In John 15, Jesus draws on vivid imagery to describe the life He offers, and the life His followers find in Him. John 15:5 perhaps sums it up most clearly: "I am the vine; you are the branches. I you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing."
The take-away is clear. As His followers, we need to stay connected to Jesus. He's our life, and only through Him we bear fruit.
As I've been meditating on this verse, however, I wonder if too often I can approach Jesus more as a gas pump than a vine. But what does that mean? And why is it dangerous?
Joshua 1:8 is a clinic on how to approach God's Word well.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
The take-aways are clear.
God's Word should be on our lips.
We speak it. This doesn’t mean that we follow every sentence with a verse reference; it means we are so full of the truth in this Book that it naturally influences and spills out in what we say!
God's Word should be in our hearts.
We meditate on it. We reflect on it and sit in the truths we encounter in the Bible. The story of the Bible forms us. The best picture I have for biblical meditation is marinading meat - think "chicken" or "steak". When meat soaks in a marinade and that’s done well, that marinade will permeate the meat so that when you take a bite, you can’t taste the meat without getting a hint of the marinade. That’s what mediating on the Bible means: God’s Word has so permeated our hearts - we’ve soaked in it so deeply - that every part of us has the taste of God and His Word.
God's Word transforms our actions.
We apply it. As much of a fan as I am for knowing the Bible, we never want to JUST know the Bible. This Book isn’t just about information; it's about transformation.
When you put all this together, here’s what this means: We need to fight for the priority of God’s Word in our daily lives.
There’s so much pressure to keep up with the latest news cycle and there are so many distractions with media and entertainment and busyness. My concern is we’re getting so consumed by these things that we’re neglecting the priority of God’s Word and the story it invites us into.
Keep spending time in this book! Slowly, repeatedly, day by day over the course of weeks and months and years. This is God’s Word to us - that’s how valuable it is, and how much we need it!
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What does it look like to grow in knowing, loving, and obeying the message of the Bible? Here are three tips I try and live by myself, and three tips I’d recommend to anyone wanting to engage the Bible well. (For those of you that can appreciate some alliteration, watch out for the R’s. 😀)
To get us started today, let me take you back to Middle School science class. One of the great discoveries in the history of science was learning that the sun is at the center of the solar system. Before the 16th century, the prevailing view was that the earth was at the center of everything, and the sun and all other planets revolved around the earth. But then a Polish genius named Nicolaus Copernicus took another look at things. He noticed that there were some big issues with the math behind the dominant view. Things didn’t add up.
So Copernicus went to work and proposed a different model - where the sun didn’t orbit the earth, but the earth orbited the sun. Suddenly everything fell into place. This discovery set the table for future astronomers to refine Copernicus’s work and help us better understand the wonder of the created universe.
And the “aha moment” in the science was fixing the right thing at the center. Without that right thing in the center, everything else was a little out of whack. But with the right object at the center, everything else fell into place.
I recently preached on Ephesians 2:1-10 at Brookside Church - a passage which I would say "pound for pound" is the best ten-verse spotlight on God's amazing grace that we find in the New Testament.
Here's a quick outline of the passage at a glance:
Brookside Church is getting ready to launch a 4-week series on the Psalms. (Can't wait!) We'll be preaching through individual psalms each week. (We did this in the summer of 2018 as well. Click here to see what we preached on then - Psalm 23; Psalm 16; Psalm 121; Psalm 84.)
In case you want to dig a little deeper or just familiarize yourself with the Psalms, below I've listed three resources that you can dig into on your own, with your friends, or as a family.
If you ever check out either the Library or the footer of this site, where we highlight the top 5 posts of the previous month, you'll have seen that "Character Counts | The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)" has been on this "Top 5" streak for a while (a long while!). And it's understandable why.
Character matters. When it's lacking, its absence reminds us that it matters. When character shines, its presence shows us that it makes a difference.
If you've not checked out the post, you can do so here.
So as a nod to the popularity of this post, I'm officially going to "retire the jersey." I'll leave the post just as it is on the site and will include it in the "retired jersey" category of this site's "Library" page. However, moving forward I'll no longer include it in numbers 1-5 of each month's top posts (even though it continues to rank highly among the website "hits" for individual posts), thus allowing room for other posts.
Interested in other posts that have gotten a lot of traffic on this site recently? Click here to check 'em out!
Interested in seeing all of the "retired jersey" posts up to this point? Here they are:
Looking for some of the best biblical and theological books to read in 2019? Below I've collected and listed five "sources" that are worth listening to for some worthwhile reads.
My hope is that as you scan these lists, you'll find at least 2-3 books that strike your interest enough for you to pick up the book and dig in.
Click on either the image or the title below and you'll be taken directly to a page where you can see which books are on that particular list.
My Top 5 Reading Lists of 2018
Interested in more?
Below you'll find a few other links to related posts. Happy reading!
Christmas is less than three weeks away (!!), and that means many of us are thinking through what to buy for others in our lives. If you're looking for ideas for the "reader" you know, here are six accessible suggestions based on books I've read and recommend, or books that are very much on my radar screen to read soon.
Most of these suggestions have been recently published (in the last 2-3 years) and will be linked to an Amazon page where you can learn more. You'll see they're listed under 6 categories that I try and stay loosely tethered to:
What other books (in any of these categories listed above) would you suggest people consider? List 'em here!
In Luke 9:23-25, Jesus makes some bold statements about following Him. In a sense, these verses provide a “101 Class” on discipleship.
“Disciple” is a word you’ll hear in church world a lot - and rightfully so. One of Jesus’ last commands is for the church to go and “make disciples” of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Making disciples who make disciples should be on the short list of priorities of every church.
The word disciple literally means “learner.” Don’t just think of a learner in some classroom environment, though. Think “apprentice.” Think “someone learning a skill or a lifestyle.” As followers of Jesus, we’re apprentices of Jesus. Or another way to look at it is that a disciple is someone who walks in the footsteps of someone else.
When I was in college, I went on a couple of backpacking trips in Colorado - one to fulfill some P.E. credit, and one as part of a team building experience for R.A.s. They were great: Get away from civilization, sleep in tents, see some awesome sights in the Rockies, and do a whole lot of hiking. And both times I went, the guide we were with reinforced the value of paying attention to the person in front of you. To watch where they stepped and to follow that same path. To literally walk in their footsteps as much as you could.
As disciples of Jesus, then, we walk in His footsteps. And if the path He went on involved suffering and self-denial (Jesus tells us this in Luke 9:22), we can’t go around that ourselves or skip that part of the trail as His followers. Which is exactly where Jesus takes His instruction to us in Luke 9:23-25:
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.