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Beyond In Case of Emergency...

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 1:34pm -- Rob
Attention spans in America are at historically short levels in our day and age.  A sound bite here, a brief video, a short news clip there, a quick word of gossip during a meal, and many people can feel they're on top of the news, have a handle on life, or have all the knowledge they need to appear intelligent or knowledgeable amongst their peers.  
 
Our short attention spans are not impressive to God.  One of the big reasons is that those same short attention spans transfer over into our relationship, or maybe more accurately, lack-of-relationship with Him.

 

Our attention spans have become so splintered that prayer, and the Word of God for many, have become go-to things almost only in cases of emergency.  When the heat is turned up, only then is the Bible opened or prayer to God turned to as a means to provide hope, relief, or help.

We sell God, His promises, resources, and our relationship with Him FAR too short!  He is not honored as such.  This can be changed, but let's consider a few things first.

 

Let's consider two things:  Prayer and the Bible (the Word of God)

R.A. Torrey speaks about insincere (untruthful) prayer.  "Psalm 145:18 throws a great deal of light on the question of how to pray:  'The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.'"

"Much of our prayer is insincere.  People ask for things that they do not wish.  Many women pray for the conversion of their husbands, but do not really wish their husbands to be converted.  They think they do, but if they knew what would be involved in the conversion of their husbands, they would think again.  It would necessitate an entire revolution in their manner of doing business and would consequently reduce their income, making it necessary to change their entire way of living.  If they were sincere with God, the real prayer of their hearts would be: 'O God, do not convert my husband.'  Some women do not wish their husbands' conversion at so great a cost."
 
"Many churches are praying for revival but do not really desire a revival.  They think they do, for in their minds, a revival means an increase of membership, income, and reputation among the churches.  But if they knew what a real revival meant, they would not be so eager.  Revival brings the searching of hearts on the part of professed Christians, a radical transformation of individual, home, and social life, when the Spirit of God is poured out in reality and power.  If all this were known, the real cry of the church would be: 'O God, keep us from having revival."'
 
"When we do come to the place where we really desire the conversion of friends at any cost, really desire the outpouring of the Holy Spirit whatever it may involve, really desire anything "in truth" and then call upon God for it "in truth," God is going to hear."  (R.A. Torrey on the Christian Life- How to Pray, pgs. 281-283)
 

Our short attention spans can easily lead us to offering a quick burst of prayer in a moment; one that may not be truthful at its core.  We would do well to pause, consider what we're truly thinking about asking God in prayer, and then proceed in asking only after considering if what we're asking is being done so "in truth."

 

How to Properly Study God's Word

Torrey outlines four things that make for effective study of the Bible as the Word of God.

1. "The unquestioning acceptance of its teachings when they are understood, even when they may appear unreasonable or impossible.  Reason demands that we submit our judgment to the statements of infinite wisdom.  Nothing is more irrational than rationalism.  It makes finite wisdom the test of infinite wisdom and submits the teachings of God's omniscience to the approval of man's judgment.  Conceit says, 'This cannot be true, even though God says it, for it does not approve itself to my reason.'  'O man, who are you to reply against God?' (Romans 9:20)."

"Real human wisdom, when it finds infinite wisdom, bows before it and says, 'Speak what You will and I will believe.'  When we have once become convinced that the Bible is God's Word, its teachings must be the end of all controversy and discussion.  A 'Thus says the Lord' will settle every question.  Yet many who profess to believe the Bible is the Word of God will shake their heads and say, 'Yes, but I think so and so,' or  'Doctor--- or Professor--- or our church doesn't teach it that way.'  There is little advantage to that sort of study."

2.  Absolute reliance on all its promises in all their length and breadth.  "The person who studies the the Bible as the Word of God will not discount any one of its promises one iota.  A student who studies the Bible as the Word of God will say, 'God who cannot lie has promised,' and he will not try to make God a liar by trying to make one of His promises mean less than it says.  (See 1 John 5:10)  The one who studies the Bible as the Word of God will be on the lookout for promises.  As soon as he finds one, he should seek to discover what it means and then place his entire trust on its full meaning."

"This is one of the secrets of profitable Bible study.  Hunt for promises and appropriate them as fast as you find them by meeting the conditions and risking all upon them.  This is the way to make all the fullness of God's blessings your own.  This is the key to all the treasures of God's grace.  Happy is the one who has learned to study the Bible as God's Word and is ready to claim for himself every new promise as it appears and to risk everything on it."

3.  Prompt obedience to its every precept.  "Obedience may seem hard or impossible; but God has commanded it, and you have nothing to do but to obey and leave the results to God.  To get results from your Bible study, resolve that from this time on, you will claim every clear promise and obey every plain command.  When the meaning of promises and commands is not yet clear, try to discern their meaning immediately."

4.  Study in God's presence.  "When you read a verse of Scripture, hear the voice of the living God speaking directly to you in these written words.  There is new power and attractiveness in the Bible when you have learned to hear a living, present Person- God our Father- talking directly to you in these words."

The short attention spans of modern Christians seek more to honor the clock (how much or little can I pray, cram, or read in the short, allotted time I've set aside for God today?) than dwell deeply in His presence- for as long as He desires us to dwell with Him.

 

Combining the Two
 
Torrey concludes, "The last condition for profitable Bible study is prayerfulness.  The psalmist prayed, 'Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law' (Psalm 119:18).  Everyone who desires productive study needs to offer a similar prayer each time he undertakes to study the Word.  A few keys open many treasure chests of prayer.  A few clues unravel many difficulties.  A few microscopes disclose many beauties hidden from the eye of the ordinary observer.  What new light often shines from familiar texts as you bend over them in prayer!"
 
"I believe in studying the Bible many times on your knees.  When you read an entire book through on your knees- and this is easily done- that book takes on a new meaning and becomes a new book.  You should never open the Bible without lifting your heart to God in silent prayer that He will interpret it and illumine its pages by the light of His Spirit.  It is a rare privilege to study any book under the immediate guidance and instruction of the author, and this is the privilege of us all in studying the Bible."  (taken from R.A. Torrey on the Christian Life, Conditions for Profitable Bible Study, pgs. 358-360)
 
The cure to a short attention span begins with prayer.  Begin by asking God to adjust your appetites and priorities today; to make His desires and priorities become yours.  God desires your presence and attention more than you may desire His at this time.  But He will honor and bless that prayer, and will increase both your desire for Him, and the allotment of time you place with Him in your daily life, if that's your sincere desire.
 
Lord, we often cry that we desire more of You.  However, if we're honest, it's more of us that You want.  We often attempt to find significance, fulfillment, power, joy, and other things we're seeking to help us feel good through things that entertain, busy us, and more.  But those things almost always are greater at pulling us further from You than drawing us nearer to You. 

Father, I desire to change- and for You to help spur the changes within me.  Renew my appetite for Your Word.  Expand my hunger for Your Word, then increase my capacity to read, listen, take to heart, and apply your truth in my life.  Help me to prayerfully read Scripture; seeking your Spirit to interpret and illumine all that I read.  Thank you for your promise of making all things new.  Thank you for including me, my mind, heart, soul, and all my being within that promise (and so much more beyond me as well)!  I praise You.  You are worthy.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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