a publication of Life Action Ministries
Bible Boredom? reviving your passion for Godâ€™s Word
Fall 2009 Volume 40, Issue 3 www.LifeAction.org/revive
CONTENTS COLUMNS 3
Spirit of Revival
Unleashing the Power of the Bible by Byron Paulus
Why I Need You to Study My Bible by Del Fehsenfeld
13 From the Heart
"So What?" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
31 Next Step
Start Right Now by Daniel W. Jarvis
4 Interact Feedback from our readers
Interview with Wycliffe Bible Translators president
19 Looking Back
A Lifetime Investment
22 Hard Questions
How Do I Apply the Old Testament to My Life?
24 Real World
A faithful believer seeks renewed enjoyment in his
Getting Into the Word Getting the Word Into You
Howard Hendricks and F. B. Meyer
Tools to help you go deeper
27 Making It Personal
10 Praying the Scriptures
Apply the principles discussed in this issue
14 Biblical Meditation Don Whitney
2 0 We Read the Bible . . . You Can Too! Carrie Ward
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Assistant Editor: Kim Gwin Creative Directors: Aaron Paulus, Tim Ritter Senior Graphic Designer: Thomas A. Jones Production: Wayne Lake Volume 40, Issue 3 Copyright © 2009 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved. Suggested donation $4.95
Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations. To purchase additional copies of this issue, to be placed on our free mailing list, or to contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31, Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org • www.LifeAction.org/revive
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL
Unleashing the Power of the Bible
woman was publicly executed in North Korea recently. Her crime? Distributing Bibles. It’s noteworthy that a book most Americans take for granted and rarely read was worthy of death in a far corner of the world. So what makes the Bible that dangerous to an evil regime? What makes it the most feared (and the most revered) book in history? The Bible has power to change lives. It delivers cultures from the grasp of evil. It transforms nations. It revives churches. It spawns spiritual revival and awakening. Yet while we in the West have more Bibles available than any other culture in the history of the world, something is clearly missing. The Bible is having less and less of an impact on our culture, and even those who believe it may secretly be bored by its contents. Why? Could it be that the Bible’s power is only unleashed when it is lived out by God’s people? A recent study by the Barna Group1 suggests that while a whopping 82% of Americans profess to be Christians, three-fourths simultaneously do not believe that the Bible should be the standard for their decisions. For them, application of truth is optional. Sometimes we are so caught up in defending the inerrancy or inspiration of the Bible that we miss its central point: obedience! Admittedly, the greatest struggle I face in my walk with God is not learning more truth, but obeying the truth I already know. When it comes to revival, there is no greater message needed than obedience to Christ and His Word. Apart from the Word of God, there is no real work of God. A. W. Tozer declared that “prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.” The psalmist knew the igniting power of the Word of God, so he cried out, “Revive me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:154 nkjv). Paul knew the preparatory
power of the Word of God, so he preached the Scripture for over two years in Ephesus before God poured out His Spirit in that city (Acts 19:1-12). And Jesus knew the transforming power of the Word of God, so He called the churches in Revelation 2–3 to repentance and fresh obedience to the truth. The kind of revival we need today is a Word-driven revival. The most powerful revivals in history have been based on the clear proclamation and application of the Bible. When Peter came out of the Upper Room full of the Holy Spirit and the power of Pentecost, his first sermon was saturated with Scripture from Joel and the Psalms. When God sent spiritual awakening to Ephesus, “the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:20, emphasis added). And so it has been throughout the church age—the Word has been the driving force of revival. At Life Action, our mission is to ignite movements of God’s power by motivating Christians to live the truth of the Bible. That’s what we think will turn our culture around. And in this issue of Revive, I’m inviting you to rediscover your passion for studying and living God’s Word. n
Could it be
that the Bible’s power is only
unleashed when it is lived out by God’s people?
Byron Paulus Executive Director
INTERACT Do you have comments or questions about this issue of Revive? Has God changed your life as a result of the truth presented? We enjoy publishing questions, responses, encouraging stories, or even critiques from our readers. Send us your thoughts. Write to Revive Editor, Life Action Ministries, P.O. Box 31, Buchanan, MI 49107, or e-mail us at revive@LifeAction.org. (We do edit letters for length and clarity. Please include your city and state.)
MOST OF WHAT I READ in the last issue of Revive magazine was very helpful; however, I do want to offer one clarification. Some of what was written led me to believe that faith will result in the absence of fear, in most if not all situations. But the apostle Paul said that he came to preach the gospel to the Corinthians in “fear and trembling,” and there was no apparent sin or lack of faith on his part. Actually, Paul explained that his fear and lack of eloquence gave the Corinthians even greater reason to believe in the power of the Spirit who was working through him (1 Cor. 2:1-5). In summary, it appears that the Bible teaches that faith is not always the absence of fear, but is an anchor that will move believers forward even when experiencing fear and overwhelming circumstances. DAVE, Wisconsin THANK YOU FOR THE REVIVE MAGAZINE and the work that goes into it. It is so good! The topic on fear was just incredible, I think. I love how you hone in on one topic and really get into the Word. You cover it from a lot of different angles, but the articles are still easy to digest, and so helpful. DONNA, Illinois
I WAS TALKING TO A LADY from my church who told me the last issue on fear was very powerful to her. The next week after reading the magazine, she got a call in the middle of the night from a seven-year-old who had been raped by a thirteen-year-old neighbor. She didn’t know this family well, but they knew that she is a woman of faith, and they called her for help. 4 LifeAction.org/revive
In a later private conversation, the little girl brought up what had happened and said she had been having nightmares. My friend said, “Can I share something with you? This also happened to me when I was seven years old. Yes, it’s awful. It’s wrong. It’s sinful. But I read something recently that helped me.” She was able to give her hope! She also passed the magazine on to a family member who is battling anxiety, to encourage her to live in faith, not fear. SHANNON, Michigan
TO OUR READERS: Would you like to join the Revive team? I got involved because I want to see our culture renewed by the presence and glory of God. The biblical call to personal revival has dramatically changed my life, and as a Revive reader, you may share a similar experience. Joining our team isn’t as difficult as you might think. In fact, you don’t even need to be a writer! Here are some ideas: You can pass your copy of Revive on to relatives, or gift-subscribe a few friends (see the offer on page 26). You can make copies of Making It Personal to share with others in your church, or link your profile to our website. Let everyone know that they can sign up for Revive themselves by calling 800-321-1538 or by visiting www.LifeAction.org/Revive. If you have any ideas on how we might improve Revive or ways we could multiply the impact, feel free to contact me at DJarvis@LifeAction.org. DANIEL W. JARVIS, Managing Editor
Why I Need You to Study My Bible
ever before have we been so alone. That seems impossible in a world of e-mail, Smartphones, and Facebook. But while technology and mobility connect us to more people than at any other time in history, they have actually made us more isolated, not less. Most Americans now manage thirty different social networks—different spheres of relationship—like work, their children’s schools and sporting events, other hobbies, church. But usually the only common denominator between all of these relationships is the individual (i.e., the people at your work don’t know the people at your church, who don’t know the parents at your child’s school, etc.). In other words, our relationships are disconnected, leaving the average person frantically moving from one set of relationships to the next. We are literally living our lives in little pieces. When it comes to others, we know and are known in about 5% increments. So what’s wrong with that? And what does that have to do with Bible reading? Hebrews 3:12-13 gives us both a solemn warning and a surprising solution. We are instructed to take care against a slide into unbelief and hardness of heart. But care looks like this: daily exhortations from others based on the truth of God to challenge the deceitfulness of personal sin. Here’s the revolutionary concept. The truth of God’s Word must be applied in relationship with others; without their input, I will become hardened to the truth and deceived in my thinking. It’s a startling thought, but if you’re only applying the Bible by yourself, you’re walking a path toward spiritual ruin. Glenn Schinzel discovered how transformational reading the Bible can be when combined with spiritual friendship and accountability. For 23 years after he
became a Christian, Glenn struggled with maintaining a vibrant devotional life. But two years ago, everything changed. Glenn asked a friend to join him for thirty days in a Bible reading experiment. Their plan was simple. They would each read the same chapter of the Bible every morning and then call each other for twenty minutes to discuss what they had learned and how they would apply the text to their lives. “That was 928 days ago!” says Glenn. “We have hardly missed a day since. It’s been one of the most powerful experiences of my Christian life. For the first time, the Scripture has come to life. Just having input and encouragement from a Christian brother about God’s Word on a daily basis has changed both of our lives.” The Bible was meant to be received and understood in community. Before the advent of the printing press and widespread literacy, first-century Christians would excitedly gather to hear portions of Scripture read. One can only imagine the flurry of comments, the passionate interaction, and the ongoing conversations that occurred as the Scriptures were processed, memorized, and spread like wildfire. I treasure my personal copy of the Scriptures, and I thank God for the sacrifices saints have made through the centuries to make it available to all of us. But I wonder if the privilege of owning a copy of the Bible has caused us to neglect our fundamental need of others to understand and apply God’s Word. Here’s to the rediscovery of an ancient spiritual truth: The key to good Bible reading is others. n
The Bible was meant to be
understood in community.
Del Fehsenfeld III Senior Editor
.com Resource For an example of a great way to read the Bible with others, visit the “Powered by 4” community at www.BackToTheBible.org.
Getting Into the Word
H o w a r d H e n d r i c k s a n d F. B . M e ye r
Getting the Word Into You
Getting Into the Word Howard Hendricks
HE GREATEST PROBLEM IN THE CHURCH today is that we have an increasing number of Christians who are under the Word of God but not in it for themselves. Being under the Word of God should be a stimulus—not a substitute—for getting into it for yourself. Why should we study the Bible? 1. Growth In 1 Peter 2:2 (nasb) we read, “Like newborn babies, [develop an appetite] for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow.” The Bible is the primary means for receiving spiritual nourishment. Just as the newborn baby grabs for the bottle, we should grab for our Bible. Without it, there’s no growth. 2. Maturity Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us, “Everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” The Bible is the primary means for developing spiritual maturity. 3. Guidance Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is the primary means for becoming an effective servant of Jesus Christ. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable. Nothing was included that should have been excluded, and nothing was excluded that should have been included. Personal Bible study is not an option. It is essential. A man I know came to Christ, so I gave him a New Testament and told him to read it. He came back a week later and said, “I read it.” I said, “I know, but I meant the whole thing.” He said, “I read the whole thing, including the palms [sic] in the back. I understand that there is another section to this thing.” So I gave him the Old Testament, and three weeks later he came back and said he’d read it! My friend, we have elders in our church who have never read through the Bible in its entirety! And here is this guy who is like a
little kid with a fire engine—so excited to study the Bible. Some time later, this same man and I were studying the passage where Jesus says, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15 nkjv). He stopped me and said, “Whoa, does this mean what I think it means?” I asked him what he thought it meant, and he explained it better than any commentary I had ever read. So this man went out and liquidated a million dollars’ worth of property to resource the work of Jesus Christ.
The greatest problem in the church today is that we have an increasing number of Christians who are under the Word of God but not in it for themselves. Now, you need to know that this man does not have it all together. Like all of us, he is in a process of coming to understand that there are areas of his life that Jesus does not control. Just the other day I took him to the seminary, and he used profanity in class. But it’s a piece of cake to clean up his language. The real problem is that once it’s cleaned up, he may become like the rest of us who know how to use all of our rationalizations about money and possessions. I have more confidence in you and your ability to study the Bible than many of you have in yourself. The greatest times of my life are when I’m studying the Bible with ordinary men and women. I am amazed at what God gives them. And that’s the reason it’s so important for you to study the Scripture: It is the process of seeing the Lord come into your life. n Dr. Howard Hendricks has been a faculty member at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, since 1951. He is also the Chair of the Center for Christian Leadership. This article is excerpted from a message he preached in 2007, and can be accessed through www.LifeAction.org/Scripture.
Getting the Word Into You F. B. Meyer
HE ADVANTAGES OF A DEEP knowledge of the Bible are more than can be numbered here. It is the storehouse of God’s promises. It is the sword of the Spirit, before which temptation flees. It is the all-sufficient equipment for Christian usefulness. It is the believer’s guidebook and directory in all possible circumstances. With this in mind, here are a few simple rules to help you study God’s Word for yourself.
Make time for Bible study. The Divine Teacher ought to have fixed and uninterrupted hours. He deserves our freshest and brightest thoughts, and we must give Him our undivided attention. Therefore, we should aim at securing at least half an hour each day for the leisurely and loving study of the Bible. To some this may seem a long time. However, it is seldom difficult to find time for business or pleasure appointments. If we mean to, we can. And the time will soon seem all too short. The more you read the Bible, the more you will want to read it.
Ask for understanding. No one can so well explain the meaning of his words as he who wrote them. If, then, you want to read the Bible as you should, make much of the Holy Spirit, who inspired it. As you open the book, lift up your heart and say, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18 nasb).
Develop a plan. There are many Bible reading plans, but on the whole there is probably no better way than to read it through once every year. It is wise to select a Bible with excellent marginal references, so it's easy to turn to parallel passages. No one would think of reading a letter, poem, or history as many read God’s Word. What wonder that they are so ignorant of its majestic prose, its exquisite lyric poetry, its massive arguments, its sublime imagery, and its spiritual beauty! These qualities combine to make it the King of Books.
The whole of Christian living, in my opinion, hinges on the way Christians read the Bible for themselves. We may measure our growth in grace by the growth of our love for private Bible study; and we may be sure that there is something seriously wrong when we lose our appetite for God’s Word.
It is sometimes helpful to read an entire book of the Bible at one sitting, devoting two or three hours to the sacred task. At other times it is more profitable to take an epoch, an episode, or a life, and compare all that is written of it in various parts of the Scripture. At other times it is good to follow one topic, as faith or love, by help of a concordance, from end to end of the inspired volume. Let the whole Bible be your study, because “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). Let the Bible be its own dictionary, its own interpreter, its own best commentary. It is like a vast buried city, in which every turn of the spade reveals some new marvel, while passages branch off in every direction, calling for exploration.
Read with pen in hand. None, in my judgment, have learned the secret of enjoying the Bible until they have begun to mark it neatly— underlining and dating special verses which have cast light on their path on special days; drawing railway connections across the pages between verses which repeat the same message or ring with the same note; jotting down new references or the catchwords of helpful thoughts. All these methods find plenty of employment for the pen, and fix our treasures for us permanently. Our Bible then becomes the precious memento of bygone hours, recording the history of our inner life.
Seek your personal profit. During this time, do not read the Bible for others, for class or congregation, but for yourself. Bring all its rays to focus on your own heart. Never close the book until you feel that you are carrying away your portion of the meat. It is good at times to stop reading and seriously ask, “What does the Holy Spirit mean me to learn by this? What bearing should this have on my life? How can I work this into the fabric of my character?”
its intrinsic splendor, entreat that its brilliance may ever illuminate your life. If a cluster of heavenly fruit hangs within reach, gather it. If a promise lies on the page as a blank check, cash it. If a prayer is recorded, appropriate it and launch it as a feathered arrow from the bow of your desire. Entwine the climbing creepers of holy desire about the latticework of Scripture. So shall you come to say with the psalmist, “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psa. 119:97). (It is sometimes good to read over Psalm 119 on our knees; it is so full of devout love for the Bible.)
Practice what you learn. I have saved this one thing for last because it is most important and should linger in the memory and heart: It is useless to dream of making headway in the knowledge of Scripture unless we are prepared to practice what we read. We are taught not for our pleasure only, but that we may do. If we will turn each holy precept or command into instant obedience through the dear grace of Jesus Christ our Lord, God will keep nothing back from us. He will open to us His deepest and sweetest thoughts. But so long as we refuse obedience to even the least command, we shall find that the light will fade from the pages of Scripture, and the zest will die down quickly in our hearts. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8). n Adapted from Fredrick Brotherton Meyer’s meditations in Light on Life’s Duties (Fleming H. Revell Co.,1895, pages 72–85). Meyer was a pastor, social worker, and author of more than seventy volumes on biblical truth.
Turn reading into prayer. If an example of holiness gleams before you, ask God to do as much for you. If a truth is revealed in all
.com Resource Pastor John Piper’s message “If My Words Abide in You” gives eight compelling reasons for hiding God’s Word in your heart. Listen at LifeAction.org/Scripture.
’VE DISCOVERED AN EASY WAY TO GET MY FAMILY into God’s Word while getting God’s Word into my family. Very simply: I let Scripture set the agenda for our prayers. After all, the most powerful prayer unit in the world is you, praying with your family, in line with the will of God. And there’s no better way to make that happen than to use the Bible itself as the outline. It’s not just powerful during family prayers. During my years leading a Life Action summit team, I often called morning prayer meetings—not to discuss aches and pains, ideas, or hopes, but to read and pray the Word of God. Often those moments of prayer, walking through Psalms or Proverbs, would lead to some of the sweetest times of fellowship with the Lord, and toward revival in the hearts of those participating.
Tom Nesb itt
This shouldn’t come as any surprise. Psalm 19:7 (esv) says that the “law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Even your personal devotional life can be revived by praying the Bible back to the Lord, turning your communication toward God into a conversation with God.
How do I do it? The psalms are a wonderful starting place. Since they often deal with my relationship to God, and are phrased as prayers to begin with, they serve as an excellent training ground for biblical prayer. Proverbs, a book of wisdom more concerned about my relationships with others, can become a great prayer guide as well. Once you’ve grown familiar with the process of praying the Bible back to the Lord, you can turn to other passages, too, and watch as both your prayers and Bible readings fill with new significance. To make this practical, let me suggest that you retrieve your Bible right now so I can walk you through the process. Turn to Psalm 15. Read this psalm carefully, noting the phrases or verses that stick out as important or relevant to you. Now, starting with the first verse you noted, pray about the verse to the Lord. For example, perhaps you were struck by the phrase in verse 4, “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” You might pray, Lord, I recall some promises I have made that, although painful, I need to keep. Forgive me, Lord, for breaking my commitment to _____. Help me today to make that right, and to become the type of righteous person this psalm addresses. I also think of ______, who is considering divorce and claims to follow You. Please bless her by leading her in the way of righteousness, and give her the courage to stay with her husband. Next, go back to the text and repeat the process. For example, the final phrase of the chapter might stand out: “He who does these things shall never be moved.”
Do you see how God’s Word becomes a prompter for prayer, reminding you of things to adjust in your own life, and even of requests for others? Look at Proverbs 10:5 for another example. “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” Heavenly Father, I want to be a wise son in Your kingdom. As I seek to demonstrate wisdom with the resources You give me, help me to be a diligent worker and saver. Even more, Lord, I am reminded of Jesus’ statement comparing the lost world to a harvest field. I need courage, Lord, to bring up spiritual things with my friends at work today, to be a laborer for You. I specifically think of ___________ . . .” Every time you open the Scriptures to pray, your mind will be filled with real applications and points of obedience. And as you go out to live the truth, you not only know what you should do, you’ve already prayed about it! The Bible will never grow boring, because no matter how many times you review a passage, your prayers will always be dynamic and personal to your daily life. Praying in this manner with your spouse, children, or friends enriches the experience even more, bringing their insights and meditations to God’s throne to share along with your own. How much time should you devote to praying the Bible? In group meetings, I’ve found that reading and praying five psalms and one proverb takes about an hour, and allows for a wide variety of prayers. For personal devotion, there is no right or wrong timeframe. You may only have time to consider one psalm or proverb a day. That’s a great start. But as you learn to converse with the Lord, be ready —you’ll probably want more time with Him. n Tom Nesbitt held a leadership post on a Life Action summit team, and he has served the Lord worldwide as a pastor and counselor. He currently ministers at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa.
Father, so many things in this world are unstable, always moving, never steady. I thank You that I can trust in You always, and that if I live a righteous life before You, I have nothing to fear. I pray for my nation, Lord, that You would wake us up to become the type of men and women mentioned in this chapter. . . . revive 11
— a Life Action revival conference, Thirst! will awaken a thirst for transformation in
your church that will have lasting eﬀects. This unique call to radical obedience will challenge your entire congregation to pursue God with passion and intensity. Discover a longing for God you never thought possible.
Experience Thirst! “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1).
Thirst! — exposes the cause of dryness in Christians’ lives today: substitution. Substitution is looking to artificial sources for joy and fulfillment . . . work, hobbies, entertainment, relationships. Any of these good things cause dryness if they take the place meant only for Christ.
Thirst! — a unique call to revival by Life Action Ministries—will awaken the thirst for transformation in your people that will have a lasting effect on your church. Discover a longing for God you never thought was possible.
To watch a video presentation or schedule THIRST in your church, visit www.LifeAction.org/Thirst or call 800-321-1538.
FROM THE HEART
know of a preacher who, partway through his message, invariably says, “That’s the what; now, what’s the so what?” “So what?” Those two words take us beyond mere head knowledge and into the realm of heart and life transformation. That’s when we ask questions like, “Does this passage have any promises I should claim? Any commands I need to follow? Any truths I must believe?” In the West, we have so much access to the Word of God. We’re in Bible studies at church and at home. We have Christian radio, Internet, and television. But the dangerous reality for most of us is that we hear and know far more than we actually apply to our lives. God said to the prophet Ezekiel, “My people come to you . . . and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain” (Ezekiel 33:31 niv). In response to the prophet’s teaching, the people were saying, “I love You, Lord. I’m committed to You. I’m committed to serving and sacrificing.” But they were walking away from the “sermon” unchanged and unwilling to do anything about what they had heard. In their hearts they only wanted to benefit themselves. Their expressions of devotion weren’t about God at all. Or consider the man James refers to in the first chapter of his letter—the one who hears the Word but fails to apply it. That man is self-deceived, assuming that his knowledge of the Bible makes it real in his life, when in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. James exhorts his readers, “Don’t just listen to God’s Word; do what it says!” That’s a key to effective Bible study. As you read Scripture, ask the “So what?” questions: “How does this concept apply to my situation? What does God want me to change? What practical steps must I take?”
Everything we read or hear in God’s Word calls for some sort of response. It may be to exercise faith in God’s promises, to humble ourselves, to acknowledge our need, to confess a sin, to turn from a wrong way of thinking, to worship and adore God, to follow an example of someone’s faith, or to forgive someone who has wronged us. No matter what chapter or verse you may read, always ask God, “So what? What do You want me to do about what I’ve just read or heard?” Every time we are exposed to the Word, our accountability to God goes up a notch. We’re accountable for what we’ve heard. Our judgment will be greater if we neglect or refuse to apply the truth we’ve learned. You know the truth. The question is, are you obeying it? You say, “Amen. Yes, I agree.” You congratulate your pastor on a well-preached message. But are you doing what you’ve heard? Are you forgiving? Are you praying for those who mistreat you? Are you speaking only words that build others up? Are you forsaking sin? Do you treat your family members as the Bible commands? Are you sharing Christ with others? The Word of God will never be all it was intended to be in your life until you say, “Lord, I surrender to the truth. By Your grace, I will obey whatever You say to me through Your Word.” n
Every time we
are exposed to the Word, our
accountability to God goes up a notch.
.com Resource Adapted from Nancy’s radio series Getting Into the Word and Getting the Word Into You. For more challenging content on learning and applying God’s Word, visit www.ReviveOurHearts.com.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss Revive Our Hearts radio host
Biblical Meditation Learning how to meditate may be the key that will unlock the joys of Scripture and the life-changing power it contains. Meditation is the bridge between being a “hearer” of the Bible and a “doer.”
D on Whitney
N AUGUST OF 1989, I FOUND MYSELF IN THE bush country of East Africa, living in a tent in front of a mud-and-sticks church building, six miles from the nearest settlement. As one who had been involved in mission trips before, I had learned to anticipate swallowing with difficulty some of my American expectations (not to mention a few other things!). But one thing that shocked me was the lifestyle of the professing Christians I encountered. Lying, stealing, and immorality were generally accepted, even among church leaders. Theological understanding was as scarce as water, and doctrinal errors as common as malaria. It didn’t take long for me to discover the root of the problem: No one in the church had a Bible, not even the pastor. They had a few Bible stories that would be retold, and the pastor knew about six sermons that were repreached time and again. My traveling companions and I purchased some Bibles for the church, leaving with a prayer that the Word of God would transform the lives of those infant believers. A healthy Christian life is impossible without the daily intake of God’s Word.
I grew up watching my dad read the Bible regularly. Between his example and the encouragement of Sunday school teachers week after week, I got into the Bible reading habit early in my life. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Bible reader. Even today I sense my need for Scripture, and I crave the opportunity to meet with God through it. After all, the Bible is the primary means by which I can experience God personally and hear from Him directly. What I’ve found, however, is that most people didn’t have the upbringing I had; and for whatever reason, Bible reading and meditation are scarce. Many professing believers who carry their Bibles to church every week know little more about it than those African believers in the bush.
What’s the Problem? Some people have no appetite for Scripture, which indicates they aren’t Christians. But for those of us who are sincere in our faith, there are two main hindrances to our Bible intake: the pressures of time, and the perceived lack of benefit we get from reading.
.com Resource Listen to an interview with Tom Harmon as he shares his personal experience regarding the power of memorizing Scripture. Find it at LifeAction.org/Scripture.
Even the most devoted Bible readers—even those who find an extra five, ten, or twenty minutes a day—have trouble remembering what they read. They conclude that they must have a bad memory or that they’re a second-rate Christian. They wonder silently if it’s really worth the sacrifice of time for them to maintain a discipline that doesn’t benefit them. They feel frustrated, even a little guilty. I have good news. The problem is not with you or with the amount of time you spend reading—the problem is a lack of biblical meditation. Learning how to meditate may be the key that will unlock the joys of Scripture and the life-changing power it contains. Meditation is the bridge between being a “hearer” of the Bible and a “doer.”
Beginning to Meditate I’ve defined meditation as “deep thinking” on the truth of God’s Word—for the purpose of understanding, obedience, and prayer. (It’s important that we distinguish this process from daydreaming or Eastern meditation techniques. I am speaking of a focused, intentional desire to consider Bible truth.) This involves praying through a passage, asking questions about what you’re reading, rewriting the verses in your own words, or a host of other possibilities. Jonathan Edwards, one of the preachers instrumental in America’s First Great Awakening, demonstrated well the concept of Christian meditation: “I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence [of the Bible], and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence to see the wonders contained in it, and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.” Such meditation is never an end in itself. Deep thinking on spiritual truth is the key to obeying God, to putting the Scriptures into practice. If we believe that the Word of God does apply to the situations we encounter every day, and if we are confident God can speak to us as we spend time in His Word, all that remains is for us to meditate. It’s important that we differentiate this devotional Bible meditation from academic study. There’s great profit in academic Bible learning, particularly when you seek to teach others the truth of Scripture. But meditating on the Bible for yourself is vital. Rather than asking, “How can I teach this?” you are free to wonder, “How might I live this?” There are times when a Bible portion will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page and plead with you to do what it says. More often
than not, however, you must “interview” the paragraph, patiently asking application-oriented questions until a down-to-earth response becomes clear. Here are a few questions I recommend. Does this text reveal something I should . . . • • • • • •
Believe about God? Praise or thank God for? Pray about for myself or others? Change my attitude about? Make a decision on? Do for the sake of Christ, others, or myself?
When you have concluded your time of Bible meditation, you should be able to name at least one definite response you have made or will make. Rather than reading and forgetting the truth—or worse, reading and ignoring it—you are prepared to be a “doer” of the Bible. The blessings of Psalm 1 and Joshua 1:8 will be yours to enjoy. n Donald Whitney is the founder of The Center for Biblical Spirituality (www.BiblicalSpirituality.org) and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life teaches Christians how to grow through prayer, Bible intake, silence, fasting, and more. The editors highly recommend this book.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
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.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. revive 15
ViewPoint The Bible Changes Everything
Revive asked Bob Creson, president of Wycliffe Bible Translators, about the impact of God’s Word and the task of providing it to the least reached people groups on earth. Bob is part of a team that oversees the Last Languages Campaign: a historic, full-sprint effort to start Bible translation projects in every language group that needs one by 2025.
Bob Creson What is the heartbeat of Wycliffe Bible Translators?
Bob: The thing we get most excited about is our vision: seeing God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language of their heart. Every man, woman, and child ought to have an opportunity to hear the Good News in the language and medium they understand best. That vision is what gets us out of bed every morning. Why is “heart language” translation so vital?
Bob: I’ve had personal experience reading another language, and I enjoy it; but there is something different about my mother tongue—the language I was born with and that I dream in. That’s the language I want to use to talk to God. There are still 200 million people without the Bible in their language, representing 2,400 separate groups. How do you start projects?
teller Workshop put on by some of our ministry partners. The goal of this particular workshop was to train biblical storytellers from eight language groups, three of which have had no Scripture access. Key Bible stories are selected and passed on to these master storytellers, who go on to train other storytellers, spreading Bible truth into unreached communities. There is a high level of illiteracy among the unreached peoples of the world, and many live in oral cultures. Thus, our projects usually start with chronological Bible storytelling. From these seeds, we then move on to deeper translation work and eventually to producing Bible portions. Of the language groups represented in that workshop in India, three have started the Luke Partnership, where Luke's Gospel is translated and handed over to the Jesus Film Project. They can then use it as the script for a Jesus Film for that region. As of 2009, how close are we to completing the task of Bible translation for the whole world?
Bob: Well, as an example, I just got back from India, Bob: We and our partner ministries are on track to where I attended a graduation from a Master Story-
see translation projects started in every remaining
“Bibleless” people group by the year 2025. In the last ten years, 600 translation projects have begun. The rate of progress is increasing because so many indigenous leaders are getting involved in the work, and because computers can assist translators in generating material. We’ve launched the Last Languages Campaign to raise awareness of the Bibleless peoples. A historic opportunity exists for Christians in the West to provide Scriptures for those who have never had them. We can link those interested in prayer support to specific language groups. To complete the work, we face a $1 billion need. You personally served with Wycliffe in Cameroon and Chad, West Africa. How were you called into this ministry?
Bob: I was a businessman in southern California, and God used an economic downturn to move my wife and me to this ministry. We were forced to rethink our priorities and values, and we started taking small steps. I knew that the Word of God had impacted our lives, and I felt like I should do something to help provide its access for others. If you had asked me years ago about West Africa, I would have said, “No way!” But we ended up there because so many translation needs exist in that region.
Can you describe the attitude of believers who receive Bible portions in their own language for the first time?
Bob: I’ve been in a number of Scripture dedications—a community will hold a service when a translation is completed. I’ve seen person after person weeping with joy, holding their Bibles up, dancing, singing, and praising God. In contrast, I’ve seen many Christians in the U.S. purchase a Bible, but I’ve never seen one weep as they walked out of the bookstore. What would your challenge be to Christians in the West, pertaining to their own treatment of the Bible?
Bob: Don’t treat it lightly. Thank God every day that you have the opportunity and freedom to read God’s Word and practice your faith. Many of the 2,400 language communities that need the Scriptures are in very difficult-to-access areas—places where they don’t have freedom. It goes back to what led my wife and me into translation work: stopping to remind ourselves that we have access to the very heart of God, John 3:16, the good news of the gospel. What an awesome privilege!
What impact does the Bible have on cultures where it is introduced?
If I want to learn more about serving in Bible translation work or getting involved in Vision 2025, what should I do?
Bob: It changes everything. It changes the way
Bob: You can visit our website, www.wycliffe.org.
people treat their families and the way they interact in their communities and economies. Before the Bible arrives, you may see a people dominated by fear, alcohol, or animism; when the Scriptures come, you see people taking more responsibility for themselves, becoming leaders, and seeking education. Of course, more importantly, when people come to Christ, they gain a relationship with God. That’s what it’s really all about: the image in Revelation of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping at God’s throne.
God is doing something very special around the world. The rate of translation and the availability of the Bible is growing at a rate faster than at any time in history. Here’s a question you might ask yourself: Since I have access to God’s Word, does He want me to do anything to help provide it for others? n
The Lodge is a place for pastors and leaders to take a break from the demands of ministry and find spiritual renewal and physical relaxation. Discover the many retreats at The Lodge by visiting
www.RetreatAtTheLodge.org The Lodge is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
A Lifetime Investment What would a small-town parish need with a man who had devoted twenty years of his life to theological training? In sixteenth-century North Wales, William Morgan quietly led a life of deep study, much more than necessary for his modest ministry post. His investment, however—years of learning Hebrew and Greek—was only appreciated in the centuries following his death. The fruit of Morgan’s training was first seen in a book published in 1588, the year the Spanish Armada was defeated. From his humble study, Morgan produced the first full translation of the Bible into Welsh. This became a vital weapon in the spiritual battle for the Welsh nation. There had been a New Testament in the language previously, but the translation was stunted and met with little success. Morgan, whose work encompassed a total revision of the New Testament and a complete translation of the Old, could not have known the impact he would have in centuries to come. For him, the logic was simple: The Welsh (who rarely understood English or Latin) should not be deprived of God’s Word. He believed that “unless religion is taught in the language of the people, there will be neither knowledge nor understanding of it.” He also recognized that to reach a nation, much “behind the scenes” groundwork would have to be done— groundwork that he’d been trained for. He had been born “for such a time as this,” and he eagerly took up the lonely challenge of Hebrew and Greek vocabulary, interpretation, and translation. The results of his labor not only saved the gospel from being lost in translation, it also strengthened the Welsh people. His Bible became a rich quarry from which the culture was built. Slowly growing in influence over the seventeenth century, the Bible’s message was finally welded into the nation by the spiritual fire of the Methodist Revival, complete with scriptural preaching, hymn singing, and small group meetings. Moses, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, and Jesus himself now spoke Welsh—and not just in church, but in the open-air
services of the Welsh contemporaries of George Whitefield and John Wesley. The nineteenth century saw even greater advances, with the growing desire of the Welsh for more Bibles influencing the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. An eyewitness describes the enthusiasm of the Bible-hungry Welsh on receiving a fresh edition of the New Testament in 1806. They welcomed the cartload of Testaments as Israel did the ark of old, drew it into the town, and eagerly bore off every copy as rapidly as they could be dispersed. The young people were to be seen consuming the whole night in reading it. Laborers carried it with them to the fields. William Morgan’s lifetime investment in study and tedious translation had paid off. The Bible had not only been translated into the Welsh language, it had transformed the Welsh heart. n
Bibliography William Morgan and His Bible, Isaac Thomas, University of Wales Press, 1988. The History of the Origin and First 10 Years of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Rev. John Owen, New York, 1817. The Welsh and Their Religion, Glanmor Williams, University of Wales Press, 1991.
Kevin Adams was born in South Wales and has authored two books and a film on Welsh revival history. He is the senior pastor of East Baptist Church in Lynn, Massachusetts.
We Read the Bible . . .
’ve made many attempts to have a faithful devotional life, but they were always short-lived. I suppose I expected the discipline of Bible study to be easy for a Christian. When it was difficult and overwhelming for me, I felt discouraged and defeated. In the process of a family struggle, I cried out to God for help, and He did something I wasn’t expecting at all. He revived me. He placed in me a hunger to know Him more intimately, along with a deep desire to read His Word. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to delve into the Bible. However, there was something ironic about God’s timing. I was the mother of three children under age four. God gave me this great hunger for His Word at the most hectic time
2 0 2L 0 i f eL Ai fcet Ai oc nt i. o n r g. o/ r g e v/ ri e vv eive
of my life! Yet I was determined not to let the busyness of being a wife and mom—or my past discouragements—diminish this appetite. So I launched into a routine of Bible reading and prayer. Unfortunately, I quickly faced those same struggles with inconsistency that had plagued me for years. But I kept trying. I also felt an urgency to get more of God’s Word into the hearts of my kids. We had just finished a children’s devotional book, and I was looking for what to do next . . . when an idea hit. I had two goals: I wanted to read the Bible, and I wanted my children to know God’s Word. Why not do both at the same time? Why not read the entire Bible together?
My plan was simple: one chapter a day, five days a week. I shared this plan with my husband, Wes, and he provided much needed encouragement. However, after voicing the plan, I became curious to know how long it would take us to read the entire Bible. I put pencil to paper (factoring in “sick days”), and—Yikes!—my plan was going to take EIGHT YEARS! I must admit, the idea of such a long-term commitment intimidated me, but I had a longing that would not go away. So, we began. The first few days of reading were tricky. I was all jazzed at the prospect of reading the whole Bible. For some unknown reason, I thought my children would share my enthusiasm. Instead, while I was reading about the fall of man, they were jumping and spinning in their chairs. I felt like I was reading out loud to myself. But God was gracious to not leave me feeling this way for long. On the fourth day, after our reading, my kids went off to play. Then I noticed what they were playing. They were acting out what we had just read—in great detail. They hadn’t appeared to be listening, but they were hearing. They were hearing the Word of God. This was the boost I needed to keep going. I soon realized that reading the Bible to children is not without some complications. Let’s face it, the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) can be quite graphic. I almost panicked when my preschool kids asked, “Mom, what’s a prostitute?” Moments like that prompted me to start scanning ahead so I would know what was coming. I also came up with my own definitions for certain words—words my children needed to hear in order to understand the story but didn’t necessarily need a complete definition for just yet. So, for example, a virgin is “a woman who has never been married.” A prostitute is “a woman who goes from one man to another to another, instead of remaining faithful to a husband.” You get the idea. Before long, I could tell that they really were listening and getting drawn into each story. After reading about a long line of Israel’s kings who did what was evil and provoked the Lord to anger, we came to the end of 1 Kings 16. Here we read about Ahab becoming king of Israel. The Bible says he did more to provoke the anger of the Lord than all the kings of Israel who were before him. When we finished reading chapter 16, I said, “Tomorrow, Elijah comes on the scene.” My daughter yelled, “Yay, we need this guy!”
Not only were they following along closely with the stories, but God was increasing their capacity to understand. Once I was working hard to explain what it means to quench the Spirit. I likened it to throwing water on a fire. I was trying to come up with another illustration when I looked over at my son. He had his index finger pointing up, with the other hand covering his finger, while he was singing softly, “Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine.” He got it. I shouldn’t be surprised when they understand, just like I shouldn’t be surprised when they want to respond to what we read. I saw this in an unusual and amusing way one morning as Wes was packing for a business trip. My son exclaimed, “While Dad’s away, we should fast from sinning.” Wes and I looked at each other. “Fast from what?” “From sinning,” he said again, smiling. “And the reward for not sinning is donuts!” That was the first of a series of requests he made to fast and pray. We had read accounts of people who fasted and prayed, and he was ready to participate. He wanted to obey, and that obedience was prompted by the Word of God. We did try to fast from sinning while Dad was away. (And Dad agreed to try not to sin while he was gone.) I’m not sure it was a total fast, but in the end we did enjoy the donuts. How could I go from an inconsistent devotional life to a steady time of reading and meditating on Scripture? God used my children! He took a discipline that had been a struggle for me and made it an immeasurable joy. I am overflowing with gratitude to God for giving me this idea and for constantly fueling the desire to be in His Word. After five years, we finished the Bible on March 19, 2007. We spent the day celebrating together as a family. The experience was more than simply maintaining a discipline; it was about getting to know God. On March 20, 2007, we started over in Genesis. Together, we continue—one chapter and one day at a time. n Carrie Ward is a wife and mother of four. She and her husband, Wes, make their home in Niles, Michigan.
.com Resource Need help with your daily devotions? Listen to a message by Life Action revivalist Steve Canfield entitled “Having a Holy Hour,” at LifeAction.org/Scripture.
Dr. Richard Fisher
Questions How Do I Apply the Old Testament to My Life? Can a 2000-year-old book—the holy Bible—provide counsel that directs our lives today? And what about those portions that are even older than 2000 years, going back to the O.T. world of pharaohs and patriarchs? Despite our skepticism that the Old Testament may not be as helpful to us as the New, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 niv). Paul illustrates his process of applying the text when he answers questions posed by the Corinthian believers. This newly formed church, fraught with disagreements and immorality, was made up of converted Gentiles who were unfamiliar with God’s laws. Old habits had to be replaced and old thought patterns transformed. But where should they begin? Paul showed them how to apply lessons from Old Testament accounts to their “modern” scenarios. The church was divided on issues of Christian freedom, like whether it was permissible to eat meat sacrificed to idols. How would this practice affect their walk with God? How might it affect others? First, Paul addressed the situation in Corinth that gave rise to the problem (1 Cor. 8–9). Second, he referred to the O.T. passages where Israel was going through a similar struggle—wrestling with temptations toward the very idolatry from which they had been delivered (10:1-10). Third, Paul explained that Scripture was written so it could be applied to our lives, taking into account the progression of God’s plan in Christ (10:11-13). Finally, Paul showed how he
applied the principles of God’s Word to the eating of meat and the broader issue of freedom in Christ (10:14–11:1). Outlining Paul’s Application A. The Corinthians struggled with the transition from idolatry to Christianity (1 Cor. 8–9). These new believers experienced deliverance from a distorted and oppressive view of life—they had once acknowledged local deities, worshiped their idols, and followed the regulations of false religion. Though now free in Christ, many still struggled with the pull of their past lives. This sounds much like the nation of Israel when they left Egypt. B. Israel’s struggle to live in their newfound freedom paralleled the tensions the Corinthians were facing to live as new Christ-followers (10:1-10). Israel had responded poorly to trials and temptation in their wilderness journey, becoming a model of what not to do. C. Paul explained that the O.T. Scriptures were written to provide warnings and guidance for modern readers (10:11-13), always keeping in mind that the application must be in accordance with God’s plan to redeem mankind through Christ. D. Paul applied the appropriate O.T. principles to the Corinthian situation for their continued obedience to and fellowship with Christ (10:14–11:1). He understood that the
Corinthians’ real challenge was their lack of familiarity with God’s Word and their lack of skill in applying what they knew. Following Paul’s Pattern Step #1 The Right Attitude The starting place for all application is trust in God and His Word (Prov. 3:5-6; 1 Cor. 10:13). Step #2 The Right Perspective Focus on the restored creation promised by God. We place our faith in and base our walk on the promise of God’s redemption and its fulfillment in Christ (1 Cor. 10:4; 11:1). Step #3 The Right Diagnosis Study the Bible to know which stories parallel your situ-
ation (1 Cor. 10:1-10), or which circumstances required similar principles of wisdom. Just as Paul found the story of Israel’s “temptation to idolatry in the midst of freedom” to be a helpful parallel to the Corinthians’ question, you may look to the stories of the O.T. for lessons in faith, courage, repentance, and more (1 Cor. 10:14). Step #4 The Right Prescription Step out in faith to do what is right, based on the example and wisdom of Scripture (1 Cor. 10:15–11:1). Apply God’s Word, whether warning, exhortation, or encouragement. The goal, regardless of the situation, is that God be pleased and glorified (1 Cor. 10:31). n Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
Getting It Right Incorrect interpretations and applications of the Bible can steer people off track. Use these simple principles to guide your O.T. study: 1. How did the N.T. authors apply the O.T.? Although the N.T. does not address every situation, it helps to see when and how the authors applied God’s inspired Word. James uses some good examples. He applies biblical stories about Abraham (2:21), Rahab (2:25), Job (5:11), and Elijah (5:17), as well as biblical directives (cf. 2:8; 4:6; 5:12). 2. What kind of literature is this? Narratives (stories) are most often used to teach life principles and spiritual lessons. Poetry is used to paint emotional pictures that touch the soul. Be careful not to interpret poetry or prophecy the same way you would narratives or laws. 3. What did the author mean when he wrote this? The interpreter must consider the whole story in context. Who was the author addressing, and why? What did he mean to communicate? Does my potential application seem to fit the overall context (surrounding passages) of what the author was saying? 4. What do other students of the Word say? Consult commentaries, or ask a pastor about the text. 5.
How does this passage connect to the gospel? The whole Bible points to the life, teaching, and work of Jesus. In the O.T., the laws, stories, and prophecies all anticipate the coming of the Messiah. Consider how the given passage may be illustrating or leading toward the gospel (Rom. 3:20-26; Gal. 3:24; Luke 24:27; Heb. 8–10). And remember, we emulate the example of Old Testament saints not only by doing what they did but by believing who they believed—the living God!
R e a l
W o r l d Bored with the Bible A strong, faithful believer in Christ confesses that his devotional life has lost its flavor and the Bible has lost its page-turning appeal. Will he ever enjoy God’s Word again?
The Scenario The joy I once felt in reading the Bible is gone. It’s not that I don’t still try to apply biblical principles to my life; I do. But it feels old to me, or maybe distant is a better word. When I read it, I still gain value, but the thirst for it isn’t there. When I pick up the Word, I secretly look forward to finishing a section so that I can get into a different book or just watch TV. It’s funny, because I still recommend daily Bible reading to people. Certainly it is the best way to start growing spiritually. Most people around me probably think I’m an avid Bible reader; after all, I participate in church as much as the next person, and I know most of the “Sunday School answers” to life’s questions. There is a shameful hypocrisy I feel in projecting interest in God’s Word yet picking it up far less often than I used to. Or in nodding along with the pastor as he speaks of the spiritual power of God’s Word. Is it possible to believe it but not feel it anymore?
Some seasons in our spiritual lives are full of excitement and anticipation, while others are painful and depressing. But probably the most common season of life, especially as we get older, is plain boredom! Let’s face it, it’s hard to admit that we are bored spiritually. I mean, how can we become uninspired by prayer or God’s Word? But it’s just as easy to get into a spiritual rut as any other kind. One of the reasons your Bible reading may have grown stale is that you no longer feel a connection between the real questions of daily life and what you are reading in the Scripture. Adults learn on a need-to-know basis; so to whatever degree you feel disconnection between the Bible’s ancient words and modern living’s demands, the Bible becomes functionally irrelevant. I’ll never forget a pastor who promised to give me a tool that would transform my Bible reading forever. He then handed me a blank sheet of paper and told me to begin recording one personal “takeaway” from my morning Bible reading and putting it in my pocket to review throughout the day. Maybe that’s something you could try. It would change the focus of your Bible reading from merely gaining information to receiving practical guidance for real life. And by reviewing your takeaway throughout the day, meditation and prayer would naturally occur as well. Del Fehsenfeld was trained as a family counselor and is the Senior Editor for Life Action Ministries.
Wilson Green Once, when experiencing the same dilemma you describe, I sought counsel from a wise brother. He shared that when he found himself in a “dry” spell, he would write the Scripture. One of the curses of our fast-paced world is that we can lose our ability to focus. Writing the Scripture may cause your mind to slow down a bit so you can consider what God is actually saying. I took this challenge personally and decided to go for the whole Bible. So, for the past eight years, I’ve been writing the words of God. I’m on track to complete it next year! It has been amazing how often the Lord has used the particular Scripture I wrote on a given day to help me with a situation I had to face. Get a small journal and ask the Lord what passage He would like you to write. Write between seven and ten verses per day, focusing and meditating on what you’re writing. Practicing this simple discipline may “jump start” your devotional life. Wilson Green pastored for 21 years in Virginia and Illinois before joining Life Action in 1999. He currently co-leads a Life Action summit team.
Elyse Fitzpatrick When we see the Bible as anything other than God’s letter of love and mercy to us, we’ll inevitably lose our zeal to read it. After all, do you want to read a letter from your crabby old Aunt Jennie, who is rather disappointed with you? You might feel obligated to read her words (after all, she is your aunt!), and you’re hoping that her letter might indicate the kind of inheritance she’ll be leaving, but her letter is hardly a point of interest for you. You’re reasonably sure it’s just more of the same— guilt-inducing reminders and “really shouldas.”
It’s the same thing with reading the Bible. When all we see is a list of “really shouldas” to please a demanding God who hasn’t shared in our life, then it becomes, frankly, quite boring. Who would want to read that? But when we see the Bible for what it is, the redemptive story of God’s love for us in Christ . . . when we begin to “know and believe the love that God has for us” (1 John 4:16), the Bible seems less a list of laws and more a love letter from the Savior. The Bible then sings a song of love to the listening ear of the humble. Elyse Fitzpatrick has been a counselor since 1989. She is the author of over a dozen books, including Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety (Harvest House, 2001).
Read Psalm 119, section by section, on a daily basis. Pray that God would use it to revive your interest in His Word.
Get involved in discipling a young believer. Your years of church-going and Bible study have prepared you—the truth is meant to be shared, not just absorbed. Commit to read a section of the Bible simultaneously, then call or meet to discuss meanings and applications.
Read a different translation of the Bible. Sometimes more academically oriented translations can feel “heavy” and tiresome. A fresh look at a familiar passage may pique your biblical interest.
Put yourself on the front lines. Sharing God’s Word as a small group leader, jail chaplain, nursing home volun- teer, or children’s ministry worker will drive you into God’s Word for answers and wisdom.
• Learn what it means to “pray the Bible” (see page 10).
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How to Have a
Sin is the greatest roadblock to prayer. Confession is agreeing with God about my sin (Ps. 51:10-11; 1 John 1:9). “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Adore God for who and what He is (Ps. 34:1-3; 63:3). a. Goodness f. Knowledge b. Patience g. Power c. Love h. Holiness d. Wisdom i. Glory e. Greatness j. Grace
Spend time quieting your mind and heart before God (Ps. 37:7; Isa. 40:31), replacing any distractions from your life or the world around you with a reverential focus on the majesty and authority of God. Take a few moments to be still in God’s presence, letting your mind be filled with thoughts of Him.
4. The Word
When we pray, we are speaking to God; when we read God’s Word, He is speaking to us. Open your Bible, asking God to bless the reading of His Word with concentration and understanding (2 Tim. 3:16). “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:7-8).
Intercession is praying for others; it is love on its knees. You should have a list of names of others to uphold in prayer. Supplication is urgent praying for others. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
Ask God to provide for your personal needs. Make a list of all your personal needs, and check them off as God answers prayer (James 4:2). “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7).
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Thank God for what He has done. Thanksgiving is simply enumerating things for which we are grateful (Ps. 100:4; Phil. 4:6). a. Spiritual blessings b. Physical blessings
c. Possessions d. People
Singing Scripture back to the Lord is one of the highest forms of worship and praise. There are also many songs in the hymnal that can be sung to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).
How to Have a Holy Hour
“Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2).
Unlike waiting, where we are quiet in God’s presence, during meditation the mind is very active, pondering spiritual things (Ps. 1:2). “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night” (Josh. 1:8).
A bookmark that fits easily in your Bible—this tool
Listen for that still small voice of God; wait for specific orders concerning activities of the day (Eccl. 5:2).
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“Behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).
will give you 12 practical steps for spending an hour
Earlier in your prayer time, you read the Word and allowed God to speak to you. Now pray the Word back to God. The book of Psalms is full of personal prayers (Ps. 15:1-2).
with God daily. (Available in packs of 50.)
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Ps. 95:2).
End your prayer time as you began it—with the extremely important act of praise (Ps. 147:1). “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (Ps. 50:23). Concept adapted from The Hour That Changed the World by Dick Eastman. © 1978 by Baker Book House Company. © 2008 Life Action Ministries P.O. Box 31, Buchanan, MI 49107-0031 269-697-8600 E-mail: info@LifeAction.org • www.LifeAction.org
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Making It My Commitment to the Bible Have I read every verse of the Bible? (2 Tim. 3:16) Do I use the Bible to guide my choices, decisions, and plans? (Heb. 5:13-14) Is my obedience to the Bible consistent with my beliefs about it? (James 1:22) Would my co-workers say that I follow and share the Bible? (1 Pet. 3:15) Have I ever wept over a passage of Scripture? (Neh. 8:9) Do I ever “tremble” at God’s Word? (Isa. 66:2) Is Scripture my primary tool for measuring success? (Josh. 1:7-8) Is Scripture the primary textbook I use for raising my children? (Eph. 6:4) Do my children know that the Bible is our family’s final authority? (Deut. 11:18-20) Do my children see me study the Bible consistently? (Ps. 119:97) Do I read the Bible to my children? (Deut. 4:8-9) Do I discuss the Bible with my spouse? (Eph. 5:25-26) Do I take time to prepare my heart before hearing preaching? (Luke 8:17-18) Do I regularly share the life-changing truth of the Bible with others? (2 Cor. 5:20) Is my hunger for the Word growing? (Job 23:12)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
When I sit down to read the Bible, I most often feel: Interested Distracted Bored Confused Guilty Excited
When I hear the Bible read in church, I typically: Follow along in my own Bible
Rank your time spent reading weekly (1 = most time, 7 = least time): ___ Newspapers, Internet news ___ Fiction books ___ Secular nonfiction ___ Social networking profiles, web surfing ___ The Bible ___ Christian nonfiction ___ Magazines
Reasons to Take God’s Word Seriously Look up the text and describe, in your own words, the reasons you should study the Bible. Psalm 19:7-11 _____________________________________________________________________________________ Psalm 119:11 _______________________________________________________________________________________ Psalm 119:105 ____________________________________________________________________________________ 2 Timothy 3:16-17 _________________________________________________________________________________ Hebrews 4:12 _____________________________________________________________________________________
Evaluating Your Bible Intake How often do I hear God’s Word read or preached? _______ x per week • Do I attend a Bible-teaching church weekly? • Do I listen to preaching by radio or other electronic means? How often do I read God’s Word for my own benefit? _______ x per week • Do I follow a Bible reading plan? • Do I have a set time of day to read the Bible? How often do I personally study a passage of the Bible? _______ x per week • Do I use Christian study or reference books? • Do I attend a Bible study or Christian education class? How often do I attempt to memorize Bible verses? _______ x per week • Have I memorized more than five verses in the past year? • Do I have a goal or system for Bible memorization? How often do I set aside time to meditate on the Bible? _______ x per week • Do I ask application questions about the verses I read? • Do I pray the Scriptures back to the Lord on a regular basis?
o o o o Y N
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Your 30-Day Action Plan Ask, “Lord, which area(s) of Bible intake would You like me to improve in over the next 30 days?” Hearing Reading Studying Memorizing Meditating What specific steps of action am I willing to take to improve in this area(s)? ___________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ Accountability can be a helpful tool in remembering and fulfilling commitments to spiritual disciplines. Who can I tell about my 30-day Bible intake action plan, and ask for their accountability and prayers? __________________________
Getting Started: A Seven-Day Plan
Day 1—Discover the point of Bible reading.
• Read: Luke 6:46-49 and James 1:22-25 • Think: What warnings are issued to Bible readers/hearers? • Respond: What Bible truths do I know but am not yet obeying?
Day 2—Realize the importance of spiritual disciplines.
• Read: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17 • Think: What does it mean, spiritually, to run in such a way as to get the prize? • Respond: What is my plan to “train to win” spiritually? Which practices do I need to stop? to begin?
Day 3—Study a short Bible book.
• Read: Second John (2 John) • Think: What are the main themes of John’s short note? • Respond: How could I apply John’s admonition to “walk in love” to my life today?
Day 4—Consider a lesson from Jesus.
• Read: Luke 12:13-34 • Think: What are the things I tend to worry about most? • Respond: What steps could I take to put my focus on Christ’s kingdom and living for eternity?
Day 5—View an Old Testament example of faith.
• Read: 1 Samuel 17 • Think: Why would God use a young boy (David) for this battle? • Respond: What difficult situations am I facing that require courage and dependence on Christ?
Day 6—Hear the prophets speak boldly.
• Read: Isaiah 58 • Think: What spiritual problems did the people of Israel have? • Respond: What does God want me to do to demonstrate my faith?
Day 7—Gain wisdom for life.
• Read: Proverbs 11 • Think: What individual proverb here is most needed by the world? • Respond: Which one do I personally need today?
Biblical Accounts of Revivals Psalm 85:1-13 – Revival under the Sons of Korah Genesis 35:1-15 – Revival under Jacob Exodus 32:1–34:7 – Revival under Moses 1 Samuel 7:1-13 – Revival under Jacob 1 Kings 18 – Revival under Elijah 2 Chronicles 14–16 – Revival under Asa 2 Chronicles 20 – Revival under Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 30:1-9 – Revival under Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 34:1-33 – Revival under Josiah Haggai 1; Zechariah 1:1-6 – Revival under Zerubbabel Nehemiah 8 – Revival under Ezra and Nehemiah Matthew 3:1-14 – Revival under John the Baptist Acts 2:1-47 – Revival under Peter at Pentecost Acts 8:1-25 – Revival under Phillip at Samaria Acts 10 – Revival under Peter at Caesarea 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 – Revival under Paul and Silas in Europe Taken from Revive Us Again by Walter Kaiser, Jr.
ABCs of Bible Study A. Observe the text: Ask, “Who, what, when, where, why, and how?” Note repeated words or phrases, lists, contrasts and comparisons, expressions of time, themes, etc. You might even write out the text for yourself to aid in your observation of details. B. Interpret the text: Ask, “What does it mean?” Sometimes the meaning is obvious (as in the story parts of the Bible); other times it may require some thought (as in the prophetic or poetic parts). The key question for correct interpretation is, “What did the author mean when he wrote this?” C. Apply the text: Ask, “What does God want me to do in response to these verses?” Are there any commands to obey? examples to follow? errors to avoid? Consider how the text applies to you in your various roles (as citizen, spouse, parent, employee, etc.). Spend time meditating and praying. Based on 2 Timothy 3:16, every portion of the Bible is necessary for your walk of faith.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
.com Resource To download a quick, hands-on introduction to the Inductive Bible Study Method, visit www.LifeAction.org/Scripture.
Start Right Now
’m like a lot of Americans—I need to get in shape. And, ironically, I know exactly what to do to make that happen. In fact, from all the books and articles I’ve read, I’d probably make a decent health-and-wellness counselor. (My most important advice: Do as I say, not as I’ve done!) It’s strange, but with all that know-how and strategy, I’m not where I want to be health-wise. I need to grow in that area (shrink, actually) if I am to be a faithful steward of the life God gave me. So while I resolve afresh to jump on the treadmill, I hope that I don’t make the same mistake when it comes to the spiritual discipline of Bible intake: Talking about taking action feels, in itself, like I’m taking action. But I’m not. Discussing the joys and strategies of spiritual discipline might sooth your conscience and lead you to believe you’re on the right track, but it means nothing it if isn’t followed by concrete action. It would be easy to read every article in Revive—to be moved by Carrie’s story about reading the Word to her kids, to be motivated by Don’s challenge to meditate, to tell your small group about Pastor Tom’s plan for praying the Scriptures—and that would be commendable. You might even think that you’ve taken a big step forward in your devotional life. But you haven’t. Not yet. Football teams don’t score any points while they’re in the huddle. Learning about a disciplined life is not the same as living a disciplined life. The first question I’m concerned with is not, “How will you read the Bible?” or, “What method will you use?” or even, “Will you get the right interpretation?” My question is, “Will you start right now?” I won’t be offended if you quit reading this immediately and dive into God’s Word. I’d be elated, actually! In our
Making It Personal section, we’ve printed a simple, seven-day starter outline for Bible reading. You could jump in with both feet, right now, and expect God to teach you new and thrilling things. You could be challenged to new obedience, revived with new joy, or even sent on a new, divine mission. Not through my words, but through His Word. Not from a Bible-based resource, but from the Bible itself. You can start a habit in the next ten minutes that will redefine your whole life, enrich your ministry to others, grow your relationship with God, and set a new course for your future. You can join the millions . of believers worldwide who have discovered that the Bible’s life-changing power is worth their time, their sacrifice—and, in some dark places, their very lives. You can pray to God along with the psalmist, “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Psa. 119:16 niv). You can begin reading your Bible right now. n
Will you start
right now? I won’t be offended if you quit reading this immediately and dive into God’s Word
Daniel W. Jarvis Managing Editor
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