Meanderings of a Minister


Ever Wish You Knew the Bible Better?

Have you ever wanted more out of your Bible reading, or have you ever wondered why it seems that others get so much when you get so little?  Perhaps you should do more than read.  Perhaps you should think deeply about scripture, spend time with it, replay it throughout the day, or meditate on Scripture.

I know that you might be thinking, “That is too hard or complicated!   I wouldn’t even know where to begin!”  Actually that is the very reason that Robert J. Morgan wrote the book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation:  Find True Peace in Jesus.  Morgan’s book is like having a master walk beside the reader to help with Biblical Meditation.  The book is a treasure trove of information, inspiration, illustration, and rumination, with absolutely no condemnation for any who have not tried to spend more or more serious time in God’s Word.

Each chapter is designed to give the reader a benefit of Biblical meditation.  In the chapter, Morgan tells the reader why they should meditate on scripture and gives examples that flesh out the ideas into actual life lessons.

In addition to the chapters, there is also scattered throughout the small volume, on the green pages, specific suggestions for how to get started.  This helps to make sure that the whole process does not seem to be just for the professionals, but puts the cookies on the bottom shelf for the rest of us.

Additionally, there is a 10-day meditation guide at the back where Morgan walks the reader through the method with helpful pointers and suggestions along the way.  Each day gives the reader a scripture, context, and some thoughts to help with the meditation process.

As bonus, at the end of the book, Morgan gives the reader an additional list of scriptures so that the process can become a habit for life.

I have been meditating on scripture for years, and I found this book to be simple, yet helpful.  I found it to be inspiring without being so far above everyone’s heads to make it unreachable.  I also found it so immediately applicable and practical that there really is no reason that a person could come away from the book questioning the importance, impact, or impassable process so crucial to Christian Growth.

This would be a great book to read on your own or with your children.  It would also be great to be used in church or in a small group setting.  It could also be incorporated into a discipleship strategy for new believers, but that is only the benefit to be had outside of the reader’s heart and mind.  Inside the heart and mind, there is no way to estimate its value or exhaust its uses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Diagnosing Your Spiritual Health

Don Whitney, in his book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, gives the following ten questions as a means of determining if you are growing in your faith, treading water, or actually backsliding:

  1. Do you thirst for God?
  2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
  3. Are you more loving?
  4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
  5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
  6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
  7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
  8. Do you still grieve over sin?
  9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
  10. Do you yearn for Heaven and to be with Jesus?[1]

Chances are very good, if you are like most Christians, you have not really spent much time thinking about these things lately.  Whitney suggests that these questions provide a sort of spiritual pulse in the life of a growing believer.  If you answered know to most or all of these questions, you are probably spiritually backslidden, or perhaps not yet a believer.  If you answered no to some of the questions, but not most, you may be seeing the beginning of a spiritual growth problem.  If you answered yes to all of the questions, honestly, then you are growing and are probably relatively healthy.  If you are offended to be asked, you probably have some other issues.

“So what do I do if I am not doing so well in growing spiritually?”  I am glad you asked!  Jesus addressed this in his letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:5 “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.”[2]  The best place for you get help in these and other matters is your local church.  I am not saying you must go to my church in order to grow.  That would be prideful and ridiculous!  But you must attend a Bible-believing church that preaches and teaches and disciples people in the Word of God.  With the holidays on us shortly, what a great time to plug in to a local church and get started making some good habits that could just make this your best year yet!

[1] Donald S. Whitney, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2001.

[2] New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA, 1995.



Been There. Done That. Really?
July 21, 2016, 4:02 pm
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Bored-Button

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they said something that shocked me and made me think for a while.  We were talking about worship and Bible Study and this person said to me, “I don’t have time to go to church on Sunday mornings and, besides, I have read the entire Bible, what more could I learn?”  Needless to say, I was shocked and surprised.  I have studied the Bible for the last 24 years and 12 of those 24 years in formal theological education.  I have read thousands of books on various Biblical subjects and have even written a few.  I have been in Sunday School classes and seminars and have attended conferences, listened to sermons on tape, CD and the radio and I am convinced of one thing above all…I need to study more of the Bible so that I can know it and know God and obey Him!

I am not sure how we get to the point that we feel that we know all we need to know about God and the Bible.  I suspect that it is because we find ourselves in circumstances in which we cannot go to church on Sunday mornings and we use it as an excuse to help us feel better about not going.  I think this stems from getting further from God so that He does not seem quite as big anymore.  I am just guessing that no one ever really intends to go there, but we make choices that have consequences we don’t see coming and we find ourselves hanging out in the breeze and unable to find our footing.  One day, we look around and find that we cannot even remember the last time we read God’s word and it came to life and went to work right then in our lives.

I want to make sure that does not happen to anyone in my church.  That is the primary reason that we offer several opportunities to study God’s word together each week.  Of course, there is Sunday School.  Many people think of Sunday school as only for children, but this could not be further from the truth.  This is one of the best opportunities to study the Bible because we have dedicated teachers that study carefully to present each passage accurately and timely.  This is also a great opportunity because you get to interact with others and with the text.  If you don’t understand something, you have the opportunity to ask.  If you have some great insight you have discovered, you have someone to share it with.

We also have Sunday morning worship in which we get to worship God together through music, prayer, Bible study, and sharing our gifts, talents and treasures.  This is a great time because it is a time to be encouraged, challenged, corrected and directed directly from the word of God.  It is a time when we can be with other believers and provides a time to respond corporately and individually to God’s activity in our hearts and in our midst.

We provide a Sunday Evening Bible Study for those who work on Sunday morning or just want another opportunity to study God’s word.  Right now, we are working our way through the Life of David as we listen for God to instruct us by allowing us to view the mistakes of others and of seeing the lengths He is willing to go to reach us.  This is another excellent time to interact with the Bible and is taught by the Pastor.

There is a Wednesday morning Bible study for those that rise early.  It meets at 6:30 AM at a local business.  We have Thursday Evening Bible study in which we are studying the Minor Prophets in the Fall and then will move on to a study of the Book of Revelation.  We have a Tuesday morning study group for women, a small study group for men on Monday nights, and we have AWANA on Wednesdays to help children memorize and personalize the Bible in their own lives.  We have various small group studies that go on at various times throughout the year and are always open to other studies and opportunities as they present themselves.

I hope that no person associated with this church ever gets to the point that they feel as if they no longer need to study God’s word.  Even more than that, I hope that no one ever gets to the point that they feel there is no chance for them to do so.  I hope that we all grow up into Christ as our Head so that we can attain to the full measure of Christ.  Keep studying and keep growing.

If your church does not offer opportunities to study the Bible, maybe God would call you to volunteer to lead a group.  Pastors are very busy and can’t be expected to lead every study or group that wants to study, so maybe God is calling you to help.

Whether you are asked to teach a study of the Bible or attend one, whether you feel like you know a lot about the Bible already or very little, my prayer is that we will never become satisfied with where we are at in our knowledge of God and His Word, but will keep on growing.



How Old Are You Spiritually?

Real-Life-Discipleship-book-cover

The staff at First Southern Baptist Church in Liberal have been wrestling with a question for the last several months.  “How do you get people to love Jesus more?”  We provide opportunities for people to grow spiritually, but many don’t seem interested.  While most of the people at our church would call themselves mature followers of Christ, what does that even mean?  And how do you get people to want to move further along the continuum of growth?  How do you (or they, for that matter) know where they are in their Christian growth?  At a recent meeting of the Liberal Ministerial Alliance, the pastors were talking and we all pretty much agreed that we all want Christians to mature in their faith.  What does THAT mean?

As I have wrestled with this issue, I have come across a great little resource that at least attempts to quantify the life signs of believers at the various stages of growth.  While we can certainly disagree about exactly what characteristics go where, Jim Putman at least begins the conversation in a way I found helpful.  In his book, Real-Life Discipleship, he lays out spiritual growth with the following paradigm:

Stage 1:  Spiritually Dead.  This means someone who is not born again.  They are alienated from God, opposed to God, and unable to understand the things of God.  (Revelation 20:14, John 3:3-5)

Stage 2:  Spiritual Infant.  As a new believer, they are excited and eager to learn.  They know something has changed, but really don’t know what it means.  They are quick to mention their new faith to all who will listen, but they tend to make messes because they really don’t understand how their new faith works.

Stage 3.  Spiritual Child.  Having moved past the infancy of their newfound faith, they understand the basics of the faith.  They can be excited about their faith in ways that many others consider cute.  They often act childish and often characterized by childish behavior like only do what they should when threatened or rewarded.  They are often self-centered in their interaction with church and want their way and comfort to be paramount.  They can sometimes give in and allows others to get their way if they are recognized for doing so, but this often is short-lived.

Stage 4.  Spiritual Young Adult.  By this stage, they have grown immensely from where they started.  They are eager to serve and think independently, but they have not yet learned to embrace their responsibilities as a follower of Jesus Christ.  They still have a lot to learn about meeting the spiritual needs of others.  They serve intentionally, but don’t share their faith intentionally.

Stage 5.  Spiritual Parent.  This final stage of development is when they are mature enough to reproduce disciples that will reproduce disciples.  By definition, they are reproducing.  They are not merely able to do so.  They actually do.  They actively engage in evangelism and carry through to discipleship.  They are strategic in their thinking and their lives.

If Jim Putman is right, or at least mostly right, how old are you spiritually?  Have you been born again?  Have you willingly and knowingly accepted that Jesus really is God the Son?  Has that realization caused you to reflect upon who rules your life?  Have that reflection led you to seek forgiveness for the choices you have made as though you were in charge?  Have you surrendered your life to the leadership of God through His Son?  If so, congratulations.  You might be a spiritual infant.  If not, you are still spiritually dead.

Are you excited about being a follower of Jesus, but not really sure of the difference between Christianity and other religions except that Christianity works for you?  You might be a spiritual infant.

Have you grown in your faith, but find yourself preferring your way all of the time?  Do you despise the new music, find yourself envious of others that get to have things their way?  You might be a spiritual child.

Have you grown in your faith, feel other-centered, and feel as though you have a pretty good relationship with God, but don’t have a strategic plan for evangelizing and discipling so that you are reproducing?  You might be a spiritual young adult.

Are you regularly leading people into and deeper into a relationship with Christ?  Do you find your greatest fulfillment in seeing others grow into maturity and reproduce using their Spiritual Gifts?  You might be a spiritual parent.

So…how old are you spiritually?



A Key Ingredient for Fireproofing Your Relationships
November 8, 2013, 1:22 pm
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Forgive

Have you ever tried to make or build something only to find out that you were missing an ingredient or a part?  How frustrating!  You set out with grand thoughts of riding your bicycle, watching a video or tasting some warm, fresh, straight-from-the-oven brownies only to have your hopes dashed on the rocks because there was something missing.  You could go and get it at the store, and you will, but it is just not the same because the anticipation subsides.

 What in the world does this have to do with relationships?  I am glad that you asked.  The one ingredient that can be missing for relationships, and cause those same relationships to lose their appeal, is forgiveness.  Yes, I said, “Forgiveness.”  Forgiveness is often missing from relationships because we do not understand what forgiveness is or are confused about how to forgive.  In some instances, we don’t even understand why we should forgive.  This issue is very important to preserving relationships.

 First, let’s start with why we should forgive.  Jesus told the story of the servant who owed his king 10,000 talents of gold in Matthew 18:21-35.  I would suggest stopping now to read it.  In the story, the servant was forgiven a huge sum, but refused to forgive his fellow servant for 100 days wages.  This seems wrong to us because of the amount the king had forgiven for the servant.  That was Jesus’ point exactly.  When we define sin as anything other than absolutely perfect (for this is what the word for sin in Greek actually means), it does not take a stretch of the imagination to realize we owed much more than just 10,000 talents of gold for the myriad of sins we have sinned.  If you have a relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, then all of those sins have been forgiven.  The least we can is to forgive others for the amazing small debt they owe.  We forgive because we have been forgiven.

 We also forgive or God will not forgive us.  That may sound shocking, but that is what Jesus said right after teaching us how to pray in Matthew 6:1-15.  We must forgive in order to maintain our fellowship with God and with others and we must forgive to prevent Satan from driving a wedge in our relationships that would cause people to look down on our faith and our God.

 What does it mean to forgive?  Simply put, the word for forgiveness in the Matthew 18 passage we have already read is the word Aphoken.  It is a Greek word that means to send away.  What do we send away?  We send away our feelings of wanting to hurt someone that has hurt us.  We send away our need for revenge.  We send away the anger and bitterness that have built up in us.

 Forgiving does not mean forgetting what happened.  This is a fallacy that the enemy of our souls uses to keep us chained to unforgiveness.  You may be thinking, “But Jack, haven’t you read Isaiah 43:25 (NIV) ‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’?  What does that mean if not that God forgets our sins and we must be willing to forget others’ sins if we are to forgive.  First, consider that God could not forget anything.  If God were to forget something, then there would be knowledge that God does not know.  It would mean that He is not omniscient and, if not omniscient, then not God.  When He says He forgets the sin, He means that He does not choose to remember the revenge that the sin calls for.  He does not hold it against us is another way of expressing this truth.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting.  Nor does it mean offering complete trust.

So how do I forgive?  Follow these simple steps.

1.  Pray and ask God to help you forgive.
2.  Make a decision to forgive.
3.  Say the words (if only to yourself) that you have forgiven.
4.  Forgive completely.
5.  Realize you might have to forgive repeatedly.
6.  Thank God for His forgiveness.
7.  Repeat steps 1-6 as needed until you have conquered the feelings of revenge and hurt that you would like to seek against the offender.

 Now that you know how…what will you do?