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Some thoughts about Bible study…


I’m no expert! I’m just a guy who has over 50 years of experience of reading and studying the Bible, doing it the wrong way and doing it the best way. My purpose is not to tell you what you should do but rather to share what works for me and has been most helpful on my spiritual journey. So, I open my study door and welcome you in. Observe, and if you find something that might help you, please take it.

The absolute place to start is to develop the utmost regard for the Word of God. I can’t over stress the importance of loving and honoring God’s revelation to those he loves. Deuteronomy 32:46-47 The Bible is the way we learn about God, the beauty of the Christ, and the depth of his love for us. Always have as your purpose when you open your Bible that you want to hear from God. Believers should want to be listening to what God has to say so that they may be shaped by his words into the most useful vessels possible.Unless you master the Bible it will not master you. The following are some things that have been helpful to me and I think can be to you as well.

1. Context is king! A passage out of context often becomes a pretext.

Never come to your Bible only to find passages that seem to support what you already have decided is truth. Always come to your open Bible with an open heart and and open mind expecting to hear and learn truth from God. The Bible is the primary way God speaks to his children. But back to context…

Think of context in at least these ways.

Historical
Geographical
Cultural
Situation
Speaker
Audience

If you will think about Scripture in these ways you will be far more likely to get the meaning intended for you. All Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament) is God’s message to us to change us for the better. 2 Timothy 3:16

Critical thinking is required work here. Who was speaking? Who was the speaker speaking to? Why? What principal can I apply to my life today from a statement made many centuries ago to people in a different culture? If you will develop the habit of thinking in terms of context you will avoid some common pitfalls along the way. A good study Bible will have introductions to the books of the Bible and will give broad context to the story. Use that resource!

Remember this! Every false teacher takes God’s word(s) out of context. Everyone!

2. The Bible is it’s own best commentary.

A given text is best understood by reading other texts that address the same subject. A good reference Bible is invaluable. Before you consult a favorite teacher or preacher, before you read a commentary, read the Bible FIRST and then, and only then go elsewhere for more light.

3. Read whole books of the Bible. Admittedly some Bible books are quite long and you might not be able to read all of the book in one setting. But however you do it you must read the whole book.

My practice for many years (since I got high speed internet…) has been to do most of my Bible reading online. I prefer Bible Gateway but there are several other very good sites to choose from. I also prefer the ESV (English Standard Version). It is a trustworthy word for word translation that I find just as comfortable to read as the more popular NIV or Living Bible but more true to the best manuscripts available.

I turn off notes and references for my original reading. I read the book several times until I am pretty familiar with the story. I want to know how that passage applies to me and to others. Often it is in the simple reading of the Book that God seems to zero my mind in on a truth I had previously not seen or had forgotten. Remember, if you are God’s child, the best Teacher lives in you. The Holy Spirit alone is the supreme teacher. John 16:13

Once I have read through the text several times and thought about it, asked myself questions, and considered the actual words of passages, only then do I turn on notes and references. Then I read the passages referred to by the references given. Then next I read the notes available. My last resource is to read a commentary. I think it is far better to find what God is saying to me than to read what some other man says God is saying to me. Of course commentaries are very valuable but don’t get the cart before the horse. Let God speak first, ask God to show you His truth and then as a last step read a commentary, or your favorite preacher’s thoughts on the passage. How wonderful it is to have read a passage and come to a conclusion and then later find sweet assurance that I got it right when I find other trustworthy men and women reached the same conclusion.

4. Don’t allow a pet doctrine, your church traditions, your denomination or lack of a denomination, to get you off course.

Determine in your heart that your purpose is to allow the Word of God alone to advise you and set the agenda for what you believe and trust. If you are fortunate as I am, one day you too will be elderly and will have some time to contemplate your handling of the Word of God. You will see your mistakes, some because of youth and inexperience perhaps, some because of sinful tendencies, and some because of poor methodology. And thank God you can see some things you have done right and you will realize you are better because of it.

Remember this truth! When God described the ways we are to love him, one way is with our minds.

“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

To love God with our minds requires some discipline. It goes against our natural bent. We must be purposeful, determined, and persistent. We must control our thinking, bringing even our thoughts into subjection to God’s will. To be right we must think right. We are to meditate on God’s word. Think for the glory of God. Treasure Christ in your mind first and your heart will reflect it and your life will show it.

I hope these thoughts will be helpful as you learn to love God more and grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ for his magnificent name.

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

The Wrong Way to Pray


Often we pray for God to change our circumstances. I have done it and you have too.
Meanwhile, God might have orchestrated your circumstances so he can change you.

So, instead of asking for things to change so we can be happy, maybe we should ask, ” Lord
help me to see how I need to change in my present circumstances”.

Living by faith as we follow Jesus is not a “get-out-of-jail-free-card”. How indulgent of anyone
to beg God to make things better while that person is still involved in sinful behavior and still making
stupid decisions.

Never forget that many of God’s most useful servants found themselves in big time trouble. Even
when you are doing your very best to be what God wants you to be and when you are “faithing” it
best, your circumstances will often be undesirable and difficult.

So what is the answer? Live every moment in recognition that God is sovereign, that His love for you
is unchanging, and trust Him with the same fervor in darkness and in light, in the valley and on the peak
of the mountain. “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path”. If we work on
conforming our ways to His ways our current circumstances will matter less and less and He will matter more and more.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

The comprehensive scope of the gospel of Christ


The gospel, or “good news”, about Christ is very, very good news because the truth about human beings without Him is so horribly bad.

Every person who is born is born helpless. On this point surely there can be no disagreement. Our precious babies must be cared for in every way. They must be fed, diapers changed, bathed, carried, calmed when they are uncomfortable because they can’t speak, and the list goes on. Babies, even the strongest and brightest are equally helpless. As they grow, gain strength and agility, and learn, slowly they become less dependent on Mom and Dad. Soon they begin to talk, to walk, and do a variety of the cutest things. Then, all too soon for most parents and grandparents, they grow up and are out of the house and on their own. (Some not soon enough)

When children mature into teens and young adults they are still just as profoundly helpless but in a totally different way. Some of them will still lean on dear old Mom and Dad and Gran and Pap longer than anyone wishes, but apart from that each person old enough to do what they know to be wrong. and do it any way. share some problems they are helpless to cure of their own resources. This is true in every place on the earth in every culture and in every tribe and tongue.

Humans are ungodly and can’t do anything to become godly.

Humans are unrighteousness and can’t do anything to become righteous.

Humans are alienated from God and can’t do anything to be reconciled to Him.

Humans are everyone going to die and can do nothing to avoid dying.

Humans will face the wrath of God and can do nothing to avoid that wrath.

Humans have the capacity to commit all kinds of offences against God and His law and can do nothing about it.

The Bible is unambiguous and crystal clear about the condition of a person without God. The bad news about our universal condition is indeed very bad! The precise reason the gospel of Christ is such joyous good news is this, every human problem announced in the Bible about sinful people is gloriously solved in Christ alone. Owing only to His work for sinners the ungodly can be made godly, the unrighteous can be made righteous, aliens can be reconciled to God, physical death will only be the grand entrance into life everlasting, those facing the just wrath of God will not be appointed to wrath, and the penalty, power, and even the presence of sin will be taken away, and knowing God forever will be their joy! This is the best good news possible! No other good news compares.

These passages of Scripture give a broad view of the good news for sinners. What I say, or any person for that matter, is only relevant to the degree what he or she says can be confirmed by the Word of God. So, what does the Bible say about the things I have mentioned?

Romans 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

The great Apostle Paul knew a personal obligation to share the good news about Jesus with everyone possible. To “Greeks” and “barbarians”, to “wise” and to “foolish” and even to those who were already God’s people, “you also who are in Rome”. Some translations use the word “debtor” for the phrase “under obligation”. Paul felt he owed everyone the good news and he intended to pay that debt.

So why was Paul so “eager” to preach the good news? “..it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” it. Jews and Greeks alike (the whole of humanity) need to be saved from themselves and their helpless and hopeless condition, and here it is! “The righteousness of God is revealed” in the gospel! Here is good news for unrighteous people, God reveals His righteousness to those who believe the good news about Jesus and his work. 

Later in his letter to the Romans Paul gives more good news!

Romans 5:For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

This is a remarkable passage! If every seminarian and every Bible school student and every preacher/teacher trainee understood this wonderful passage our churches would be far different. Vibrant missions works will never happen unless those who go understand the gospel of Christ for sinners.

God meets us where we are, in “weakness”. He comes to us in our present condition, “ungodly”. He works for us while we are still “sinners”. It is very good news that Christ died for the “ungodly” because that is all of us! He didn’t ask us to reform ourselves. He did not ask that we prove ourselves by doing good, going to church, etc. No! Christ died for ungodly sinners. That’s you! That’s me!

You and I might die for a good friend, for a good person, but not for an enemy, not for a bad person. But God’s love is not like our love. It is bigger and better! God put his love on display for the whole creation by dying for sinners! But what does his death mean to me, to you?

“We are justified by his blood”. This means that when Christ bled and died on the cross you and I were “set right” with God. We, though sinful to the core, are declared not guilty based wholly upon the sacrificial death of Jesus. The old song asks “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus” and so it is. We are not approved by God because of our performance but by Christ’s performance. Never forget, this saving work of Christ was done for you but outside of you. You were totally helpless to fix your broken condition.

But there’s much more! “much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” What wonderful news! We sinners were facing the wrath of God! Through Christ we will be saved from the wrath of God. The time will come when the fury of God’s just wrath against sin, against those who ignore his love and continue in their evil ways, will be poured out without measure. I don’t pretend to know all that entails but it is very, very bad.

We are saved by his life. Christ died for us reconciling us to God and because He was raised from the dead he promises we too shall live. Because he lives I live. Because he can not die I can not die. I am saved by his life!

But there’s even more! Better than being justified, better than being saved from God’s wrath, better than being reconciled to God, and even better than knowing we will be saved by his life is that we can rejoice in God forever! 

Yes, God saves us from our sins. Yes, God saves us from wrath to come. Yes, God makes us righteous. Yes, God gives us eternal life! But far better than these things is that God intends that we have joy. Joy whose source is Jesus, joy unending, joy unfettered by worldly affairs. joy forever, joy to the full!

Life present you with some questions you can’t answer? Jesus is the answer!

There is no life gone to far. There is no sinner to sinful. There is no rebellion to rebellious. There is no one to far away from God.

Christ died for you. He died for your sins. Why not receive the benefits of Christ’s saving work for you? Repent of living to please yourself. How is it working out for you? Turn your whole being over to Him. Believe that God came in flesh, lived a perfect life and offered that perfect life as a sacrifice for you, and took upon him all of your dirty sins, then died the death you deserved. On the 3rd day Jesus arose from the grave alive to die no more and by his life you too can live, free from the guilt and penalty of sin and made righteous as He is righteous. All of your greatest needs are met only in Christ and the cross of his death and his triumphant resurrection.

This is GOOD NEWS!

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

Nuggets of Fudge – Living in the overlap


The Age to Come has broken into the Present Age and we now live in their overlap. The New Testament refers to this period of overlap in a variety of ways, sometimes by specific expressions, sometimes clearly portrayed but left for us to name. For example, the New Testament directly refers to this overlap as “the last days” (Heb. 1:1-2) and as “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1-2). But those who wrote the New Testament make very plain that this period of overlap is also appropriately called “the gospel age” (Matt. 28:18-20), the interim of Jesus’ visible absence (John 14:2816:16), the time of the Spirit (John 14:16-18), and the era of grace-gifts (John 16:16; 1 Cor. 1:7-9).

This is the period of God’s conquests, which began when heaven received Jesus, who was enthroned at God’s right hand–“until” the last enemy, death, has been destroyed (Psalm 110:1). Then will come the redemptive restoration of all things spoken by the ancient prophets (Acts 3:20-21). In both respects, we live between the Already and the Not Yet. In the case of each of these symbols, we already can see, touch, taste, and experience the eternal reality (Heb. 6:4-6), although we do not yet possess any of these symbols in its fullness. On that basis, we eagerly hope, and groan, and willingly wait (Rom. 8:18- 25).

Because of the nature of the times in which we live, we learn to hold lightly to things that are passing away (1 Cor. 7:29-31). This does not mean that we live inauthentic lives, merely going through the motions. It does mean that every earthly circumstance, relationship and event is transitory and that it derives its value from its relationship with what is permanent. Nothing now is ultimate (Heb. 12:26-29). Yet, for God’s sake, every occasion is significant and every person is important.

Edward Fudge, gracEmail

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Thanks for reading,

Royce Ogle