I have developed these Five Simple, Essential Questions to Ask of Every Text by teaching and training myself over years of daily Bible reading, study, and meditation. These are the questions I have asked of the text as I sought to better understand the mind and will of God through His Word and apply its truths to my life. I just instinctively ask these questions and am searching for the answers to them as I read the Scriptures.
Yes, at first, I read the Bible mainly just to know and familiarize myself with the content of Scripture: historical, theological, doctrinal, etc.
But the more I read, the more I came to recognize and experience the immediate Personal interaction God has with us through His words [Hebrews 4.12-13; 1 Peter 1.23-2.3; et. al.]. Also, 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, was a pivotal and transformative Scripture to that end.
I have adopted these five goals that I’m always asking God for:
I have shared these Five Questions at least verbally with every ministry of the Word I have ever been privileged to have. But only recently have I written them out. This is only a brief sketch of all the exercises that go on in my mind and heart as I read the Scriptures.
I share them with you with the prayer to God that it will help you to “Do you understand what you are reading?” [Acts 8.30].
FIVE SIMPLE, ESSENTIAL QUESTIONSWE SHOULD ASK OF EVERY TEXT
#1 / What do the words say?
Exercise: Reading [w/Praying & Meditating]
Read 1 Corinthians 2
Lead words & follow words
Primary words & subordinate words
Main words & support words
#2 / What do the words mean?
Exercise: Understanding / Interpretation
Hermeneutics & Exegesis
Contextual ‘re-creation,’ Linguistics, & Logic
NOTE: we are not asking “What do the words mean ‘to me’?” but rather “What do the words mean ‘to God’?” because God says what HE means, and HE means what HE says – and that’s the meaning we must seek [see 2 Peter 1.19-21]
Pray & ask God for His Divine Authorial Intent
Read Acts 8.26-35 [always look for the ‘Christ Key’]
#3 / What will it look like when I do the words of this text?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2.13 & Acts 1.1
#4 / Am I doing what this text teaches?
Read James 1.22-25
#5 / If I am not, when am I going to start?
NOTE: NOT “If I am not, WHY not?” because there is NO excuse, reason, or justification for disobedience; but rather “WHEN am I going to repent and start obeying?”
Read 2 Timothy 3.14-17
HERE IS AN EXPANDED VERSION OF THE ABOVE OUTLINE SUMMARY. I was asked to deliver it in a service and prepared these Lesson Notes…
Shirley was [and still is and will be forever] my dear sister in Christ, treasured friend, and faithful fellow servant of the Lord and our church for decades. Her matriarchal and motherly influence extended far beyond her own large family and blessed us all. It is my honor to give a tribute to her and her Savior on behalf of so many who love her. Pray for her precious family.
Since 2015, I have made it a practice to adopt and practice what I call “My One-Word Resolution.” Instead of trying to remember and implement a number of resolutions – which all too often I can’t even keep them in mind, much less apply myself to practice them – I distill my strongest aspirations into “My One-Word.” Inevitably, the other resolutions I want to make and practice will grow and flow from it anyway.
You can find my story about how I discovered and learned this spiritual exercise here.
[Or you can read the full text of these posts here.]
The “My One-Word” resolutions I have strived to practice and grow into are:
2015 – REST
2016 – DELIGHT
2017 – FOLLOW
2018 – ABIDE
2019 – CONQUER
2020 – CONQUER / ‘LOVE’
2021 – CONQUER / ‘FIGHT’
2022 – INCREASE
Here in 2022, “My One-Word” is “INCREASE.”
As always, “My One-Word” grows from convictions and aspirations that are inspired by the Word of God. Certain Scriptures, even more so than all the others [2 Timothy 3.14-17], will grip me with the burden that “I must focus on this/these.”
The word “increase” will be expressed also ‘in other words’ like:
progress [both noun and verb]
make every effort to supplement
still bear fruit in old age
ever full of sap and green
bear fruit / more fruit / much fruit
more and more
You get the idea. Every one of these words inspires me to keep growing and increasing in the life and service of Jesus Christ. To improve more and more.
I will turn 71 years old here in a few weeks. The Lord has led and transitioned my life and ministry into new venues, roles, and ministries that are in many ways different than those I have pursued in previous years. I know also that, given the normal life actuaries, I’m fulfilling the finishing stretches of my course.
But rather than accepting my age and stage in life as an excuse to relax, let up, slack off, coast, or ‘decrease’ in my service for our Lord, I not only want to just complete my life course and finish well, I want to ‘increase’ in my usefulness to Christ and my effectiveness in ministering to others in whatever ways He will be pleased to assign to me and privilege me to fulfill.
In other words, I not only want to finish well, I want to finish strong! Wherever and whenever my ‘finish line’ is, I want to stretch every remaining nerve and muscle and reach that finishing line knowing that I have maximized every grace, every gift, every opportunity Christ is pleased to allow me to exercise. I don’t want to stop growing. I want to continue to ‘increase’ until I die and can do no more here.
All of these variations of ‘increase’ will be found in the words of the anchor Scriptures I have noted here. I will also commit these Scriptures to memory. These ‘increase’ Scriptures will also express just some of the primary exercises and activities of my life and ministry that I want to ‘increase.’ These anchor Scriptures are not in any particular order either of attention or application; rather they will all complement and coordinate with each other as I seek to pursue them.
All of these resolutions will in some way interface with ‘increase.’ ‘Increase’ will serve as a kind of hub of the wheel of my life as I want to live it over 2022, and the other resolutions will serve as the spokes to give my life direction, movement, and strength.
This will be my keynote and watchword:
“For if I these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” / 2 Peter 1.8
Here then are a few of my challenging, motivating, encouraging, and guiding Scriptures with the ‘Increase’ resolutions that they inspire me to reach for and fulfill…
INCREASE in my love for the Word of God – nurtured to savor and enjoy Christ more!
1 Peter 2.2-3: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the LORD is good.
RESOLVED: I will increase to love the Word of God more passionately, study it more deeply, and search for Christ more intently!
INCREASE in the amazing grace of knowing Christ!
2 Peter 3.18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
RESOLVED: I will continually increase in the knowledge of Christ by the grace of Christ as much as I can here and now … and as long as I live! This amazing grace of knowing Christ [eternal life / John 17.1-3] calls and allows for unlimited and continuous increase and eternal growth … because He is! This will be the vocation of Heaven forever.
INCREASE in every grace of personal character and Christ-likeness!
2 Peter 1.5-11: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if I these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
RESOLVED: I will develop, cultivate, and practice the daily habits and personal disciplines [‘make every effort to supplement’] that are necessary to increase in all these graces of Christ!
INCREASE in the cultivation, use, and exercise of the gifts Christ has given me!
1 Timothy 4.14-16: Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
RESOLVED: I will increase my pursuit and use of all the learning opportunities, tools, and resources that are available to me to cultivate, develop, and apply my understanding and ministry of the Word of God and the Gospel! [This will follow up and continue with some ‘continuing education/training’ courses I have started in 2021]
INCREASE in my worship, service, and usefulness to Christ – especially in my local church!
Psalm 92.12-14: The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
RESOLVED: I will increase in giving myself to every opportunity to serve Christ, witnessing to His faithfulness, and encouraging my fellow brothers and sisters in the fellowship and community of my local church – especially to those who may be my peers in sharing the treasures and trials of these ‘golden’ years of our lives!
INCREASE in my loving and following Christ in ministering to others – wherever, whatever, and to whomever this ministry may be!
John 21.16-18: Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”
RESOLVED: I will increase in my ministering to others regardless of the time, place, or circumstances where Christ may lead me, place me, and give me opportunity to serve. When Christ says, “You…follow me!” – I will … more and more!
INCREASE in the holiness of love for God and others!
1 Thessalonians 3.11-13: Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
RESOLVED: I will increase in all my expressions of holiness by my love from my heart and in my actions toward all! This will call me to increase in patience, forbearance, forgiveness, sympathies, encouragements, and hospitality toward all!
INCREASE ‘more and more’ in pleasing God!
1 Thessalonians 4.1: Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
Verse 10… for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more.
RESOLVED: I will increase my intentional sensitivity and willingness to test every thought, word, and action by this rule: “Does it please God?” “Does this represent Christ well?”!
INCREASE in my evidences of discipleship after Christ: fruit, more fruit, much fruit!
John 15.1-8: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
RESOLVED: I will increase in my commitment to abide in Christ, bear the fruit of His in-dwelling life being lived out through me, and doing all that I do in prayerful dependence upon and obedience to Him.
INCREASE in confidence, contentment, and thanksgiving in Christ!
Colossians 2.6-7: Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
RESOLVED: I will ‘decrease’ in my discontentment and complaining and increase in my faith and confidence in Christ to grow and abound in all these resolutions. I will increase also in my thanksgivings to Him for the will and strength to faithfully continue and grow.
“For if I these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” / 2 Peter 1.8
In a day when there is so much conflict, division, and brokenness in all our relationships with one another, Paul’s personal appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus still rings so true as a guide and model for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
He didn’t attempt to re-engineer, re-tool, or re-package the Gospel. He just called on Philemon to live out and act out the Gospel as he had received and learned it from Paul / verse 19.
Paul appeals to THE GOSPEL, not only in his instructions to Philemon, but also in his very advocacy for Onesimus. Paul directs Philemon’s attention to the Gospel they both believed and preached [verses 1, 17], and he also embodies the Gospel in himself as he exhorts Philemon:
“So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it…” / verses 17-19
THAT is the Gospel of what God has done for us IN CHRIST! [see Colossians 2.13-15]
And not only did Paul know that the Gospel would instruct Philemon in what he should do [verse 8], but he also had the confidence that the same Gospel would work the will and response in Philemon’s heart to respond by the power the Gospel supplies:
“Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” / verse 21
As Paul wrote in the accompanying letter of Colossians, the Gospel is the message and the means that God has given us to redeem, reconcile, and restore us all to the image of the ‘new man’ that Christ has created us to be…
Here are the Lesson Notes to a study of Philemon that we conducted in our church’s Sunday School.
My Christian Brothers & Sisters [CBS] Sunday School class presented me with this card and message at the conclusion of our Sunday School lesson:
I could not receive a sweeter, richer, more rewarding and fulfilling “Thank You!” than this one.
I want this to be my lasting remembrance and legacy.
This is what I live and serve Christ to do.
This is the way I want to be remembered.
This is the legacy I want to leave with those to whom God has privileged me to minister.
This is the influence I want to have and the mark I want to leave in people’s lives.
I’m not leaving instructions for someone to carve this in my grave marker, but it would do!
As John the Baptist said when his disciples turned to follow Jesus whom He announced and to whom he had pointed them, “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” / John 3.29.
There was another more material gift that accompanied this note, but it is our mutual loving, learning, treasuring, and savoring of the Word of Christ that is the heartbeat and joy of our weekly fellowship.
Over the course of the past year, I have been engaged in some courses offered through Biblearc.com, developed under the auspices of Bethlehem College and Seminary.
Biblearc is a web-based source for Bible study tools and instruction designed to instruct and train students of the Scriptures to read, study, interpret, apply, and present the Word of God.
Various ‘modes’ or tools are imbedded in the program and employed by the instructors to guide the students to understand, teach, and apply the Scriptures as we seek especially and most of all to seek and savor Christ in His Word.
Most of the courses are ten lessons, self-directed, and can be taken lesson by lesson at the discretion and availability of the student. Others are ‘live’ and are followed on a schedule that is set at the times they are presented. All of the lessons are guided and critiqued by Pastors who offer their personal instruction and encouragement every step of the way.
I have completed the second of these courses – this one is their course on PARAPHRASE. The last lesson assignment was to post a Published Page on their website from a passage in 1 Thessalonians, the Scripture we used throughout the course to practice and apply the Bible study methods and tools we were learning to use.
I chose 1 Thessalonians 4.1-8 as my assignment passage: God’s Clear Call to Holiness and Sexual Purity. Here is a link to that assignment. The page is interactive – that is, if you open the page, you can not only see the modes in which I wrote my paraphrase of the selected text, but you can also open the ‘dot notes’ in which I wrote observations, cross-references, and truths that are taught in that particular verse or word.
Here are the Lesson Notes/talking Points for the studies we have conducted in our Sunday School class from Colossians. There are five sets of Lesson Notes in this one composite paper. I have kept the Scripture text passages and lesson titles that were in our Lifeway Explore the Bible personal study guides to aid our class members to keep in sync with their scheduled study guides. However, the Lesson Notes are from my own personal study and presentation. Also, these Lesson Notes are not intended to be structured outlines or detailed commentary. Rather, they are as we call them: Talking Points. They are topics, subjects, truths, applications, and takeaways that we intend to discuss, learn, and practice in our lives from our study of the Scripture texts.
The themes we emphasized throughout our study of Colossians are the same themes that Paul was presenting and pressing on them: CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY, SUPREMACY, AND SUFFICIENCY.
I offer them now to you with my prayer and my hope that God will be pleased to use them for your edification and “that in everything He might be preeminent” / Colossians 1.18.
You will find here the Lesson Notes for the 6-part study we conducted in our Sunday School class on the book of Ruth.
As the course title states, this is not intended to be a detailed study of this precious and prescient short story. Volumes have been written about the events that transpired in this story, explanations of the Scriptural, historical, and cultural practices that are acted out in this story, and the prophetic significances of the redemptive pre-enactments that the characters lived out in their actions – all of which were sovereignly superintended by God’s redemptive purpose and plan and pointed to Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
I am not capable, nor was it my purpose, to reproduce those studies. Think of these Lesson Study Notes more as “talking points” to guide us through the reading and discussion of these lessons. All of these “talking points” opened up much more explanation and discussion of the exciting truths that are written here in this Romance of Redemption.
As I have reminded our class repeatedly, these lessons are not intended to be structured lessons or studies. Rather they are prepared and presented to help us all better learn how to read our Bibles on a daily basis and search for and find Jesus Christ there. After all, the Bible is “God’s Story about His Son, Jesus Christ, to us” and Jesus Himself declared that they ALL testify to Him [see John 5.37-40 & Luke 24.25-27, 44-48].
So what we want to do is better learn how we should read, study, understand, and most of all, worship Jesus Christ as He is promised, prophesied, and pre-enacted in the Old Testament Scriptures.
I use the word “pre-enactment” a lot in our Sunday School lessons especially when we are studying from the Old Testament Scriptures because that is what the whole OT is: it is a pre-enactment of the Redeemer God would send us “when the fullness of time had come”[see 1 Peter 1.10-12 & Galatians 4.4]. This Book of Ruth is rich and replete with such pre-enactments.
So I’m making them available to you with the prayer and hope that as we read the Word of God together, we’ll hear the echoes and invitation of Philip’s question to the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” When the Ethiopian answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” … “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the Good News about Jesus” [see Acts 8.26-35].
I did use three resources in particular to enrich my own understanding and help me prepare to present these lessons to our class. Each of them was extremely helpful to me in distinctive ways:
the BEREA BAPTIST CHURCH at HIDDENITE, NORTH CAROLINA
which had full and sufficient opportunity for judging his gifts,
and after satisfactory examination by us in regard to his Christian experience,
call to the ministry, and views of Bible doctrine,
DAVID STEPHEN PARKS
was solemnly and publicly set apart and ordained to the work of
THE GOSPEL MINISTRY
by the authority and order of
the HILLCREST BAPTIST CHURCH at Winston-Salem, North Carolina
on the Twenty-seventh day of August, 1973.
(signed) E. W. Parks, Pastor
E. W. Parks, Pastor of Ordaining Church
Harry J. Simms, Moderator of Ordaining Council
L. Leroy Pack, Clerk of Ordaining Council
Herbert H. Wilson
Thomas D. Flynn
H. Rondell Rumburg
Charles C. Vogler
Brant H. Seacrest
T. B. Freeman (who preached the Pastoral Charge)
Donald S. Fortner
I. (Irvin) L. Wallace
B. (Bill) E. James, Jr.
[Note: of these 13 pastors who comprised this Ordaining Council, 10 are now with the Lord]
A host of the members and friends from Berea Baptist Church had driven the 50 or so miles to attend and participate in this service. They had called me to be their pastor a little over a month before, 4 July 1973, and had requested my ordination by my home church, Hillcrest Baptist Church. I was only 22 years old, and this was my first pastorate. They were and are a most gracious people, though most of them who were in attendance that night are also with our Lord. Those who are still living remain among my sweetest and dearest friends.
The service lasted over two hours. We convened that Monday evening around 7 pm as best I can remember.
Harry J. Simms was the Moderator of the Ordaining Council. He was a most influential man to all of us in our family. “Preacher” Simms was my immediate predecessor-pastor at Berea church. He was the one who had introduced me to them by inviting me on a number of occasions to preach in his absence. [I also have vivid memories of the first message I preached at Berea. It was from Psalm 11.1-7, God’s Immovable Foundations. That was 6.6.71. I’ll tell that story another day…] Preacher Simms was also my Dad’s primary mentor and friend from the beginning of his ministry. Shortly after the Lord saved my Dad, he became acquainted with Preacher Simms. They began to talk and study the Scriptures together regularly. Preacher Simms discipled Dad and taught him the doctrines of the Word of God. As a consequence, Dad confessed and identified with Baptist teachings. When Dad started conducting Sunday afternoon services in a small church building on Goldfloss Street [this was in Winston-Salem NC] that had been vacated when the former church relocated, he invited Preacher Simms over to preach in those services. After a few months, Preacher Simms told Dad that he needed to start preaching in his own services. He led in my Dad’s ordination also. That was around 1949 – 24 years before this time of my own ordination.
For my ordination service that night, they had set up a small table on the pulpit platform of Hillcrest Baptist Church. [This was in the small auditorium in the original building…it is now their fellowship hall.] It was barely big enough for the two of us – Preacher Simms and me – to sit around. Our faces were probably not three feet apart. Keep in mind that this was August 1973. The Nixon-era Watergate hearings had been televised for several weeks back during May-June. So as we took our places around this little table for my interrogation and examination, Preacher Simms looked at me and quipped, “Kind of feels like Watergate, doesn’t it?” But he also assured me that the purpose and spirit would be more kind than those hearings were. So for the next 1 ½ hours, he and the other members of the ordination council asked me questions about my salvation testimony, my call to preach the Gospel, my doctrinal beliefs, how I intended to shepherd and lead the flock of God, and my commitment to be faithful to Jesus Christ and the Word of God. It was a detailed and thorough examination.
T. B. Freeman delivered the Pastoral Charge. Brother Freeman also had been associated with our family and a part of my life for as far back as I could remember. He was originally from Bristol TN but had re-settled in Mims/Titusville FL where he also pastored. Brother Freeman was an evangelist and revivalist. He travelled extensively among churches in many states preaching revival and protracted meetings. He was a godly, humble, Spirit-filled man of God. More than anything else, T. B. Freeman was a man of fervent and passionate prayer. My Dad had invited him on numerous occasions to come to the churches he was pastoring and preach revival meetings. He was like another father-figure to me. I respected and admired him immensely. So I asked that he be invited to come and preach my Pastoral Charge to me. He would later invite me to come to the churches he pastored and preach in revival meetings.
And then, of course, my Dad. Dad had been my Father, my Pastor, and my primary teacher, trainer, and role model from the beginning of my life. Even before the Lord saved me and called me by His Grace to preach His Gospel, I still had always wanted to be a preacher … because Dad was a preacher, and I wanted to be like him. Dad delivered the final charge to me to be faithful to Christ and to give myself and my life totally to serve Him. My Dad had modeled that charge for me to emulate and imitate. He then presented me with my ordination Bible [which, of course, I still have right here…].
The other ten preachers on the ordination council were either preachers in the Hillcrest church or pastors of other churches with whom we fellowshipped. Looking back over those names, I had preached at some time or another in all of their churches. All of them were brothers in ministry who had encouraged and helped develop me, and I was blessed by God to have been influenced by them in so many ways.
I think back on that night and that service very often. That occasion – the purpose of it and the commitments I made – still grips me and convicts me. I hope and pray to God that I have been faithful to the stewardship that has been entrusted to me, and I want to continue to be faithful to Christ who called and appointed me to this ministry until my appointed end – and I stand before Him to give account.
It’s coming back to me again in power on this anniversary day.
And with whatever remaining life and time of service God may be pleased to grant me, I still commit to this charge:
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of God” ~Acts 20.24