May 16, 2008


Every day (ideally), I read a passage from the Bible and write down what I think God is telling me through it. Here's a recent entry from my Bible journal when I read Luke 6. I changed a few things to make it more suitable to share. (It's not a recent entry any more. I just found this unposted draft in my blogger account.)

I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. Luke 6:47-48

If I want to be like the one who build on a rock and whose house withstood the flood, then Jesus says I need to do three things.

Come to me. This means Bible reading and contemplation, prayer, worship, listening to and reading sermons, reading other edifying books, and seeking out godly advice. My heart and mind are being influenced somewhere; if not by Jesus, then by whatever I give my attention to. There is no way hear his words, much less put them into practice if I don't first come to him.

Hear my words. Coming to Jesus isn't enough. I can set aside the time for devotions each morning and even "read" my Bible, but somehow my mind has developed the ability to wander far and wide even while my eyeballs are scanning the page. Or I can be sitting in church "listening" to a message while thinking, "I need to talk with that guy before he leaves" or "That curry smells good. I hope the portions are big." Truly hearing Jesus' words takes thoughtful, concentrated effort. It helps me to tease sentences apart, rephrase them in my mind, compare them with others. Like this in Luke 6:

Why does Jesus say "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets"? Just two chapters earlier, "all spoke well of him [Jesus] and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips." (Luke 4:22) Hmmm, but then just after speaking well of Jesus, "all the people in the synagogue were furious [with him]." (4:28) Maybe he means I shouldn't let the way others think count for much, especially the way they "all" (the mob) think. What God thinks of me counts for so much more.

Put my words into practice. The hardest of all. It's easy for me right now, alone with my Bible open, enjoying the sight of the morning sun playing on the trees, a hot mug of coffee in my hand, not to care what others think. But as soon as I am surrounded by people, it's like a reset button is pushed and I switch back to people-pleasing default. The words I heard when I came to Jesus this morning become a misty, muffled echo. How can I act on them when they are so easily swallowed up in the workaday din?

A few possible ways to act on Jesus' words:
  1. Preview the day. Of course each day brings surprises but I can anticipate situations when I will need to put into practice the words I've been given. There's a person who tends to tick me off. I can imagine a concrete way to "do good . . . without expecting to get anything back" (Luke 6:35) and determine in advance to do it.
  2. Write things down. I'm doing it now. Writing focuses the mind and brings swirling, unorganized thoughts into concrete order.
  3. Jingle it. The professionals who create slogans and and catchy tunes are experts at getting their commercial message stuck in our heads. Why not put their work to better use? To keep a key point from today' reading in my mind, I took M&Ms' old jingle, "The milk chocolate melts in you mouth, not in your hands!*" and gave it these words: "Do good to everyone, not just your friends!" This will be in my head all day.
  4. Share it. Again, it's what I'm doing now. Some things aren't real until we share them. The accountability helps too.
  5. Review the day. Take a moment at night to reflect. Give thanks for the victories, deal graciously with failures and commit to going to Jesus again for fresh words to act on the next day.
* Of course the milk chocolate doesn't melt in your hands. It's got the candy shell around it. The candy shell melts in your hands quite easily. What a stupid slogan!

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