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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ Category

congregation

“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” (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV).

We should go to church because we need it, but also because our brothers and sisters in Christ need it, too. Yes, we gather together to worship the Triune God. No, it isn’t a solitary endeavor, however. We “stir up one another to love and good works,” and encourage each other by our attendance and involvement. They need us and we need them.

When you go to church, greet people warmly and with a smile. You may be the only person who’s greeted them that way all week.

When you sing (even if it’s a song you don’t like), sing it anyway. You may encourage someone who wonders if it’s possible to praise God in their circumstances.

When you sing a song you like, sing it fervently. You may motivate someone near you to sing with all of their heart.

When you pray along with someone else, say “amen” so it can be heard. You may strengthen the faith of someone who isn’t sure if God answers prayer.

When you listen to a sermon, pay careful attention with an open Bible on your lap. You may encourage someone who read and study  God’s Word every chance they got but has slacked off lately.

When you talk to people, show genuine interest in them and ask them how they’re doing.  You may encourage them to do the same.

You never know the impact and influence of simple acts simple acts during a worship service. You need the church and the church needs you.

(This post was inspired by a series of tweets written by Garrett Kell.)

 

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Dusty-Bible-350x350

It’s my goal in 2019 to read the Bible from cover to cover – from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 – again. My plea is that you would join me. It’s a great discipline to begin and maintain.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s indispensible to the Christian life. Much of the confusion we see in the church and in the world is a direct result of a lack of biblical knowledge as well as a lack of submission and obedience. Regular Bible intake will help solve that problem.

I’ve been using the 5 Day Plan for the last three years and it’s worked well for me. You can find it here. Ligonier lists around ten plans, all of them excellent and with different degrees of difficulty.

What’s the best read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan? The one you use!

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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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psil4

“We’ve missed you in church” (or “We’ve missed you at Bible study”).

“Well, things have been really tough lately. We’re really going through it right now.”

You’ve heard that exchange before. I know I have. Maybe you’ve said either of those lines yourself. But is it right – is it what God wants?

Pslam 119:143-144 says, “Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet Your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.” Life had gotten tough for the psalmist. He describes it as “trouble” and “anguish” Whatever he was experiencing could easily be described as God’s “dark providence,” which could have kept him from God, His Word, and His people. But it didn’t.

Why hadn’t the suffering psalmist drifted from God? Because He was sustained by God’s Word. God’s commandments (His Word, in other words) were his delight in the midst of his troubles. He didn’t succumb to the temptation of ignoring God when things weren’t going well. In fact, when life got tough, the psalmist ran towards God, and not away from Him. In his troubles and anguish, he was sustained by God through His Word. As he poured over God’s Law day and night, He was nourished and strengthened by what he read.

If (and when) we’re “really going through it” and things are tough, we need to be in God’s Word and with His people more than ever, and not away from them. His Word is our delight in trouble and anguish. He uses it to sustain us for His glory and our good!

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read me

Lifeway Research released some disturbing statistics recently. Only eleven percent of Christians have read through the Bible once, and only nine percent have read it through more than once.

You may have a hard time believing the percentage is so low, but I can personally vouch for it. In every group of believers I’ve asked, Lifeway’s research has been vindicated. It really is that low.

It’s disturbing to me that so few people who consider themselves Christians have read the Bible – God’s inspired revelation to us – even once, and even fewer more than once. God has revealed Himself, His plan, His will, and His ways to us through His Word, but how can we know any of it if we never open the Book and read it? The answer is obvious. We can’t.

Based on the Lifeway statistics, the vast majority of Christians read the Bible (when they do) in little snippets, and probably not in context, or treat it as a book made up of pithy sayings suitable for framing. Though it’s made up of sixty-six books, the Bible is one story that encompasses a number of themes. We gain so much more when we read the entire book and begin to see the big picture.

Is it any wonder that the church is so influenced by the world? Is it any wonder that the church is rife with false teaching?

There’s a simple solution: Read, hear, study, memorize, meditate on, and obey the Bible! Look, I know that reading the Bible isn’t magic (“three chapters a day keeps the devil away”). It doesn’t work that way. But look at it this way: If we don’t read the Bible (much),  do we honestly think things will magically get better? We know the answer.

As I’ve been reading through Psalm 119, there are some verses that I hope will help encourage us to saturate ourselves in God’s Word:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word” (v. 9).

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (v. 11).

“I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word” (v. 16).

“Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors” (v. 24).

“I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love” (v. 47).

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (v. 50).

“The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72).

“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97).

“I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments” (v. 131).

“I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil” (v. 162).

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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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meditate-on-gods-word

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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