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November 21, 2021 3:00 am
About pain will come to a special edition of Truth for Life.
If you listen every Sunday.
Don't worry, you can still hear the regularly scheduled program from our study and second Timothy four. Wherever you listen just look for the program that was posted on Saturday, November 20.
It's titled the postscript when you think of Truth for Life. You undoubtably think of this program. Alister begs Bible teaching that you hear regularly were now excited to let you know the Truth for Life is something you can read every day. Alister has just released a new devotional book.
It's titled report Truth for Life 365 daily devotions and to coincide with the launch of this new book I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Alister we talked about reading the Bible each day about the use of daily devotionals and about spiritual disciplines. Here's our conversation. First of all I think this devotional is a gift to all of us and I know listeners are anxiously excited to get a copy of it. Tell me about your own use of devotionals throughout your life are are you are you a five in the morning quiet time get up, spend an hour with the Lord God or not. While I usually get up every morning as I sipped on really depressing to hasten now. Yeah, actually, the older I get, the earlier I do arise and but from the very beginning. In my growing up years as a child. Devotions run around the breakfast table were part and parcel of my life. So I think the ones that I remember where I probably daily light where we had that little book that was always, they are base beside the table which would have a verse or two and then if I remember correctly, there was a kind of story.
Usually I paid more test of the story than I did to the text which is of course one of the dangers. So if I think a certain kind of devotional and but so that was sort of an established pattern for me then as a schoolboy, Scripture union notes were part of my life. They they came out to you pick them up. I can remember we would get them, but they went say you know I think of a couple months at a time. They were more scriptural as you would expect call the Scripture union and that's where they had the series of questions to ask of the. The text is there a command to obey his promise to accept. Is there a sin to avoid what is this teaches about God the father, God the son God the Holy Spirit so that it started you at least on a journey that said, I'm not reading this in the hope that some peculiar blessing will arrive from nowhere, but that I'm I'm looking into the word that I might understand why it's there and what it means, why it matters. Like anything so fast forward through all the years and that has served continued with me the importance in in British Christianity of your quiet time. You know, if you read John starts you will find that he you know once to argue very very much for making sure that I that we have that quiet time and so I've tried to make sure that I paid attention to that and still do you benefited from and encouraged others to read Spurgeon's devotional thoughts about the morning by morning and evening by evening. Are there others that have stood out to you as being foundational devotionals that you fed off of. Through the years.
Well Spurgeon one was not part of my growing up years. You know I've I've come to that later on and you know you have course we we we we make use of that and I think people benefit from it it it has, of course, archaic elements to it. Yeah what stream streams in the desert.
That was one daily light which is not actually the same as radio Bible class but daily light. I have various editions of the nice letter bond ones, and what is what was in there was a sort of thematic approach to passages of the Bible which ties together units of loosely connected versus which it works against really figuring out why there they are, what they mean and in what context, but in terms of, you know, saying I want the entrance of God's word to bring light into my life. I wanted to shine on my pathway that kind of thing. Those those were part and parcel of Colossians chapter 3 says we are to set our minds on things that are above, I think turning to a devotional alongside whatever Bible reading you're doing on a daily basis is one of the ways that we set our minds for the day or in our day on on heavenly things. It's really easy to be consumed with the things of this earth and and we need to be diligent to set our minds don't we. Yes definitely I mean that I think there are peculiar challenges now, or opportunities, depending how you want to look at it but in a given the fact that our our phones give us access to everything which means that everything is clamoring for our attention. Simultaneously, when you had to wait for the newspaper to be delivered then you could read your Bible before it arrived.
If it managed to reach you before you know then you had to make a decision now when you awaken in the morning.
I have you know the Truth for Life which is saying come on at but I also have the Times of London and so I've got the constant challenge and are not going to go to the Scriptures or am I going to go to the times and you know some days I go one way and some days I go the other, but your point is well made that we want to be if you like turning to the events of the day in light all of the unerring truths of Scripture so that we are if you like reading our newspapers through the lens of the Bible rather than the other way around. When you went to work on this devotional. What was your your hope for your goal for us as readers what that we would get out of our engagement with with what you presented what I think the same as when friend you and I endeavor to teach the Bible that it would that it would be more than simply an awareness of what the Bible says, but that through the work of the Holy Spirit that it might lead us into if you like a divine encounter with God that through the Scriptures coming alive to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We don't simply find out things that we need to know about we meet with God in a particular way and so the hope is that that is actually what happens that the though the word of God.
Does the work of God and that the way in which material unfolds. Hopefully the particular passage of Scripture for the day will do just that. It will help to unfold the Scripture and it will not be a distraction to the Scripture and you see devotional reading is different than Bible study. Talk about how those fit together and and the benefits of each for our lives spiritually. Well, I think we have to guard against the notion that devotional has to do with our hearts and leaves our minds outside, whereas you know of Bible study is all about the mind and leaves our hearts site. Ideally, the best Bible study stuff leads us to a devotional commitment to to Christ. The one of whom the Scripture speak and ideally devotional reading causes eyes to think properly about things so yeah there is a distinction insofar as when we think in terms of Bible study, we might be doing word studies we might be trying to understand how this fits within the brighter context of things in a way that would necessarily be true in in just devotional material were not were not trying to set a particular passage in Mark's gospel within the overall sweep of the gospel of Mark Carr. With that in relationship to you know the Old Testament canon, and so on. That's beyond the scope of of a devotional encounter but we want to make sure that you know it is through our minds to the heart. So as as a Christian is ordering his his spiritual life and his spiritual disciplines where where does devotional reading fit into that into our week and where does Bible study fit into our week how how would you recommend to somebody that they engage with Scriptures using these different tools or you know my own personal approach to things is to just take McShane's Bible readings and to be reading through the entire Bible in a year and so you know some people have never even launched and sent into such an adventure. And so I would hope that, for example, making use of our devotional material would not circumvent that kind of approach that it would be up important part of the day, but that would be supplemental to everything else is going on in terms of our being encountered by the Scriptures so that out of it. If the option is reading the Bible reading your devotional you'd say read the Bible absolutely yeah that's good but hopefully somebody who is who is engaging with the Bible.
In this way, we find that there there devotional reading's leads them to say I want to find out more about this that will then lead them to Bible study and that hopefully that will be set within the context of of a local church environment where the Bible is actually being taught to them in a way that is helping them to realize that the that the that the big picture of the Bible is is is a picture that we can get a hold of and and and grapple with. I remember early in my Christian life as I was beginning to read through the Bible in a year. I think it was January 4. My my assignment was Genesis 9 through 12 at and I got to the end of Genesis 12 and I had so many questions about what I had just read about the Tower of Babel, and about the calling of Abram out of the Chaldees and where is and who are the Chaldees. It was hard for me to go on to Genesis 13 when I had some questions about the earlier passages you would say we we should continue to plow through, even if our mind is littered with questions. Continue reading the Bible, and yet try to answer some of those questions.
At the same time. Well, you know, it's a judgment call is not because we don't want it to become unified. I often see the people they want to start reading the violet, so I need to start reading the Gospel of Mark. Let's let's don't let's launch into Genesis and Exodus at the moment we can we can start Mark and work your way around will pick awry eventually come to Genesis yeah I had depends on how our minds are, you know, if you've got an investigative mind. That is, it that stumbles over these things, or once to unpack them, then it will become more tedious journey. I think then someone is more superficial, like myself, who is saying, well, I'll get back to that at some point, but I I'm what I must keep going.
Yeah, I think it's good I see just when were reading the Bible and that way to have a notebook and just to make a note of things that we can are therefore further investigation if you lined because otherwise we won't get very far very fast at all because you know that we can have questions all over the place yeah I've also had the experience of reading through a devotional or a couple chapters of the Bible and closing the book and not remembering anything. I just read I was doing it I was checking it off my list. I know I'm supposed to do this, but I was distracted while doing it. How can I come to a devotional or to the Scriptures and and really get the most out of it.
What kind of prayer. Should I pray as I opened the word yeah well I mean it again coming back to the Scripture union notes. They had all of that, I think we were supposed to pray all Lord, open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law out of your word now. You can pray that of course as we can pray anything in a perfunctory fashion. But when we actually mean it when we put so again it has to do with little things like where are we, what time is it you know what what is my objective.
In doing this if it is as you say, because the way my my mind works is I just have certain things to do in the day and this is one that I have to get through in order to get onto the next thing then there's precious little going to be gained from that. I think you could I'll always tend to say just just forget it. You know what I mean because it is like asking somebody a question needs only one answer to, you know, because you're supposed to appear to be interested in somebody actually rewrite right because it is like hello, I must be going.
You know good morning God, thank you. Goodbye. So I think again setting setting a place setting a time whether it's lunchtime or whatever time it is where you can actually be quiet and be out loud with the framework of other things. You know it's not impossible to do this, sitting in the middle of Starbucks.
We can do that were writing on the train. That's where going into London or wherever we are in Chicago know. But when you think about being devoted to somebody and spending time with somebody and being in their presence and wanting to quotes look them in the ISO where I'm undistracted by everyone and everything else around you and that's an entirely different approach to things and somewhere along the line we want to be developing that kind of intimacy. Brother Lawrence spoke about, you know, practicing the presence of God which of course we recognize is true all day every day everywhere. We realize that, but to build a say and and I'm always struck by people who say you know that's where that's where his Bible always was. That's where you could find them sitting you could come to them being there. I think of the end of Francis Schaeffer's life and Edith said of him that he had reached a point where he could no longer read his Bible as the would normally have done, but he kept it by his bedside and he used to pass it, you know, like I mean, you're not going to you not going to pad it, you know, just in eyes because it was everything to him.
Is it is it typical for you or is it occasional for you that when you open a devotional, or you come to God's word that when you're done you go. That was the word I needed for today. God just spoke to me and gave me the thought that the perspective the orientation does not happen regularly or occasionally for you. Yeah I would say if we if we are actually intend on doing that.
Like this morning and our pastoral team meeting for prayer as we read Psalm 15 and Psalm 16 I said when we had concluded reading it around.
I said okay what what is your what is your phrase for the day. What what what and and some people called out phrase. I said they regarded as is as hard as is a boiled candy is aware that you going to take with you into the day and when your mouth is dry you can pop it out and suck on it for a while so if you if one is approaching the Scriptures, and that way actually looking for that for a phrase then yet you you you will get. You will get a phrase that means I I have set the Lord always before me say while I'm not sure that I have but I know that I want to write or my heart is glad to my whole being rejoices is that while I'm not sure that I have been this glad there is rejoicing. I'm not sure.
Might my work colleagues would immediately attach that to me so that instead of it being and just. There is an affirmation which it is on the part of David the psalmist.
It can be's something to me. However you know when when you're reading like you nor I read part read Jeremiah 40 today now admittedly I didn't go looking for a phrase but a lot of it just went past me by and I said to myself if I'm going to really come to terms with the Jeremiah 40. I'm going have to go back and read this again. I'm really more slowly and find out who in the world.
Everybody is here. I think about conversations I've had with my wife through the years there have been those where I've been engaged other than those where I've been distracted and thinking about other things and often my wife will say did you hear what I just said are are you really what where are you what are you focused on right and when I come to God's word. I have to come with an intentionality that I'm here to hear from you, not just to show up in and get my spiritual brownie points for the day. Yeah, I think the one thing that we really have to guard against is the idea of you know, a blessing, as it were sort of popping out of nowhere. Now that that's not because we don't believe that God pops little blessings out of nowhere. We absolutely believe that but I don't mean I should be RM all you know the hymn writer says sometimes a light surprises. The Christian while he sings it is the Lord who rises with healing in his wings get on with we know what that means that that all of a sudden you know just at just the sunlight. You know, appears on on a cloudy day on a spiritually cloudy day on on a dark November day, the Lord, you know, picks up our spirits and we rejoice in that. But if you know if it if we if if that's our if that's how we quantify whether whether what we're doing is right with her is good or whether is beneficial.
We probably going to be more disheartened than than hardened. Yeah, one of the rhythms of your life is to be focused on a passage of Scripture four hours during the week as you prepare to preach on Sunday so I know you're regularly meditating on reviewing considering a a particular text. How does daily devotional time fit together. With that kind of regular Bible study, you know I have said of agonized over that from time to time, like, whoa, wait a minute, why why are you reading, you know, second Samuel 11 that's not your devotional time. You know your your borrowing from your devotional time to to do your study time and I used to get myself all tied up in knots. You know maybe I was right to tie myself up in knots but the knots have unraveled for me a long time ago. I remember the late RC Sproul being asked a similar question and he said look all my reading of the Bible is devotional reading, you know. So where I'm preparing to teach it or what I'm reading it for whatever it it is devotional in the sense that it brings me to Christ and therefore brings me to my knees and therefore you know takes me. Whatever.
But with that said, there it surely is a difference between no the readings in in the Psalms, and for example our studies in second Samuel, but then they work to work hand in glove with one another so that when you come to one of the Psalms, like for example the 16 sound this morning which says it is a make time off of David. Nobody really knows what that is probably a musical term and then when you are when you read his his boy a tree and you said it within the context of the unfolding story of his life, then you know the devotional aspect of it and the the instruction that is contained in recognizing that he's not writing these little podiums in a vacuum. They they are his meditations in the midst of the story of his life so and you mentioned a musical term. How does how does our personal devotional time interact with our times of personal worship and where does music fit into that for you. You sing alone in your car as you drive from place to place and I'm not talking about Paul Simon and the Beatles are you about seeing the hymns of faith. Yeah, yeah, I sometimes I try and sing by myself but also I have you know access on my phone to know I have Fernando in there. I have the city alight and therefore must really I have all kinds of things in there and I even have old country western singers to her sing and you know I've come to the garden alone and that and yeah I for for me the lyrics of hymns have been a huge part of my life and I often see the people if they've found that there that the are getting dried opposite where in in their reading of Scripture.
Sometimes a good hymnbook will help them sort of week rekindle the flame because the best of hymns are essentially people's interaction with the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures so that the best of that material will will take us to the Bible, not from the Bible. So yeah, I do those things matter a great deal. I've noticed also that they are a huge part of my wife's life, that in fact she is probably engage more with material that I've never ever hurt that is actually wonderfully helpful, wonderfully helpful in in this very element of that once devotional life. Our friend Alexa keeps us populated with hymns and songs that we can fill our kitchen with the knots and that's a nice tool to have serious if if you're talking to somebody who says my my time in God's word has been dry and a desert time and I'm I'm doing it as a discipline but I just am not finding that in his presence there is fullness of joy.
As Psalm 16 tells us what do you recommend them. What I woods a number of things I would say to them you know how or how are you handling the. The other means of grace that God is made available to you and in other words, are you are you isolated from God's people. Are you engaged in the local church. Are you participating in communion are you serving in the gospel you know it. To find out if there's a set of general declension on the part of this individual that is sort of stepped away from things. If that is true, then it's no surprise that the Scriptures would not necessarily be sparkling as it where with gems of insight for them. The Scriptures are always true all the time, but our perception of them know if the person says yes I'm I am involved in all of that, but somehow or another I just sort of hit a wall when it comes to the way I'm doing things well then, I received probably good time to change the way that you're doing things and perhaps two to make, use, and again were talking devotional not study off a paraphrase of your studying the New Testament the JB Phillips some of his turns of phrase just open things up again. Sometimes using a different translation of the of the Bible. A straight translation moving from you know the NIV to the ESV year to the CCS beer whatever be there are. I mean there's a lot of different ways we can go here also, sometimes even just changing the time in which we doing things that that we just have found that we've turned this into a routine that is lost any kind of life. Also, if we are if we always read the Bible in our minds is aware then when I try reading at least passage of the Bible reading them out loud. I read them out loud in a way that causes you to process them differently just because of the fight he can hear your own voice reading them out, maybe even as well. To say includes includes a spouse or a friend or something in in the process decide that you want to read together the same passages of Scripture over a period of a month so that when you're together. You can actually talk about what you been discovering.
I think this is a great insight because in in our desire for regularity and to be disciplined we can find ourselves in ruts and at the idea of shaking up the discipline and the workout is a way to get out of that rut you think is true of all kinds of things up.
You say you know I used to absolutely love balsamic vinaigrette until I completely. Second, myself, and now when I see them come in with a signal. Please do not do not bring that stuff near me. I and this is what happened to you is that I don't know I just I just lost interest in it and you know you because you just had so much of it there is no you say were you're not saying that you can have so much of the Bible that you lose interest in it know I'm actually not saying that but I'm just recognizing that the analogy holds in some measure the daily devotional that you created will take someone maybe two minutes to read you your your passage for the date your your insight on the Scriptures of Scripture verse in that kind of base spiritual snack. If it's it's a healthy snack and can can help your metabolism get activated candidate yeah I think so. I mean, I would say that devotional such as what we've done is is a supplemental aid to our own ongoing reading of the Bible be a disappointment to me to think that this became you know that the sum and substance of somebody's approach to the Bible know it may be that in the beginning of the adventure that is exactly what is the case, and hopefully then it would lead to a greater time spent in greater desire for the Scriptures themselves and and what other things that we've done in the devotional is make sure that at the bottom of the page we're directing people to passages of Scripture that will be call relative to what is being said you intend to read your devotional this year yeah I say they sent me the sent me.
What if you call a prepublication copy and I was I was struck by how nice it was and I actually looked up a couple of I was with some people. Yesterday I said let's look up your birth decency. I what you know what it says on your birthday.
I also looked up July 4 to see if we had done anything with July 4 and while I just leave other people to discover whether we did well is nice when you're reading your devotional to go.
I agree with this guy. What you said, taking her what I tell you what is what is that what is amazing is when I read it and I go the somebody put their hand on this because it's a lot better than the way I said so. Like everything else we are. It's a product of think that shared giftedness of those around us and on the beneficiary of those who make my life better by their presence and make my work better by their insights well and we are the beneficiaries of your study and your insight. You mentioned Dr. scroll. I asked him one time after I'd heard him preach on Psalm 51, I said how long did it take you to prepare that message and he looked at me and smiled, and he said about five minutes and then he said, and about 35 years and if if we are in God's word that's the reality that we can now come to the Scriptures, and it's more alive to us as long as it's the regular rhythm of our life and and and also isn't it fantastic as well. The way we can this not like any other book, either for you can read and reread and reread it and ends at discover things that you never noticed before, or how to make application to your life in a way that would never of been a point of application. Had we not just gone through all these various parts and pieces of of our pilgrimage. Well it's been a treat for us today to hear from Alastair been talking about devotional life but Scripture reading. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. There is no shortage of strategies or resources for you to consider when it comes to how you spend time each day in God's word. If you find yourself thinking about what your devotional life is gonna look like in 2022 and beyond. Let me encourage you to visit Truth for Life.org/365 on that page, you'll be able to view images from Alistair's new devotional.
There's a look inside feature, so you can see the format of each daily entry and there's a link there that will make it easy for you to get your copy of this new devotional the release of this book fits right in with our mission here at Truth for Life, which is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance.
When you use the devotional you will begin each day in the most important place in a passage of Scripture, and next, Alastair provides commentary to help explain the passage to encourage you and to help you reflect on how the truth of God's word applies to every part of your life and then to help you meditate on what you just read. There are questions that you will ask yourself each day. The same three questions that will also help you will your prayers and finally in the devotional. There is a read through the Bible in a year plan at the bottom of each page and read three or four chapters from Scripture each day and when you're done you will have read through the Bible, you so visit Truth for Life.org/365 or you will find the devotional in the Truth for Life mobile app it's available for purchase at our cost of only eight dollars shipping is free and don't forget to order a few extra copies that you can give as gifts to friends or family members to share with her all start the new year off right.
I'm bumping the Bible teaching of Alastair Bragg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living