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!

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.

No More Crying

I came across this the other day and plan on using it tonight for our family devotions. It is called, “No More Crying” and is an annotated outline of one of J.C. Ryle’s sermons for children. I am sharing it with you in hopes you will do the same for your family.

HOOK:

Today we’re going to talk about three places:

  1. A place where there is a lot of crying
  2. A place where there is nothing but crying
  3. A place where there is no more crying

BOOK:

There is a place where there is a lot of crying.

  • The world we live in (John 16:33 … in this world you will have trouble …)
  • What makes you cry?  Why do we cry?
  • Sin ultimately caused crying … pain, sickness, hurt, loneliness, death resulted from the fall

There is a place where there is nothing but crying.

  • Where do you think that is?
  • Hell is the place where there is constant crying (“weeping and gnashing of teeth”)
  • Hell is real, it is not made up – Jesus spoke about it more than anyone
  • Why do all people deserve to go there? (Read Romans 6:23)
  • How can we escape this horrible place?

There is a place where there is no more crying.

  • Do you know where this is?
  • Do a Sword Drill (look up Revelation 21:4 – volunteer read)
  • What do you think heaven will be like?  … Bible gives us some clues (Rev. 21:10-27)
  • What’s the best part about heaven? – Jesus is there!

LOOK/TOOK:

Do you know that Jesus cried when he was on earth?

  • When did Jesus cry?
  • Remember the story of Lazarus (May want to refer to John 11:1-44)
  • Jesus cried for those he loved
  • Jesus is a man and knows what it feels like to be sad and cry
  • Jesus is also God and He gives us life
  • Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet he will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26).
  • How can you live forever in heaven?   Believe in Jesus!

Three Main Steps in Starting Family Worship

I am a firm believer in family worship. It is discouraging to me that so few families worship together anymore (at church or at home!). Perhaps one reason why so few do it is they don’t know where to start. With that in mind, James Grant has a very helpful post on starting family worship. For the sake of your family, your church, and your community read it now!