Category Archives: Books

Making Time for Bible Reading and Study

Right off the bat, let me say: this article is not being written to shame you if you struggle with Bible reading or time for personal Bible study! A whole lot of people have wonderful intentions, but simply do not make the time to read through the Bible or to study some intriguing section of Scripture in depth.

That said, let me offer just a few ways you can get started. If the time excuse is what keeps you from doing this, here are some things you might want to try or keep in mind.

It Doesn’t Take a Lot of Time Each Day. I think this is what keeps most people from deep Bible study: they are intimidated by the sheer size of the book itself! There is no way to read it or study it in one sitting–or even in a few days–so they give up. However, what if I told you that you could start with as little as 15 minutes each day and make a world of difference? You can! In fact, in less time than that each day you can read through the New Testament in less than one year. Even that would be a major step forward and a “win” for many people!

It Takes Discipline. Simply put, you are not going to study a book in depth in a manner of a couple of days. But if you have a goal that means something to you (study the book of Ephesians in depth, for example), you can do it with some discipline! Set aside a time each week to work on this important task. Have a specific place you like to study, and remove distractions (yes, that means this is a good time to charge the cell phone!).

It Takes a Plan. “I want to study the Bible this year” is not a plan–at least, it is not a realistic one! However, “I want to read through the Bible this year” is a plan, and one that there are so many different ways to tackle! If you want to study a particular book of the Bible (or person or subject), that’s a great goal, but step one needs to be to have a plan in place. Will you use a study book? Will you keep a notebook of what you are learning? Will you buy a commentary or a couple of other translations of the Bible? What are you hoping to gain from your study?

What Can You “Cut?” Is there something else that is eating away precious time that could be cut (or reduced) to give you the time to study Scripture? You may need to limit your time on social media to a preset number of minutes each day. You may need to remove one TV show from your regular viewing schedule. These are not major things, but they are the types of things that very easily creep into our schedules and cause us to think that we do not have time to really dive into Scripture.

It is Worth It! I readily admit, Bible study can be frustrating at times. There are plenty of times when I get deep into a passage and think that I will never understand it, even at a fairly basic level. But when the light comes on, oh how it is worth all the time, prayer, and effort! And what a difference it makes, both in this life and–ultimately–in the eternal life to come!

So, will you make that special time with God’s Word? What do you want to accomplish? Give it your all, and you will be rewarded!

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Forgiven, Forgiving, & Free: The Peace of Living Without a Past – A Partial Review

After a break from teaching and a foray into teaching younger children during Bible class, I am back to teaching our Wednesday night ladies’ class for a time. On my surprise visit to a day of Polishing the Pulpit this fall, I was excited to see some of my favorite people: Dan and Diane Winkler. I was also excited to purchase Dan’s new book about forgiveness.

If you are like most people, the idea of forgiveness is something we all want but may struggle to give. I was enthralled with reading about this topic from someone who has so publicly been called upon to grapple with and demonstrate the Christian grace of forgiveness.

I can say without reservation that my excitement has not been disappointed or abated as I work my way through the book. If you read the whole title of this article, you noticed that it said a “partial” review. That is because I am only halfway through the book and cannot wait to share it!

As I began the book, what I wanted was a formula to help me move beyond previous hurts and be able to forgive others. What I found was the wisdom of starting with the perfect standard – God’s forgiveness. We are sure to fall short of our aim, so starting with the highest standard is the only way we have a chance to reach our best. Dan Winkler has an amazing ability to state a profound truth so simply that you have to go back and reread it to get the depth and impact it contains. He uses the beautiful pictures given to us by God in His word and makes forgiveness attainable in all directions.

The book is available in Kindle format and paperback here. Although only halfway through the book myself, I highly recommend it for anyone struggling to forgive others or to feel forgiven by God.

Ephesians 2:4-8

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God …”


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Surveying the Old Testament

About 2 years ago, the class I teach on Sunday mornings at 9th Avenue started a major project. We began a survey of the entire Bible. The key word is “survey.” We are not going verse-by-verse. I prefer to say we are going “chunk-by-chunk,” as we are trying to simply see the big picture of Scripture and the major movements of each book.

Last Sunday, we completed the Old Testament, as we surveyed the book of Malachi. I am really proud of the students who have been there for these two years. I know I have struggled to teach some of the portions of the Old Testament, but I have prayed over and over again that our knowledge has grown.

While there are almost countless lessons I have learned from surveying the 39 books of the Old Testament, here are 5 “big picture” lessons that I have taken away over the last two years of this survey.

It Really is All about God. That’s what we are calling our survey: “It’s All about God.” But it is more than a class title. On every column of every page, one simply cannot miss the power, providence, love, wrath, mercy, wisdom, and counsel of God Almighty. Tied to that, I have been reminded of the balanced picture of God that is sometimes lost on those who do not look carefully at the Old Testament. Too many paint Him as some tyrant when there is so much love and grace in the Old Testament.

Sin is Atrocious. Especially as we have looked recently at the prophets, God’s abhorrence of sin is so clear. But when we dig into the accounts of the Old Testament and gain some understanding of what sin does to individuals, families, and even nations, it should help us only draw ever nearer to the Lord. To say some of these accounts are grotesque and frightening is an understatement.

God is Patient and Faithful. If we just read through the Old Testament–maybe in a daily Bible reading plan–one simple fact that can easily be missed is just how much time elapses. Yet, through the centuries that pass in Old Testament history, God continually reaches out to His people despite their rebellion and sin, and God is patient with them far longer than any human could ever be. Further, the covenant God makes with Abraham and then with His people Israel? It is upheld perfectly by the faithful Father, though the people break their covenant multiple times.

Jesus is Everywhere. While the Old Testament is simply building our anticipation for the Promised One, glimpses of Him are all over the place! The number of prophecies and pictures that give us glimpses of the Messiah are staggering if we would just take the time to notice them. It makes turning that “blank page” over to the New Testament so much more exciting.

I’ve Got a Lot More to Learn! There were portions of the Old Testament I had barely studied in depth before. This survey “forced” me (in a good way!) to study them more in-depth, but I came away realizing that I have a great deal more to learn. Books like Ezekiel and Zechariah challenged me greatly but left me excited to tackle them more in-depth in the future.

As I said, I really don’t know how effective I am being as a teacher, but my prayer is that the students are excited about what they have learned. And, now, as we turn to the New Testament, I pray they have a greater background to grasp so many of the pictures and fulfilled prophecies found in these final 27 books.

[By the way, for each book of the Bible we study, I create a simple handout with some background information, so the students can build a small notebook. If you would like to view, download, or print the handouts that I have completed, I upload them to this page on our website, and they are free. Enjoy!]


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Photo background credit: Thoroughly Reviewed on Creative Commons

People of the Book

God has always wanted His people to be “people of the book.” He had Moses write down the book of genealogy so that man could trace himself back to Adam and thus remember his Creator (Genesis 5:1). He had Moses read the book of the law to the Israelites so they would vow to keep every word (Exodus 24:7). Joshua also read the book of the law to God’s people, including every blessing and every curse (Joshua 8:34). Providentially, God allowed Hilkiah, the priest, to find the book when it had been neglected and lost (2 Kings 22:8). Later, after the Jews had returned from captivity, the book was read once again to the whole congregation by Ezra, the scribe, instigating a national revival (Nehemiah 8:1).

In every circumstance, God required that his people take an oath that they would know the book. He made them promise to obey every word in the book. God promised that they would be blessed or cursed based on their keeping or not keeping the words of the book. Every step, every ounce of success for God’s people was always directly related to the book. You can check the book itself.

The success or failure of mankind still rides on the knowledge of and keeping of the book. But in our day and time, there are only a few people in existence who are truly people of the book. Consider the facts:

  • Most people have never studied the Bible. I am not saying they haven’t read the Bible, but rather, they have not studied it. There is a big difference.
  • Most people do not take Bible class seriously. They see it as optional, a bonus, or an unnecessary part of church participation that is for teachers and preachers.
  • Many people scan the Bible looking for answers to certain questions. They do not realize that the best answers are found through a balanced understanding of the entire work.
  • The world, in general, does not show the proper respect for the Bible. If they did, they would not talk about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit as they do. If they did, they would not teach and practice religion the way they do.
  • Satan is keeping the world busy. Too busy with work, school, and recreation for people to spend time listening to what God has to say in the book.

This article is not meant to be harsh, judgmental, or cynical. Its purpose is to remind the reader of the great opportunity God’s people have to be people of the book. When you are people of the book, you know the will of God. When you are people of the book, you can find heavenly answers to earthly struggles. When you are people of the book, you have the peace that comes with knowing that regardless of what you are dealing with, God will deliver you. When you are people of the book, you can do more than feel like or hope that heaven will be your home, you can know it. When you are people of the book, you think differently, act differently, and live differently – and it makes your life and the life of every person around you – better!

Every generation of people has the responsibility to be a people of the book. May we not forget!

And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.” ~ Nehemiah 9:3


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

Episode 94: Family Book Recommendations from 2017 [Podcast]

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On this episode of the podcast, Adam is joined by Mary Carol and Turner. The kids share a couple of books they’ve enjoyed reading lately, then Adam shares his 10 favorite books of the year. We hope this encourages you to read more, and–who knows?–maybe even gives you a Christmas idea.

Links to all the books below.

The Book List (all links are affiliate links with Amazon)

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel (Lois Gladys Leppard)

Buffalo Before Breakfast (from “Magic Tree House” series; Mary Pope Osborne)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)

The Servant: A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership (James C. Hunter)

3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice (Les Parrott)

Fight: Winning the Battles that Matter Most (Craig Groeschel)

How to Lose a Kingdom in 400 Years (Michael Whitworth)

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller)

For Better or For Kids (Patrick and Ruth Schwenk)

Boys Should be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons (Dr. Meg Meeker)

Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport (Matthew Algeo)

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West (Stephen Fried)

The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (James Oakes)

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Episode 93: Our 2017 Thankful List [Podcast]

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With Thanksgiving coming next week, Adam, Leah, Mary Carol, and Turner all sit around and think about gratitude and things they are thankful for. We hope this encourages your family to do the same thing more often!

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Making it Personal

Recently, our daughter and her family visited Washington, D.C. During that visit, our son-in-law posted this on Facebook:

For me, the highlight of this trip will not be touring the White House, or going to the Capitol building, or seeing the monuments or museums, but right here at the National Archives, where I just looked at the original Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. I saw those documents and my spirit was moved and I shed tears. These men were traitors, risk takers, and revolutionists. They knew they were going to have to sacrifice all to achieve true freedom. They were wise enough to properly define it. They foresaw what was needed to preserve it. They were geniuses, and Bible readers, and men of principle. They were amazing individuals, who changed the course of human history. They gave me the joy of America hundreds of years before I received it. I salute them today. I salute the flag they died for. I salute the United States of America!

Their experience and his thoughts, in some ways, “dovetailed” with a book I am currently reading about the events surrounding what we now know as The American Revolutionary War. Some of what I read helped to give me an entirely different perspective on some material I thought I already knew a few things about. 

I knew some of the facts and some of the dates. I even knew that, when those men signed their names to The Declaration of Independence, the great document contained these words: “…we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” I had even read how much some of those men sacrificed after affixing their names to that document. 

However, the book I am reading has given me a reason to take another look at some of the people who lived during that time. Some of those people signed The Declaration of Independence; some did not. Some were famous; others were not. Some remained true to their commitment to the cause; others, like Benedict Arnold, did not. 

The book I am reading is Killing England by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Until I began reading this book, I never appreciated the enormous personal risk taken by George Washington. I suppose that, since I had always known the outcome of the war, it never had occurred to me what might have happened to him personally if England had won the war.

The book described the fate that would have most assuredly been that of whoever was chosen to be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. When George Washington was eventually chosen and when he accepted that post, here, according to Killing England, is what could have (and probably would have) been in his future:

If the new commander in chief can successfully raise, train, feed, clothe, and equip an army, he must still find a way to defeat the British regulars, widely considered the world’s greatest fighting force. Should he lose, this new general will not merely be placed in captivity as a prisoner of war, he will be treated as a traitor to the British Crown and hanged for high treason. This will not, however, be an ordinary hanging. High treason is considered the greatest capital crime a man can commit against the king of England. The punishment is extraordinary, ensuring a slow and hideous death. It will begin when the accused is tied to a horse and dragged to the gallows. He will then be hanged by the neck, but cut down before he dies so that he remains alive for what comes next, which is the slicing open of his abdomen and the burning of his intestines as they dangle outside his body. Only then will this general have his head cut off. His corpse will then be cut up into four parts, all of which will be delivered to the king. But the punishment will not end there. All lands and monies will be confiscated from this unlucky man’s estate. His wife and children will be forever forbidden from purchasing property or owning a business. And, of course, if the general’s wife should also be accused of treason for conspiring with her husband, she will be burned alive.

To say the least, that is not a very pretty picture, is it? Can you think of anything that would remotely match it?

You may remember that, before our Lord was crucified, He was scourged. Have you ever given much thought to what that meant?

According to biblehistory.com, this is what happened to those experienced scourging:

The Roman scourge, also called the “flagrum” or “flagellum,” was a short whip made of two or three leather (ox-hide) thongs or ropes connected to a handle as in the sketch above. The leather thongs were knotted with a number of small pieces of metal, usually zinc and iron, attached at various intervals. Scourging would quickly remove the skin. According to history the punishment of a slave was particularly dreadful. The leather was knotted with bones, or heavy indented pieces of bronze.

Sometimes the Roman scourge contained a hook at the end and was given the terrifying name “scorpion.” The criminal was made to stoop which would make deeper lashes from the shoulders to the waist. According to Jewish law (discipline of the synagogue) the number of stripes was forty less one (Deut. 25:3) and the rabbis reckoned 168 actions to be punished by scourging before the judges. Nevertheless, scourging among the Romans was a more severe form of punishment and there was no legal limit to the number of blows, as with the Jews. Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal “half-dead.” Death was often the result of this cruel form of punishment though it was necessary to keep the criminal alive to be brought to public subjugation on the cross. The Centurion in charge would order the “lictors” to halt the flogging when the criminal was near death. 

The enemies of Jesus were not through with Him yet. He still had to go through the “public subjugation of the cross” mentioned above. I encourage those who are reading this to do their own research in order to learn more about this horrific method of capital punishment. “Man’s inhumanity to man” is clearly seen as one reads about what a condemned person experienced on a cross.

However, in the case of Jesus, it was not merely a man on that cross. The One on that particular cross was deity in human form. 

As tempting as it is to almost deify George Washington and others who risked a great deal in order to for us to have the freedoms we enjoy today, the fact remains that they were only men. They were great men, to be sure. They were brave men. They were courageous men. At the same time, they were only men.

They were men who took a great risk. 

Jesus is much, much more than a mere man. He is “…the Word [that] became flesh…” (John 1:14). 

Not only is Jesus not a mere man, He did not take a risk

If you will take the time to read Hebrews 10:1-18, you will see clearly that, before He left heaven, our Lord understood that a body was prepared for Him and that He would be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. As you read the gospel accounts of His earthly ministry, you can “see” the cross on almost every page. 

I am grateful to those who fought and sacrificed for my freedom as a citizen of The United States of America. In reality, though, they did what they did for an idea, a dream, and/or a goal. They could not possibly have had me in mind as they sacrificed, fought, and, in many cases, died.

While it is true that Jesus gave Himself for “…the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2), the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to make it personal:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20, ESV, emphasis added).

Paul made it personal.

Have you made it personal?

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Romans 6:3-6).


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Photo background credit: conservativemajority on Creative Commons

[Quote] A Great Thought on Constant Prayer from Gary Hampton

Source: Rejoicing in the Lord: A Study of Philippians by Gary C. Hampton

Reading that Reminds Us of Real Pain

If you know me at all, you know I like to read. Other than my daily Bible reading, I try to have two or three books going all the time. [If you want to see a list of all the books I have read so far this year, here’s a link.]

As with anything else, however, it can become easy to read in an “echo chamber.” In other words, we may be reading good material, but, too often, we only read things that we already agree with or that we know are going to make us feel good and uplift us.

Recently, however, I have finished two books that truly shook me. They were on two different subjects but were connected in that they both reminded me of real pain that people have gone through in the past. I simpy want to share them with you today.

Witness to the Holocaust

The first is a book that I have owned for many years, but I had never read all the way through. Witness to the Holocaust

But I am so glad I read it. It hurt to read. At times, no exaggeration, I was nauseated reading it. A couple of times, I struggled to sleep just because of the images in my head. Why put myself through that? Because I needed to! I needed to be reminded of how that awful event came about, and I needed to be reminded of just how horrific the suffering was. I needed to be reminded of just how depraved sinful mankind really can become.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The second book was far shorter, but just as impactful. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass only takes a couple of hours to read, but it will open your eyes to the harrowing realities of slavery in American history. Douglass (which, by the way, was a name he chose as he started to come out of slavery) was a highly intelligent man, but this book will cause you to realize the price he paid just to know how to read and write.

The descriptions of beatings and other awful acts (some to Douglass and some to other slaves) will, hopefully, make you both angry and sad. What stood out to me as I read this short volume, though, was the constant struggle in the thinking of Douglass of “do I want to be free or is it even worth it?” The owners of these slaves would do just enough to make them question whether or not they wanted to be free, and that psychological back-and-forth is both fascinating and frightening.

I am a Caucasian. I’m sure that, if I went back far enough in my family’s history, I could find someone in some place who suffered as a slave. But to be reminded that, as a nation, we are not that far removed from this awful practice is something I need to be reminded of.

Conclusion

I challenge all of us to read a lot, but I also challenge us all to read things that cause us to think and cause us to remember the depths of evil and sin, so that we do not allow these things to even have a toe-hold on our thinking ever again.

(Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read something about Philippians. I need some joy in my life!)


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Why I’ve Starting Marking in My Bible More and More

I don’t know why, but I have had an on-again-off-again relationship with marking in my Bible for a long time. I have the pens. I’ve read articles and had conversations.

But for a long time, I would mark something…then maybe underline something else a few months later. It was like I was afraid of making the “wrong” marks, so I just didn’t do it much.

However, something hit me a few months ago and it has caused me to mark my Bible more and more. I circle. I underline. I write notes.

What changed?

It was this simple realization that everyone knows, but it took awhile to sink in for this thick-headed preacher: this is my Bible!

I want to turn to a passage and see what “hit me” about that passage one time. I want to know what stood out when I heard some preach or lecture on that section of Scripture. I want to have a simple outline to help me through a more difficult text.

So, in recent months, I have been making more and more notes. Now, when I turn to a passage to read or study, it is coming alive more and more, because I am seeing my own interaction with the text. I love it!

In fact, I have started using a few resources to help me besides just what “hits me” while I’m listening to a sermon or class. If you would like to start marking up your Bible and making it your own, let me share with you three resources that might help “jump start” your study. I know they have mine!

Basic Bible Studies. Eddie Parrish has a great blog, but included in that blog are simple outlines of Bible books. Currently, he is outlining the book of Romans. I have found a great deal of material to include to help me when I read through that book.

Sain Publications’ “Chapter by Chapter.” Just what it says, “Chapter by Chapter” provides a quick overview of each chapter, but my favorite part of these downloadable sheets is that it provides key verses for each. Currently, Paul Sain is producing these on the book of Matthew.

“Bible Marking” on Come Fill Your Cup. Kathy Pollard’s series on CFYC is meant for ladies, but I get so many good Bible marking ideas from them, as well. Logical studies that share key verses for studying a Bible topic.

There are many other sites you could use, but the key is to come to the realization that I did: this is your copy of God’s Word. Make it your own! Don’t be afraid to mark it so that it is helpful to you even more down the road.

So, open up your Bible, get those pens out, and make that copy of the Scriptures your own.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn