Studying God’s Word: Observing What the Text Says

Mike Srisam-angChurch Blog

Studying God’s word requires proper heart preparation. I proposed in last week’s post that the necessity of prayer, the requirement of purity, and the mindfulness of perspective are important as we approach the word of God. We need to realize our dependence and desperate need of divine guidance as we look to God’s Spirit inspired word. God requires our hearts and lives to be pure as we come before his holy word. This means that as Christians confession and repentance are a part of our daily lives. We are also to be mindful of having the perspective of not only applying the truth of Scripture to our lives but to pass along the truth of God’s word to others. This protects us from studying for purely accumulating knowledge.

With that in mind, we’re ready to open up our Bibles and study God’s word. We’ve prepared our hearts and now it’s time to observe what the text says. This is where we become nosy. This is where we ask and answer questions pertaining to what the text says. This is the time when we try to find out everything we can about the text that we are studying. So where do we begin? Let me offer a big picture practical guide for starting the study of a book of the Bible.

Before observing what the text says in the specific passage that you are studying within the book, you first need to be familiar with the context of the entire book. This would require reading and re-reading the book so that you can get a feel for why the author is writing it. What is the author communicating? What is the author’s purpose in writing it? What is the book’s overall central argument? After reading the book over and over, you should be able to come up with a concise 1-2 sentence preliminary purpose statement answering the question: Why did the author write this?

It would also be a great benefit to understand the historical context of the book. When was it written? To whom was it written? What is the background? What is the setting? Various amounts of information can be gathered from the biblical book itself. In addition to the biblical book, other sources can provide a great deal of information. I would recommend getting a good study Bible and reading the introduction section to the book (ask your pastors if you are interested in more resources).

Now that you understand the broader context, you can begin to sequentially study specific passages as you move through the book. You want to identify the main idea of the passage that you are studying. This will involve being a careful reader of the text and making text-driven observations. This means that you are drawing out of the text information that is there to support the author’s main idea of that passage. We are not yet asking, what does the text mean, but only seeking to observe, analyze, identify the parts of speech, analyze grammatical relationships, and asking the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions from the text.

No verse in the Bible stands alone and so observing the broader context of the biblical book and the immediate context within the book itself will keep us from imposing into the text something that is not there. We want to put ourselves into the mind of the author. This will lead to a more accurate interpretation of what the text means and application of what the text means. More will be said next week about understanding the author’s intended meaning as we look at the next step in studying God’s word, which is interpreting what the text means.

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Studying God’s Word: The Importance of Heart Preparation

Mike Srisam-angChurch Blog

The Bible is God’s divine revelation to man. This is how God has spoken to us (2 Pet 1:19-21) and this is how we can hear his voice. It is verbally inspired in every word and absolutely inerrant in the original documents. The Scriptures contain the very mind and thoughts of God (Isa 55:8-9), as well as the will of God for your life (2 Pet 1:3).

The word of God itself testifies to its own importance. We are reminded of that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

As a result, you can be confident that the word of God is the sufficient source of wisdom and practical instruction. It will guide and train you in your Christian life and provide you with truth leading to sanctification (John 17:17).

The Bible is not like any other book. It is unique in that it contains the divine wisdom of God and it requires the Spirit of God to comprehend it (1 Cor 2:1-16). Therefore, you must approach Scripture with the proper dependence and a right heart. You must have your focus on God and depend upon the Holy Spirit to teach you and to give you understanding.

Here are three things to remember as you prepare your heart daily to study God’s word:

  • The necessity of prayer

Since you need the Holy Spirit to give you understanding, it is necessary to pray. The psalmist prays in Psalm 119: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (v.18),” and “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it (vv.33-35).” You need to realize your dependence and desperate need of divine guidance as you study God’s word.

  • The requirement of purity

You cannot ever hope to understand the word of God unless you deal with and repent from the sin in your life beforehand. James 1:21 says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness (first) and (then) receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Am I continuing to confess my sins (1 John 1:9)? Am I coming to the pure word in an unclean manner? “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16). God is holy and you must approach him with reverence, a holy longing, and pure motives.

  • The mindfulness of perspective

Why am I doing this? What is the motivation? Studying is not an end in itself. There is a purpose for the study. You are not a spiritual cul de sac. Yes, studying is to learn more about God to be able to worship him more, but studying is also intended for the practical application of the things that you learn (Jas 1:22). In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 we are called to be servants and faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. In other words, we have a responsibility to pass along the truth of God’s word (2 Tim 2:2). Who can I encourage and benefit with what I have learned? Who am I going to share with today? You study to receive and to give. That is the perspective you are to have.

All of this takes place before you even open up your Bible to 1) observe what the text says, 2) to interpret what the text means, and 3) to apply what the text means. During the next three weeks, we will be looking at each one of these components in order to help us study God’s word.

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Sunday Night Worship Gatherings

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

On four of the final six Sundays this year Immanuel will gather for an evening worship service. I want to challenge you to attend. I think that if you come you will not only benefit yourself but also bless others. I hope you will break the habit of never coming and build the routine of showing up. I hope you will regret finishing the 4:30 NFL game (we have TiVo for that) or worrying about Monday’s workload (we have Matthew 6:34 for that). These are loving pastoral admonitions for your good. None of us spend enough mutually beneficial and encouraging time with Christians.

Why Gather Twice on Sundays?
Here is how we define a service gathering: Because we believe the church is a family we gather in one place at one time most Sunday nights. Our goal is to worship and fellowship as prescribed in the Bible by hearing, praying, and singing God’s Word together. We also meet early to encourage you to linger after the service or eat dinner together. Please join us tonight as we love and care for one another.

Why Gather at 5:00 PM?
Great question. Here are some answers: (1) to encourage post-services meetings showing that the gathering is more important than the committee meetings or choir practice, (2) to preempt dinner, after which we are less likely to leave the house, in general, and less likely to attend church, in particular, (3) to maximize daylight for those who struggle to drive after dark, (4) to accommodate Sunday night choir rehearsal, (5) to make evening services accessible to families with young children, (6) to create a personable and less apprehensive service for guests, and (7) to allow for hospitality over dinner or dessert afterward.

Why Should You Gather with the Church?
Sunday night service gatherings provide a platform to obey God’s Word. Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Don’t miss out on the life of the church. When we gather sermons will guide, updates will inform, relationships will grow, votes will decide, and prayers will intercede…all on Sunday night.


Pastor Michael

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Thanksgiving Pie & Praise: What to Expect?

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

HosPie and Praisepitality and Pie
At 5:00 pm on Sunday night, November 18th, our church family will gather in the Fellowship Hall for Thanksgiving Pie & Praise. You can register HERE. Please bring one pie per family and deliver it to the kitchen on Sunday morning. When you arrive, start with dessert, find a place to stand or sit, and enjoy conversation with those around you.

Stories of Grace
Thanksgiving Pie & Praise is a blend of singing and sharing. You are invited to tell stories of grace during the service. How has God blessed you? How as he provided for you, answered your prayers, or saved you? These are stories of God’s grace in our lives. Sharing them for all to hear will give glory to God from whom all blessings flow. Memorable testimonies are specific to people, places, and events, beginning with “I praise God because…” or “I thank God for…”, and intended to encourage the audience.

Coming to the Lord’s Table
The service will end with observing the Lord’s Supper as we worship the Lord Jesus for what he has done to redeem us. Five elders and their spouses will stand at the front with bread and juice representing the body and blood of Jesus. The musicians will lead us to stand and sing a series of songs. You can walk to the front individually (or as a family) at any point while we sing to take the Lord’s Supper. Then return to your seat and continue singing.

Observing the Lord’s Supper in this way represents our response to the Gospel by symbolizing our repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. While the Holy Spirit woos us through conviction, it is the responsibility of every person to receive by faith the gift of salvation. This will bring back sweet memories for Christians who remember walking forward at a public invitation when they first believed.


Pastor Michael

Your iPhone is Telling on You

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

With the launch of iOS 12 last month, Apple now tracks and reports your phone and app usage in a weekly Screen Time report. You can review time usage per-day, weekly time usage, average daily pickups, and total notifications with each category reported individually by the app.

I screen-shot my iPhone. You can see that I spent 3 hours per day and 21 hours total with phone in-hand. I used Instagram, Chrome, Google maps, and Twitterrific the most. To my chagrin, I checked my notifications 81 times per day with Monday and Tuesday as my heaviest usage days. Now, remember Jesus’ words, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” Before reacting, check your own report.

Just follow the instructions: (1) Open Settings, (2) Tap on Screen Time, (3) Tap your device at the top of the page, then (4) You can view your Screen Time data for the current day or the last 7 days. Weekly reports land on Sunday mornings, which is a feature I’d like to change. Who wants a data dump before attending church?

What can a conscientious Christian learn from Apple’s Screen Time?

Three Takeaways:

Focus on using your phone well rather than using it less
Phone use is a wisdom issue, not a moral issue. Does a Screen Time report tempt you to use your phone less just for the discipline of your own habits? Let go of arbitrary standards. Focus on using your phone for good, helpful, and productive goals.

Reports help self-regulation
Seeing your habits reported in a graph is a reality check. It is like stepping on the scale for your brain. Perhaps fasting from a particular app for a week or a month is in order. Use the downtime to readjust your priorities and regulate future use.

Use your phone to give rather than receive
We can uncover a subtle narcissism in our phone usage by asking the question, “Are my phone habits about me or others?” We know the difference between checking our phone for self-gratification and using our phone for self-sacrifice. So many blessings can be shared through a text, post, or voicemail.


Pastor Michael

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What should you include in public worship?

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

worshipI remember the beginning of my first pastorate, the congregation included faithful, loving Christians who worshiped together for decades. As any tight-knit group will do, a few odd church family rituals embedded themselves in their unwritten, but expected traditions. One of which was singing “Happy Birthday” to prominent members in the church during the Sunday morning service. The ratio was about one stanza of “Happy Birthday” every other Sunday.

To make it worse, “Happy Birthday” included a second spiritualized verse: “Happy birthday day to you. Only one will not do. Born again means salvation. How many have you?” I always wondered whether “How many have you?” referred to a natural and spiritual birth or multiple salvations. If it confused the pastor surely it confused the members.

As the pastor, I was mortified at what a guest would think. I wondered how the low profile members felt when their birthdays were overlooked. More importantly, I was convinced that we could glorify God in our public gatherings better by focusing less on ourselves and more on Jesus.

How should churches decide what to include in public worship services? What is a healthy gathering in the Bible?

The Regulative Principle vs The Normative Principle
Churches practicing the Regulative Principle include only things clearly warranted in Scripture as part of the worship gatherings. It includes practices found in the Bible such as preaching, praying, singing, giving, and the ordinances of baptism and Lord’s Supper. Churches practicing the Normative Principle include anything not prohibited in Scripture.

Which principle should the church practice? Choosing between them is a wisdom decision. A church must prefer what best glorifies God and edifies the people. Consider the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church in making the choice, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Col 14:26). Notice that “Let all things be done for building up” does not include any cool and catchy idea. “All things” included a hymn, lesson, revelation, tongue, or interpretation. Which principle do you see in this? Paul regulated the service gatherings by narrowing things included in the order of service, even when revelatory gifts were active in the church.

A healthy gathering occurs when a congregation of baptized, covenanting church members meets in one place at one time for worshiping God and hearing his Word resulting in God’s glory and the people’s edification.


Pastor Michael Wilburn

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Meaningful Membership

Michael WilburnChurch Blog


Church membership is a centerpiece of a Word-centered church. In recent blog posts, we’ve defined a Word-centered church as focused on expositional preaching, shepherding leadership, meaningful membership, and healthy gatherings. In the last post, I described the character of shepherding leadership, and shepherding leadership assumes a flock to teach, oversee, and protect. Membership is the biblical means by which pastors know the believers for whom they will give an account to God (Heb. 13:17).

Why is Church Membership Necessary?
In the church God knits Christians together through worship, service, and life. This is the meaning of being “individually members of one another.” Romans 12:5 instructs, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Just as a believer is added to the Body of Christ at the moment of salvation, so also Christians are added to the local church in membership. Meaningful membership guards the front and back door of the church. It is necessary to receive and dismiss church membership biblically. In February 2018, Pastor Mike Srisam-ang published two excellent blogs on the importance of local church membership. You can read them HERE and HERE.

What Makes Church Membership Meaningful?
It is a two-fold answer including (1) a confession of sound doctrine and (2) a commitment to a church covenant. A church covenant follows Immanuel’s doctrinal statement in Article III in the church’s constitution because right doctrine leads to meaningful relationships. Membership links the two. To emphasize it in other ways, orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, belief leads to behavior, and faith leads to faithfulness. The meaning of church membership will be confessed in theology and lived in practice.

As a church member, remind yourself of the covenant responsibilities of membership:
I therefore promise, in dependence upon the grace of God which helpeth our infirmities,
to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints,
to do good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of faith,
to sanctify the Lord’s day by diligent and devoted attendance upon the public worship of God in this church,
to support the work of the church as God prospers us,
to keep the ordinances as they have been delivered unto us,
to pray faithfully for those who have the rule over us, who speak the Word of God,
and to preserve the good name of this church by a consistent walk
so that no reproach shall be brought upon the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Immanuel Baptist Church Constitution, Article III, Section 2.

Church membership at Immanuel Baptist Church is a three-step process:
1. Membership Class
2. Elder Interview
3. Congregational Vote

Begin the process by attending the November 4th membership class HERE.


Pastor Michael

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Shepherding Leadership

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

A Word-centered church is a congregation gathered for the receiving of God’s Word. Rightly understood, a Word-centered church must agree about the teaching, leading, adding, and gathering of God’s people. We’ve set out in this series of blog posts to address this using the headings expositional preaching, shepherding leadership, meaningful membership, and healthy gatherings. In this article, we will consider the shepherding leadership of the church.

Church leaders in the Bible are referred to as overseers, elders, and pastors. All three titles synonymously refer to the same group yet emphasize unique leadership functions. How do we know the titles refer to the same office? Well, twice in the New Testament all three appear in the same passage referring to the same office. Try to identify overseer, elder, and pastor in 1 Peter 5:

1 Peter 5:1-3
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Peter addresses the leaders as ‘elders’ in verse one. These elders are then instructed to ‘shepherd the flock’ and ‘exercise oversight’ as pastoral and overseeing work. Acts 20:17-35 give a similar combination of church leadership terminology. Elder refers to the spirituality to lead, overseer refers to the competency to lead, and shepherding shows the heart to lead.

Shepherds smell like sheep
There is no substitute for time and longevity. In the church, shepherding leaders are present—always present and faithfully present. Shepherds show up to teach the Word, and they show up to receive the Word. When the flock gathers, the shepherds gather. They show up to celebrate and to comfort; to listen and to pray; to fight wolves and to make peace. Shepherds never abandon the flock (Read John 10). The point is shepherds smell like their sheep because they live their lives among the flock.

Shepherds lead as sheep
You drive cattle, but you lead sheep. That’s why 1 Peter 5:3 qualifies, “not domineering over those in your charge.” Love and trust are essential between the shepherd and the sheep. Pastors lead sheep well as they follow and submit to the leading of Jesus Christ, the good and chief shepherd (John 10:11 & 1 Peter 5:4). Pastors lead as under-shepherds serving with Christ’s authority.


Pastor Michael Wilburn

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Fall into Reading

Martha HancockLibrary Highlights

IBC Library Fall 2018
Coming this fall to the church library:

New Creation Science Resources for Juniors!
Answers Books for Kids Box Set (Vol 1-8) by Ken Ham
All kids have questions Now you can give them the answers!
Developed by Ken Ham and the creative team at Answers in Genesis, The Answers for Kid’s Series answers the top 174 toughest questions submitted by kids relating to:
• Creation & the Fall
• Dinosaurs & the Flood of Noah
• Sin, Salvation, and the Christian Life
• Evolution & Millions of Years
• God & the Bible
• Space and Astronomy
• Babel and the Ice Age
• Satan & Angels

The answers we give today will be the foundation of the next generation. This series gives kids the
vital answers to help them form a strong and lasting faith foundation.
•  One Blood for Kids- Ken Ham J231.765
• Creation Sings – Dudley (Psalm 19:1)
• Bugs, Big and Small- God Made Them All – Zinke J
• God’s Wondrous Machine – The Breathtaking Respiratory System, The Electrifying Nervous System, The Complex Circulatory System – Dr. Laina Callentine, M.Ed, M.D

Board Books
• Remarkable Rescue, Saved on Noah’s Ark- Becki Dudley
• When You See a Rainbow- Dudley
• God Made Time – Mackenzie
• God Gave me SIGHT – MacKenzie
• God Gave Me Hearing- MacKenzie


• Destiny (Prequel to Navy Justice Series by Don Brown
• Beneath the Surface
• Black Sea Affair- Don Brown

And more…




Expositional Preaching

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

Expositional Preaching

Previously, I described what it means for Immanuel to be a Word-centered church. You can find that post HERE. A Word-centered church is a congregation gathered for the receiving of God’s Word. But how should we express Word-centered convictions? What is it about our attendance, order of service, and demeanor that validates it?

In upcoming blog posts, I will describe and apply what it means to be a Word-centered church in four areas: (1) expositional preaching, (2) shepherding leadership, (3) meaningful membership, and (4) healthy gatherings.

To begin, a Word-centered church gathers for the preaching of God’s Word. At Immanuel, we practice expositional preaching. We preach through books of the Bible—verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book, and the point of the passage is the point of the sermon. That is what expositional means. Preaching exposes the meaning. It brings the Bible to light. It makes clear what to believe and how to obey. It informs the mind. It reveals truth and calls for a natural response to the truth.

A Word-centered commitment to expositional preaching means that we set our attention on God’s Word when we gather as the church. Consider Jensen and Grimmond’s appeal, “The purest preaching happens in the context where God’s servant is preaching God’s word to God’s people. This makes both church going and church preaching critical. In our gatherings, we must be careful not to allow other elements to crowd out the hearing of God’s word.”¹ We meet for 75 minutes on Sunday morning and 60 minutes on Sunday night. Our goal is to focus that sacred time on God’s Word from prelude to benediction.

So how do we apply this? As a listener, expositional preaching requires your time, attention, and application.
First, it requires your time. Presence means everything. A television is no substitute for the church. Second, pay attention, absorb, focus, and assimilate what the Bible means. It is hard and necessary to focus. Third, make personal applications beyond those suggested by the pastor and make them stick. To help, four application questions are published along with every sermon on Immanuel’s Church App.


Pastor Michael

¹Jensen, Phillip D. and Paul Grimmond. The Archer and the Arrow: Preaching the Very Words of God
(Australia: Matthias Media), 2010. p. 44.

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