Monday, June 9, 2008

15 minutes: what could you do with it?

Following up on the post I did yesterday based off of the sermon on Sunday, I thought I would 'walk' through my Bible reading today. Reading and seeking to apply God's Word consumed 15 minutes of my day. (A side note...I don't think many of us are so busy that 15 minutes is more than we can spare. Some who read this may spend 30 minutes a day in Bible reading or more, but this post is to evaluate what you could do if you only have 15.)
  • STEP ONE - I prayed asking God's guidance and my heart to be soft in reading His word. Based off of a Bible reading plan that I use, I realized the reading for today is Deuteronomy 13 and 14.

  • STEP TWO - Before I read, I wanted to understand the context of what I was reading so I looked up the passage in How to Read the Bible Book by Book. It alerted me to the fact that what drives Deuteronomy is "a deep concern for Israel's uncompromising loyalty to Yahweh." It also told me that "The reason the Israelites are to love Yahweh in this way is that he first loved them." Also, I was reminded that "the only hope for Israel to bless the nations is for them to obliterate all forms of idolatry and to walk in the ways of the God who redeemed them to be his people." It hinted that chapter 13 will speak of loving God while chapter 14 will speak of loving our neighbor. The book gave a basic overview of chapters 12-16, and covered in broad strokes what I would be reading.

  • STEP THREE - With an idea of context, I now could proceed to the NIV Study Bible and read the text. The chapters seemed to have info that was pretty antiquated including very specific dietary laws. In addition, chapter 13 was very harsh concerning how to deal with every possible hint of idolatry.

  • STEP FOUR - Some observations I gleaned from my reading were: (1) God's word should always be looked to above man's words, (2) Part of the punishment for sin is a motivation for others NOT to do it, (3) Some of God's promises are conditional, (4) Outward practices can reveal our hearts, (5) Tithing was to serve as an educational tool to the Israelites to revere God (6) God sets boundaries, but even in those boundaries, we are given freedom to enjoy, and (7) God remembers the disadvantaged of society and we would do well to share his heart for them. I jotted these down in a notebook. There are surely many more things that can be said.

  • STEP FIVE - In my reading I came across some helpful observations in the NIV Study Bible: (1) God tests to see if he has all of our hearts, (2) a synthesis of this passage with a Numbers passage that also gave instruction concerning the tithe, and (3) God's desire to be unique in being worshiped in a centralized location rather than the idols who were worshiped anywhere people wanted. (This reminded that even in the OT, there were exclusive ways to come into the presence of God)

  • STEP SIX - I closed out the last remaining minutes with a glance at the New Bible Commentary. I found this quote to be extremely helpful: "The measures commanded here are severe indeed, but they should be seen against the background of the powerful temptations which did indeed come to Israel during her history in the land of Canaan. The books of Kings are a story of chronic failure in this respect. Idolatry would, and did, undermine the very purpose for which God chose Israel, which was in the end the salvation of the world." Another thought that was instructive is: "The tithe as presented here is typical of Deuteronomy, however. It is celebrated by all Israel at the central place of worship. It is marked by joy in worship of the one God, and symbolizes the oneness of the people by stressing the fact that all share in it. And it shows a people that were at the same time obedient (in bringing its tithes) and blessed with abundance of the land (in the feast which the offering itself affords them)."

  • STEP SEVEN - I prayerfully considered what in my life was not in accord with what I read. I realized that often I don't share God's passion against the idols in my life. I repented of the things that were beginning to draw my heart away from Him. I also was convicted that religious practices should lead to an ultimate joy. I further realized that I don't express the same compassion for the disadvantaged that God does here and Christ does in the NT! I asked God to change my heart, and began to realize some immediate tangible ways that could change. I ended with a short prayer time.
15 minutes! What spiritual fruit could come from a year's worth of 15 minutes?

More thoughts tomorrow...