by: Jim McGuiggan
You’ll need a Bible! Preferably one with big print so you won’t tire so easily in your reading. Most serious Bible students have a favourite version. You might choose the New King James (NKJV) or the New International Version (NIV) or the Revised Standard Version (RSV). The last two sound like each other and are more modern in their presentation than the NKJV. Still, the NIV is more modern than the RSV. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) despite the attemp to be more up to date and politically correct is even better (I think) than the RSV. Then there’s The Simple English Bible. Any of these would do until you become more experienced. And listen: Read the Bible!
You’ll need a notebook! The truth is you could get by with nothing more than a Bible but a notebook and the suggestions which follow will definitely help. The notebook will allow you to write down questions which arise as you read and to note interesting truths you come across. (Questions and truths you’ll forget if you don’t write them down.)
You’ll need some basic books! You can get by with nothing more than a Bible but this makes the task more difficult. You might borrow or buy a concordance and a Bible Dictionary. The concordance will help you to locate verses from any part of the Bible. The dictionary will give you some basic information on almost any subject you read about in the Bible. In English, a Young’s or Strong’s concordance will do the job you want done. The New Bible Dictionary is perhaps the best single-volume dictionary available. (Ask the bookseller or the one you borrowed them from to show you how they work!)
You’ll need a friend or acquaintance to give you some guidance! The very fact that you’re reading this material says you are willing to receive guidance. You can read the Bible for yourself without anyone’s help but experienced Bible students can make the task easier for you.
(There’s always a danger in asking for help. The person who offers the help may hold really strange views. Views that are fundamentally bad. If the person you seek help from is part of a little group that is angry with everyone but themselves, look for assistance elsewhere! But, if what they say can easily be seen in the verses they show you, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A high-ranking diplomat wasn’t slow to ask for help when he felt he needed it Acts 8:30-31. And you’ll become more discerning as you study.)
Some Qualities Needed for Bible Study
You’ll need commitment to the task! No one makes any progress at anything without commitment. If we’re not willing to invest the time and energy, there’s no point in complaining about lack of progress. You can’t study the Bible (or Shakespeare or Maths) with one eye trained on the TV or stretched out on a comfortable chair in front of the fire. And you can’t spend five minutes a month (when you’re “in the mood”) and hope to make headway. Little boys and girls become swimming kings and queens, ordinary people become concert pianists or brilliant medical researchers, tradesmen become experts at their job but they all have one thing in commonthey invested the time and energy! The only place ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in a dictionary.
You’ll need patience! The Bible is a big book and it’s complex. There is no magic to so learning it as to feel at home in it. You must be satisfied, in the beginning, to know a little and to follow good study procedures. You mustn’t expect of yourself more than you are able to grasp. Each new and significant discovery will increase your awareness of your ignorance as well as your stock of good knowledge. The Bible is amazingly rich and each answer will raise more exciting questions. It isn’t a “quick fix” book dealing with trivial concerns. You’ve joined in a quest with eternal consequences!
You’ll need humility! But isn’t this true in every pursuit of truth? We must come as students, willing pupils to the feet of Music if we wish to become accomplished musicians. We must allow the truths of Maths to have influence with us if we are to enter into the mysteries and grandeur of numbers. And we must allow Shakespeare or Dickens or Hugo to be our guides if we are to be blessed by their literature. If we won’t come to the Bible with a humble heart, seeking to hear its message, why then, we’ll waste the time we invest. But since the Bible is like no other book in the world and in it God speaks to us, do give it a fair hearing.
In the days when people thought ships had to be made out of wood if they were to float, someone made the claim that ships made of iron could float. A certain blacksmith sneered at this and proved it wrong by throwing a horse-shoe into the water and watching it sink. He didn’t really give the idea a fair hearing, did he?! If he had wanted to do that he would have open-heartedly tested the theory on its own terms. To open the Bible and fight it at every step, denying its every word before hearing the message as a whole, is sure to result in nothing gained. Don’t suppress your intellect. The Bible doesn’t require that from you. But try not to come filled with animosity or driven by prejudice. So conduct your study that whatever happens in the end, you will be able to say: “I really did listen!”
Who Wrote the Bible?
The Bible was written by God! You’ll come across hundreds of instances of “Hear the word of the Lord” or “This is what the Lord says” or “The Lord spoke unto me saying” or “What I’m telling you is the command of God” or “the word of the Lord came to me saying” or “the Lord spoke”. On many occasions you’ll come across sections in which God speaks in the ‘first person’, “I am God and besides me there is no saviour.” Sometimes God just tells a man to “write this down in a book!” All over the Bible there are claims that God is its author.
The Bible was recorded by ancient people from many different walks of life! Doctors, priests, shepherds, fishermen, statesmen, kings, tax-collectors, theologians. They all had one thing in common: they believed in the God they wrote about and in whose name they spoke! They believed in him because they had heard him and they had experienced him.
It’s true that there are large segments of the Bible where God doesn’t expressly attach his name. But even in modern books we’re satisfied with the author’s name on the front of the book a time or two. We mustn’t demand more from God in regard to his book!
How Can This Be?
But how can a man’s word be God’s word also? It can be if God tells him what to write (as the Bible often says he did). It can be if the man’s experience is something God wants us to hear. It can be if the man’s historical narrative covers the material God wants covered. It can be if the wisdom the man has learned from God is the guidance God wants others to hear. It can be if the man’s pain is like our own and God wants him to express it for us. It can be if, as the Bible claims, God superintends the writing of the material. Holy men wrote because they were moved by God (2 Peter 1:20-21). Hurting men protested and God had it written down, brave men lived well and God had others to record it.
For more: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com
by: Jim McGuiggan
Someone wrote me just recently wanting to know if it’s really possible to live a holy life here in this world. I may have misread the note but she sounded tired, worn out and weary because she’s been trying so hard to please God and not making a very good job of it. I tend to think that people who write the kind of note she wrote are losing a lot of battles and have begun to wonder if a war against sin is winnable. And what’s worse, they begin to doubt if God is willing to put up with them if they don’t make any better progress than they’re making.
In their worst moments they tell themselves that they can’t really be trying to be Christians, and they have the record of continued wrongs to make a good case for that view. Isolated verses fly through the air that their sensitive and rubbed-raw consciences pick up on. Passages like, “Produce fruit worthy of the name of repentance” and they’re back at grinding self-examination. “Are you truly repentant if you do the same things over and over again?” they ask themselves and they feel sure the answer’s “no”. So, if they don’t truly care about sin and holiness what’s the point of pretending? Quit! “Turn from Christ because he wouldn’t want you anyway in that state.” That last sentence is a profound lie!
It seems like a thousand years ago but I remember it vividly. I was wrestling with life and with sin and was sure I was being swallowed up by it. The same ugly, cheap and dishonoring sins over and over again. We lived in a little terrace house then and our backyard was a walled in, five by eight feet area of paved space with an outside toilet. I went out there to be alone, burdened terribly by my guilt and I talked to God about it. When I was done I promised him, “I won’t ever do it again.” He didn’t speak audibly to me but I heard his gospel assurance that it was okay. But I was back again, repeatedly in the next weeks and months that followed, making even more vows in blood-red earnestness (vows I’d break with monotonous regularity) and God listened patiently and spoke forgiveness in words like those of Christ’s, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). This was fine for a while but then the emotional and psychological lift I got with such assurances wore thin and I told myself such verses were not for me.
I clearly remember heading out one evening to the little paved square, looking up at the sky and telling God I was done, that sin had got the best of me and that not even his assurances worked any more. I was certain that he couldn’t want me in my morally pathetic state and in light of the seemingly ceaseless wrongdoing. I found myself arguing with him. Not angry with him, angry with me! I heard myself telling him that the comforting scriptures whirling around in my mind had to apply to someone other than me, someone trying harder than me, someone more successful than me. Maybe it was a whining session but I don’t recall it as that. I hated my evil, hated myself for enjoying my evil even while I hated it. The loving fellowship of the Holy Father wasn’t for someone like me. The little dialogue (or something so close to it as makes no difference) between God and I went on in my head that evening as I leaned up against the whitewashed wall in that tiny backyard.
“I’m thinking of quitting.”
“I see, Jim, was there ever a time when you didn’t care for me at all?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Did I love and want you then?”
“I know you did.”
“Suppose you turned away from me and sank like a stone and lived the vilest life of sin imaginable? Would I want you back?”
“I’m sure you would.”
“Well, if you quit and go off into a life of sin, not caring whether you please me or
not and I would want you back, why would you bother quitting in the first place?I said, “Who’s quitting?”
(I have a little book called The Power to See it Through and I’ve heard some people say they’ve found it very helpful.)
For more: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com
by: Jim McGuiggan
How do you get saved? The very question makes it sound like we save ourselves, and that couldn’t be further from the truth! God alone is the Savior in Jesus Christ. But because God cannot and will not save us against our will, the scriptures call us to respond in free cooperation with the saving Lord. That’s why you hear texts saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). Or 1 Timothy 4:16, which says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them. Because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Some people fear such speech because they see a legalist under every bed. They don’t want anyone to get the impression that they can save themselves. This is a legitimate concern but there’s no point in being so “careful” that we don’t call people to do what they’re called by God to do. “What must I do to be saved?” a jailer asked Paul (Acts 16:31). “What must we do [to be forgiven]?” thousands asked Peter (Acts 2:37). “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” a man asked Jesus (Luke 10:25). None of the three acted as though this was a terrible question. No one said to the inquirers, “Ah, now that’s your fundamental mistake because you can’t do anything to be saved.” All three told their hearers what to do to be saved.
Responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ in trusting repentance saves you when you get baptized into Jesus Christ. This is what Paul taught the jailer in Acts 16:31-32. This is what Peter taught thousands in Acts 2:37-38 and it’s what Christ told his apostles to teach all nations in Matthew 28:18-19 and Mark 16:15-16. It’s what Ananias told Saul in Acts 22:16 when he wanted the forgiveness of his sins. I’ve stressed in scores of places on this site, and at length, that faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of our response to God’s gospel. That isn’t to be denied. Without a trusting and penitent heart nothing else matters—it’s all in vain for without that trust and repentance which is part of a full-bodied faith there is no true acceptance of Christ. But I need to say plainly that in the New Testament when convicted and now believing people wanted to become Christ’s they were told to be baptized.
It doesn’t matter that some sweet and wise people that we know don’t hold to that. The scriptures are very plain about it. You aren’t required to obey these sweet wise people but you are required to obey the voice of God in scripture. Read the texts on baptism for yourself and if they’re as plain to you and as they are to me, don’t ask anyone’s permission or approval—get yourself baptized and know you are saved.
And it isn’t necessary for you to make judgements on the spiritual condition of everyone you meet. Leave that to God. [Please see Remarks on Baptism (3).] Simply tell them what you’ve read in scripture and what you have done about it and let them make up their minds before God what they’ll do about it. In Acts 22:16 Ananias told a now believing and repentant Saul, “And now, what are you waiting for? Get up, and have yourself baptized and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord.” So, if you haven’t done that, “What are you waiting for? Get up, and have yourself baptized and wash your sins away calling on the name of the Lord.”
For more: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com
by: Jim McGuiggan
That’s an ugly expression but it reflects on an ugly thing that has become part of Western Christianity. In a world where individualism is pandemic and our “rights” have become a near obsession “church shopping” isn’t too shabby a phrase to cover what we do. And yet, we ought to be shopping.
P.T. Forsyth a Scots theologian of some years ago became incensed when he thought of the way churches were viewed and viewed themselves. He thundered out against people asking what the church’s programmes were like, what it could do for them as potential members or what its record of successes was like. He insisted that we shouldn’t ask for its programmes or even its piety but instead we should ask, “What is your gospel?” He was blisteringly, scathingly and cuttingly right! For what difference does it make how successful it is as a religious body or how well it caters for the youth or how involved it is in community benevolence if its gospel is not the “gospel”?
I admitted at the beginning of these suggestions that there’s something silly about pretending I could begin again. But I now know that what makes a church great and what makes a church the kind of church that I should urge my family to be involved with is one that knows and loves the gospel that centres in the God who ultimately revealed himself in Jesus Christ at the cross.
Not only do all Christians need to be part of a local congregation of Christ, they should be. We aren’t strong enough to make it on our own. We are sub-Christian if we attempt to make it on our own. Christians have been added to the Body of Christ, which manifests itself in and as local assemblies.
But see to it that you look out for a congregation that focuses on the gospel of God. That understands what the church is and is not to be. A church that will feed you on the living bread of Christ. A church where the teachers take seriously their calling and work with scripture so that they will shape all the members for service to God in a body which is indeed the body of Christ.
All good advice no doubt but how do the inexperienced go about this? Yes, this is a tricky question. Well, when in trusting repentance you’ve been baptised into union with the living Christ you are his so trust him to help you find such a place. Tell him it’s the kind of place you want because you’re hungry to get to know and love him so you can reach out and bless others also. Rejoice in the hunger you feel for the rich truth of the gospel because it’s God’s work in you and fervently ask him for more. Listen to what’s being offered, what’s usually talked about in classes and from pulpits and you’ll get to know if that church is parading itself or the Master. Is it ceaselessly “issue” oriented, endlessly asking for money to support its projects or is it clear that it’s central business is to “grow”? If you’ve no reason to believe that God’s redeeming work in Christ for the world is the vibrant centre of that church’s faith and that reverent attention is paid to God’s word you need to continue praying and looking. But if you have reason to believe that their benevolence, community outreach and moral development is fuelled by the big, rich truths of the gospel you should thank God and stick to that group like glue.
For more: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com
Historically, the Black church has always been a source of inspiration, hope, and a lifeline for people in the community. Now a new study by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that African-American women are the most religious folks in the United States.
A whopping nine out of 10 Black women turn to God as their spiritual guide in all areas of their lives. Is it any surprise? Although Black men are almost as religious as their female counterparts, there is a more stark divide along racial lines.
According to the survey, 74 percent of African-American women state that living a religious life is of the utmost importance to them as opposed to 70 percent for Black men, while 57 percent of White women and 43 percent of White men share this priority.
When it comes to grappling with difficult situations, 87 percent of Black women said faith in God is vital, compared to 79 percent of Black men, 66 percent of White women, and 51 percent of White men.
Interestingly enough, those who pooh-poohed religion in the Black community were practically in a group all their own with only a quarter of Black women saying that religion was not an integral part of their lives and another paltry 2 percent declaring “not at all.”
The poll researchers contend that Black women are more likely to have been raised by a Bible-clutching maternal figure in their household who insisted on attending all-day church on Sunday and Bible school during the summers.
No matter what faith, more and more Black women are taking worship out of the institutionalized halls and straight in to non-traditional settings, such as living rooms and basements, says the Washington Post. Technology has also come in to play as far as religion and many women are also delving into hosting weekly conference calls that are dedicated to prayer and ministering to those who are in need of a spiritual injection.
As I look at our community I am often disheartened by what seems to be skewed priorities. Many of you have had experiences that are similar to mine as you shake your head as you ride down some of our streets and see the condition of our people, financially, socially, morally and spiritually.
We have now welcomed a degenerative society that not only allows but endorses every possible lifestyle that God Himself told us to avoid. To declare that one does not agree with the reduced standard leaves one vulnerable to being labeled intolerant and phobic when the truth is God’s people have an obligation to align with God’s word.
By no means, do the terms, “all and every” apply to the context of which I speak. However, there is a clear need for people within our societal community and especially within our faith community to consider who we are, whose we are and what will we stand for.
MSN reported that Adidas decided to cancel the new line of shoes they created, shown above, that have shackles attached to them. As an African American woman who is a product of not only the black church but of a historically black university, I was intrigued.
My intrigue was not regarding the shoes or the concept, but whether or not my people, people whom I love and am deeply invested in, would see the deep underlying meaning that this type of design represents. I began to think of the many ways our people our shackled. We are, at times, just as shackled mentally now as we were physically in days of old.
Something is wrong with a mentality that celebrates generational poverty as “keeping it real.” Something is wrong when we don’t vote, “because it won’t matter anyway.” Something is wrong when we allow our senior citizens to be impoverished because they can not afford to buy medicine AND buy food while their grandsons roll through the city with $10,000 hub caps on their cars.
I also began to reflect on the many ways in which we have chosen to shackle ourselves. The choices we make often speaks to whether or not we will find ourselves shackled for years to come. Not getting an education, (over 80,000 adults in Milwaukee currently do NOT have a high school education) using drugs (and yes marijuana is a drug), having children out of wedlock, refusing to put the babies we do have in cribs, emasculating men by not having the expectation that they work legal jobs to provide for the families they produce all lead us into a world that will bind us and keep us from being the fullness of who God created us to be. Even worse, many of us chose to be bound by sin and ungodly lifestyles that are hindering our growth.
Most appalling many wear these shackles with pride. We have songs glorifying being a “baby mama” and spend more time celebrating the pimp than the proprietor, the harlot over the housewife and the sinner over the scholar. Our priorities must change and we must seek the face of God in order to be revived.
I shuddered to think that our shackles were so evident and acceptable to people outside our community that having a shoe designed to symbolize our struggles past and present would be not only tolerated, but purchased by the very people whose challenges from the shackles of triangular trade during the Middle passage still have left their impressions on the present generation.
One of the greatest deceptions of the enemy is to make us feel powerless and incapable of making positive life changes. Day and night he works to make us feel that we have to live a bound, sad and overwhelmed life of dissatisfaction and heartache.
However, as believers we know that Christ died, not only that we might have life, but that we would have life more abundantly. The sacrificial death on the cross by Christ enabled us to be free from the things in life that would try to bind us.
This week, take the shackles off of your life. Commit your life to God and be honest about the changes that you need to make. Look around, check your Facebook page, look through your checkbook and your cell phone – what are you shackled to?
Church Women United – Milwaukee Unit will hold its June General Meeting and Supper at Mt. Caramel Missionary Baptist Church, 1717 W. Meinecke Ave. on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, with supper beginning at 6 p.m., and the meeting immediately following. Reservations are required for supper. The speaker will discuss School Board Funding. For more information, please call the CWU Secretary at 414-736-5780.
Capuchins’ Run Walk for the Hungry
The Capuchins’ Run Walk for the Hungry to GermanFest will take place Thursday, July 26 at 7 p.m. Participants can begin checking in at the North Gate of Summerfest at 5:30 p.m.
The 5K run or 2-mile walk benefits Capuchin ministries who help feed Milwaukee’s hungry-St. Ben’s Community Meal & House of Peace. Participants will receive free admission to GermanFest & a $5 food/drink card.
Organize a team and enjoy one of Milwaukee’s great festivals while helping those in need. Visit www.CapuchinRunWalkForTheHungry.org for more information.
The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination born in 1845 in defense of slavery and a spiritual home to white supremacists for much of the 20th century, is poised to elect its first African-American president, says the New York Times.
The Rev. Fred Luter Jr., 55, a New Orleans pastor who got his start preaching on the streets of the Lower Ninth Ward, is expected to be the only candidate for office on Tuesday when Southern Baptists gather here for their annual meeting.
“That I can be president of the largest Protestant denomination in the country is unbelievable,” Mr. Luter said in an interview last week after one of his trademark cadenced sermons that drew “amens” from the predominantly black congregation.
His anticipated victory is being hailed as a milestone by white and black pastors alike in the convention, a grouping of 51,000 congregations with 16 million members, about a million of them black. Acutely aware of the nation’s changing demographics, the fiercely evangelical Southern Baptists have been working to draw in more black, Hispanic and Asian members, often by starting new churches in ethnically diverse urban areas in the country.
This coming Sunday, June 17, is the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time in our church calendar. We will remain in “Ordinary Time” until we begin the season of Advent, in preparation for the Christmas Season.
The period of “Ordinary Time” gives us a chance to reflect on those parts of the Gospel that are not proclaimed during the Seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter or Pentecost.
It is a great time to walk with Jesus as he went about doing good and getting Himself in trouble with the religious and political leaders.
The readings are: Ezekiel 17:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10, and Mark 4: 26-34. Both the first and third reading speak about growing something from a small insignificant twig or a very small seed and having the growth exceed our wildest imaginations.
Ezekiel shows the power of our God when God breaks off a twig from a might cedar and plants it so it becomes a great and majestic tree. God says: “ I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; and I make the dry tree flourish.” Jesus certainly read this and could see that God would lift up the lowly and bring down the mighty. Already, trouble!
And as Mark tells the story of the mustard seed he has Jesus going even more “lowly” as He substitutes a seed, a scrub, for a twig and a tree.
And could that “scrub” be Jesus Himself? Certainly he came from nothing and had nothing at the time of his murder.
The “powers” would not have considered him worth even a footnote in history. His death would have gone unnoticed among thousands of other crucifixions. His death would have been less important than a mustard seed!
But this lowly tiny mustard seed would grow to be so large that all the birds of the air could nest in its branches. Now it is the greatest of all scrubs, this movement we are part of that is grounded in the Gospel.
We are part of that great movement that started out as a tiny mustard seed. It is our mission to help grow that scrub, that mighty scrub so that the Reign of God will become real here and now as we work for justice and risk our own lives in truth telling.
God does depend on us. The scrub won’t grow as well, the message of God’s Peace and Justice will be stifled if we don’t grow where we are to be what we are destined to be.