Deeper Insight with Spiritual Masters

Let’s apply to reading spiritual masters…

…the two skills we already honed, rapid and repeated reading of a book and chapters.

You have already read through portions of key books in the Bible. Are you beginning to marvel over treasures from the Word of God lying with their beauty on the surface? These nuggets are so rich and dense that we may even stumble over them.

Yet need and desire create a thirst to develop abilities to focus more deeply and consistently to mine the treasures. We grasp that Christ is inviting us into fuller life.

I want to encourage you to discover solid “passive spiritual masters” in addition to active learning and doing that you are building around God’s Love-Letter.

What’s a passive spiritual master?

Those who have written books, especially classics that have stood the test of time. Make these familiar friends who walk beside you.

When I came to Christ at twenty-five, I didn’t read…nothing except for the sports page!

Oh, I certainly could read. I just didn’t like to read.

Somehow when I came to Christ, I began to read…and read and read. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do and had a fierce hunger to grow. I exclusively read good Christian authors, and experienced deeper insight from spiritual masters.

At that time, I was familiar with no Christian authors. A friend recommended one book that impacted me. I next picked up other books by the same author. I also checked the footnotes for other Christian spiritual masters who had impacted this author. Because I chose to read, early-on I stood on the shoulders of wise Christians to expand my view of God and His people from Scripture. These authors ended up as my “passive mentors,” although I had not met any of them personally. Yet what impact!

My priority remained to soak in one Bible book after another.

Through experience and observation, I came to believe that we also needed to read excellent Christian authors to accelerate our growth. When we simply read and reread Scripture, we tend to bring our own existing thoughts to Scripture…over and again. If so, we often come away unchanged, seeing the same truth we saw last time.

Yes, repeated reading of Bible books and chapters is crucial to learning. Also crucial is reading those who are farther along on this journey, spiritual masters. They help me remove my blinders by providing a broader perspective. Both/And.

Now, we still need to read with discernment and awareness. Don’t swallow all that’s in print, especially what you read online, including what I write! It’s been correctly said, “Read like you eat fish. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” Use the insights of others to test your own against Scripture. Because I had to learn this concept, I added some of my thoughts in the free PDF Reading & Evaluating a Book. Freely gather your own thoughts in addition to mine.

I’m attempting to help you build one skill or application upon previous ones. This style of “layer learning” builds upon our previous foundation. Synthesizing all the Bible study books I’ve read, I want to suggest what I have experienced to be the easiest and simplest. Yet it’s thorough and adaptable to build upon to grow as lifelong life-learners and doers.

As my primary way…

…when I formally meet with others, I read one chapter in the Bible and one chapter in a solid Christian book each week.

Then we come together in an interactive community designed around natural learning to share insights and what we have done based on what we studied. Then repeat the next week, one Bible book after another.

Since I see this as an ideal way to study,…

…I’ve developed an 8-part series called DiscipleMaking Companion as a companion to guide you on your journey. I’ve synthesized and incorporated what I’ve learned on my adventure of faith from how-to books of Bible study and more recent studies of how God designed our brains to best learn.

These are seamlessly incorporated in the 8-part studies. I chose what for me are key books, brought in one Christian spiritual master, and wrote a short, 4-page “Stretch Yourself,” much of it gathered from my passive mentors.

As you get on a first-name basis with some of my passive spiritual masters, you will hear an echo of their voice that has now become my voice. Here’s a brief synopsis of the DiscipleMaking Companion 8-part series that I encourage you to build into your lives.

DiscipleMaking Companion Series

WHAT?

I have a passion to help followers of Jesus grow spiritually. A disciple is a learner. As we actively partner with the Holy Spirit, He releases inner change as we align learning with how God hardwired us in Genesis 1. Those who have previously disqualified themselves with, “I can’t understand the Bible,” now have a way to access treasure in Scripture and grow more rapidly.

HOW?

My vision lines up with Jesus. “Make disciples of every people group” (Matthew 28:20). Each “DMC” aligns with God’s design for re-created Jesus-followers as lifelong life-learners. He rouses us to respond to Scripture (James 1:22).

A “Companion” then functions as a “cultural architect,” cultivating a soil with essential nutrients to learn to think from Scripture to life to grow together. Each week seamlessly integrates healthy cutting-edge learning, with a bias towards doing so God’s truth encounters our life in a joyful way. This simple, reproducible process gets you directly into the Bible book by book since our minds don’t like scattered bits and pieces.

Each “Companion” “flips”…

…the customary learning process to tap into God’s invitation into fuller life. By “flip,” I mean, read the passage daily prior to the weekly meeting to develop good habits that work for you. Mark up the assigned text without outside helps. Temporarily lay down your previous views to give the Spirit fresh permission to teach you personally. Rapidly reading the entire book once per week supports healthy BIG-small-BIG learning. The weekly “Stretch Myself” adds key themes that are essential for healthy, sustaining growth. Perhaps ideally read this after the meeting.

We focus on doing the Word outside the group, preferably before coming so you can bring fresh bread for others. God’s creation models daily nourishment, not coming once a week to tank up. Only doing God’s Word creates experience leading to true knowledge. Instead of merely “giving a fish, teach others to fish.” And it also takes our hard work. Here’s the tipping point. Do we study Scripture, only seeing what we’ve previously seen or heard from others? Or quickly change to align with what God reveals as our best? Only one brings life.

WHY?

I have integrated the four primary motivations for adult learners that feed into our natural desires to be disciples of Jesus.

Here are ten suggested books…

…for deeper insight through spiritual masters. This list certainly is not exhaustive, but suggestive. I’m just starting you with ten of mine to prime your pump. I highly encourage you to learn from these spiritual masters, perhaps as you go through the DiscipleMaking Companion series because they quote from these books.

  1. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.
  2. They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edman
  3. Practicing His Presence (lives of Brother Lawrence & Frank Laubach), edited by Gene Edwards
  4. Times of Refreshing by Jim Fredericks (this book only makes this “master” list since I’ve gained deeper insight with spiritual masters like these. Additionally, what I write lays our solid spiritual foundation).
  5. Victory over the Darkness by Neil Anderson
  6. Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray (I could have suggested a number of his books)
  7. The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer.
  8. Experiencing the Trinity by Darrell W. Johnson.
  9. Naturally Supernatural by Gary Best.
  10. Concise Theology by J.I. Packer.

And the good news is that God designed us to engage in mining the treasures of His Word because He longs for deeper relationship. He calls us disciples, learners, and has fully outfitted us as competent miners. It will demand persistence and effort, mining nuggets from the Bible move us on to another level spiritually. The treasures we mine are about Jesus! Invest time…

…in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 3:2b-3).

Begin by identifying keys to unlock improved adult learning.

Here are a few verses to dive into. Read these first since active learning accelerates our learning.

First, Acts 2:42 sketches out avenues to sow Jesus’ new culture. What are your Biblical convictions from these passages?

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42, NIV).

Second, bombard the text with “I wonder…” questions to gain insight (our Six Helpers, who, what, where, when, why and how). Then jot down how doing and responding bring personal change as truth encounters our life.

Third, 1 Thessalonians is one of the earliest books, written to three-week old Christians. What were some of the elements in 1:6-7 that led to multiplying the faith-community in 1:8-10? Jot down your Biblical convictions from these passages.

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, NIV).

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, NIV).

Fourth, the Spirit of God lives within us to teach us God’s Word. List what the Spirit does in this sampling: John 14:26, 16:14-15. Everyone who has the Spirit can come as both a learner and a teacher. Jot down your Biblical convictions from these passages. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26, NIV).

“[The Spirit] will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (John 16:14-15, NIV).

After deeply ingraining this process as a healthy pattern in your life,…

…adapt it to your uniqueness as necessary. The only time we can’t learn is when we forfeit our listening hearts as lifelong life-learners. Of course, I’m simply putting feet to what Ezra knew some 2,500 years ago.

How did Ezra learn in Ezra 7:10?

Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel (NLT).

How do we best learn from this motivation flowing from the Spirit of wisdom and revelation?

First, we best learn to engage the Bible for LifeChange one layer at a time. So, the training I’m suggesting focuses on five different, yet complementary, ways of approaching Scripture. We began this incremental process with the most basic skill and build one layer after another. Every one of these skills are within the reach of any disciple of Jesus who recognizes that “disciple” means “learner.” Jesus designed us and calls us to be lifelong life-learners and doers.

  1. Book (BIG): Rapid reading of one Bible book.
  2. Chapter (small): Repeated reading of one Bible chapter.
  3. Outside Book: Deeper insight from spiritual masters added to the priority of rapid and repeated reading of the Bible.
  4. Entire Bible (BIG): Rapid reading of the NT first than the OT.
  5. Paragraph (smaller): Dive down into one Bible paragraph. Since this requires higher levels of skills, we save this for last, although these skills are within the reach of all.

Second, you are the gatekeeper of your heart. You must decide for yourself as you converse with our Family-of-Three. Ask, “What level of engagement with the Bible is necessary for me in this season to thrive spiritually” I’ll expose us to a wide view of how to study the Bible for “AnyPerson.” Try each of them out. Experiment. Then you select what works for you personally for this season.

“Disciple” means learner. Read Scripture as the “breath of heaven” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) with a bias toward doing.

Where Do I Go from Here?

I’ve designed this series of sub-webpages for Mining God’s Word with your self-learning in mind, one layer of skills after another. This flexibility helps you learn in the way you learn best.

  1. Read and reflect on this free PDF of much of this page if you want to think more about this.
  2. Pull up any links scatted throughout these web pages and reread as needed (Reading & Evaluating a Book).
  3. Engage for 13-weeks in the book Jesus Sows a Culture of Freedom (either the free PDF or the printed book on Amazon.com). This is compilation of early NT selections in Mark, the Sermon on the Mount and Galatians that lay out the foundation for NT Christianity.
  4. Have you invited a couple of other believers around you to practice natural learning together in an interactive group? We learn best together.

Additional Choices for the future:

  1. If not now, please take time later to go through the fourth skill, Rapid Reading through the NT & OT. This will build on the reading skills you are strengthening and bring these to a new level. And since “context is king” in learning, this will lay down a big-picture context you can build on for a lifetime.
  2. You may instead for now want to select one in the 8-part DiscipleMaking Companion to begin your study. These are similarly designed with a style to encourage lifelong life-learning and dong. I would recommend the first in the series, Philippians, Joy Overflowing, Word & Spirit, or the second in the series since you have already begun to lay a foundation here, Ephesians 1-3: Renewed Identity in Christ. Invest five weeks in Philippians or six weeks in Ephesians 1-3. Each of these takes a step deeper and wider, as you also expose yourself to one crucial topic for a follower of Jesus.
  3. When you have finished one of the books in the 8-part DiscipleMaking Companion series, go on to the next one. I have numbered them in a suggested order. You choose as a group however because you know yourself and your group best. Here is a convenient hyperlink to Freder’s Favorites, Available on Amazon.Com.
  4. I would suggest (but only suggest!) working at least through the first four in the DiscipleMaking Companion series, even if you you do the others later. The first four lay a solid foundation and the last four build crucial perspectives upon this sure foundation.
  5. If you have not already finished, be sure to also continue to build your foundation from “Seven Essentials from a Natural Learning Culture.” This learning culture is a powerful support for your learning.
  6. As you have additional time, pick up one of the suggested books by spiritual masters I suggested, or  find your own spiritual masters for whom you have personal interest. However, please don’t settle for much of the “how-to” fluff that comes out of marketing and Christian consumerism today. Be sure you maintain Scripture as your priority.
  7. Are you beginning to grasp that you have decades ahead of you to enjoy this adventure of faith based on God’s Love-Letter?

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