Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

Bible Intake as Discipline: Three Practical Suggestions

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:147-148
M’Cheyne Text: Hosea 5-6; Psalm 119:145-176

Time: Here are three practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading. First, find the time. In our culture, the default response to, “How are you?” is usually either, “Busy,” “So busy,” or “Crazy busy” [1]. Yet it only takes about 90 hours to read through the Bible. This means that if we replace our average daily television watching, which Nielsen reports is 4 hours and 39 minutes [2], with Bible reading, we could read the entire Bible in less than 3 weeks.

It helps to set aside the same time every day. In fact, seeking God in the morning may solve our busyness problem. In What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, Laura Vanderkam writes, “The madness of mornings is a key reason most of us believe we have no time” [3]. As the Psalmist sang, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” [4].

Plan: Second, find a Bible-reading plan. One feature of 843 Acres is that it follows the well-known and well-respected M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, which has been recommended by John Stott, Charles Spurgeon and Ravi Zacharias. Over the course of one year, we read through the entire New Testament, the Psalms, the Proverbs and half of the Old Testament.

Meditate: Finally, find at least one word, phrase or verse on which to meditate each time you read. In each 843 Acres reflection, we feature a “Highlighted Text” and include it in full in italics within the reflection itself. We do this because we know that, even with a good plan, Bible reading can be a chore instead of a discipline of joy. We want our readers to think deeply about at least one thing they have read so that they can meditate on it throughout the day.

Prayer: Lord, We need the instruction, guidance and encouragement of the Word every day because we face problems, temptations and pressures every day. We need to seek your face, hear your voice, feel your touch and know your power daily. Therefore, help us to set ourselves in the way of gospel allurement by reading the Bible daily. Amen.

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 Audio: Bible Listening (6.33 minutes)

If you would like to hear audio versions of these passages read by Max McLean, click here for Hosea 5 (2.13 minutes) and here for Hosea 6 (1.26 minutes) and here for Psalm 119:145-76 (2.54 minutes, starts at 12.48 and ends at 15.42).

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Footnotes

[1] See Tim Kreider. The “Busy” Trap. The New York Times. Opinion Pages. 30 June 2012.  |  [2] Brian Stelter. “Youths Are Watching, but Less Often on TV.” The New York Times. 8 February 2012.  |  [3] Vanderkam, Laura (2012-06-12). What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life (Kindle Location 96). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.  |   [4] Psalm 119:147-148 ESV

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October 30, 2012

Bible Intake as Discipline: Lover of the Word

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:127, 129-131
M’Cheyne Text: Hosea 3-4; Psalm 119:121-144

Reflection: What do words tell us about people? “In trying to describe the same event,” writes Professor James Pennebaker, “people express themselves in remarkably diverse ways. ‘Excuse me, but could you please pass the salt?’ and ‘Hey you, gimme the salt,’ are speech acts that accomplish the same goal. In this example, however, the words the speakers use tells us far more than their needs for sodium chloride. Language and word use can reflect people’s personality, mood, social situation, social class, and a variety of other aspects about them” [1].

Love: The Psalmist loves the Word of God because he loves God and he knows that God reflects His love and personality through His Word. Therefore, he sings: “I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold … Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments” [2].

Happiness: The most significant thing we can do to be happy in life is to read the Word of God. The pursuit and preservation of joy takes work [3] because our joy fluctuates with life and is vulnerable to Satan’s attack. But God has given us His Word as a sword to fight for joy [4]. As George Mueller said, “I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished … I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditate on it” [5].

Prayer: Lord, Words, words, words. We wake up with words rushing in our minds and hear words throughout the day from our spouses, colleagues, children, friends and neighbors. Yet the words that you speak over us will give us the greatest joy today. Therefore, make us lovers of your Word because we are lovers of you. Wake us up with a desire for happiness and, therefore, a desire for your Word. Amen.

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FAQs

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 Audio: Bible Listening (5.46 minutes)

If you would like to hear audio versions of these passages read by Max McLean, click here for Hosea 3 (0.55 minutes) and here for Hosea 4 (2.46 minutes) and here for Psalm 119:121-144 (2.05 minutes, starts at 10.42 and ends at 12.47).

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Footnotes

[1] James W. Pennebaker. “What Our Words Can Say About Us: Toward a Broader Language Psychology.” Psychological Science Agenda. January/February 2002.  |  [2] Psalm 119:127, 129-131 ESV  |  [3] See 2 Corinthians 1:24.  |  [4] See Ephesians 6.  |  [5] Cited in John Piper. Desiring God. Multnomah Publishers (1996), p. 122.

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October 29, 2012

Bible Intake as Discipline: Authoritative Text

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:97-100
M’Cheyne Text: Hosea 2; Psalm 119:97-120

Authority: “Americans may love the Bible or loathe it,” wrote Ann Monroe in Mother Jones. “But for the most part, they read it the same (when they read it at all): as the manifesto of a God who has a lot of laws and a definite inclination to punish those who don’t follow them” [1]. We may think that an authoritative text precludes intimacy, but a personal relationship requires someone who talks back. A one-sided relationship is exploitive, not personal. How can we pursue a relationship with God in which our will is crossed and our thoughts are contradicted?

Wisdom: The Psalmist celebrated the Word for its authority and ability to cross and contradict us. For the Lord’s wisdom transcends the wisdom of those from whom we traditionally seek it: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day … I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts” [2].

Discipline: In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God – intimately” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We need more than just words to survive. We need the Word himself. Since the Bible is the essential place to find him, we turn to it and long for a more disciplined intake of it. Make it our meditation all the day. Amen.

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FAQs

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Audio: Bible Listening (6.02 minutes)

If you would like to hear audio versions of these passages read by Max McLean, click here for Hosea 2 (3.51 minutes) and here for Psalm 119:97-120 (2.11 minutes, starts at 8:30 and ends at 10:41).

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Footnotes

[1] Ann Monroe. “Does the Bible Tell Me So?” Mother Jones. November/December 1997.  |  [2] Psalm 119:97-100 ESV  |  [3] Donald S. Whitney. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO. NavPress. p. 26

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October 26, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Persistent and Repetitive

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:34-36
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 11; Psalm 119:25-48

Delay: As we have seen this week [1], although spiritual disciplines do not save us, they do lay us in the way of allurement of the gospel, which is the good news of Jesus that does save us. In particular, the spiritual discipline of prayer brings us into joyful communion with the Lord, as we pour out our hearts to Him in praise, thanksgiving, confession and petition. On Tuesday, we thought about unanswered prayers [2]. But sometimes we experience delayed answers, not unanswered prayers – although we may not know it at the time. Yet why would the Lord delay in answering our prayers?

Reasons: In A Body of Divinity, Puritan pastor Thomas Watson offers four possible answers: (1) Because he loves to hear our prayers: “You let the musician play a great while before you throw him down money, because you love to hear the music.” (2) Because He wants to humble us lest we too easily think that we have earned a ready answer or that we think He is our butler, not our Sovereign Lord. (3) Because we are not yet fit or circumstances are not yet ready for the blessing that we seek. (4) Because He longs for us to prize the mercy we seek all the more when it finally comes. [3]

Persistence: In other words, without offering persistent and repetitive prayers for what we want, we may become proud when the blessing comes. In Romans, Paul teaches that one of the most dangerous things God can do is to give us what we want without prayer [4]. For it confirms what our hearts already want to believe – namely, that things are going well for us apart from God. Then, when the blessing comes apart from prayer, we rob ourselves of joy in God because we are not filled with gratitude for His provision.

Prayer: Lord, We know that you have good and wise reasons when you delay to answer our prayers. Therefore, we pray as the Psalmist did, “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” [5] Increase our faith in you as our Provider and guard us against pride by tethering our blessings to our prayers. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City.” 24 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Word-Centered.” 25 October 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012.  |  [3] Thomas Watson. “A Body of Divinity.”  |  [4] See Romans 1.  |  [5] Psalms 119:34-36 ESV

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October 25, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Word-Centered

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:14-15, 18, 24
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 10; Psalm 119:1-24

Aspirations: As we begin to pursue prayer as a spiritual discipline [1], we often come with high aspirations to create spontaneous and meaningful prayers – even grandiose prayers like the one offered by Daniel [2]. When that does not happen, however, we can get discouraged and confused, which can lead us to stop praying altogether. Thus, we must learn to pray so that we persevere in it. For although we thought about unanswered prayers on Tuesday [3], “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer” [4].

Guides: Thankfully, in the Bible itself, God has given us more than 650 prayers to use and enjoy. The Psalmist delighted to go to God through the Word: “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways … Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law … My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times … Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” [5]. Today, we can rejoice in the Word even more than the Psalmist. For we know that it points to the Word Made Flesh – that is, Jesus Christ.

Scriptures: In Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Repeating God’s own words after him, we begin to pray to him. We ought to speak to God and he wants to hear us, not in the false and confused speech of our own heart, but in the clear and pure speech which God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ. God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God” [6].

Prayer: Lord, Teach us to pray according to your Word. Teach us the difference between the things that our hearts produce by themselves – wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – and prayer, which is produced only by the cross of Christ and the work of the Spirit. Cause our hearts to delight in your Word so that we find our way to you. Amen.

(Optional) Post-Reflection Prayers: We have created a one-page sample set of morning prayers (here) and a one-page illustrative list of prayers in the Bible (here). If helpful, use these to pursue an intentional prayer life and let us know what you think.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

____________________________________

Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City.” 24 October 2012.  |  [3] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012.  |  [4] F.B. Meyer (wiki)  |  [5] Psalm 119:14-15, 18, 24 ESV  |  [6] Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Kindle Location 34-35). Kindle Edition.

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