Most people in America today have a cell phone. When I preached in Africa in 2016, cell phones were common. We are so connected, yet lonelier than ever before.
Some people insist that they can't find God. They look for God high and far away, but they might be having trouble finding Him precisely because they do not look low enough. He is very near.
How do you get to know God? You listen to Him. You talk to Him. In a world filled with alerts and notifications, ads and commercials, how do we draw near to the infinite One?
It's easy. He says just talk to Me.
I want to share with you today some simple suggestions for building up your devotional life.
What do we mean when we say "devotional life"? We mean private, personal time spent together between you and God, preferably at the very start of your day, praying and reading the Bible.
God Says Good Morning!
The writings of the prophet Isaiah often speak of Jesus and also of God's people as His servant. Jesus, we understand, was in more or less constant communion with His Father through prayer. The Hebrew people began and ended the day with the daily offering and prayer (Numbers 28:4, 8). The lines we are about to consider from Isaiah seem to be a word for us. They point to what we may expect in our daily devotional time spent with Jesus:
Consider the following at Isaiah 50:4-7:
The Lord God has given me
The tongue of the learned,That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens me morning by morning,He awakens my ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God has opened my ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
And my cheeks to those who plucked out my beard;
I did not hide my face
From shame and spitting.
For the Lord God will help me;
Therefore I will not be disgraced;
Therefore I have set my face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.
You talk to God in the morning so that you can talk with others who need God during the day. He gives you the word you need for you. He gives you the word you need for others.
When you rise in the morning, He wakes your ear to hear. First thing, before your breakfast food, you receive your manna from God. He feeds you and it is in the morning. You don't really know what He is going to say, and in the wilderness, Israel were provided manna in the morning, which name in Hebrew, Manna, means "What is it?"
When He speaks to us in the morning, we need to be receptive to it. We need to accept whatever He gives us.
Because neither God nor His word are accepted by the world, we need to begin each day ready to be in the world but not of the world. We are to resist being molded into its shape. Whatever it costs us, today, to serve God, today, He will strengthen us to serve Him thus, today.
Consider this very interesting paragraph from Ellen White's book, Patriarchs and Prophets 353-354:
As the priests morning and evening entered the holy place at the time of incense, the daily sacrifice was ready to be offered upon the altar in the court without. This was a time of intense interest to the worshipers who assembled at the tabernacle. Before entering into the presence of God through the ministration of the priest, they were to engage in earnest searching of heart and confession of sin. They united in silent prayer, with their faces toward the holy place. Thus their petitions ascended with the cloud of incense, while faith laid hold upon the merits of the promised Saviour prefigured by the atoning sacrifice. The hours appointed for the morning and the evening sacrifice were regarded as sacred, and they came to be observed as the set time for worship throughout the Jewish nation. And when in later times the Jews were scattered as captives in distant lands, they still at the appointed hour turned their faces toward Jerusalem and offered up their petitions to the God of Israel. In this custom Christians have an example for morning and evening prayer. While God condemns a mere round of ceremonies, without the spirit of worship, He looks with great pleasure upon those who love Him, bowing morning and evening to seek pardon for sins committed and to present their requests for needed blessings.
So you see, morning and evening offer us ideal times to unite in prayer seeking God's guidance.
Acquire a Serious Bible
Friends, we spend many hundreds of dollars on a phone, and phones are remarkable tools today. They have many benefits and many debits. And yes, if we have a "smart phone" we should have a Bible program on our phone. But I want to suggest that possibly a very important thing for you would be to have premium physical Bible.
I am not saying you cannot read the Bible on your phone. The phone gives you instant search capability. It is a tool. But the physical Bible is another very important tool. And no notifications pop up while you are reading, no text messages come in, no phone calls, no virus warnings. For focus, it is well to have a physical Bible. You do too many other things with your phone; it is too much of a multi-purpose tool. You do too many mundane, nonspiritual things on your phone. You should have a physical Bible.
Most of us probably have a cheap Bible with print that is too small or a page layout that is unattractive. But the very fact that we can all read the Bible on our phones now, means that the physical Bible has been pushed to new heights of attractiveness and readability. Check this chart:
|PHYSICAL SIZE||If your Bible is too large or too small, you may not read it. Physical size is very important. Range from wide-margin to no margin.|
|FONT SIZE AND STYLE||If the font is difficult to read you will be less inclined to use the Bible. Beware of too-small fonts.|
|BLEED AND ALIGNMENT||When you view the physical page you will likely see through the page to the text printed on its opposite side. Some pages are sufficiently thin that this is quite distracting. Paper whiteness and thickness makes a difference. And is the text printed exactly at the same level on the opposite page or is it higher or lower? This, again, is a distraction factor.|
|TEXT COLOR||Red letter text, pink, or all black.|
|COLUMNS||Single column or double: Many people regard a single column text to be easier to read.|
|PARAGRAPHED/VERSIFIED||Paragraphed or versified text: Versified means that each verse appears as though it is its own paragraph. This makes it easy to find a verse but very much more difficult to tell where the author’s paragraphs, the units of his thought, begin and end. Most people find that having the text arranged into paragraph-blocks help the reader to follow the flow of thought more clearly.|
|NOTES and MARGINS||Many notes, few notes, no notes, center column, bottom page. It may be counter-intuitive but less notes on a page can greatly increase readability.|
|TYPE OF BINDING||sewn or glued. Glued comes apart more easily; sewn costs more.|
|COVER||Genuine leather = Tiny bits of leather bound together with glue. Usually disintegrates. Then there is leather, calf-skin leather, goat skin, and other newer, durable material used for covers.|
|RIBBONS||Ribbons: None, one, two, three, or more. Helps you keep your place.|
I am not saying you should go out and spend 1800 dollars on leather-covered Bibles with colored ribbons. If you have a physical Bible now that you are reading now, and that is working out well for you, you probably don't need to and should not change anything. If reading the Bible on your phone is truly working for you, I have no quarrel with you. But if you are not presently engaged in daily Bible reading, and your physical Bible does not draw you and attract you to the reading experience, I am suggesting you consider acquiring a Bible you will love to read from.
Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things (The Desire of Ages 48). The light which fell from the open portals upon the head of our Saviour will fall upon us as we pray for help to resist temptation. The voice which spoke to Jesus says to every believing soul, This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased (ibid 113).
Prayer and the Bible go together. When we read God's Word then we hear His voice, then we have something to respond to.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Everything in the Bible is spiritually profitable. When we rise in the morning, and God wakens our ear to hear Him, then we need His sure, unfailing, inspired Word. Then He can help us in the way a father helps his son, the way a mother helps her daughter.
We need not just teaching but God's teaching. We need not just reproof but God's reproof. We need not just correction but God's correction. We need not just instruction in righteousness but God's instruction in righteousness.
We need the Bible every day and first thing every day. This is why we are counseled,
At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith. Circumstances may separate us from every earthly friend; but no circumstance, no distance, can separate us from the heavenly Comforter. Wherever we are, wherever we may go, He is always at our right hand to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer (The Desire of Ages 669-670).
Through the Bible He talks to us. And through prayer we talk to Him. So the plan is, "Talk to Me."
Have a Pattern for Daily Reading and Prayer
There is no prescribed pattern for day to day reading.
More recently, my pattern is to begin the day by reading four chapters in the Old Testament and two in the New. In the evening I read two chapters from the New Testament. All in sequence. This means you will go through the New Testament around two-and-a-half times for each reading through of the Old Testament.
I have had my new Bible for about a month, and in that time I have read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Matthew, Mark, Luke in full. I am presently reading in Numbers and John. At this rate you will read your Bible through more than twice in a year.
When I wake in the morning I always begin with prayer. I place my bible near my bedside when I retire for the evening so that it will be ready for me to reach out and lay hold of in the morning. Soon I begin to read my Bible. My main prayer time comes after the Bible reading. Reading the Bible primes me for prayer. I think of prayer and Bible reading as one thing; they go together.
I make it it a point not to check email, check text messages, or get off into social media until after this time. If there is a spiritual emergency phone call then yes, I will answer, but I don't look at any of those things until I have had some manna. I need god first. I need Him like I need air to breath. I need a spiritual start. Every other kind of start to my day would be non-spiritual.
This is an important thought:
We should pray in the family circle; and above all we must not neglect secret prayer; for this is the life of the soul. It is impossible for the soul to flourish while prayer is neglected (SC 98). Yes, today we are talking about secret prayer. To me, morning Bible reading and prayer go together completely. its all one piece.
Of Jesus, Ellen White writes, "His humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege" (SC 94). And of us, "The angels love to bow before God; they love to be near Him. They regard communion with God as their highest joy; and yet the children of earth, who need so much the help that God only can give, seem satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the companionship of His presence" (ibid.).
If we don't begin the day with Jesus then we are keeping God at a distance. The world needs Him and so the world needs us.
When you have read the Bible thoughtfully and prayerfully, then it is time to engage in your main prayer. Here is one model from Ellen White's book Steps to Christ 70:
Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, 'Take me, O Lord, as wholly thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.
Give God your day. If you have not given Him your mind and your heart at the beginning, then you have not given Him your day. I want the experience of Jesus and I know that for me to have it, I need to pray every morning, and I need to receive from God's Word every morning.
In Christ the cry of humanity reached the Father of infinite pity. As a man He supplicated the throne of God till His humanity was charged with a heavenly current that should connect humanity with divinity. Through continual communion He received life from God, that He might impart life to the world. His experience is to be ours (The Desire of Ages 363).
These are basic things, and yet these are critical things. If you want Jesus then start your day with Him. You don't have to do it exactly like I just described it. But you should connect with God every morning at the beginning of your day.
- Bible reading and prayer go together.
- When you are able to afford it, make certain that you have a serious Bible that you look forward to using. If you are not there yet, this should be a very high priority.
- Engage in daily Bible reading. There are many plans for Bible reading available out there.
- Engage in daily prayer. Hear from Him, talk to Him. Pray to your friend the King of the universe.
Deer Park WA SDA 2019-04-06