Power of the Word

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Around the Web – Listening as Ministry, Bible Reading, Cutting

Listening as Ministry – Lessons in Good Listening
1. Good listening requires patience.
2. Good listening is an act of love.
3. Good listening asks perceptive questions.
4. Good listening is ministry.
5. Good listening prepares us to speak well
6. Good listening reflects our relationship with God.

John Wesley’s Take on Formative Reading of Scriptures by Children.
(i.) Reading: Constantly, some part of everyday; regularly, all the Bible in order; carefully, with the Notes; seriously, with prayer before and after; fruitfully, immediately practicing what you learn there?
(ii.) Meditating: At set times? by any rule?
(iii.) Hearing: Every morning? carefully; with prayer before, at, after; immediately putting in practice? Have you a New Testament always about you (15)?

Cutting

Help For Family Devotions

I love this article on no-frill family devotions. In it the author proclaims the trouble with “big” family devotions – inconsistency.
Family Devotions
Key paragraphs:

“I was grateful for an older friend who came along and encouraged me to scrap the complicated model and simply pick up the Bible and read it to my family. “Just start reading through a book of the Bible, maybe start with the Gospel of John,” he said. “Now that my kids are grown, they tell me that our time together reading the Bible was the most meaningful part of their spiritual formation.”

“When I asked him what kind of discussion they had about the text, he said they would talk about what the passage revealed about God and what it revealed it about us and our need for God–but he said there were many nights his family would simply read a chapter from the Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit to illuminate it, and call it a night. He pointed out that squeezing in a no-frills family devotion was better than skipping them just because of limited time.”

That’s been our argument all along. As a reminder, our articles on this subject are here:
Introduction to Family Devotions
7 Principles to Guide Family Devotions
10 Suggestions on What to Do for Family Devotions
4 Practical Suggestions for Family Devotions
When NOT to Have Family Devotions
4 Questions to Ask When Reading Your Bible

Thoughts on Meditation from Spurgeon and the Puritans

From Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening DevotionalBible

“I will meditate in thy precepts.” — Psalms 119:15

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them.

Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom.

Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it.

Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in thy precepts.”

 

And Tim Challies interviewed Joel Beeke on this subject here. This paragraph was particularly helpful to me:

Here is a method for meditation based on Puritan writings.
First, pray for the power to focus your mind on the Word with faith.
Second, read the Bible and select a verse or two.
Third, repeat those verses to yourself in order to memorize them.
Fourth, think about what those verses say and imply, probing the book of Scripture (other verses on the same topic), the book of conscience (how you have believed or disbelieved, obeyed or disobeyed), and the book of nature (how this truth appears in experience and the world).
Fifth, stir up your affections unto love, desire, grief, hope, zeal, and joy as appropriate. Preach the text to yourself with powerful application.
Sixth, arouse your soul to the specific duty which the text requires, making holy resolutions for the glory of God.
Seventh, conclude with prayers for divine assistance, thanksgiving for graces given, and singing psalms of praise to God.

Very helpful for parent, child, anyone. We encounter God through his word. Let’s meditate on it.

Power of the Word, Quotes|

From Desiring God: Six Benefits of Ordinary Devotions

Jon Bloom at Desiring God gives Six Benefits of Ordinary Devotions. Good to pass on to our children.

Soul Exercise (1 Corinthians 9:24, Romans 15:4): Devotions are like exercise for our souls.
Soul Shaping (Romans 12:2): The body will generally take the shape of how we exercise it. Running shapes one way, weight training shapes another way. The same is true for the soul.
Bible Copiousness (Psalm 119:11, Psalm 119:97, Proverbs 23:12): A thorough, repeated, soaking in the Bible over the course of years increases our overall Biblical knowledge, providing fuel for the fire of worship and increasing our ability to draw from all parts of the Bible in applying God’s wisdom to life.
Fight Training (Ephesians 6:10–17): Marines undergo rigorous training in order to so ingrain their weapons knowledge that when suddenly faced with the chaos of combat they instinctively know how to handle their weapons.
Sight Training (2 Corinthians 5:7, 2 Corinthians 4:18): Jesus really does want us to see and savor him. Savoring comes through seeing. But only the eyes of faith see him.
Delight Cultivation (Psalm 37:3–4, Jams 4:8, Psalm 130:5): Devotions are one of the ways we cultivate delight in God.

Read this whole article and then read for family devotions. These same principles are true for family devotions.

 

 

The 3Rs for Digging a Little Deeper in Your Devotional Time

Kevin DeYoung gives 3Rs to help dig a little deeper in your devotional time. Find something in each Scripture to

  1. Rejoice
  2. Repent
  3. Request

So for this morning one verse I read was Psalm 25:1-15. For verse 4. Show me the right path, O Lord. Point out the road for me to follow.

1. Lord, I am so thankful that you are a God who guides, who points out the path, who hears prayers for guidance.

2. Please forgive me for the times that I have not requested aid. I have gone headstrong in my own way.

3. Specifically, show me the right path in ______________ . What would you have me to do?

 

Try it. Teach it to your children. Use it for family devotions.

Search the Scriptures

From Charles Spurgeon – Morning and Evening, June 09. To urge on our children who have always had the Word of God.

“Search the Scriptures.”—John 5:39.

HE Greek word here rendered search signifies a strict, close, diligent, curious search, such as men make when they are seeking gold, or hunters when they are in earnest after game. We must not rest content with having given a superficial reading to a chapter or two, but with the candle of the Spirit we must deliberately seek out the hidden meaning of the word.

Holy Scripture requires searching—much of it can only be learned by careful study. There is milk for babes, but also meat for strong men.The rabbis wisely say that a mountain of matter hangs upon every word, yea, upon every title of Scripture. Tertullian exclaims, “I adore the fulness of the Scriptures.” No man who merely skims the book of God can profit thereby; we must dig and mine until we obtain the hid treasure. The door of the word only opens to the key of diligence.

The Scriptures claim searching. They are the writings of God, bearing the divine stamp and imprimatur—who shall dare to treat them with levity? He who despises them despises the God who wrote them. God forbid that any of us should leave our Bibles to become swift witnesses against us in the great day of account.

The word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us sift a mountain of chaff with here and there a grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn—we have but to open the granary door and find it. Scripture grows upon the student. It is full of surprises. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the searching eye it glows with splendour of revelation, like a vast temple paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner of gems. No merchandise like the merchandise of Scripture truth.

Lastly, the Scriptures reveal Jesus: “They are they which testify of Me.” No more powerful motive can be urged upon Bible readers than this: he who finds Jesus finds life, heaven, all things. Happy he who, searching his Bible, discovers his Saviour

Advice to a 13-Year Old Who Wants to Go Deeper in the Word

John Piper has published a letter he wrote to a 13-year old girl that wanted to go deeper in the Scripture. His suggestions:

1. Read the Bible as a whole. Use a Bible Reading Plan like the Discipleship Journal plan to keep track of where you are reading.

2. Focus on some unit of Scripture to go deeper.

You might want to do this through memorization.

Or write that section out long-hand.

3. Get a good study bible like the ESV Study Bible and use it.

4. Pray as you come to the word: Incline my ear, Open my eyes, Unite my heart.

Share this with your children. Read the whole thing.

Filling a Bucket and Lighting it on Fire

A recent article is entitled Evangelize Don’t Indoctrinate. In it, the author helpfully distinguishes between the need to preach for conversion of the soul and mere indoctrination. However, I think the post goes a little too far on some areas.  I believe the author creates a false dichotomy. My response is an excerpt of my booklet, The Power of the Word.

The Right Goal – Wise Unto Salvation

But exactly why are we to teach our children the Scriptures? Many children have grown up in a graceless home, knowing the Scriptures and chafing under the way their pastors and parents handled them. Lois and Eunice, on the other hand, had taught Timothy their Scriptures, our Old Testament, so well that when presented with the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, Timothy trusted Christ as Savior. Amazingly, the Pharisees, had looked at those same Old Testament Scriptures and felt justified in putting Jesus to death.

Let this be a warning to us. It is not just knowledge of the Scriptures. But it is knowledge with a goal, to know Jesus Christ. Let’s spell out some of these goals more specifically.

1. To Know the Scriptures so as to Know Jesus Christ. Jesus said the Scriptures were about him (Luke 24:44, John 5:46). As we study the Scriptures ourselves and as we teach them to our children, our goal is not just more knowledge. Our goal is to proclaim Christ, teaching and admonishing so that we can present our children to him (Colossians 1:29). As we are learning the Scriptures, we want our children to know, love, and obey Jesus Christ and his gospel even better. That means that we know and can clearly articulate the gospel and grace-filled, gospel living.

2. Filling a Bucket: A Body of Material. William Yeats is famously quoted as saying, “Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.” But Yeats creates a false dichotomy. True biblical instruction is both filling a bucket and lighting that bucket on fire.

The Scriptures refer to the material Timothy has been taught as a deposit (1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 1:14). Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their ignorance (Matthew 22:29). To know the God of the Bible is to know certain truths about him that he himself has revealed. Children do not know these truths about God. They must be taught them. In the Scriptures, children are held up as positive models of trust and negative models of ignorance (1 Corinthians 14:20). J.C. Ryle is helpful here.

You cannot make your children love the Bible, I allow. None but the Holy Ghost can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make your children acquainted with the Bible; and be sure they cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well.

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear views of religion. He that his well-grounded in it will not generally be found a waverer, and carried about by every wind of new doctrine.[i]

3. Lighting a Fire: A Love for the Word. Just as important as putting knowledge in the bucket is lighting it on fire. Let us fill the bucket with gasoline and light it on fire. As a pastor, I have seen too many adults who have grown up in Christian homes who have no real hunger for the word. Why should they have a hunger for it? They “know” it already.

Instead, I want to pass on to my children an example of a continual hunger for the word. I want them to see in me and to develop in themselves a learning posture that searches the Scriptures to know Jesus Christ better.

4. A Sense of Listening to a Speaking God. Too many young people grow up without a sense of God speaking to them. Yet the reason we go to Scriptures is so that God will reveal himself to us. Like Samuel of old, God reveals himself to us through his Word (1 Samuel 3:21).

Too many Christian young people are bored with the Bible. They know (or think they know) all the Bible stories. But what they don’t know is how to hear God. They don’t know how to come to the Scriptures with a problem or with a hint at what God wants to say to them and then to start digging. They don’t know how to take every thought they encounter captive to the word of God. They don’t know how to study a topical subject in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is teaching them. Could this be why Bible reading seems so flat? Could it be because we start with, “You should read your Bible.” rather than, “What do you think God’s Spirit wants to teach you?” As George Mueller has said, “I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.”

In short, we always want to evangelize and teach to obey (Matt 28:19-20).  That teaching is aimed primarily at the heart. Head knowledge is vital. But without heart knowledge is damnable.


[i] Ryle, The Duties of Parents,

An Easy Secret to Memorizing Large Portions of Scripture

I have recently come across an article on a great way to memorize large portions of Scripture. I recommend reading the whole article. But the core of the article is this–read the passage aloud 50 times. The benefits? The author of the article writes:

  • I discovered that I had already memorized most of the passage I was trying to learn before I ever really started to try to memorize it.
  • I found out that the process of reading a passage over and over again in-and-of-itself became a wonderful means of God working his grace in my life.  I wasn’t just learning words, I was thinking about where the passage was going.  God used it to help me understand the passage better, to think about its implications in my life, and to impact my actions and affections.
  • I discovered that this process helped immensely in holding in my long-term memory the passages I had memorized.  It is a far better process for retention

I, Chap, have recently memorized several longer sections of Scripture that way. I highly encourage you and your children to try it.

4 Questions to Ask When Reading Your Bible

I want to bounce off BTW’s post of questions to ask when reading the Scriptures. These are good for both teens and adults in their devotions. They are from JI Packer and Gerald Bray with my modifications: They include:

1. What does this teach me about God (the Father, Son or Spirit)? What do I learn about what he like, what he cares about? How do I see Jesus Christ and the gospel?

2. What does this teach me about mankind? What are we supposed to be and what has gone wrong? What human tendencies are illustrated here?

3. How do I apply to my situation? What Sin is there to confess? Promise to claim? Attribute to adore? Command to obey? Example to follow or avoid? (SPACE) How would my life be different if I took this passage to heart?

4. When can I use this Scripture to help me or others? What lie does this truth counteract? What deception will be counteracted by this truth? Who might this verse help? Never deadend a truth God gives you.

Let me suggest that these are great question to fuel our personal devotions and our family devotions.