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  • Writer's pictureTrent Murray

Bible Intake: Productivity Through the Spiritual Disciplines Pt.1

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Biblical productivity can be summed up as: Glorifying God through good works for his kingdom for the purpose of Christlikeness and the good of others. In our student ministry, we began an 8 week look at the spiritual disciplines and I am seeking to synthesize many different wellsprings of knowledge into one tangible resource for pursuing a productive life through the spiritual disciplines. Some resources that I highly recommend on the topic and are foundational to my understanding of the disciplines are Donald Whitney's "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life", and "Habits of Grace" by David Mathis.

In particular I think David Mathis' expression of the disciplines is most helpful and foundational to our understanding of the disciplines as our vehicle by which we experience God's grace, not in a sacramental way, but in an experiential way. He likens God's Grace to a river, I have used a waterfall, that we are able to plunge beneath when we pursue God through daily disciplines or habits that put us directly in the path of God's voice and work in our lives. My challenge to our students was to not simply enjoy the beauty of the waterfall from the banks, but to be willing to take the dive and daily put ourselves in position to experience God's goodness.

Dr Whitney's book is very practical and helpful on the subject, and it is an invaluable resource in teaching the disciplines to others. My list of spiritual disciplines below are an adaptation of the ones he covers in his book, and will serve as the outline for our 8 part series.

My desire for this blog at the present time, is to be a supplemental resource to our students or anyone who would pursue a productive, God exalting life, through the spiritual disciplines. I contend that Spiritual Disciplines are any act that we must devote time and energy to train ourselves or discipline ourselves in as we grow in Christlikeness. (1 Tim. 4:7) Yet these are means not ends. We do not pray for prayer sake, we practice the disciplines because they are how we experience God.

The Disciplines:

Week 1 - Bible Intake

Week 2 - Prayer & Fasting

Week 3 - Worship & Fellowship

Week 4 - Evangelism

Week 5 - Stewardship & Service

Week 6 - Mindfulness: Silence, Solitude, & Journaling

Week 7 - Thinking & Learning

Week 8 - Productivity: getting the right things done

"Biblical productivity can be summed up as: Glorifying God through good works for his kingdom for the purpose of Christlikeness and the good of others."

Bible Intake is the chief and foundational discipline. It serves as the head of all other disciplines as we take and read the God-breathed words of the scriptures. (2 Tim. 3:16) Without his word we would not have his full revelation to us. But it also serves as the foundational discipline in that every other discipline must flow from the scriptures. We do not know fully how or why to pray without God's word to guide us, nor do we have understanding of how we should properly worship God in community and individually apart from his word.

"Bible intake is the chief and foundational discipline."

In a practical exploration of how we are to enjoy the scriptures, wise people have come up with the idea of raking and digging. A rake is not meant to dig, nor is a shovel meant for raking. Rakes gently collect things from a large area just on the surface, while a shovel can dig down deep in a specific location. There is a place for both in bible reading. I try my best to be doing some of both in my bible intake.

Some tips for raking:

  • Pick a book and read a chapter a day. Try and remember 1 to 2 things from each chapter in a notebook or a word document.

  • Listen to large portions of the scriptures or entire books in one sitting with audio bibles. I enjoy the audio bible provided in the YouVersion bible app.

  • Don't try to force yourself to read the Bible in a specific amount of time you can't stick to, rather just schedule intentional time to read or listen to large portions of scripture and put little checks in the table of contents when you have read a particular book.

  • Try listening to or reading the same book over and over for a week or a month at a time. John Macarthur is keen on this technique in his little book "How to Study the Bible" You'll be amazed how many details you will pick up the more you have heard something. I can quote the entire movie Frozen, not because I have watched it through a thousand times but because as it ran in the house month after month I remember moments throughout and watching through an entire time here and there reminds me how all of the pieces and characters fit together.

Some tips for digging:

  • Read the Bible with pen in hand. Don't be afraid to mark and highlight in the Bible. Take external notes on how the passage applies to your life or current situation.

  • Don't hesitate to ask good questions and write them down to ask other believers.

  • Find a solid commentary or resource though I encourage our students to "read and think for yourself before checking with others"

  • Use a devotional that is recommended by your church or pastors (though it can be dangerous to only read regurgitated information) Good devotionals usually have some sort of prompt for application or prayer. I personally enjoy these as springboards into journaling and prayer. I also highly encourage writing these things down int he morning and revisiting them throughout the day. Think about what that scripture means to you not jsut before you start your day but as you go about your day.

  • Memorize a verse at a time. Hide his word in your heart to have it ready at all times. (Psalm 119:11)

Here are our three challenges for this week:

  • Find the time

Not just in a calendering, or scheduling sense, we must make time in order to spend time in God's word. We ahve the same 24 hours in a day that brilliant men and women of God had in their days we just fill ours with more stuff that steals our opportunity to enjoy the depths of God's word. It takes less time to read or listen through the bible than the average American spends watching TV in a two week span.That means that if the average american replaced TV time with reading or listening to the word of God we could listen to the entire thing twice in a month. This is not to serve as a model for us but rather a convictional tool. We have the time, we must make room in our days.

It can be very helpful, however, to schedule our time in the word not just as something robotic and emotionless but as something we are prioritizing. I said for years I wanted to date my wife, but it never happened until I scheduled it as a priority. My wife was not hurt by me deciding to put it on my calendar like it is an appointment, she felt loved that I cared enough to make time for it. When are you going to spend time in God's word tomorrow?

  • Find the place

We live in a chaotic and distracted world. We need to spend time in God's word with as little distraction as possible to enjoy experiencing him the best we can. A quiet place or a place you can pop in some noise cancelling headphones to be alone with the Lord, his word, and your thoughts will be key. Pick a place and meet God there daily. God can meet with us anywhere, but it can be so helpful for us to be intentional about putting ourselves in a position to enjoy God with as little noise and clutter as possible.

  • Find a plan

Start somewhere. The YouVersion Bible app has a daily bible verse you can meditate on each day and thousands of plans to read by yourself or with a partner for accountability. Or as mentioned above, you can just pick a book of the Bible and read through it at your own pace, writing down thoughts and questions about the text. Our lead pastor, Josh put it brilliantly like this: Your quiet time needs to be like a slinky. There are days it can expand into a 45 minute devotional with God where you intensely ponder the things of God. But it needs to be malleable enough that if you are interrupted or have 5-10 minutes on the go your whole system isn't ruined.

"Your quiet time needs to be like a slinky." - Josh Fields

Remember, plans exist to serve you, not the other way around. Use plans as diving boards into further reflection and reading in God's word. But don't stop there if the Lord is stirring your interest beyond just that verse or passage.

I'm praying for each of us to commit to finding the time, the place, and a plan this week. I will be asking every student on Sunday night just what those are for them as I share mine in return. Will you join us?

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