FBCW – “Body Builder” 10/07
Part 1:Bible Intake (Pt 2)
Here we are in October ready to take a look at “Bible Intake Pt 2” based on Christian author Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Last month we considered what it means to hear God’s Word and hear it regularly through different means, not the least of which is the Sunday morning sermon. We also came to understand that another primary method of getting God’s Word into our hearts, minds and souls is through the reading of God’s Word. To this end we discovered that we need to find the time, come up with a Bible reading plan and start to meditate on the Word. The last method of Bible Intake we considered was studying God’s Word; that is, learning to dig deep for ourselves and start to really mine the riches it has to offer.This month’s spiritual disciplines in the area of Bible Intake are memorization, meditation and application. Now since the fall chili cook-off is just around the corner and it’s my understanding there might be an apple press making home made apple cider at Hilda Maze’s place, let us consider two brothers who go out to eat some ripe and juicy apples fresh off a tree on their father’s property (much like the ones on Jack and Candy Hood’s trees that are so heavy with fruit they have to be held up by 2x4’s!) and after both stuffing themselves and as they are leaving, one gathers all he can to take with him home. But the other brother decides to take the whole tree and plants it in his yard so he can always have the wonderful fruit any time he wants! That’s what we want to do with God’s Word; it’s one thing to feast on it every now and again and even have enough to last you a little while, but it’s another of to cultivate the disciplines of reading and studying so the fruit of God’s Word is always available to us and these next three disciplines are more tools to help us bountifully reap the harvest the Bible has to offer.Whenever the idea of memorizing Scripture comes up people tend to ‘head for the hills.’ They start to come up with every excuse possible as to why they can’t memorize or don’t have the knack for it, etc. In any case, maybe they just need the proper motivation. If I said I would give you a hundred dollars for every verse you memorized, I bet you’d change your tune (and your abilities) in a second! Yet, God’s Word being tucked away in our hearts and minds is infinitely more profitable than any kind of financial gain. Remember first and foremost that God’s Word is empowered by the Holy Spirit and “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword… (Heb. 4:12).” It also is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…(2 Tim. 3:16) and should be at the ready when ever we might need to use it because, let’s face it, we won’t always have our Bibles around. We want to have Scripture at the ready in order to keep ourselves from temptation or sin such as Christ did with Satan in the desert (Lk. 4) or by reminding ourselves of Psalm 119:11 “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You” or Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”Memorization also strengthens your faith as we see in Proverbs 22:17-19 “Incline your ear and hear the Words of the wise, And apply your mind to my knowledge; 18For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, That they may be ready on your lips. 19So that your trust may be in the Lord, I have taught you today, even you.” Whitney says of this verse, “Memorizing Scripture strengthens your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when you need to hear it again (Whitney, p. 43).”Memorizing Scripture will help you share the gospel, the “good news” of Jesus Christ with others and it will also help you when trying to give wise, Biblical counsel to a Christian brother or sister. Peter and Paul had different opportunities to share the gospel in the book of Acts and I’m pretty certain they didn’t pull out their parchments and scrolls and read off them. Likewise, when given the opportunity for witnessing, we want to be able to always point people back to the Bible by using Scripture when we talk to them because it’s the Scripture that is authoritative, not our own words.Memorizing God’s Word will also help to guide you in your day to day walks. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors.” If you have an issue with always putting your two cents in or letting your tongue get the best of you, you should want to immediately bring to mind Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome Word proceed from your mouth, but only such a Word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Maybe you have an issue with keeping your heart and mind pure so you memorize 1 Peter 1:15-16 “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Or maybe you want to be more diligent about giving glory to God so you memorize 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The point being, you want to bring to mind God’s Word for any and all situations of life because “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).” This “divine power” is God’s Word.Memorization also helps with meditation. It especially stimulates or fuels it because once you have something memorized, then you can ponder it, think deeply on it, roll it around in your mind and heart and let it marinate in your soul much like the Psalmist who said, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day (Ps. 119:97).” This includes when you are in your car, out on a walk, in line at the grocery store or at work. Anyplace is the time/place for meditating. But how? How can we get a good jump on this behemoth called “memorization” that most of us are so afraid of? Remember this: you can do it, you just need a plan. There are many Scripture memory plans and programs that are available through a Bible bookstore or Christianbook.com. I have benefited from John MacArthur’s Scripture memory cd’s that I enjoy playing in the car (especially in LA where so much of my time was spent in the car!). Maybe start by picking a topic where the Lord is working in your life right now or focus on a chunk of Scripture like a Psalm as opposed to isolated verses.Here’s some other practical things to try: 1) write out verses either on paper or separate index cards or business size cards. Cards can be very helpful for carrying with you throughout the day as a quick reference. 2) Draw picture reminders. I’m not talking about anything fancy, stick figures will do but visuals will often help people remember even whole phrases. 3) Memorize verses word-perfectly. The tendency is to let things slide by paraphrasing or getting the “main idea.” Don’t settle for this as we don’t want to compromise the Word of God because remember, its God’s very words that are living and active and sharp. Make sure you memorize the verse reference as well! 4) Have a memorization buddy for accountability; someone you can share your verses with and vice-versa. This really helps to keep us diligent and not slough off. 5) Review and meditate on your verse(s) every day. As you learn more verses, be sure to go back over all of them, not just the ones you are currently working on. 5) Always remember what the goal of memorization is so that God’s Word can transform your mind and your life.Let’s move on to meditating on God’s Word. Now when we say ‘meditating,’ we’re not talking about yoga or transcendental meditation or relaxation therapy or some New Age Movement thing. We are talking about filling our mind and hearts with God and His truth. We are talking about “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application and prayer (Whitney, p. 48).” Whitney compares meditation to being a tea-bag immersed in hot water; the longer the tea bag sits in the water, the more effect it has as the rich tea is extracted, changing the water in color and flavor. Consider the promises God gives in the Scriptures for those that meditate on His Word. He promised Joshua success in Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Look at the promises of blessing, stability, fruitfulness, perseverance and prosperity from Psalm 1:1-3 “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” Spiritual meditation is “deep watering,” and it helps us to absorb every last drop of God’s Word.Let’s be honest, in today’s hustle and bustle and the hectic business of life, we don’t often take the time to meditate on anything, much less the Word of God! We are more distracted than ever. Technology has allowed for everything to happen in an ultra-quick way and we get easily frustrated when we can’t have things the moment we want them; when we have to wait on people or circumstances. We even get frustrated when we think things take too long at a restaurant. We don’t remember that some things just take more time and are even better with time. God’s Word is like that, the more time you give it to seep in and percolate, the tastier it will be. Give God’s Word the time it needs to affect the most change in you or the time it needs to create the most joy or thankfulness or whatever it is God wants to do in your life.But again comes the question of “how?” Here’s some ideas: 1) Select an appropriate passage. This can be a single verse or a portion of Scripture that speaks to your heart; passages or verses that relate to your personal concerns or needs. For instance if your thought life has been an issue, maybe you should be meditating on Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” 2) Repeat a verse different ways by putting the emphasis on a different word each time you say it. The point being to let the Holy Spirit direct your mind and understanding of the verse, as you contemplate and think deeply on it. This is often when the light bulb will go off (or many light bulbs!). 3) Don’t rush meditation - take time. Instead of trying to read three chapters and not retaining anything, read a smaller amount but meditate on it as you go. In other words, read less in order to meditate more. Well our last Bible Intake Spiritual Discipline is application; that is, applying God’s Word to your life. This is so important because if you don’t understand what this book from 2,000 years ago has to do with your life today, it will mean very little to you and you will remain absolutely stale and stagnant in your Christian walk. Scripture is not there for us to simply read, study, memorize and meditate on because we have nothing better to do, but rather we are to do these things so that…we can apply it and let it change our lives.The Bible affirms the application of itself throughout Scripture. Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9 where Moses emphasizes to the Israelite people the ‘doing’ of God’s commands, statutes and judgments or Joshua 6:1-9 where the Angel of the Lord reminds Joshua of the same. The New Testament also has much to say with Jesus making things pretty plain first in John 13:17 “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (italics/underline added)” and then in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (italics/underline added).” Keeping Jesus’ commands is proactive; it is not something we can idly do. James also has a classic passage in James 1:22-25 “But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (italics/underline added).” Again, notice that the Christian walk is all about the intake of God’s Word for the purpose of the application or outtake; that is letting God’s Word change our hearts and minds which will change our speech, action and attitudes. As well, this application or being a ‘doer’ of God’s Word also promises blessing. This is affirmed throughout Scripture such as in Deuteronomy 6:2-3, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3 and the last phrase of James 1:25!This all being said, trust that God in His will for you to be a ‘doer’ wants to show you the application of His Word, so faithfully expect this when you read it! He wants you to know how it applies to your life, so read it in the sense of not only was it inspired for it’s original audience, but also for you. Here’s a few other things to consider in applying God’s Word: 1) always seek to understand the appropriate meaning of Scripture as misunderstandings will most certainly lead to misguided applications of it. How many times have we heard people misquoting Scripture because they have not understood it in its proper context? We must understand how a passage first applied to its original audience before we can understand its meaning for us today. Can some Scripture be difficult to interpret? Sure it can, but for the most part I believe Scripture is plain and strait forward in its meaning because God wants us to understand it. 2) Quite often the application becomes clear after we’ve meditated on a passage for some time. This happens in my sermon writing all the time. The more time I spend working on a text, the clearer the application becomes. Many times on Sunday morning I am still coming to understand the application of what I have been studying. 3) Ask yourself application-oriented questions of a text you are reading/studying/meditating on. Such as: Does this text reveal something I should believe about God? Does it reveal a reason to praise, thank or trust God? Does it reveal something I should pray about for myself or others? Does it reveal something I should have a new attitude about? Or to make a decision about? Or something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself? 4) You must respond or take action in order to apply God’s truths! Try to make at least one specific response or take one action every time you read the Word. This could be everything from an explicit act of faith, worship, praise/thanksgiving, or prayer. It may be that you realize you need to seek forgiveness from someone or confront someone about sin or even to show an act of love. Whatever it may be, you need to consciously commit yourself to putting your application into action every time you “intake” God’s Word. This will help you to be a doer of the Word and not merely a hearer. Next month…prayer. Be praying!