When I was a young mom, I struggled with getting up before my kids to have quiet Bible study time. I stopped kicking myself for not reading the Bible first thing in the morning (my oldest was awakening – on his own – at 5 am) and tried to read at another time. I asked my husband to get me a lighter weight Bible (this was before the days of smart phones, folks) so I could hold it while I rocked the boys to sleep. Nighttime reading worked for me and my lifestyle. I started reading a chapter in Proverbs a day. I wanted to study more, but at that season, that was what I could do. We went to church, we discussed the sermon, and I prayed for everyone we met on the playground (after we had departed, that is). As I started being able to spend a bit more time away from my kiddos, I went to an evening ladies Bible study. In that Bible study, the writer was pointing out that we are to have quiet time with the Lord every day, AND she stated in her video something to the effect of, “Yep, sorry, ladies, but it is supposed to be the first thing you do in the morning. No excuses.” I was crushed. As a rule-following people-pleaser, I listened to the ladies in the room agree with the speaker/author of the study, and I felt disappointed that my time with the Lord was not good enough.
So, why share that tidbit? Well, moms and dads, as we discuss and apply some things this year about family discipleship and biblical community, we are all going to get some things wonderfully right and some things horribly wrong, but time with the Lord is NEVER wrong, whether in the morning, the evening or anywhere in between. Please do not let anyone derail your efforts to grow closer with God, including us. If you disagree with something we write or if you have any questions, please comment and let us know. If something cuts at your heart of hearts, let’s talk; we can all learn together. You will have stops and starts. Quite honestly, the reason our family is exploring the spiritual disciplines for the year (using Dr. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life) is because I know that I need to implement them much better. This past season of medical illnesses in our family has taken its toll on my spiritual walk, and I need God and His spiritual hand-holding.
If we want to have godly homes, we must pursue being godly. An athlete does not just decide that he wants to go to the Olympics, sign up, and win the gold medal. He must learn the basics, practice often – failing, losing, winning, and try it all over again. He must hone his skills beyond the basics, letting the basics become automatic as he adds more advanced abilities – spins, turns, jumps, speed, whatever his field of sport requires.
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) If you want a godly home, you will have to learn the basics first (Bible reading, prayer, and worship), practice – sometimes winning and sometimes failing, and then later add in more advanced skills when the basics become automatic. That is precisely what the spiritual disciplines are. As defined by Whitney the spiritual disciplines are “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers.” The spiritual disciplines are those basic and advanced skills that you need to learn in order to pursue a godly home.
When I suggested to my husband for the spiritual disciplines to be our Bible focus for the year, he agreed, even though he has spent some time every day with the Lord for at least the last nine years (it is likely more about 18 years, but he began doing it at a consistent time about 9 years ago). He is truly disciplined in the area of Bible intake (reading, hearing, and studying). My former small group pastor always said at every church membership meeting, “The biggest transformer of your life is to be in God’s Word daily” (Eddie Mosley). You may already be a disciplined person and apply spiritual disciplines quickly and easily. You may be the type of person who becomes prideful of her spiritual discipline ability, and God may have to work on you in that area (memorizing some verses on pride and humility will help with that as Dr. Whitney suggests). You may struggle with consistency in all areas of your life, and being disciplined is a monumental chore for you. Whatever it is – wherever you are – take the first step. I love that our home church is encouraging families to “Read. Pray. Sing.” Little ones need to see the adults doing these first spiritual disciplines so that those firsts lead to amazing depths of God’s eternal truths. Use those simple three words, or get a copy of a book that will walk you through the disciplines in more detail. The goal is to start! As 1 Timothy 4:7 tells us, “Rather, train yourself for godliness.”
In January through the ‘Family Revelation’ series, Jim discussed frequently the first spiritual discipline Dr. Whitney details in his book – Bible intake. We cannot receive a revelation from God if we are not familiar with His character. The best and most authoritative source of His character is the Bible.
Dr. Whitney divides Bible intake into two sections. The first includes hearing (going to church), reading, and studying God’s word. As we hear, read, and then truly study God’s Word, we begin to see His plan and purpose in life. Then, Dr. Whitney dives even deeper; he discusses memorizing and meditating on God’s Word.
Memorizing God’s word takes diligence. “I have hidden you word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) Often, especially us adults, we think that our memories just aren’t that good or we equate memory work with drudgery. As Whitney states, “Discipline without direction is drudgery.” If you were being rewarded to learn God’s Word, it would become much easier to do so. So, how can you help yourself and your family to see that Scripture memorization is a reward and not drudgery?
Biblical meditation is NOT clearing your mind into nothingness so that you can relax; it is thinking deeply or focusing your mind for a period of time in order to consider, discern, and plan what God has for you and your family. Meditating on God’s word is analogous to a cup of tea:
“In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of scripture. Hearing God’s word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s word are like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more permeating its effect. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown.” (Dr. Whitney)
We hope that as you and your family choose to learn more about God, you remember His Word in Deuteronomy 11:19, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Hearing God’s Word together, reading God’s Word together, studying God’s Word together, memorizing God’s Word together, and meditating together can truly build up your family more than anything else on this earth can.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney, NavPress; Updated, Revised edition (July 1, 2014)
www.awana.org – an organization that helps kids (and family helpers/leaders) learn more about Jesus Christ, including memorizing Scripture