Friday, January 23, 2015

Fourteen Ways to Freshen Up Your Devotional Life

Stuck in a rut in your time with God lately? Why not try something new and different?
When it comes to your quiet time, the key word is “your.” It is your devotional life, and you need to feel the freedom to tailor-fit your personal time with God to fit your ever-changing time constraints and living patterns.
For this reason it is helpful to consider reinvigorate your devotions every now and then with new approaches and ideas. Careers shift. Habits become calcified. Relationships experience change: singleness, engagement, marriage, children, and grandchildren. Loss happens! Each of these phases represents tectonic shifts in the patterns of our lives. With this transiency of life it is necessary and needful to be open to new approaches to rejuvenate worn or untenable devotional routines.
The following are fourteen ideas to consider in refreshing your time with the Lord:
  1. Focus an entire week on one Psalm from the Bible—let its message soak into your soul!
  2. Use S.O.A.P to study verses that are impactful to you: S = Scripture; O = Observations; A = Application; and P = Prayer. See for more information.
  3. Set your alarm one half hour earlier—give yourself uninterrupted time with God!
  4. Find an old Reformation era Bible online—read from it daily to refresh your view of how God speaks to you through His Word!
  5. Use a prayer guide like Kenneth Boa’s “Handbook to Prayer” to focus your thoughts in daily biblical prayer.
  6. Spend some time singing to the Lord from a hymnbook or chorus book—glory in the presence and goodness of God!
  7. Write down and memorize a new Bible verse each week. Perhaps start by memorizing a gospel plan and move on from there J
  8. When you come across a special passage in Scripture, try putting it to poetry—why not add a tune to it so that you can sing it back to the Lord!
  9. Using a computer Bible program, get lost in cross-references on a Bible word or topic that you are reading.
  10. Purchase a Journibles Bible journaling book to hand copy a book of the Bible—consider starting with the Book of Deuteronomy!
  11. Write your own outline of the passage you are reading in the margin of your Bible. Follow the patterns of thought the author is communicating.
  12. Choose an attribute of God (love, holiness, righteousness, etc.) and using a concordance or website like look at several verses with this attribute. Then thank God for the attribute you are studying.
  13. Listen to the Bible on an audio player. Follow along in a Bible as you listen to the passage being read.
  14. For one month, read five Psalms a day and one chapter of Proverbs—in so doing you will cover both of these books in one month!

Free up your devotional life from competing with others, and allow yourself to spend unrushed time with God. Learn what it means for you to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4). Take time to recharge your perspective with a visit to “the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17). Set yourself come under the gaze of God as you visit Him “in His holy Temple” (Psalm 11:4). Let His Holy Spirit refresh your soul, filling you with His conviction, peace, strength, and wisdom for each new day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Calls for Commitment in the New Testament

In John 9 Jesus healed a man born blind. This man knew that it was Jesus that had healed him, and made no qualms about attesting this miracle of Jesus. For this reason, he was brought before a tribunal of the Pharisees who sought to discredit Jesus’ healing. And yet, this man did not yet understood that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But he did stand his ground and would not allow the Pharisees to discredit the obvious miracle of Christ.
After the formerly blind man was cast out of the gathering of the Pharisees, Jesus went looking for him. Having found him, Jesus began a conversation that resulted in the man worshiping Jesus as the Son of God. In this biblical dialogue, we find the man moving from an honest recipient of a miracle of Jesus and one willing to “face the music” of the Pharisees’ antagonism of Jesus, to a genuine faith in Christ.
Let us then consider how Jesus brought this man to decision:
  • INTENTIONAL EFFORT: Jesus went looking for him;
  • GENERAL QUESTION: Jesus asked him regarding his faith in the Son of God in a third person way, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
  • PERSISTENT INTEREST: The man responded, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
  • SPECIFIC RESPONSE: Jesus responded by pointing to Himself as the Son of God, “You have both seen Him and it is He that is speaking to you.”

After this amazing interchange, the blind man responded positively both verbally and physically. He first said, “Lord, I believe!” and then he worshiped him—quite likely literally kneeling before Him.
Jesus used a technique that we see Him use on several occasions. He went from the general to the particular. He stated the question in a general way—as if probing the individual’s level of interest. Then when the person showed clear interest, He very clearly and specifically made His point.
In the case of the man born blind, he received the call to commitment positively. Not so for the other example. When Paul called King Agrippa to faith in Christ, he responded with a politically correct question, and even perhaps in a jocular way. King Agrippa provided a classic example of a non-committal person.
Let me briefly set the stage for the second call to commitment. Paul, the prisoner, was invited to provide entertainment to King Agrippa, as well as all the leaders and important people of the town of Caesarea (Acts 25:23). Governor Festus considered that it would be a great joke for the whole town to hear Paul, the Jew, try to convince them to become followers of Christ. So he called together this event in the main auditorium of that city.
To the amazement of Festus, Paul addressed King Agrippa directly using singular language throughout his entire discourse. At first glance one would have no idea that Paul was on a stage in an auditorium in front of hundreds of people.
But Paul used this occasion to bring the gospel to the highest ranking politician in the room. A tactic which led Festus to stop Paul midstream and call him a madman. Paul maintained his composure and was respectful both to Festus and to Agrippa.
It was at the end of this interrupted discourse that Paul directed a question to King Agrippa.
Acts 26:27, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
Consider with me 10 key elements of this heart-to-heart call to commitment of the Apostle Paul:
  • RESPECTFUL: “King Agrippa”
  • A SPIRITUAL AIM: “Do you believe…?”
  • STATED POSITIVELY: “Do you believe…?”
  • SCRIPTURALLY FOCUSED: “the prophets”
  • INCREMENTALLY STATED: “Do you believe the prophets?”
  • USING DISCERNMENT: “that you do”
  • EXPECTING A POSITIVE RESPONSE: “I know that you do.”

King Agrippa, quick on his feet and the primary political figure in the auditorium promptly took the focus off himself, refocusing it on Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28). And with these sad words, Agrippa leaves the pages of the New Testament as the type of non-committal people with respect to the gospel. And yet God, by His grace, recorded this question in the Bible for the benefit of all in the history of the church who would follow in his example.
Paul’s call to commitment was individual, respectful, and to the heart. It was as if he ignored everyone else in the room and sought to connect directly with King Agrippa’s conscience:
2 Cor 5:11, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”
Successful evangelism involves the conscience-to-conscience communication of the gospel honed and piercing by virtue of God’s living and active Word.
Rhetorically, as with the general approach of Jesus noted above, Paul used an incremental approach in his question. He focused his call to commitment on the message of the prophets as the object of faith. Agrippa, knowing his intent, divulged Paul’s culminating goal, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Paul, however, handled his aggressive response both wisely and respectfully, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Act 26:29).

So, here we find two examples—two calls to conversion. Even as each is different—and yet each teaches important lessons. Likewise, we should tailor our calls to commitment individually and directly to the heart and soul of those whom we are seeking to bring to Christ.