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Take Your Time

Open Bible

The world today is about speed. The ability to multi-task is not only highly valued, but quite necessary for survival. Employees are asked to do more with less, and that includes less time. Studies have determined that many people sleep less than seven hours a day, not resting nearly enough to give their bodies and minds time to recharge.

This state of affairs explains why many people have trouble making time for the Lord. Their days start early in the AM, and they run as fast as they can go till late PM.

These busy people all believe they must be organized. The industry that makes organizers is alive and well and growing. What fills up all this time? The entries cover work, family, home maintenance, physical exercise, volunteer charity work, professional education, and so forth. It is no wonder that people throw up their hands in despair when someone says that they should take time every day for spiritual nourishment in prayer and Bible study.

Yet the Bible is very clear that God wants us to spend time with him. After he had created the first man and woman, he met them in the garden every day. Every day! The first time they missed a meeting, it was because they had disobeyed him, and they felt too guilty to face him. When people today miss their meetings with him, God feels the loss.

Jesus, God’s Son, needed time with his father, though he was often so busy that he did not even have time to eat. (See Mark 6:33) Contemporary families can identify with that problem. Yet throughout these busy days, Jesus made time to pray.

Mark 1:21-39 records a very busy Sabbath that opened with a demon-possessed man in the synagogue and ended with “the whole city . . . gathered together at the door” of Peter’s house. (Mark 1:33 ESV) Yet Mark says that, “very early [the next] morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV).

Old Testament or New Testament, God’s desire to spend time with us is a consistent theme. You can read the complicated story of Saul’s anointing to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel 8-10. The country is suffering, and Saul is clueless about his future. When Samuel contrives to be alone with Saul in order to let him know God’s plan, this is what he says: “Stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God” (1 Samuel 9:27 ESV). Samuel as God’s agent, God’s voice to Saul, separates Saul from the busyness in his life and compels him to slow down for a while in God’s presence just to listen. To listen!

That is why we need to spend time with God. We need to make our petitions for our needs, because God desires to care for us, but even more than we need to get what we want, we need to hear God speak and share what he wants for us. How many blessings do we miss, because we do not take time to listen to God? What would have happened in Saul’s life if he had said, “Sam, I’m a busy man. I don’t have time to sit down for your jawboning right now. Why don’t you have your people talk to my people, and we will for sure get together soon.”

Many, many people treat God this way. They get up to the sound of the alarm clock. Maybe their first thought is, “I promised myself that I would make time to pray and read the Bible today. I’m gonna do that today for sure. Soon as I get out of the shower.” After the shower, they say, “Oh, I need to read my Bible, but maybe I’ll get coffee going first.” Then they remember that today’s status meeting is fifteen minutes earlier so the district manager can attend. “Okay, I’ll throw everything in the car right now, and then I’ll grab a few minutes for the Bible, and then I’ll go.” After the car is loaded, they can’t find the Bible or the devotion book or the phone rings. They hop in the car for the early meeting and run by Starbucks for a cuppa to get through the early meeting. As the meeting comes to order, the district manager says, “Folks, I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.” The participants sigh, “Oh, God!” and that is the prayer of the day.

Many, many contemporary Christians feel that they simply do not have the time for prayer and Bible study, and they have this attitude, because they do not realize what will happen after they start spending regular time with God.

I know this to be true.

I started my time with God by allotting only five minutes a day to him. I knew, or felt that I knew, that I should give him more time, but I knew, or felt that I knew, that I would never be able to give more. At that time, I started work daily at 6AM or earlier. I never left work till 6PM. I tried to have a life after work, and it was very hard to add anything to my days. Yet God kept whispering his call to me, and I kept feeling as guilty as Adam and Eve, hiding in the bushes. I had to do something.

I allotted five minutes, and I specified it would be immediately after my shower. Out of bed, start coffee, hop in the shower, dress, and sit down for God’s time. Five minutes. I gave God five minutes out of a day of 1440 minutes. I gave God .3% of my day.

I used the Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries. I read two verses and meditated on them. Then I read the prayer already written for me in the book. Five minutes, and I was gone.

What was the consequence of that decision? I was never late for work because of that commitment. I discover that those five minutes were very precious to me. I began to look forward to them. Those five minutes became my daily refuge in a very hectic and demanding career. Before long, I wanted to write down my thoughts on the verses, and I increased my time to ten minutes. Soon, I was reading my Bible, journaling my meditation, and praying for fifteen minutes. Yet when work responsibilities were overwhelming, and I worked round the clock from time to time, I could always find at least five minutes. It takes that long to go to the bathroom or go get a cup of coffee in the break room. I could give God five minutes.

That five minutes has been increased several times over the years, but I have never forgotten how important it was, even when it was just five minutes. During the most frantic days of my life, I never want to miss that five minutes. There have been times when I was so overwhelmed that I truly did let it slip away. Those were days when my motto was “Watch and pray,” and I hated being unable to step out of the midst of things for time alone, time to slow down and listen. However, months and years of having made that time apart happen day after day meant that I had a reservoir of peace and fulfillment that helped me through the days when it simply could not happen.

You may not realize it right now, but you need time alone with God every day. You may think you don’t even have five minutes, but almost certainly you do. There is more than one way make that time work, and here are four suggestions:

  • Sign up at Bible Gateway to receive the Verse of the Day by email each day. This site has a wealth of Bible reading plans and devotional series, but you can start giving God your five minutes by reading, meditating and praying a single verse each day. If you start with this simple practice, your life will change.
  • Use Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries for Kindle and paperback. There are many excellent devotional helps in this book, but you can start very simply with two verses and one prayer.
  • Get the First5 app on your phone. It allows you to set an alarm for the time you choose to give God your five minutes. The alarm will sound, and when you respond, you will receive a devotional and prayer. Step out of the fray and give God your First5.
  • Sign up to receive “Drops from the Well” each Sunday afternoon on your phone or by email. The site provides suggestions for ways to use a single verse as inspiration for meditation throughout the week.

Do you really think you cannot give God just five minutes each day? Think again. It is worth the time.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Where Do I Start With the Bible?

Open BibleWhen I talk with people about reading the Bible, I get a variety of responses. Some say they think it is too hard to understand. Most allege not to have time, a subject I addressed earlier in this series. Many wonder where to start.

One way to start is at the beginning. Another way is to start reading specific stories. You can choose verses for yourself or use the selections made by other people. Below is a list of options I have found personally helpful.

  • If you are just starting out and you have five minutes, I recommend The Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries. The price is very reasonable, and it doesn’t matter when you start. There is a selection for every day of the year, and you can order either print or Kindle versions. I am currently using the Kindle version for 2015. If you decide to do that, you can have your new daily devotional guide in your hands in just a few minutes. You can read the verses and the prayer for the day in five minutes and still have a little time to think about the reason the two verses belong together.
    • If you decide to keep a journal, this guide is still great. You can simply buy the cheapest spiral notebook you can find and journal in it as you pray through the verses.
    • If you want to read the whole Bible, this little book offers the option of a one-year plan and a two-year plan.
    • I have personally used the verses for meditation and journaling, followed immediately by the readings from the longer plans, and I found that to be a very good way to balance meditation and study.
  • Go to Bible Gateway at www.biblegateway.com You can access it on your computer or get an app for your phone. This site offers a wealth of reading plans. It is almost overwhelming, but do not let that stop you. Pick one. Ignore the others. Register with the site and register your plan. You can either get email notices and read on your computer, or the phone app simply advances you one day at a time. This site also has a wide variety of other helps when you go beyond simply reading and meditating.
  • Buy a devotional book. Many people like to have a devotional thought that helps them to see an important point in a passage. That thought may be inspiration for your own journal, or it may help you make the most of limited time for prayer and Bible study.
  • Go to www.commontexts.com where you can obtain daily readings coordinated with the Sunday readings used by liturgical churches. Your church may have devotional guides based on the Revised Common Lectionary. The Lectionary itself is published in a variety of forms. Look online for your options.
  • Use a devotional magazine from your church.
  • Find any of the many sites online devoted to Bible reading and follow the schedule.
  • It isn’t as important that you pick a particular approach as it is to approach. Get close to your Bible. Pray for guidance, open it, and read it. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

Every day’s news reminds you that our nation is struggling with moral, social and political chaos. You cannot possibly fix it by yourself, but if you read the Bible, you can get in touch with the one Power who can change you and change the world as well. Start reading your Bible now.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0