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An Example of Devotional Time

As Christians, we are urged to have a daily devotional time with God. I asked myself if this was a Biblical command or a tradition passed down through the ages; are Bible study and devotional time interchangeable; and what is a good model for a time of devotions?

I’d like to share my thoughts regarding a good model for a time of devotions, whether it be daily, weekly, or at a time interval you and God set, a devotional time is instrumental in your worship to our Lord.

Find a time that works for you. In Mark 1:35, John Mark, who accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey, tells us: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (NIV)

Christ found a few moments to be alone with God early in the morning. Does this mean our devotional time needs to always be in the morning? I don’t think so. I don’t think the time of day is as important as the reason behind the time we choose. Jesus chose this time because He knew that His days were hectic and busy. He might not have another chance to get away with His Father. Surrounding verses show us that people were coming to Him all through the day and into the evenings. It’s important to note, however, that Jesus chose a time when the demands of His ministry were not at their peak.

When we choose our alone time with God, it is important to follow this example. Maybe you are not what is considered “a morning person.” I’ve always been a combination of a morning and night person. I’m a rare person that needs very little sleep and finds it difficult to sleep more than a few hours. I’m sure I was a hindrance to my own parent’s devotional time. Not only was I up late at night, but by the time their feet hit the floor in the morning, I was standing next to their bed ready to greet them into the day. And if I wasn’t there, probably one of my sisters or my brother took my place.

If your day is crowded and busy, it’s possible you may have to do as Jesus did. You may have to get up “very early” in the morning. It may be that evenings are a quieter time with fewer demands on you. If so, that may be a better time of choosing for a devotional time. What if you have a “little Judy,” that is up before you and awake long after you retire for the night? I’m sure that over the years, there were plenty of times my parents had to find a distraction for me so that I did not continue to become a distraction to them. And that is the key. Find a time that is as free of distractions as possible. As we study this verse we see that even this time for Jesus was not distraction free. But Christ took the moments offered Him within His busy schedule. He found  time. We can do the same.

Find a place where you can be alone. The second thing Jesus teaches us with this example is where He had His time to commune with God. He left the house. Okay, if as my parents did, you have four small, active and curious children, physically leaving the house may not be an option. Especially if you are thinking of going very far. (And if you have four small children you may be thinking that very thing.)

The verse also tells us that Jesus went off to a solitary place. I don’t know that leaving the house was as important as this part of the example. They key idea is that He withdrew from others. He removed Himself from obvious distractions.

If we look at a few practical ideas of how to follow the example of Christ, what is a busy person living in the 21st century to do? Maybe you can’t go far from the house, but can you go to a front or back porch? Do you have a tree that offers quiet shelter? If you look hard enough, you’ll find something.

I remember one year when my siblings, our spouses and all our children converged on my parent’s home for Christmas. During the night we had bodies strewn everywhere. During the day, we ran into each other constantly. One morning Mother stood in the kitchen and made pancakes. As each plateful was done she’d call someone’s name and hand out a plate. She called my name, I grabbed my plate and tried to find an empty spot at the now crowded dining table.

As each person came in the chatter around the table increased. Finally Mother came into the dining room to be sure everyone had a plate of pancakes. She counted heads. “Where’s your daddy?” she asked. Everyone looked at each other. No one knew. Soon a search party, headed up by grandchildren thinking this was a game of hide-and-seek, began to look for Dad. It took us a while, but we eventually found him. My brother called us to the back porch and pointed to Dad’s old pick-up truck parked behind the house. There sat Dad, the windows rolled up on his truck and the doors locked, eating his plate of pancakes in peace and quiet. I think all the chattering, running into one another and busyness had become more than he expected when they invited us for Christmas. The point is, however, when Dad wanted to find a quiet spot, he was inventive. If necessary, go lock yourself in your vehicle to have some quiet moments alone with God. If Dad could do this for pancakes surely we can do it for the Lord.

Of course, your quiet spot doesn’t have to truly be outside the house. Don’t lose sight of the importance here. The key element is that Christ withdrew to a place of least distractions. We’ve all heard of moms who have locked themselves in their bathrooms just to have a quiet moment. If that’s where you must have your devotions, do that. Or maybe it will be a quiet spot in your bedroom. Maybe you’ll have to literally make yourself a prayer closet. But I urge each of you to find a spot where the distractions are at a minimum, spend some time with God and talk to Him.

One thing I want to caution as you choose your time and place for your devotions. Just as talking on a cell phone, eating and putting on makeup while you are driving can be a hazardous distraction, if you try to have your devotions while commuting to and from work, the driving will become a distraction to the devotion. I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk or listen to the Lord during this time. It’s just that I, personally, do not count this as my “alone time” with the Lord. For years, I commuted to downtown Houston for employment. I tried calling my drive time by another name—devotional time. I can tell you from personal experience it was always good to know that God rode with me, but that time did not adequately fulfill what a solitary place can do for my time with the Lord.

 

 

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When the Dark Moments Come

 

By Judy Vandiver

One of the darkest times I have experience was following major surgery. The immediate physical danger had passed and I was healing. Or so I thought. But medications prescribed to speed my recovery brought on another problem as I spiraled into a deep depression. I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I was hungry, but couldn’t eat. I wanted happiness, but continually cried. I struggled like this for several weeks. I will probably never forget the feelings of despair during those dark and lonely weeks.

God knew my darkest moments before the beginning of time. I decided when I reached Heaven, I would ask Him why He had not removed those moments from my path. I thought, “If He saw them, knew they were bad, had the power to change them and loved me; why didn’t He do something about it?”

One day I realized I don’t have to wait until I get to Heaven to ask Him. I prayed, asking Him for wisdom. I can see now where many of what I considered my low points or times of despair, were actually the very things that shaped me into who I am today.

My husband used to raise a menagerie of animals. Chickens were among them. One time, during a cold spell, Steve brought an incubator full of eggs into my kitchen. For three weeks, I daily worked around the eggs. Finally, I heard small tapping noises coming from the area of the incubator. I peeked inside. Tiny cracks, like scratches on a piece of furniture, appeared on some of the eggs. Within days, the incubator (and my kitchen) was filled with soft, high-pitched chirps.

But one egg remained. I could hear the tapping. I could see the cracks. I could hear peeps coming from inside the egg. But the chick was having trouble. I told Steve how I hated to watch him struggle so much. We thought maybe he had an especially hard shell. We knew not to break his shell away completely, but maybe. . . just maybe. . . if we helped widen one of the cracks, he would be able to peck his way through the rest.

So, we gently increased one of the small openings the chick had made. Not too much. Just a little. And it worked. Very soon, the final chick joined his brothers and sisters. But, within hours, we noticed something was wrong. By the next morning, the chick was dead. He wasn’t strong enough to survive.

We realize now that when the chick was in the dark interior of the egg, trying to get into the light, he was being strengthened. Steve and I had made it too easy for him. He didn’t develop into the strong chick he needed to be.

God showed me that when I dwelled in my dark moments, He could easily have brought me into the light. But He would have done so at the risk of my becoming weak. It was the chipping away at the shells of life that strengthened me and helped me grow.

When I went through the depression I mentioned earlier, many of my family and friends showed great concern. I could see on their faces that if they could, they would have instantly helped me into the light. But it was in the dark moments, that I learned what I was made of. It was in the dark moments that I saw my need for Christ. And it was in the dark moments that Christ ministered to my spirit.

Genesis 1:14-19 states:

“Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. He set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.” (NIV)

God knew we would have dark moments. He knew we needed them. But how wonderful that when He physically created the sun, moon and stars, He also made sure there would be light, even in what we call “the dark.”

And when He created spiritual light for us, He explained that He is the Light. He is the One that illuminates our paths. John 8:12 tell us that Jesus addressed a large crowd. He said to them, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.” (NIV)

Just as God created the moon and stars for physical light on Earth, he reminds us that He too, will shine—even in our darkest moments. You may have to be more observant. You may have to concentrate on the light rather than the darkness, but isn’t that the same for us with physical darkness. This kind of  darkness cannot overtake our Lord. Scripture tells us, “The Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it.” John 1:5

To Ponder on:

  1. What happens if you enter a dark room and flip the light switch? What happens if you enter a dark room and do NOT flip the light switch?
  2. Was the room really in total darkness without the electrical light? What allows you to “see” in a darkened room? Which changed – you or the darkness?
  3. We all experience dark moments, but God can dispel the darkness. Can you recall a dark time in your life? What happened?
  4. In your dark moments, did God dispel the darkness? If your darkness remains, He is the source of light. Go to Him for light.
  5. God continued to shape the Earth. When He made us our shaping began, but God wants to continue shaping us today. Are you allowing God to shape you?
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God Has A Better Deal

ace reward

 

I decided to clean out my desk today. The decision was born out of necessity. I couldn’t find my calculator—the one with the imitation jewel buttons, the gaudy one. As I dug things from the back of the drawer and from under a pile of wadded receipts, I didn’t find the calculator, but I found an old reward card offering a discount from a local hardware store.

Granted the discount wasn’t high in dollar value, but it looked like a good deal on a small purchase. If I spent $15 at the store, they would reward me with a $5 discount. Percentage wise, that’s a good bargainl.  I set the card on the corner of the desk and planned to stick it in my wallet later.

But the card called to me. It was a small card, about the size of a driver’s license, but it was packed with information. I picked it up and several things stood out to me. My name was typed on the front. The people at Ace Hardware know me. They have my name and number— member number. Apparently, this wasn’t a random offer, but a promotion for a group they identified as their customers. By putting my name on the offer, the hardware store had made the ad personal and identified who was eligible.

Another important piece of information was that the card told me what the offer contained. Short, sweet, and to the point. Five dollars off my next purchase of $15 or more of regular priced merchandise. And the card told me where to redeem the offer. They included the address of the nearest Ace Hardware. Then I found a disappointing bit of type. The card had expired.  It had lurked far too long among wads of paper and broken pencils.

As I tossed the card and several wornout pens into the trash, I compared the card to an offer God made. Just as the hardware store offered a reward to a group of people they identified as theirs, God has offered promises to His children. And He makes His offer personal. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV) Notice that the forgiveness of sins and the healing of the land weren’t for everyone. It was for a select group.

Ace Hardware had told me that I had to do something if I wanted my five-dollar reward. A $15 purchase was necessary to activate the reward. Isn’t that what God said in the verse quoted above? Not the $15 part, but the condition. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves . . . “ God outlined in this verse, and all His promises, what is required of us to gain what He has promised.

Ace Hardware told me where to find my five-dollar reward. Scripture tells us “the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” (Genesis 15:1 NIV) And Jesus stated, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12 NIV)

The reward from the local store was a limited time offer. It’s no longer valid. Jesus told his disciples, “”Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come, “ and “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42, 44 NIV)

The local hardware store put the offer of their reward in writing, then waited for a response from me. The Holy Scriptures is God’s outline and offer of our reward. He put it in writing, both physically and spiritually upon our hearts. He is waiting for a response.

The Ace Hardware ad was a good marketing campaign. They included all the necessary information. However, God has a much better deal.

Who

Ace has my customer id # on the card. They are offering it to their customers.

God offers his promises to His children.

What

Ace promises me a reward of $5, but I have to do something first – in this case spend more money.

With God, when he promises us something, you will find you must do something first, even if that condition is the act of belief.

Where

Ace tells me where to find the local store. They tell me where I can get this reward.

God is our reward and our reward is in Heaven.

When

Ace won’t be offering this reward forever. They tell me I must act now, because it has an expiration date. Unfortunately for me, that date has come and gone. It’s too late to get in on this good deal.

God’s promise of rewards won’t last forever either. He doesn’t tell us the expiration date for us individually or as a whole. If I want in on His great promises, I need to act now.

Why?

Ace sent this notice to me in hopes of a response.

God sent a notice to me because He wants a response.

Ace wants money.

God wants me.

God Has a Better Deal – copyright 2009 Judy Vandiver