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Why Not Read Less of the Bible This Year?

Dec. 16, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From Garrett Kell on his threefold plan:

First, I plan to read the passage that will be preached on the next Lord’s Day. If I’m preaching this will be a necessity since I’m hoping to live better than I preach, but if I’m not preaching, I plan to study ahead to get the most out of the sermon.

Second, I plan to pick one Bible book a month to study deeply. In January, a friend and I are studying Amos. For the month we will read and re-read it. We plan to outline it, chart it, and memorize portions of it. Then in February, I’ll select another book with a similar approach, though hopefully improved by January’s attempt. By doing this I’m able to meditate deeply on one book, something I felt I was missing in other seasons of my life. Some months I may do two books if they are short (i.e. Haggai, Obadiah, Philemon, 2 and 3 John).

Third, I plan to read other books of the Bible in one sitting throughout the year. To avoid neglecting other portions of the Scriptures, I have a list of the books of the Bible in my journal and plan to regularly step away for an hour or two throughout the year and just read them straight through.

Read the whole thing here.

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Conjunctions: A Matter of Life and Death?

Apr. 27, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

In my last post, I highlighted the most important words in the Bible––conjunctions! 

I showed how the devil tempted Jesus in the desert by omitting the conjunctions found in Psalm 91. In so doing, the devil highlights God’s promise of blessing but not the precondition of faithfulness. I summarized the devil’s strategy in this way:

Promise – Precondition = Presumption.

By paying attention to words like “because,” “therefore”, “so that”, “yet” etc., we protect others and ourselves from various temptations.

mm831schoolhouse-rock-conjunction-junction-postersIn this post, I will continue to show how conjunctions help us faithfully apply biblical teaching. In other words, there is practical payoff by observing these small but critical words. If we’re honest, we all tend to skip over them when we read the Bible.

Conjunctions are Practical 

Our life decisions are based on various ideas and beliefs. If we don’t pay attention to conjunctions, we open ourselves up to temptation. What happens if we take conjunctions a bit more seriously? I suggest an alternative formula:

Promise + Precondition = Perseverance

Among various applications, we gain the perseverance needed to glorify God as Christ’s followers. The devil tempted Jesus to take a short cut to “ministry success.” However, Jesus knew that the true path to blessing had a cost. He must be faithful to the work the Father had given him.

Ultimately, Christ was faithful. As a result, God vindicated Christ by raising him from the dead.

Many people know that 1 Corinthians 15 is all about Christ’s resurrection. People don’t always see the logical flow that pervades the passage. On the one hand, Paul wants his readers to be sure of God’s promise to resurrect His people in the last day. On the other hand, he wants the Corinthians to accept the cost of discipleship.

In 1 Cor 15:30–32, Paul reminds them that suffering follows those who do ministry. Also, 1 Cor 15:33–34 exposes the fact that the Corinthians were tempted to flounder in their faith by immoral living. One of Paul’s main objectives in the chapter, however, is to spur the Corinthians to perseverance.

I think people frequently overlook this goal when reading the chapter. He’s not merely giving a philosophical defense of resurrection. Notice v. 58. What’s the key word?  A conjunction!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Because of a conjunction, we can discern that Paul preaches the resurrection in order to motivate perseverance in the lives of the Corinthian believers. He wants them to recognize that faithfulness entails the willingness to live a different sort of life––one that endures persecution and resists godlessness.

 The Link Between Thinking and Doing

I once led a study with a group of very biblically literate people. We read John 10:26, which says, “you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” I immediately asked them to tell me what that verse said. Every one of them replied, “you are not among my sheep because you do not believe.”

Even though it was a very simple, short sentence, they literally flipped the sentence, saying it in exactly the opposite sequence. Why? They didn’t slow down. They presumed the Bible said something it didn’t. How often do we do this?

People tend to read Scripture too quickly. They rush over key logical words and consequently miss important insights. Perhaps, we believe right doctrines but our conclusions are not the precise point of the specific text we are reading.

 

People tend to read Scripture too quickly. They rush over key logical words and consequently miss important insights. - Tweet this


Conjunctions are the theological link between thinking right and doing right. By observing the conjunctions, the writers give us boundaries. They bound our interpretations and thus guide our applications.

We miss out on discerning God’s will for our lives and key biblical applications when we ignore conjunctions.

 

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The Most Important Words in the Bible

Apr. 20, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

What are the most important words in the Bible? They are not “God”, “Jesus”, “love”, and “gospel.” My students are surprised when I say this.

They are even more shocked to hear my own suggestion: the most important words in the Bible are conjunctions

Sandro_Botticeb10738c3fcConjunctions are words like because, therefore, however, so, etc. These are the type of wordsthat get us into the mind of the writer. They help us understand the inner logics of a passage.

Conjunctions are incredibly practical. When reading the Bible, we want to grasp how to apply the text to our own life. However, that will only be possible if we can think the biblical writer’s thoughts after him. Conjunctions matter because obedience matters.

 

Satan Tempts Us to Omit Conjunctions

When Jesus was in the desert, the devil tries to tempt Jesus by grossly manipulating an Old Testament passage. Consider Matt 4:5–6,

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 

The devil quotes from Psalm 91:11–12. Intriguingly, this passage includes a glorious promise. One wonders why the devil would remind Jesus of the goodness of God. Ironically, the devil tries to provoke Jesus to sin by highlighting the grace of God. 

How is that possible?  

The devil conveniently omits key conjunctions in the psalm. The promise of vv. 11–12 is based on the “because” in v. 9.

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place––the Most High, who is my refuge…[therefore] he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

What is the devil’s strategy? He only highlighted God’s promise (v. 11–12) in order to provoke presumption, yet left out the precondition (v. 9). 

Promise – Precondition = Presumption

Basically, this is the same formula used by those who preach the prosperity gospel. Not only that, this sort of logic appeals to us all. It’s what undergirds any temptation. We want to get something but without counting the cost. 

Similarly, observe vv. 14–16, where God’s promises depend on multiple conjunctions.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

The devil does not quote the conjunctions and instead only highlights God’s blessings. The conjunctions indicate the reason why God will act on behalf of the one who is faithful to Him.

 

Protection Against Presumption 

How often do we succumb to a similar temptation to overlook conjunctions and forsake important applications of God’s word?

We should not be presumptuous and think that little words like “because”, “therefore” and “so” are of little consequential. God inspired them just as He inspires the rest of Scripture. (This is why I was dumbfounded to find that the Chinese translation of the Bible deletes the words “because” and “therefore” over 50 times in Romans 1–11 alone!!)

I sometimes hear people say something like, “I just want to be practical. I don’t want to get tied up in a lot of theology.” These people tend to minimize the importance of theological study, the biblical languages, and other “abstract” concepts. They are quick to ask why this or that idea practically matters for their ministry. I have heard individuals criticize “theologians” for having more head-knowledge than action.

There are two obvious problems here. First, we can only apply what we understand. This leads to a second problem. Every person on the planet has a gap between the knowledge they have and their applying that knowledge.

Because this topic is so important (yet so neglected), I will use the next post to show the practical importance of conjunctions in Paul’s writing. His conjunctions prevent his theology from simply being “abstract” philosophy.

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Don’t Study the Bible with a Secular Spirit

Nov. 6, 2012By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

B.B. Warfield in Trials of Theology

There is certainly something wrong with the religious life of a theological student who does not study. But it does not quite follow that therefore everything is right with his religious life if he does study. It is possible to study – even to study theology – in an entirely secular spirit. I said a little while ago that what religion does is to send a man to his work with an added quality of devotion. In saying that, I meant the word ‘devotion’ to be taken in both its senses – in the sense of ‘zealous application,’ and in the sense of ‘a religious exercise.’ A truly religious man will study anything which becomes his duty to study with ‘devotion’ in both of the senses. That is what his religion does for him: it makes him do his duty, do it thoroughly, do it ‘in the Lord.’

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