Pulling From the Source

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Recently, in the Twitterverse, I came across a post on a blog site titled: “Missional: Is it Religious Gentrification?” by Tyler Tully. Having just moved to Sacramento, and am in the thrust of joining with my boyfriend (there’s got to be a less “cheesy,” more fitting title – just saying), Chris, to start a church in Midtown, and having heard the word “missional living” tossed around, much like the word “discipleship,” of course I was interested in hearing someone’s take on this “movement.” Our mission at Midtown Community Church is “leading people to live Christ-centered lives every day.” We want to live as missionaries to the people of Midtown and to be the church to them – to love on and serve them – to do life with them. The question I’m always asking myself is what does that looks like in my life.

Having grown up in the church in the American culture, I don’t think I was ever encouraged or taught what the true posture of a Christian is – and I was blind to it to a certain extent. Being a Christian who follows the Great Commission and the Great Commandment requires a deliberate, intentional and disciplined way of living and thinking. Living missionally is most definitely not natural or easy. It’s not an extracurricular thing we do every so often – it encompasses and touches everything and who we are – because this lifestyle is how we’re called to live as Christ followers.

Back to the blog post I came across. There was a portion of it that really leaped out at me, and got a culmination of thoughts whirling around in my head that I decided to work out by writing down. Here’s one of Tully’s comments/perceptions on the missional movement:

The last 10 years have shown more buzz around the term missional, although many of us are still scratching our heads about what that really means…While we’re trying to understand, worship, and participate in building the Kingdom of a marginalized 1st century Galilean, we are still operating from a place of access, privilege, and homogeneity – and we need to admit that the missional movement conversation has been dominated by the Dominators, if we are to see any meaningful Kingdom building. In other words, the missional movement needs to repent.

My brain is like a ping pong match between his words and my own wrestling with what it looks like for me to live missionally – to be the church, making disciples, getting outside your “comfort zone” and pouring into the people around you. All of that is so heady and sounds amazing. There’s this stirring in your soul, much like the reaction Lucy, Peter and Susan had in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the statement: “Aslan is on the move.” It wells up when you read about men of God, like Daniel, or books like Crazy Love, You Lost Me or Tangible Kingdom. You say to yourself, “YES. I want to be a part of that. I want to live that way.” And then the inevitable “Ok, so now what do I do? What’s my role?” If I’ve discovered anything about human nature, and myself, I find there’s this subtle, easy tendency to live vicariously through other’s testimonies of how they’re living missionally – it sounds so grand. It’s that innate desire for a tangible kingdom – for something more than what this world has to offer. But, like bystanders at a sports game, you really have no stake in it – it’s not your victory or loss. You didn’t train, sweat, struggle, get pounded, or make the winning play. Fans may take it personally, but it’s definitely not physically affecting them.

I’ve come to realize that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s complicated. That’s my problem – I tend to overthink because I’m a recovering perfectionist. I want to immediately know what I need to do, how to do it, and have “missional living” down overnight. Boom. Reality check. In asking “How do I do this?” “How do I get results?” I came to realize that I was stopping with “I” – that I was dependent on myself to find “solutions” and to make this missional thing happen. It’s rather exhausting, because, let’s be honest, we’re the worst saviors ever. After I arrived at this realization, I was struck with a “light-bulb moment” from a conversation on Psalm 1 this past Tuesday. This was it: It all boils down to the SOURCE of your approach to “go forth and make disciples.” Because here’s the truth we all know: Anyone and everyone can and does plug into their community (this fever among the millennials to belong, yet not commit), whether it be an intermural league or social club of some sort.

It’s a good to pour into others on their turf, but here’s the question: What source am I pulling from to pour out? If it starts stops with just me and my own willpower – well I already know that only takes me so far. It’s like a kid putting on a firefighter uniform. They can look it, wish it, but they sure aren’t it when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives. They don’t have the training and experience. Ah, now I’m getting somewhere (maybe). This is where we look back at my earlier reference to Psalm 1. Verses 1-3:

“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he does.”

It doesn’t say the blessed or godly man is defined by all the things he does, but by who he is, why he is blessed – and, in turn, how that shapes his everyday living. What’s his source? He takes pleasure in doing God’s commands – he fills up his mind and heart with knowing God’s Word. It correlates with the tree (“down by the river!!”) in verse 3. This tree can withstand any season and whatever that season throws at it because its roots are pulling directly from an unending supply of water. It doesn’t stop there though…with just the intake of water. The water causes something to happen to the tree. You see this outpouring and harvest of it bearing fruit…so others can taste and see God’s goodness. But the tree couldn’t have, in and of itself, produced the fruit or survived without the river/water/stream. Relationships.

I am praying for myself, each of you, and Midtown Community Church, that the Lord will give us more of a love and delight in pursuing Him, reading/memorizing His Word, obeying Him. Not that I don’t find delight in Him now, but I want more…and to do it better, more consistently and faithfully.

There are many things in this post that I could break down further, but it would become a book.

Bottom line: If I don’t fill myself up with Him, I have nothing to give to begin with.

Let’s guard against our tendency to make everything technical, legalistic or a 10-step process.

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7 Tips for Better Bible Study

I came across this blog by Mark Driscoll, pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., and had to repost it because all too often we make it all about the reading/gleaning knowledge aspect alone, and don’t take into consideration other key elements. Also, he talks about how bible study encourages and commands us to be the church. As Alistair Begg is fond of saying, “The plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things.”

An important point that we often miss as believers (in whatever stage of life transformation by the gospel) and that becomes discouraging is we tend to think because we’re limited in knowledge, etc. we can’t be affective or show Christ to others. There are things that you believe in Scripture that are true, but you just don’t fully understand why you believe them, nor can you adequately defend them. Your “ignorance” does not make your beliefs wrong, does it? You may need to grow deeply in your knowledge, but your beliefs are true and remain unchanged. Your conviction of their truth deepens, but the truth is the truth. You tracking with me?

Ok, here’s Driscoll:

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When tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread after a 40-day fast in the wilderness, Jesus responded by saying simply and profoundly, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Paul, when writing to his protégé, Timothy, writes that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

David writes, “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).

The implications are clear: life and growth come from the study of God’s words through Scripture. We are not to read and study the Bible begrudgingly but rather view it as the source of life and, like David, love God’s word.

But the reality is that we all struggle at times to study faithfully or joyfully. So, it’s nice to have a few principles to help us refocus our love and study of Scripture. Below are seven principles that I’ve found beneficial.

1. Actively serve and participate in a local church to learn with and from other Christians.

Colossians 3:16 (NIV): “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

2. Be under the authority of Scripture to be interpreted by it, not over the Scripture to be interpreted by you.

Hebrews 4:12–13 (NIV): “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-­edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

3. Pick up the Bible for life transformation, not just mental information.

John 5:39–40 (NIV): “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

4. Pick up the Bible for relational purposes—not functional ones—so that you will love God and not just know or use him.

Matthew 7:21–23 (NIV): “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’“

5. Don’t just get into the Word; get the Word into you.

Memorization, Psalm 119:11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Meditation, Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

6. Take advantage of godly Bible commentators, your pastor, respected theologians in church history, and wise Christian friends to better understand Scripture.

Romans 12:7 (NIV): “If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach . . .”

7. Don’t think you need more knowledge. Often you need more obedience to the knowledge you already have.

James 1:22 (NIV): “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Responding to Fear

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

Do you have those days where you beat yourself up for being fearful or doubting? How should we respond to our fears? John Piper gives us some encouragement and biblical insights:

One possible response to the truth that our anxiety is rooted in our failure to live by faith in future grace goes like this: “I have to deal with feelings of anxiety almost every day; and so I feel like my faith in God’s grace must be totally inadequate. So I wonder if I can have any assurance of being saved at all.”

My response to this concern is: Suppose you are in a car race and your enemy, who doesn’t want you to finish the race, throws mud on your windshield. The fact that you temporarily lose sight of your goal and start to swerve does not mean that you are going to quit the race.

And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are on the wrong racetrack. Otherwise, the enemy wouldn’t bother you at all. What it means is that you should turn on your windshield wipers and use your windshield washer.

When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the great¬ness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faith¬less, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked.

At first blow, our belief in God’s promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether, by grace, we set in motion a process of resistance — whether we fight back against the unbelief of anxiety. Will we turn on the windshield wipers and will we use our windshield washer?

Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Notice: it does not say, “I never struggle with fear.” Fear strikes, and the battle begins. So the Bible does not assume that true believers will have no anxieties. Instead, the Bible tells us how to fight when they strike.

Future Grace, Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, CO), pages 53-54

Both Sides Now

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“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.” – C.S. Lewis

I feel the song, “Both Sides Now,” sums up a lot of the internal workings of my heart and brain lately – where I’ve come from and come to and still have to go. Through this past year, I’ve come to see, think, feel and approach the matter of “love” in an entirely different light and from a new angle. To talk about what all that entails…well…one day I might write on it. To sum up, with everyone I’ve talked to (myself included), there’s this dilemma, this seeming lose-lose situation: meeting and dating. Insert long sigh here. There are extremes taken with each sex. In this day and age of how we see, not only love/relationships, but Christian living in this ever darkening, more directionless, dying world (there’s a 3-point sermon in there somewhere), I’m reminded of Romans 8: 22-23:

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

It’s hard to tell what’s up and what’s down – we agonize and fight and lose a lot. Bottom-line it’s the heart behind the method or intent. Another important, key thing to examine our hearts with is, are we using God as an end or as a means?

The parts of the below song lyrics I’ve italicized particularly stand out to me and I feel a lot of women (even men) struggle with being bold, stepping out in faith when it comes to love because they’ve been burned before. Funny, we don’t let job loss and burns get to us the way we let love do. With jobs we HAVE to keep looking, working hard at, interviewing for, if we want to make a living to support ourselves. It’s amazing (and sad in a way) how we would put temporary in front of eternal. I’m not saying here that getting/finding a significant other is what your life should revolve around. But I do feel we often live in more fear of our boss/others than of the Lord, or we’ll be so consumed with our gain than growing in selflessness, love, faith, compassion towards others. I’ve found that I’m definitely a freer more joy-filled person, which seems the opposite of what I would be. I’m also not saying you should do so in an unhealthy way. Remember, it’s praying to find the Lord’s balance. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). I journaled on this chapter yesterday and I say this verse in an entirely new way – I didn’t just read it and think, “Ok, that’s nice…I can sorta see what it means in general.” Here’s what I wrote:

To be diligent also entails being steady, working towards something, patient, deliberate/intentional, patient, wisdom – don’t be hasty and make a decision on impulse or through reckless emotion – never bodes well and you look the fool, even if you thought or it seems like a noble thing. Think, Saul with the sacrifice to the Lord without Samuel and the story of Cain and Able.

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels

The dizzy dancing way that you feel

As every fairy tale comes real

I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show

And you leave ’em laughing when you go

And if you care, don’t let them know

Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now

From give and take, and still somehow

It’s love’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud

To say “I love you” right out loud

Dreams and schemes and circus crowds

I’ve looked at life that way

Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange

They shake their heads

They say I’ve changed

Well something’s lost but something’s gained

In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know life at all

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

“Love”: to be or not to be? Make Up Your Mind.

“They say that falling in love is wonderful. It’s wonderful, so they say. And with a moon up above it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful, so they tell me. I can’t recall who said it. I know I never read it. I only know that falling in love is grand…” – They Say It’s Wonderful (by Irving Berlin)

This post goes out and is dedicated to all my girls and as a gentle warning to the men and women I care about:

I recently finished reading through Elizabeth Elliot’s book Passion and Purity. Her words caused me to rejoice, weep, hope, and fear; and within the scope of all that were some passages I greatly wrestled with. If you’re a man or a woman I know that you’ve been left in the lurch, rejected and confused by love and what love means and what God’s love should look like in your relationships (conduct, attitude) towards the opposite sex. I know that many of you are still in pain with raw hearts. I’ve been there and I still struggle and mostly struggle with the heart attitude that stems from that that would try to rob me of my joy and freedom in Christ. I wanted to share this passage from one of her last chapters in summing up her book, titled, Out of Love and Into Charity. “Ouch, Rachel….I don’t want to be some charity case when it comes to love,” you might be thinking, put off by the title. Stay with me, here. Take heed and be encouraged by Elliot’s words:

Passion, whether that of one who is hungry for another not yet given or that of one who by God’s gift, shares the bed of another, must be held by principle. The principle is love – not erotic or sentimental or sexual feeling, but love. It is the way of charity. Perhaps the old word is best. The newer has been corrupted by the strange phenomenon of “falling in love.”

I know a young man – I’ll call him Philpott – who over the past five or six years seems to have made a career of falling in and out of love. He’s a very attractive man and seems able to pick and choose from an eager group of attractive and eminently available women. He wrote to me recently to say that he’d done it again. Fallen out of love with a girl we’ll call Cheryl. “Darn it all,” he said, “here I thought I’d found my dream girl but ‘it didn’t work out.’ Just couldn’t maintain the feelings.”

Here’s my reply.

About this business of falling out of love. Everybody does it, you know. Sometimes before they get married, but always afterwards. Modern folks simply bug out of the marriage then, if they feel no obligation to keep vows – vows made foolishly, they believe.

There is something to be said for making an adult choice and sticking with it. “Being in love,” wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, “is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last…But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God…They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep their promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

So, Philpott, one of these days you need to take a cool, clear look at a good Christian woman. Assess her potentials as a good Christian wife. Is she the kind you’d want as a hostess at your table? Is she what you want for a mother for your children? Is she womanly? Godly? Sensible? Modest? Companionable? Do you think she’s “worth” your love? Are you worth hers? (If you think you are, you’re probably wrong. Each is to esteem the other better than himself.) Is it God’s time for you to get married? Then make up your mind and ask God’s help to love her as she ought to be love.

You said, “One never knows which way the Lord will lead,” and that’s true. He just might be telling you to “be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding…” (Psalms 32:9) and get with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no idea that Cheryl is The Woman. Don’t know a thing about her except you said she’s gorgeous. That isn’t enough. But if you’re looking for some kind of feeling that will be consistent day in and day out, forget it. The kind of love that sustains a marriage is God given, but it is also a daily choice. For the rest of your life. Never forget that.

I just know from personal experience and from countless other stories from women in my life that many men throw the “I feel God is calling me to a season of singleness” line after dating them a few months and then turn around and start dating another woman they feel might suddenly change that “status” this time…and the vicious, “bull in a china shop cycle” continues. I know several beautiful, godly women in their late twenties and early thirties who aren’t being pursued. JR Vassar points this out in his message Hyper-Reality and the Bread of Life, which I touch upon in my blog post How a Consumerism Mentality Destroys and Affects Relationships and Marriages Amongst Christians

I don’t have the answers and even if there’s an easy solution, implementing it is a whole other can of worms. I’m not taking sides here but I am praying for and love all my Christian brothers and sisters.

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

Slough of Despond

“Labour to know thine own frame and temper; what spirit thou art of; what associates in thy heart Satan hath; where corruption is strong, where grace is weak; what stronghold lust hath in thy natural constitution, and the like. . .Be acquainted, then, with thine own heart: though it be deep, search it; though it be dark, inquire into it; though it give all its distempers other names than what are their due, believe it not.” – John Owen

 

John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Such a classic. If you haven’t I would encourage you to put this at the top of your reading list. It is said to be the best book after the Bible.

For some reason this particular passage has been going through my mind often given the events in my life and other’s lives the past few months. I never really paid this part of the story much mind because I was always about the “big” moments of the book (i.e. Giant Despair and Doubting Castle, Vanity Fair, the epic battle between Christian (equipped with the armor of God) and Beelzebub, the Cross, etc). Lately it has really hit home with me and I wanted to share it with you all.

Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavored to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him what he did there.

Christian: Sir, I was bid to go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come. And as I was going thither, I fell in here.

Help: But why did not you look for the steps?

Christian: Fear followed me so hard that I fled the next way, and fell in.

Help: Then, give me thine hand: so he gave him his hand, and he drew him out, [Psalm 40:2], and he set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way.

Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, “Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the city of Destruction to yonder gate, is it, that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security?” And he said unto me, “This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arise in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

“It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad. [Isa. 35:3,4.] His laborers also have, by the direction of his Majesty’ surveyors, been for above this sixteen hundred years employed about this patch of ground, if perhaps it might have been mended: yea, and to my knowledge,” said he, “there have been swallowed up at least twenty thousand cart loads, yea, millions of wholesome instructions, that have at all seasons been brought from all places of the King’ dominions, (and they that can tell, say, they are the best materials to make good ground of the place,) if so be it might have been mended; but it is the Slough of Despond still, and so will be when they have done what they can.

“True, there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps, placed even through the very midst of this slough; but at such time as this place doth much spew out its filth, as it doth against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen; or if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step beside, and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there: but the ground is good when they are once got in at the gate.” [1 Sam. 12:23.]

Like Christian, we oftentimes miss the “steps” because we don’t keep the eyes of our hearts on God’s promises and His grace. When we rely on our own strength we end up miring in despondency and weighed down with the burden of our sin and helplessness. That’s when we have a choice to make:

Call upon Him for “Help” for as the Lord told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9a). “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

OR

Continue to mire in our despondency over sin and try of our own means to fix ourselves and get out of the mire. Yeah, we already know the ending to that option. It sours our hearts, our attitudes and His light in us is almost hidden to those around us. How does that profit us…or more rightly put, how does that glorify God? We don’t get anywhere by mucking around and dwelling on our sin. We’re not fleeing to Christ, or clinging to his grace; instead we are arrogantly putting ourselves above the power of the cross and in effect saying we are past hope, help and saving because we’re too filthy for Him to love us and there’s no way He can cover all our sins. Rubbish! (pun intended).

Side note: I know GRACE is one of those things that Christians can either “use or abuse.” We have Paul in Romans 6 saying, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida wrote a recent blog post titled, “Grace Without Buts and Brakes.” I’d encourage you to be encouraged by it.

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

Bible Intake: 5 Components

“You have to try. Because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.” – Bill Parrish (Meet Joe Black)

The topic I’m about to address has been very heavy on my heart and pointed out to me a lot lately. Reading the Bible on a daily basis is something most of us wrestle with (myself included). And even if we “read” it, it’s often merely the action of reading without attempting to dig deeper. At times our heart isn’t even in it but we feel a sense of obligation or we feel manipulated, “If I don’t do this I’m a terrible Christian and something bad will happen.” Well there’s truth in that ::smiling gently:: Matthew 5:6 says it best: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Pray for that desire in your heart. That you will have this urgency to read God’s Word because your soul needs to be enriched, comforted, convicted, loved and fed. It’s all a matter of the heart.

Below I’ve written out what I’ve been taught are five key components to reading the Bible. Please, don’t view this as a “to do” or “1,2, 3” sort of list.

Reading: Read through the Bible every year. This doesn’t mean you HAVE to start January 1st or you’re screwed. September to September is still 12 months last time I checked. Start now and you’ll still end a year from now. Heartlight’s Search God’s Word is a great resource to start off with, both with a daily Bible reading plan and other commentaries.

Hearing: Listen to good, doctrinal preaching. This doesn’t have to happen just once a week or reserved to just your home church pastor. I’d strongly encourage you to download some sermon podcasts and listen to them while going to work, sitting in rush hour traffic, during your lunch break, at night as your winding down, or even, if you’re daring, during a nice hot bubble bath. Some of the men I’d recommend off the top of my head that the Lord has richly used to show me more of Himself: John Piper, JR Vassar, Tim Keller, and Matt Chandler.

Hearing and knowing (not just with head knowledge but earnestly praying for and desiring heart knowledge) are huge components to the process of sanctification (becoming more Christ-like). I say these two things in reference merely in regards to INTAKING God’s Word. This is not the whole picture of Christian faith. Let me remind you of James 1: 19 – 27. Our intaking rightly and effectively God’s Word has a lot to do with being given the right heart, “eyes” to see, and action: “…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.”

Studying: Pick a book of the Bible. With pen and paper in hand, go through verse by verse. Yes, it sounds tediously daunting, but what’s that popular saying….”No pain, no gain.” Yeah. Use a good commentary by a theologian on that particular book you’re studying BUT (huge “but”) only after you have prayerfully wrestled with it.

Memorization: Memorize entire books (like James, 1 John, etc.) or large sections. I’d recommend starting with Romans 3:19 – Romans 8:39. You don’t have to memorize alone. Grab a friend and commit to and push each other to memorize Scripture together. This is also a great way to start doing the 5th component I’m about to mention: meditation. Wonderful discussions can stem through memorization and wrestling with verses. If you notice, all these components complement and intertwine with each other.

Meditation: As I was saying above, the other four contribute to and enable this. You will find this difficult (I do) in a loud and busy world. But, it is essential to abiding in Jesus and bearing fruits of the Holy Spirit. John 15: 1-8.

Dear reader, don’t go to extremes or let yourself become overwhelmed or crippled by what you perceive to be “impossible” to do. It’s not an instantaneous thing, so don’t be discouraged. Take steps toward it. A tree doesn’t blossom or bear fruit overnight. It’s good and means the Holy Spirit is at work in your heart if you feel inadequate (hint: you are…we all are…you’re in good company).

As the Nike motto goes, “Just Do It.”

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke