Tag Archives: bible reading plan

The Purpose of Spiritual Disciplines

If you are new to disciple making, you may or may not know what spiritual disciplines are or know of their purpose.

In 1 Timothy 4:7b Paul instructs his disciple, Timothy, to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”  Therefore, every disciple maker is tasked with this same instruction.  We are to discipline (train as diligently as an Olympic athlete) ourselves unto godliness.

DISCIPLINE

In 1 Timothy 4:7, the Greek word for discipline is gumnazo.  The word means to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind. It conveys the picture of the rigorous, persevering, painstaking, diligent, strenuous, self-sacrificing training an athlete undergoes for a perishable prize, and which the Christian “athlete” should be willing to undergo for an imperishable prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) which in the present context is “godliness” a “prize” that is profitable for this life and the life to come.

In ancient Greece, the word gumnazo was used to describe naked Olympians.  They believed clothing hindered their speed, so they threw off all their clothing and competed in their birthday suits.  So it is with a Christian disciple, we must throw off anything and everything that hinders us from whole-heartedly pursuing the spiritual disciplines that reap a harvest in this life and the next. We may need to throw off time with friends, family, obsessive exercise, television, or anything that takes time away from our obedience to Christ.

Think back to that time of life when you learned everything you now accomplish unconsciously.

We all learned to walk and talk at some point, but how many of us remember our first step or our first word? It took an innate discipline to learn to talk and walk, but we were unaware of it at the time. We are more likely to remember learning to ride a bicycle for the first time or learning to swim. Did you jump into the pool the first time and swim?  How many times did you fall from that bike before you mastered the precise balance to stay upright?  Most of us will remember those feeble attempts at learning something new that was frightening or extremely difficult to master, but we persevered unto proficiency.

The Good Lord supplies the will within us to do the disciplines of the faith and it is our requirement to provide the way or means of undertaking them. Spiritual disciplines require persistent dedication if we are to gain an ounce of benefit from them.

Since we remain disciples of Christ for all eternity, our learning never ceases.  Our growth as a disciple is a lifelong journey which is accomplished by means of spiritual disciplines.

Some of us may only apply ourselves to one or two of the spiritual disciplines and others may practice most or all of them.

GODLINESS

In 1 Timothy 4:7, Timothy is encouraged to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. This godliness is an outward piety which does not necessarily denote an inherent holiness.  In practicing the spiritual disciplines, we become acquainted with The One who has saved us. When we practice the disciplines with fervency, our knowledge of Him and His holy principles become engraved upon our hearts. It is a transmogrification that occurs imperceptibly to the one engaging with persistent regularity. Therefore, we are developing spiritual muscles which prepare us to train others.

Did you catch that?

PRACTICING THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES IS FOR OTHERS

This nugget of wisdom came to me as I was reading Isaiah 58:10-11

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.

“And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

In practicing the spiritual disciplines habitually, the result is preparedness to teach and train others. We give ourselves to the hungry.  The hungry aren’t only the physically hungry, but those who are spiritually hungry.  “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)  As we are practicing the spiritual disciplines, the Lord is filling us with choice morsels that will feed others – most often, without our perception.

Matthew Henry says it well, “See here what is the surest way for a man to make himself illustrious; let him study to do good. He that would be the greatest of all, and best-loved, let him by humility and industry make himself a servant of all.”[1]

As we submit ourselves to the disciples of the faith, He is actively at work within us. It may seem like a drudgery at times, but if we consider His presence with us, we may be assured that the time spent practicing the spiritual disciplines is never in vain.  It is the proverbial plowing of an idle field; we are tilling fallow ground to bring forth new growth.

It is the Lord who will redeem our time and diligence by putting us in circumstances that will lead to, not only our own godliness, but disciple making opportunities.

Press on, faithful one!

 

Click the links below for lists of the Spiritual Disciplines: 

(As you will see, there are different methods and means suggested.  Do not let yourself be overwhelmed thinking you must practice each discipline every day.  I find that I can read one bible verse and meditate on it all day long. Or I will encounter a bible verse that sends me to my knees in repentance and confession.  DO NOT allow the disciplines to become a legalistic obligation.  Enjoy the disciplines – in doing so, you will witness the fruit of your commitment!

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Spiritual Disciplines

What Are Spiritual Disciplines?

Richard Foster’s List of Spiritual Disciplines with descriptions PDF

 

[1] Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the Whole Bible, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/isaiah/58.html

Nurturing the Divine Nature

Just as food nourishes our bodies to keep us healthy, God’s Word is designed to keep us spiritually healthy.

Are you starving or thriving?

Are those you disciple starving or thriving?

Most of us eat three meals each day, but as sure as skipping breakfast causes us to grow weary before the noon meal, skipping daily spiritual nourishment will leave us fragile, unguarded, and easy prey to the corruption of the world around us. We are literally unarmed against the onslaught of bullets the world and our spiritual enemy fires at us.

I am a walker. I take short walks three to four times each day. As I walk around the neighborhood in the evening, I can see that the television is on in nearly every household I pass. I don’t know what my neighbors are watching, but I often wonder what sort of moral or ethical filters (if any) they have in place to combat the onslaught of wickedness and sometimes erroneous messages being presented. Are they filtering the messages they are hearing and seeing?

In order to quell any suspicion of my condemnation, I turn on the television in the evening as well. I usually watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. If you have ever watched this program, you are aware that it is less than upright in its morality and is entirely accurate in its portrayal of our spiritually bankrupt culture. Quite often I fast-forward through scenes that are completely objectionable and I still get the story line without being subjected to offensive human morality.  I have filters in place that say, “Don’t go there!”  My filters are not perfected, but after more than thirty years of sitting at Jesus’ feet, there are filters in place.

The point being — what filters has the Lord put in place in order for you to navigate the murky moral waters in which we dwell?

There is a spiritual discipline we have learned by constant practice and development. It is the spiritual discipline of reading God’s Word daily.

I love the way David says it in Psalm 63:2

psalm-63_2-i-have-seen-you-in-the-sanctuary

David was a frequent flyer to the Lord’s sanctuary.

It is a fundamental responsibility for all His children to frequent His sanctuary to behold His power and glory.

His sanctuary is wherever we choose to make it. His sanctuary is wherever we are.

We enter His sanctuary seeking an increase of grace and peace for the day.  [1]

Nourishing the Divine Nature

2-peter-1_2_4-grace-and-peace

Nurturing the Divine Nature means we enter His sanctuary daily presenting ourselves to behold His power and glory, thereby taking in His promises and guidance as our daily nourishment.

Do you go into His sanctuary every day to behold the glory and power of the Lord?

Are your heart, mind and morals being transformed according to His divine nature?


Disciple Making Process

So, how do we, as disciple makers, train a new believer to nurture the divine nature they have been granted at conversion?

What do they need that will save them from the corruption of the world and their own evil desires?

It is our duty, as disciple makers, to train a new believer to form godly habits – but how?

If you have raised, or are raising children, you know they didn’t come forth from the womb with an appetite for steak or pot roast. You fed them milk before you introduced pureed cereal, vegetables and fruit. Later, after they grew some teeth, you methodically introduced them to solid foods. For me, it seemed like a never-ending process, but in retrospect it only took a year to get them to eat solid food.

Training a disciple in godly habits is the same process.


1 Cor 3:2 Nurturing DiscipleshipBaby food

Give the one you are discipling a daily assignment.

A new disciple’s greatest need is assurance of their salvation, so give them assurance of salvation verses to read each day.

  • Click here for a list of Assurance of Salvation verses.
  • Choose one per day until you next meet together.
  • Ask them to memorize their favorite verse from the list.
  • See the blog post “Self-Feeders” and pray for them every day!

When you come together again, ask them to tell you how they know they are a Christian.

If they are unable to identify themselves as a Christian, share the gospel message with them and invite them to become partakers of the divine nature.

Introduce “Quiet Time”

You can call it whatever you wish. Simply introduce them to the discipline of daily Bible reading.

Ask them to read only one assurance of salvation verse each morning.

Ask them to think of any questions they may have about it and write it down for your next meeting.

If you are led by the Spirit, call or text them to see if there are any questions after a few days. Do not call or text if you are not led.

Gentle encouragement is what they need as they begin their journey of discipleship.

One note here: If they do not complete these verses for your next meeting, you will want to pray about their commitment to the discipleship process. Do not waste your time if you feel they lack interest or motivation. If they have read more than the one verse per day, you know you have a dedicated disciple!


[1] Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (2 Pe 1:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.


Your Comments help keep this blogger going.  Don’t be shy!!!

Self-Feeders

Developing self-feeding disciples needs to be a disciple maker’s highest priority.

One of the pitfalls I have fallen into as a disciple maker is allowing those I have discipled to become dependent upon my instruction and direction each week instead of developing them into independent self-feeders.

When I invite someone into discipleship training, I ask them for a two year commitment of their time.  Jesus spent three years with His disciples and they were together pretty much 24/7.  That is some intensive life-on-life training!  My once per week table time with disciples is a pitiful investment by comparison.

Why is it so important that we develop self-feeders?

 

Jesus is the Bread of Life

“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” [1]

John 6:57-58

 

Disciple Makers today have a plethora of material resources at our disposal for training disciples. However, if we don’t model and teach them to feed themselves on a daily basis we have failed miserably!


Pray for Self-Feeders

The following list is borrowed from “The Lost Art of Disciple Making” by Leroy Eims.

Pray your disciples will long for the Word of God.

Monday   

Pray Psalm 119:97

“Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.”

Prayer:  O Lord, may (name of disciple) love your law and meditate on it daily.

 

Tuesday 

Pray Psalm 119:29

“Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes them.”

Prayer:  Lord, may (name of disciple) consider Your Word wonderful and obey it fully.”

 

Wednesday

Pray Psalm 119:131

“I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments.”

Prayer:  May (name of disciple) have this kind of a desire for Your Word.

 

Thursday  

Pray Psalm 119:140

“Thy Word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it.”

Prayer:  Lord, may (name of disciple) have a great love for Your Word.

 

Friday

Pray Psalm 119:148

“My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may mediate on Thy Word.”

Prayer:  May (name of disciple) look forward to nighttime so that (name of disciple) can meditate on Your Word as (name of disciple)                                              goes to sleep.

 

Saturday     

Pray Psalm 119:162

“I rejoice at They Word, as one who finds great spoil.”

Prayer:  O Lord, help (name of disciple) rejoice in Your Word constantly.


As you can see from this example, any verse from Psalm 119 can be transformed into a prayer for your disciple/s with regard to discovering a hunger and thirst for the Word of God on a daily basis.

Without learning to feed themselves on the Word of God, they will become wholly dependent upon you and others to feed them the pure meat of the Word.  They will be crippled for the remainder of their life if they do not learn to feed themselves.

Right now I am imagining a starving person.  We have all seen the images on our television or in magazines.  The emaciation of a starving human being makes us want to look away, doesn’t it?  The same goes for a disciple of Christ who has not disciplined themselves to feed on God’s Word on a daily basis. It is the same as going without nourishment of the body for days, weeks, months on end.  It leads to death – spiritual death.

Start them on the righteous path – pray for them to be given a hunger for His Word that they will nourish themselves daily for the rest of their earthly life.

Model self-feeding for them. Share what you have feasted on during your time apart from one another and ask them to do the same.

[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Bible Reading

Peter, James, and John fell asleep when Jesus went to pray at Gethsemane and asked them to stay in this place and keep watch. Jesus returned to them three times and found them sleeping. Mark 14:32-41

We read this story and react with embarrassment or mocking at their falling asleep, but the truth is, we are all prone to proverbially fall asleep when it comes to the disciplines of the faith.

When you awaken in the morning, visualize Jesus sitting on your living room couch. He is longing to meet with you every morning. He desires to be the first, but we sleepily walk past Him and get on with the business of our day without giving Him a moment’s thought.

Our lack of discipline causes us to fall asleep when He is waiting for us to meet with Him every morning. This is a ringing siren that we do not fear God enough to give Him the first fruit of our daily lives.

The disciplines of the faith are our first fruit. They are the stuff of which disciples are made and affirmed.


Bible Reading

Why is bible reading such an important discipline to learn?

I would say the most important reason is found in Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Since the word of God is living and active, meaning it is alive with the Holy Spirit; the very nature and essence of God is with us as we read His Word.  It is in the reading of His Word that He shows up and corrects, rebukes, and encourages us.

Reading your bible daily is a discipline that requires perseverance and a plan.

We all live chaotic lives with pressures and demands, but the discipline of daily bible reading will pay dividends in alleviating the pressure and chaos that threaten to undo us at every turn.

Let the anchor hold! The Word of God is our anchor. It keeps us in safe harbor when the world around us is caught in the tempest.

Find a Bible reading plan and discover what works best for you in completing it.

Many might instruct that Bible reading take place first thing in the morning. However, God doesn’t care the time of day; He only cares that you consistently show up!

Any disciple maker worth their salt will instill the disciplines of the faith.  The fundamental nature of disciples is to follow and model.  If you, as a disciple maker, are reading your bible daily the affect will be obvious to those you disciple.

Go ye, therefore, and make disciples…. Mt. 28:19

abraham-lincoln-on-the-bible-09-10-2016

Here are a few recommendations for Bible Reading:
  • Go to Blue Letter Bible and choose a Bible Reading Plan
  • Go to Bible Gateway and choose a Bible Reading Plan (available in audio format)
  • Go to The Listener’s Bible; beautifully read by Max McLean (short and sweet)
  • Get up an hour earlier and read in a quiet place
  • Listen to the bible during your morning commute
    • Find a Bible app with audio for your electronic device
  • Read before going to bed
  • Disciple Makers: encourage journaling when reading, then ask them to share some insights when you are together