More To Learn

No matter how long we have been a Christian there is always more to learn for each of us. No one can ever say that they know everything and there is nothing further to learn. In fact I sometimes feel that the older I get the more I need to learn!

With this in mind it is good to ask ourselves what steps are we taking to learn more of God? It’s all very well knowing we have more to learn but what should we do about this? There are many different ways we can do this including:

Making Time To Learn from Others
There are so many resources which are available to help us. We can listen to preachers, teachers and scholars, learning from their experiences of God. The internet provides us with access to a huge amount of Christian material which can benefit us spiritually. We may not be able to attend a conference for various reasons but there is a good chance that material from it will be freely available on-line for us to consume.

In addition to listening to God’s Word being preached from sermons we can also feast on the rich variety of spiritual books that are available to us. Not only can we purchase books from our local Christian bookshop we can find free books available on-line for us to read too.

Christian blogs can also be a source of blessing and edification to us and many offer the option to subscribe to them so we can read their latest postings.

Making Time to Read Scripture
It is important that we make time each day to read and study the scriptures and deepen our knowledge of God. If we neglect reading the bible we will find it difficult to grow as Christians.

Although we live such busy lives it is worth deliberately setting aside a time each day, this could be morning or evening depending on your personal circumstances, to read the scripture. Even if you find it difficult to do this it is an essential habit to develop. I have found it personally helpful to set aside a period of time in the mornings to read the bible after I have had my shower.

Some people find it helpful to have a notebook with them when they are reading the bible so they can write down what God might be saying to them through the scriptures.

To assist us in our reading and studying of the bible it can sometimes be useful to use a commentary to assist us. There are a number of bible commentaries that can be found on-line for free that we can use.

Making Time to take a Theology course
This will not be appropriate for everyone but another possibility is to consider making the time to take a theology course. Anyone interested in this has various different options which they could consider.

There are theological colleges that offer residential courses of varying lengths. Some churches run short theology courses that might be another possibility if a residential one is not practical. Additionally there are a number of courses that are offered for on-line studying.

If this is something that interests you it’s probably best to have a chat with one of your church leaders who will be able to advise you on this.

Conclusion
Hopefully the above has given you some ideas of how you can continue to learn. There is always more to learn, no matter how young or old you might be. Let us strive to continue to learn for as long as we are on this earth.

 

Preparing The Way

Christmas can be a very busy time of the year as we prepare for the big day. There is the card writing, present buying, food purchasing and so much more that we can easily forget what we are actually celebrating! To that end I would like to recommend a book by Derek Tidball called “Preparing The Way” which is part of the Cover to Cover bible study books published by CWR.

The book covers the 31 days of Advent and is suitable for both group or personal use. It is split into five sections:

• Week One: The Saviour Promised Long (1 December to 7 December)
• Week Two: Hope of the World (8 December to 14 December)
• Week Three: Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness of the Lord! (15 December to 21 December)
• Week Four: Christians Awake! Salute the Happy Morn (22 December to 28 December)
• Week Five: O Come, O Come, Immanuel (29 December to 31 December).

Each day has a bible reading which is followed by some thoughts from the author on that particular passage. It then closes with a section entitled “To consider or discuss” which encourages and challenges us to respond to what we have just read.

At the end of each weekly section there are four further questions for the reader to reflect upon as they review the past week’s readings. There are also some ideas for prayer.

If you find that the Christmas preparation is taking your eyes off the real reason for the season then this book would serve as a very helpful reminder of what we are really celebrating.

 

What did I give to the Church Service today?

If I am being honest I admit that on occasions in the past I have had a completely wrong attitude when attending church services. This has resulted in me thinking and actually saying “I didn’t get much out of the service today.” However, instead of making that statement I should have asked myself the following question: “What did I give to the church service today?”

I’m not talking about how much money I might have placed in the collection bag. Instead I’m referring to how much of myself did I actually give to God in the service. Did I worship God wholeheartedly during the service? Did I fix my eyes on Him as I joined in the singing or was I inwardly criticising the musicians or singers?

When the sermon was being preached was I praying for the preacher or wishing they would hurry up and finish? Did I have my ears open to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice through the sermon or did I switch off because I disagreed with one small minor point of their theology?

After the service did I go home and moan about the fact that no-one spoke to me at church or did I make the effort to speak to others after the service finished?

Obviously no church is perfect because it contains humans and none of us are perfect. However if we all, (and especially me) approached church with the attitude of “What can I give to the church service today?” we might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!

Leviticus-Deuteronomy (Bible Study Commentary)

There are some books of the Bible that most Christians would agree are not easy to read and understand. One of the most obvious ones that springs to mind is the book of Leviticus. However, although Leviticus might appear a difficult read, it’s included in our Bible. Therefore we should not ignore it but instead seek to read it and hear what God is saying to us through this part of scripture.

To that end I would like to recommend a book called Leviticus-Deuteronomy (Bible Study Commentary) by Martin Goldsmith. Unlike many Bible commentaries this one does not look at the text verse by verse, but looks at larger portions (normally a chapter at a time). There then follows some thoughts on the passage which are no more than one page of A5 long. Some of these also contain a closing thought, question, challenge or meditation for the reader to ponder. The section on Leviticus contains an interesting table on the various feasts featured in the book.

Although I am mainly focusing on the benefits of this book for studying the book of Leviticus, the sections on Numbers and Deuteronomy are equally good. This part also contains some maps which will help the reader to place the various towns, cities and regions mentioned in these books.

Throughout the book there are also questions for further study and discussion based on chapters already read. This enables the reader to study these three books in greater depth. Additionally this section could also be used by a house group to form the basis of a weekly study.

I have used this book to study Leviticus and found it really useful, helpful and insightful. If you have attempted to read Leviticus before and really struggled or just given up, then why not purchase a copy of this book and give it another go. You will not be disappointed!

 

So a Comedian Walks Into a Church

If you were to hear the words: “So a Comedian Walks Into a Church” it’s likely you would think that this is the first line of a joke. However, on this occasion that is not the case. Instead, it’s a title of a book written by Paul Kerensa, who is a stand-up comedian and also a Christian. The book is the story of his travels around the country in his job as a comedian and the churches he visits each Sunday whilst away from home.

In his writings the author shows us the reality of the comedy circuit. This regularly involves long trips to venues to perform in front of audiences which can be very small in number. Indeed there are times when the comedy event is cancelled and no-one remembers to tell the performer that! We see the frustration of these wasted journeys and how it creates the worry of whether he will be paid for the wasted trip. This is not the stardom of selling out the O2 for a week or appearing on Live at the Apollo. However, it is the reality of life for many comedians.

After performing on a Saturday night Paul Kerensa endeavours to find a local church to attend the next day. He describes his experiences of attending many different denominations with varying styles of worship including: Church of Scotland, United Reform Church, a Church in Wales (where the service was conducted in Welsh), Salvation Army, Baptist, Charismatic, Cafe Church, Pentecostal, Methodist and Quakers. That’s quite a variety!

The book concludes with a chapter examining the wondrous cross selection of UK Christianity that the author has encountered on his travels. Although the book was written in 2013 it’s probably fair to say that most of his findings are still reasonable valid today.

This is an enjoyable book which is quite funny in places. It helps us to see the reality of life for a comedian and the fact that it is not an easy life. I also suspect that there are few Christians who have attended such varying styles of worship as the author and therefore it’s interesting to read his observations of them.

C.H. Spurgeon The People’s Preacher

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the most famous preachers in history and there are plenty of books and websites devoted to him. Therefore, it’s quite a challenge to write a biography that offers a fresh perspective on him. Peter Morden though in his biography entitled “C.H. Spurgeon: The People’s Preacher” manages to do just that.

It’s very easy when reading a biography to just read about the facts of an individual and learn information about him or her. However, the author wants the reader to think about Spurgeon with a view to learning more about him and ultimately to grow more like Christ. To this end each chapter concludes with two sections: “Digging Deeper” and “Engage”. The aim of these two sections is to review the chapter just read and prayerfully apply it to our own life. He also encourages the reader to make notes of what God is saying to them through the life and ministries of Spurgeon whist reading this book.

Although there is much information available on the public life of Spurgeon, as with all good biographies, the reader really wants to know what he was like in private not just in public. The author looks at Spurgeon’s attitude to prayer, the bible, sin and holiness in two chapters called “The Inner Man” and “A Passion for Holiness.”

I believe when writing a biography it’s important not to only include the successful times but also the difficult ones too. Peter Morden tells his readers about the struggles Spurgeon had with depression and his on-going health issues, along with how he dealt with disaster too.

Whilst many associate Spurgeon with his preaching the author also looks at the pastors’ college and Stockwell Orphanage that he established. Both of these works were close to his heart.

This biography is not a long book, it contains 173 pages, but there is a lot packed into it which makes it an edifying read. I would recommend it as a very good book.

The Importance of Reading the Whole Bible

Towards the end of his life the apostle Paul wrote the following words to Timothy “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” ( 2 Timothy 3: 16-17).

I expect if we are being honest many of us probably have whole sections of the Bible which we rarely read. Yet here Paul is saying that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful. Yes that does include the second half of Exodus and the book of Leviticus!

To enable us to get the most out of God’s word it is important that we read it all. If we only read the New Testament then we are missing out on seeing all God did in the Old Testament with his people Israel.

There are so many great and inspiring stories in the Old Testament: Ruth loyalty to her mother-in law Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s determination not to compromise their faith (Daniel 3) and David humbling himself before God after his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51) to name but three.

Although reading the whole Bible can seem a daunting challenge, it is relatively easy to read it all the way through in a year. Did you know that if you spent 20 minutes a day reading the Scriptures you will read the whole of the Bible in a year. Most of us can find 20 minutes to spare to do this and if that seems too much, how about 10 minutes in the morning and another 10 minutes in the evening? When you think about how long we spend watching television or on the internet surely that is not too difficult to do!

There are many different readings plan available to use that take you through the Bible in a year. If you are not sure where to start, just go into your favourite search engine and type in “Bible Reading Plans”. However, it does not really matter if you use a reading plan or decide not to use one. The important thing is to get started and discover the benefits of reading the whole Bible!