Are We Paying Attention?

I read through the Bible in 2022 using the One Year Bible: New Living Translation. In 2023 I intend to do the same thing following the reading plan in the Ryrie Study Bible. This year it will be the New American Standard Bible. (Reading different translations of holy scripture heightens my respect for the inspiration and preservation of God’s Word, and sometimes prompts fresh perspectives and questions as I read.)

Reading though the Bible in a year is not as daunting as it may seem. You can do it in as little as twenty minutes a day. It’s not too late to get started. Do a Google search of Bible reading plans, choose one and go for it!

I was saddened to read in the current issue of Christianity Today a report from the American Bible Society that regular Bible reading declined in 2022. It is unclear why. “That means that amid record inflation, threats of nuclear war in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the ongoing debates about the state of democracy, there were about 26 million Americans who stopped reading the Bible.” Is this one of the indicators that the U.S. has become a post-Christian nation?

There is a wonderful story in the Book of Nehemiah which gives us some of the benefits of Bible reading. The teaching priest Ezra led the people of Judah in a solemn assembly to revive their interest in the written Word of God. In Nehemiah 8-9 the “people came together as one” to hear the reading of the scriptures “which the Lord had commanded for Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1).

A great crowd of men, women and children listened attentively as Ezra read all morning long (8:3). The readings were punctuated by expressions of praise to the Lord (8:6). Then Ezra sent other teachers out among the people to explain the scriptures and give clarity in understanding what was being read (8:7-8).

What followed were outcomes we might expect to see in our own lives when we read the Bible with humility: (1) conviction and confession of sin (9:1-4), (2) worship and praise to God (9:3), (3) remembrance of and thanks for the great works of God (9:5-37), (4) heartfelt surrender to God (9:38-10:39). In other words, their lives were regulated and shaped by the holy Word of God. These are reasons why we should be reading God’s Word every day.

I heard Warren Wiersbe say, “When I open my Bible and read it, God is speaking to me.” The Old Testament prophets thundered, “Thus says the Lord!” They were given the conviction that what they wrote and preached was the very Word of God. God had called them to be his human messengers, conveyors of his Word.

So if God speaks though the scriptures, shouldn’t we be paying attention?

Dr. Bruce Waltke was invited to bring a series of chapel lectures at a leading church-related university. His assigned topic was “What do evangelicals believe?” (This was before the label “evangelical” was hijacked by political opportunists!) He began by saying that “evangelical” is related to the “evangel” or the good news of the gospel. The evangel is based upon the Bible. He noticed that nobody in the room had a Bible.

He said to the president, “I won’t continue to teach until you have Bibles!” Naturally the president got upset. But he dispatched a search party to find Bibles for the members of the audience. The janitor found a quantity of unused pew Bibles in a basement storage room. The next week they brought these Bibles to the chapel for Waltke’s lectures.

Why did he do that? Because the Bible was the basis of authority for his teaching. It is the Word of God written, and the source of any truth we can know about God and his will for us. Maybe your Bible is not gathering dust in a basement storage room. But where is it right now? I suggest that you open it and let God speak to you.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Four Reasons to Read Romans

I enjoy my early morning quiet time with the Lord with my first cup of coffee. Lately my Bible readings have been from the book of Romans. This has reminded me of the book’s importance. Here are four reasons why it is good to read Romans.

1. It is a comprehensive summary of the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers to help them become grounded in their faith in the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. Paul said that his entire life was dedicated to the ministry of the gospel, which, he said, originated with God himself. It was centered in Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through belief in the gospel that people are delivered from the power of sin and made right with God, according to Romans. That is very good news.

2. The gospel saves. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” The book of Romans develops this theme in the magnificent doctrine of justification. This tells us how sinners can have their guilt removed and be declared righteous before a holy God entirely by grace. No wonder John Newton called it amazing grace!

To illustrate, the gospel message in Romans changed the lives of some well-known people. Augustine famously told the story of his conversion to Christian faith in his Confessions. Influenced by the teaching of Ambrose, the prayers of his mother Monica, and a child’s voice saying, “pick up and read,” he was convicted by a reading of Romans 13:13-14, which led him to Christ.

Martin Luther was studying the Greek text of Romans 1:17 which gave him the understanding that he could be justified before God by faith alone, apart from good works. Over 200 years later, John Wesley was given assurance of his own salvation in a Christian meeting in which someone was reading aloud from Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans. Wesley later wrote in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins.”

3. The gospel is for everyone. It is equally applicable and effective in all nations, languages and cultures. It is not exclusively for one race over another. “There is no difference,” Paul wrote. All are sinners, and all need Christ to save them, whatever their cultural background. When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, he knew it would be read by Jews as well as Gentiles, by cultured Greeks as well as by those who were considered barbarians, by free people and by slaves. The gospel is for all people.

4. The gospel is relevant to contemporary life. In the preface to his commentary on Romans, John Stott observed, “how many contemporary issues are touched on by Paul in Romans: enthusiasm for evangelism in general and the propriety of Jewish evangelism in particular; whether homosexual relationships are ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’; whether we can still believe in such unfashionable concepts as God’s ‘wrath’ and ‘propitiation’; the historicity of Adam’s fall and the origin of human death; what are the fundamental means of living a holy life; the place of law and of the Spirit in Christian discipleship; the distinction between assurance and presumption; the relation between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation; the tension between ethnic identity and the solidarity of the body of Christ; relations between church and state; the respective duties of the individual citizen and the body politic; and how to handle differences of opinion within the Christian community. And this list is only a sample of the modern questions which, directly or indirectly, Romans raises and addresses.”

So, for these reasons, it is good for us to do what Augustine did back in the fourth century: to pick up the book of Romans and read it. It could change our lives!

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Why I Read the Bible

This year I have decided, once again, to read the Bible through in a year. I intend to follow the reading plan in the One Year Bible, The New Living Translation. The advantage to this plan is that every day includes readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and from the Psalms and Proverbs.

When I have done this in the past, I have been impressed by the Bible’s consistency of emphasis, even though it was written over a period of 1500 years in three languages, by about 40 different human authors. It has 66 books of several different literary genres. Yet its singular theme and central personality is Jesus Christ, and how to know God through him.

I believe it is important for every Christian to read the Bible as a regular part of daily life, whatever reading plan is adopted. (I do believe it is important to read systematically, and to have some kind of a plan, or method. I recently spoke to a man who said he selected Bible verses at random, reading wherever he happened to open the Bible. Generally, I do not recommend this approach. It is better to read the Bible as it was written, book by book, paying attention to the author’s purpose and theme.)

God speaks through the scriptures.

There are many good reasons to read the Bible. I want to emphasize just two of them. First, the Bible is God’s chosen method for communicating with his people. As we read his word, God is speaking to us. It is vital for us to pay attention to what he is saying about himself, what he wants us to believe, and how he wants us to live.

In Nehemiah 9:13-14 NLT the Jews were worshipping and praising God because he “came down on Mount Sinai and spoke . . . from heaven.” This illustrates a truth that is found elsewhere in scripture: God wants us to think of him as speaking to us through his holy word, the Bible. For example, as King David, the writer of psalms lay dying, he said, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his words are on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2 NLT). The Lord told Jeremiah the prophet, “See, I have put my words in your mouth!” (Jeremiah 1:9 NLT).

The apostle Paul said something similar to this in  1 Thessalonians 2:13 NLT. “When we preached his message to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own. You accepted what we said as the very word of God — which, of course, it was. And this word continues to work in you who believe.” This is a good reason for us to read the Bible. It is God communicating with us.

God feeds us though his word.

Just as our physical bodies need nourishment to survive and to thrive, our spiritual lives need the spiritual food of God’s word. Reading the Bible on a consistent basis, in an attitude of reverence, contributes to a believer’s spiritual growth and health.

The writer of Hebrews used this imagery to illustrate the importance of growing to maturity in the spiritual life. “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. . . Solid food is for those who are mature” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT).

I am 75 years of age. But I do not want to stop growing in my Christian life. I want to receive the daily nourishment of God’s word for wisdom, discernment, and spiritual endurance. This will equip me to live the way God wants me to live throughout the coming year.

I want to listen to God every day as he speaks though his word. I want to communicate back to him in prayer. Relationships grow though good communication. I want to know God better throughout the coming year.

That is why I want to read the Bible through again in the coming year.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Preach the Word

As a student in a Christian college I looked forward to the week of the annual Bible conference. Classes were suspended as we heard some of the nation’s leading Bible teachers expound the scriptures. My heart was warmed.  I remember thinking to myself, “That truth was there all the time. Why didn’t I see it?” Those gifted teachers made plain to us students what the holy scriptures were saying. This was soul-satisfying.

This was further reinforced during my student years as I was employed during the summers at World of Life camps and conference center in New York. I was privileged to hear outstanding Bible teaching there too. Those speakers were, like Apollos, “mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24). I was developing the conviction that if I should ever become a preacher, then I must be an expository preacher.

The most significant encouragement in this direction during my seminary training came not from courses on preaching, but from my Greek professor, David Winget, who taught principles of biblical exegesis. Exegesis is the discovery of what the biblical text says and means (preferably from the original languages of the Bible). He demonstrated that sound exegesis is the foundation for a ministry of expository preaching.

Expository preaching seeks to explain the text of scripture in such a way as to help listeners understand its meaning and make relevant application of its truths to their lives. The authority in this communication rests within the divinely-inspired biblical text, not with the preacher.

I have had the high honor of serving as pastor of two great churches, Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky, and Metropolitan Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. In each place I was preceded by well-known pastors who were faithful and effective expository preachers.

The people of these congregations were wise enough, kind enough and mature enough not to expect me to fill the shoes of my esteemed predecessors. Instead, they encouraged me to be myself. They knew that I aspired to faithfully and systematically teach the Word of God. That was what they wanted. They had been nourished by sound Bible teaching in the past and they appreciated the fact that that was what I wanted to continue to do, by God’s grace.

In his book The Living Church John Stott wrote, “We do not occupy the pulpit in order to preach ourselves, broadcast our theories or ventilate our opinions. No! Our understanding of preaching is that it is essentially an exposition of the Word of God. In this sense, all Christian preaching is ‘expository’ preaching . . .  in the broad sense (it opens up a biblical text).”

He went on to say that biblical exposition is like building a bridge from the ancient biblical world to our contemporary setting. That bridge aims to cross a cultural divide of over two thousand years. “Authentic Christian preaching is a bridge-building operation. It relates the text to the context in such a way as to be both faithful to the biblical text and sensitive to the modern context.”

The famous nineteenth century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon told young preachers, “I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or build up a church so well, as the expository. . . . I cannot too earnestly assure you that, if your ministries are to be lastingly useful, you must be expositors.”

So you will not be not surprised to read here that I believe that people need expository preaching Sunday after Sunday, from pastors whose hearts burn within them with passion for the truth of God’s Word. Here are some reasons why I say that.

!. The Sunday morning preaching event is the single most important moment in the life of any congregation. I use the word “moment” advisedly. The preaching of the Word of God is momentous! It centers the gathered congregation on God’s revelation of himself and his will for our lives.  It unifies the congregation  around a shared commitment to God’s revealed truth.

2. The Bible is truthful and trustworthy in all that it affirms. It is an infallible guide to a Christian’s belief and conduct. Expository preaching provides reliable instruction in what we are to believe and how we are to live to be pleasing to God.

3. Anything less than the healthy food of God’s word will leave people spiritually undernourished. It is both “milk” for infants in the faith, and “adult food” (“meat”) for the spiritually mature. Therapeutic pop psychology or social commentary cannot feed hungry souls. Without the teaching of the Bible, God’s people cannot grow spiritually.

4. The Bible is relevant for all peoples, all cultures, all times and all places. Wherever it has gone, the Bible has elevated civilizations, and advanced the progress of cultures. This is true in the local church. The preacher’s task is not to make the Bible relevant, but to show the Bible’s relevance to our lives, guided by the Holy Spirit.

5. The teaching of scripture leads people to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul reminded young Timothy that the holy scriptures were able to make him “wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15). Jesus had told his disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”(John 20:29). How would those who had not seen Jesus in person come to believe in him? It would be through the witness of those first-century apostles (John 17:20)! Their writings about Jesus became the New Testament scriptures. The scriptures proclaim the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For these reasons, and others, throughout my pastoral ministry I made a priority of the study and teaching of the Bible. I wanted to be like Ezra, who “devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Like Paul, I aspired to obey “the commission God gave me to present . . . the word of God in its fullness” (Colossians 1:27).

One of the prominent Bible expositors I heard during my student years was Dr. J. Vernon McGee, whose recorded messages, long after his death, are now still heard on the “Thru the Bible Radio Ministry.” I remember a message he gave for the commencement ceremonies when my brother Steve graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. It was based on the famous text which was the seminary motto: “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).

During his talk he must have repeated that theme more than twenty times! I was reminded of the sacred privilege and solemn responsibility of my calling. I was both humbled and energized. And frankly, I couldn’t wait for the next great opportunity that would be mine to “preach the word!”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

What Christmas Letters Are Saying

Connie and I enjoy hearing from friends and family who send Christmas letters. Yes, we really do read them. We are cheered by the holiday greetings and good wishes. We enjoy the photos that are sometimes included. This is the only time of year when we hear from some of our far-away friends and we appreciate their writing to us. The Christmas season is a good time of year to hear from loved ones.

I suppose this seems old-fashioned, but I guess I am entitled to be, since I am, in fact, old. I still like to go to the mailbox and find some real mail. Christmas cards are a delight — festive, colorful and uplifting. For several years Connie and I have made it a practice to put those Christmas cards and letters into a basket in our bedroom. We keep them all year. When we pray together before retiring, we often use those cards as reminders to pray for the friends who sent them.

Christmas letters usually include updates about important events in our friends’ lives: news about children and grandchildren, travel adventures, career changes, books read (or written), and hobbies and other interests. Most of the time, our friends adhere to the conventional rules of etiquette for Christmas letters: keep it short, try not to brag, be positive, make it personal, and remember to include the whole family.

What makes this meaningful? Why do we send and read these family letters? What is going on? I think Christmas letters are saying at least two things to those who receive them. “I want you to know me” and “I love my kids.”

One of the most important things we give to each other as human creatures is recognition. Every person desires and deserves to be understood and respected. This is why we smile. This is why we talk and listen to each other. A Christmas letter says, “Here is some of what I want you to know about myself and my family. This is a bit of information about what makes my life significant.”

Of course parents will write about their kids, too. Perhaps the most important responsibility we have is launching children in life, giving them a great home foundation. Watching them learn and grow and achieve is a source of immense satisfaction and legitimate pride for parents. It is not surprising that Christmas letters tell about the kids’ academic, athletic, and community activities. Of course parents want to talk about their kids.

The beginning of the new year is a good time for me to remind you that our heavenly Father has communicated to us in written form. The Bible is like a love letter from God. Even though it is thousands of years old, it is relevant to every generation is every part of the world. It is like those Christmas letters in these respects: God is saying, “I want you to know me,” and “I love my children.”

Jesus summed it up in his great prayer for his followers in John 17. Verse 3 says “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” God wants us to know him and we may know him through Jesus his Son. Then in verse 23 Jesus prays, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me.”

The Bible is filled with messages like this from our heavenly Father. He wants you to know him and he wants you to know that he loves you. Read his love letter in 2021. He may ask you if you’ve read it when you see him someday.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Jesus Believed the Bible

If Jesus believed that Scripture was truthful and trustworthy who am I to disagree? His endorsement of the history and theology of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) is good enough for me. In fact, he placed his imprimatur on some of the stories modern skeptics find most challenging and controversial.

To Jesus, Adam and Eve were real persons created by God, Noah and the flood were histories, not mythology, Jonah and the great fish symbolized his death and resurrection, and Moses led the Hebrew nation through the wilderness. To our Lord, it was all true.

He quoted freely from the Old Testament Scriptures and stated that the human authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 22:43). When he frequently said, “It is written,” he was saying that the voice of Scripture was the voice of God speaking with continuing relevance for all time.

Three examples stand out

In Matthew 5;17-18, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Jesus is here speaking of the entire Old Testament, saying that it will find its fulfillment in him. The Lord’s point is that every detail of Scripture is important and will be fulfilled according to God’s purpose.

A second example is found in John 10:33-39. Jesus was engaged in a dialogue with his detractors. In a closely reasoned argument, he added a comment with which his enemies had to agree: “Scripture cannot be set aside” (v.35). He was stating his belief in the immutability and binding authority of the Bible. It cannot be annulled, canceled, or invalidated. Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle commented, “Wherever the Scripture speaks plainly on any subject, there can be no question about it. The case is settled and decided.”

Then in Luke 24:13-35, we have the familiar account of the Lord’s appearance to two men on the road to Emmaus. V. 27 says, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus staked his reputation as the Son of God and Messiah of Israel on the truthfulness of Scripture. His coming was prophesied in every section of the Hebrew Bible. He went on to say, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (v.44).

“You have heard … But I say”

Not only did Jesus assume the divine origin and authority of the ancient Scriptures, but he claimed that his own words carried the same divine authority. In Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 he compared his own words with the Old Testament: “You have heard … but I say to you.” Here Jesus placed his own words on the same level as Old Testament Scripture.

The Holy Spirit

In addition, he imparted authority to his chosen apostles who, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would write the New Testament Scriptures. Before his death, the Lord promised them, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). “The Spirit of truth, who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

The New Testament is the testimony of the Holy Spirit about Jesus through his apostles. Their report about him in the gospels, the Acts, the letters, and the Revelation, is completely truthful and trustworthy. The apostle Paul stated, “The gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). He wrote to another group of believers, “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Jesus believed in the Bible. He wanted us to know that the Scriptures are the word of God revealing how we may be sure of eternal life. Just as Jesus is a divine-human savior, the Bible is a divine-human book. When we read it a divine Person is speaking to us. When we open our hearts in faith to him, he makes the message of God’s love and saving grace real in our lives. If Jesus believed in the Bible, it is reasonable for us to do the same.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner