The theme of my summer Sunday morning messages at Calvary is Pursue Knowing God. Hosea the prophet called on the people of Israel to “pursue the knowledge of the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). The book of Hosea is the focus of our study.
Last Sunday morning near the end of my message I shared some practical ways to pursue knowing God. I thought it would be helpful to provide them here.
Accept what He has promised and provided through His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 17:2-3) Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him, and eternal life is knowing God.
Intentionally (re)focus your heart on knowing God. (Philippians 3:10) The downward pull of our flesh and the busyness of life distract us from knowing God. We need to regularly choose to make knowing God the passionate pursuit of our lives.
Pray specifically for a growing knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10) Paul prayed for the Christians in Colossae to increase in their knowledge of God. This is a scriptural prayer, one that God will surely answer. Pray the words of this verse for yourself.
Read the Bible with purpose, looking for attributes and acts of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5) Good places to start doing this are the Psalms, the Gospels, and Genesis through Exodus. Relate these to the circumstances of your life, thinking, “What do I know about my God?” Journal these. Write them down – “God is ______” or “God is my ______”. Then pray them back to God. Write down how these encourage and help you in your daily life.
Anticipate knowing Him fully forever. (1 Corinthians 13:12) Our understanding of God is so very limited. There are many hindrances. But don’t be discouraged. Look forward to seeing Him face to face.
I have a separate, very private and quiet room where I do most of my study for preaching and teaching the Bible. It’s located in the lower level of our Administration Building, away from the busyness of the church offices. I spend most Tuesday-Friday mornings here, studying the Word and preparing messages and Bible studies. I do some planning and audio recording here as well. I’d like to give you a tour.
This is the entrance. When I turned this room into my study, someone started calling it The Batcave, and it stuck. My wife had this sign made and gave it to me for Christmas.
Here you can see most of the room, with my study desk in the center, and the bookshelves, filing cabinets, whiteboard, and reading corner.
This is my study desk. Here’s what it looks like on Friday morning.
It’s actually an old conference table that was brought to the church by teens on a Bigger and Better activity a few years ago. It served as a game table for the youth group for a while, and now I use it. It’s perfect for spreading out my study materials. The window open on my computer desktop is Logos Bible study software, which contains my primary tools for exegeting the Word. I keep a few hard copy books within arm’s reach.
The area behind my desk is custom-built for visualizing and organizing my message preparation. I put the schedule for upcoming messages on the whiteboard, and keep files, books, and notes related to those messages on the shelves underneath.
I use this stand up area when I want to be on my feet instead of being sedentary all day. There’s an additional computer monitor I can use, and it’s also where I record audio, which I did when we had a radio broadcast and am about to begin using it to try podcasting.
On another wall is my “Vision and Plans” whiteboard. I use this to keep ministry plans and goals in front of me, and sometimes for visionary brainstorming.
I have some books in my upstairs office, but most of the hard copy books I use for studying the Scriptures are on these shelves. Many of my study resources are in electronic form.
This reading and praying corner is almost too comfortable, especially since the chair is a recliner. Who doesn’t need a power nap now and then?
A few times I’ve joked that “The only thing my study is missing is a window.” Well, our very thoughtful staff members gave me one! For my birthday, they gave me this window with a “view.” The picture is actually one that I took on our recent trip to Israel. They even gave me more pictures so I can change them out when I want. Perfect!!!
I keep hard copies of all my sermons as well as some of my study notes in these file drawers.
I can look up sermons by title, text, date, occasion, or topic on an Excel spreadsheet on my computer, and then either pull sermons out of the hard copy file, or access pdf files of them on my computer. I love this capability.
On this tour you’ll notice a few other things, such as the poster on the inside of the door, which is left over from the promotion of a sermon series last year; the fuel station, aka refrigerator and Keurig coffee maker; the Bible stand on my desk (another gift); and of course a place to hang my coat and hat.
I realize that I have something special here, and not every pastor can dedicate an entire room to being a place for study, meditation, and prayer. In fact, my “Batcave” has only been in use for about two years. Before that I used my regular office (hard because I had to clear my desk for administrative work or appointments), or tried to study at home (lots of distractions), or spent a morning at Panera (which I still do sometimes). But if it’s possible to have at least some space used solely for study, it can make a preacher of the Word more productive, I think.
I benefit from reading my Bible with a set of pens that I use to mark and make notes. I make the marks and notes in my Bible itself, which I described in my first post on this topic. Reading my Bible this way helps me get more out of what I read and is helpful to refer to later.
The pens I use work very well for marking or writing on the pages of a Bible. They are Sakura Micron archival pens and can be ordered on the Internet for a pretty reasonable price.
These are available in a gradient of nib sizes. I use 02, which makes a .3 millimeter mark. With this size it is possible to write notes in fairly small spaces around the text. The fine mark it produces also keeps my notes from visually overpowering the text of the scripture itself. The archival ink does not bleed through the paper and does not smear. It is fade-resistant and waterproof. I use four different colors – black, blue, green, and red.
What I mark
As I read the Bible, I mark or make notes related to four areas: key ideas, significant ideas, personal growth, and meaning. Here is a pic of what this looks like on a page of my Bible.
Key ideas are big, very important statements or truths within a book or passage. Of course, every statement in Scripture is important, but some contain the main idea that the rest of the passage or book is related to. I underline these in red. You can see on the sample that I have marked “the fruit of the Spirit” with a double red line. This idea is the focal point of the passage leading up to it. You can also see that I’ve underlined “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” in red. This statement is Paul’s personal conclusion to the issue of prideful legalism that he has been addressing in Galatians 6.
Significant ideas are main thoughts grammatically or that just stand out to me. I underline these in black. I also use black to make marginal notes of significant cross references or related ideas. You can see a few of these notes and underlines in the sample. Black is my “go to” color for anything I just want to highlight or note.
I use a greenpen to underline text or make notes that help me in my personal growth. Notice in the pic Galatians 6:8 where I underlined “he who.” I also placed a green dot by it, indicating there’s a corresponding note in the margin. Then in the right margin I wrote “I choose.” That was my personal application of the words “he who,” indicating that each of us chooses whether to sow to the flesh or to the Spirit. Notice also in verse 9, where I underlined “grow weary” and “lose heart.” As I read this, I recognized that I have experienced these feelings numerous times in my life, so I wrote in the margin, “I am susceptible to.” This is a good example of how I read the Bible interactively, using my pens to mark and note truths that help me in personal growth. You can also see at the bottom of the page where I wrote out practical ways to “sow to the Spirit.” I can’t remember if I heard or read these somewhere or came up with them myself, but they were helpful, and I had room at the bottom of the page, so wrote them in.
I write notes that explain meaning of a word or phrase using a bluepen. You’ll see blue dots by words in verses 9 and 12. In the margin on the right, I have written Greek words, meanings, and uses. In verses 12 and 13 I have also used an asterisk in the text with a note in the margin where I give the significance of the purpose statements in the text – “motivations of legalists.” These marks and notes all relate to word definitions, grammatical connections, and interpretive ideas that help me understand what the text means.
Some people have an aversion to marking in their Bibles. Obviously I do not. I don’t think the physical pages and printed words are to be revered or worshiped, though certainly respected. God speaks to us through His Word. I want to interact with it in a meaningful, personal way. This system has helped me do that.