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Archive for the ‘discipleship’ Category

bible

Real change, and real growth in godliness, takes place as we read and respond to God’s Word. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Paul told the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God , what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

Scripture is absolutely vital to spiritual growth and change. Therefore, you’d think reading and obeying Scripture would be a regular part of our Christian life, right? Apparently not.

Lifeway conducted a survey regarding the Bible-reading habits (outside of church) of Protestant church-goers in the United States. Here’s what they found:

  • 19% read the Bible every day
  • 26% read the Bible a few times a week
  • 14% read the Bible once a week
  • 22% read the Bible at least once a month
  • 18% rarely or never read the Bible

How can we change, grow, and be conformed into the image of Christ if so little time is spent in God’s Word? We shouldn’t. Maybe it’s the reason we don’t see as much change as we’d like. God uses His Word to transform us, but we have to read it – He won’t do it for us.

One factor in the lack of Bible intake may be social media and television. Another survey came to these conclusions:

  • Adults (19 and above) spend 2 hours per day on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
  • Those under 18 and under spend up to 9 hours per day on social media. (8-to-10 year olds spend 5.5 hours, 11-to-14 spend 8 hours, and 15-to-18 year olds spend 9 hours per day).
  • Adults watch 5 hours of television per day on average.
  • Teenagers and below watch anywhere from 3 to 7 hours of television per day on average.

How are we investing our time? To grow in sanctification, and to really change, redeeming the time (Eph. 5:15) is critical.

(Stuart Scott, author of From Pride to Humility and The Exemplary Husband spoke at church last Sunday and mentioned this in his sermon, which was excellent, by the way.)

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga and four other men preach a sermon called “Wisdom from the Aged.” Here is a summary of their sermon in one sentence: A commitment to God’s Word, His mercy and grace, discipline, and being a blessing will help you live for the Lord wherever He has placed you.

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This morning, I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 78:1-8. What follows is a one-sentence summary of his sermon: The older generations of Christians must teach the younger generations who God is, what He’s done, and His Word.

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Over the last several years, I developed a bad habit. As soon as I wake up, I pick up my phone and check email, Twitter, Facebook, and a couple of news sites. With rare exceptions, that has been the way I begin my day.

Recently, I heard something that made me think about what I was doing. The obvious point was made that beginning one’s day looking at the screen of a smartphone may not be the best use of time. I already knew that, but it was good to hear the reminder. Then, thankfully, there was a suggestion offered: Begin your day with the Bible, not the phone. Or, to put it more simply, remember this acronym – B.B.P. (Bible Before Phone).

About a week ago, I decided to try it. Every morning, immediately after I wake up, I pick up a paper-and-ink study Bible (not a phone app) and read it. Based on a challenge given at church, I started reading in Psalm 119. Here’s what I do: I read the passage once. In the case of Psalm 119, it’s divided into 22 sections of eight verses each, which correspond to the Hebrew alphabet, so I’m reading eight verses each day. Next, I read the explanatory study notes for that section. Finally, I read the passage again. There may be a time of prayer and meditation, but not always.

This is a simple method anyone can use. It can be added to your regular reading, study, and meditation upon God’s Word. It doesn’t take long and is a great way to start the day – Coram Deo (before the face of God)!

I urge you to try it!

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It’s the desire of every true Christian to pursue holiness, to live a life that’s pleasing and honoring to God. Psalm 119, which is a 176-verse song dedicated to God’s Word, talks a lot about holiness and the pursuit of it. There’s a direct connection between the two.

Psalm 119:9 asks the question, “How can a young man (or anyone else for that matter) keep his way pure? ” Next comes the answer: “By living according to Your word.” Purity is the result of obedience to God’s Word.

Verse 11 adds action to the truth expressed in verse 9: “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” One of the most important ways to pursue a life of holiness is to hide God’s Word in our heart. But what does that mean?

First, it’s a personal commitment“I have hidden” means that I myself and making a decision to do something, and it’s not one-time only but rather an ongoing commitment. “I have, and will continue to, hide God’s Word in my heart.”

Second, it involves God’s Word. Notice the psalmist says, “Your word” which means God’s Word. When Psalm 119 was written, “Your word” meant the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) primarily. Today “Your word” refers to all 66 books of the God-inspired Scripture. What we hide in our hearts is God’s Word, not our own or someone else’s.

Third, it involves the meaning of hiding God’s Word“Hidden” means “treasure” and “meditate,” but carries the idea of careful reflection. Hiding God’s Word doesn’t refer to reading at a service level or even devotionally. It refers to memorizing and meditating on God’s Word in such a way that it becomes hidden in our heart. In other words, we know it “by heart” as the saying goes.

Fourth, it involves the goal. The result is “that I might not sin against You.” Hiding God’s Word in our heart advances our spiritual health and holiness. It will change your thinking which will, in turn, change your behavior. It’s how the pursuit of holiness takes place.

As someone has said, “The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible. “

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“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13)

We are drowning in false teaching and false doctrine. It’s hard to get away from, both inside and outside of the church. You could call it a spreading cancer and that might be too kind. False doctrine deceives and distracts people, and it can send them to Hell.

There is a way to combat it, however. God has not left us as orphans, but has given us His Word – the Bible – as a bulwark and defense against false teaching and false teachers of every kind. There’s an interesting episode in Acts 17 that illustrates it: “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these (the Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see whether these things were so” (vv. 10-11).

The Bereans listened to what Paul and Silas taught, and received it, but then went to God’s Word to check it out – to see if it was true or not. Think about it: they tested the apostle Paul against the Scriptures! This is how to combat false doctrine. We examine, or diligently search, the Scriptures to see whether or not the things we’re reading or hearing are consistent with it. If they are, we keep it. If they aren’t, we get rid of it.

The encouragement, therefore, is to know the Bible well enough to be able to detect counterfeits. We don’t have to be taken in by false teachings or false teachers. Be a Berean!

Here’s something you can do: When you read a book that has Bible references in it (whether they’re written out or simply cited), look them up. Read the verse, for sure, but also read the context that surrounds the verse. Ask yourself if the verse, as well as the context, supports what the author is saying. Yes, it will take you longer to read the book, but you’ll be doing the work of a Berean and guarding yourself against false doctrine.

We’re drowning in false teaching, but we don’t have to be counted among those who drown.

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The fear of God, or fearing God, has always been a subject of great interest to me. Toby Sumpter, a pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, sheds more light on the subject. It’s worth considering.

What does it mean to fear the Lord? It means to be afraid of God. It means to tremble at the thought of God. Christians are often quick to explain this away. It means respect or reverence, we might say. But that really is not sufficient. The fear of the Lord really is a holy dread, a holy trembling. There is a sinful, fleshly fear that is unholy and ungodly, and perfect love casts out that kind of fear. But if you read your Bible and you want to know the God of the Bible, you must come to embrace the fact that there is a knowledge of God’s holiness and glory and justice and power that makes you feel like you’re standing on the very edge of a cliff looking down into thin air.

God is not a cosmic teddy bear. He is fierce and terrible. When people come into His presence they fall down, they tremble. It’s the fear of knowing His complete perfection and holiness and knowing we are not. He is a hurricane of glory, the sun of righteousness, the lion of the tribe of Judah, thunder and lightning goes out from His throne, and He sees all things, knows all things, and He will judge the world in absolute justice.

Do you fear the Lord?

This godly, holy fear is necessary for a godly and holy life. God spoke to the people of Israel and gave them His covenant so that they would learn to fear Him all the days of their life and teach their children to do the same. The fear of the Lord teaches men wisdom; it teaches us to obey God’s commands. The fear of the Lord hates all evil. The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. The fear of the Lord is better than great treasure. Hebrews says that in the New Covenant, we have come to Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and God speaks to us directly from heaven, and therefore we must serve God with reverence and godly fear, because our God is a consuming fire.

Our God is not at all safe, but He is good.

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