Devotions

I’LL BE OKAY

There are Christians in danger!

Believers who are sporadic in spending time with God.

They are inconsistent in feeding on God’s word, and they’re half-hearted in committing themselves to engage in meaningful conversation with God.

The most common excuse is not having enough time. But I believe the real reason is a lack of conviction that carving out time with God is of desperate importance.

Are you a Christians who believe you can afford to miss time with God? Do you think you will be okay walking through the day without equipping your heart and mind with the whole armor of God?

If you think you can afford to go about your day without armoring and strengthening yourself in the Lord, consider these warnings against the trickery and attacks of Satan and his followers:

John 8:44 Jesus calls Satan “a liar and the father of lies”

2 Corinthians 2:11 warns us not to be “outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”

2 Timothy 2:26 tells us Satan has “snares”

Ephesians 6:11 says he has “schemes”

2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Revelation 12:12 “the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Matthew 7:15 In addition to Satan, Jesus adds, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

This is the reality you face each day. These are the conditions which constantly swirl about you.

God’s word is emphatic in declaring, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

If you think you can afford to neglect time with God today and leave your armor behind, then Satan has already been successful in his “lies”, “schemes” and “snares”.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!

IT’S NOT A CHORE!

You should be thoughtfully reading God’s Word on a regular basis.

But you already know that.

A good definition of regular is each day. There will be days when circumstances get out of control and you miss your reading time. When that happens, don’t drift into guilt. Simply thank God for his graciousness and pick up again the next day.

I cannot remember ever hearing a Christian tell me they didn’t think Bible reading was important. But I know there are many Christians who have not consistently established a habit of regular Bible reading.

The most common excuse we use is that “We don’t have time”.

But I think the actual most common reason is that we think of it as a burdensome chore.

In an article on the desiringGod website, David Mathis wrote:

“One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.”

I hope you will consider reading his entire article, “Treat Yourself to the Voice of God”.

David, not only encourages us in what Bible reading is – he also presents several helpful and perhaps unexpected tips for enjoying regular Bible reading.

If you enjoy David’s article, I highly recommend his outstanding book, “Habits of Grace”.

 

WHY DO WE NEGLECT SOMETHING SO GOOD?

Our homes would have more peace if we did

Our souls would be healthier if we did

Our lives would have more wisdom if we did

We know deep inside that we would be glad if we did

. . . read our Bibles faithfully and open-heartedly.

Many Christians struggle to have a consistent habit of Bible reading, even though we all have the privilege of owning at least one.

We can give various reasons why we don’t read our Bibles. But in the end, the fact is many who claim to be Christ’s followers just don’t do it.

In this article, John Piper answers a few of the reasons why we don’t read our Bibles – including “I don’t have time”, “I find it confusing” and “It doesn’t seem relevant”.

The only thing better than reading his article, would be to go ahead and read God’s Word.

TOO BUSY FOR WHAT…?

I am busy, it is not just something that is happening this week, my to do list is so long I have several different to do lists. And you are busy too, so I am not breaking new ground with my announcement.

As Americans we like to complain about our level of busyness, but we also view it as evidence that our life is important.

But only part of our jam packed schedules is self-imposed. The world has become more complicated with innumerable moving parts. We live in a bureaucratic world that threatens to eat us alive if we dare to slow down.

Many areas of life suffer because of this. Family life is a common victim, so are simple pleasures and taking the opportunity to slow down enough to observe life that surrounds us.

However, the area that suffers most of all is our time with God.

Personal worship and reading God’s word are items we find easy to push off until we have “more time”.

But when does “more time” ever fall into your lap?

The answer to this problem is not discovering more time, it is becoming more convinced of our desperate need for time with God (along with the conviction that no one will make time spent more fruitful than Him).

In Stephen Altrogge’s blog,  The Blazing Center, he recently post this article entitled “So busy I MUST pray” Stop and read his article now, it presents too important a truth, to be too busy to read.

WHAT CONTROLS YOUR FAMILY’S SCHEDULE?

by Debbie Huber

Does Your Family’s Schedule Begin with God?

“If we see each day as comparable to a millennium in eternity, then each 24 hours is chock full of opportunities to invest in a thousand years’ worth of eternity. Each day God gives us the precious gift of hours to invest in the lives of others – investments which will have eternal repercussions for us and them.” ~Joni Eareckson Tada

As a family beginning a new school year we often have fresh starts with our schedule and our commitments. This is a great time to begin or renew your family’s commitments to grow in love for God and neighbor.

Unfortunately, it is easy for the variety of activities and the busy schedules of families to squeeze out family time with the Lord and with each other.

We are often looking at our schedule from the wrong perspective, carving out what is left of our time for God, rather than beginning with God.

When we are a good steward of all of our resources, including our time, we give to God first, not out of what is leftover.  Remember, it is all His anyway, even the time!

A few suggestions to help shape your family’s schedule:

Begin with deciding when is best for your family to read the Bible and pray together and then plan bedtimes, when to wake up, or when to have meals accordingly.  This may mean setting the alarm a little earlier or reworking the breakfast time.

Begin with worshiping together as a family in church and then plan other weekend activities that will not conflict. You make a strong example when you do not compromise.  There may be short term disappointment, but show to your family that it is not out of duty but out of a love for God and His church.

Begin with serving others over our own wants and desires.  As Joni Eareckson Tada said, “Each day God gives us the precious gift of hours to invest in the lives of others – investments which will have eternal repercussions for us and them.”

Begin with family time over use of technology.

Model to your family that you seek to begin with God in planning your finances, in the use of your home, in hospitality to others, in your job, and in all of life.  We will fail at times but your family will see the sincerity of your dependence on God and that you seek His forgiveness and help.

There will still be days of very busy hectic schedules, but let the other things get squeezed out over your time with The Lord.  As you begin you day, ask God that He will use the time He gives you for His good purposes.

Don’t carve out time for God, begin with it.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR DEVOTIONS

I am not excusing half-heartedness!

And I do not want to make it easier for anyone to rationalize skipping over prayer and reading their Bible

But, there are some days when events and overslept alarms make it virtually impossible to settle in for devotional time with our Heavenly Father.

Although the physical reality of having no time may have caught you, remember that the spiritual realities of the world you’re about to enter also want to catch you – and that is a reality with real teeth.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8

We simply cannot afford to go off into our day without any preparation.

So, what to do?

Do something to worship God and bow your knee in humble submission before Him

Read a short Psalm with your bagel

Recite what you appreciate about the gospel while you shower

Sit down for just 3 minutes to praise God for being Lord and ask Him to lead you through the day

Replace talk radio with a worship CD – and sing out loud with it

Work on memorizing a verse while you brush your teeth (a famous Bible scholar works through theological books 2 pages a day while brushing his teeth)

The point is to do something that orients your heart and mind toward Christ and his kingdom. He has no desire for you to thrash yourself with guilt because your schedule went ballistic. He wants you and he knows you need him.

Devotions are not a duty to appease God; it is much needed time with God who treasures his relationship with you

Now if you commonly find that you have no time for time with God – then change your schedule!!

Get up earlier, go to bed earlier, change your routine or just stop fooling yourself that it is about your schedule. If we rarely spend time with God it is a HEART issue and nothing less.

DO YOU STRUGGLE READING THE BIBLE?

You really want to get more out of reading your Bible, but it often seems like just words on a page, instead of God’s voice to you.

Don’t feel bad or think you are the only one. The central responsibility of my job involves studying and teaching the Bible. Yet, I often struggle with feeling I am getting much from my devotional Bible reading.

So what do we do?

Jim Elliff wrote an article “My Preferred Way to Read the Bible”, that I hope (very much) you will read. This is because meaning Bible reading is so (very) important for us.

In the first part of his article, Jim talks about three things that mistakenly replace Bible reading. This is helpful, but it is the second half of the article that I appreciated most: Ten simple suggestions for meaningful Bible reading

I liked this part of the article a lot!

His ideas really are solid, simple and helpful. You can read them all right here.

An interesting side note

A few days after reading this article, I received an email from Pastor Anatoly Chukhalyonak (yeah, I just use his first name), who is a translator on the SEE Global staff in Belarus. Anatoly had also read it and asked if I could get permission to translate the article into Russian, so it could be posted on SEE Global’s Russian language website.

Here is the website link, if you want an exciting peek of me preaching in Russian

Jim Elliff, was quite gracious and excited to grant our request. So some of your Christian brothers and sisters throughout the former Soviet Union will be working on these 10 simple suggestions with you

TRAINING FOR GODLINESS

Guest Blogger: Debbie Huber

When my children were small I remember struggling to “find the time” to read the Bible and pray.  Many of you can probably relate to the seemingly good excuses why it can be too difficult to be consistent with our personal time with the Lord:  “I am just too tired in the morning.”  “I have to make breakfast, or lunch, for someone.”  “I have to throw in one more load of laundry.”  “I will be late for work.”  “I try to do it at bedtime but I fall asleep!”  And the list goes on……

Several years ago, while reading the book by Barbara Hughes, “Disciplines of a Godly Woman”, God showed me that I was letting habits and other daily tasks become more important than my time with my God and the pursuit of growing in godliness.

Barbara pointed to Hebrews 12:1. “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

What are we choosing to do that hinders our time with the Lord?  Maybe you hit the snooze button a few times, or you have to read the newspaper or check email first thing in the morning.  God showed me that I was choosing that few extra minutes of sleep over my time with him!

I Timothy 4:7 says, “Train yourself to be godly.”  Running a race takes discipline and hard work.  If a runner was training for a marathon, but never actually made it out to run because he hit the snooze button or had to check Facebook first, he would never make it past the first half mile!

Training involves starting with a training schedule and a plan to make it work.  Schedule the time with the Lord into your day.  Identify the hindrances to spending time with the Lord and make a plan to work around them. Then pray and ask God for His grace to help you stick to the plan!  Maybe you need to go to bed a little earlier or set up the coffee and get the breakfast ready the night before.  Set up your schedule to do the laundry at a different time.  Don’t even turn on the computer first thing in the morning so you are not tempted to check email or Facebook.

We discipline ourselves for godliness because we love God and we want to know Him better.   John Wesley expressed it well:  “Give me grace to study Thy knowledge daily that the more I know Thee, the more I love Thee.”

After setting the alarm earlier and not hitting the snooze button, I found that I don’t really miss that little extra sleep once I sit down and open my Bible.  There will be days where we are more tired than others and we won’t always have the same zeal in our time with the Lord every day, but with consistency and discipline, we will cherish and see the irreplaceable value of this precious time with God.