Thoughts on Walking With God, Part 4
As indicated by the “part 4,” the topic of conversation at The Diner the last few days has been what it means to walk with God in a 2008 setting. We’ve been listening to a winter Bible conference led by Dr. John Hannah held at our church in 2006, which is available at our church’s web archive of sermons…and today is the last half of lesson #2.
It’s continuing from the discussion on vivification, or those things which we should make ourselves “alive” to in order to walk with God (at this point you might want to either scroll down to catch up on context or listen to the series yourself). He calls them ingredients of the spiritual life that we all should have in our lives…some in heavier “doses” than others, and unique to each individual.
The ingredients Dr. Hannah listed are in italics, with my comments in plain text.
“The place of the Bible: It is not about the amount of time reading the Bible or remembering what you read. It is about frequency. Read it when you can. We do too much so we quit too early.” I found it interesting that a guy who works at a seminary known for emphasizing the teaching of the Word actually seemed so relaxed about Bible reading. I found it encouraging that he talked about the reality that some people aren’t readers (which would cause them to get discouraged if this idea were listed for all believers to spend significant time in reading) and that life station often mattered (he even said it was hard for young moms with children tugging at them to dive into the text).
But note that he said it was something that we all should do to some degree. Personally, I enjoy reading and have always been good in literature classes when it came to finding themes & subplots & characterization and all that stuff, so this area is one I concentrate heavily in. In fact, most days I read Scripture two ways: Devotionally and academically. My devotional reading comes from The Message (a translation of the Bible into current North American English–and the version I usually use has chapter divisions but no verse divisions, so it reads more like a letter) with coffee and read in my recliner in the stillness of early morning…and follows a schedule to read the Bible in a year. It lasts anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour or so.
Academically, this takes place with the NASV in my office with bookshelves and computer linkage to satisfy any study whim I have on the study whim of whatever exegetical class I desire to teach. Currently, I’m spending a lot of time in Proverbs and Thessalonians. This lasts a really long time, usually 3 hours for every lecture hour. Sermons can last 15 to 20 hours or prep time.
I liked, though, that it’s not about remembering what you read. I mean, c’mon. How many sermons do you really remember? Most Christians I know have notebooks full of sermon notes and class notes that gather dust. But Scripture’s input in that day at that time with what the Holy Spirit wanted to give you that moment provides a fabulous opportunity for growing over the long haul.
“Meditation: Think about God intentionally. Think about the passage you read that day.” Thinking about God intentionally. I’ve made this a practice…often by turning the radio off in my car for 10 minutes or not listening to anything or watching anything while I exercise or mow the lawn. When I’m in my hammock and it looks like I’m not doing anything, I’m actually doing something.
“If you can, memorize Scripture. Some people can. Some can’t.” I’m SO thankful for these words. I’m one of those that struggles in this area.
“Prayer. Some are good prayers, some are not. Some of the best prayers in the Bible are three words, “Lord help me!” Pray through Scripture. If you start with too big of a chunk you’ll get discouraged. If you start slow and add you’ll be encouraged.” My mind runs 100 miles per hour it seems and I easily get discouraged because I lose track of where I am. In order to help this I pray and pace or walk and talk out loud. What I noticed was that I enjoyed shorter times of more concentrated prayer than one big block of time. In fact, I’ve started practicing 5 minutes per hour at work and each hour having something different to pray about. It seems to be worthwhile thus far for me to do it that way.
“Going to church isn’t about gathering for a meeting.” Often, I think people view going to church this way. Sundays are highly enjoyable for me because I get to spend time with my church family…the wins, the losses, the ties. To me, gathering together is about doing life together, and the only time I really get to check in with everybody is on Sunday. I can see, though, at our church, that people coming to three different services might not see what I see because I’m there all day. But I do think this ingredient is one of the more profitable ones…however, it’s often the entire menu for many. That’s very dangerous.
“Read good books. Listen to good CD’s.” I do this rather easily. But I also need to balance it out with books from all over the map…fiction, biography, history, etc. Occupational hazard. I do listen to about 5 sermons per week not from my church, mostly on my iPod while doing yard work or hammock work.
“Get into a Bible study.” Again, no sweat for me. I’m actually “on the clock” if I’m in one. Usually, I like to have one to lead and one to just attend…but I’ve found that others don’t like to lead if I’m attending. But I’m in plenty of these.
“Attend the Lord’s Supper regularly.”. Dr. Hannah said that this tends to be minimized in our culture, and I agree. Growing up Episcopalian, I had to make quite an adjustment to plastic cups & cracker bits passed in brass trays once per month, but I’ve learned to appreciate that as well.
“Engage with Christian friends in fellowship. We’re to have non-Christian friends, but we should find our moral compass with like-minded believers. You don’t need many, but isolationism is dangerous. A friend is someone who doesn’t believe the worst things you say, or the best things you say. Your wife doesn’t count.” This is an area I really struggle with, but I’ve recently been recruiting for a group of guys to meet for breakfast twice a month…so if you are a ragamuffin and want to start attending one that’s just getting up and running, I’m in the market for riff-raff looking to change this part of their lives.
“Find a ministry. You’ll never grow sitting in church with a Bible in your lap. Think about engaging in someone else’s need.” Again, for me, an occupational hazard. Unfortunately, in Bible churches, discipleship is often viewed as sitting in church or class with a Bible in your lap. Most growth I’ve seen in Christians comes when they begin to minister to others.
“Find time to rest.” Guilty as charged, your honor. I stink at this. Even on vacation…I’m a raging workaholic even if it looks a little different to others. I just love my “work,” even if it looks like I’m sitting in a conversation at a coffee shop. Some of those conversations over coffee have been about the most difficult parts of life, and it takes an emotional toll. So does standing in front of a class teaching them the greatest truths about life…but the emotional toll is greater knowing you’re responsible to a Holy God who has entrusted you with those very words to encourage & train those whom He loves. I’m floored by that reality, and it exacts a mental and emotional toll few realize.
Well, that’s the end of the discussion on vivification, and we’ll dive into mortification (or, those things we should die to) the next & last two entries.