Let’s face it. We all get busy. Too busy. It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. Life has been a little hectic as Carol and I are building our fourth house. And I have finally moved my study into the basement even though it is unfinished. The house is nowhere near complete. But I needed to use my extra time to get the house under roof.
At any rate, I have been busy just like you. Which means that just like you I would like to be able to find simpler ways to do things.
My guess is most believers could not readily identify their spiritual growth plan. While the 7 steps I am offering are not a complete list, this is like Personal Spiritual Growth 101.
But let’s move on to the 7 steps.
- Bible reading. With so many plans and ideas available, you should be able to find one you like. What I like may be vastly different from what you like. However, you could simply start by reading two chapters a day from the New Testament.
- Prayer. I suggest you start with just 15 minutes a day. Yes, that sounds like a lot. But a very helpful way to pray is use the acrostic, ACTS. A is for adoration, C is for confession, T is for thanksgiving, and S is for supplications or specific requests.
- Journal. You may not want to write down your thoughts or prayers every day, but you could journal once a week. Trust me, years later you will enjoy reading what you wrote.
- Exercise. Yes, this needs to be a part of your spiritual growth. Your physical fitness will impact your spiritual growth.
- Study. This goes beyond reading to observation, interpretation, and ultimately application because we want to DO what the Bible teaches. Perhaps you can study with someone else over a cup of coffee or in a small group. If that’s not possible right now you can also study alone with some good Bible study books. Some authors to check out may be John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, or Kay Arthur.
- Fast. Most have never tried fasting. I assure you it will make a difference in your life. You could simply make it a habit to fast at the beginning of every year. The point is you make this a part of your spiritual growth plan.
- Read good books. Start with shorter books as most never finish books that are longer than 250 pages. Plus you will feel a sense of accomplishment after you finish your first book. There are many to chose from. Start with a topic or book of the Bible that interests you.
That’s it. Not complicated. But you do have to start.
Why not start today?
Let’s face it. Many never get started reading and studying the Bible.
First, let’s talk about the obstacles.
1. Clarity. The Bible can be a bit intimidating so where do we start? Not knowing what we want can keep us from ever starting. Why not set a goal to read five days a week?
2. Competence. Let me assure you that whether you are brand new to reading the Bible or have studied it for years you will always feel a somewhat incompetent. But that should drive you to the Bible, not away from it. Over time you will hone your skills and feel at home in your Bible. It will take time, but you must not delay starting.
3. Commitment. All of us are busy. But clearly Christ-followers see the Bible as important. It is simply going to boil down to discipline. So schedule it. Put it on the calendar.
4. Courage. This is similar to point #2, but the focus is on fear. You may fear that after a week or two you just can’t do it. Or you are afraid that you will quit. Or that you will attend a small group and have nothing to share. Or worse, what you share will not fit what the Bible is actually saying. When you started eating you missed your mouth with the spoon. My guess is you are still eating, but have learned how to hit your mouth every time. Same with the Bible. So don’t let fear keep you from getting started.
Game Plan for Getting Started
1. Purchase a Bible you will actually read. Trust me on this one. Different people like different translations. Carol and I both grew up reading the KJV. However, when we got married I bought her a NASB and she loved it and loved reading the Bible much more. Go online and read some out of the NASB, ESV, NLT, NIV, KJV, NKJV, and the NEB. You can go to www.youversion.com
to check them out. Also you may want to experiment a little at
which has the NEB along with some notes. I have given the initials but once you begin searching they will all make sense. Also you may want to start out with a Life Application Study Bible. It only comes in a few translations though. However, it is very helpful and is a great place to start. I say that but it has some insightful scholarly notes also.
2. Take advantage of the Bible reading plan in the weekly bulletin at New Hope Church. That will get you through the New Testament every two years. You’ll notice I keep colored pencils next to my Bible. I encourage you to write in your Bible and use a variety of colored pencils for various subjects. Develop your own personal system as to which color you will use. For instance, I use red for verses that deal with the cross, salvation, and Jesus.
3. You will need a Concordance but can typically do word and phrase searches digitally at no cost at www.biblegateway.com
If you want a hard copy then you will likely want the NIV Concordance.
4. Next it is helpful to have a Bible Dictionary like The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary which is full of helpful articles, full-color maps, and graphics.
5. Another handy reference book is Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible. Once again, a lot of these resources will raise your level of confidence and get you up to speed at a much faster rate.
7. Keep a notebook handy and write down any observations and questions you have from the text you are reading. You don’t have to have answers now, but you will not forget. Also, you may prefer to do your reading online and store your notes their. Plus you can do the same thing on your phone or tablet.
8. Ask questions while you read. Joshua 1:8 talks about meditating on the Bible. That word has the idea of muttering, talking to the Bible. Talk to the Bible and it will talk back to you. So ask questions like:
* Is there an example to follow?
* Is there a sin to avoid?
* Is there a prayer to repeat or does the verse bring a prayer to mind that I can pray right now?
* Is there a command to obey?
* Is there a verse to memorize?
9. At this point it can be very helpful to have a commentary at your side. I recommend that you start out with a one-volume commentary like The Moody Commentary on the Whole Bible. It also comes in a digital version. You certainly don’t want to reach a wrong conclusion and say what the Bible is not saying. So having a solid commentary can help you stay on track and aid even more to your understanding of the Bible.
You don’t have to do all nine to get started. Actually a Bible is all you need. However, every prospector likes to have a few extra tools in the bag. The more tools the more likely you will enjoy all the nuggets you are able to mine from the Bible.
It’s been over fifty years now since my grandmother told me Bible stories from the book of Daniel. After my grandfather passed away, she lived with us for a while in the lower level of our split-level house just outside of Tyson’s Corner, VA.
You have probably heard of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den.” Or the story of the three Hebrew guys who were put into a fiery furnace.
What you may be unfamiliar with is Daniel’s personal devotional life.
You can’t read the book of Daniel without noticing its impact on his life, and, ultimately, his influence on succeeding generations.
It not only impacted Jews in the second century who were being severely persecuted, but also my grandmother in the 20th century, and now me.
What was the secret to Daniel’s ultimate influence?
His personal devotional life. It is the KEY to his life and his influence. (Daniel 6:10; 9:20ff)
Now, Bible reading and prayer usually top the list of things discussed every New Year. You don’t know what the new year holds, and you want to have a good one.
But Daniel wasn’t focused on just the current year. He kept his mind and heart eternally focused.
As a teenager he was ripped from his home by a foreign army, the Babylonians. But that didn’t cause him to throw in the towel and try something new the next year. He stayed committed to prayer and the Scriptures even under threat of death.
As the book unfolds you notice his influence, his stability; and it is all influenced by his personal devotional life.
Sure, as we begin a New Year there are always headlines like “Have the Best Year Ever,” “Reach Your Goals in the New Year,” “15 Ways to …,” and “The Do’s and Don’t of Getting Leaner.”
And no doubt many of those are helpful.
But what about thinking beyond this year, or even beyond the next decade?
In a sense I am asking you to make a New Year’s Resolution, but not for this year.
A resolution is simply something you resolve to do.
When Joshua challenged the people to “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15), he didn’t say “…for this coming year, and see how it works out.” He challenged them to make a resolution that would give their lives purpose for generations to come.
Daniel himself purposed in his heart a course of action (Daniel 1:8), and it impacted his life along with countless others.
He influenced his coworkers.
He influenced his friends.
He influenced my grandmother.
He has influenced me.
That’s what I call Ultimate Influence.
And the KEY was his personal devotional life.
What will be the KEY in your life?