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When I first kicked around the idea for the The Disciple’s Napkin, the most amount of feedback I received had to do with the 5 minutes of Bible intake that I had proposed. Am I saying 5 minutes just to fit with the template of 5…4…3…2…1? Perhaps.

I chose a short amount of time for the following three reasons.

  1. This may be a starting point for several people.
  2. Bible intake is intended not merely for information but for transformation. There is enough truth to transform your life in five minutes of meaningful Bible intake. The problem is that we take in God’s Word, and sometimes so much, that we forget it and fail to apply it to our lives. I have heard men like John Piper say that often times it is a word or phrase alone in God’s Word that changes a person’s life. I have found that to be true in my own life as well.
  3. Bible intake is not only for our transformation but also transfer. You take what you receive from God’s Word, and as a faithful steward, look for ways to share that with others. Five minutes provides you opportunity to look for one simple truth from God’s Word to share with others in your life.

Of course, you may one to spend 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes of Bible intake on a daily basis. That is great! I hope the DMN (disciple-making napkin) leads to that and more. But as I expressed in my original post, my goal is to present a vision for disciple-making that is accessible to every single Christian, and I think this approach suits that purpose.

So what do I mean by Bible intake? Here are some examples of 5 minute Bible intakes.

  1. Read one chapter in the Gospels (and make it your goal to read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John over the course of 6 months).
  2. Read one Psalm and day and make it the substance of your prayers.
  3. Find one verse that ministers to your soul and seek to put it to memory. Make a memory moleskine of daily verses that you take with you to meditate on throughout the day.
  4. Read one paragraph from the letters of the Apostle Paul.

Do you have other suggestions for Bible intake? I would love to hear them!

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Eat this bookA couple weeks ago, I argued that a gospel-driven church will have gospel-centered expectations when it comes to the Word. It is not enough that the preacher’s sermon is Christ-centered. The congregation should be trained to be, too. That entails not only expectations but also application, which is what I want to address in this post.

Before I explain the difference between morality-based application and gospel-centered application, let me briefly mention substitutes for application in general. If we are not careful, we can allow substitutes that fall short of actual application of the Word. One of them is meeting a knowledge quotient. You can come for the purpose of intellectual satisfaction (new insights, profound interpretation, etc) and still not have the Word applied to your life. In this case, we are creating smarter sinners and not transformed saints. Another substitute is emotional experiences. You can have your heart-strings pulled and not have your heart transformed by truth. Mountain top experiences only mean you have to come back down to level ground at some time. Another substitute is sentimentalism. This is close to emotional experiences, but it is different in that the message “works” only if it fits in your sensibilities or self-imposed template.

Having mentioned substitutes, perhaps the greatest enemy of gospel-centered application of the Word is moralism. It is answering the “What?” question while completely ignoring the “Why?” question. It is going to the “How?” question with too many assumptions about the “Who?” question. Moralism leads to man-centered “rededication” as opposed to gospel-centered repentance and faith. One is driven on the performance of man; the other is driven upon the performance of Jesus. Just so that we can see the difference and highlight gospel-centered application, consider the following:

Continue Reading…

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Gospel-Centered Expectations

Tim Brister —  December 29, 2012 — 6 Comments

Danger-ExpectationThe nature of your expectations will have direct impact on your receptivity of future grace.

The preaching of the gospel is a powerful means of grace for the Christian, but is that your expectation? What is the nature of your expectations every time you hear the Word of God preached? A gospel-centered church will have a congregation full of gospel-centered expectations every time the Word of God is proclaimed. The commentary (and lifestyle) post-preaching will evidence the nature of expectations, whether they are God-honoring or not.

When it comes to the preaching of God’s Word (or gospel) . . .

» If you expect to come away with intellectual insights, you will find something to satisfy knowledge cravings.

» If you expect the preacher will say something debatable, you will find something to blog about.

» If you expect to judge the quality of the preacher’s message, you will find something he said wrong or could have said differently.

» If you expect to have a to do list for moral improvement, you will find opportunity for behavioral modification to try harder and do better.


» If you expect life transformation, you will discover the Spirit exposing sin and fostering greater desire for repentance.

» If you expect to become like Jesus, you will be granted fresh eyes of faith to behold Jesus.

» If you expect to be used in the service of the kingdom, you will find the Word empowering and enabling you to bear fruit disproportionate to your abilities.

» If you expect to meet with God, you will find God will not pass you by without glimpses of His glory and grace.

The question is . . . what are you expecting whenever you come under the authority and power of God’s living and active, faith-engendering, sin-exposing, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered Word?

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. – Jesus

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Over the past several weeks, it has been encouraging to connect with many of you on the subject of sentence-diagramming. In the past three days, there have been over 500 downloads of the 18-page PDF compilation of the posts in this mini-series. Toward the end (see end of part 5), I shared two desires: (a) to explain why this is important to disciple-making and how to work it out as a weekly rhythm (see part 6), and (b) to show the importance of sentence diagramming for faithful biblical interpretation, which I hope to explain here.

Rightly dividing the word of truth begins with becoming a good “seer” but it does not end there. We need to incorporate what we see in understanding the meaning of  the text. I have argued that sentence diagramming serves like training wheels for studying the text, and when assimilating other disciples of prayer and meditation, becomes a powerful means of being immersed in the undercurrent of God’s Word. But once you have done your homework, it’s time to apply it to interpreting the text.

Granted, a lot of what you see will immediately trigger interpretive meaning, but it is advantageous not to jump the gun without assimilating all of what you see in the text. For the purpose of interpretation, I would like to simply suggest four primary sources for determining meaning in a text. There numerous secondary sources available to us, and while I believe they are helpful, I am afraid that oftentimes they supplant the primary sources.

For instance, I am not totally opposed to study Bibles, but one of the main beefs I have with them is that the student of God’s Word will be regularly tempted to become a second-hander when it comes to Scripture.  So he comes to a text he doesn’t quite understand…what does he do? Jump below the line and see what someone else says to give it meaning. What happens here is that meaning is conclusive from reading what is below the line (commentary) rather than what is above the line (Scripture). And quite frankly, sometimes people have a hard time making the distinction between what is above or below the line (inspired text vs. fallible interpretation).

My hope is that sentence diagramming will be a tool to keep God’s people from being a second-hander when it comes to Scripture. There’s nothing like getting in God’s Word for yourself. You cannot become a disciple-maker when you do not labor as a learner. Invest your time and energy is knowing God through His Word, and let me encourage you to do so with these primary sources in mind:

1. Committed in Prayer – we should begin with prayer, asking God to guide us and lead us in His Word, to open our eyes, and cause us to be committed to the Bible alone for truth,

2.  Dependence upon the Spirit – though we have minds to think and understand meaning and concepts, we are sinners whose minds have been corrupted by sin. We acknowledge our dependence on the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, gives us the mind of Christ, and illumines to us the very Word He has inspired.

3. Submission to the Word – we need to bring our thoughts and ideas under the authority of God’s Word. One of the most practical ways of doing this is letting Scripture interpret Scripture. By doing this, we are saying, “When I don’t understand what the text is saying, I am going to submit to God’s Word and let it have the first (and final) say rather than jumping to whatever opinions I may come up with.” In other words, a high view of Scripture does not only pertain to your view of the Bible, but also your use of the Bible.

4. Participation with the Saints – our study of Scripture is not to be practiced in isolation. So much of what we can learn and understand comes when the Spirit works through one another to reveal truth and understanding of the text. We also have our ideas and meaning brought before other believers who can sharpen, encourage, or challenge in the process.

Instead of secondary sources like commentaries, study Bibles, or other reference works, I encourage you to reference prayer, the Spirit, the Word, and the Body of Christ. I will be the first to admit that I don’t employ these primary sources as means of knowing God’s Word like I should!  Let us not take short cuts and miss the joy and jewel that is in cherishing God’s Word for the change it brings to our lives!

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Well, I’m finished with the mini-series on sentence diagramming, and I’m grateful for all the feedback and interest this series has generated. Several of you have asked for a compilation and a downloadable PDF of the series, and I’m happy to provide that for you. Here’s the recap:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Set Up
Part 3: Propositions
Part 4: Labels
Part 5: Connections
Part 6: Assimilation

These posts together result in an 18-page PDF document which can be downloaded here.

There has also been some requests by folks willing to give this a try.  If there is enough interest, then perhaps we can pick a text, work through it together, and provide a way everyone can share the fruit of their study. If that’s you, then let me know in the comments.

Lastly, for those who asked about supplemental resources, there are some books on biblical hermeneutics, homiletics, and Greek syntax that have sections or chapters devoted to this kind of study, but I’m not sure the technical nature would be more profitable (I’ve tried to simplify the process as much as I could here so that anyone, regardless of their previous experience, could have a starting point accessible to them). In any case, if you would like for some resources, I will be happy to point you to some I have come across in my studies.

Hope the PDF will be a resource for disciple-making and intentional investments in others with the Word of God. The purpose of this series was to that end, and I’m grateful to hear how already that it is being used for that very purpose!

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