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. 😀)
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:
Not too long ago I ran across a 10 min video that Justin Taylor posted on The Gospel Coalition, capturing how a tribe in Indonesia responded when they received copies of the New Testament in their own language. Because I wanted to keep this video easily accessible for myself, and because of how this video reinforces the value of biblical literacy (something the Brookside Institute is all about), I wanted to post it here as well.
In John 5:39 Jesus teaches that the Scriptures testify about Him. Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us that God's Word accomplishes His purposes as it goes out. Since that's the case, we should celebrate and support every example of God's Word being made accessible to more and more people.
As the Kimyal Tribe continues to engage God's Word, may it point them more and more to the greatness of Jesus, and may God accomplish mighty things through His Word among them!
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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:
Earlier this summer I took some time and worked through John S. Feinberg's helpful (and thorough - 799 pages!) Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture. Among so many other things I enjoyed about the book, I benefited from how we approached something called "the animation of Scripture" - the belief that Scripture has life-giving, life-changing power that no other book shares.
This life-giving, life changing power of the Bible is WHY the Brookside Institute champions biblical literacy and Bible engagement in all the ways it does. Not because Bible engagement is an end-in-itself, but because the Bible is the primary means by which God introduces Himself, a primary way the Spirit works to grow us, and the clearest presentation of the all-satisfying Person and work of Christ.
Toward the end of this chapter on the animating power of the Bible, Feinberg draws several practical implications from this belief. Let me quote one of the implications he highlights (from pp. 678-69), in hopes that this will encourage all of us to keep coming back to the Bible, that we might experience the life-changing, life-giving power it offers in all the ways it offers it:
God's word has power like no other words ever spoken. Thus, it should be the focus of our study and of our everyday living. Whatever we are called to do, and whatever challenges confront us, our first response should always be to ask what Scripture says about the subject and the deeds in question. Needless to say, that can't happen if we don't read and ponder Scripture. Sadly, even Christians committed to verbal plenary inspiration, the fully inerrancy of Scripture, and the power of God's word find little time in the course of a week to read even a little of it. Believers know the message of Psalm 1 as it compares the happy and blessed man with the man who is unhappy and heading for disaster. The key to both is what they do with Scripture. They happy man grounds his life in God's word. He does not merely take a 'small taste' of it for a half-hour each Sunday morning when his pastor preaches. He meditates on God's word both day and night. As a result, when the storms of life confront him, he survives and even flourishes. The unhappy man, whose life is grounded in pleasure, money-making, self-aggrandizement and / or any of the many philosophies that leave out God and his word, is not ready for life's challenges. At some time in his life there will likely be disaster and ruin, and even if not in this life, he is headed for a horrific eternity.
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Summer is upon us!
If you've got some extra time over the next couple of months - maybe you're traveling a bit, or your summer schedule allows you more time to read for other reasons, or you just want some book recommendations as you maintain a habit of reading - here are a few books (in categories we should keep on our radar screens) you may want to consider. These are books that I've either read recently myself, or am hoping to dig into in the next couple of months.
I encourage you to explore these books a bit (each is linked to their Amazon page where you can learn more), then choose whichever one or two jumps out at you most and dig in!
Every year my wife plants a big garden, and we look forward to all the fruit of that garden throughout the summer and into the Fall. She plants lettuce and tomatoes and peppers and whole lot of other things.
But we also know that if we’re going to eat the fruit of the garden, we need to actively be dealing with the weeds in the garden. Because weeds will steal light and nutrients from the plants we want to grow. Weeds crowd out space you want for the crops to flourish.
Dealing with weeds is a struggle. It’s work! But it’s worth it.
In Colossians 3:5-11, the Apostle Paul tells us to make sure we're dealing with the weeds in our garden. Listen to what he says:
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality,impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.