Tuesday, June 26, 2007

John Piper Books for $5

 

On Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28, all books are on sale for $5 at desiringGod.org.  (Click here for more info:  http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/690_all_books_for_5/) 

 

From the official announcement:

Every book in our store will be $5 on June 27-28, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

No limits, so spread the word.

(This sale is online only.)

If you take advantage of this offer, I have a few recommendations for your consideration.

 

  1. God's Passion for His GloryThis book shook the foundations of my thinking by showing me why God does what He does.  He made man, not because He was lonely or needed us, but to manifest His glory.  Furthermore, God is glorified not just in making Himself known, but in being delighted in.  The message of Jonathan Edwards' "The End for Which God Created the World" is included in this half-Piper, half-Edwards book (along with many helpful footnotes).  What is the point?  God is glorified not just in His glory being seen, but supremely when it is seen and rejoiced in.  This book is not an easy or fast read (at least it wasn't for me), but it is well worth it, and if I could have only one book from John Piper, this would be it.

 

  1. Don't Waste Your LifeI wish this book had been around when I was a teenager.  I have given this to some recent graduates.  The message:  a life spent suffering (and even dying) for the joy of making Christ known is not a waste.  A waste is trying to be "cool" now and living out your golden years with trivialities instead of living a life of radical sacrifice, service and intense devotion to King Jesus.

 

  1. Let the Nations Be Glad: the Supremacy of God in MissionsThis is a great theology of missions with important practical ramifications.  Piper says missions exists because worship doesn't.  The goal of missions is to take the Gospel individuals from all people groups.  A key implication is that those people who do not have the Gospel in their language need to become more of an emphasis in missions.

 

  1. The Supremacy of God in PreachingThis is a fiery book on preaching and should be an encouragement for every faithful minister.  If you are a pastor or considering the pastorate, please read this book.  If you think your pastor would read it, you may want to get it for him.  I love when Piper recounts how God used a sermon where he did not even have clear application to encourage a struggling family – not with felt-needs mishmash but with a glorious display of the holiness of God.

 

  1. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals – In some ways, this is Don't Waste Your Life for pastors.  The book is full of thought provoking pastors that goes against the grain of the CEO-mentality present in many circles of pastoral leadership and is a call for a radical God-centered, Gospel-focused, Christ-exalting, others-serving ministry that looks different from the business model and will bear lasting fruit for the glory of Christ and the joy of His people and preachers.

 

  1. Preaching the Cross – I don't actually have this book yet, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the audio messages from which it is compiled.  The chapters are from the speakers at the 2006 Together for the Gospel Conference.  Piper spoke on why expositional preaching is particularly glorifying to God and had sage advice for preachers to be men whose sermons should be soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed with the fires of hell.  In other words, preaching is serious business, it is based on God's Word, the glory of God is paramount, and the eternal souls of men and women are our concern.  (The other messages are excellent as well.)

 

  1. Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary GodThis book is by John's wife, Noël Piper, and is another book I have not read.  However, I bought it for my wife and she read it in two days.  It contains biographies of Sarah Edwards (Jonathan's wife), Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare.  My wife found it very encouraging and wants to learn more about these women through whom God showed Himself strong and faithful.

 

(Note: Piper also has biographical works in The Swans Are Not Silent series, which I have read a part of and found helpful.  Titles include The Roots of Endurance (John Newton, Charles Simeon, William Wilberforce), The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin), The Hidden Smile of God (John Bunyan, William Cowper, David Brainerd) and Contending For Our All (Athanasius, John Owen, J. Gresham Machen).  Piper strongly advocates making Christian biography a part of our reading diet and has modeled its importance in books such as these.)

 

I hope you are able to take advantage of this special offer.  Tolle lege – - take up and read!

 

Doug Smith

Saturday, June 23, 2007

19th Century Thoughts on Pulpit Plagiarism: a Fatal Crutch

In my reading of Baptists and the Bible by L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, I came across this quote on page 142:
A strong temptation frequently assails a man, when preparing a sermon, to look around for helps. He can easily find a book of skeletons made to his hand, and it seems to him very convenient to make use of it. Let me urge every brother, as he values his self-respect, his honesty, his ministerial usefulness, as he values his own soul and the souls of others, to resist this temptation at the outset. If he have any of these crutches, let him commit them at once to the flames, or he will never learn to walk. The habit is absolutely fatal.
(from page 283 of Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches, 1857 by Francis Wayland, influential Baptist leader in America)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who's Robbing Whom? Some Thoughts on Pulpit Plagiarism

Is it wrong to preach another pastor's sermon? This issue is certainly not new, but there has been a good bit of discussion in the last few months concerning possible answers to this question, some of which is quite disturbing.

Some prominent pastors, such as Rick Warren and James Merritt, openly encourage other pastors to take their sermons and preach them – even without giving proper credit. However, others disagree. On December 7, 2006, the Albert Mohler Program featured a radio interview between Dr. Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), and Hershael York, a pastor as well as a professor of preaching at SBTS. They are in agreement about this issue, and the title of the program reveals their perspective: "Plagiarism in the Pulpit: Stealing the Material We Preach." They believe a pastor should actually take the time to study and prepare messages suited for his own congregation instead of using something prepackaged and pre-processed. Shocking, isn't it?

I regularly preach in a supply capacity, filling in for pastors or serving churches that do not have a pastor. I also work a full-time job. Study time is a premium amidst family and work responsibilities. It could become a temptation to steal others' sermons.

However, I believe Mohler and York are exactly right concerning this issue. I have been thinking about pulpit plagiarism a fair amount of time lately, and would like to share the following thoughts on the subject. My thoughts are in general terms. I realize there are variations on pulpit plagiarism, ranging from preaching another's sermon verbatim to extensively modifying it. One problem is that credit is often not given where credit is due. Another problem is that people are cheated by this thievery that is being promoted today. And the interesting thing is that the people who suffer the most are not the people whose material is being used, but the people who are stealing it and the people who are having it fed to them. Pulpit plagiarism robs pastors and congregations in at least five ways.

  1. Pulpit plagiarism robs pastors and congregations of spiritual nourishment they can only get from someone who lives among them and labors in the text of Scripture.

The pastor who is content to steal others' sermons robs himself of the valuable discipline of study and its benefits for himself. He has less reason to devote hours throughout the week to the Word than he would if he were preparing the sermon himself. The plagiarizer deprives himself of a great blessing that God would freely give to him and the congregation if he would devote himself to the Word.

The congregation also gets the short end of the stick. Just as the milk from a mother's breast contains nutrients suited for a child that even the best formula cannot replace, a pastor who studies the Word and knows his congregation will be able to feed Christ's sheep with a diet suited to their needs better than any prepackaged sermon can. Phillips Brooks said that a true preacher is one who utters "truth through his own personality," and this is what every congregation needs. There are particular applications of the text that may be irrelevant to a congregation if taken from a canned sermon, and there are particular applications they need that cannot be gained except from their own pastor's labors in the Word. This is especially true in foreign countries where the people may have no clue as to the point of illustrations in America and have certain needs that preachers from other cultures might not touch upon.

  1. Pulpit plagiarism robs pastors and congregations by discouraging consecutive exposition.

A pastor said to me that the best way to feed Christ's sheep is through expounding the Scripture book by book. I believe this is so because it enables you to preach passages with the big picture of its context in mind. When done correctly, expositional preaching lets God set the agenda and makes His Word the authority, rather than the preacher. There are variations on this method. Some, like John MacArthur, have preached dozens of sermons from one Bible book; others, like Mark Dever, preach overview sermons (covering an entire book in one sermon) in addition to covering smaller units of Scripture. Faithful expositors, no matter how large a preaching unit they use, agree with what Dever has said: "An expositional sermon is one in which the point of the passage is the point of the message." And the best way to be able to ensure that you are preaching the point of the passage in each message is to preach consecutively through a book of the Bible.

A plagiarizing pastor may preach expositionally if he steals material from Dever, MacArthur, John Piper or someone else who preaches through books. But I would imagine the tendency for many would be to preach whatever sermon strikes them for the week or whatever the latest topical offering is from the mailing list they are on or the magazine to which they subscribe.

  1. Pulpit plagiarism robs pastors and congregations by encouraging laziness.

A pastor is called to be diligent (2 Timothy 2:15). He is called to take time to think in order to gain understanding: "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things" (2 Timothy 2:7). He must get the knowledge he needs and take time to process that knowledge through meditation and research and study. He must pray and labor. Preaching another man's sermon requires none of this. One could certainly modify it, but the temptation to carry over as much as possible to prevent as much work as possible will be there.

  1. Pulpit plagiarism robs pastors and congregations of a safeguard against false teaching.

If a pastor is too lazy to study for his own sermons, he will probably be too lazy to check out the exegesis and applications of another's sermon to make sure that it is legitimate. He may begin teaching all sorts of false doctrine without even realizing that he is promoting unbiblical ideas. How can he guard the flock if he only takes for granted that he is feeding them healthy food?

  1. Pulpit plagiarism robs pastors and congregations by rendering thieving preachers obsolete.

If a pastor simply preaches a sermon from another preacher, why couldn't someone else from the congregation preach? Why not simply have the person with the most pleasant voice preach? Why not have the person majoring in drama preach a stolen sermon? Better yet, why not show a video every week of a favorite celebrity preacher?

If a pastor simply steals sermons from someone else, why go through all the trouble? Why not fire the pastor or free him up to do the other things he needs to do and let someone else preach a canned sermon or show a video?

On page 226 of his book, Walking with the Giants, Warren Wiersbe gives a relevant warning (emphasis mine):

Two dangers we must avoid as we read the sermonic literature of the past: imitation and plagiarism. Imitation robs me of my individuality, and plagiarism robs me of my character; both are insidious. One young preacher was so taken with the sermons in a certain book that he decided to preach them as a series. What he did not know was that one of his members owned the same book and had read it. As the member left the service one Sunday, he said to his pastor, "That was a fine sermon this morning!" Then he added with a smile, "Next week's is good, too!" The problem, of course, lies not with the character of the printed sermon but with the character of the preacher reading it. Blackwood was rather blunt in his counsel: "If one is tempted to steal the fruits of other men's labors, one ought to let such books severely alone. . . "

Francis Bacon, in one of his essays, compared students to spiders, ants, and bees, and we may justly apply the illustration to preachers. Some preachers never study but, like the spider, spin everything out from within, beautiful webs that never last. Some are like ants that steal whatever they find, store it away, and use it later. But the bee sets the example for us all: he takes from many flowers, but he makes his own honey.

So, let us neither spin sermons without study, nor be thieves like the ant. Let us be like the bee. As we benefit from a multitude of sources, we must make the final product our own. We need to be, as one professor has said, those who milk many cows but make our own butter. Let's learn from many sources; let's assimilate what we have learned and produce our own sermons. If we fail to churn our own butter and merely lift our messages from other men, we do not merely rob them (even if they say it is okay), but we rob ourselves and the people of God of a rich spiritual feast.

Dan Burrell has some helpful practical pointers on how to take care of and encourage your pastor.  Please read this and take his advice!  The article is here: http://www.sharperiron.org/2007/06/18/the-proper-care-and-feeding-of-pastors/

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Oh, Be Careful, Little Eyes, What You See. . ."

 

     Tim Challies' post on Evan Almighty is right on target.  He speaks about the blasphemous nature of movies in this line.  It is an amazing thing that movies mocking the faith once delivered to the saints are being marketed to Christians and that many professing believers are falling for the bait hook, line and sinker without even realizing what has happened (see also Ben Wright's post on this).  I appreciate Tim's confession that he is not strong enough to see the film without being drawn in.  I could not see it myself, and, frankly, don't see how any Christian can justify opening their minds to have such garbage poured in.  It is so easy to become desensitized to the filth Hollywood pours out, particularly as it numbs us to a sense of our own indwelling sin.

     This issue of what Christians watch is one that has been on my mind a good bit lately.  There are certain things that are a matter of conscience in the Christian life – things that the strong can handle without sin that the weak cannot.  But there are other things that are sin no matter whether one is strong or weak.  One area this affects is whether to view certain movies, even if only for the purpose of reviewing them to inform others.  I am enjoying a gift subscription to WORLD Magazine, but I am not alone in expressing my concern, even shock, about some of the films and music reviewed therein.  I am appalled that reviewers who name the name of Christ would subject themselves to the lewd content in many of the movies that are reviewed.  How can one come away unstained?  How can one participate when thinking of how to apply Psalm 101:3?

 

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:

I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

 

     I recently saw a movie in which I was surprised with certain things I saw.  They were mild, even innocuous by the world's standards, but the world's standards are not the Christian's standard.  If I had checked out the review at www.pluggedinonline.com, I might have avoided this.  But even this movie was marketed to Christians and advertised on a pastors' email list from which I receive updates.  Neither WORLD Magazine nor preview.gospelcom.net gave sufficient warning to some of the suggestive content in the film.

     A friend of my said the problem is idolatry.  I think he is right.  We bow at the god of entertainment and don't mind overlooking a few "minor" things.  We bow at the god of social and cultural acceptance and respectability.  And what do we reap from sowing such seeds?  We have people like the 7th grader I once spoke to who knew a great deal about Jim Carrey and nothing about William Carey.  These are people like many we know, even pastors and seminarians; these people are quite a bit more like many of us than we may be comfortable to admit. 

     I am reminded of Isaac Watts' words from "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?":

 

Are there no foes for me to face?

Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace

to help me on to God?

 

     Don't mistake what I'm saying.  There are things that are acceptable for Christians to view.  But we must be careful, guard our eyes and our hearts and remember that Hollywood is not our friend.  "Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see!"

P.S. See also the analysis of Don Fields on this topic here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Six Resources Helpful in Catechizing a 3-Year Old

 

My wife and I are attempting to instruct our children in spiritual matters, although they are both very young (our oldest is three).  We are convinced that family worship is a large part of this responsibility.  Yes, it's tricky with young children.  Some times are easier than others.  We have to contend with "the wiggles."  But we must be patient and persevere.  I have been encouraged in this undertaking by several resources and wanted to point you to some of them.

 

First, the foundational and essential resource is the Bible, because this is where we learn about God, man, Christ, and salvation by faith in Him.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4 taught me, even before I was married and became a father, that I was responsible to see that my children be trained up in the instruction of the Lord.

 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.   And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. 

 

(Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

 

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:

but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

 

(Ephesians 6:4)

 

Second, I must recognize Dr. Don Whitney's booklet, Family Worship: in the Bible, in History and in Your Home.  This booklet showed me the importance of family worship.  The CD has also been helpful (as well as taking a class from Dr. Whitney in which he covered this subject).  This book motivated me by reminding me of the importance of family worship, biblically and historically.  Dr. Whitney's simple approach is very practical:  Read the Bible, pray and sing.  Add Scripture memory, catechizing and reading other books if you have the time.  And it need not be a lengthy time, but it must be regular and consistent.  For a brief synopsis, see this bulletin insert at his website, www.BiblicalSpirituality.org.  Dr. Whitney's point is this:  God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families. 

 

Third, Bev & Jerry Priest's ABC Memory Verse Program (KJV) goes through the alphabet twice, highlighting key words in each verse (for example, for "E," the book gives John 17:3: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent").  The first set of verses is "salvation verses" and the second set is "growth verses."  The book is available at the link above or by emailing Dr. Jerry Priest at gpriest@dbts.edu.  Our oldest child recognizes each letter and knows the key words; we hope to get the verses in the head too in the near future (we have been able to teach a couple).

 

Fourth, The Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos is a helpful summary of the Scriptures for a child.  Much of the Bible is paraphrased; direct quotations are from the KJV.  From creation to the cross to the church to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory, this resource examines the range of salvation history.  It is broken down into 110 chapters for the Old Testament (with shorter sections in some chapters that make good bite-size chunks for reading) and 92 chapters for the New Testament.  There are also some color illustrations.

 

Fifth, the Truth and Grace (TAG) Memory Books edited by Dr. Tom Ascol are another valuable resource.  The strength of these books is that they give parents a plan of instruction in catechism questions, hymns and Scripture memory verses for ages two through high school.  The catechism questions are based on "A Catechism for Boys and Girls."  Our oldest child knows the first four catechism questions and answers and is on the second Scripture memory verse, but sometimes has an interesting take on things.  One time she recited:  "In the beginning God created . . . bananas!" 

 

Sixth, Judy Rogers' CD, Teach Me While My Heart Is Tender, as far as we can tell, has caused more theological truth to stick to the minds of our children than anything else.  Our oldest child goes around the house singing the songs, many of which are based on a catechism similar to the one used in the Truth and Grace Memory Books mentioned above.  Several of the songs are also based directly on Scripture.  These songs are fun and catchy and present good theology.  This CD is a 30-song collection of selections from Judy's albums, "Why Can't I See God?," "Go to the Ant," "Walkin' Wise" and "Stand Up!"

 

I hope this list is helpful to you, but more than getting any particular book or help is the fact of actually teaching your family about the Lord.  Whatever resources you may use, if you have a family, God has called you to say with Joshua, no matter what others around you may do or fail to do (including other Christians), "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Developing Your Spiritual Life by Gazing at Glory:

a Meditation on 2 Corinthians 3:18 (Part 3 of 3)

 

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,

are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV

 

 

     In the last two articles, we looked at the need to have our face unveiled like a camera's lenscap needs to be removed (speaking of God's work of converting us), and we saw that we must have sufficient exposure to God's Word to develop properly.  In this last article of the series on 2 Corinthians 3:18, we find this truth concerning our spiritual lives:

 

3. Time must be given for the image to develop. 

 

     Proper spiritual development occurs as a progressive change.  To be changed and conformed to the image of Christ is a process that takes time.  The amount of time it takes for pictures to develop with older cameras compared to modern digital ones is a major difference in those types of technology.  There is no instant digital process to immediately make Christians as Christlike as they need to be, apart from that glorious day that is our blessed hope, when believers are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).  There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity; no one suddenly attains to sinless perfection in this life.  Remember that the apostle Paul wrote of his struggles with indwelling sin in Romans 6 and 7 referring to his experience as a believer.

     However, praise be to God, believers do become more Christlike as they behold the glory of God in His Word.  The Spirit of the Lord is changing believers "from glory to glory," that is, from one degree of glory to the next, like the stages of a metamorphosis He has activated in us.  We are no longer dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), but we are like men with a deadly disease being reversed by the antidote.  The cure has begun its work but full recovery takes time.

     Because spiritual development is a progressive change, we must remember that we will never "arrive" in this life.  No one reaches a point where he or she can no longer grow as a Christian.  This reminds us that we should be teachable as long as we live, and open to change and challenge if clearly instructed from God's Word.

     The fact that we can always grow spiritually means we always have something to look forward to.  As we continually expose ourselves to the glory of God in His Word with our unveiled face, the indelible stamp of His image on our lives will become more and more obvious as the days and years pass.

 

     So, how does your spiritual life compare to a camera? 

     Is the lenscap off?  In other words, are you converted?  Are the words of God a mystery and nonsense to you?  Or has God's Spirit unveiled your face?  This is everyone's natural condition, because of man's rebellion against God.  Although the image of God has been marred and shattered in man, Christ came to redeem us.  This sinless One lived a perfect life and died as a substitute for sinners, bearing the punishment we deserved.  He rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven and is returning to the earth one day.  If the lenscap is still on and all is dark, look to Him for this change that you can never make.  You can never turn over enough "new leaves" to make yourself a new creation and raise yourself from spiritual deadness, but the omnipotent God who spoke the world into existence and raises the dead can do this by His Spirit.  Turn to the Lord; trust in Jesus Christ the Lord, so that you will know what it is like to have an unveiled face.

     Are you receiving sufficient exposure?  In other words, are you getting quality and quantity time in God's Word, or just catches glimpses here and there?  Be sure you are setting aside a regular, daily time to read God's Word, meditate on it and apply it to your life.  There is no spiritual development if you ignore the Word of God, where you see the image that God changes you into.  Gaze at His glory in His Word; steadfastly behold it, looking intently to learn what He would teach you.

     What does your development show?  Are there signs of growth?  Are you on an upward path?  True Christians, as all living things, will grow.  But remember that this growth is a process.  Do not compare yourselves to others, but to God's Word, which is the standard.  Comparison to those who are not as mature may lead to pride.  Comparing yourself with those who are more mature may lead to despair.  Comparing yourself to the rule of God's Word will give you an accurate picture whereby you may assess your spiritual development, which should lead, over time, to a growing hatred of sin and a deepening love for God, His Word and His people.

    Be sure your lenscap is off, that you are getting proper exposure, and that you are seeing signs of progressive development.  May the Lord increase in us our desire to be like Christ, and may He hasten that blessed day "when He shall appear" and "we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).  Until then, may God continually make us more like Christ, as with unveiled faces, we gaze at His glory in His Word.

Developing Your Spiritual Life by Gazing at Glory: a Meditation on 2 Corinthians 3:18 (Part 2 of 3) “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” - 2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV

Last time we noted that the “lenscap must be removed” from our “camera” in order to develop our spiritual life, as we need an open, or unveiled, face in order to see the glory of the Lord. The second thing that we need to remember is that:

2. There must be sufficient exposure to the desired image.

Just as a camera requires adequate exposure to an image in order to properly develop, proper spiritual development requires a steadfast gaze. In other words, we must behold the glory of the Lord. We must fix our eyes and give full attention for a significant period of time.

Where do we look? The thing we focus on is of utmost importance, as we see God in the place that He has clearly and infallibly revealed Himself – in the Bible, which has all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and is so complete that God’s man can be “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We behold the glory of the Lord “as in a glass.” This means we look into it like we look in a mirror. When one looks into a mirror, if any good is to be done, one pays attention to details. As we look into the Bible to see the glory of God, we want to make sure we are really beholding Him and receiving adequate exposure, otherwise, we will not properly develop. Stealing a glance here and there is not sufficient. In our busy, information-saturated age, we will receive God’s Word like all the other “water” that flows through a pipe and retain little or none of it without an intentional commitment to pay attention. We need to be like plants absorbing nutrients.

George Müller, a man known for his godliness and faith, who was used of the Lord to provide for many orphans in 19th century England and who distributed much helpful literature and preached the Gospel to multitudes, knew what it was to fix a steadfast gaze on the glory of the Lord in His Word.

The first thing I did (early in the morning), after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. . . . With this mode I have likewise combined the being out in the open air for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours before breakfast, walking about in the fields, and in the summer sitting for a little on the stiles, if I find it too much to walk all the time. I find it very beneficial to my health to walk thus for meditation before breakfast, and am now so in the habit of using up the time for that purpose, that when I get in the open air, I generally take out a New testament of good-sized type, which I carry with me for that purpose, besides my Bible: and I find that I can profitably spend my time in the open air, which formerly was not the case for want of habit. . . . The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this. Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. . . . But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.

(quoted in Roger Steer, George Müller Delighted in God, published by Christian Focus, 1997, pages 91-92.)

Let us learn from Müller’s example. Only by making time and intentionally spending it in God’s Word can we grow in our spiritual lives. Use a Bible reading plan. Pray through Scripture, line by line. Meditate on it, chewing it as a cow chews the cud, “regurgitating it” throughout the day and freshly going over it again. Memorize it in verses and even in paragraphs, chapters, and whole books. Apply it to your life so that it sticks – obey it. Share it with others. Doing these things will help us to have a steadfast gaze, and, therefore, sufficient exposure to God’s Word.

Let us be sure our lenscap is off and that we are getting adequate exposure to God’s Word.

Steadfastly beholding God in His Word is a sure means to spiritual growth, but things may not move as fast as we always hope, a matter that we will look at in our third and final installment on 2 Corinthians 3:18.