly. I read it over the course of a year. Since these journal entries, some sections will start to seem repetitive if you try to read it in a short time, but if you read it over a more extended period, you will be able to marinate in the mindset of this godly man. You will be reminded daily that we are part of something much bigger and we should be redeeming the time.
The Four Disciplines of Execution – Chris McChesney and Sean Covey
I tend to read several business books a year in the desire to be better at my job. However, few of them end up making it to the top of my list. This is one of the few. If you are responsible for leading a team to accomplish big things, this book will help you get it done.
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter – Liz Wiseman
This morning I had the privilege of preaching at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. The title of the sermon was “Looking on Things Unseen.” The focus of the message was on the importance of being spiritually minded.
The sermon has four main parts.
Why This Sermon? – It is here that I tell a little about a recent experience and why I believe this sermon was needed.
What Does it Mean to be Spiritually-Minded? – Here we look at the topic scripturally and lay out a few definitions and thoughts about the topic.
Are We Spiritually-Minded? This is the self-examination. We put ourselves to four tests to see if we are truly looking on things unseen.
Final Instructions – This is the shortest of the sections, and we quickly cover a list of 10 things we need to remember to be spiritually-minded.
You can download the sermon here, or you can listen to the audio through the Youtube video below.
So Saul died for his breach of faith. – 1 Chronicles 10:13
These are sobering words. A man who was anointed as king by the Holy Spirit did not follow the ways of the Lord and died because of it. We must be careful, for our enemy is seeking whom he may devour.
Are we vigilant in the things of God, paying attention to the snares around us? Too often we are not as diligent as we should be. We expose ourselves to many dangers, and there are genuine and dire consequences that can come from it. Take heed lest you fall.
Lord, You are our only hope: our Strength, our Shield, our Rock, and most importantly our Righteousness. Keep us when we cannot keep ourselves. Protect us when we are blind to the dangers that surround us, and especially those that we see not see, yet, in our sinfulness, are still drawn to them.
Father, be glorified in us today in the work we have to do, in our family lives and relationships, and in our ministry to others. For you are worthy. We love you, Jesus.
I am currently teaching a course through 1 John. This is the fourth lesson in the series. In it, we take a look at the command to love one another and consider C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves to prime the pump and get us thinking about the depth of this command.
All of the lessons in this series can be found here. New lessons will be uploaded weekly through April.
It is not wrong for you to pursue your joy. The problem with fallen man is not that we seek our pleasure, but that we are seeking it in cisterns that can hold no water. As John Piper puts it, “we are far too easily pleased.” God has offered Himself to us as our source of infinite joy, while we continue to seek our pleasure in things such as T.V. binge watching or hours of social media. Once we become Christians, our search for pleasure should increase, and God should be the source of our delight.
I am currently leading a class at Bethel Grace Baptist Church through John Piper’s book, Desiring God. This book is a treatise on pursuing our joy in God. Each week Coen Tate, Matt Teays, and I will be covering a chapter from the book. Also, don’t miss lesson one taught by Pastor Jeff Saltzmann. If you would like to follow along, the lessons can be found online at the link below. They can also be found in podcast form at the Bethel Grace Baptist Church podcast in iTunes.
There are currently five lessons available, and a new one will be posted each week. There will be a total of 15 lessons.