For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Abiding in the Word: Some Practical Help

Last Sunday I preached a message about the importance of abiding in the word of God. You can listen to it here (English) (French). I was pleased by the fact that there were several people who told me that the Lord had been telling them that they needed to spend more time in the Word. Few things are more important than the habit of spending time in God's Word.

Before I sat down to write this blog article, I popped over to Desiring God and noticed that their lead article was by Jimmy Needham. He gives us five reasons to read the Bible every day. If you are looking for motivation, that is a great article to read. I will focus on giving you some practical advice about abiding in God's Word.

So how do we go about it?

Pick a time and place.

We have a plan for everything that is a priority in our lives. Whether it is going to the gym or picking up groceries, we figure out ways to get them done. I am convinced that making a specific plan will multiply the time we spend in God's word many times.

This plan does not have to be complicated and can vary depending on a person's stage in life. If you have not yet developed the habit of Bible-reading,  I suggest a timeframe of fifteen minutes as a starter. As you grow, you will find that is not enough time.

As a university student, I found time before or after class. When I had a traditional job, I found that getting up a little earlier worked the best for me. I needed the quiet before the kids got up to spend time alone with the Lord. Sometimes parents have to find a time when they have a break from parental duties. Whatever your life's situation figure out how you can get it done. Sure, you have to jettison television or facebook time, but what is more important?

I've always found that first thing in the morning is the best time. I am fresher and it seems to put my day in a good perspective. Some people tell me that late at night works better for them. Personally, would probably fall asleep!

The place should be free from distractions. Jesus told his disciples to go into their room and shut the door (Matthew 6:6). A busy living room would be too distracting. Find a place and make it a routine to use it regularly.

Remember the Goal.
The goal is a relationship with God. It is easy to make the goal growing in the knowledge of the Bible, being prepared for a life group, or simply checking something off our list of things to do. We need to consciously remind ourselves that this time is for developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. It helps to begin and end the time with prayer. That keeps the focus on actually meeting God rather than mastering some biblical content.

Remember the Means.
God gave us the Bible as a means to meet and interact with him. So we want to spend time in its pages. I have found that my devotional life varies depending upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit seems to emphasize different things throughout the year.

Reading: The Broad View. Sometimes I will spend my time reading one of the books of the Bible. For example, I may read the gospel of Luke over a period of several days. As I read, I am listening to for the Holy Spirit to point something out to me. Sometimes he does, and when he does I will stop and think about whatever it is. Other times I will simply read for most of the time. Then I will pray based on what I learned as I was reading.

Studying: The Accurate View. Studying is deeper than reading. Reading is like looking out over the garden of Versailles and drinking in the beauty. Study is deciding to go and take a closer look at one particular part of the garden. In studying, the goal is to do the best we can to determine what the author intended. What did he want to communicate to us by using those particular words? We are looking with the understanding that God wants to speak to us through the words that he inspired. So those words (the verbs, nouns, pronouns, articles, and prepositions) matter. In studying we seek to understand what they mean.

Memorizing: The Profound View. There have been times when the Lord has led me to memorize a chapter or an entire book of the Bible. This leads to a much deeper and richer understanding than is typically possible through simple reading or studying. You might memorize the 23rd Psalm, 1 Corinthians 13, or Romans 8. Learning these chapters word or word will unlock treasures that you never realized were there.

Meditating: The Transforming View. Reading, studying, and memorizing all lead to meditation. Meditation is simply pondering about a passage. Joshua 1:8 tells us that meditating on the law day and night is one of the keys to success in life. We think about what we were read that morning as we take the tram to work, go jogging, or make lunches for the kids.  As we do, the Holy Spirit begins to change the way we think about things and draws us closer to God.

Remember When You Walk Out the Door.
Once your time in the Word is over, then comes the need to obey what you read in "real life". It may involve loving your enemy, confessing your sin, helping the weak, or remembering to thank Him for the blessings you experience during the day. The Lord expects us to follow through on the things that we are learning. Jesus told his disciples, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (John 13:17).

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