Three Things to Consider When Making New Year’s Resolutions

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I do it.  You probably do it.  Many people do it.  New Year’s resolutions seem to be the norm in the culture that we live.  And what’s wrong with a resolution?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  The problem, if you want to call it that, is that many of us make the resolutions and then watch them fizzle out after only a few weeks.  We have grand plans, but they quickly fall by the wayside.  So what can we do?  Well, for today’s post, I’d like to offer three suggestions for our consideration as we make those New Year’s Resolutions.

Be Sincere.  If you are not making a sincere resolution, then why are you wasting your time?  The change that you would like to make should come from your heart.  If so, you will be compelled to see it through.  Spend time thinking it through and come up with plans that you’d sincerely like to act on.  Consider the reason for the change, the end result of the change, and the process to get you to its conclusion.  If you are willing to subject yourself to those rigors that may be involved, then you are probably sincere about making it a resolution.

Be committed.  This could probably go hand in hand with sincerity.  Even so, it is really the by-product of being sincere.  A commitment requires time and effort.  So, if you’re sincere about making a change, then you’ve considered the rigors that are involved (part of being sincere) and you are willing to make a commitment that will likely require time and sacrifice.  Once again, commitment is a by-product of sincerity.

Finally, be selfless.  Yes, you read that right…be selfless.  Why should we be selfless in making a New Year’s resolution, especially when those resolutions usually revolve around us?  I agree that it may not make much sense, but when you consider making changes that will benefit others it will start making sense.  Consider for a moment that when you have others in mind, it will likely lead you to a greater sense of sincerity, and that greater sense of sincerity will most likely cause you to be a bit more committed.  Is the resolution health related?  If so, are you wanting to be more healthy so that you can be around for your family?  Do you want to miss out on their life because of your obsessive eating or lack of exercise?  If not, then you are using selfless thinking as a motivation for your resolution.  This type of selfless motivation can also be used in other ways, as well.  Do you want to get your finances in order so that you can be more benevolent?  Can you gain a promotion in order to help get others recognized?  Can you spend more time honing your coaching skills so that your team will be better served?  Get the idea??  When we are selfless in setting our New Year’s resolutions, then we may possibly find that we are more sincere and committed.

How about you?  Do you have any advice for making New Year’s resolutions?  Do you agree with my three considerations?  If so, how about dropping a few tips in the comments sections.

Happy New Year!

Two For Thursday: Holiday Edition

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Today is the day after Christmas, and I’m already languishing at the fact that I’ll be heading off to work soon, thus, officially ending my Christmas Holidays.  To be honest, I almost feel as though I need an extra day to rest and relax – it was a busy few days.  All good things usually come to an end; however, and the Christmas Holiday is no exception.  Since that is the case, let me offer you a short, but hopefully helpful Two For Thursday: Holiday Edition.

If you didn’t already have one, some of you may have received an Amazon Echo for Christmas.  Like Apple’s Siri, Alexa has burst onto the scene for Amazon, and she is now prevalent in many smart devices that are being offered everywhere.  From thermostats to door knobs, smart remotes to garage door openers and everywhere between, you can find an Alexa enabled device.  But in order to utilize Alexa efficiently, or to utilize her to fullest potential, you need to know what commands to give her.  This is where a group of authors over at CNET have hit a homerun!  An article posted on December 11, 2019 (most current update), entitled “Every Alexa command to give your Amazon Echo smart speaker or display” lists more commands than you’ll probably ever use.  You can set a daily alarm, send texts, adjust lighting, play music, create a shopping list, etc.  There is so much you can do, and the list is ever expanding.  The Editor’s note states that the list was originally posted on April 13, 2016, but it is updated regularly.  Why don’t you head on over and learn all that Alexa can do?

Many people make reading the Bible in its entirety a priority for the new year.  And like most, I’ve started a plan many times through the years only to see it go by the wayside after a few months.  It shouldn’t be that hard to do, but it always seems to be a difficult discipline to master – that of reading the Bible daily.  For those of you that are committed to continuing the tradition of reading the Bible through in a year, I’d like to present to you a pretty exhaustive list offered by Ligonier Ministries with the catchy title “Bible Reading Plans for 2020”.  You can choose from a variety of different plans such as Chronological, Historical, Two Year plan, 5 day plan, and many others.  All come with a PDF or website link so that you can print or access the plan that is right for you.  So if you’re one of the many that will once again plan to read the Bible through in 2020, head on over and check out the list.  Whether or not you choose one of the plans listed, please be encouraged to read your Bible daily.

As promised, today’s post is short and sweet.  I trust that you’ll get some use out of the resources that are provided, and if so, how about dropping me a comment to let me know that you did?  Thanks

The Blessed Hope of Christmas

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Let me share a few of my thoughts concerning Christmas, if I may.  While today’s post is simple, I find its content to be profound! Christmas time for me is a time to reflect on the reason for the hope that I have.  Being a believer in Jesus Christ, Christmas time ushers in a tremendous sense of wonder at the fact that our Savior chose to clothe himself in humanity, be born to a virgin in a stall reserved for barn animals, grow and teach us about the Father, be tempted by every type of sin and yet not sin, be scorned and persecuted by those he came to save, suffer, die, and be raised from the dead.  Just the mere fact that he (aka King of Kings, Lion of Judah, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords) would take on human flesh and be born into a world that would despise and reject him astounds me.  He, from his high and lofty position in glory, could have provided salvation in any other way; yet, he chose to come and be crucified by the ones that he created!  His perfect life as a sacrifice for my imperfect one.  This, my friend, is love!  Knowing that he loves me that much gives me all the hope I need to survive in a world that has lost its way.  This is why I believe in him, and I trust him as my Lord and Savior!

What Child is This?

 What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

(William Chatterton Dix – 1865)

Please do not get caught up in the hub bub of what the Christmas holiday season has become, but offer yourself to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” – Romans 10:9-10

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

Merry Christmas!!

Two for Thursday: Cake and Coffee Edition

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I’m not sure that today’s post title left anything to the imagination, but I think I’ve found some fun and interesting resources for you today on this installment of Two for Thursday.  Take time to check these links out, and be sure to let me know what you think.

If you’re like me, you don’t function well without coffee.  I mean I have to have it!  If not, I’m cranky, ill, and most likely have a headache!  My regular routine is to drink three cups per morning – all by 8:00 am.  I am trying to cut back to two cups per morning; however, saving room for another later in the day.  But the cold weather doesn’t help that cause, it simply increases my desire for that hot, dark, watery goodness.  I’m not one that samples a wide variety of flavors, either – Folgers in my cup is fine for me, but I have been known to splurge on a caramel macchiato or a frothy cappuccino from time to time.  Mmm good…I love coffee!  Keep reading and I’m sure that today’s first resource will make you crave that cup of joe even more.

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Have you heard of Coffee Review?  Wow!  If you want to know all about coffee, including reviews of the various types and equipment, this is the site for you (and me)!  According to their website, Coffee Review was founded in 1997 by Kenneth Davids and Ron Walters with a mission to “help consumers identify and purchase superior quality coffees and, in the process, help drive demand and increase prices to reward farmers and roasters who invest time, passion, and capital in producing high quality coffee beans.”  They further state “Our goal at Coffee Review is to point readers to the best coffees in the world that are available at any given time, and to educate coffee drinkers, food service professionals, and the coffee trade with a trustworthy and easy-to-use guide based on objective, blind reviews and cutting-edge reports.”  If I’ve piqued your interest, why don’t you go on over and take a sip.  Oops, sorry!  I meant take a look…take a look!

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As a bonus to the Coffee Review, you may also be interested in the National Coffee Association’s website.  You can find it here:  National Coffee Association

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The second link for today’s Two for Thursday is all about your birthday!  What significant events happened on your birthday?  What famous people were born on your birthday?  What was the number one song on the day you were born?  Any significant events take place on your birthday?  At the following site, if you’ll take the time to enter your birth date, these questions can be answered at: My Birthday. Ninja.  (Please be aware there are ads on the birthday ninja site, but if you take the time to close them out and look around, I think you’ll find a few moments of enjoyment.)

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Bonus:  A couple of additional sites that are similar to the Birthday Ninja are the Names.Org (birthdays) site; On This Day; My Birthday Facts. (You can purchase a customized copy of your birthday facts on the My Birthday Facts).

Okay, there you have it.  I trust that you’ll find today’s resources both fun and educationalIf so, please be sure to comment and let me know!  Thanks!

God, Why did You…?

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There are many perplexing questions that we face during our lifetime, and if truth be known, we’ll probably never be able to answer them this side of Heaven. Here is one such question that I look forward to asking God:

Me: “God…”
God: “Yes, Sonny, what is it?”
Me: “I know that you are the great Creator and that there is a purpose for everything…”
God: “That is correct, Sonny. Go on.”
Me: “Why did you create mosquitos?”

mosquito

Just a bit of harmless humor to help you start off with a smile. (By the way, what perplexing question/questions do you have ready to ask God?)

“And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds-livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds. And it was so.”
Gen 1:24

A Lesson From the Kitchen Sink

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Today’s post is a reprint of one that I shared on October 20, 2013 at one of my previous blog sites.

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Early yesterday morning, as I was rinsing out my coffee pot, I noticed that as I refilled it with water, the water appeared brown. Knowing that from time to time in the past we’ve had issues such as this brown water, I checked the water in a clean glass only to find out that the water clarity was fine. As it turned out, the pot has simply stained over time by the coffee. Needless to say, no matter how many times I rinsed it, the water still appeared stained as it filled the pot…good water, but stained glass. The glass needs a good cleansing.  I was glad it wasn’t the other way around – dirty water and clean glass.  And while I contemplated that thought, a truth from God’s Word came to mind – regardless of how good we think we are, or how good we think our works are, we are all stained by sin. Let’s consider what God thinks about our good works outside of a relationship with Christ. In Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees, He exclaimed “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matt. 23:27). Furthermore, we learn in Isaiah 64:6 that our righteousness is like “filthy rags” or “a polluted garment” (depending on translation). Jesus’ prescription to the Pharisees was that they should, “First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matt 23:26).

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The point of knowing the aforementioned verses is to lead us/me to the all-important truth that the only way we can be cleansed is by Jesus…no other way. We need the supernatural cleansing that only Jesus’ blood offers first, then we can produce the good works that we were created to do. Scripture confirms this truth in 1 John 1:5-10 and Ephesians 2: 8-10:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10 (scripture quoted from biblehub.com) .”

If-we-confess-our-sins-he-is-faithful-and-just-and-will-forgive-us-our-sins-and-purify-us-from-all-unrighteousness

8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 8-10 (scripture quoted from biblegateway.com)

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In closing, I’m reminded by an old song that we all probably know:

Nothing but the Blood
Robert Lowry

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain:
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

So, how about you?  Do you ever have those kitchen sink moments?  If so, I’d love to hear about some of them.

Two for Thursday: Bible Study Edition

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We’re back for another installment of Two for Thursday, and I suppose if I had to add an additional hint to what type of resources will be included, I’d simply say “Bible Study Edition.”

Our first resource today is one that many of you may already be aware of, but in case you’re not, let me introduce you to Faithlife.

Faithlife

Faithlife Corporation publishes and creates electronic tools and resources for Bible study. It produces the Logos Bible Software, but also publishes tools and resources under a number of other brands, and partners with more than 500 publishers to offer over 120,000 Christian ebooks available to users of its software.

Logos

Logos Bible Software is a digital library application designed for electronic Bible study. In addition to basic eBook functionality, it includes extensive resource linking, note-taking functionality, and linguistic analysis for study of the Bible both in translation and in its original languages. It is developed by Faithlife Corporation. As of October 29, 2019, Logos Bible Software is in its eighth version.

For those of you that haven’t checked out Faithlife yet, you are in for a surprise!  Faithlife is a resource that is designed to work with churches and individuals to equip them for ministry and to deepen their knowledge of the Scriptures.  It is a centralized site that encompasses various other platforms such as:  Logos, Faithlife TV, and Bible Screen.  With a free account, you have access to a wide variety of web based Bible resources including commentaries, dictionaries, theological books, Bible translations, etc.  I will warn you; however, that it may take some time to find your way around the platform, especially Logos, to unlock all of its free content.  But if you take the time to do so, I’m sure that you’ll find that it is well worth it.  Before long you will have a library of free books and reference material at your fingertips!

The second resource is another that you may be familiar with and it is the very popular Bible App, powered by YouVersion.  Of the app, the website exclaims “Tens of millions of people are using the Bible App™ to make God’s Word a part of their daily lives. Download the free app and access your bookmarks, notes, and reading plans from anywhere. Enjoy hundreds of versions, including audio, all on your mobile device.”

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This app is really incredible!  In addition to a wide variety of Bible reading plans, you have access to daily devotionals, Bible audio versions, and over 1000 Bible translations.  Videos are available, as well.  And if you are interested in maintaining a Bible reading plan, the app will send you reminders and keep track of your progress.  You can even set up a community with other users to keep track of what they are doing.  There are daily verses that can be shared via memes, or you can even create your own to share across social media platforms.

If you haven’t checked out the Bible App, I’d like to encourage you to go on over and do so.  It can greatly aid you as you seek to deepen your knowledge of the God of the universe!

BONUS RESOURCE…Just for today, I’d like to offer a bonus resource (free of charge), and it comes from the Dallas Theological Seminary.  Did you know that they offer online Bible courses for free?  Well if you didn’t, you do now!  I’m currently enrolled in a six week course on Romans, and here is a bit of the email that I received at the start of my course:

“My name is Jacob Beck, and I’m here to help you get the most out of this course. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at any time.

This course is designed to last six weeks, but you can go at whatever pace works for you. 

While these courses are not accredited at Dallas Theological Seminary or any other institution, they are adapted from the same classroom teaching that DTS students enjoy.

Once you complete all six quizzes, a certificate link appears close to the quiz section. You can click the link to download your certificate.
You can share this course with as many people as you want. You can use this Facebook sharing link, or you can direct people to courses.dts.edu to register for free.

If there are any more questions I can answer for you, just reply to this email and I’ll respond as soon as possible. 

If you didn’t know about theses free resources before today, I’m happy to share them with you.  I trust that you’ll find them packed with value, and if so, why not drop a comment to let me know?

Introducing Trunkbox Ministry

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For today’s post, I’d like to introduce a ministry that my wife and I are involved in.  It is called Trunkbox Ministry.  While the name may be unique, the idea certainly is not.  Simply put, it is designed to help you/us be prepared to help meet the daily needs of someone who is homeless.

Consider all of the random moments in which you find a homeless person begging on a sidewalk, at a busy intersection, or living under an overpass in a cardboard box.  There are those times that the Lord convicts you to do something, and many times we just don’t know what to do.  Well, Trunkbox Ministry is designed to help you/us do something.

For a small purchase price (depending on how much you want to put in your box/bag), you can fill a shoebox or storage bag with personal items that will help a homeless person for a few days.  Items such as deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrush, lip balm, nutrition bars, water bottle, band aids, socks, etc. (Please see attached slide show for a full list.)  By keeping multiple boxes/bags in your vehicle, you will have an opportunity to possibly make a difference in someone’s life when the occasion presents itself.

The Trunkbox Ministry is easy to replicate, as well.  Invite your family, friends, social clubs, co-workers, church groups, to be involved.  Take a moment to share the presentation – it speaks for itself, and then answer any questions that they have.  I will also keep a page on this site devoted to Trunkbox Ministry, so if you share the post, let your audience know.  The ministry idea is one that you can personalize to your comfort level, but the important thing to remember is that it is designed to show love to our neighbors.  The homeless are not loved less!

Helping-the-Homeless

Trunkbox Ministry slide presentation

Two for Thursday

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Welcome to another edition of Two for Thursday.  As always, I hope to offer you two quality resources from the web that have entertainment value as well as educational value.  Furthermore, if you have a weblink to a resource that you feel others would find beneficial, please feel free to share them in the “comments” section below.

The first resource that I’ll offer today is for those that love to read, or for those that would like to read more.  Many of you may already know of Tim Challies, but for those of you that don’t, he is a “blogger, author, and book reviewer”, and he has a variety of posts on a regular basis.  My personal favorites are his A La Carte posts in which he shares various links to articles and deals across the web.  Kindle Deals are regularly offered within the posts, as well as suggestions for books, software, and other articles.  Of particular interest to me today is his “2020 Christian Reading Challenge.”  About this plan, the article states:

The 2020 Christian Reading Challenge is composed of 4 lists of books, which you are meant to move through progressively. You will need to determine a reading goal early in the year and set your pace accordingly.

  • The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks.
  • The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
  • The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
  • The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week.

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If you’re in for a good reading challenge, head on over and check his site out!

 

For our second resource, I’d like to present to you “No Sweat Discipleship.”  This is a discipleship tool that is designed to help disciple others.  The approach is straight forward in that it uses simple techniques to study, examine, and apply scripture accurately.  The website explains it this way: No Sweat Discipleship is a simple, transferable, and timeless tool to help every believer learn how to be a disciples maker. You can use it to invest in both a new believer and a seasoned believer. Join the No Sweat movement learning the foundational elements of a disciple’s life.

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Having used this regularly at our church, I can assure you that it is a very good tool for discipling others.  Additionally, there are videos for each segment of the plan to help you better understand how to use it.  There are also forms that you can download and print, as well.

If you are interested in making disciples everywhere, then go on over and learn to use this valuable resource!

So, there you have today’s Two for Thursday!  Please take a moment to let me know if you found value in today’s offerings.  Or, if you prefer, just take a moment to say hello.

Why I Don’t Take My Study Bible to Church

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“Seriously?”  You may be wondering .  “Yes, seriously” is my response to you.  I choose not to take a study bible to church.  And while that may be puzzling to some, I feel that my reasoning is sound.  Furthermore, I find that I am able to retain far more of the sermon than I am if I take my study bible.  “How’s that?”  You may ask.  Well, read on and I’ll attempt to explain my reasons.

The first and most ridiculous reason I choose not to take a study bible to church is due to its size.  Wow!  Have you seen some of the sizes of those?!  Though one of my study bibles is a bit thinner than the other, it is also a hardback.  The one I consider to be my primary is about three feet thick and weighs nearly four hundred pounds!  Not really, a bit of exaggeration here (no, really).  There is a lot of thought that goes into producing a study bible that is that thick and heavy – many hours of notes, introductions, illustrations, word meanings, and maps.  Indeed, it is heavy with the prose of many biblical experts, and their insights are very helpful.  And though I love my study bibles and use them often, I just find them too big and clunky to use in church, unless I plan to literally use it as a weapon.  I am convinced, however; that this is not really how you are supposed to use the “sword of the Spirit.” ( Ephesians 6:17)

The main reason I choose not to take a study bible to church is the meat and potatoes of today’s post.  I prefer to listen to the whole sermon.  Yes.  That’s it.  I want to hear every point that our pastor is trying to convey, and I have found that I can’t do that if I am constantly following a trail of cross-referenced verses or biblical commentary.  My mind will not allow me to continue hearing the preacher speak while it also immerses itself in the thoughts of those previously mentioned “biblical experts.”  Trust me, I get it.  We should be eager to “ search the scriptures” and verify that what is being presented is biblical.  I do that.  It’s just that I do it in a way whereby I jot down notes until I get home, and THEN I refer to my study bible for additional meaning and clarification.  By doing this, I am more fully able to hear the pastor’s complete sermon and all of its applications.  I find that I do not spend precious moments (while he is preaching) flipping pages and chasing other thoughts.  That is of no benefit to me and it can be distracting to others.

In summary, I choose to use a bible that will allow me room to jot down thoughts or references in the margin.  Sometimes I use a note pad for this purpose, but whichever method I use, my mind is totally engaged in what the pastor is saying for the entirety of the sermon.  And then afterwards, I can spend additional time searching the scriptures and developing a fuller understanding.

How about you?  Does this logic resonate with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

*Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. – Acts 17:11 NIV

*12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. – Ephesians 6:12-20 NIV