Tag Archives: prayer

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

 

What is Becoming of our Culture?

In Psalm 10, the writer describes evil and the way it works in a culture. We all know that human beings are born with sinful human nature, and this passage describes a fully matured sinful nature that works destructively in the culture. Read it slowly and attentively.

    He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
       His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
        he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
       he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10    The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
11    He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Psalm 10:8-11

This text sounds so primitive and vulgar that it is hard to believe this is biblical text. It is ugly. It is vicious. It is simply impossible to believe that any human being could be so vile. Yet if you consider this description to be without precedent in reality, just discover how Planned Parenthood is selling the body parts of aborted babies. I’m not going to use the euphemisms. I’m going to use the word: baby. Planned Parenthood treats the body parts of aborted babies as the elements of a crass marketing plan.

In ancient times an ancient god named Moloch came to be the name we all associate with child sacrifice. People sacrificed children to Moloch in order that things might be better for themselves. The point of the sacrifice was to feed the god so he would provide well for the villagers. It sounds a lot like the logic that a woman has a “right to choose” if the death of the baby is advantageous to her. Women who have exercised their “right to choose” are encouraged to salve their consciences suffering (surely they suffer) pangs for condemning a baby to death by asking them to consent to the “harvest” of “tissue” for “life-saving” scientific research. So, just like babies sacrificed to Moloch, those babies sacrificed to personal convenience save the village by becoming research projects.

For all the public rhetoric on the subject of abortion in today’s culture, the rhetoric always carefully avoids talking about babies. Even the language used by the so-called doctor on the video linked above avoids words that might evoke thoughts of an actual baby. She calls the head a calverium. Not a baby’s head. A calverium. She speaks of harvesting an intact calverium as if she were harvesting a tomato, yet the process is no less a beheading than the gruesome executions of Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya. When a human being’s head is removed, it is a beheading, decapitation, not the act of harvesting fruits for human blessing and benefit.

The Psalmist reminds us that the vile behavior of Planned Parenthood is not a product of human evolution into beings far more intelligent and inclusively moral than those ancient, primitive scribes that wrote the Bible. As you read the words of the psalm, you see that humans have not apparently changed at all. Yet we are told that humans no longer need God, because we know science. We no longer need our morality to be imposed by ancient, dusty books, because we have evolved into creatures with superior intellect who can evaluate issues and reach logical conclusions that are more fulfilling and desirable than the restrictive hatefulness of ancient primitive people who listened to voices in their heads. According to Planned Parenthood, humans have come a long way from the ancient Levant.

In fact, humans have apparently evolved so thoroughly that Planned Parenthood is not even the only place where babies are treated like trash. Read an excerpt from Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery  by Richard Selzer. In this excerpt, babies ripped untimely from their mother’s protective wombs are treated like trash bagged up and thrown into rows of trash cans behind a hospital, ready for disposal in a local landfill.

When Christians contemplate such things, they feel defeated. They wonder what to do to turn things around. If you feel this way, then you will understand the distress expressed by Leon Wolf whose post “Our Broken Country” gives words to the grief we all feel about these problems.

There certainly are things we can do in this world to resist and reject wickedness. We can speak. We can act. We can vote. But, unless we act out of a deep and intimate relationship with Christ that motivates and shapes our acts, we risk becoming more like our adversaries than like Christ.

The Psalmist knew about that problem. He wrote:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
    How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
    Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
    lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
    But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
    I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13

Pray this prayer. Put your own name in the prayer, and pray it all the way through. Put “the USA” in the prayer and pray it all the way through. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget the USA forever?” Pray intensely. Pray repeatedly. Keep praying. This is the way we prepare ourselves to be part of God’s solution to what is becoming of our culture.

What’s a Christian to do?

Hourglass

The world is a very confusing place right now. Values accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike for as long as there have been human beings now seem to be set on their heads. Up is down. Right is left. Black is white.

The Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage is especially troubling, because we have already seen at the state level what the new definition does to confessing Christians who refuse to participate in sinful behavior. It makes everyone ask, what do I do?

The answer is to follow a practice that has proved itself over generations of Christians. In times like these, we need nourishment for our faith and strength to hope that God is still in charge. The best way to get the nourishment we need is to follow a daily practice of prayer and Bible study.

When we tell people that an important fact about marriage is that the union of one man and one woman is a model for God’s relationship with his church, many scoff. In these times, we who love the Lord need to remember that the relationship of marriage is, indeed, a place to learn about the relationship each of us has with the Lord. Now is a good time to discover a universal truth about marriage that is equally applicable to your relationship with God: a relationship thrives on time spent together, time when each partner focuses on the other. Daily prayer and Bible reading is one way to spend time with God that will nourish your relationship with him while it builds your faith and strengthens your hope.

I have never met a Christian who did not think that this practice was a good idea, but I have met many Christians who don’t follow it. A few complain that they don’t know how, but the almost universal complaint is lack of time. It isn’t a complaint isolated to faith practices; they complain equally of no time to read to children, no time for exercise, no time to attend worship, and so forth. When did time itself become a tyrant that enslaves humanity? Is time for us, or are we for time?

The fact is that, like any scarce resource, our time is allocated according to the importance of the way we use it. Sleep is very important, and for many people, even the notion of 8 hours of sleep is unthinkable due to other demands on their time. Some will say that there are so many demands on their time already that to make time for prayer and Bible study would further reduce their time for healthful sleep. God’s gift of time is seen as a resource that is used as dictated by other people, not by each individual for himself. There is no time for the Lord simply because he does not punish anyone for failure to give him some of it.

Nobody exactly says this, but it is implied by the fact that they all explain the price of failing to meet other people’s expectations for their use of time. “My kid will be devastated if he has to miss a game.” In other words, the child will dish out the punishment for parental failure to attend a game. Heaven forbid the parent should choose to make a child miss a game. “My boss says that people who go home every day at 5PM have no passion for their work, and he remembers that in each employee’s annual review.” The boss dishes out the punishment for failure to use time according to his values. “My husband is in sales, so we must appear at a lot of social functions. His success depends on it.” The husband, or the husband’s boss, will punish failure to use time as expected. And so forth. There seems to be a price to pay for disappointing people, while God apparently sits silent when he is ignored.

There is a different way to see time. Time is God’s gift to each person in this world, and each person owes God faithful stewardship of time. Time is a gift, and it is yours until you give it away. You have all the control, unless you cede it to others. A prisoner serving a life sentence for murder has the same gift of time as the CEO of Apple, and the same rights and responsibilities before God with regard to his use of time.

What is a Christian to do if his or her gift of time has been snatched away by other people?

That is the real problem for most Christians. It explains a lack of time for prayer and Bible study, and it explains a lack of time for worship, fellowship with Christians, and even the lack of time for personal rest.

Try this idea: Think of the 24 hours starting right this minute as God’s unique gift to you. If you use this time as God’s steward, in the expectation that 24 hours from now God will ask you what you did with them, how will that change the way you use them? Is there any chance that in the next 24 hours you can choose to give five minutes to God in prayer and Bible study? Does God deserve that much of your time?

These are troubled times. Christians are wringing their hands, crying aloud on Facebook, and tweeting plaintively across cyberspace. What is a Christian to do? The first thing, the best thing, the most useful thing a Christian can do is to accept stewardship of each day’s time and make time for daily prayer and Bible study.

That is what a Christian must do.

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

Image by Curioso
Source: http://humbliceous.blogspot.com/
License: ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Hymn Meditation

Open Hymnal

Son of God, Eternal Savior

Son of God, eternal Savior,
Source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth incarnate
Hallows all our human race,
Thou, our Head Who, throned in glory,
For Thine own dost ever plead,
Fill us with Thy love and pity;
Heal our wrongs, and help our need.

Bind us all as one together
In Thy Church’s sacred fold,
Weak and healthy, poor and wealthy,
Sad and joyful, young and old.
Is there want, or pain, or sorrow?
Make us all the burden share.
Are there spirits crushed and broken?
Teach us, Lord, to soothe their care.

As Thou, Lord, hast lived for others,
So may we for others live;
Freely have Thy gifts been granted,
Freely may Thy servants give.
Thine the gold and Thine the silver,
Thine the wealth of land and sea,
We but stewards of Thy bounty,
Held in solemn trust for Thee.

Come, O Christ, and reign among us,
King of love, and Prince of peace,
Hush the storm of strife and passion,
Bid its cruel discords cease:
By Thy patient years of toiling,
By Thy silent hours of pain,
Quench our fevered thirst of pleasure,
Shame our selfish greed of gain.

Son of God, eternal Savior,
Source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth incarnate
Hallows all our human race,
Thou Who prayedst, Thou Who willest,
That Thy people should be one,
Grant, O Grant our hope’s fruition:
Here on earth Thy will be done.

By Somerset C. Lowry

Source: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/g/sgetesav.htm
License: public domain

What five titles does the hymn writer give to Jesus in verse 1?

The hymn writer describes two attributes of Jesus. What are they?

What does verse 1 pray for?

In verse 2, the  hymn writer asks for worldwide church unity. Jesus even prayed for such unity, and the prayer is recorded in John 17. Why is the church not united?

What 4 principles of Christian stewardship are identified in verse 3?

In verse 4, the hymn writer contrasts Christ with ordinary human beings. What is the difference?

Despite all human failings, what is the most fervent desire of the hymnwriter expressed in this hymn in verse 5?

 

 

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

Image: Open Hymnal
Source:http://foter.com/
License: CC BY-NC-SA

 

 

Bible Meditation

torah_500

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  John 17:14-16

  • Think of at least three events in the past week that demonstrate how the world hates Christians. Pray about the right personal response to these events.
  • Has anyone told you personally that you should keep your religion private, because nobody wants to hear about it? Was this person also a Christian? How did you respond.
  • Last week an atheist blogger berated all Christians for their failure to respect his personal boundaries. What is the difference between obeying Christ’s command to make disciples and aggressively inserting your testimony into the life of a person who makes it plain he does not want to hear it? Is there a difference? What did Jesus ever say that helps you know what to do here?
  • What do you think Christ meant when he asked his Father to keep his followers from the evil one?

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

  • When Jesus said to his Father, “Sanctify them in the truth,” what was he asking?
  • Do you have a firm, unshakeable commitment to truth? How have you been tested recently with regard to that commitment?
  • Sometimes it is very hard to see the truth in a situation. How do you go about finding it?

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  John 17:18-21

  • What was Jesus talking about when he said, “I consecrate myself”?
  • What was the most important thing Jesus wanted our testimony to accomplish?

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

Image: Torah Scroll
Source:  http://library.duke.edu/exhibits/hebrewbible/torah.html
License:  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0