Posts Tagged ‘Study’

Learn How to Be Mentored by Books

December 3, 2008


I believe a means a grace God has given us has been the preservation of the thoughts of His saints in the form of books.  I bless God for books.  I bless God for the printing press.  I bless God for Amazon. Within the pages of books there are many treasures to find and friends to meet—freinds that will tell you how they understood a certain passage or how they dealt with a certain trial, or how they lived a certain life despite the seemingly unbearable hardship.  I love books.  Books are an endless resource to a Timothy in training . . . if he is wise enough to foresee it and use it.  And the more books he stacks on his shelf better he can equip himself for the preparation of becoming an elder—whether he’s in seminary or not.

1. Learn how to become a Reader

I cannot tell you how many grown men say to me, “Well, I’m just not a reader.” You should be rebuked. God has preserved a storehouse of wisdom for you in books, and you should be a good steward of the vast resources that has been made available to you. There simply is no excuse to be ignorant regarding any aspect of theology.  300 years ago, most library’s consisted of 200 books at the most—I have that many if not more.  Here in the West, we’ve become inoculated to the amount of resources that are available to us.  There’s books on-line, books on CD, books on i-pods . . .oh yea, and books on paper.

But my first caution to you would be this: Don’t read just any book. As the author of Ecclesiastes has noted, “Of the writing of books there is no end”. There may be many books that are popular at the moment but they will not stand the test of time.  Why?  Because most are absent of the aroma of Scripture and merely contain random, Bible-less babble—men trying to think thoughts after God without consulting the Book He wrote about Himself.  Sometimes the best books are those which have been around for 300 years! On the other hand, there is a remnant even in our day of men who are pumping out at accelerated rates wonderfull books.  Men like Piper, Mahaney, MacArthur, Sproul, Dever, Keller and a host of others are worth your money and time.

Spend your money on tools, not toys.

You should have all kinds of books in your library:

–books on philosophy: how do we think and how to we know truth and which source of truth should we read.

–books on theology: how do we understand that truth;

–biographies: how has that truth been proclaimed and maintained throughout the centuries;

–and finally, apologetics: how is that truth to be delivered.

Read for pleasure; if you’re not enjoying these books you’re not reading them correctly.

2. Learn How to Be Mentored by Dead Men

Believe it or not, but I have close to over 100 mentors who live in my own house. They live on my bookshelf. I cannot tell you how many authors have walked beside me during many dark valleys in my life, and I have found the best medicine for a storm-tossed soul is old books—especially biographies of old saints. When I am discouraged and downcast of soul, I rarely go to the country to get a spiritual breath of fresh air; I always go to the years prior to the 19th Century.

Luther, Richard Sibbs, Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathon Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Spurgeon,

There are literally thousands of men who are very qualified to shed light on any situation in which you may find yourself in.  You just need to learn how to read and what to read.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“If you don’t read the older books you starve yourself.”

As I have just mentioned there are many authors to choose from . . . and I would recommend reading them all! But if that sounds like a little too much, my advice to you would be to pick someone from the past and read all you can about that person. Read their biography; read their works; begin to think like them; begin to talk like them; imitate their faith, and eventually you may find yourself loving the Word and Cherishing Christ like they did.

We often become like the friends we hang out with. I dress like the friends I hang out with; I talk like the friends I hang out with. When you pick wise, godly friends in books you begin to become like them. Become like your friends.

3. Learn how to Use Church History as a Mentor

Biographies help you to know men of the past; Church History helps you to know events of the past—both of which are able to keep you from error. Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. In their minds the gap between Jesus’ ascension to their own day is usually a giant blank. It is my opinion that every believer should have in their hands at least one good, church history book. Church history informs you of the past, encourages you for the present, and gives you hope for the future.

Become a consumer of books and you can give yourself a glorious education even if you’re never been able to attend seminary.  You’ll learn doctrine; you’ll meet new friends.

4. The Importance of Reading Other Material

I used to be a Puritan in the area of reading, meaning this: I have never read anything other than theology books.  But I have come to learn the importance of giving my mind a break, especially since I’m in seminary.  The mind needs a break, not from God, but from the same type of books that require the same type of thinking.  The brain needs to think on many different levels, not just one.  I often find that my mind simply cannot function as well by always reading one type of genre (i.e. theolgoy books/philosophy books).  Don’t get me wrong, I would like it if I only could read theology books, but I’ve learned that if I read other genres than it helps me to think better and think clearer when I pick up my theology book.

Hey, even the Bible contains three different genres, so I think I’m safe in saying we as seminary students need also to have a trilogy, biography, or historical narrative close by to give our minds the mental breaks they need.  But remember to supplement them in moderate proportions.  Read enough of other books in order to read theology books with greater care and thought.

5. The Danger of Stuffing Your Shelf Full of Books You Never Read

Be honest, how many books are on your shelf that have never been read?  I bear the guilt of this myself.  Countless of times I have entered a book sale or attended a conference that provides books for a ridiculously-low-price only to greedily buy several books that are “oh so good” . . . and then they sit on my shelf and condemn me.  I have one shelf simply devoted to “Books to read”.  This can become a problem.  There is nothing worse than having a great book in which you’ve never read.  Oh that we would buy good books; and oh that we would read them!

Set goals for yourself.  If you’ve bought several books, discipline yourself not to buy any more until you’ve finished them . . . unless it’s a really good deal!

6. Don’t Neglect the Word

Finally, while there are many books that are worth our time, we must not fail to read that book in which all others are written.  Let the Scriptures be your true source of joy and study, for there is truly only one book worth reading . . . and reading again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

:: Prepare for Battle ::


What to Ask Yourself Before You Preach

October 1, 2008

Is This What the Author Intended?

Your authority in preaching lies not in what you in your own ability or opinions assert, but rather in the proclamation of the authority of the author.  When you are preaching the intention of the author, your words carry with it the authority of God Himself.  By understanding the author’s intent you then release the Spirit’s power to convict sinners and comfort saints.


If you can, consult the original language.  In Luther’s day, not knowing the original language was a reasonable excuse.  In our day, there is no excuse.  There is an incredible amount of resources to access in order to learn Hebrew and Greek.  In this day and age, one can even learn a language over the internet.  Even if you do not know languages or have any idea where to begin, there are many tools available that can aid a non-linguistic.  To see some, click here. 


Does my Explanation Fit the Larger Context?

Your sermon must be a slave to the flow of the text.  No matter how small of a passage you are preaching, if you are preaching from an epistle, it would be in your best interest to have the entire book in mind.  You should have your own outline of the book, an understanding of major themes, repeated words/phrases, usages of O.T. quotation, exhortations and commands. 


There may be many surface level issues people are dealing with that seem legitimate—and this may be a temptation to use the passage in which you are speaking from as a springboard into some other topic foreign to the mind of the author—but humanity’s greatest problem and greatest answer is in the pages of Scripture.  Stick to the text.


How Will This Truth Be Resisted by the Hearers?

Assume resistance.  Romans 1 says that people naturally suppress the truth from themselves.  In other words, you should expect that everybody will not wish to believe what you have to say. 

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will not put up with sound teaching but instead will surround themselves with the prosperity gospel, The Shack, Velvet Elvis and many other teachings that do not abide with sound doctrine.  (To listen to an excellent review of the Shack, click here for Albert Mohler’s radio program).


The Puritans approached preaching this way.  They would often craft their sermons around the very objection they believed their hearers would raise, and would then seek to clearly buttress their sermon from the argument of Scripture.  


Does This Sermon Convict Sinners?

Your primary task as a preacher is to point out the awfulness of sin and awesomeness of Christ.  You should make hell appear intolerably horrible and heaven irresistibly beautiful.   If people are not convicted over sin through the words of him who speaks at the pulpit, he has no business to stand before them.  Preach as if standing on the borders of another world, pleading with people not to sell their souls to such unsatisfying, unfulffilling pleasures of the world.


Does This Sermon Encourage the Saints?

Every sermon should cause the saints to hope in God, to hate sin, to stand firm in their faith and to long for the Day of Christ’s return.  If all you do is parse Greek verbs and talk about the historical-geographical background of the text, your listeners have yet to hear what the text actually says.  Stick to the text.


May the Lord bless you in your endeavor to be faithful to His Word and to tremble when presenting it.


Preach the Word.

Know the Scriptures: The First Task of a Timothy

September 7, 2008

I have yet to meet a true, born-again believer who does not love their Bible. How do I know when person loves their Bible? It’s all they talk about. Scripture is in their language. Scripture is in their prayers. The Bible’s in their back pocket. Everything they discuss reminds them of the pages of Scripture. You know how it is: you start talking to them and they say, “You know, I was reading this morning in brother Jude’s letter. . .” Personally, I just become really uncomfortable when someone is telling me about a “spiritual experience” they had or what “God told them last night” and I can’t even link together a Scripture reference to their language and terminology. That concerns me.

Be sure there will be no experience, no dream or vision that cannot be directly verified by the context of Scripture. Check this out: Peter, when speaking about that holy moment when he, James and John stood before the Son of God as He was transfigured (Matt 17), says to us, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” And then, just before we all start feeling jealous that he was there and we weren’t, he says something that blows my mind: “And we have something that is more certain: the word of the prophets.” What! You mean that we, the church, have something that is more certain than standing on the mount of transfiguration? Yep. The Old Testament. And more than that, we have the New Testament that confirms that the One of whom of the Old Testament speaks of, Jesus our king, has now come in the flesh. That . . . is cool.

So what can a young Timothy do in order to prepare for the work of the ministry? Know the Word. Memorize the Word. Pray the Word. Preach the Word.

Here are some tips that have helped me love the Scriptures:

1. Read The Bible

“Wow” you say. That was helpful. I know, it’s basic. But few Christians do it. The first step to Bible Study Methods is familiarity. Familiarity is key. Read. Read. READ.

2. Start At the Beginning

Picture with me trying to understand the LORD of THE RINGS trilogy by picking up one of the books at random, turning to the middle of that book, and reading a chapter. How long would it take you to understand what Tolkien was talking about? You might never understand it that way. But that’s exactly what we do with the Bible. We treat it as a collection of 66 complete random books that have no unity at all. I know that’s not what we think, but that’s the assumption that we are living under when we read the Bible at random. Read all the way through.  There needs to be an overall knowledge of the Bible, as a whole.  When we are studying a passage, or listening to a sermon, we need to be able to place every part of Scripture into the overall context of the entire canon and understand its unique purpose.  It is our hope to understand, the best we can, the aimed intention of the Divine Author for every part of Scripture.

3. Read a Whole Book at a Time

This is obviously easier in the N.T. than in the Old. But try it in the Old! Deuteronomy was a sermon brothers and sisters, and we have a hard time sitting through a 1/2 hour sermon! If you can’t read a whole O.T. book at a time, then at least review where you are in the narrative to remind you of the story. This is especially helpful in the N.T., where conclusions are pivotal to understanding the argument of the epistle.

Here are some ideas that can get you started… If you are aspiring to the work of an elder, hopefully you are already well beyond “started”.  So, in that case, hopefully this will help you continue to succeed in the essentials!

We must know the Word in order to preach it!