Where do you go to engage in the spiritual discipline of study?
I’ve been thinking about this recently because of a podcast I listened to the other day. I like the Renovare podcasts, and enjoyed the recent one entitled, “Spiritual director and author Fil Anderson and lawyer Justin Campbell talk with Nathan Foster about how to study for transformation instead of just information.” If you would like to listen to it yourself, you can find it here.
One of the interviewees spoke of the helpfulness it was to him having a separate room in the house for study. The interviewer, Nathan, does not have space in his home for a separate room, but has a chair set aside for study. Nothing else happens in that chair except study. When he is in that chair he does not allow himself to have his phone within reach or any other device that might distract.
Why do we need a place free from interruption? We need it because intimacy and understanding are bred in a focused environment.
It is well known that Jesus took himself away in order to be with God. In Mark he, “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). In Luke he, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)
Jesus may not have had a house with a study room, nor a chair for regular study. But that did not prevent him from being intentional about removing himself from people and other distractions in order to be focused on God.
To be honest, I’ve let this slip in my life. Therefore, here are my new resolutions. I would like to know what you think of these, and I’d like to know the practices which you have found helpful.
Here are the specifics of what I will do to enjoy more satisfying study:
1. Phone out of sight
The phone will go into my pocket, behind me on a shelf, or in a drawer. I have already disabled almost all notifications on my phone, but even the sight of it can be a temptation to distraction.
2. Noise-cancelling headphones
I have a really nice set of Sony noise cancelling headphones. I need to put them to better use. I already have a favourite piece of music I play when I’m doing my Bible study (Mozart piano concerto in D minor K466 if you’re interested). Now I will pipe it straight into my ears and allow the noise cancelling technology to keep me in my study-world.
3. Clear the desk
I don’t have much on my desk. I think better without clutter. However, I do have one or two things on the surface such as my Full Focus Planner and gratitude journal. These, and anything else I will remove from the desk surface.
I shall try these for the next month and let you know how it goes. Of course, this is not intended to create some new rule as if to say this is the only way to do it. Nor is ‘study’ exclusively connected to Bible study. This could apply to reading books, magazines and other materials.
Your study space might be a particular seat on the train, a park bench, the passenger seat in your car. It does not matter so much where it is. It matters more that we find and make the most of a special space for study.
What do you need to put out of site? What do you need to turn off, or turn on to help you be focused? What else do you do to enjoy deeper study?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
Ben May preached on the parable of the wedding banquet, Matt 22.1-14
““But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 22:11–13 NIV11)
I composed an extemporary communion.
Clothing – Gal 3.26-29
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26–29 NIV11)
Could have added disrobing of Jesus on cross so we can be robed.
1. Know what the speaker’s topic/scripture is beforehand
2. Make notes during the sermon – surprising how more comes to mind when see it written down
3. Don’t force it – if necessary read 1 Cor 11.23-26 and pray
* Tried it?
Pass it on ….
Like & Subscribe….
Thank you for watching this video. You can find more teaching tips here and on the YouTube teaching tips playlist.
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: email@example.com.
Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.
My morning prayer walk was messier than expected. It was all caused by a casual grab at the wrong support.
One of my favourite prayer walks takes me to the edge of a canal. There is no bridge at this point, but you can cross by walking along the top of the lock gates. It’s narrow, but there are handrails. This particular morning I stepped up onto the top of the gates. I reached out towards the ironmongery with my right hand to steady myself.
Instead of feeling the cool iron under my fingers, I sensed a sticky gooey mess. I stopped, looked at my right hand and saw thick black grease. Instead of grabbing for the handrail, I had mistakenly reached for the mechanism which moved the sluice gates. They are heavily greased to protect them from the water.
Stepping off the lock, I approached a tree. With the help of several leaves I removed most of the grease from my hand.
I reflected on what lesson there might be for me from this experience. What do I grab for? What do I reach for when I need support?
1. Superficial support
Too often I prioritise feeling better instead of getting better. The instant-fix support sees me turning on the television, listening to a podcast or raiding the fridge. None of these are wrong in themselves. They are meant to be enjoyed – God gave us lots of things specifically for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17).
It’s just that they cannot provide the kind of support I need when I am struggling with something spiritual. You know the kind of thing. When I don’t want to persevere. When I don’t want to love someone. When I don’t feel like praying.
The problem with reaching for the superficial support is twofold. Firstly, it is only a temporary diversion and distraction. The original problem comes back with a bang.
Secondly, the consequences are a stickiness in my soul – rather like the grease on my hand. Because I have delayed dealing with the situation spiritually, procrastination is now clogging up my spirit. If I had dealt with the matter in a more spiritual manner, I could have moved onto the next challenge to my faith. Now, however, I have one piled on top of another. Not a good situation, and not a winning feeling.
2. Spiritual support
What I really need is spiritual support. What does that look like? Here are two suggestions.
i. Church support. I don’t mean the organisation, but the network of relationships. We are meant to be interconnected. If we are, we will feel the support of our community. Paul made the point in Ephesians:
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV11)
Those friendship-ligaments are a source of support when I am weak. Are you connected enough to feel that support? What is your part in that?
ii. God support. He is a very willing supporter. We don’t have to push him into it. We understand this intellectually. The point, however, is to grasp it from the heart. The Psalmist accepted this:
“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18–19 NIV11)
There is no substitute for the support of the Lord. It is his love that convinces us of his unconditional support. It’s personal with him. He wants to support us not because it is a duty or a project. No. His heart is one of compassion and connection. He is able to grant us not only the fact of support but the feeling of support if we are willing to accept it.
What did Jesus say? “I am with you”, (Matt 28.20). Reflect on him walking with you. Today. Pray to be aware of his presence and support. Next time you need some support, pause before reaching for the remote. Take a moment to call a friend and call on God.
If he is with me, that’s enough. He may not change the situation. His support may not change how I feel. But I know he’s in it with me, and that’s enough.
What happened when you tried this? What difference did it make to your day?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community. Pass the link on….
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
This quote from Gustav Holst (British classical music composer) is interesting;
“Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you.”
I would say that the same holds for preaching.
Many of my sermons have been delivered with a sense of relief (I had to get that out), but at times some have lacked the itch.
Why ‘preach’ if you have not felt the imperative?
Why speak if the holding in is not more painful than the letting go?
Jeremiah felt the pain we are talking about here:
“Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:8–9 NIV)
Peter and John experienced something similar when they were instructed not to preach:
“But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” (Acts 4:19–20 NIV)
Those of us granted the grace to preach the Word of God have a responsibility to make sure we are responding to a deep inner authentic call emanating from God’s Word, stirring our soul and spilling out onto the ears and hearts of the hearers God has gifted us.
How do we develop this ‘positive nuisance’?
Here are three tips:
1. Get a soaking – while quality is more important than quantity, it is undeniably true that more time reading, thinking about and studying the Bible gives us a clearer sight of the heart of God. Spend quantity time in the Bible regularly.
2. Ask the questions – questioning the text opens up our own imagination, which in turn prompts the heart. Questions such as, “What did the hearers think this meant?”, “What did the writer intend his hearers to understand?”, “What action might God have hoped we might take from this passage?”
3. Pray the text – praying through the passage or about the themes of the passage helps us to deepen our conviction levels. Often I have experienced God’s hand putting the truth of a passage onto my heart through a time of prayer.
Put these tips into practice and the ‘nuisance’ value of scripture will grow in you as in me.
Jesus taught as one with authority (Mk 1:27) and the people were amazed at him.
There were several reasons for this, but one was that when he spoke everyone could tell he was not able to stop himself.
It just had to come out.
Let it be like that for every sermon we preach, every lesson we teach.
Your thoughts? Please post a comment and pass it on ….
One Bible verse had a profound effect on my prayers this morning.
As I often do, I turned to the Psalms before going out to pray. I have been working through the Psalms of Ascent and have reached Psalm 133.
“A song of ascents. Of David. How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psalms 133:0–3 NIV11)
It is a Psalm of beautiful idealism. God’s people living in unity. Not something that existed for very long at any point in Israel’s history. Not something which exists in many denominations and amongst Christendom today. And, frankly not something that exists consistently in my own network of relationships.
In particular, I focused on this phrase from the psalm:
“It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.” (Psalms 133:2 NIV11)
I reflected on the fact that, “In Israelite practice anointing was a sign of election and often closely related to endowment by the Spirit.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary).
“When we see each other as God’s anointed, our relationships are profoundly affected.” (p181)
I determined to go out and pray for someone I found difficult to love. To hold them in my mind and heart before God as someone anointed. Someone special to God. Someone chosen by him and just as specially favoured as I or any other person.
As I walked through the park on my prayer walk, I picked one person and focused on seeing them as anointed. What a humbling experience. All of a sudden I stopped looking down on that person. Instead, I could see that he and I were on the same level ground.
I felt differently about him. I felt differently about myself. I could and would love him.
Is there someone you find difficult to love? Someone close to you. Why not decide to hold them in prayer before God and before your spiritual eyes as someone chosen, elected, adopted and anointed by him? Give it a go in your next prayer time.
What happened when you tried this? What difference did it make to the way you see this person and feel about this person? Will it change your behaviour?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.