Some Practical Advice for Christians

Do you use or have you ever heard of D.A. Carson’s Bible devotional called, For the Love of God? If not, I strongly recommend it. It is very simple to use. It has daily Bible readings and some very practical insights from Bible scholar D.A. Carson on a portion of that day’s reading. It is designed to assist you in discovering the riches of God’s Word and thereby deepen your love of God. So you can get an idea of what it is like, I have copied and pasted today’s devotional below:

SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR Christians (Phil. 4:4-9):

(1) Always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). This command is so important that Paul repeats it. Our responsibility to obey it is independent of circumstances, for regardless of how utterly miserable our situation is, the Christian always has the most profound reasons for rejoicing in Christ Jesus: sins forgiven and the prospect of resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth–not to mention the consolation of the Spirit even now, and much more. Practically speaking, Paul well knows that the believer who is truly rejoicing in the Lord cannot possibly be a back-biter, a cheat, a whiner, a thief, or lazy, bitter, and filled with hate.

(2) Be known for gentleness (Phil. 4:5). That is almost a delicious oxymoron. So much in our culture wants us to be known for aggressiveness, or for some intrinsic strength or superiority. The gentle person does not usually think in terms of being known. But Paul wants us so to focus on gentleness that eventually we become known for gentleness. The ground Paul offers is that the Lord is “near.” In this context, probably Paul does not mean that the Lord’s coming is near, but that the Lord himself is never far from his people: he is near, and is watching us, as he watches over us, all the time. That becomes our motivation for acting as he wishes us to act.

(3) Stop worrying (Phil. 4:6-7). Paul is not advocating irresponsible escapism, still less a Pollyanna-like optimism. Moreover, strictly speaking he is not telling us to stop worrying and nothing more, but rather he tells us how to stop worrying–by replacing this constant fretting with something else: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [there’s the praise theme again], present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Paul does not deny the agony and sorrow of many human experiences. How could he? His letters show that he suffered his share of the worst. But he knows the solution. Either worrying drives out prayer, or prayer drives out worrying. Moreover, Paul insists, this disciplined, thankful, intercessory prayer brings with it “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

(4) Think holy thoughts (Phil. 4:8-9). Garbage in, garbage out. We are renewed by the transforming of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). So watch what you feed your mind; watch what you think; determine to drive your mind into good and healthy channels, not those characterized by bitterness, resentments, lust, hate, or jealousy. Reflect on all the kinds of things Paul includes in his diverse list of verse 8. Moreover, here too Paul serves as an important example (Phil. 4:9): he is not telling us to do anything he does not practice himself.

Pretty good stuff, eh? You can buy it in book format (it is in 2 volumes) or you can just click here and read it for free in a blog/digital format!

Resist “Dental Chair” Devotions

That is what Erik Raymond tells us over at his blog Ordinary Pastor.

“What are “Dental Chair” devotions?” you ask. He writes:

I am afraid that too many of us practice dental chair devotions. We grab our Bibles, spend some time in it and then we are done. We promptly put down our Bibles and walk out the door or on to our daily tasks. Five to eight hours later someone could ask you, “What did you read in the Word today?” The answer, too often, is, “I can’t remember.”

What happened? We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly. This is because we often practice a “swish and spit” devotional time. We don’t really engage the mind and heart with the Word.

He then provides 9 simple but powerful suggestions (my favorite is number 8) to resist this “swish and spit” mentality and concludes with:

Bible reading is far too precious and important a time to just go through the motions. You must get that word into your heart, mind and life. This takes work. So, resolve today to not practice the swish and spit, dental chair devotional life. Instead prayerfully marinate in the text, interrogate it and take it with you.

I agree. For way too many people devotions are little more than reading a chapter or two followed by a few minutes of prayer that MAYBE amounts to increased knowledge and RARELY leads to any Christ-life conformity. Renewal comes through the transformation of the mind (Romans 12:1-2) and that requires we get a good, holy mental sweat going when we read the Bible and it means we should plead with God in prayer asking him to grab us, spin us around, knock us off our feet, flatten us, and pin us until all we can do is cling to him and wholly and solely surrender to him.

What are you waiting for – go read the article and be done with “swish and spit” devotions!

Weekend Roundup: Seven Articles for Your Musings

How Far You Can Travel From New York City in a Day: This is a fascinating article with a really neat info-graphic. Here is opening paragraph – “Before directions provided by Google Maps, the interstate highway system, cars, the transcontinental railroad, and the Erie Canal, a traveler in New York City could expect to spend a whole day and night traveling over what a suburban commuter now does in an hour.”

Six Ways to Look Godly While not Growing your Faith in 2014: I found the 3rd one very convicting. The 6th one also as I have a growing bookshelf of unread books!

Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books: As Solomon warned, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). There is no way to read everything, and not everything deserves to be read. I say that in order to confront the notion that anyone, anywhere, can master all that could be read with profit. Also includes six initial suggestions.

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate at the Creation Museum: Believe me, if you live anywhere near this you don’t want to miss it! The agreed upon topic is “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era?” Ken Ham says “I hope to show My. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution.”

The Four P’s of Faithful Bible Reading: Bible reading is crucial to one’s spiritual health and growth yet the discipline of Bible reading does not come easily. Also, sometimes we fall into our bible reading as a checklist. These four p’s are quite helpful.

Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far: Did you know that Newton’s most famous hymn “Amazing Grace” was first unveiled in his church on New Year’s day (1773), and it’s a reflection on the new year: a look back on his past deliverances, a look around on his present deliverances, and a look forward to his future deliverances in Christ.

Interpret the Bible: Want to understand the Bible better? Here are some superb articles from this month’s edition of Tabletalk to help you. 

Every Time We Come To Scripture

However, we all come to the Bible with biases. All of us read the Bible with a point of view already in place, a point of view that needs to adjust to Scripture. Therefore, we tend to read biblical passages through our point of view so that, without intending to do so, we adjust words and phrases and clauses to fit our perceptions and biases. None of us ever completely escapes this. Nevertheless, every time we come to Scripture, we must strive to rid ourselves of prejudices that impede our reading of the biblical text and to read it for what it actually says.

The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance

Bible Study as Simple as “ABC”

Do you struggle with studying the bible or perhaps in more practical terms, do you struggle with having a good devotional time in the Word of God? Below is a post called “ABC Study” from the website “Gentle Reformation.” It will only take you a few minutes to read but if you put it into practice it will greatly improve your study of God’s Word!

From my early training under Dr. Roy Blackwood, I was taught the value of an ABC  Bible Study.  I have found with young and old Christians through the years that God’s people have found this type of study, which is explained below, helpful to their growth.  In our church membership class, we teach this basic study as a way of having a devotional time.  We also encourage those in a discipling relationship with others to use this study to train them to relate to God through His word.  We will also have studies where we ask participants to prepare a study like this so they can participate more actively in the discussion.  The Lord promises that as you search His Word, He will use it significantly in your life (Proverbs 2:1-12).  Keeping a journal works well with this type of study.

Analysis – What is God saying in the passage?

The analysis can be done by using ONE OR MORE of the following suggestions.  Remember, the most important thing to do while studying the Bible is to pray, asking its Author to use His Spirit to guide you into the truth (note in Psalm 119 we ask God to “quicken” us that we might be responsive to His Word.)

  • Paraphrase the chapter in your own words
  • Make an outline of the passage
  • Compare different versions of the Bible, noting their similarities and differences
  • Using a concordance, list cross references of important verses with their key thoughts
  • Take notes from several good commentaries on the passage
  • Ask the questions “Who? What? When? Where? Why?” and answer from the text

Best Verse – What is God saying to me in the passage?

From your study, usually the Lord will use a verse or two, or an idea contained in the text, to address particular areas of your life.  The Bible is like a sword that can pierce us so deeply that it discerns the thoughts and intentions of our heart (Hebrews4:12).  Prayerfully ask yourself, “What is the Lord using His WORD to speak to me about?”  Write down the reference and the chief personal thought you have.

Commitment – How does God want me to respond to His Word?

We must always be diligent not to only hear and know His Word, but to obey it.  The good fruit of obedience shows that the Lord is truly working in our lives (Matthew13:18-23, 36-43), proves that we are not deluding ourselves by listening but not responding to God’s Word (James1:22-25), and reveals that we love God even as He loves us (John14:15, 21).  Under the Commitment section of your study, make some practical application to your life based on what you have learned.  If you are doing this study with another person or in a group, grow in your fellowship by sharing your commitments, praying for one another, and following up one another’s commitments to encourage each other  further in godliness.

Anticipation about Application

James 1:22-25

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Donald S. Whitney as found on page 53 in “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” (scroll down on link to find this book):

Because God wills for you to be a doer of His Word, you may be confident that He wants you to find an application whenever you come to the Scriptures. For the same reason you may believe that the Holy Spirit is willing to help you discern how to flesh out your insights. Therefore, open the Book expectantly. Anticipate the discovery of a practical response to the truth of God. It makes a big difference to come to the Bible with the faith that you will find an application for it as opposed to believing you won’t.

The Puritan minister and writer, Thomas Watson, whose influence was so great he was called ‘the nursing mother of gigantic evangelical divines,’ encouraged anticipation about application when he said,

Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the  word                    thunders against sin, think thus: ‘God means my sins;’ when it presseth any duty, ‘God intends me in this.’ Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

Because of God’s inspiration of Scripture, believe that what you are reading was meant for you as well as for the first recipients of the message. Without that attitude you’ll rarely perceive the application of a passage of Scripture to you personal situation.