Devotions Are Vital
We sometimes hear about Christians having devotions. What are devotions? Devotions are a very individual matter, not the same as the corporate worship that happens in a church setting. Devotions are not to be a substitute for public corporate worship in a good church. Since devotions are so individualized, I would like to suggest some things that might help you establish and enjoy yours.
Devotions should be a time of putting God first; a time of going into His presence; a time of going one-on-one, heart-to-heart with God; a time of worship; a time of recognizing His infinite value; a time of minimizing self; a time when He can influence your beliefs and actions; a time for Him to reveal to you the sins in your life that need eliminating; a time of getting to know Him and His will; a time spent with Him.
The more time we spend with human beings and the closer we look at them, the more we become aware of the warts, blemishes, weakness and flaws. Amazingly, the more time we spend with the Lord and the closer we look at Him, the more we see and understand his goodness, power, perfection and beauty. In looking at the Lord, we ought to get out the magnifying glass and look as closely as we possibly can. We have all known people who are unselfish and gracious. It is a joy to be with them. When we truly get to know the Lord, we will know He is wonderful in so many ways, and we will desire to spend time with Him. We will find no flaws, nothing undesirable. Moses wanted to see God. Exodus 33:18-23. Paul wanted to know God. Philippians 3:10. David recommended tasting the Lord.
Psalms 34:8: O taste and see that the Lord is good: . . .
When we taste something we like, we naturally want more of it. David also told us what our attitude toward the Lord ought to be.
Psalms 33:8: Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the earth stand in awe of Him.
I am reminded of a secular song that was popular when I was a young man. The sweet-voiced young lady sings about her attractive young man . . . To know, know, know him . . . is to love, love, love him. That is so true of our God. On the negative side, the less you know Him and about Him, the less time you will want to spend time with Him.
Mark 12:30: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: . . . If we love someone, we will want to spend time with them.
I have a theory that may not make sense to the human mind. I believe that if we spend twenty minutes (fill in your own length of time) with the Lord in the morning, the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of the day will be more enjoyable, fulfilling, orderly, rewarding, restful, etc. You will be more efficient and productive. You will not only accomplish more, but you will accomplish the right things. Most importantly, you will often find yourself in the will of God.
Devotions are fellowship with all three members of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I John 1:3b: . . . and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 1:9: God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Philippians 2:1: If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit. . . .
A Christian should plan for devotions. They should be at least a daily habit, preferably about the same time and place.
Devotions are to be enjoyed. David said in Psalms 122:1: I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go in to the house of the Lord.
Our devotions ought to include at various times silence, prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting.
Psalms 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God: . . .
Our devotions ought to consist of the same things as Jesus devotions and sometimes more. Jesus entered into the presence of the Father in the early morning, middle of the day, late in the day and sometimes all night. There are a number of reasons I believe that our devotions ought to be first thing in the morning. I believe our minds are clearer before we get into the busyness of the day. In the Old Testament God*s people were to bring Him the first-fruits of their crops, first-fruits of their flocks, the first of their sons, etc. First thing in the morning seems appropriate. Later in the day seems to me more like left-overs. God deserves to be first!!
Mark 1:35: And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Jesus had spent all of eternity before His incarnation with God the Father. One might believe that Jesus would have been saturated with the companionship of the Father, that he wouldn*t need any more time with the Father. But Jesus has given us a wonderful example of being often alone with the Father. If He needed and/or desired that companionship and communication with the Father, how much more do we who have had such a limited understanding and exposure to the Father need those things.
This passage teaches that early morning is a wonderful time to pray. Before we tackle the problems of each day, we need God*s direction and presence. Jesus went forth from this prayer preaching and working miracles and doing God*s will.
Sometimes Jesus* prayer was an interruption of His miracle working. Prayer is more important than doing something, even if what we are doing is serving the Lord. Communicating with God is more important than anything else we do. The service is to flow out of that communication. Service is never to be a substitute for our relationship with God or our going into His presence. We will serve Him best when we have been in His presence.
Luke 5:15-16: But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
Jesus always did the right and perfect thing. It may be surprising to some that He withdrew Himself from needy people to go into the presence of the Father. Jesus going into the presence of the Father was more important than meeting the needs of people.
Luke 6:12: And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Is there anything important enough to you in your life to continue in it for 8 hours? We need to be in the presence of God far more than Jesus needed that. And yet, we sometimes don*t even give Him 5 minutes. We sometimes think of our time in prayer as not accomplishing anything. How wrong we are!! By the way, our private prayers ought to be long, while public prayers need to be short. Jesus prayed before He served, in the middle of serving and after serving. Do we recognize as Jesus did how important prayer is?
Not enough attention is given to how Jesus was devoted to the Word of God and immersed in it throughout His life on earth. He often quoted the Old Testament scriptures and confirmed them. In Luke 4:4-21 and many other passages Jesus wonderfully quoted the Old Testament scriptures and showed their relevance. The Apostles also believed and quoted the Old Testament scriptures. The Bible even quotes itself at times.
We who are novices need to spend time in the Bible. Even people who have spent a life-time reading the Bible dozens of times continue to learn new things each time they read it. New things will jump off the pages of the Bible into our hearts and minds every day. Those things will be exactly what we need for that day. I am reminded of how the Lord provided the manna for the people of Israel. It was always enough for that day and never too much. The Bible can meet our needs for each day because it is alive and powerful.
Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The word quick means alive. Any day in which we do not include the Bible will be a day in which our needs will not be met as fully as God wants to meet them.
Our devotions also ought to include meditation on the word. I believe a good definition of meditation is simply to roll a verse over and over in one*s mind, to think about the verse looking for everything that God wants the verse to teach us. It is interesting that there is no passage that says that Jesus meditated. I believe that Jesus brain functioned perfectly since he had no sin. To say he had a photographic memory would be totally inadequate. He had total recall and perfect understanding and did not need the repetition and concentration that we need. Jesus knew everything there was to know of God*s word without going over it in his mind. We are commanded to meditate on the word and we are promised blessings if we do.
Joshua 1:8: This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Meditation should carry over from our short times in prayer and the word and go on day and night. Meditation on the word will produce increased understanding of it and obedience to it. And God promised Joshua good success if he did it. I believe there is great benefit to us from meditation as well. When you have a moment to think, what are you thinking about? Do you ever think about the Word of God? Have you memorized a few passages so that you will have something to think about?
Psalms 1:1-2: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Psalms 19:14: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
We ought to seek to please the Lord in our meditation and ask His help along those lines. Meditation will even make a difference that others will see.
I Timothy 4:15: Meditate on these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
II Corinthians 10:5: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the captivity of Christ;
Controlling every thought is a lofty goal, but we must try.
I must confess that my meditation has been sporadic. In doing this study, I have learned some things I wasn*t previously aware of. God help us all to purpose to meditate more and enjoy it.
My personal devotions are very private and largely just between God and me. I am not totally comfortable sharing them. Some things are simply too personal for sharing. I will share a few general things in the hope that you will be helped in experimenting and finding what is right and God*s will for your devotions.
In the morning I usually stumble into the kitchen and heat a cup of water in the microwave to make some coffee. While the water is heating, I go into the living room and get on my knees in front of the couch. There I thank Him for another day, for loving me and saving me. I tell the Lord how I feel, what I think I need for today. I ask Him to bless me and use me today. I ask for His will to supercede mine and for Him to prioritize the items that seem to need doing today. About this time I notice sunlight streaming in between the cracks in the shutters. I am amazed at how the light fills the room. I desire for His light to fill my life as it fills that room. I am in awe at His presence. Sometimes I am up before sunrise or on a cloudy day and on those days I also sense His presence. Sometimes I am so comforted I fall asleep again there on my knees. He knows when I need rest.
Then I will likely sit at the dining room table with my coffee, my Bible and the never-ending always-changing list of things that need doing. On days when I must be out of the house in an hour or less I might read a page or two or a chapter or two in the Bible. Sometimes a verse or a few verses or just a part of a verse will occupy my mind for 15 or 20 minutes. On days when I don*t have to rush out I might feel directed to write an outline for a message for my Nursing Home ministry, or one of these Bible studies. The central idea comes quickly and then an outline. Sometimes the ideas pop into my head and then the scriptures to prove them. Sometimes the scriptures come first followed by the thoughts. God often provides relevant quotes and articles to add. Some mornings I meet road-blocks and have to get on my knees a second time. I love the mornings when this goes on for a couple of hours or more. Throughout the day thoughts and scriptures will come into my mind in connection with what I worked on in the morning. (With my poor memory, I have to jot them down and add them the next morning.) Some mornings I might just type and store in my computer the thoughts from previous mornings. (I am very fortunate in that my wife likes to sleep late, leaving me time alone with the Lord.)
I want to say that my devotions are not rigid. There is infinite variety. Every day they are different. Some mornings I get so immersed in them, the Lord must remind me to stop and have breakfast and take my medications. Sometimes the meeting with God resumes after breakfast. Many days I have a chance to meet with God again and again.
I also always meet Him on my knees next to my bed before I go to sleep at night. This is a time of seeking forgiveness for my sins of the day and thanking Him for what He has done through me or in spite of me.
Psalms 127:2: It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Before I became a Christian, I was usually upset when I woke up at night and couldn*t get back to sleep. Now those times are special because I have the idea that God woke me and wants my attention. When I wake up at night, I might read the Bible or pray or meditate for a time. When I do get back to sleep, I sleep much better and wake up refreshed in the morning.
Isaiah 59:2: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Unconfessed and unforgiven sin will limit communication between us and God, much like clouds limit sunshine. Our devotions will be much better when we ask forgiveness for our sins.
I thank God for the devotional life He has given me!!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote this wonderful devotional titled Abiding with Jesus.
We are too much like the bird we read of in the old Saxon story. When the first missionary was preaching in the royal hall, he told of the peace which the gospel brings to sinners, and the rest which souls find in Jesus. After his sermon an ancient chieftain spake his mind, and compared himself and his countrymen in their unrest to the bird which just then, attracted by the light, flew into the bright hall through the open window, flitted through the warmth and light, and passed out again into the darkness and the cold by a window on the other side of the banqueting hall. The simile might well apply to our transient fellowship; we have brief communings, and then away we pass into worldliness and indifference. Oh, would it not be blessed if we could abide with Jesus for ever, building our nest in his palace! How heavenly our life if we could walk with him, as Enoch did, in our business, in our families, in all places and at all hours! If instead of now and then climbing the sunny peak of fellowship, and standing near to heaven, and conversing with the Son of God, we could for ever dwell in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, how much more noble a life to lead! Imitate Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, in her abiding unmovingly near her beloved ones -- abide with Jesus evermore.
Fasting is a little known, little studied and little practiced thing in our time. Fasting is commanded and encouraged in the Bible. I believe fasting can be a very beneficial part of our devotions and our Christian lives.
Biblical fasting for the most part should be secret between you and God, very personal. Fasting is in a sense weakening and/or controlling our flesh.
Psalms 109:24: My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
II Corinthians 12:9a: And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. . . .
I Corinthians 9:27a: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: . . .
Fasting can be total or partial. It can be for a day or more. Fasting can be skipping one meal or lunch. Fasting can be giving up a piece of chocolate cake. Fasting can be giving up a half of a piece of chocolate cake. Fasting can be giving up any little morsel that you and the Lord agree on. Fasting can be for an hour or any length of time you and the Lord agree upon. Fasting can be connected to following a diet for health reasons. We are to be wise about fasting. (3 times a day I must take medications that ought not be taken without food, so my fasting has to be fitted into that.) Fasting is giving something up for the Lord. Fasting is giving something up that our bodies (flesh) enjoy. Fasting pleases God and helps us in our seeking of Him.
I believe breakfast is so named since the person having breakfast very likely hasn*t eaten anything at night and has therefore broken a fast. I also believe morning devotions are best since one has been naturally fasting all night.
In the Old Testament we often read the phrase proclaim a fast. Fasting was sometimes to be done by the whole nation of Israel. Fasting can be done by a church, a group of believers or one individual.
Joel 2:12: Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
I Corinthians 7:5: . . . that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; . . .
Fasting ought to be connected to prayer and adds power to our prayers.
Matthew 17:21: Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Esther 4:16: Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; . . .
Fasting is connected to humility.
Psalms 35:13: . . . I humbled my soul with fasting; . . .
When we suffer traumatic things like shock or stress, we sometimes have a loss of appetite. I believe our God-designed bodies are giving us a natural fast, God*s way of getting us through.
Fasting can be done for sinful and selfish reasons. That type of fasting will be unfruitful.
Isaiah 58:4: Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Jeremiah 14:12: When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
Fasting was done regularly. Fasting makes the food you eat after the fast more enjoyable.
Zechariah 8:19: Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
Fasting is a private matter.
Matthew 6:16-18: Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Fasting is connected to service and guidance.
Acts 13:2: As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Fasting preceded being sent by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:3-4: And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
Does your spiritual life need a little shot in the arm? Try some fasting.
In His Presence
I shall include here an article written by Dr. L. Nelson Bell, Editor and Former Medical Missionary.
THE PRICELESS HOUR
Theodore Roosevelt stated, You may worship God anywhere at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship him in some particular place at some particular time.
Thomas Carlyle said, No greater calamity can befall a nation than the loss of worship.