This is the last of study notes that Carol had left in any of our computers. Everything else is hand written. This is the longest one but I don’t remember exactly when she taught this. It was for a larger function, if any of you remember, let me know and I’ll post it. I’ve received a number of emails from you readers about these posts and am glad you have been blessed. Hope this is a blessing also, I’m sure it will be…
With Single Focus…
It has been said that our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, crowds. “If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness” he will rest satisfied.” Psychiatrist Carl Jung once remarked, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”
We all face the challenge of slowing down. One of the brothers in our church once remarked that Jesus was never in a hurry! I will be sharing with you today on devotions. We will discuss what they are, why they are important, what goes on in that time, and who carries out the work in them.
First let’s look at what devotions are. Webster’s says to “devote” is “to give over (as to a cause) wholly or purposefully.” “It is to center the attention or activities of oneself.” Anna the prophetess is a good example of this giving herself over to God wholly and purposefully. Luke 2:36-37. Anna may not have a lengthy story in the bible, but these few verses show the intensity of her devotion to God. She served God with fasting and prayers night and day. Such single focus! We are not all called to do that, but it is her attitude of heart and single focus I want you to notice. Anna would not allow herself to get sidetracked in her devotions to God. Webster’s also says devotion is an act of prayer. It is ardent love or affection. How beautiful!
Do we not all want to love Jesus more and more? It makes me think of David; “a man after God’s own heart”. He spent much time with the Lord as a boy watching over the sheep. Psalm 63:1-8 shows David’s heart of devotion to God. God sees our heart as He saw into David’s heart. 1st Samuel 16:7 says; “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Our heart is what we bring to these quiet times with Jesus. It is not the length of time or number of prayers we pray, or verses we contemplate over, it is our heart attitude. The last interesting part of our definition from Webster’s is this thought. A devotion or devotional is a short worship service! Perfect!
Our time alone with Jesus is to be worship to Him as we pray and meditate on Him and His Word. In John 4:22-24 Jesus said: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The Father is seeking for men and women to worship Him. As we draw aside with Him and ask for Him to reveal Himself to us, worship is the natural response to Him. We get to know Him better, what He is like, His attributes, His voice, His love, His peace. We consider Who He is and how He made the universe, all the stars, planets, comets, black holes etc. How awe inspiring!
Revelation 1:12-17 gives us a vivid picture of Jesus. Our God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is a Consuming Fire. Look at John’s response; he falls down in worship. We may not get such a dramatic vision in our quiet time, but we will be impacted. It is the natural result of spending time with Him. Our faith grows because we have experienced more of Jesus. We are developing confidence in Him as we talk to Him and experience answers to prayers. Our response to Him will be worship in our daily life. We can wash dishes, drive to work or change diapers with an attitude of worship. So, our definition of devotions includes – giving ourselves wholly and purposefully to Jesus. We are to center our attention on Jesus and away from all else. It is our act of ardent love and affection for Jesus. It is our own worship service, so to speak.
These times with Jesus are critically important! How do we as women face the challenges that come to us daily? We face challenges from our husbands, children, employers, employees, friends, extended family, co-workers, and our world! We SO need this time with our Lord, this refueling, reviving, refreshing time.
Psalm 16:15 tells us “In your presence is fullness of joy” The Bible also speaks of times of refreshing from being in His presence. Jesus tells us these things that our joy may be full. We are the ones blessed as we forget about ourselves and focus on Him.
Hebrews 11:24-27 speaks of Moses choosing affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” How did Moses escape the temptations that faced him? How did he obey God even in hardships? Hebrews tells us that Moses did this by “seeing Him who is invisible.” How did he see God who is invisible? Well, Moses spent time with God, actually 40 some years in the desert! If you spend time with someone you get to know them. What they like, what they do not like. You recognize the sound of their voice. Moses knew his God who was invisible. His knowledge which came through times spent with God enabled him to face some fiery trials. We desperately need our Lord to reveal Himself to us more deeply by His Holy Spirit in our quiet times.
Andrew Murray in his book “Aids to Devotions” says; “I know not how I can plead with sufficient earnestness to urge God’s children to make their private devotions a means for the cultivation of a clearer insight into that God IS ABSOLUTLEY WILLING TO DO FOR US!” There is a life awaiting us, prepared by God Himself, and waiting to be revealed in us by the Holy Spirit, if we are only ready to know and confess how very much there is lacking in our spiritual life.”
I think most of us would readily say there is much lacking in our devotions. So, be encouraged, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is SO ready to show and glorify Jesus to us and in us. (See John 16:13-14)
Ok, so we have looked at the definition of devotions. It was defined as ardent love or affection. It was defined as a time to center our attention and activity on and around the Lord Jesus. It was also said to be our worship service to Jesus.
I touched briefly on the importance of it. We need the fresh vision of Jesus. We need to be refreshed and to gain His perspective. We need His Holy Spirit to show us more of Jesus and to know Him better. We mentioned the challenges we face as women, whether married, single, divorced, or widowed. Jesus, of course, is more than able to abundantly meet every need. It is in our times of lovingly drawing aside with Him that He will strengthen and encourage us. He has all wisdom and knowledge, and power for all your needs. So, we need to tap into Jesus for this. We are the branches and He is the Vine. Jeremiah 17:7-8 reveals the blessing to believers who are rooted in God. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.” That involves spending time with God. So we see the importance of these devotions.
Let’s go on to discuss the components of our devotions with Jesus.
But, first let me share a word of encouragement to you. I do NOT speak to you as one who has it “all together” in this area! I struggle along with you in drawing aside and spending time with Jesus. So many things can grab my attention and I am off and running, at least mentally, if not physically. Well, at least I have some mental matter that can run off! That is the good news for me! We all battle our flesh, the daily distractions and Satan in this matter. Please do not feel you are the only one who struggles in finding time. Ok, let’s confirm this. Let’s see a show of hands. How many struggle with daily demands on your time and devotions? Uh huh! You may be a mom with little ones who desperately seeks time to shower! You may be a working gal who puts in a long challenging day at the office. You may have physical issues that make this difficult. One of the girls at our church told me that she did not want to sign up for this workshop because she would just feel guilty over her lack of devotional time with Jesus. We are all in this together. Be encouraged today! Encourage others in this privilege and blessing we have. Encourage a new believer and tell them of the things you practice that have helped you grow in your devotional life.
So, back from that digression to the components that make up our devotions. We draw aside with Jesus, now what do we do? What practical steps can we take? These three components are flexible and we each need to seek how we can implement them into our own daily routine.
1.) Find a good spot to draw aside. Mark 1:35; “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
We all have seasons in our lives that may dictate changes in this meeting spot. Mothers of little ones may retreat to the shower or take advantage of nap time to retreat to the bedroom. Working women may commute and use the drive time. Carole Mayhall writes; “I have heard it said that many of us spend almost 7 years of our lives just waiting. As I thought about all the times I had waited for the doctor, the dentist, a friend to arrive, the dinner to be cooked, and all sorts of other things, I concluded that in my case it might be more than 7 years!” She goes on to say “What spiritual wealth I might accumulate if I could buy up all that wasted “waiting” time.” So, she began to carry around scripture cards to use in that “wasted” time to think about and memorize scripture. This is devotional time on the go. It can happen anywhere. It is not the same as uninterrupted time alone and away with Jesus. But, it is a great way to add to our time with Jesus any time of the day. Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man (woman) thinks within himself (herself), so is he (she).” Carole had a good practical way to implement this devotional thought life through this daily practice. So, pick a good spot, (and a good spot is not just a physical location, it is also time!), to be as uninterrupted as you can; a private corner to meet with Jesus. Also be prepared for the seasons in your life that may alter your meeting place.
2.) Our next piece is prayer! Luke 5:16: “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” The famous missionary William Carey said “…prayer, secret, fervent, believing prayer lies at the root of all personal godliness.” Richard Foster in his book “Celebration of Discipline” says “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. In prayer we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills. Progressively we are taught to see things from His point of view.” How we all need that! And prayer is the avenue. Real prayer is something we learn. Even the Disciples asked Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) It is a process, be patient. It involves talking to God (oh we women are good at talking!) and listening. Ok, maybe we are not as good at listening.
We need to listen first to even know how to intercede for someone else, or how to proceed. The priest Eli knew how to listen to God and helped the young boy Samuel to know God’s voice. (1 Samuel 3:1-9) Elijah spent many a day and night in the wilderness learning to discern “the still small voice of Yahweh”. Richard Foster again says “…these were people who were close to the heart of God. God spoke to them NOT because they had special abilities, but because they were willing to listen.” How encouraging that is to me. It is not based on my abilities, but on my availability. So, we slow down to listen first. One of the girls at church made it a practice to spend two minutes in silence before she ever spoke to the Lord. She found it helpful to open the sliding door to the back garden. She would listen to the birds and the sounds of God’s creation to slow her down and quite her mind. Then, and only then she would talk to the Lord.
More good advice too from “Celebration of Discipline” is this; “We should never make prayer too complicated. Jesus teaches us to come like children to a father. Children do not find it difficult or complicated to talk to their parents, nor do they feel embarrassed to bring the simplest need to their fathers’ attention.” I remember being a new believer praying in a group of people at Church. I was just struck by one girl’s prayer. She was praying for the Lord to heal her cat! The words she used were so familiar and intimate. No embarrassment about praying for her cat. No trying to sound holy in front of others. That so touched me. Prayer is a huge piece in our devotions.
Maybe you are not sure of how to pray in these quiet times or what to say. Praying God’s Word and over His Word is also very fruitful. Campbell MacAlpine in his book “The Practice of Biblical Meditation” gives a practical example of how he prays in this way. He would pick a verse and pray over it. For example – “Now the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah of the son of Amittai, saying, arise go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”(Jonah 1:1-2)
Prayer – “Father, thank you that you speak, and as your word came clearly to Jonah, let your word come clearly to me.” Then in Thanksgiving… “Thank you too when you speak to me, there could be no voice without you. I praise you for your presence. Thank you too Father, as you knew Jonah’s name you know mine too. I praise you for making me your son. Thank you for every word you have spoken to me and for every word you are still going to speak. Thank you, you are a God who speaks to now.”
3.) Our 3rd component in devotion is “meditation”. Josh.1:8; “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Again, I like the way Richard Foster defines Christian meditation; “Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey His word. It is that simple!I wish I could make it more complicated for those who like things difficult! It involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into the cosmic consciousness. The truth of the matter is that the great God of the universe, the Creator of all things desires our fellowship.”
What an amazing thing to grasp! That motivates my heart to meet with Jesus. Christian meditation focuses on God’s Word. That is what we consider and chew on. Psalm 119 mentions meditating on God, His Word, and His ways 8 times. Psalm 119 is a great place to start your meditations. Carole Mayhall gives one practical way to chew or meditate on the Word of God, She uses the “A-E-I-O-U” method. Anyone think of the classroom when I say A-E-I-O-U?! Start with..
“A” – ask questions. She used Psalm 23 as her example. Psalm 23 states, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” She then asked herself questions such as “In what way is He my Shepherd?” Or, “When do I experience Him as my Shepherd?” In this way she would think further and get more out of each verse.
“E” – emphasize words. Carole took each word of this verse separately, and gave emphasis to it. THE Lord is my Shepherd. (There is only 1 Lord!) The LORD is my Shepherd. (He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings!) The Lord IS my Shepherd. (What surety!) The Lord is MY Shepherd. (How personal, how precious!) The Lord is my SHEPHERD. (He cares for me as His own Lamb)
“I” – illustrate. Carole give a precious example of a little 5 year old girl. This girl learned this verse in Psalm 23 by using the 5 fingers on her hand. She would touch each finger and say “the”(touch thumb) “Lord” (touch index finger) “is” (middle) “my” (fourth finger) “Shepherd” (little finger). Carole goes on to write that the little girl became ill, and did not recover. Her mother found her hanging on tightly to her 4th finger. She had been saying this verse as she met her Shepherd.
“O” – other scriptures. Other scriptures come to mind. Like John 10:11 speaking about the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep.
“U” – Use it, or application! How can I really use this in my life? Ask God to show you how to apply it.
This is one great way to meditate on God’s Word.
(How many of you went to the Anne Graham Lotz Crusade entitled “Just give me Jesus”? Anne had a great method to study God’s Word which causes you to really think about or meditate on it. She causes you to dig deep into the Bible one verse at a time. Come see me afterward if you want to learn more about her way to study the Word which lends itself so beautifully to this topic of meditation.)
So, finding the good spot, prayer, and meditation on God and His Word make up our devotions. Next and lastly the good news; it does not depend on us! I suppose I should qualify that statement. It does depend on us to the extent that we show up for quiet time! We do need to have a willing heart to spend time with Jesus alone daily and to see the importance of this. We need to ask Him for what Andrew Murray calls “…the deep conviction of what a holy, divine, and almighty work it is for God the Spirit to take possession of our life, and carry out his own desire to make Christ live within us. God help us to remember that it is in our daily devotions that this great work is to be carried on and accomplished.” If your heart does not desire to draw aside with Jesus, then ask God to give you that desire! Start there! Do not allow the enemy to pour guilt on you. Guilt is not from God. It is from the enemy. God convicts and then encourages only.
Andrew Murray also assures us that “God does not expect from us, however earnest our efforts and prayers may be, that we should strengthen and maintain our spiritual life. That is the work for which His Holy Spirit was promised…” What a relief to me! My part is to show up and surrender to God’s Spirit and His great work in my heart and will. He does the work. Jesus wants this intimacy with us. Wow! That thought alone is amazing. The Holy Spirit is THE central figures in this work. There are so many great verses that speak of the Holy Spirit and His work in us.
John 14:21 tells us as we keep His commandments, we love Him. “And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus! John 14:16-17 Jesus says “And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him for He dwells with you, and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit lives in us permanently as Helper. He helps and enables us to spend time with Jesus and enjoy it!
John 14:25 – “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you.”
John 16:13b – “The Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you…” Get the picture? The Holy Spirit teaches us, guides us, helps us, tells us the truth. Jesus personally prayed and gave Him to us. Jesus knows exactly what you need. How personal!
In Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays that God the Father will give us “…spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”. It is clear from these passages, that it is the Holy Spirit who will work in our devotional life with Jesus. He will give us the desire. He will show us more of Jesus. He will change us and grow us. So, we depend on the Holy Spirit to help us to learn to draw aside and spend time with Jesus daily. If you remember nothing else I have said – remember our part is to show up and surrender our heart to the Holy Spirit’s work in our devotions. God’s Holy Spirit does the changing and transforming work in us and teaches us how to be women who are devoted to Jesus and who love to spend time with Him.