Thursday, January 29, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Word (Part 2, 3 of 3)

Having looked at the principles of memorizationmeditation, and application, this post provides various options based upon the 4L Model of Discipleship


I asked the following question last week:

If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result?

Again, that question isn't to dwell on the past, but to learn from it, or use it as a model, so we write a better future for ourselves.

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God?

Our first step, last week was simply to BEGIN. This week, our step is to do something EVERY DAY.

Think about how interrelated last week's and this week's steps are. In order to memorize or meditate on a verse you must either hear it or read it first. To apply a verse, you must understand what it says so you must study it first – or hear someone else explain it. So, really doing all or parts of these aspects every day is not about doing six different things every day, but choosing to do one or two, and letting it marinate within you.

Think of it this way. Consider you are preparing a nice piece of meat to eat. Perhaps you are going to grill a steak. Well, I like to marinate my steaks first. Put some seasoning on it and just let it soak in some sauces. That way when it cooks the flavor is throughout the meat and is really something special. Well, consider yourself the meat, and God's Word the seasoning. Let God Word season you and just let it sit there for a bit, soaking in His Word, that way when the pressure comes – you are cooking, so to speak – you are ready to respond appropriately.

So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to memorizing, meditating, and applying God's Word. Well, we return to our four words – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, I will let you discern which of these applies to you, but I will cover a few specifically.

  • Memorize – See information on back of page under Memorization Tips.
  • Meditate – See list on back of page under Methods of Meditation.
  • Apply – Begin to expect to find application in the text. Make it personal, not about someone else!
  • Memorize – Find a tool that can help you. Develop a plan. Memorize word–perfectly.
  • Meditate – Choose a different method each week in order to find a few that work best for you.
  • Apply – Ask, then act! Of each passage, ask if it gives something to believe, to do, or a promise made to you?
  • Memorize – Review a few verses daily. (Review is quick and easy compared to initial memorization.)
  • Meditate – Pray through the text making the text personal as you pray it.
  • Apply – Ask God what areas of your life still need to be conformed to His Word and do it.
  • Memorize – Find accountability. Share with others what you intend to memorize and help them as well.
  • Meditate – Share your personal experiences with others to inspire and encourage them to try as well. Follow up.
  • Apply – Assist others in learning to apply God's Word – by grace not harshness.
Memorization Tips*
  • Have a plan. (
  • Write out the verse(s). (index cards, etc)
  • Draw picture reminders. (stick figures, clip art, anything)
  • Memorize word–perfectly. (word for word, including the reference)
  • Find accountability. (Review with another person.)
  • Review and meditate daily. (Reviewing takes a fraction of the time as learning.)
Methods of Meditation*
  • Emphasize different words (one word at a time) in the text. (eg. John 11.25)
  • Rewrite the text in your own words.
  • Find a principle in the text. What does it teach? (Summarize longer passages)
  • Think of an illustration for the text. (Literally, draw a picture.)
  • Look for applications in the text. (What should I do with what I read?)
  • Ask how the text points to the Law or the Gospel.
  • Ask how the text point to Jesus. (could be opposite – sin)
  • What question is answered or problem solved? (John 11.35 – Was Jesus human?)
  • Pray through the text. (Psalm 119.50 may help if going through something tough)
  • Memorize the text.
  • Create artistic expression of the text. (“Sing a new song”)
  • Use Philippians 4.8 to ask questions of text. (What is true? Honorable? Just? Etc.)
  • Set and discover a minimum number of insights. (Find 30 in Romans 12.1–2)
  • Find the common thread in your daily reading. (“lost” in Luke 15)
  • How does text speak to current situation? (Family – look for relationships)
  • Meditation Mapping (like mind mapping)
*These options are derived from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Word (Part 2, 2 of 3)

Part 1 shared some thoughts on the need to memorize. Today, we will look at two other aspects of Bible Intake.

MEDITATION my heart...

The heart is what keeps us living. When the heart stops, the body stops. If our heart is not healthy, then we are not healthy. But sometimes our heart may not be healthy, and we think we are ok. Then all of a sudden, cardiac arrest. Or a heart attack. Or angina. The problem is that our heart wasn't really healthy, but we thought it was. For those that live through such an event, the decision to make changes in one's lifestyle generally comes easier. Maybe eating better, exercising more, releasing stress, etc.

Well, the same is true for the word of God!

Most people hear mediate and think of some foreign practice like yoga. But meditation is squarely within God's Word. The difference is that Christian meditation isn't about sitting and realizing and clearing your mind. It is actively using your mind to focus on God and His Word. It isn't emptying your mind, it is filling it. And by filling our mind, it slowly seeps into our heart.

Donald Whitney defines meditation as a: “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.”

Read Psalm 1.1–3. Verse 2, His delight is in the Law of the Lord. The delight is not just a law or set of laws – it is the instruction of the Lord. Again, the Hebrew word can be translated here instruction. The psalmist meditates on God's instruction – God's Word. Why? Because he delights in it.

What do you think about most? Most of your thoughts probably pertain to one of two things. Either what you most enjoy or what you most fear. And probably a little of both. Am I right? Why do you think about these things? Either you are cursed by fear by what may or may not happen (fear) or you take pleasure in what you most enjoy! The psalmist wasn't worried about fear – now read Psalm 1.4–6. He knew what would happen to those whose delight was not God. But his delight was – and therefore his thoughts – his meditations – were of God and His Word.

One more reason we should meditate, not just hear, read, or memorize. God's Word tells us to. Colossians 3.16, “Let God's word dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, signing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – That verse could serve as a short blog series, but as it applies to meditation – let God's Word dwell in you richly.

If we don't meditate, if we merely hear, read, or even memorize, we may take in A LOT of God's Word, but how much sticks? It is like rain. What most people enjoy is a nice gentle rain that stops after awhile and gets soaked into the ground, moistening the soil, and preparing the ground fit for life. But a hard rain, or too much of it, simply runs off. It can cause damage. Why? It isn't getting absorbed. It is a like a person that knows so much Scripture, and spouts off verses all the time towards other people – yet doesn't really know the meaning of what s/he is saying.

The song, "Wonderful Words of Life", capture the idea of meditation? How do you know if something is wonderful? You have thought is about or compared it to something else. Of course, as we gain more experiences – both good and bad – sometimes we can determine if something is wonderful quickly. If you get really good news, “That's wonderful.” Why can you say that? Because you have knowledge of news that is less appealing – less wonderful, if you will.

But what is wonderful? Truly it means to be full of wonder. It means that something is worthy of wondering about. If that is a proper understanding of the word, then is there anything worthy wondering about more than God – and where does God most reveal Himself – in the Bible. So logically, the Bible is the place we can go to explore the wonders of God. And if we are exploring, we are thinking about, we are considering, we are developing our thoughts to better understand. And this is called – Meditation!

And as we meditate, we are now best prepared to apply God's Word to our life.


...THAT I might not sin against You.

The entire goal of the psalmist in storing God's Word in his heart was not so he could say how many verses he had memorized...not so he could sit and meditate all day...not so he could study all day...not so he could impress his friends with Bible trivia. No, the entire reason is so his life would be one of obedience to God.

Ezra 7.10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, AND TO DO IT, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Mind you, Ezra was not living in Israel yet, he was still in captivity. But as I was studying this verse, I came across the following statement in a commentary:

God's people always need teaching. A great percentage of the work of the church is discipling, nurturing, training. More than just the imparting of facts, this involves training in righteousness and motivating believers to love and obey God. It includes learning what a biblical view signifies for practical life today. – (NAC, 130, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther)

Anything we do regarding the Bible should lead us to better imitate Him. Remember that is our goal from this series on spiritual disciplines. Ephesians 5.1, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly beloved children.” We should want to imitate God not because He demands it, but because He loves us as His very own children. And our theme verse for the series, 1 Timothy 4:7, that we should train ourselves for godliness is because His way is perfect and we want to be like Him.

Read Psalm 119.97–99

The psalmist says he is wiser than his enemies – v. 98, and has more understanding than his teachers – v. 99. Understanding implies more than knowledge. It implies recognizing something. But wisdom implies knowing what to do with what you know. It doesn't always mean we will do it perfectly, but ideally we will act in concert with our wisdom most of the time. And the reason for this understanding and wisdom – the ability to apply God's Word to the situation – is found in v. 99 – he meditates.

As we saw, last week, we are to do more than hear. In fact, we are to do what we hear. James 1.25 makes this clear.

The song, Ancient Words, captures this. The chorus contains the lyrics, "Ancient Words, ever true, changing me, changing you." God's Word is still as true today as it ever has been, but the change in us comes only if we allow them to do so. Jesus even prayed that God would do His part (John 17.17). The question is, will we do ours? Will we apply His perfect Word in our lives?

“I have stored your word in my heart THAT I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119.11.  You have memorized it. We have meditated on it together. But now we must each apply it on our own.

Last week, I gave you the following quote from RC Spoul:

“We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”

What was true regarding study, is true for memorizing and meditating. Applying is a bit tougher, but certainly worth it. The idea of laziness may not seem correct, but if there were a significant financial incentive for each verse you memorized, you would take it seriously. So, without financial incentive, why should we hear, read, study, memorize, meditate, and apply God's Word? Because this world will take us further from God unless we are intentional in our relationship with God. The following quote says it all.

David Hasselgrave says it this way, "I am fully persuaded that the farther our runaway world gets from the bible, the closer the church and mission must get to it..."

Again, this is not about earning anything from God, it is responding to what God has already done for us. It is realizing the Bible is this “collective love letter” from the heavenly realm as we heard Augustine's description from it earlier. So how will you respond?


Our letter for JOURNEY this week is E – Evoke. Normally, the E is that we need to Evoke in others God's message of the gospel so they will respond. But today, the E is specifically for you. How will you respond to the gospel message as it relates to a need to deepen your relationship with God, to know Him better, and to love Him more by engaging in the spiritual discipline of memorizing, meditating, and applying His Word?

Part 3 will provide some specific points of application for Memorizing and Meditation, and even Application based on the 4L Model of Discipleship.

This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Word (Part 2, 1 of 3)

Most people like to receive letters. Consider, especially, receiving a letter from someone you haven't seen in long time. Often, we read, re–read, and meditate on these letters until we know their message by heart. Well, the Bible is God's message to us – like a letter from afar. Augustine once said, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”

If that is true, and I think it has some truth in it, then should we not ready, study, memorize, meditate on, and cherish God's letters to us at least as much as we would a letter from a loved one that writes to us?

Last week, I asked the following question: If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result? And again, we can't change the past, but we can learn from it. We can't change the past, but we can affect our future. Philippians 3.13 – forgetting what lies behind and straining forward for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Our emphasis last week was on three aspects of our first discipline – Bible intake. Those aspects were that we should Hear God's Word, Read God's Word, and Study God's Word. This week, we are going to add three more and all can be found within Psalm 119.11 – Memorizing God's Word, Meditating on God's Word, and Applying God's Word.


I have stored your Word...! 

If you memorized this many years ago, you may have learned this verse with the word HID or HIDDEN, not stored. The ESV uses stored. The NAS uses treasured. The Hebrew word – tsaphan – means any of these three words. However, in English, the word “hidden” sometimes has a more negative impact. We hide because we don't want others to find something. Thus, the idea of storing up – so it is ready to use when needed, fits well for the idea of memorizing God's Word. And certainly, it is ideal to “treasure” God's Word.

Let me give you five benefits. Memorizing God's Word:
  1. Supplies Spiritual Power.  Colossians 3.2
  2. Strengthens you Faith.  Proverbs 22.17–19
  3. Prepare Us for Witnessing & Counseling – overcoming “I don't know what to say.”  Acts 2.14–40
  4. Provide a Means of Guidance.  Psalm 119.24 – how to live; Ephesians 4.29 – what to say
  5. Stimulates Meditation.  Psalm 119.97
One song, "Thy Word", is based on Psalm 119.105. God's word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Consider a time when the power in your home goes out. If you know where a flashlight is, you can use it to find your way during the power outage. However, if you know you have a flashlight, but do not know where it is, it is of no help. Likewise, if it does not have batteries, it is of no use. Of course, in today's world a cell phone app with a flashlight will help, but only if your phone has is charged. This, it may help to know where a verse is, or even where your Bible is, but if you are "charged up" having memorized God's Word, you can find your way when life presents its challenges.

In Part 2, I will provide a few points regarding Meditation and the principle of Application. In Part 3, I will provide a series of options for how to apply the aspects of Memorization and Meditation.
Parts of this series is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Word (Part 1, Post 2)

If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result?

This question may make you feel guilty. But that is the past. You can't change the past. Consider Paul's philosophy in Phil 3.13 – But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Ultimately, his forgetting was about his qualifications as a Jew, but whether our past is good or bad, our future can be better. But we must be disciplined, and partner with the Holy Spirit, if we are to become more godly.

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God? BEGIN

Some of you are already hearing, reading, and what is your next step? In yesterday's post, I formally introduced the 4L Discipleship Model. This model will be used to provide options for each of us regardless of where we are on the JOURNEY. Each is simply a  potential next step for each person. Consider which of the 4 L's applies to you regarding hearing, reading, or studying and focus your attention there.

  • Hear – find a source to listen to God's Word proclaimed regularly – radio, tv, Bible on cd, web
  • Read – find a Bible reading plan that might work...don't worry that it is late January just start wherever
  • Study – look in the back of your Bible for a concordance and look up all passages of a word

  • Hear – commit to hearing God's Word at least twice per week – once might be here, then web
  • Read – begin reading a little every the first of each month, increase your time until you are at 15 minutes per day. For instance, since it is almost February, start with 5 minutes, and on February 1st, increase to 6 minutes. You will be reading 15 minutes per day before the end of the year.
  • Study – Look up some of the passages mentioned in this blog and study the individual words and phrases

  • Hear – find a couple of preachers who teach the Bible that you enjoy listening to their teaching
  • Read – ask God to increase your passion for Him as you read His Word
  • Study – Take your daily reading and write down some thoughts about it. Then find other parts of the Bible that cover similar aspects. Determine where similarities and difference exist and try to account for the differences (study the culture, etc).

Lead: This is the big one. It is the level that takes the most commitment. Some of you are not ready for this, but others are. God may be tugging at some of you, but you are resisting.
  • Hear: Others need to hear you teaching God's Word.
  • Read: Who, in your life, could use you reading them aloud the Word of God? (rest home?)
  • Study: Who, that you know, needs to know how to study the Bible better? How can you help?

As I close, let me tell you something I have heard many times (and have said myself). When you lead others, you will get the blessing. Why? Because you are fulfilling Christ's command to make disciples. Consider this, the only way that people can learn and live, is for the people who love to lead the others to develop their walk with the Lord.

Wherever you are in the process, I encourage you to take the next step in hearing, reading, and studying the Word of God. Let it come alive in you through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

4L Model of Discipleship

Many models for discipleship exist. Many books have been written on the subject. And many are very good. So why do I add another model? Well, some are easier to remember than others. And this model, I believe, is built to be able to remember the terms, which is a first (though largely unimportant) step. Yet, by remembering a set of terms, it may prompt us to remember to apply these principles (a very important step) to our lives.

If you have followed this blog for awhile, you may recognize these terms from the past. Yet, until now, I have not expounded on them publicly. Perhaps, I will do even more with them when my current academic pursuits are completed, but for now, as I am in the midst of this preaching, and blog series regarding the Spiritual Disciplines (see the Becoming Like God titles on the blog site), it is important to bring further definition to these terms as I am using them in the application points for the series.

So, without further delay, the four L's of discipleship, as I define them, are Learn, Live, Love, Lead. These four L's are applicable to every Christian who desires to follow Christ. After briefly discussing these below, I will introduce a fifth L that applies to various Christians in differing ways.

LEARN - To be a disciple is to be a learner. It is the very definition of the term. As a disciple of Jesus, we face a lifetime of learning. When it comes to the Bible, the more we know, the more we realize we do not know. When it comes to applying the principles of the Bible, we must learn this process as well. From whom do we learn? Other disciples who have gone before us. Of course, Jesus' original disciples learned from Him, but they were then told to make disciples (Mt 28.19-20). One significant aspect to Learn being the first step coincides with Jesus' call to His first disciples. He simply said, "Follow Me." Learn from Me. He didn't worry about whether or not they went to the synagogue or the temple. He didn't ask if they believed in God. He simply invited them to Learn from Him.

LIVE - What did the early disciples learn? A new way of thinking (Kingdom-oriented thinking), which meant a new way of living. As the early disciples followed Jesus (literally and figuratively), they learned what living could be. They learned how to live as man was meant to live - free from the bondage of sin, and with perfect love. Of course, these first disciples, like us, were entangled in their own sins and, like Jesus, had to live amid others whose lives were full of sin. But, over time, these early disciples began to Live as Jesus called them to Live. We can do the same thing. In fact, Jesus' statement in Matthew 28.20 says a part of the teaching from one disciple to another must include how to OBSERVE what is being taught. To observe in this instance is not to play the role of a spectator, but a participant. It is to Live out what one has been taught.

LOVE - The next step then, is a little more difficult, yet as one's faith matures becomes possible. The first aspect of love might be considered that we are to love others. And we are. We are to love God first, then to love our neighbor (Mk 12.30-31). The New Commandment given by Jesus in John 13:35 is to "love one another." But the love here is also to Love what we are doing. Again, in Mark 12.30, we are commanded to Love your God with all your heart...mind...soul and...strength. This means in everything we do with all that we are. And this Love is a progression from the previous step of Live. For instance, many may give an offering out of obedience, but later LOVE being able to give in order to help others (Love others). So, Love here is multifaceted, and ultimately leads to the final L.

LEAD - The Christian is commanded by Christ to make disciples (Mt 28.19). These new disciples are need to be taught (LEARN) all that Jesus has commanded us. But, as we have seen above, a part of what must be taught, is not just the concept of the command, but the observance of the command (LIVE) as well. We, as maturing Christians, do this out of Love, and, in turn, help others to Love God and others as well in order that they may then Lead a new generation of believers who will then lead another generation of believers and so on (2 Tim 2.2).

Much more could be said about each of the steps of this model, and will be at a later point. As mentioned above, each of the previous steps in this model is applicable to every Christian. The few Scripture references above make this point, but many other references exist. Yet, before this post ends, one other L exists. This last L is applicable in different ways for different Christians. The final L is Leave.

LEAVE - The first, and most obvious way this step is applicable to anyone is that each person's life on this earth will come to an end. We will all "leave" the earth whether one believes in an after-life, or whether death is preceded by the return of Christ, etc. But for the Christian, what will they do before they Leave? Will their life make an impact for the glory of Christ? The question should not be whether a Christian should Learn, Live, Love, and Lead. Rather the question should be how many disciples with the Christian make by Leading others to Learn, Live, and Love what has been previously modeled for them.

However, one other element of Leave must be mentioned. Biblically, we see this type of Leave evidenced in the life of Paul, among others. Like many in our day, Paul did not stay at one place for long. But when he was there, he made the most of his time helping others to Learn, Live, and Love by Leading them before he left to make disciples elsewhere. Of course, Jesus left as well, but sent the Holy Spirit in His place (John 14.16, 25-26; 16.7). Again, all of us will leave some day in some way, so what will we do with our time in the meantime? If we heed Paul's words in Ephesians 5.15-16 we will redeem the time, making disciples for the Lord, and therefore, likely, make our final L - Legacy, a positive one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Becoming Like His Word (Part 1, Post 1)

We will not be godly people unless we focus on that objective. The idea of training or exercising is important. This is why 1 Timothy 4.7-8 is a recurring theme for this series. The reality is that we are a sinful people. Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “Man is a man righteous, as God made him, but also a man sinful, as he continues to make himself; sinful in himself, righteous by faith.”

Left to our own devices we will turn from God. But with God's guidance, and our willingness, we can turn back to God. But this takes discipline. Training. Exercise. Intentionality. Focus. Determination. Goals. Purpose. Desire. In other words, it doesn't just happen. It happens when we partner with God through the power of His Spirit. And what happens is that we can then become more like Him.

But, before we talk about the first discipline, let me say that you need to buy into the reason for this...not just the activity behind it. If you decide to read the Bible daily, for instance, you may do so for awhile, but eventually you will lose interest because you have lost sight of the goal. This is called Discipline Without Direction. And discipline without direction brings about drudgery.

Let me give you an example. For years, I have wanted to lose some weight and get in better shape. I have known I should, but just didn't have the motivation. But now I do. I told my wife several months ago that I was going to get in better shape before our trip to Israel. Why? Because I want to be able to enjoy the entire trip. The discipline of getting my body in shape is not drudgery because I have a purpose beyond just the discipline. Thus, I have discipline WITH direction.

To now compare this to the Bible, any Christian would acknowledge they should read it more. But why? Is it to know the Bible better? Maybe. Is it to live our lives better? Sure. But it starts with knowing God better, so we might become like Him. Romans 8.29 says that we are His elect. 1 John 3.2 says we shall be like Him. How can we be like Him if we don't know Him? Again, last week, I mentioned Hebrews 12.14 which says along with peace, we are to strive for holiness. Strive. Make an effort. This is not accidental. We are made righteous by the blood of Christ, but if we truly want to be like Him – and that is what a true Christian is – see Romans 8.28-29, then we must do our part.

So today we look at the Bible. The first of eleven disciplines in this series. We will spend two weeks on the Bible, because it is how we best know about God. Yes, we can experience God in nature and know God from nature, but looking at the stars doesn't tell you that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and rose again that you might have life eternal. That comes from the Bible.

And there are three areas we will discuss today regarding how Bible Intake is an important discipline for us. Those areas are Hearing God's Word, Reading God's Word, and Studying God's Word.

1.  God's Word is to be heard.

Many times we may hear someone teach the Bible, and that is hearing God's Word. But more specifically, have you ever just listened to God's Word read aloud in chunks? It is the way the early church heard it, and in Nehemiah 8, we read that in the Old Testament people stood for hours listening to God's Word being read.

The truth is we do need to hear the Word of God regularly. Another truth is that hearing the Word of God is the easiest of these areas of Bible intake. This is true whether it is a reading of God's Word or a message from God's Word. One can hear the Word of God and not pay attention. But Paul wrote "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ" (Romans 10.17). In today's world, we can hear it on the radio, the tv, internet, etc. (In fact, you can hear this full message at: - Jan ll, message)

But is hearing enough?

James 1.22-23 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only; deceiving yourselves.”
Verse 25 says that a hearer forgets, but a doer acts, and it is the doer that will be blessed.

Do you want to be blessed? Are you doing God's Word? Or merely hearing it?

After Jesus had cast out a demon and rebuked the naysayers in the crowd, a woman who heard responsd by proclaiming a blessing on Jesus' mother. Jesus response to this blessing in Luke 11.28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

If we want to become more like God, we must hear from Him what He wants for us. But we must also take the time to read.

2.  God's Word is to be read.

This past week, we took several of our old Bibles to Good Will. As we were packing them, I wondered how many people go through old boxes and find Bibles and give them away. My thought was that most may do it because they don't want them anymore. While that was true in our case, the goal in donating them was not to get rid of them, but in hopes someone would find them and read them.

According to the Barna group, in 2014, 88% of American households have a Bible. In fact, the average is 4.7 Bibles per household. Yet, only 37% of Americans read the Bible at least once per week. And only 19% read the Bible 4 times or more. Not surprisingly, many are using digital devices for their reading. 10% now use the a digital device to read the Bible regularly, and 5% listen to the Word through their tablet or smartphone. 10 years ago that wasn't possible. By 2020, I bet those numbers are much higher. I am fine with reading on a digital device, but I still do my best study with a bible or two opened on my desk.

Interesting, only 56% said the Bible brings them closer to God...down from 64% in 2011. What that says, is that people are not approaching the Bible correctly. Let me admit...I have been there. Perhaps you have too. We may hear the Bible, read the Bible, even study the Bible, and know more about God, but not feel closer to Him. Why? Because we are doing it in our own power and strength, and not allowing God's Spirit to speak to us as we hear, read, and study.

So, should we ready? Absolutely.

In Matthew 19.4, Jesus asked the pharisees, “Have you not read?” regarding male and female being bound to one another in marriage.

Again, in Mark 12.10, Jesus asks “Have you not read this Scripture?” referring to an OT passage about Himself.

The reality is that not everyone has access to Scripture then, or really throughout much of history. But we don't have that excuse I just said, there are more than 4 bibles in every home in America. We don't read, because it is not a priority. Some might say, well, I am too busy. And you may be. But do you find time to eat? Yes. You find time to do what is necessary. And many don't consider reading the Bible necessary. In Matthew 4.4 Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 8.3, says man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. But how can we being to live by every word if we have not read EVERY WORD.

Many people will use the hearing portion to get them through the week, but that is like watching someone else cook a meal, taking the time to smell it, and then walking away until the next week. We have to eat. And, spiritually, we need to ingest God's Word. How often? Well, do you eat daily? Then, ingesting God's Word daily seems about right as well.

Let me provide three quick thoughts to help you start (for those that haven't) before we move to study.
  • Find the time. 71 hours – less than most watch tv in a month!
  • Find a plan. There are many options available.
  • Find a phrase (word or verse) – on which to meditate

Finally, besides hearing and reading, we must study.

3.  Real growth comes from the study of God's Word.

I mentioned Ezra earlier. In Ezra 7.10, it spoke of his desire to study. In Acts 17.11, the Bereans were said to have examined the Scriptures to understand if what they heard was correct. Many people are led astray because they listen to what is said, but do not examine if for themselves. I try to teach the Bible as accurately as I can, but I am not perfect. As such, I encourage my congregation, and I encourage you, the reader of this blog, not to take my word, or any pastor's word for it, check the Scripture for yourself to ensure God's Word is being taught and understood accurately.

A final example is that of Paul. In 2 Tim 4.13, Paul asked Timothy to bring the scrolls and parchments – even as he waited to die. He wanted a cloak for the outside body and the Word of God for the inside. Why did he want the scrolls and parchments - so that he might study them. Paul needed this. If Paul did, we do too. Think about this. See if any of these attributes are true of you.

Paul had been to heaven – 2 Cor 12.1-6
Paul had seen the resurrected Jesus – Acts 9.5
Paul had experienced the Holy Spirit's miracles – Acts 14.10
Paul wrote by the guidance of the Holy Spirit – 2 Peter 3.16

But he wanted God's Word so he could study. Again, if Paul needed it, how much more do we?

Where to start? How about James? Or 1 John? Or if you want one of the gospel writers, how about John?

Really, the biggest difference between reading and studying is the use of a pen and paper. Simply write down any Observations, or Questions, or Insights, and any Key Words. As you become better about your study, perhaps you might Outline a Chapter (even paragraph by paragraph).

True Bible Intake takes discipline. It requires work. But the benefit is truly ours. My life has been changed by is continuously changed by it when I let the Spirit guide me. The only time I am not changed is when I either do it as a task not as an opportunity to better know God or if I don't do it at all. We all may give many excuses, but they won't hold water when we stand before or Lord one day.

RC Sproul once said, “We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”


Our letter for JOURNEY today is O – for Observe. We hear, read, and study because of a relationship not a set of rules. But as we read earlier, if you merely hear this message, and do not do what it says, you deceive yourself, and will not receive the blessings of God. I don't say this because it is my message to you, but because those words are literally from the Word of God as revealed in Scripture.

Tomorrow, I will have a generic post about discipleship, and Friday, I will post some possible application points based on tomorrow's post.

(The posts for this series are adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Becoming Like God...

I am beginning a new series based on the spiritual disciplines. This series will be based upon the book by Donald S Whitney, entitled Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. In his book, Whitney provides scriptural evidence for a variety of disciplines designed to allow the Christian to grow in His relationship with God, and indeed, to become more like God. The title of this blog series, "Becoming Like God" is not to suggest that we, as humans can become God. Rather, as per God's original intent, we (humans) were originally created in God's image (Genesis 1.26-28), but because of sin we do not properly reveal that nature now. Thus, the disciplines described in this series will not make us God, or any kind of god, but can begin to transform us into who we were meant to be. As Romans 8.29 says, we are to be "conformed to the image of His Son,"  - the image we were originally meant to have.

This new series stemmed from a series I recently preached from the letter to the Ephesians. (At some point, I will get that series blogged, but it will be some time.) Ephesians 5.1 says that we are to imitators of God. Humans are incapable of doing that on our own, but because of the grace of God, we have the Holy Spirit available to us, and thus, those who believe, that is, are in Christ, can be empowered by God's Spirit to become like Him.

Whitney's focal verse for his book can be found in Paul's first letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy 4.7 says, "Rather train yourself for godliness" (ESV). The word translated as "train" in the ESV, is "discipline" in the NAS and "exercise" in the KJV. In other words, to be trained spiritually, requires discipline and exercise. In fact, Hebrews 12.14 says that we should strive for holiness (in addition to peace) or we will not see God. Thus, spiritual disciplines are not just disciplines, but are a set of disciplines, empowered by the very Spirit of God in order to mold us to become more like God. It is thus God who does the work, as we willingly and diligently partner with Him.

So, over the next several weeks, I will use Whitney's book as a guide to lead us through these eleven disciplines. As mentioned above, the title of this series is "Becoming Like God..." and each of the individual disciplines will be put into the context of how or what the disciplines will do to make us more like God. For instance, the next blog, will be " His Word" and will deal with the importance of the Bible ("Bible Intake" per Whitney). A title for this week's could be Becoming Like His Image.

Upcoming title and the discipline represented (in parenthesis) are as follows:

Becoming Like God... His Word (Bible Intake – 2 weeks) His Thoughts (Prayer)
in His Presence (Worship) His Mission (Evangelism) His Name (Serving) His Honor (Stewardship) His Care (Fasting)
...In His Serenity (Silence and Solitude) His Story (Journaling) His Wisdom (Learning) His Time (Perseverance)

I can make you very few promises, but if you will commit to implement these disciplines into your life (not all at once, but a little at a time over a period of months or years) with the proper attitude, your life will be changed for the better. Why? Because you will be more like God! Ultimately, that is not a promise I can make, but thankfully, one God has already made to us (Romans 8.28-30).