Pursuing a master’s degree in education is a dream that is becoming reality. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the program and it’s been challenging, often frustrating, but in all, an extremely rewarding learning experience. My most recent class was a side step from all the education courses. It concerned the Dynamics of Spiritual Growth and reading Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life was one of the textbooks. Over the next few blogs I would like to highlight some of the disciplines I found most meaningful.
Not surprisingly, Bible intake was the first discipline treated in Whitney’s book and took up two chapters. Whitney says, “No Spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word” (p. 28). What had not occurred to me before reading the book were the many ways in which I could “take in” Scripture and it wasn’t that the concepts were new or even radical. I just hadn’t stretched my thinking beyond reading and studying. So, I was encouraged to think outside the parameters I had created and develop the discipline of Bible intake further. Now, I am paying better attention to the messages in church, I’m seeking to do some memorizing, and I’ve recently changed my daily Bible reading format.
I’ve been reading through the Bible every year for the past five years. I started this practice because I really needed something that would get me into the Word every day. Before that I was not disciplined enough to find time every day to read. Reading through the Bible following a year plan really helped. However, the last couple of months I found my mind wandered to things I needed to do while I was trying to read. As a result I was getting nothing from it. It was time for a change. This year I’m starting with the book of Isaiah and a commentary as a companion. I’m reading fewer verses, but getting much more from them. This has increased meditation on the Word and prompted prayers in the middle of reading. The most significant change, though, is there is no set time frame to finish. This will be the real test of my resolve.
There is one habit as it relates to this discipline that has not changed. Reading my Bible is not the very first thing I do in the morning. It’s the third or fourth. The reason? I would not be able to concentrate otherwise. When I get up in the morning the dogs need to be let out and fed. There are usually a few dishes in the sink that I want to wash up. I also look at e-mails and a few other things on the computer. And I cannot function without a cup of coffee. When all that is done I’m ready to sit, read, meditate and pray without interruption. It’s what works.
Actively pursuing the spiritual disciplines has been an interesting process. I’m required to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. Rethinking Bible intake in order to make it more profitable forced me to set aside the status quo I had established. I was determined to continue with diligence in daily Bible intake without the benefit of the clearly spelled out plan. It’s only January 5th, but I have seen the benefits already. I look forward to what God’s Word has to teach me this year, not to increase my knowledge only, but “for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7).
Whitney, D. S. (1991). Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress.