What Do Cows Have to Do with It?

I grew up on a ranch. So when I think about meditating on God’s word, I think of rumination.  The dictionary definition of “ruminate” is: 1. to meditate or ponder, or 2. to chew the cud.  Technically, the biblical words for meditation have more to do with repeated murmuring out loud.  However, the idea of ruminating is not far from the essence of that biblical idea.  When one ruminates on face_to_faceScripture, they ponder it over and over.  Whether out loud or to oneself, the repeated pondering of the meaning and application of Scripture is an important discipline to spiritual growth.

This brings me to my ranch experience.  Cattle have several compartments in their stomach by which they digest the plant life they swallow as they graze.  The process of digesting these plants is aided by the cow regurgitating clumps of it, called “cud” and re-chewing.  Cud chewing serves to further break down the fibers of the plants and speed the digestive process.

Actually, “regurgitating” is a nasty way of describing a process that appears to be quite enjoyable for cattle.  Have you ever seen a cow chew its cud?  It appears to be such a relaxing and peace-filled event.  Usually they are lying down.  Their eyes are half-closed, and they are chewing away as if they have no cares in the world.  “Ruminating” is such a nicer word to describe this process.  The cows meditate on the pleasurable experience of chewing their cud, extracting all the nutrients they can out of it.

I like to think of my devotional time as my time to graze on God’s word.  When I SOAP journal my thoughts on a Scripture passage first thing in the morning, I store God’s word in my mind.  In the same way that a cow needs to ruminate what she has put into her stomach, I need to meditate on God’s word that I have placed in my mind.  There are several ways to do that:

  1. Write on an index card the verse or passage on which you journaled.  Carry that index card with you throughout the day and ponder its meaning and applications over and over.  Ask God to give you fresh insight as you go through the day.  Take time to share your insights with others.  Talking out loud about the verse is a great way to solidify in your mind and heart what God is saying to you through it.
  2. Meet with others individually or in groups throughout the week to share your devotional thoughts together.  Let them hear what God is saying to you through your journaling and give the Lord a chance to speak further to you through them.  This week I will meet four different times with different groups of people to share devotional thoughts.
  3. During your devotional time, read your journal entry from the same date the year before.  I do this and it gives me one more opportunity to reflect on the passage and hear how God wants to apply it to me.  It reveals where I have grown and where I still need to grow.

Let your meditation on God’s word be as pleasurable to you as chewing the cud is to a cow.  Enjoy the benefits of extracting every bit of nutrients for growth out of God’s word to you as you can.

What ways of meditating on God’s word work for you?

The Discipline of Relationship, Part 2

I’ll never forget as a college freshman learning that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus.  I had been a believer for many years, but I never knew God desired to have a relationship with me.  I was hungry for something else in my faith, but I didn’t know what.  So when I heard other believers talk about their relationship with Jesus, I knew I wanted what they had.  So they introduced me to the practice of having devotions – we called it a “quiet time.”  They gave me some instruction on how to have devotions and I began to get up early each day to meet with the Lord.

It was terrible.  Day after day I would try to hear the Lord speak to me as I read the Bible, attempted to pray and tried to listen.  Frankly, it seems the only thing I was successful at doing was falling asleep.  It truly was becoming a “quiet time.”  I was getting discouraged and was finding it harder and harder to find the discipline to continue.

I needed help.  I needed a coach, someone to show me how and to encourage me. I told a friend of my struggles and how defeated I felt.  He agreed to meet with me and have devotions with me.  He became a coach, a model, a mentor and a cheerleader for me.  Over the years I have read about how others have devotions, I have been in studies on the subject, and I have had others act as my devotional mentors.  All of these provided the discipline that I needed to develop a strong devotional life.  Today I no longer need others to provide the structure and discipline.  Thirty-seven years later, I am self-disciplined with my devotions.  I love meeting with the Lord.

Are you having trouble developing the discipline needed to have a consistent devotional life?  Do you wish you had more self-discipline?  The answer is not to try harder.  You will never develop self-discipline by exercising more self-discipline.  If you had self-discipline, you wouldn’t need to try harder.  You need to find discipline from outside of yourself.

coachWhen I went out for gymnastics as a high school sophomore, I knew nothing about gymnastics.  I needed a coach to teach me everything.  I needed a coach to motivate me to put in the hard work to become a gymnast. I did not have the self-discipline to become a good gymnast.  My coach is the one who provided the discipline I did not have.  As the years went by, I became less and less dependent on a coach to provide the structure and discipline necessary to be a gymnast.  I became self-disciplined.  Without discipline from my coach and the accountability of being on team, I would never have developed that self-discipline.

Devotions take discipline.  Most of us do not have the self-discipline to have the daily devotions that are necessary to nurture our relationship with Jesus.  We need help. We need people in our lives to create the discipline until we have become self-disciplined.  Who is your coach?  For some ideas of how to accomplish this, check out my post entitled, “2 Ways to Devotional Consistency.”

The Discipline of Relationship, Part 1

Anyone who enjoys a great marriage knows that a good relationship takes hard work.  It doesn’t just happen; there are talksome things that must be done to nurture it.  Let’s call those things… disciplines. If I am going to be a good communicator with my wife, I am going to have to learn what good communication looks like and I am going to have to practice it.  I may need to read a book on communication or go to a marriage seminar.  The point is that I don’t drift into good communication.  It is not natural for me to do so.  I have to practice it and that takes discipline.

Our relationship with God also takes discipline. That is what devotions are all about.  Devotions provide the practice necessary to nurture a relationship with the Lord.  Through devotions, I practice listening to his voice and responding to it.  I practice talking to him in prayer.  And I practice worshiping him.  These are not natural things to do, so I have to discipline myself to do them.

Devotions, however, are not the totality of the relationship with God.  They are only a means of nurturing that relationship.  I don’t wait until I go to a marriage seminar to communicate with my wife.  The seminar, however, will provide the discipline needed to be a better communicator with her all the time.  Likewise, devotions help me be in relationship with the Lord every moment of my life.

For years I went to a gym and practiced gymnastics for hours.  I wasn’t only a gymnast when I was in the gym.  I was a gymnast all the time.  Practice helped me become a better gymnast, but I ate, drank and slept gymnastics all my waking hours, and even in my dreams.  My mind was always rehearsing routines.  I was conscience of my every part of my body.  I was a gymnast outside of the gym.  Practice was the discipline I needed to become a gymnast, but it was not the totality of being a gymnast.

My point is that devotions are necessary to develop a relationship with the Lord – they are not the totality of that relationship.  It is not natural for us to have a great relationship with God.  We must nurture it through the discipline of devotions.

How is your relationship with God?  Are you getting to the “gym” regularly?

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