January 13, 2008

Only One Thing

Part 2: How to feed yourself



          On Friday, Laina was feeding Jenna, our 5 month-old granddaughter some rice cereal.  It’s her first semi-solid food; and you know what she does with it!  Picture of Jenna.  Laina would give her a spoonful, and she’d spit it out and Laina would spoon it back it in, and Jenna would spit it out.  But eventually, Laina got it all in her.  Very cute…in a 5 month-old.  But if she’s still doing that when she’s five, or 25, we’ve got a problem.  We know that she will learn how to feed herself.

          I know people who have been Christians for 5 years or 25 years who are still being spoon-fed by someone else; they’ve never learned to feed themselves.  And it shows.  So today, I’m going to share some very practical ideas about how you can feed yourself spiritually.


Offering and announcements:

          The Reveal survey.  We are participating in a nationwide survey that measures your satisfaction with your spiritual growth and what we as a church do to help that.  We need at least 800 people 18 and over to take the survey.  I think you will find it thought-provoking and helpful; it will make you think about what you are doing to grow spiritually.  And of course it will help us know how to help you better.  You can go to our website—www.lifecenter.net—and click on Reveal.  It will take you about 30 minutes to complete the survey and you have to do it in one setting.  Thanks!

          Life Center Women Live: Monday at 7 PM in the MPR.

Pic of Jenna.  I love babies!  Don’t you love babies?  We have lots of babies here at Life Center.  So we have a fabulous nursery with caring volunteers and staff who would love to hold your baby so that you can come to church without worry.  Our preference would be that you trust your child to our nursery.  If you want to bring your child in here, we understand; but when your child makes noise, please take them out.  We have a parents’ room in the Commons where you can take your child and still hear the service.  As a courtesy to everyone around you, please take your child out when he/she makes noise.  If you don’t, then an usher will come and ask you to take your child out, and honestly, that’s awkward for everyone.  It’s awkward for the usher and for you and for everyone around you.  So please, as a courtesy to everyone—including me—take your child out if he/she makes noise.  Deal? Thanks.



The title of this series, “Only One Thing” comes from a story in the Bible, in Luke 10. 

Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was so busy preparing the meal that she didn’t have time to sit and listen to Jesus.  When she asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus said that only one thing is needed and Mary has chosen it.  What is the one thing we need above all else?

The “one thing” is a relationship with Jesus.  It’s obvious from the story that a relationship with Mary and Martha was more important to Jesus than a meal.  He wanted a relationship with them, and Mary chose that.  Being a Christian is having a relationship with Jesus.  To cultivate that, we need to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen, like Mary did. We need to feed on God’s word every day.  We talked about this need last Sunday—the need to feed.  And I promised you that I would tell you how to do that today. 

Again, I’m indebted to Wayne Cordeiro and his book, The Divine Mentor, for many of the insights that I’ll share with you today.  If you want to read more about it, you can buy this at our resource center—it’s a terrific book. 

ILL: In his book, Wayne tells the story of a mighty sequoia tree that was almost 400 years old and 240 feet high—as tall as the highest building in Spokane!  But a few years ago, it toppled over for no apparent reason.  No windstorm, fire, flood, or ice.  No insect damage.  What had felled this giant?  The conclusion: foot traffic.  According to ranger Deb Schweizer, foot traffic around the base of the tree had damaged the root system and contributed to the collapse.  Park officials are now fencing some of the oldest and largest trees “to keep the public from trampling the root systems of these giants.” 

          Wayne writes that when he heard this, he thought, “Even these great trees that have lived for hundreds of years can’t survive when there is no protection—no sacred enclosure around their root systems.”

Wayne goes on to explain that we need a sacred enclosure too—an inviolable time with God when we can, like Mary, sit and listen to what He says.  That sacred enclosure is a daily time with God, a time when can feed on God’s word, talk and listen to Jesus, and build that relationship.  Without that, our roots get trampled, our relationship with Jesus is threatened.

          So I want to talk about how to have a daily time with God.  This daily time with God is the sacred enclosure that protects our roots and keeps us growing spiritually.  Here’s how to do it. 


1. Make it a habit.  Luke 5:16, 22:39, Mark 1:35

          I like to eat.  In fact, I’ve made of a habit of it!  I eat every day, and usually several times a day.  Just like you make a habit of eating every day, I’m encouraging you to make a habit of eating spiritually, of meeting with God every day.  A daily time with God.  Perhaps you’ve heard the saying:

Sow an act and you reap a habit.

Sow a habit and you reap a character.

Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

Your habits, good and bad, shape your life and your destiny.  And I can’t think of a better habit than a daily time with God.

          Jesus is our example.

Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

When did Jesus withdraw from people and get alone with God?  Often.  This was His habit.

Luke 22:39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.

The Mount of Olives was a place Jesus went to pray, a favorite place to be with God.  Note that it says He went “as usual”; or “as was His custom.”  This was His habit.

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

This is just one example of Jesus getting alone with God, but I think it’s especially significant because He had been up late the night before teaching and healing people.  And when He finished, He started another busy day of teaching and healing.  But in the midst of the busyness, in the midst of all the demands upon His time and energy, Jesus deliberately got alone with God.  This was His habit.

          Here’s the kicker for me.  I think no one has ever been closer to God than Jesus.  So if Jesus needed this daily time with God, how much more do I?  If God’s perfect Son needed this daily time with God to help Him navigate His way through life, how much more do I need it? 

          Make it a habit.  An inviolable habit.  It’s inviolable; it’s unbreakable; it’s a sacred enclosure.


          A. Make time.

          Notice I didn’t say “find time”.  You make time for what’s important.  You find time for everything else. 

ILL: I learned this as a new Christian, when I was in high school.  It was hard for me to get up early enough, since I had five younger sisters and we had one bathroom!  Think about it!  You know how long it takes a teenage girl to get ready for school?  Till they’re 21!  So early morning didn’t work, and there was school all day, sports after school, then homework.  I couldn’t find the time. 

I learned I had to make time.  I had to decide this was important and assign it a place in my schedule where I could give my best and not be interrupted.

In high school, that was at night, the last thing before I went to sleep.

In college, it was first thing in the morning, the first hour before I went to class or the cafeteria.

In most of my married life it’s been early in the morning, before the kids got going.

Look at your schedule and decide when you could give your best to God, and make the time.  Make it an appointment with God that you keep every day.  When I have an appointment with another person, I rarely break it; it takes an emergency or sickness before I’ll cancel.  Treat your time with God like that—a daily appointment with God.  Make time.

          And if you want to turn it into a habit that you do every day…


          B. Link it with something you enjoy.

          Habits are much easier to build if you look forward to them, if they are more than just acts of pure willpower.  So link your time with God to something you already enjoy.

  • Every morning before my time with God, I make myself a caramel latte: two shots of espresso, 12 ounces of soy milk heated to 180 degrees, and one pump of caramel.  I put my latte into thermos mug that keeps it warm for a long time, then I sit down with my Bible and journal and get started…as I sip my latte.  I look forward every morning to my latte and my time with God.
  • I’ve said before that I love the outdoors and it’s one of my favorite places to pray.  In the summer, I often do my daily time with God outdoors on the deck.

Those are just a couple ideas.  Wayne does his daily time with God early each morning at a local bakery where he gets a coffee and a scone.  The idea is that linking your daily time with God to something you already enjoy, it makes it easier to make it a habit.


          C. Keep at it.

          Experts agree that you have to keep at it steadily to make a habit.  Wayne cites experts that say 21 days; I’ve heard 28 days.  Either one, you have to keep at it.  You can’t go a few days and quit. 

ILL: To use another area where this is true, think of exercise.  How many of you have started an exercise program, and quit after a few days?  Why?  You were sore.  It hurt!  You didn’t see results like the pictures in the ad!  For exercise to do you any good, it has to become a habit!  And to build a habit, you have to keep at it.  You can’t quit the first time it hurts, or you don’t feel like it.  In fact, you have to do it even when you don’t feel like it. 

The same is true in your daily time with God.  You have to keep at it even when you don’t feel like it.  And I can guarantee there will be days when you’ll feel that way, especially at first.  Do it anyway.  No matter what excuse comes up…do it anyway!  Keep at it!

          So this is first: make it a habit.  An inviolable habit.  Daily time with God.


2. The tools: five things you need.

          Here are the tools, the five things you need to have a daily time with God.


          A. A Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Bible is unique; it is God’s inspired word; it is God-breathed.  Many people read devotional books or booklets each day that contain a verse from the Bible and a corresponding thought.  That’s good.  But how much better if they read the Bible itself and let God speak to them from His inspired word.

ILL: Two scenarios: which would you rather have?

          Scenario one: I go to a fabulous restaurant and have a great meal.  I tell you all about it, raving about the food, and then say, “Oh, I saved one bite from my meal.  Here, try it.” 

          Scenario two: You go to the fabulous restaurant and have the great meal yourself. 

          Which would you prefer?

This is the difference between reading a devotional book and reading the Bible.  Why not go to the source and have the full meal deal yourself? 

          First you need a Bible.  And I recommend that you get a version of the Bible you can understand.  The King James Version is lovely, but it was translated in 1611 in what we now call Victorian English.  Most of us don’t speak Victorian English, so it’s a hard to understand.  There are many excellent modern translations from the original Greek.

  • The New International Version.
  • The New Living Translation.
  • The New American Standard.

They all say “new”—they are new translations, but all from the old original Greek, so they aren’t changing the Bible, just translating it into our language.

          Get a Bible you can understand.


          B. A Bible reading plan.

          I recommend a plan that takes you through the whole Bible.  Many people get stuck reading their favorite book or chapter over and over and miss out on so much.  I can’t imagine anyone just watching one scene from a movie over and over, or reading only one chapter of a novel over and over!  The movie is so much better if you watch it all; the novel is so much better if you read it all.  Same with the Bible: read it all!  That’s why we need a plan.

          We have a Bible reading plan that will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year.  You read about 4 chapters a day, which takes about 20 minutes.  This plan is in our Life Journals, and is also available at the resource center, and online at our website.  On December 31, I just completed this reading plan again.  On January 1, I just started it again.  It’s a great plan!

          If 4 chapters a day is too much for you, cut it in half and make it a two year plan.  Or if that is too much, read one chapter a day and make it a four year plan.  Reading one chapter a day is way better than reading none.  So if you can’t do four, read two, or even one.  But read it every day.  Make it a habit. 

          What if you miss a day (or 3 or 4)?  First, don’t quit.  Keep at it!  There are several things you can do (depending on your temperament).

  • You can double up your reading for a day or two till you catch up.  This is what I usually do, but I’m a little obsessive about keeping on schedule.
  • You can pick up where you left off and read that today.  You’ll be off schedule, but it’s no big deal.  So it takes you 13 months or 15 months instead of 12…you’re reading the Bible and that’s what counts.
  • You can read today’s reading, and skip what you missed, and then make it up another time.

Do what works for you.  But whatever you do, don’t quit!  Keep at it!

ILL: Think of it like you do eating.  What do you do if you miss a meal?  Do you get discouraged and just quit eating.  “Well, that’s it for me.  I tried eating 3 times a day, and I just can’t do it.  If I can’t do all three, I quit.”  No.  If you miss a meal, you just eat again at the next meal time.  You don’t quit eating.  And while you may be hungrier than usual, you probably don’t eat 2 meals or 3 or 4 to make up for the ones you missed.  You just eat the next meal.

That’s what I’m encouraging you to do with your Bible reading plan.  If you miss, go to the next meal and enjoy it.  Just don’t quit.

          First a Bible, then a Bible reading plan.


          C. A pen.

          Why a pen?  So you can mark up your Bible!  Is that sacrilegious?  Nope!  When you read your Bible and a verse jumps out at you or speaks to you, underline it.  Or put a star or an asterisk by it.  Or make a note in the margin.  I’ve got a pile of marked up Bibles; after one gets read and marked several times, I get a clean one and start over.

          A Bible, a Bible reading plan, and a pen.  You’ll also need a pen for the next tool.


          D. A journal.

Jeremiah 30:2 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.”

A journal is a notebook in which you can write down what God says to you.  That’s all journaling is—writing it down.  It is you taking notes on what God says to you.  I know a lot of people who don’t like to write.  How many of you don’t like to write?  Lots of people tell me that they read the Bible and God speaks to them, but they don’t write it down.  Why would we write it down? 

ILL: Imagine that we take a physics class together.  I’m furiously taking notes in class, writing down what the professor says.  You ask me, “Why are taking notes?  I just listen to the professor; I don’t need to take notes.”  My question is: Who will do better on the test? 

Taking notes helps you retain what you hear.  You learn more when you write down what you hear. And you will have a written record of what God has said to you that you can review and remember. 

ILL: Last Sunday, I asked you to pray for Dave Compogno.  The surgeon successfully removed a cancerous tumor from his colon; in a few weeks he will begin a regimen of chemotherapy.  Medically, Dave’s chances for a full cancer-free recovery are good.  We’re thanking God and praying for him.

          When the surgeon and the oncologist each came to visit Dave and Annee, friends were there with them.  Can anyone guess what one of the friends did?  Took notes—careful notes.  So that after the doc left, and they wondered, “What did he say about this?” they could consult their notes and remember.

God is speaking to you.  Write it down and remember.  We have these Life Journals with a Bible reading plan in them available at our resource center.  We sell them at our cost.  If you can’t afford one, we’ll give you one. 

          A Bible, a plan, a pen, a journal, and…


          E. A daily planner.  (or a to-do list, or piece of paper)

          Why this?  Because when you begin to read or pray, some unfinished task will pop into your mind—guaranteed!  How many know what I’m talking about?  You sit down to read your Bible and suddenly you start remembering things you’ve got to do!  This is why you have your planner.  When these things come to your mind, write them down, and then forget about them and get back to your time with God.  (Or if you need to, you can pray about.)  Without this, you’ll be continually distracted.

          Five tools.  Now how do you use them for a daily time with God?  How can you feed yourself, and hear Jesus speaking to you? 


3. Use the SOAP!

          Here’s a very simple plan for feeding yourself God’s word, for hearing God’s voice.  S-O-A-P: soap.


          Scripture: As you read the Bible, ask God for one thing for today.  Only one thing.  What is the one truth, the one idea, the one verse that stands out above all the others?  What is the one thing that God is saying to you today?  Don’t look for 5 things or 3 or 2: only one thing.  If you write down too many things, you won’t remember any of them, so focus on one thing.  This is the genius of this particular way of doing your daily time with God.  Make it your goal to hear one thing from God for the day.  Only one thing.

          Write that verse down, word for word.  That’s the S: Scripture.


          Observation: The O is observation.  Observe what the verse says.  Think about it, ponder its meaning, let its message sink in.  What’s happening, who is affected, what is the message or meaning?  What’s the big idea?  What is God saying to you from this verse?  I talked with someone this week who admitted that he often reads several chapters of Scripture a day, and walks away unchanged because he didn’t take the time to think about it.  It would be better to read less and think more.  Stop and take a few minutes to ponder, consider, think about what it means.

Write down your observation in a few sentences. 


          Application: The A is application.  Observation is “what does it mean?” Application is “what will I do?”  How will I be different today as a result of what I’ve just read?  What will I do because of this?  This is where hearing turns into doing.  God speaks to change us.  He wants to transform you, not just inform you.  So we read the Bible not just for information, but transformation; and that only happens when we get to this point of application, of doing what we hear from Jesus. 

          Write down in a sentence or two what you’re going to do today.


          Prayer: The P is prayer.  Finish by turning what you have learned and will do, your one thing for the day, into a thoughtful prayer.  Writing out your prayer forces you to be thoughtful about it.  Going back and reading your prayers can be a very inspiring thing. 


          Here is an example from my own journal.  The date is this Thursday, January 10.  I was reading Luke 10, and the verse that stood out was v. 40.

          Scripture: Luke 10:40 “Martha was distracted with much serving.” 

          Observation: Distracted with much serving.  What a phrase!  How many Christians are so busy serving Jesus that they don’t have time to listen to Jesus?  Like Martha, I’m easily distracted, and usually it’s by doing something good.  This morning, I was late to this time with God because I’m meeting my son at the end of the day to print pictures, and I had to edit and transfer the images.  It’s easy for good things, like serving others, to keep me from meeting with God.  Only one thing is needed.

          Application: Don’t let yourself get too busy for God.  Make time!

          Prayer: Lord, help me this year make my time with You my top priority…and make it rich!  Let’s get closer!  Speak to me, and help me hear and do what you say.  Don’t let me get “distracted with much serving.” 



          We’re going to finish by taking communion.  Let’s take a few minutes to be with God, to worship Him and listen for His voice.