Tag Archives: scripture

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Truth is the Superfood of faith. Scripture is the pantry. I say now’s the time to chow!

Categories: Devotional Insights, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Scripture is the spiritual superfood of the soul (way better for you than Chicken Soup) and the high protein, no-fat food of faith!

I read an article on ‘superfoods’, which according to the journal of all things wise and wonderful, “Wiki-pedia”, is regarded as an unscientific term without legal definition or scientific basis and thus considered a misleading marketing ploy (how’s that for a downer…though I just registered as a subscriber of superfood.com!) is also used to describe foods…

“…with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits, with few properties considered to be negative, such as being high in saturated fats or artificial ingredients, food additives or contaminants.” (Wiki)

The term is used generously by many health conscious patrons and nutritionists as they enthusiastically espouse the apparently innumerable benefits of consuming these catalysts of super health. Included in this alluring food group are such foods as blueberries which tops the list as a superfood,  broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, tomatoes, quinoa, nuts, seeds, bananas, potatoes, dark green vegetables, and fish (due to the omega-3 fatty acids which promote cognitive development.

My wife is an MS sufferer of 24 years and has become a patron of these superfoods with benefits already logged. Because of her dietary change, we have had some changes in our eating habits as well with changes for the good. So yeah, I am a superfood believer!

That covers our physical/psycho-chemical needs. What about our spiritual/soul-centered dimension. There is no better, purer, more potent food for faith than the words and Word of God. Check out these verses from the NIV about how Scripture is like food.

I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.    -Job 23:12

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!   -Psalms 119:103

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.    -Jeremiah 15:16

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”    -Matthew 4:4

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,    -1 Peter 2:2

Scripture is the spiritual superfood of the soul (way better for you than Chicken Soup) and the high protein, no-fat food of faith! Consider how you take advantage of it like food: You prepare it, you chew it, you swallow it and then let it do its work. Consider Who you dine with and dine on: the character of Jesus Christ as His life becomes the sustenance of our life in Him.

Truth is the Superfood of faith. Scripture is the pantry. Study is the kitchen of preparation. Meditation is the feasting where the meal is chewed and consumed.

We cannot mature in the faith without consuming the Word of God frequently, intentionally and prayerfully. We must ingest and digest high quality morsels in high quantity measures. We can’t afford to skip meals or skimp on the meals we partake of. Our ability to stand with confidence, run with endurance, rest in His peace, serve with patience, worship with integrity and love God and others passionately requires our feasting on the spiritual soul satisfying bounty He has already prepared and delivered among the pages of the Bible, the banquet of divine truth!

I say now’s the time to chow!

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Small Group Priority: Truth

Categories: Ministry Tips, Small Groups, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , , ,

True Christ followers diligently explore and honestly encounter God in His Word, and through their obedience to His Word become more devoted representatives and reflections of Christ.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Far from some vague, relative, philosophical abstraction of reality, Jesus makes it quite clear: to be His disciple requires that they follow His teaching, considered absolute Truth. It stands to reason that one cannot hold to a teaching that they have not learned.

As we look at this first essential of small groups, TRUTH refers to the priority the community of faith places on their ‘listening’ to its Leader Himself, Jesus Christ, who proclaimed Himself to be, among other things, Truth (John 14:6). His disciples hear Him best when their hearts and lives are open to His Word, the Holy Scripture.

Those who so intend, so incline their H.EA.R.T. to His Word in the following ways:

Hearing – They make themselves available to others who teach and preach truth based on Scripture. There has never been a time where this has be more accessible beyond sitting in a church service. Now we can listen to sermons, teachings, lectures, devotionals through radio, TVs, CDs, DVDs, podcasts, and streaming audio/video via the internet. Apart from the absence of technology and freedom to receive biblical truth (as denied in many countries banning such), there is no excuse for any believer to not access the Word of God through these mediums.

Examining – They take time to read Scripture carefully, thoughtfully, systematically and consistently to familiarize themselves with the heart and mind of God as revealed in His Word to them. The simple objective here is to know what He said. Each of the 66 books of the Bible, read from their individual beginnings to ends, is a manuscript record of His divine self-disclosure through inspired men.

Analyzing – They devote time to study God’s Word, seeking to go beyond familiarity to depth of understanding. This practice requires the use of such bible references as bible dictionaries, word studies, handbooks, language lexicons, maps, encyclopedias and commentaries aimed at helping the contemporary followers of Christ now to know what the historical followers meant when they wrote what they did then in response to Christ’s revelation. This is a much more formal practice requiring patience and humility.

Remembering -They devote themselves to cherishing God’s word by taking it to heart, knowing that we remember what is important. When we memorize Scripture, we carry His Word with us, refusing to leave it in a notebook or library or study desk because the place the Word truly belongs and was meant to reside was in our souls and be engraved on our hearts and minds so that we may live according to this living counsel of truth.

Thinking – The follower of Christ practices meditation – focused thinking – on biblical truth seeking to understand and apply spiritual principles to real life in personal ways. If what one remembers is important, then what one thinks about is both foundational and instrumental in affecting one’s mind and then one’s life.

Christ followers personally and interpersonally engage in these with the express purpose of then applying biblical truths and principles to their lives. As they diligently explore and honestly encounter God in His Word, they anticipate and participate in the spiritual transformation of their minds and and hearts as they submit their lives to Christ. They become conformed to the image of Christ through their obedience to His Word. The goal is not to become a stelllar Bible student but a devoted representative and reflection of the Christ who sets us free by His truth.

Many Christians in the world suffer being forbidden to access truth through the Scripture, but any Christian who has access to it, and yet chooses or neglects to discipline themselves to Hearing, Examining, Analyzing, Remembering, Thinking about His Word is disqualified from the greater depths of spiritual maturity available only to those who have a H.E.A.R.T. for Holy Scripture.

Consider also that of the 5 components mentioned, only “hearing” may be considered passive to an extent (though one could certainly make a case for “active listening”). The others must be actively and personally engaged by the Christ follower.

Individual Believer: how often and consistently do you personally, diligently access God’s Word on your own, with the intent not for more information but for greater intimacy and influence from your Master and Lord?

Small Group Leader: to what degree do you challenge, model and encourage your members to pursue the truth that is so readily available in and between your meeting times?

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Debating the Inspiration of Scripture.

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: , , , ,

stillness-2One of the objections raised by folks regarding the issue Scripture’s authority stems from the difficulty of how we (Christians) can place a great deal of trust in a manuscript written long ago by ordinary men, prone, as all men are, to defects and biases. I admit that, on the surface, this is what it seems, but the internal and historical claims of the inerrancy of Scripture go beyond this common objection. I submit that this common objection misses the point. The focus for debate really rests on something far more profound and transcendent. See if you can detect it in the passages below, usually used to affirm the authority and inerrancy of Holy Scripture:

2 Peter 1:16, 20-21 16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

Did you catch it? Human authorship or participation is not central. The issue is not about the reality of the weakness of man but about the existence and influence of God. I submit that there are 2 questions that need to be answered and upon which the debate should be waged is,

  1. Does God exist? AND
  2. If He does exist, does He interact personally with human beings?

When considering publications like the NY Times, USA Today, Wallstreet Journal, Encyclopedia Britannica, Encarta, etc, no will argue that these are written by ordinary men, prone to defects and biases. Yet, of their millions of readers, subscribers and patrons few question the integrity of the writers in connection with their manuscripts, though many may disagree with them. Yet when it comes to the Holy Scriptures, the same concession is inadmissable and the integrity of the biblical manuscripts are thus discredited. Maybe it is precisely because the Scripture goes beyond orthodox literary decorum to claim divine inspiration.

If there is no God, the debate is over and Bible was written by men who either thought they were divinely inspired and they weren’t, or knew they weren’t but said they were. Either way, under those conditions, the Bible would be an unethical collection of writings based on that which is not truth, yet claiming superior authority,  and, therefore, unworthy of any serious consideration…if there is no God!

But if, indeed, God exists, and if indeed, He does personally interact with human beings, then He most certainly can inspire men to scribe His truth for all men to encounter and thus the authority of Scripture can be firmly established. People may still disagree with its content but they cannot simply repudiate or dismiss its source. The summation of the internal claims of Scripture and the external, historical affirmations of those claims is that “Scripture is inscribed by men inspired by God.” The first part is obvious and undeniable. It is the second part that adherents cherish by faith but that antagonists must sufficiently disprove.

So let’s not rest arguments against the validity and authority of Scripture purely on the weakness of man. That fact is irrefutable. Let’s debate the issue on the true lodestone being  the Living Lord Himself, God Almighty, the true Author of His Living Word.

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Scripture Meditation: “Stop and Consider.”

Categories: Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , ,

...as long as we try to access the divine Whisper of divine Affection on the run, we may only hear the wind and not the Spirit.

stillness-2Transform Thought:

From the statement on meditation taken from the Quest Study Bible that I referenced in my “Soul Food” blog, I want to look at 2 aspects in greater depth. I will deal with the other in a subsequent blog. The first point of consideration comes from the following paragraph:

“In some ways meditation doesn’t easily fit into the Western culture. We value action and busyness more than stopping and considering. The author of this psalm was from another time and culture, one with a tradition that valued meditation. As a result, meditation came more naturally for him and others with his Middle Eastern background. We have to overcome some cultural obstacles to learn to meditate.”

Zero-in on the line, “We value action and busyness more than stopping and considering.” Sure does sound like good, ole fashioned, Western philosophy to me!

It’s been said that we remember what’s important to us. Try this one: we meditate on what’s important to us. In my teachings I have explained the art and discipline of meditation employing the picture of a cow chewing its cud again…over and over…again. That action describes “rumination” and applies to mental activity as well. Specifically regarding meditation, it can be a very deliberate practice engaging the entire mind and heart. (More on that later).

The statement points out our tendency toward NOT ruminating, not deeply, intentionally, considering because our gravitational preference is toward activity. The way I see it, we value INDUSTRY over INTROSPECTION, COMMOTION over CONTEMPLATION. As a matter of fact we sometimes rush TOWARD action to AVOID considering!

Years ago while bustling from one place to another, a friend of mine walking with me and observing my actions for over a year, out of the blue asked me a question that stopped me dead in my tracks. “Jonathan, what’s driving you?”
He noticed my tendency to a rapid gait, rapid speech, and like manner in many things. This prompted the question. I remember that day as the beginning of several weeks where I was constantly returning to that scene and then re-asking myself the same question: “What is driving me?!”

You may be wondering, “Wasn’t that a simple enough question? How could that have taken several weeks to answer?”
Answer: (Yep, you guessed it!) I was too busy to stop and consider it seriously. I came to a painful recognition that I had begun to value what I was doing for Jesus more than who He is. In Matthew 7, Jesus confronts a great group of people at heaven’s door. They came with expectations that their entrance was guaranteed on the basis of their effort, their eternal security locked in by their temporal industry. They offered their resume of religious duties, the likes of which would surely convince God that He is now obligated to let them in. Jesus responds to their demand with a chilling response: “Depart from me, evildoers, I never knew you!”

Wow! These people spent so much time doing what they considered to be good enough but never considered what Christ truly wanted. His response reveals the central priority of His desire: for us to be in mutually intimate harmony with Him. What, however, is more chilling, is that in all their activity, they never even realized that were not attentive to God on His terms. They were living for their work but not living for God. Jesus’ statement implies that there never was a relationship and just because they were deeply involved in some pretty significant work, this did not draw them one step closer to God nor the security of eternity with Him. Apparently God is more interested in what comes out of heart than what comes from our hands.

Look at a portion of Jesus’ message to the church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation.

2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:2-4

Here, INDUSTRY trumped INTIMACY. Sounds like these folks needed to take time and consider the Whom they were so busy “doing” for. Hmmm…sounds like they aren’t the only ones!

In Psalms 46 in the midst of tremendous, calamitous chaos, the world convulsing with cataclysmic tremors, nations seething with rage, and the Lord dispensing divine wrath and judgment, this same God, who is also our refuge and strength, says,
Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

In one sense of the word, this passage could be translated,
“Stop your striving. Experience the truth of who I am as God”.

This statement has a lot packed in it but one thing it calls us to: stopping and considering; deliberately, stepping away from the hustle and bustle, surrendering to stillness, sometimes best done in solitude. When it comes to meditation, we must decide to be in a place where the cacophony of the world and the static of our life is reduced to low enough decibels that we begin to hear the still, small voice of God. But as long as we try to access the divine Whisper of Divine Affection while on the run, we may hear only the wind and not the Spirit.

Consider this: the Bible is more than just a book about stories. It is a book about 1 story, His-story, being lived out through the many stories of humanity. It is a sacred book of the divine self-disclosure of God Himself in relationship with mankind in any dimensions. For us to access the depths and riches and wonders of the mind of God, we most certainly will need the tutelage of the indwelling Spirit, but we also need to come in humility, sit down at the table of wisdom, and feast on the kind of truth that enlightens the mind and satisfies the soul. This “Soul Food” is rarely good or beneficial when we are cramming it in us with other foods – traffic, ESPN, American Idol, reconciling check books, fretting over expenses, etc. – because divine “soul food” must be the main course, not the side dish.

So what do you think? Is it time to cease the striving and settle into the work and wonder of knowing God through His own “authorized biography”? Is it time to Stop and Consider?

Let’s follow Jesus’ example who had to be one of the most, if not the busiest man ever but never seemed to be in a rush, never seemed to be stressed. Lived life in rhythmic harmony with His Father. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus did not merely find time, but made time to be with His Father. That relationship empowered and sustained Him in the stewardship of life and accomplishment of the will of God. Keep in mind: it is stillness together with Christ that holds us together in Christ. But as this article indicates, that ain’t natural for us. It is a state of being that must be learned, practiced, and defended against the regular, incessant, voices of this world seducing us away from true fellowship of peace and rest with God.

Transform Tips:

Years ago when I was the director of a youth camp for a church in Miami, Florida we instituted a “Time Out” everyday during camp week at 4:30pm for 5 minutes. Adults and students alike were to dedicate this time to stopping, stillness and silence. This meant for 5 full minutes (an eternity for teenagers!) no swimming, no playing, no selling food at the snack shop, no walking, no talking. In a camp of 300 Jr. and Sr. High School students this miracle happened each day! They could use the time to pray, sleep, dream, reflect, hold their breath, anything…just to learn the value that they could “turn off”. It was pretty amazing for folks visiting the campus at around that time to walk around and hear no noise and see nothing human moving, like a spell had been cast over us. Then promptly at 4:35pm motion and activity whirred back into rhythm and life.

Maybe we could practice our own “Time Out” each day for a week…in a place where you won’t get fired! A time to remember that we are more than human doings, that we are human beings called into fellowship with the Holy God.
Here are some other suggestions of “Stopping to Consider”.

  • Determine a time and place with the optimum environment for stillness and silence. Consider this a sanctum, a sacred place to meet with God and then meet with Him there.
  • Before you start to meditate on the Scripture take several minutes in silence and consider Whom you are talking to or simply to disconnect from what you were doing or need to do. Consider taking a brief walk, savoring a cup of tea or coffee right before diving into hearing the voice of God in His Word.
  • Pray Psalm 119:18 to God but say it in your own words. (I was going to write it out, but thought “Nahh. They’ll have to stop and look it up!)
  • As you read the Scripture, take time to think through, read the entire chapter in one sitting but ruminate on 1-2 verses at a time rather than the whole chapter.
  • Journal your thoughts and reactions. I have found that writing is a discipline that forces me to slow down and adjust to the rhythm of careful thought and heart-felt contemplation.
  • Don’t wait until the end of your Scripture meditation to pray to God. Take time throughout your meditation to pray to God in response to what you’re considering. Dialogue with God as He “speaks”.
  • Close your time with prayers of praise and gratitude and confession and requests for divine guidance before moving on to intercession for others.

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Scripture Meditation: “Savoring True Soul Food”

Categories: Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Frankly, meditating on Scripture is one of my favorite topics and disciplines. Though I have been doing this for over 40 years, I still consider myself a student who has neither yet perfected nor reaped the full benefit of this timeworn discipline and, in a manner, art.

Oven Fried Chicken by mooshee85

Transform Thought:

Frankly, meditating on Scripture is one of my favorite topics and disciplines. Though I have been doing this for over 40 years, I still consider myself a student who has neither yet perfected nor reaped the full benefit of this timeworn discipline and, in a manner, art. Let’s be clear: when I speak of meditation, I am not referring to the Eastern discipline of “emptying your mind” but actually of purifying and satisfying your mind and soul by filling it with divine content.

One of the clearest descriptions of meditation is “focused thinking”. Scripture meditation, therefore, is focused thinking on and about the Word of God where the intention is for us to understand and apply revealed truths to our lives in humble response to God. The rewards include a greater understanding of Scripture, increased sense of personal well being, a more satisfying communion with God, and a transformed life as it is being conformed to the character and purpose of Jesus Christ. These alone provide exciting incentives to make it a discipline to feast on.  In Scripture meditation, thinking nice thoughts is not the goal. Living in true fellowship with God and others is. Look at what the psalmist says about one who meditates on the Word of God:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.  Psalm  1:3

When someone tells me that they can’t meditate, I have learned to ask them if they have ever worried. When they answer that they have, I tell them that if they can worry, they can meditate! Worry is focused thinking on problems or circumstances in such a way that affects your mind and heart and, eventually, your behavior. Scripture meditation happens when a student of the Scripture, humble and open, takes the time, to come to the Word of God and engages it with their mind and heart as they read and study for the purpose of deeper fellowship with God and nourishment to their soul. Meditation enables Scripture to become the true soul food.

My daughter, Christine, and I were working through a meditation exercise using Scripture when toward the end of it, she read an instructional guide for Scripture meditation from one of the “help” pages in her Quest Study Bible published by Zondervan. I reviewed it and exclaimed to her that it was one of the clearest, most helpful, simple, yet profound explanations I had heard encountered.

“How Does a Person Meditate on God’s Word?

Meditation [on Scripture] is a combination of reviewing, repeating, reflecting, thinking, analyzing, feeling and even enjoying. It is a physical, intellectual and emotional activity-it involves our whole being.

In some ways meditation doesn’t easily fit into the Western culture. We value action and busyness more than stopping and considering. The author of this psalm was from another time and culture, one with a tradition that valued meditation. As a result, meditation came more naturally for him and others with his Middle Eastern background. We have to overcome some cultural obstacles to learn to meditate.

I especially loved the context clarifying the distinction between the Western and Eastern mindset as the pilgrim approaches meditation. In my opinion, the Eastern avenue seems to open up windows and doors for heart and mind of the Christian pilgrim to embrace more of the mind and heart of God, the mysteries of His infinite fullness. Our traditional, formulaic ways, usually, restricted and hindered by time, space and inner preoccupations, result in a more cerebral, lifeless, approach and result! But that’s for another day, another blog so…

I do know, however, that due to our cultural conditioning and predispositions against stillness, many would legitimately admit that they do not know how to meditate. One blog post won’t cure that (omen of more posts to come on this topic) but I have included here the brief article here from the Quest Bible along with their list of meditation techniques. I threw in a few of my own.

Transform Tips:

There are a variety of ways to meditate on God’s Word. Techniques include:

  1. Avoid just diving into the task before asking God for insight; prepare your mind and heart to receive it.
  2. *Take time to read a verse or passage over and over.
  3. *Begin to memorize all or part of it.
  4. Take note of the main characters, descriptions, actions, cause-and-effects, in the passage.
  5. Define, clarify, ponder special words or phrases
  6. *Listen! Quiet your hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through God’s Word.
  7. *Consider how it fits with the rest of the Bible and life in general.
  8. *Become emotionally involved-allow yourself to feel what God feels, his desires expressed through his words period
  9. Write down your thoughts, insights, questions, responses to the passage
  10. *Move from meditation to application-connect your thoughts to action. Consider how the truth and power of the Word of God should affect your behavior.
*(Taken also from the Quest Study Bible article)

Remember, it’s actually putting into practice these and other techniques that facilitates spiritual nourishment as you feast on the wonders of His Word . I hope this article helps you to see the Bible as an invitation to that banquet table of divine revelation that can satisfy your mind and soul as you partake of and savor the fulfilling and delightful delicacies of the riches and depths of God waiting for you in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.

Bon apetit!