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Bring the Book of God

IT’S BEEN SAID THAT WITH AGE COMES WISDOM. Sometimes that’s true. The one problem with age is that unless we deliberately train ourselves to love, enjoy and surrender to God, we will, by default, develop ingrained resistance to God. That’s outright...

How to Read the Bible the Right Way

SIMPLY READING THE BIBLE FOR 30 DAYS IS NO GUARANTEE YOU WILL ENCOUNTER GOD. In fact, you could read the Bible for 365 days and remain in a spiritual famine. There are many ways to read the Bible – any one of which will do nothing more than stimulate grey matter, leave you walking away either scratching your head or thinking it was boring. You’ll walk away wondering why nothing meaningful happened. If that is all that happens when you read the Bible, you’re reading it the wrong way. If you read the Bible the right way, it will go directly to your heart, as well as your mind, body and spirit. It will saturate who you are – and who you are will truly change. Dramatically. 

The Bible is actually a collection of 66 individual books, written over a nearly 2,000 year period by approximately 40 different writers from three continents. And, it was written in three different languages. The majority of its 40 or so writers did not even know one another, let alone live during the same time. And yet, it has unified themes, cohesion, flow and progression. This makes the Bible unique among all other writings in the history of civilization. 

The Bible is truly a living book, because it comes from the living and true God.

The Bible is unlike every other book ever written. No other book in all of history was written this way with this kind of amazing outcome. This alone suggests the hand of God not only in the process, but also the outcome.It deserves to be given the utmost handling so that God’s intention is achieved as you interact with it. God’s intention should be your intention, and this intention is clearly stated in Hebrews 4:12 (ESV):

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Bible is a tremendous gift from God to you. It will get to the heart, soul and spirit of every matter you’ll ever face. It’s truly a living book, because it comes from the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Over the next 30 days, take your Bible into your “prayer closet,” that special place you have set aside to be alone with God in prayer, the reading of the Bible, and reflection, and read the Bible in the following ways:

1. READ THE BIBLE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS UPON IT. IN FACT, IT DOES. DON’T READ IT FOR MERELY INFORMATION, BUT FOR TRANSFORMATION. When you read the Bible, you are reading the very words of God. You should not leave your “prayer closet” the same as you entered. If you read it the right way, you will automatically gain knowledge – and so much more. You will be transformed. Approach the Bible as literally God’s Word that will change you. Expect Him to speak the truth about Himself, your condition and your needs every single time you open its pages. Ask God to speak to you, correct you, redirect you, fill you and transform you through what you read. Every time you pick up your Bible, God will speak to you – but you must be receptive, even before you pick it up, to what He will say.

2.  OPEN THE BIBLE –  EACH TIME – AS IF YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SOMETHING YOU HAVE NEVER BEFORE READ – NO MATTER HOW FAMILIAR YOU MAY THINK YOU ARE WITH A CHAPTER, BOOK, PASSAGE OR VERSE.This approach alone will keep your time in God’s Word fresh, rich and exciting. It will help you pay attention to God Himself – and God will bless you.It will keep you from missing a jewel God wants to place into your hand and heart. If God were going to say something to you, would you give Him your full attention? The truth is, God wants to speak to you – and He will, every time you read His Word, the Bible. Treat your time in the Bible as literal time with God – because that’s exactly what it is. The question is not whether or not God is speaking, but of whether or not you are listening. 

Repentance is the adjustment of one’s life to the plan, purpose and agenda of God. It is to say ‘no’ to anything and everything that is unlike God. 

3. PRAY – BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER YOU READ. This is what it means to “meditate” on God’s Word. Ask God “What were you saying to the people to whom this was written – and what are you saying to me, today, as well?” Ask God, “Lord, don’t merely speak to me through what I am reading, make what I am reading sink so deep down into me that I am never the same.”

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4. APPLY – IMMEDIATELY – WHATEVER PERTAINS TO YOU. TO REALLY READ THE BIBLE IS TO REPENT, EVERY SINGLE TIME. The difference between a Pharisee and a disciple is humble obedience. This one tip will perhaps do more for your Bible reading than anything else. Is God asking you to forgive, apologize, be courageous, speak up, shut up, roll your sleeves up? Whenever you read the Bible, it is always a call to action of some sort. Beware the danger of reading the Bible in a passive way. You must bring a receptive life to God’s Word, with a passion to put into action what you read. Remember that the goal of all Bible reading is transformation, not mere information. Many well-informed Bible readers were not only useless when it came to being agents of transformation, but they were also very useful toward the devil’s agenda. Consider the Pharisees as one such example of men who knew the Bible, but failed to adjust their lives. Apply, immediately, whatever applies to you. This is what it means to truly repent. Repentance is the adjustment of one’s life to the plan, purpose and agenda of God. It is to say no to anything and everything that is unlike God. Don’t wait for the people around you to set the pace and example. If you make it your ambition to put what you read into action, God will set the pace through your life and others will be influenced. 

What you need in these dark days in which we live is the power of God coursing through your veins, providing wisdom, courage, faith and peace in the midst of an otherwise fearful, faith-less, fret-filled world. God has a remedy for the plights we face: regular encounters with Him through the proper reading and application of His Word, the Bible. Handle His Word rightly for the next 30 days. Repeat it thereafter, and your spiritual revolution will be well underway.

What to read next:Your 30 Day Spiritual Revolution or Don’t Limit Yourself – You Can Catch God.

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

Bring the Book of God

IT’S BEEN SAID THAT WITH AGE COMES WISDOM. Sometimes that’s true. The one problem with age is that unless we deliberately train ourselves to love, enjoy and surrender to God, we will, by default, develop ingrained resistance to God. That’s outright foolishness. No one who resists God will come out a winner. There is always lost time, energy, joy, success – less of the glory of God – when we resist Him. Even when the resistance is subtle. Be careful that as you age you demonstrate real wisdom – the wisdom of saying “yes” to God before you even know what He is asking. If you do this, you will always win. And so will God. Remember, no one who resists God will come out a winner.CHILDREN AND YOUTH . . . AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN Why is it that the Bible records numerous instances where adults were unwilling and unable to do what a young person was willing and able to do? We think we understand Jesus’ praise for the innocence, trust and teachability of a child – but do we? Jesus said,

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and becomelike children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV)

Notice the particular words Jesus uses: turn, become, humbles. All of these words present not merely a once and for all action – but an initial action that continues. In other words, we are to turn (repent) from the “I know, I’ve attained, I’ve arrived” mentality that comes with age, and make an active, ongoing choice to start thinking and behaving differently – like a child. Perpetually. This is why the word “humbles” is so essential to grasp. It takes humility to give up the “I know, I’ve attained, I’ve arrived” approach and to venture into a new walk – a new lifestyle – with God. But unless and until we do, we will never mature spiritually. (This is what Jesus means by being “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven. Greatness is not possible without humility.)

If you are really going to walk with God, your new and ongoing attitude toward all of life must be that you know very little, if anything, and that God knows everything.A true God-walker is attentive, dependent upon and surrendered to God, not himself in any way, shape or form. A true God-walker lives like a child, dependent upon his heavenly father for everything.Not in theory, but in practice. 

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THE WORD THAT CHANGED A LIFE AND A NATION There are multiple examples in the Bible of children and youth whom God used to advance His agenda – when adults were unwilling or unable. But one stands out that is so profoundly powerful – and practical for you and me – that it’s noteworthy to consider in your thirty day spiritual revolution. If you do what this young man did every day for the next thirty days, you will see a genuine revolution in your walk with God. If you re-commit yourself to another thirty days of the same endeavor, you will be well on your way to being a serious force to be reckoned with when it comes to advancing God’s agenda.

(Remember, however, that your objective in life is not first and foremost to be used by God. Your objective in life is to walk closely with God.When you do, God will use you in the overflow, consistently. This will happen because you will become increasingly humble, increasingly moldable, increasingly selfless. You will become increasingly child-like. God uses people with these child-like traits.  If you have them, in increasing measure, God will use you. We have His word on it.)

Josiah was eight years old when he became King of Judah, and just twenty-six years old when he made a discovery that changed his life, changed his nation, and changed the course of history. He experienced personal revival – and that revival changed his nation:

“And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, ‘Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.’ Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.” – 2 Kings 22:8-11 (ESV)

Read the story for yourself, and pay close attention to 2 Kings 22:19, and the result in chapter 23. Josiah prioritized God’s Word. He began to read it – and apply it – and everything about him changed. The nation under his charge changed. Repentance and change began with the rediscovery, prioritization and application of God’s Word. This was true for Josiah and his nation. It’s true of you and your nation.

TAKE IT TO YOUR CLOSETWhen you enter your prayer closet, take the Bible with you – with the intention of applying what you read. Read it, ask God how to apply it – then, by all means apply it. Josiah didn’t merely read the word of God. What made him different is that he applied God’s word, beginning with himself. Notice that he tore his clothes. Tearing one’s clothes was an ancient symbol of repentance  – and repentance is supposed to happen every single time we open God’s Word.

We leak, and continually need to be re-filled. We stray and need to be redirected. You need to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We all do – every single day. The Bible is God’s primary tool to transform us from the inside-out. Let this sink in: one of the key purposes of God’s Word is to transform us by encountering Him.Repentance is supposed to happen every time we read the Bible. If this is not happening in your time of Bible reading, reflection and study, you are missing a primary objective of the Bible. Our thinking and lifestyles are supposed to be continually changing as a result of encountering God through His Word. If this is not happening and you are reading the Bible, listening to sermons or going to church, you’ve either become a Pharisee, a mere academic, or you are a poser. Whatever else you may be doing “for God” or “in the Name of God,” if repentance is not the engine of your acts, you are missing the mark, big time. Don’t mistake the Bible’s purpose as being merely informational. It’s primary purpose is to provide information that leads to transformation.

Repentance and transformation are traveling companions, the evidence of true encounters with God. These happen when we apply God’s Word. The first step in being a man, woman, boy or girl whom God flows through mightily is to personally apply the word of God to your own life – before you seek to see it applied in the lives of others. But before you can apply God’s Word (and experience the blessings that follow) you have to first prioritize and read it.Beware of unintentional hypocrisy. Read and apply the word of God, the Bible, to your own life first. Do this by taking the Bible with you to your prayer closet, that special, designated place where you meet with God over the next thirty days. Again, don’t worry about doing this for the rest of your life. Just do it as a matter of priority for the next thirty days. Repeat it when the thirty days are over – and your personal, spiritual revolution will be underway.

In my next entry, we’ll go deeper into what it looks like to read and apply the Bible while you meet with God in your prayer closet. We’ll explore how to read the Bible for all it’s worth. The byproduct will spark a personal revival unmatched by any other endeavor in your life. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What to read next: Your 30 Day Spiritual Revolution or How to Read the Bible the Right Way.

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

What Happens in Bed Must Not Stay in Bed

THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN LIFE YOU COULD PURSUE, any number of them worthwhile. But there is one pursuit that is supreme, one pursuit that trumps all others, one pursuit that will positively transform every other aspect of your life. Neglect this one pursuit and there will be hell to pay. Prioritize it and the positive impact – for you and countless others – will be impossible to estimate this side of eternity. This one pursuit is complete surrender to God on a daily basis. What you need is a dedicated time, each day, to intentionally surrender yourself to Jesus Christ – so that the pursuit of truly walking with God isn’t a dream, but a reality.  To succeed with this kind of surrendered devotion, you need to stop looking at your life as a series of years. Deliberately surrender – one day at a time – and tomorrow will take care of itself. All you need to do is focus on one day at a time for the next thirty days, prioritize genuine surrender, and thirty days from now you will be a transformed, revived, refocused makeover of who you used to be. Remember, if you focus onthe next thirty days only, and recommit yourself thereafter to another thirty days of the same pursuit, your spiritual revolution will be underway. The years of your life will begin to take care of themselves. 

Focus on one day at a  time for the next thirty days, prioritize genuine surrender, and thirty days from now you will be a transformed, revived, refocused make-over of who you used to be . . .

WANTS OR NEEDS? You may want many things in life – but there is only one thing you truly need. You must be able to distinguish between your wants and needs, or you will pay a heavy price. It may even be an eternal price. Consider 1 Corinthians 3:12-13:

“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” – NIV

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The life of a God-follower is one of quality, not mere activity. People who don’t know the difference between their wants and needs wind up living distracted, troubled lives. This is not to say you won’t have problems when you fully surrender to God. You will. However, the kinds of problems you’ll have from following God are far better than those you’ll have if you stray from Him. Take care of God’s business, the business of living a surrendered life on a daily basis, and he’ll take care of yours. Who do you think can do a better job of managing your life and handling all the problems you face, you or God? Enough said.

Be careful you don’t allow yourself to be side-tracked from what you really need in life, because you only get one shot at life this side of eternity. What you really need is complete, daily surrender to Jesus Christ. This one thing will eclipse every other thing you may think you need. Daily surrender to Jesus Christ – true surrender – absolutely trumps everything else you think you need – but really don’t.

YOU: A FOREIGNER IN NEED OF HELPIf you think about entirely surrendering to Jesus Christ for the rest of your life, it may be overwhelming. It’s also impossible to know what life will look like ten, twenty or more years from now, when you’ll face very different challenges. This is why the wisest thing you can do is to simply focus on complete surrender one day at a time for the next thirty days, and then repeat this practice when the thirty days are over.

When I lived in Africa for a short season, I learned the value of Psalm 149:5, which says “Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds” (ESV). I was unaware of this verse the entire time I was there – yet the process of starting the day with songs of worship, before I even got out of bed, again convinced me that there are benefits to living life according to the Word of God. Psalm 119:4 reminds us “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed” (NIV). Beginning your day by praising God – before you even get out of bed – has tremendous benefits. It will set the mood for your whole day – if you do it with real surrender to Jesus Christ. If you do this for thirty days you will see such a difference that you will not want to go another thirty days without repeating it. 

. . . you too are in a foreign land, a foreign culture – doing something you’ve never done before.

In Africa, I would begin to praise God and surrender to Him the moment I awoke, while I was still in bed. I had to surrender to Him every morning because I was completely out of my element. I was by myself in a foreign land, a foreign culture, doing something I had never before done. I learned that it is impossible to walk with God without intentional surrender to Him. You must believe the same. You need to see yourself as out of your element here on earth. You are.

While in bed I would sing to the LORD, but before I began singing, I began surrendering. (By the way, any song sung with surrendered sincerity to God is sung on-key, every time, no matter how “off key” it might sound to you or anyone else. True worship emanates from the heart of true surrender). Quietly, I would get on my knees in my bed and be still before God. Then, I would begin to literally tell Him some variation of this prayer, offered with focus, passion and determination, “Lord, I surrender to You. I give you all of myself, and all of this day, and all of the resources you’ve placed at my disposal, in complete surrender for your eternal glory. Help me to live a surrendered life.” I would then crawl out of bed, grab my Bible and journal, and meet with God in my “prayer closet” for more time, alone, with Him. As I began to get into the practice of starting each day this way, my life began to change. If you do the same, you will see your life positively change as well.

The truth of the matter is that the moment you decide to become a God-follower you make the decision to travel, permanently, in a foreign land, a foreign culture – to do something you’ve never done before.You need supernatural help if you want to live a supernatural life. If you are a God-follower, you are a sojourner, an exile in a land not your own – with a mission from God. 1 Peter 2:11 reminds us of this truth:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” – ESV

You will have moments when you mistakenly think you know what it means to live a surrendered life to God – but ponder this more deeply and you’ll see you are mistaken. Your entire life is in perpetual need of a divine overhaul. This overhaul can and should happen every single day. It needs to happen every moment of every day. How can this be accomplished without intentional surrender? It can’t. This is why you are focusing the next thirty days on deliberate, daily surrender to Jesus Christ. This is why you are setting aside intentional time at the start of every day, for the next thirty days, to surrender yourself and all your endeavors to God. Repeat the process once it ends.You’ll have created a new, fantastic habit that will make going back to an ordinary, merely human-empowered life the most ridiculous consideration you’ve ever entertained.

YOU, ON PURPOSE God chose to give you life. It’s your choice to live a surrendered life. The purpose of having a prayer closet, a set-aside place where you meet with God and pray to him “in secret” (Matthew 6:6) – is so that you hit the bullseye of a surrendered life. There are many other things in life you could go after, but if you fail to pursue and enjoy God with a surrendered life, you will have missed God’s best. No one would consciously choose anything less than God’s best – but this is exactly what we choose when we don’t intentionally pursue God in complete surrender. You cannot afford to go through the motions of life without intentionally surrendering to God.

When you consider the magnitude of what happens each and every day as you interact with others, make decisions at work and home, you must remember that you are shaping eternity (for better or worse) in the seemingly insignificant events of every twenty-four hour period. Do you realize this? (Review 1 Corinthians 3:13 for a sobering reminder). The wisest thing you can do is begin your day by praying to God – while you are in bed, upon waking. But don’t stay there. Stay in bed and you run the risk of surrendering to sleep, rather than God. Surrender while in bed, and then get up and go, immediately, into your “secret closet,” your prayer closet, where you will intentionally pursue God with even greater passion.

There are many other things in life you could go after, but if you fail to pursue and enjoy God with a surrendered life, you will have missed God’s best.

Start each day surrendering to God, intentionally,  for the next thirty days. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. But make every effort to set aside time, from the moment you awake, to intentionally surrender your life, that day, to God. The objective is not to become a Pharisee, but to be a surrendered servant of the Living and True God (1 Thessalonians 1:9), the God Who created you, loves you and bought you with the priceless blood of Jesus Christ. Begin praying in your bed, then get out of bed and enter your prayer closet to pursue God intentionally, surrendering yourself, completely, each and every time.

Intentionally dedicate your life, your day, your decisions, your time, resources, talents and activities – every molecule of who you are and what God has entrusted to you. Make it your ambition to truly enjoy Him by doing this every morning – before you do anything else. Do this for the next thirty days, and you will create an irresistible, positive habit that will revolutionize everything in your life – and you’ll wonder how you managed to live all this time without truly being alive.

In my next entry, we’ll explore what daily surrender looks like by bringing God’s matchless Word, the Bible, with you when you enter your closet. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What to read next: Your 30 Day Spiritual Revolution or Bring the Book of God.

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

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