When you got up this morning one of the first thoughts on your mind about the day was probably the work that needed to be done. Whether you were heading out to the workforce, or are a homemaker staying home today, you have work to do. No matter how hard you worked yesterday, there is more to do today. Perhaps you can relate to the farmer that said, “The hardest thing about milking cows, is that they never stay milked.” Furniture doesn’t stay dusted, dishes don’t stay clean, floors don’t remain washed, emails don’t stay answered, classrooms don’t stay taught… In other words, there is always work to do.
I have boxes in my basement full of letters that I received from my husband while we were engaged. We were separated by 150 miles. Phone calls were the long distance calls we made in the 80’s that added up quicker than the dings on a gas pump. Therefore, calls were limited to one night a week. Our relationship had to thrive on the written communication of cards and letters, and oh, how precious those letters were to me!
I am, in most ways, a morning person. After the normal wake-up routine I generally feel rested and full of energy. I’m ready to tackle household chores, go walking, or even make an early morning trip to Walmart. Because this is my most energized time, it is also the best time for me to have my devotions. I have to be careful about where I situate myself to read my Bible. If I’m sitting in the kitchen I can be reading for a while, then I look up and notice something that is out of place in the room. It becomes a distraction to my study. I may remember that something needs to be taken from the freezer for our supper that night. I may notice that the counter could use a cleaning. Before I know it, my mind has jumped to many topics, most of them having nothing to do with what I’m reading! For this reason, I find it best to tuck myself away in a spot that has few distractions. There will never be no distractions, because Satan surely doesn’t want me to study Scripture and He is tricky in bringing things to my mind.
When a person is trying to get in shape they may have a tool to aid them. One might use weights, a treadmill or exercise bike. A video that guides them in their exercise routine might be employed. All of these things are only tools, however, and will not take the inches off by themselves. Adherence to a good diet, plenty of water and then the discipline to stick to the routine must also be applied to their life.
When a Christian is looking for something to help them make their devotions more meaningful, they might find it helpful to use some tools. There must be the understanding that the tools are not to be replacements for the Word of God, just as the weights wouldn’t replace the need for food in a dieter’s life. But the tools can be good aids in helping a person grow spiritually. Let me share with you some of those helps.
- Commentaries – Our Sunday school classes have been using Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” series as we’ve studied together. The Treasury of David by Spurgeon is a wonderful accompaniment to the book of Psalms. A great link that I use nearly ever day is http://www.preceptaustin.org/tool_commentary.htm Here you can access many great commentaries. Read the passage from the Scriptures first, then go to the commentary and look up particular verses for clarity, deeper understanding and application.
- Study Guides – These types of books take you to a specific passage and often deal with topics. You use it to study what the Scriptures teach about that topic. For example I’m doing a study on Saturdays on the heart by Claudia Barba entitled, Refresh Your Heart. It takes me all through the Bible teaching what my heart is like, what God says about my heart, and how it can be changed daily. This book hasn’t replaced my Bible, it guides me through it. This book is published by Bju press. Other books could be found at their web site: http://www.bjupress.com/page/ID+Home. Another great author is Elizabeth George. We’ve done several of her studies in our ladies’ groups. http://www.elizabethgeorge.com/george/default.asp?f=404 Betty Henderson’s study books will cause you to really dig into the Word. You can find her new book here: http://www.bjupress.com/product/261255?path=99377
This list could go on and on. If you’ve done a study recently that was a blessing please tell me about it. I’m always on the look-out for new studies and books!
- Bible dictionary – Another helpful tool to understand words that aren’t familiar. (You’ll also find this on the precept site I mentioned earlier)
- A journal (notebook) and pen – I mentioned yesterday the need to write down what you’re learning, but let me reiterate the importance of logging what God says to you in His Word. You will not remember it nearly as well if you don’t record it. If God spoke to you, it’s worth remembering, so put it in your journal! You may opt to journal your thoughts on your laptop.
What would it be like if you set up your treadmill in the middle of Dunkin Donuts? Would it be easy to focus and stay disciplined? Tomorrow we’ll talk about the need to create a surrounding that is conducive to listening to God speak.
I have to laugh at the beginning of the year when all you hear about is weight-loss programs and exercise machines. We’re all guilty, probably, of eating too much during the holidays, then when New Year comes we make a resolution to shed those pounds, plus the ones that have somehow attached themselves to our waistlines during the year. We are determined to discipline our bodies and our appetites. However, have you ever seen how many exercise machines are listed in the want ads by spring? Those good intentions got fogged up by perspiration and fatigue and the desire to discipline ourselves wanes away with the last of the Slim Fast. Our life verse becomes I Timothy 4:8 – “Bodily exercise profiteth little”!
If you’ve been a believer for any amount of time at all, you’ve heard that in order to grow as a Christian you need to read your Bible daily. Maybe you’ve made a New Year’s resolve to do better at that this year. Devotions also require discipline, and most women I’ve talked to have struggled with this at one time or another. How can this commitment stay fresh and help you to grow instead of becoming overwhelming like the weight-loss program? Let me offer a few suggestions:
- Begin your Bible reading time with prayer and ask God to give you a desire for and understanding of His Word. Pray some of the verses in Psalm 119 such as verses 9-11. “Oh Lord, help my way to be cleansed by taking heed to your word today. Show me where I’ve gone astray. Help me to seek You with my whole heart and know your Word well enough that I wouldn’t wander from it. May I hide your word in my heart that I won’t sin against You today.”
- Follow a pattern in your Bible reading rather than just reading randomly each day. Read through a book of the Bible, follow a schedule to read through the Bible in a year, or use a study guide (more about that later).
- Keep notes on what you’re reading. If you’re looking for something it will be more meaningful to you.
- Look for the attributes of God and keep note on them – what verse tells you that God is all-powerful, omnipresent, or eternal? Keep a notebook of His attributes.
- Look for SPECS – Sin to avoid, Promise to claim, Example to follow, Command to obey, or the Savior. Keep these things in a notebook as you’re reading through the chapter in the Scriptures.
- If the Lord gives you a devotional thought about what you’re reading write it down.
- If you are convicted about something as you read, record it.
- When you “see something new” make notes of what the Lord showed you
That notebook or document on your computer will be precious to you as you make daily notes. You’ll look back on the year and see your personal growth when you read the Scriptures with intention.
We’ll continue this thought tomorrow…in the meantime why not take a walk around the block? =)
I evidently have a special grocery cart at Walmart with my name on it because I get it nearly ever time I visit the store. It’s the cart that veers off to the right while I’m pushing it to the left! The crazy thing is way out of whack! It’s probably gotten bumped into by little old ladies, reckless teenagers, and distracted middle-agers! The poor cart needs an adjustment; it’s way out of line. It resists my leading as it stubbornly desires to go the opposite way I’m headed! It’s barely serving its intended purpose. By the time I get home I feel like I’ve had an upper body work-out!
Have you ever asked yourself if you’re headed in the right direction, why you’re here, or what your purpose in living is? A good time to ask yourself those things is at the beginning of a new year. Read the quote below from Nancy Leigh Demoss:
“Once we settle the issue of why we’re living, all of life takes on a different perspective.
- It’s not about me.
- It’s not about my convenience.
- It’s not about my comfort.
- It’s not about my happiness.
- It’s not about who likes me, who accepts me.
- It’s not about, “Am I fulfilled in what I’m doing here in life?”
- All that matters is that God is glorified and that He is pleased with my life. “
Does that summarize you and the way you’re living your life, or do you need to make some adjustments? Get “your cart” going in the right direction instead of fighting and trying to go the opposite way. Today, at the beginning of a new year would be a good time to do that.
(I’ll trade carts with you if I meet you at Walmart!)
Today we stand in front of a closed door with the address “2009” written across its entryway. This is New Year’s Eve. The word “eve” means – the period preceding or leading up to any event or crisis. We have no idea what events are in front of us. As our definition suggests, we have no idea if a crisis stands behind the door waiting for us in the next year. Should that make us retreat in fear? Not if we belong to the God of this universe. We’re all either coming out of a trial, in the midst of one right now, or getting ready to head into one. I’m no prophet, but that is the truth. Because of that, then, we should all be preparing for those times even now.