Mastering the Letter As We Study the Book

Last Sunday we embarked on a pulpit study of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. This choice by our elders during my medical leave of absence thrills me. Why? The theme of peacemaking runs throughout it.


We don’t get any further than 1:27 before Paul begs, so that I may hear of you standing firm in one spirit , with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Then in 2:2 the apostle goes so far as to plead, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Come 2:14 he lays this on them: Do all things without grumbling or disputing. And before the book ends, he calls out two women by name charging them to agree in the Lord (Phil. 4:2). He even invokes the aid of a mediator to assist them to that end. This church certainly endured its share of unity challenges!

We could hardly dig into a more strategic book to strengthen our peacemaking core value than the book of Philippians.

Here are seven ways to get the most out of a study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

  1. Listen to Pastor Mike’s comprehensive overview of the book AGAIN. My, what a job he did! For extra credit check out ISBE’s article for its introduction of the letter.
  2. Read through the entire book at least once per week, perhaps on Saturday nights in preparation for the Lord’s Day.
  3. Read the sermon passage of the week DAILY. Ask the Lord to give you insight. Make some observation, interpretation, application notes along the way in a notebook, journal, or your mobile device. Tomorrow’s text is Phil. 1:1-11.
  4. Pick a key verse (mine is Phil. 2:1-11–I know that’s a section), memorize it, and meditate upon it throughout the series. How might God work in our church this year if everyone did this? Take a smaller portion if eleven verses overwhelm you. I get it. For some reason memorization comes rather easily to me. Not everyone enjoys the same experience.
  5. Bookmark the Preceptaustin page in your computer for more commentary resources you can possibly consult along the way. After you do your own study through the week, check your conclusions against the scholarly work you’ll find at that site.
  6. Use your Sunday’s well. Remember Pastor Shane’s message a few weeks back? He stressed this. Discuss the sermon at lunch with others. Review the points from your notes later in the day. Decide on one thing you will do to apply the message that week. Ask someone to hold you accountable to it.
  7. Pray for the speaker each week (Dennis Mudge serves tomorrow) and for us as a congregation. Pray for anointing on the preacher. Pray for soft hearts among us as hearers (James 1:21).

Imagine the fruit to come from these messages, if our covenant members adopt this kind of strategy for mining the rich ore laden in the shafts of this peacemaking treasure of God’s word.

Lord willing, see you tomorrow back in my appointed seat. I might even let loose with an “Amen!” or “Preach it, brother!” here and there.

Question: What excites you about our study in this book of the Bible? You can leave your comment here.

Bible Study Tools

If I learned anything setting up a homestead in Idaho, I learned, often the hard way, the importance of having the right tools for any given job.

The same is true for the hard work of studying the Bible. There are a variety of tools to bring to the project of unearthing the jewels in the mine of a book or section of Scripture.

A while back I was asked to speak on this very subject in the current equipping hour class on studying the Bible.

For your convenience and help I want to post Bible Study Tools here as a ready reference.

What's On Your Heart?

Or should I say, “What’s in your chest pocket?”

If you heard last Sunday’s message, you get the picture. I’m talking about meditation as a means of treasuring up the Word of God on our hearts. If you missed the message, you can listen to the audio here.

By way of reminder, I wanted to put two things from the message in this post.

The first is Don Whitney’s definition of and helpful analogy about meditation:

Let’s define meditation as deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying, and even memorizing God’s Word. A simple analogy would be a cup of tea. You are the cup of hot water and the intake of Scripture is represented by the tea bag. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. In this analogy, reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are represented by additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more effect it has. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown (Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1991, 44).

The second is my eight-step plan for doing meditation:

1 M MAKE a text selection by reading Scripture.
2 E EXAMINE a text’s details by questioning Scripture.
3 D DETERMINE a text’s meaning by studying
4 I INTERNALIZE a text’s content by memorizing
Scripture.                             Psalm 119:97
5 T TAILOR a text’s content by personalizing Scripture.
6 A AMPLIFY a text’s ideas by paraphrasing Scripture.
7 T TAP a text’s power by praying Scripture.
8 E EMBRACE a text’s impact by applying Scripture.

May the Lord help us store up His word in our chest pockets for the storming of our doubting castles and the slaying of our giant despairs.

Piper Passion 2013 Disclaimer & OGC Equipping Hour

Wondering how those two things connect?

Let me explain. Pastor John Piper spoke in Atlanta this week at Passion 2013 just as he always does. His message was vintage Piper – a call to Christian hedonism from Hebrews 10, 11, & 12.

The next day, Louie Giglio, Passion’s host, gave a Piper disclaimer during the announcement time. He recalled at the first Passion so many years ago how Piper spoke on the deep things of God in that unique and challenging way he typically does. He told us after that first message somebody came to him and said something to the effect of “All that stuff Piper said last night went right over our heads.” To which Giglio replied, “Isn’t that great!” He then went on to exhort the 60,000 plus of us in the Georgia Dome not to settle for the trend today in some teaching to dumb down the great mysteries of the sovereign God by putting them on the lower shelf. Rather he would have us reach high for those same things with careful, rigorous thought through teaching like Piper’s that fosters it. It was a good, solid word for all to hear.

Now for my connection to our equipping hour. Tomorrow we start a new quarter in our discipleship scope and sequence during the 9:30 hour with three offerings that will challenge us to reach high for the mysteries of God and His word. Scott Devor will teach Systematic Theology Two – Spirit, Church, and Last Things. Will Powell will tackle Old Testament 1 – Creation to United Kingdom. And Ted Herrbach will lead an extremely practical class called How to Study the Bible. I guarantee you, without apology, that these offerings will stimulate us with careful, rigorous thought as we pursue the deep mysteries of God, His Word, and His church.

Here’s one very practical way that we get to love God with all our mind (Luke 10:27).

Hope to see you in one of these classes tomorrow morning as we go deeper by reaching higher.

For Me a Ministry Milestone

In a matter of minutes after completing this post I will facilitate my final tutorial session in our confession of faith. For a couple of years now, every other week, I have met with a devoted group of hardcore learners who have climbed mountain peak after mountain peak of sound doctrine as outlined in the thirty-two chapters of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

Originally I undertook the assignment to teach this for the benefit I would gain as the pastor of a confessional church. Teachers always learn more than their students. And the exercise has not disappointed. I feel so much more grounded in the truths of our historic faith as a result that it really does constitute a milestone for me to conclude the journey.

I opened part one of our treatment of chapter thirty-two on the last judgment with an illustration borrowed from John Piper in a blog post of his entitled How Do I Love Reformed Theology? He wrote:

I am a lover of the Reformed faith — the legacy of the protestant Reformation expressed broadly in the writings of John Calvin and John Owen and Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards, and contemporaries like R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer and John Frame.

I speak of love for this legacy the way I speak of loving a cherished photo of my wife. I say, “I love that picture.” You won’t surprise me if you point out, “But that’s not your wife, that’s a picture.” Yes. Yes. I know it’s only a picture. I don’t love the picture instead of her, I love the picture because of her. She is precious in herself.

The picture is precious not in itself, but because it reveals her. That’s the way theology is precious. God is valuable in himself. The theology is not valuable in itself. It is valuable as a picture. That’s what I mean when I say, “I love reformed theology.” It’s the best composite, Bible-distilled picture of God that I have.

I exhorted my tutorial gang to treasure the truths contained in our confession to that end gazing upon and treasuring thirty-two amazingly textured and layered pictures that represent the glory of God and the greatness of His salvation. Thus should all our study of God and His word accomplish if we are to amount to something more than puffed up academics who don’t get the picture at all.

When my growth group finishes going through How People Change, I may decide form another tutorial troupe for a second go around on this rich resource. We’ll keep you posted.