Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The "Vanilla Factor"

What's the most popular flavor of ice cream, do you think? Answer? Vanilla. However, it's not enough to say that vanilla is the most popular; that only tells part of the story. Vanilla is not just the most popular, it's more than three times the popularity of the second place flavor, Chocolate. 29% of respondents say vanilla, compared to Chocolate at 9%. It's not even close. Let's call this the "vanilla factor..."

A few years ago a large and influential American church began to take a hard look at how effective they were at accomplishing their mission of making disciples. "Sure," they said; "we have lots of people coming to church, tithing, our small groups are large, people are serving, but is any of it making a difference?" "Are people more in love with God and each other than they were? Are people moving closer to Christ?"

After surveying themselves, and then thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands of people just like you and me, trying to pin down what helped people actually grow closer to Christ, one finding jumped off the page. Bible. Specifically, reading, reflecting, and applying God's Word to your life.

Many things can help us grow, they found; serving, fasting, praying, journaling, being in a small group, attending worship services, Bible studies, tithing, belief in certain key doctrines...all of these are catalysts. However, Bible was the vanilla factor. It wasn't even close. Not just reading God's Word, but reading it, meditating on it, and living it out.

It is the vanilla factor for spiritual growth.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12).

So the question, it seems, isn't "how do I grow closer to God?" The question is "are you getting into God's Word often, reflecting on it, applying it, and living it?" What is your plan?

"Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts." (Jeremiah 15:16)

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