Moody on Bible Marking!

When we talked about Bible Reading in the early service, I mentioned that there was a handout at the back of the church that talked about marking your Bible. If you missed it, or came to the second service, here it is for you to print out!

from Golden Counsels by Dwight L. Moody, 1899.

An old writer said that some books are to be tasted, some to be swallowed, some to be chewed and digested. The Bible is one that you can never finish with. It is like a bottomless well; you can always find fresh truth gushing forth from its pages. “No Scripture,” said Spurgeon, “is exhausted by a single explanation. The flowers of God’s garden bloom not only double, but sevenfold; they are continually pouring forth fresh fragrance.” Hence the great fascination of constant and earnest Bible study. I thank God there is a height in the Book that I have never been able to reach, a depth that I have never been able to fathom.

Hence also the necessity of marking your Bible. Unless you have an uncommon memory, you cannot retain the good things you hear. If you trust to your ear alone, they will escape you in a day or two; but, if you mark your Bible, and enlist the aid of your eye, you will never lose them. The same applies to things you read.

Every one ought to study the Bible with two ends in view-—his own growth in knowledge and grace, and passing it on to others. We ought to have four ears,– two for ourselves, and two for other people. My Bible is worth a good deal to me because I have so many passages marked that, if I am called upon to speak at any time, I am ready. We ought to be prepared to pass around heavenly thoughts and truths, just as we do the coin of the realm.

Bible-marking should be made the servant of memory; a few words will recall a whole sermon. It sharpens the memory, instead of blunting it, if properly done, because it gives prominence to certain things that catch the eye, which by constant reading you get to learn by heart. It helps you to locate texts. It saves preachers and class-leaders the trouble of writing out notes of their addresses. Once in the margin, always ready.

There is a danger, however, of overdoing a system of marking, and of making your marks more prominent than the Scripture itself. If the system is complicated it becomes a burden, and you are liable to get confused. It is easier to remember the texts than the meaning of your marks.

The simplest way to mark is to underline the words, or to make a stroke alongside the verse. Another good way is to go over the printed letters with your pen, and make them thicker. The word will standout like heavier type. [For example], mark “only” in Psalm 62 in this way.

When any word or phrase is often repeated in a book or chapter, put consecutive numbers in the margin over against each text. Thus, “the fear of the LORD” in Prov. 1:7, 29, and so on. Number the ten plagues in this way. In the second chapter of Habakkuk are five “woes” against five common sins.

When there is a succession of promises or charges in a verse, it is better to write the numbers small at the beginning of each promise. Thus, there is a sevenfold promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:2, 3, “1I will make of thee a great nation, 2and I will bless thee, 3and make thy name great, 4and thou shalt be a blessing, 5and I will bless them that bless thee, 6and curse him that curseth thee, 7and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” In Prov. 1:22, we have 1simple ones, 2scorners, 3fools.

Put a cross in the margin against things not generally observed. For example, the law regarding women’s wearing men’s clothes, and regarding bird’s-nesting, in Deut. 22:5, 6; the sleep of the poor man and of the rich man compared, Eccl. 5:12.

On blank pages at the beginning and end of your Bible, jot down texts to answer the various kinds of difficulties that you meet in talking to people in the inquiry-room: “can’t hold out,” “too great a sinner,” “fear persecution,” etc. Also on these blank pages write short Bible readings and outlines of sermons.
In addition to the examples already given, I find it helpful to mark:

1. Scripture references. Opposite Gen. 1:1 write, “Through faith. Heb. 11:3,” because there we read, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Opposite Gen. 28:2 write, “An answer to prayer, Gen. 35:3.” Opposite Matt. 6:33 write, “1 Kings 17:3” and “Luke 10:42,” which give illustrations of seeking the kingdom of God first. Opposite Gen. 37:7 write, “Gen. 50:18,” which gives the fulfillment of the dream. You can connect the prophets with the historical books, the epistles with the Acts, in this way.

2. Notes to recall a sermon, story, or hymn. Against Ps. 19:59,60, I have written, “The prodigal son’s epitaph.” The recalls John McNeill’s sermon on those texts.

3. Railway connections; that is, connections made by fine lines running across the page. In Dan. 6, connect “will deliver” (v.16), “able to deliver” (v.20), and “hath delivered” (v.27). In Ps. 66, connect “Come and see” (v.5) with “come and hear” (v.16).

4. At the beginning of every book, a short summary of its contents, something like the summary given in some Bibles at the head of chapters.

5. Key words for books and chapters. Genesis is the book of beginnings; Exodus, of redemption. The key-word of the first chapter of John is “receiving”; second chapter, “obedience”; and so on.

6. Any text that marks a religious crisis in life. I heard Mr. Meyer preach on 1 Cor. 1:9, and he asked his hearers to write in their Bibles that they were that day “called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do not buy a Bible that you are unwilling to mark and use. An interleaved Bible gives the most room for notes and suggestions.

Be precise and concise in your marking; for instance, Neh. 13:18, “A warning from history.”

Never mark anything because you saw it in the Bible of some one else. If it does not come home to you, if you do not understand it, do not put it down.

Never pass a nugget without trying to grasp it. Then mark it down.

“Blessings” by Laura Story

Last week we had a memorial service for a woman who died unexpectedly. She had experienced a lot of physical and emotional hardship in her life, and had recently posted the lyrics to “Blessings” on her Facebook account. We shared the song at her memorial, but I thought that you might like to know the wonderful story behind it.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

The Importance of Rest

As Val and I get ready to go out of town for a few days, here is a very brief excerpt from my Doctor of Ministry thesis.  This short section details the importance of physical rest:

Physical rest, as a primary emphasis of the Sabbath, allows leaders time for renewal.  Rest is implicit in the very name, since “Sabbath” means “to cease.”[1]   The nation of Israel was commanded to rest from work one day of the week (Ex 20:8-11, Deut 5:2-15), and breaking that command brought about severe repercussions (Ex 31:14).

However, rest is not confined to the Sabbath exclusively.  Rest is found in other feasts and festivals, such as the feast of Tabernacles when the Israelites rested for seven days (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).  The Sabbatical year was also a time of rest, as was the year of Jubilee:

The rest principle also found application in the practice of the sabbatical year, the one in seven when even the land was to lie fallow.  After the space of seven Sabbaths of years, or 49 years, there came on the fiftieth year a special celebration of jubilee.  Land and possessions were redeemed by the original owners, and special religious observances were provided.[2]

1 Kings 19 also demonstrates the need for physical rest and care.  After Elijah battled the prophets of Baal, he found himself physically and emotionally exhausted.  He prayed, slept, ate, slept, and ate again.  It is only then that he was able to continue on his journey.  Jesus also modeled the importance of physical rest.  He withdrew for periods of rest (Mark 1:35), and encouraged his disciples to do the same (Mark 6:31).  In fact, while many of the other rest periods of Israel can be thought of in theological terms, Jesus’ life calls us back to one of the important practical issues of the Sabbath command: mankind needs physical rest.

[1] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, Enlgand: Clarendon, 1906), 991.

[2] Harold D. Lehman, In Praise of Leisure (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1974), 124.

Text of Radio spots…

Over the next few weeks our church will be running radio spots on a few of the local radio stations.  Here is the text of those spots…


Hello, my name is Mark Billington, and I’m the pastor of First Baptist Church in Sister Bay, WI.

Easter was an important part of our household when I was growing up, and my mom used to try to make it special for us.  We hard boiled eggs and colored them, and we ate lots of candy; but my favorite thing that we did was to make a bunny cake.

Now, when you make a bunny cake, you don’t just make a flat cake with a picture of a bunny on it!  You stand the cake up, and make it look like a rabbit!  We used jelly beans for the eyes and nose, and pipe cleaners for the whiskers.  We’d also dye coconut green to surround our bunny with grass, and then we’d put jelly beans in the grass.  It was a lot of fun.

My wife and I have carried on that tradition with our kids, except some years we make a lamb cake instead of a bunny cake, because it reminds us of Jesus Christ.  You see, when John the Baptist called Jesus “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” he was drawing on some rich symbolism.  When the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt, God performed a mighty miracle to set them free.  This miracle involved the blood of a lamb, and to commemorate this event the Jewish people would have a festival every year and they would eat lamb.  When did they celebrate you ask?  At the same time we celebrate Easter!

So when my family and I eat our “Easter Lamb” we’re reminded of the rich symbolism of Easter and the reason that Jesus came – It was to free us from our slavery to sin and to grant us eternal life!

If you’d like to learn more about this, please join us for worship on Easter Sunday morning at 10:30am!


Hello, my name is Mark Billington, and I’m the pastor of First Baptist Church in Sister Bay, WI.

I’d like to share something with you from the Bible.  It’s found in 1 Corinthians 15:

3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all…I also saw him.

In this passage of Scripture we see 3 reasons to believe in the resurrection.  First of all, Paul says I saw the risen Lord!  Next he says that lots of other people saw him too, and you can actually go and talk to them if you don’t believe me!  Finally Paul says that we have the testimony of what we call the Old Testament, which predicted the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Now, you might be wondering why this is so important.  What’s the big deal about the resurrection?  Well, the resurrection proves that what Jesus says about Himself is true!  He is the Savior, and he died on the cross for our sins.  It is through Him that we can have a relationship with God.

If you want to learn more about what this means, please join us for worship on Easter Sunday morning at 10:30am!

Not ashamed…

I was shocked this past weekend by the comment of another Baptist minister.  I was preparing for a funeral when he said something that really surprised me.  He said that he was always careful when he preached at a funeral or memorial service because he didn’t want to offend anybody by sharing the gospel.  He preferred to try to bring it in the “back door.”

While I can understand wanting to share the gospel in an understanding and compassionate way, what better place is there to share than at a funeral?    I mean, really — for this service people were coming not only to a Christian service but a Baptist service, and we were memorializing a Baptist pastor’s son!  Surely we weren’t sneaking the gospel in!

I’ll admit that it was a bit disconcerting to have a couple in the audience laugh and poke one another whenever I mentioned Jesus Christ, but that’s the world we live in.  We’re called to faithfully proclaim the message and to not be ashamed regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  We’re also told that the gospel message will be a stumbling block and an offense.  Notice that we aren’t supposed to be offensive, but the gospel message by it’s very nature will make people uncomfortable and hostile.  And we should understand that.  The gospel talks about sin and punishment.  It says that Jesus is the only way.  It really is offensive.

But none of that means we should keep our mouths shut.  We are called to faithfully proclaim the message, and leave the rest up to God.  Does it mean that some people won’t like us, and may persecute us?  Sure.  But if we really care about following God, and we really care about other people, then we’ll be willing to tell them the most important thing in the world — that Jesus died for them.

Rob Bell squirms under questioning…from MSNBC of all places!

Rob Bell at one point says that he’s not a universalist, but then goes on to say that universalism is a legitimate Christain viewpoint. He never does really answer the question about what he means when he says that God’s love will win over everyone in the end. It’s very apparent that he didn’t expect any hard questions from the interview!  I don’t even like the answer he gives at the beginning about the traged in Japan.  Check out the video here.

Friendship, Facebook and the 21st Centry

Ok, I know.  It’s been quite a while since my last blog post.  I really should do this more frequently, but I’m not going to promise anything.  Every time that I think that I’m going to do better, I do worse!

Anyway, I just got back from vacation — an almost Facebook free vacation.  There was only one place where we were staying that we even had internet access, so our email, twitter, and facebook time was severely limited.  And you know what?  It was okay!

While we were away, someone wondered on Facebook why people would just delete their accounts and not tell anybody.  I think that I may actually have insight into that…

Facebook isn’t really a place for intimate friendships.  It mimics intimacy while actually breeding superficiality.  You touch base in a few sentences, and people may get the gist of what’s going on in your life, but you can never get very deep.  Intimacy requires time and conversation.  Facebook doesn’t really offer either.  I made the mistake of offering a full dossier of my life to some old college and high school friends who got back in touch with me on facebook, only to find out that they really weren’t that interested!  Most people would rather just have you as a “friend” and get an occasional update.  The problem is as you collect friends, even this superficiality can be overwhelming, and it becomes tempting to just turn it off so that you can work on real relationships.

As an aside, I also spent some time trying to talk to three people sitting on my couch, and all three of them were on their smart phones sending text messages and checking Facebook.  How’s that for Facebook affecting intimacy!?!?!?

Facebook can also be a painful experience.  It can be difficult getting some updates.  Sometimes it’s like watching a train wreck coming in slow motion, and you can’t really do anything about it.  The temptation then is to just stop tuning in.

Some people also post a lot.  Some people are preachy.  Some people put political opinions up constantly (something I’m tempted to do, but don’t — if you only knew all the things I wanted to say but didn’t)!  Some people share inside jokes with their friends, leaving everyone else to feel left out.  All of this can make you feel that Facebook is just too much to deal with.

Facebook, just like the internet at large, can also suck you in.  It can become a huge time waster.  Sometimes you don’t even realize how much time you’re spending, and, when you finally do, you are tempted to just stop doing it!

So, with all the negatives, what could possibly be good about Facebook?

Well, for close friends and family, it can be a way of keeping up on the day to day, especially because you can share photos with others.  Ironically, this is the opposite of the superficiality that I spoke of earlier.  But in the context of an ongoing relationship, Facebook can actually foster growth and intimacy, especially for family that is far away.

Facebook is also something neat to be a part of as a Christian.  We can know what is going on with people, and we can pray for difficulties they are experiencing  and praise God for the good things that He’s doing in their lives.  It’s especially nice because I’m a pastor.  People can know a little bit more about me, and I can know some of the difficulties they are experiencing and be available for them.

So, there you go.  The good and bad of technology in the 21st century.  We work with what we’ve got, and use it for the glory of God.  And, if some people become more than we can handle, we can always just “hide” them rather than deleting them from our friends list or deleting our accounts!

A lesson on discernment when listening to sermons…

When we travel we tend to listen to lots of different material while we are in the car.  For example, on this last trip we listened to almost an entire sermon series on the book of Revelation!  However, we don’t see that as a replacement for church, and we still try to attend church on those Sundays when we are away.  On our past trip we ended up trying a particular church as a favor to someone else.  I’d like to comment on the sermon.

The pastor started out with a nice enough idea:  we need to help people experience God.  Sounds reasonable enough, particularly since the expression “experiencing God” has become much more common since the Blackaby study of the same name.  How do we help people to experience God?  We pray for them!  All innocent enough.  Up until this point the pastor hadn’t quoted much Scripture.  When he did start to quote Scripture from the Gospels, he started pointing out how Jesus and the disciples helped people experience God.  He pointed to several prayers, and all of those prayers resulted in the person getting healed.  He even talked about how Jesus spoke prophetically to one individual so that he could experience God.  He finished by sharing an illustration of how one of their associate pastors wanted to help someone who had come to church experience God, so he prayed for him.  As a result, the man was healed, and he ended up running away, scared to death!

What I find interesting about this sermon is the underlying duplicity.  At no point did the minister say that we should pray for people to be healed.  He didn’t even say that we could speak prophetically into peoples lives.  What he did do is say that we should help people experience God, and that we do this by praying for them.  BUT EVERY EXAMPLE HE GAVE SHOWED HOW HE EXPECTED THAT TO BE PUT INTO PRACTICE!  He presented his more charismatic beliefs by using illustrations and misapplying Scripture, all with the hope that his audience would make the connection.  I’m sure that this was all done very deliberately in an attempt to seduce people into believing charismatic doctrine.

The long and short of this spiel is this:  be careful what you listen to, and listen very carefully.  People, ministers, and politicians are always trying to sway you to their viewpoint.  Some can be very persuasive, and will attempt to sway you without you even realizing it.

On a side note, this minister also was against an educated clergy, and even an educated laity.  He didn’t think much of apologetics, and even seemed at some points to minimize the importance of teaching and learning in the worship service.  Hmmmm.  If he doesn’t watch it he may just preach himself right out of a job.  I mean, if you shouldn’t attend worship, why should you even listen to him!?!?!  We can hope…