Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Sacred Rhythms Resources on sale now.
About this series
Cultivating a Lifestyle that Makes Room for God
We all do life in rhythms. Getting up for the day, meals, school, work, church... there are rhythms we live in. In this series, Chip introduces the idea of living in sacred rhythms. He tells us there's a specific way to arrange our lives that will cultivate practices and help us grow in intimate relationship with Jesus. Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, unpacks the specifics of how to live life in Sacred Rhythms.More from this series
The Spirit of God can live in your life, but the Word is the fuel and the fuel gets transmitted by a trusting moment of faith that responds in obedience. And as you take the step, you get power to live the life that He has called you to.
Theresa and I over the years have done, certainly, our share of counseling and
I always liked to just be down front and talk to people. “So, what is God doing?” And people have really, really, really big problems sometimes. We have had our really big problems too. So, okay. But I saw this parallel. People would come down and, “This is wrong and this is wrong and that’s wrong and this is wrong and that’s wrong and where is God?” And so, I listen and pray and then I’ll say, “Could you tell me just something?” “Yeah.” “Tell me a little bit about, are you in the Bible on a regular basis?” “Well, no.” “Well, do you read it at all?” “No.” “So, you come to church now and then. Your problems are astronomical. And you really want God’s help. And you have been crying for the last five minutes and telling me how, ‘Where is God?’
Here’s an observation after forty years of ministry. Very, very big problems correlate with zero to little time in God’s Word. Much time in God’s Word doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. It means you have power and perspective and the Jesus that you sing about, that you said He is for me, He is with me – He manifests His presence and His power because He is speaking to you through His Word.”
Now, before I talk about some really practical ways, I need to fair here, because Jesus makes then some warnings. And here He gives you three specific warnings. Notice the warning number one. He says, “Do you bring a lamp out and put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on a stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Then notice He goes on. “Consider it carefully what you hear,” He continues, “with the measure that you use it,” as in, put it into practice, “it will be measured unto you and even more. Whoever has will be given more, and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
Warning number one is: there is no such thing as private spirituality. We are living in a day where: I don’t need people. I don’t need this, even as a Christian. I am on my own. I don’t go to church. I read the Bible and I pray and I have this private relationship.
He says, “That’s not a part of My plan.” Whatever I am doing in your life needs to get out and people need to see it in your words and your life and your priorities and your work. The truth is light. The light is impacting you and I want that light to be everywhere.
And then He makes another warning. And this is actually kind of scary. He said: When you are in a service like this, when you are listening to a podcast, when you’re listening to a song where God is speaking and when God speaks to you, He brings truth through His Word, if you respond to the light, He will give you more light. If you stiff-arm Him and don’t respond to the light, little, by little, by little, even the light you have will be taken away.
See, it’s not, I can take you to places where people know the Bible ten times better than me and are writing in Ugaritic and Hebrew and in places – and you know what? God is far from them, but they are Bible scholars. It is not knowing the Bible or about the Bible. It’s responding.
One of the reasons I keep a journal is because it’s so easy to have an emotional experience with God. I read, I kind of felt the Holy Spirit, He said I need to apologize to Theresa because of what I said last night. And I really raised my voice and I really hurt her feelings. And…oh, I feel good. And I just forgot one little thing. I haven’t apologized to her yet.
The next time I open the Bible, it’s not quite as vivid. And then as I am praying and sit quietly, Have you apologized to Theresa yet? Well, we’ll do that later. But it’s eighty percent her fault, only twenty percent my fault. I want to make sure she has a chance, Lord.
Here’s what I’m telling you: there are times when I have felt very spiritually dry. You want a great rhythm of life? Every, single day I spend time in God’s Word. And every, single day I say, Lord, I have to respond. I need to take some specific step of faith today to respond to the truth. It might be: I’m going to pause and thank You. It might be: you know what? This was so encouraging to me, Lord, bring someone to my mind. I’m going to text two people.
But I am going to do something every, single day that, when the Word of God comes in, I’m going to act on it. Because here’s what I know: the longer I don’t act on it, you know what you become? You become a Pharisee. You become someone who knows a lot and then you can tell people how much you know and how much you have read and all your theology. Some of the people that know the most about God are the farthest from God.
The organ of transformation is not knowledge in the Christian life. The organ of transformation is obedience. It’s responding to what God shows you.
So, if He has been saying: Stop logging on to pornography. He’s going to keep saying that and saying that and saying that and you keep doing it, pretty soon, your experience of God’s presence…
Get out of that relationship. Forgive him. Or, Forgive her. You’re going to spend the whole rest of your life being angry at your dad or your mom and what they didn’t give you? Release it. And if you, if you are hard-hearted and will not respond to the Spirit, what you find is God doesn’t feel close. He is not doing that as – He’s doing it as a kindness and a discipline.
Anytime you feel like God is a little bit far away, pray this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and see if there is any wicked way in me. And lead me in the everlasting way.” And then sit quietly.
And if you hear, “You’re a terrible person and you’re a jerk and…” That’s Satan. That’s condemnation. It’s always vague, it’s always general, it makes you want to run from God. But when you sit quietly and He says something very specific about you and an attitude or something you need to address, Thank You, Lord. That’s your Father saying, Hey, hey, come over here. Let Me put My arm around you. Let Me forgive you. Let’s walk together again. And as you walk in the light, He begins to experience the light with you.
Second warning is the parable of the growing seed. He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? A man scattered seed on the ground night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows though he doesn’t know how. All by itself,” we get our word automatic from this word, “the soil produces, first, the grain, then the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Warning number one: there is no such thing as just private spirituality. Warning number two: there is no magic formula. Spiritual growth is a process. Everything in life, right? It’s life. It’s the life of Christ. Everything in life has a seed and then the seed sprouts, then the plant grows, and then it matures. And when it matures, it has – what? Fruit. What is inside fruit? Seeds!
Inside every fruit, there are seeds. In fact, go back to Genesis. God designed this from the very beginning. All of nature – He is screaming, “This is how life works!” And He talks about: there’s vegetation and seed of its own kind. And there are animals and they multiply after their own kind.
He wants you to know there’s a process in birthing things in your life and there’s some growing. And then there is real growth. And then there is fruit. And guess what – it takes time. It is a journey. There is no big experience that will make it all happen, no matter how hard you try.
Notice He says: he plants it day or night, whether he is sleeping or not and how it grows he doesn’t know. Are you ready for this too? It’s mysterious. The Spirit of God is uniquely interacting with your soul and your spirit, what you need to hear in a personalized way. There’s not some cookie-cutter formula that everyone needs to do these practices in this way at this time. He is working and cultivating and growing and birthing and maturing you.
He knows your family of origin, He knows your fears, He knows your struggles, He knows your addictions, He knows all the things that are in your heart. He knows your strengths. And He is speaking in His Word, by His Spirit, and through the community of God’s people as a Father ushering you on this journey to make you more and more like His Son. And sometimes we get very impatient.
The third warning: “Again, He said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like? Or what parable shall we use to describe it? It’s like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed in the ground, yet when planted it grows and becomes the largest of all the garden. Plants with such big branches that birds of the air can perch in its shade.’” And then He goes on to talk about many other parables.
The third warning is that it starts small, but it has great impact. Sometimes you just feel like – I remember as a new Christian. I didn’t grow up as a follower of Christ. I’m telling you, I’d pray for three minutes and I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I remember reading a part of a paragraph and my head hurt.
God’s journey, it starts small, and then what happens is He not only works in you, but then He works through you. It’s the smallest little seed, but then it grows. Then notice the impact. Even the birds of the air, it becomes a place of shelter to others.
God must work deeply in you, before He works significantly through you. And I just want you to get that, because that’s the context for spiritual rhythms. Spiritual rhythms are very dangerous if they become an end in themselves.
If they become a journey and a process, where you realize: the issue is my heart. God’s seed is powerful and supernatural. It will always produce the right thing.
Second, you know what? It’s going to take time. And so, the issue isn’t how much I know. It’s: am I responding to what I do know? And then I need to realize that God is patient with me and it’s a process. He’s not shocked when you have two steps forward and three steps backwards. He’s your Father. He’s not down on you. The enemy wants you to get discouraged.
And you’re thinking, Gosh, everyone else is so far along. I remember when I was – I came to Christ just before I went away to college and I would go to a Bible study and they would say something and everyone turned someplace and I’m looking at the table of contents. It was a really thick book. And, let’s see…where…? And I didn’t want to be too…
By the time I found it, they read it and were moving on. And I felt like a dummy. And what I realized was, you know something? God looks at your heart. He says, “I’m for you. I love you. Let’s start where you are.”
And candidly, I’ve been doing this for a while – I still read some passages – can I make an admission? Lord, I’ve read a lot of books, but I really, I still don’t know what this passage means. Is it embarrassing to think that an infinite God who created the galaxies and the world, that somehow, someway, that we are going to understand it all? It’s – you know what? Just take the passages that you do understand and respond to them and watch what happens.
Well, let me get practical to what are some ways, the spiritual rhythms at least that have helped me the most. The first one, I had a young pastor, I was speaking somewhere recently and he had been a pastor five years. He goes, “Excuse me, Mr. Ingram!” Boy, you’re getting old when they call you that.
And he said, “I’m just a young pastor and what, what advice would you give me? I really, I want God to use my life and…” And I said, “Hey…”
And I could tell he thought there was some really big thing coming. I said, “Well, I’m grateful that God put some great people in my life, I’m grateful that I got to go to a good school and had to learn Hebrew and Greek and all that.” And he’s going, “Oh, oh…”
I said, “Let me tell you what has helped me the most, more than anything else. All the education, all that. Here’s what has helped me the most. I had a bricklayer with a high school education model what it looked like to follow Jesus, love his wife, raise his kids. And after about three years around him, I didn’t know if I was supposed to be a coach or a lawyer or whatever. Here’s what I knew: I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be a man like him.”
And so, I said, “What I saw was he got up every day and spent time with God. It was the priority of his life.” And so, what I told him was, “For me, at first it was duty. I didn’t always feel like it. It was hard to get up. And then pretty soon it became a discipline that it was a habit in my life and I did it. And then I remember after a few years, it became a delight.”
And I will tell you, Theresa and I sometimes joke. I make the coffee at night before we get up and I’ll say, “Hey! The coffee is already made. We should go to bed early so we can get up, because then the morning comes!”
And I quit setting an alarm probably twenty-five years ago. Lord, just wake me up. Now, some of you keep setting it. Don’t miss work. But if you went to bed as early as me, I get plenty of sleep. And He just wakes me up and I just can’t wait to meet Him and you know what I do? I am in His Word and then when He speaks to me, I write it down. Because if it’s a process, I am so silly and not very smart and forgetful, I’ll forget what He’s doing.
And so when I feel really uptight, I’ll write this, Dear God. I am very concerned about…will you please help me with…? And I put a little box. And then, God, thank You so much for…when I don’t feel like praying. It’s amazing when you start thanking Him for what you do have. Thank You, thank You, thank You. And then, Wow, I’ve got a big meeting today. It may not go well. Would You give me supernatural wisdom and grace when I meet with so-and-so, because I think this will…
And then, the next morning I wake up and I’ve got these boxes. Lord, check mark! 10/11. Man, did You work in their heart and You gave me wisdom. Line through it. Lord, give me more grace, because I didn’t handle that very well. Right?
And near the end of every year, sometimes about every six months, I’ll get two or three of these out and I’ll just read where I’ve been and I’ll see the rhythms that God has in my life and what He is doing, because don’t we get just into what happened today and what about next week? Now, you don’t all have to journal. But for some of us, especially if you’re a verbal processer, it’s very helpful.
The second thing that has been super helpful for me was: how do you break through what I call, “strongholds.” You have areas of your life you just simply can’t break out of. And I will say what helped me more than anything else was I was introduced to memorizing Scripture around the areas that I struggled. And I started writing them on these cards and I would write, like in my college days, I was convinced that you could not be free from lustful thoughts.
And so, I took a number of verses where the Bible talks about that and I memorized them. And after twenty-one verses, word-for-word, in twenty-one days that I reviewed every day, God changed my thinking that changed my life. And I was free.
Then I realized that there were areas of my life that I longed to become, but no amount of trying hard – but the Scripture says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
If we had a little more time, if there’s one big thing I’ve learned over the years, apart from spending time with God, it’s being very focused – very, very focused about your intentionality in walking with God.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. And so, when I was twenty-eight years old, I came to a point where I decided I would make instead of just “to-do” lists every day, I made a “to-be” list. And I was overwhelmed with work and I was a young dad and I felt like no matter what I did, I didn’t measure up.
And I remember someone telling me, “God will never love you any more than He loves you at this very minute. So, there’s nothing to prove and there’s nothing to lose. Live out of that love.”
And so, I remember, it was on my way home. I stopped at a Dairy Queen. And I got a napkin out.
Who do you want to be? I decided: I want to be a man of God. Well, what will that take? And then I wrote down on my schedule that I would meet with God first. Who do you want to be? I want to be a great husband with a great marriage. And so, I wrote on my calendar, “Every Friday: date with Theresa. We are going to eat as a family.” Who do you want to be? “I want to be a great dad.” And so I wrote on my calendar when and how I would spend time with my kids.
I said, “I want to be a great friend who actually stays in shape.” And so, I wrote on my calendar when I was going to work out and hang out with some guys. And then, “Who do you want to be?” “I want to be a man that God would choose to use in a way that would be absolutely unexplainable.”
And so, I started writing my desires down. And I wrote desires that I knew for sure were the will of God. So, a desire like, “I want to be habitually thankful as my unconscious response to all life’s circumstances in view of the sovereignty and the goodness of God.”
And I would just read that over. “I desire to hunger and thirst for God’s Word, to memorize and meditate on it, in order that I might know Him better.” I wrote down, “I desire to limit my work hours weekly and preaching schedule to avoid the burnout and self-dependency it creates.” “I desire to stop caring about what others think and apply myself and my schedule to what will make me the best I can be to God. I want to grow free of the invisible expectations that I allow to hinder my joy, my freedom, my schedule from pursuing the best.” Right? I’m a people pleaser.
And then I went through and I said, “Desire for my marriage.” “I desire to love Theresa sacrificially in a way every day that makes sense to her.” Now, she will tell you, I have not done that. But, and all I did is I would read these. And what I found was, as I read them, my mind was renewed. And I would find myself, “This is weird. I want to take out the trash and she hasn’t told me? Where is this coming from?” And the Spirit would say, You’re renewing your mind.
Then for my kids, I wrote down goals or, really, desires. “I desire to inspire my children to love God and His Word by my example in formal times and in conversation in the car and everywhere.” “I desire to model the attributes of my heavenly Father in my everyday life.” “I desire for each of my kids to hunger and thirst for righteousness and know deep in their souls how loved, significant, and valuable they are in Christ, not because of anything or anyone else.”
And then I wrote some desires for ministry. 1997 or 8. God, I desire to put something in print that would help people the way other authors have helped me. And I never dreamed I would write a book. God delights to fulfill the desires of your heart.