“The most important daily habit we can possess is to remind ourselves of the Gospel.”
The most important thing you can do in 2014 is cultivate a devotional life that facilitates the intimate nearness of God.
You won’t accidentally get close to God.
So, for 2014, I wanted to encourage you to embrace a focused intentionality in your devotional life. Here are some things I have been thinking through with regards to my devotional practices for this New Year. 1
My voice shall You hear in the morning, O LORD;
in the morning will I direct my prayer to You, and will look up.
Have a no exemption time and place to meet with God.
If you do not schedule in focused time with God, everything else in your life will schedule it out. Have a time and place and treat it as an appointment with the most important person in the universe. And, keep it; no excuses. It might be morning, evening, night, whatever. Just pick a time that you devote to seeking God with uninterrupted focus. Let me suggest that you put it on your calendar. Purpose to keep that appointed time to meet with your Creator.
Have a plan.
What will you do during that time? The obvious answer is that the time will at least include contemplative Bible reading and prayer. But, what will be the content of that contemplative reading? There are several options and no one option is best or right. You need to find what keeps you engaged and maybe even mix it up a little. Know this about yourself: are you self-disciplined to forge a path and keep on it, or do you find guides helpful and organized plans useful? You may plan to read two or three chapters in the Old Testament and one chapter in the New Testament. Or, you might read whole Bible books at a time.
- We’ve mapped out a few good options for planning your Bible reading this year (and others suggested last year).
- Which plan you choose is not the most important thing. Don’t stress over it. Just have a plan.
Begin your time with prayer and confession.
Confess your sins to the Lord and ask him to cleanse your heart (of things you have done and things you have left undone) and open your eyes to behold wonderful things in his word (Psalm 119:18). You want a heart that is open and responsive to God and confession and prayer postures us in that way.
Read out loud.
Maybe it is just me, but if I don’t, I get really distracted. (What if the people in your home hear you? It will be awesome, for you are modeling what it means to put God first in your heart and mind.)
Look for Gospel patterns.
As you read, realize that Jesus and the Gospel is The One Story of the Bible. Look for Gospel patterns, grace on display, as you read. Especially in the OT. Every story has Christ as the ultimate hero. For example, don’t read the story of David and Goliath and leave your devotional time “ready to face your giants.” Realize that you are Israel in the story, not David. You are weak, powerless, cowering before your enemies of sin, Satan, and death, and you need an anointed King to defeat your enemies and cause you to rise up in hope and courage. Jesus is the true and better David, and he is the point of the story of David and Goliath. Look for these patterns in everything you read and rejoice in what God has accomplished for you in Jesus. (We use a tool called the Gospel Grid to help us remember to start with God and Jesus the Hero, before we insert ourselves into the central role.)
We don’t have devotions and pray in order to avoid the guilt of not having devotions and not praying.
We have devotions and pray to know Jesus and his Gospel, and revel in all that he is for us and all that he has won for us.
Journal your thoughts and prayers.
Journaling helps us process what we are reading and learning from the Lord. It is good to go back and read your journal to remind yourself of how God has been at work in your life in the past. Get a moleskin or a cheap equivalent and just do it for a season and see if it helps you. (These are private thoughts not meant for others. No need to fear if you’re doing it “right.” Figure out how to process what you are learning and how you are growing in godliness, in a way that makes sense according to God has wired you.)
Realize this is a community project.
You need to share what God is saying to you and have others share what God is saying to them. Consider doing one of the above plans with a group of people, a spouse, a roommate, or your church staff. (By the way, as your pastor I will be following the ESV Study Bible Daily Reading Plan, outlined here.)
Don’t give up.
I have missed meals in the past, but never gave up on eating. I just made sure I did not miss the next meal (and usually made up for it). You are going to miss days, often times multiple days. Repent of your neglect of God and press on in knowing him. Your righteousness is not in how consistent your devotional life is; it is in Jesus Christ who is constant and ever faithful. So, relax and pick up where you left off.
The beauty and joy of 2014 will not depend upon your circumstances, but upon your experience of the One you were made for.
As much of Him that you want to experience, you will experience. He promises to reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).