Tag Archives: Daily Texts

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

 

Advertisements

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

 

Kurt Eichenwald has a Point

bible-pen-notebook

There was a terrible, and thoroughly justifiable, outcry when Newsweek published Kurt Eichenwald’s diatribe against the Bible. His intention is to diminish the Bible and press it into a mold that fits his secular worldview. In so doing, he will achieve the secular goal of confining religion to a sacred box. He is tired of people living their faith where he has to see it. He is tired of Christian behavior and Christian insistence on morality based on absolute truth. He does not want Christians to be salt and light in the world, because if they are, the world will change in ways Kurt Eichenwald finds unsettling.

He did, however, say one thing that was very important. It is not entirely true, but there is a grain of truth in his statement toward the end of his article:

If Christians truly want to treat the New Testament as the foundation of the religion, they have to know it. Too many of them seem to read John Grisham novels with greater care than they apply to the book they consider to be the most important document in the world.

Ouch!

Could this statement be true? Are Christians guilty of treating the Bible like a coffee table book they admire and appreciate but do not really know? Eichman’s statement requires that Christians call their faith a religion, a term not quite relevant to our faith. Yet it is disturbing to think that even Christians who take offense at his assault might not read the Bible with as much enthusiasm as they show for the latest NYT best-seller.

Just a week ago, I struck up a conversation with a visitor at church during coffee hour. She was eager to talk about how much she loved the Bible after she read it in the form of The Story. She excitedly showed me the Bible she carries everywhere in her purse. However, when I invited her to participate in the pastor’s Bible study that was about to begin, she looked shocked and exclaimed, “Now? Right this minute?” She nervously stuffed her Bible back into her purse and hurried out the door.

Christians try to justify their ignorance of the Bible in many different ways. Eichenwald slices through all those reasons saying, “If Christians truly want to treat the New Testament as the foundation of the religion, they have to know it.” Of course, Eichenwald is wrong to call the New Testament the foundation of the religion, because Christ is our foundation, our core, the center of everything. So you, the reader, can take your stand on the error of his statement if you want to. However, he has seen and heard the phrase sola Scriptura. He knows that we believe that the Bible is our guide for faith and life. Eichenwald says that Christians make claims the Bible does not substantiate. You really cannot expect much else of a secular thinker. However, in order to make his argument, he spent a lot of time with the Bible. He is deeply committed to the need to destroy the credibility of the Bible in the eyes of the public.

How should Christians respond to this assault?

The answer is in the Bible. Christians who want to address what Eichenwald is trying to do must not imitate him; they must imitate Christ. They must not be drawn into an intellectual argument structured on Eichenwald’s battle plan. Eichenwald’s article was inspired and motivated by Satan and Satan’s objectives. To argue over jots and tittles serves Satan’s purposes beautifully. Rather than that, Christians must demonstrate intimate knowledge of the Bible and its teachings, and they must rely on a Teacher not accessible to Eichenwald: the Holy Spirit.

Bible study is, for Christians, a lifelong discipline tightly integrated with prayer. Christians have an obligation not to shut down their minds when they study, but mind and body must, nevertheless, submit to the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Too many Christians fail to make time for daily prayer and Bible study due to the misconception that they do not have enough time for it. They may even feel that they do not understand it. They might think that Kurt Eichenwald is right in his accusation. They might really believe that they have better luck understanding John Grisham than the apostle John.

They are wrong on all points.

They do have time.

They can understand.

The Bible is for everyone.

Many years ago, my life was collapsing around me. I had a nagging and ever-increasing feeling that I was simply messing up everything. I went through a divorce. Then I remarried, and when I remarried, I suddenly had something I did not want to lose. I was praying every day that my marriage would survive and thrive, but I was praying on the run in the midst of the daily chaos. One day it became clear to me that I needed to take just five minutes for God every morning. I just wanted enough time to pray in coherent sentences.

I found a small book that fit my need perfectly. Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries provides two verses for study each day, and I thought to myself that I could surely read just two verses. I might only have five minutes, but I could read two verses. There was a daily prayer, too, which I skipped at first. I was in such a hurry!

It was not long before five minutes became ten. I read the verses and then I prayed the written prayer as my own. I found that my own words in prayer began to change. The verses made me think, and I prayed about what they said. Ten minutes became fifteen. I started writing down my own prayer growing out of the verses.

That was many years ago. Today I engage in more reading and more prayer and more real study than I ever thought I had time for back then. When I started, I could never have made so much time available. I thought I truly did not have it. Yet over the years of growing and maturing in prayer and Bible study, I have discovered that I do have time. There are still only 24 hours in my day, but I use them differently.

You may think you don’t have time for Bible study. You might even think you feel more inspired by watching a sunset than by reading about Joshua and Jericho. Well, Kurt Eichman has a point. There are Christians who really do not know what is in the Bible, and that is sad, because the Bible is God’s gift to us. In the Bible, we meet Christ. We learn what he did, what he said, and what he wants of us. We put ourselves in a position to be transformed. Some of the hurtful things Eichman says grow out of the behavior of people who claim knowledge of the Bible without demonstrating knowledge of Christ.

It is possible that I still don’t meet Kurt Eichman’s definition of a real Christian or a real Bible scholar. That doesn’t bother me. I do not worry that he might consider me biblically illiterate. I have no ambition to be able to argue better than he does. My ambition is to know Christ and to be more like Him. The greatest progress I have ever made toward that goal has grown out of time spent in prayerful Bible study. That is the real answer to Kurt Eichman’s point.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available on Kindle.

Photo Courtesy of Bing images, License: free to share and use.

Coping With Stress

Yesterday, I read an article which elaborated on a problem that occupies my mind frequently: the stress level of contemporary life in the USA and the price people pay because of it. People cannot respond to my email or answer my phone call or call me back, because they are so busy. When they do reply or call back, they can’t answer my questions or comment on issues I raise, because they need to vent about the stress in their lives.

I have wondered from time to time if I were misinterpreting the problem, but David Kupelian’s article reports statistics that make it clear I did not make a mistake. Americans are extremely stressed, and most of them do not know what to do about it.

I was extremely interested in Kupelian’s suggestions for dealing with the stress. Here they are:

  •  Regular exercise
  •  Healthful food
  •  Daily time for prayer and reflection

These suggestions are not complicated. It seems as if everyone should be able to do these three things. I am not a specialist in either exercise or nutrition, but I think I know enough to do some physical exercise, and I loved the recommendation not to eat anything my grandmother would not have recognized as food.

The suggestion that really caught my eye was the third one: daily time for prayer and reflection. Do you have time set aside for this purpose? Even friends I thought had long ago adopted this discipline tell me they just don’t have the time, and this is disturbing. Why do so few people make time for prayer? Why do people claim Christ as their Savior, and then never again make any time to talk with him?

Let’s think about it this way. How is it that we say that Christ has rescued us from horrors in this life and the next, and yet, we have no time to talk with him?

So, skipping the judgmental question, let us move on to the real question. What do we do when it seems we have no time for the most important relationship in our lives?

If you doubt that your relationship with Christ is important, think about people for whom it has become everything. In Iran, Pastor Saeed Abedini is the most visible example of people who have been imprisoned for their faith, people who suffer daily torture with the objective of persuading them to recant. For these people, Christ is not an abstraction they conflate with an argument about whether we sing praise songs or ancient hymns in worship. Christ is the center of their lives. Christ is all they cling to. Their food is inadequate. They are beaten or worse every day. When someone persuades their jailors to take them for medical treatment, the doctors and nurses refuse to touch them because Christians are “unclean.” Talk about phobias! Terrorists with what they call holy agendas burn down their homes, slit the throats of their children, and throw bombs into their churches. These Christians, in Iran, Laos, China, and Kazakhstan and other countries around the world, suffer daily. The only way they survive is by being in constant close communion with Christ.

Those who simply struggle to survive twenty-first century multi-tasking and taxes and oppressive work schedules and claim no time for prayer or reflection are fooling themselves. Someone who claims the name of Christ and yet makes no effort to step aside and stop running in place and take just a few minutes to say, “Thank you, Jesus. I am yours,” is missing the one thing that might make a difference in the daily chaos.

There is a simple way to get started. If you don’t have time for prayer, stop where you are right now and simply pray, “Lord, please open my eyes to your gift of time.” Pray that prayer right now. Let go of the stopwatch. Rest your feet on the floor, take a deep breath, and pray the prayer that Martin Luther’s spiritual mentor taught to him. “Jesus, take me. I’m yours.” This is the place to begin. This is the time to begin. You may think you do not have time, but your life, now and hereafter, will be different if you don’t do it.

That is Step One. Step Two is easy, too. Buy a copy of the Daily Texts for $9.95 plus shipping. (I receive no commission on these sales. I just know how grateful you will be if you do this.) You will receive a book with two verses for your prayer and reflection every day. You can do this. Two verses, one prayer, five minutes. Time for prayer and reflection every day. You need this, more than you know. The Christ who saved you from your sins is ready to save your daily life if you let him be part of it.

Why don’t you make time for him every day? Who do you know who is like you, too busy to take any time for prayer and reflection? Do it for yourself, and do it for somebody else. Then please let me know how things work out. I believe you will be grateful that you set this time aside. If you don’t do it, why not?

 

Some Thoughts for the New Year

th_praying-handsThe Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. John 14:26 

It is time to begin thinking about the new year. Maybe you don’t need a long list of resolutions, but perhaps you know of one thing you need to work on. What is the one thing that is worth your effort above all the others? Maybe this is the time to commit to meet your Holy Teacher every day. Sit at his feet. Listen. Learn. Is this the time? 

If you are thinking you should have a daily quiet time, maybe you need something very simple that won’t take more time than you can give. Take a look at Mount Carmel’s Daily Texts. Two verses and a prayer. Every morning. There is much more you can use, but these simple verses with a prayer take about five minutes. If you have five minutes, you have time for the Daily Texts. (I receive no commission or affiliate fees from the sale of Daily Texts. I recommend them because I have used them. )