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Author: Rory Brannum

4 Ways To Tell Others What You Are Learning In Your Quiet Times

Flowing Stream
Photo by Nicholas_T

As followers of Christ, God’s Word should flow through our lives like a stream of fresh water. As it refreshes us, we should then refresh others.

We can elevate this to a job description for the pastor or Bible study leader, or we can embrace it as a way of life for all Christians. Between the gaps of consistent formal instruction, we each have many opportunities to tell others what we are learning in our daily quiet times.

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, God paints a picture of how His Word should permeate the heart and home of the believer.

[quote]You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)[/quote]

In these verses we see a public identification and a private intimacy with God’s Word. One gets the sense that it should flow naturally, even in our most casual moments.

We’re not called to relegate our walk with God to one day a week, or to outsource it to the Sunday School teacher. Nor are we given a caricature of an annoying “Bible thumper” who lives to make others uncomfortable. God’s Word is presented as the key to a victorious life. And as such, it should naturally overflow as we interact with others.

But how and when do we “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24) without a pulpit?

One simple way to do this is to regularly tell others what we are learning in our daily devotions.

Here are 4 tips for sharing God’s Word with others:

1. Pray for spontaneous opportunities

This first suggestion is simple. Ask God to give you spontaneous opportunities to share what you are learning. You may be surprised to see how naturally it makes its way into your daily conversations. And even more encouraging is how often others will benefit from what God is teaching you.

There are very few truly unique struggles in life. Just as we can be certain that we are not the first to go through a particular trial, we can be sure that we won’t be the last. Others need our testimonies of victory and the insights that help us to move forward.

Ask God for a humble heart and a sense of timing as you share. Take care to not make your quiet time a spiritual medicine chest for others. Always strive to apply God’s Word to your own life before attempting to enlighten others. Follow Ezra’s example in that he:

  1. set his heart to study the Law of the Lord,
  2. and to do it
  3. and to teach his statutes and rules…(Ezra 7:10)

Keep that order in mind (learn, do, teach), and be sensitive to others. This will increase your credibility as you seek to encourage your family and friends.

2. Establish a sharing time during small group meetings and Bible studies

If you lead a Bible study or home group, provide a brief time for group members to talk about their daily devotions. If you’re not the leader, ask if it would be okay to take a few minutes before the study to allow each person about 2 minutes to share what they have been learning in their quiet times. Keep the following tips in mind as you structure a sharing time:

  1. Very tactfully hold each other to the pre-agreed time limit. This will guard against impromptu sermons and will ensure that the bulk of the time is reserved for the purpose of your meeting.
  2. Make sharing a voluntary activity. At first, some may be shy. In time they will loosen up. As this becomes a routine, people will come prepared to share.
  3. Emphasize the Scriptures. To do this, ask anyone sharing to (a) cite a verse reference, (b) read it out loud, and then (c) briefly give an insight or personal application.

At the start of the sharing time each week (or however often you meet), it is helpful to remind everyone that the focus is on what they have been learning from God’s Word during their quiet times. While sermons and book reviews are often inspirational, the point here is to share from our time alone with God.

3. Become a quiet time correspondent

Nobody writes letters anymore. So if you’d really like to emphasize something that God has put on your heart, send a letter or card to a friend.

Message In a Bottle
Photo by Mykl Roventine

Write the verse out and tell how it challenged or encouraged you.

I keep a box of stationery in my desk for this purpose. But I’ve also been known to write notes to my friends on napkins and on the backs of place mats at fast food restaurants. An interesting stamp adds a nice touch, too.

If handwritten letters or cards are too much trouble, send an email or a text message. Paper or digital, God’s Word will accomplish its purpose.

In some cases you will already know of a person who needs encouragement. At other times, the Holy Spirit may put someone on your heart for reasons you do not know. In either case, consider writing a short note to that person with a personally meaningful verse of Scripture. Adding a simple line, like, “God put you on my heart today,” may transform the day for that person. I love doing this and I encourage you to give it a try.

4. Use social media to the glory of Christ

A lot of spiritual talk takes place on social media. Most of it is a mixture of politics, opinion, and wishful thinking on the part of people who don’t actually believe the Bible. And yet they are vocal and adamant about their beliefs.

I believe this presents a great opportunity to speak into the lives of our non-believing family and friends.

Of course, no one wants a sermon. And I’ve discovered that nothing can kill a comment thread quicker than a well-placed verse of Scripture. But as social media becomes a bigger part of our lives, it would be a mistake to conclude that we should not use it to share what we are learning from God’s Word.

To keep from losing all your friends overnight, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Prayerfully examine your motives. “Speaking the truth in love” applies as much online as it does in any other area of our life. Don’t use Scripture to bludgeon your enemies or impress your friends. Share it because you believe the Holy Spirit is leading you to comment.
  2. Keep it simple. It’s okay to simply write a Bible verse without any explanation.
  3. Be prepared to respond in more detail to those who wish to engage you.

In most cases, your friends will be somewhere between indifferent and inspired by what you are learning in your quiet times. But that’s really in God’s hands. The important thing is to share as you feel led by the Holy Spirit. And as you do, remember that social media is a good way to touch others with God’s truth.

Practical Applications

A simple insight from your quiet time may be a life-changer for someone else.

Over the next week, pray that God will give you spontaneous opportunities to tell others what you have been learning from Him. Consider writing a simple note to a friend, sharing during a Bible study, or even posting a verse on your social media of choice.

You can also share a verse or insight from a recent quiet time in the comments section below.

Do you regularly tell others what you have been learning during your daily devotions? If so, what practical suggestions could you add to the list given? Please leave your comments below.

Dealing With Discouragement In Your Daily Devotions

Sketch of discouraged person
Photo by Jeffrey Hsu

Sometimes the pressure to be perfect at a task works against us. Our daily devotions are no different. We want to please God in the way that we spend time with Him. And since our efforts often fall short of our expectations, we can easily get discouraged. But take heart. It’s okay if your daily devotions are less than perfect. God still loves you. He still extends His grace and mercy to you. And the desire you feel in your heart to spend time with God is a reminder that His Spirit is at work within you.

If you’re feeling distant from God to the extent that you struggle to read the Bible or pray, here are 3 suggestions:

1. Stop condemning yourself

[quote]There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)[/quote]

When we’re not spending time with God, we can be sure that beating ourselves up is not the answer. In Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool, I discuss how legalism in our daily devotions can lead to unnecessary feelings of guilt. Those feelings might motivate us for a few days. But grasping His love toward us will capture us forever.

That’s not to say that all feelings of guilt are bad.

When we have truly sinned we experience proper feelings of guilt. We feel distant from God because, in a sense, we are distant from God. But even then, the remedy is not self-condemnation. It is confession . When we agree with God that we have sinned, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our brokenness over our sin may lead us to confession. But self-condemnation doesn’t make our confession more acceptable to God. It is the blood of Christ, alone, that cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

So if feelings of guilt or condemnation are negatively affecting your time with God, it’s time to get practical.

  • If unconfessed sin is the issue, confess it, turn from it, and move on.
  • If you feel guilty because you haven’t been setting aside time to meet with God, just start doing it today.

In other words, never allow feelings of guilt to keep you from growing in your relationship with God.

2. Be motivated by God’s grace

[quote]He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)[/quote]

When God’s grace is properly understood, our love for Him increases. It creates a desire in us to draw near to God, not to run the other way.

If we believe that the Gospel was simply a decision we made at some point in the past so that we might celebrate at some point in the future, we miss the joy of the relationship in the present. Think about our relationship with God in light of Jeremiah’s proclamation. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

There is so much to be gained by growing in our understanding and appreciation of God’s love toward us. And when we fail, it should comfort us to know that His love never ceases; His mercies never end; He always remains faithful. Who wouldn’t want to know that God?

Our tendency to abandon the daily relationship is a failure to immerse ourselves in the grace that He offers us every day. Our relationship with God, just like our salvation, is a product of His never-ending love and mercy. His love doesn’t come and go based on the depth of our devotional life. If our failure to maintain certain disciplines were to keep us from a relationship with God, we would all be without hope. In all instances of broken fellowship with God, His grace is the remedy. How can we say we believe in God’s grace and not run toward it daily?

As you come to God, avoid the natural urge to create a catalog of requirements. The God who saved you by His grace does not sanctify you by a list of man-made rules. Abide in Him and let His words abide in you (John 15:7). Share your heart with Him through simple prayers. Start there. Then see where His Spirit leads you.

3. Experience the joy and pleasure of being in God’s presence today

[quote]You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)[/quote]

Joy and pleasure are powerful incentives. So much of what we do in life is related to the pursuit of these rewards. Yet God has already told us that they are found in His presence. In light of this revelation, we often respond by filling our lives with priorities that, at best, can only lead to temporary satisfaction. Instead, the answer is to simply draw near to God. In How To Have A Quiet Time in 2 Easy Steps, I describe a simple way to get started.

Discouragement is certain when we attempt to micro-manage our world at the expense of our devotional life. When we leave God out of our daily routines and decisions, we always lose. The solution is to rearrange our priorities around our relationship with Him.

Assuming you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins are forgiven. Now let His grace inspire you to know Him in a deeper way every day. As you do, you can expect that He will fill you with the joy and pleasure He gives to those who walk in His presence.

How about you? Are you struggling to maintain a daily time with God? If so, what obstacles get in your way? How might the suggestions in this article help you to move forward in your devotional life? Please leave your comments below.

3 Benefits of Praying Out Loud

Megaphone
Photo by Floeschie

We’ve all been there. We start out praying only to realize that we’ve spent the last fifteen minutes wondering if Lee Harvey Oswald really acted alone.

I’m not talking about group prayer meetings where we each get a chance to be “on stage.” I’m referring to the times when we get alone with God and tell Him what’s on our heart.

Some Christians think of prayer as a silent, boring, and mysteriously telepathic exercise. While God hears everything, even our thoughts, we’re not wired to communicate in this way. If silent prayer isn’t working for you, why not just pray out loud?

I can think of at least 3 reasons to pray out loud. And each one can improve your daily quiet time.

Praying out loud pushes us to find a place of solitude

[quote style=”boxed”]But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. (Matthew 6:6)[/quote] While Jesus, in Matthew 6:6, is telling us how to avoid pride in our prayer life, it occurs to me that there is another great benefit of getting alone. Sometimes our prayer life is weak or nonexistent because we ignore the pitfalls that lead to distractions. Though privacy isn’t always an option, we should strive to make it our first choice when we can. Seeking the freedom to pray out loud is a good way to choose the best place to meet with God.

If you prefer to have your quiet time in a coffee house or a restaurant and that’s working for you, that’s fine. But if you struggle to pray in those settings, I encourage you to find a better place.

Unless you’re a little weird, you probably don’t want to pray out loud at Starbucks or McDonalds (and nobody else wants you to either). It’s also too easy to be distracted by other conversations or friends. Often times there are newspapers with enticing headlines laying around and, before you know it, you didn’t pray and it’s time to go to work. One key to consistency in your prayer life is to get alone.

But how alone?

An ideal place is one where you can openly talk to God about anything without fear that others might hear you. You don’t have to pray your darkest secrets out loud. I’m just suggesting that you should be able to if you so desire.

If we’re praying for our deepest needs, prayer becomes an intimate act. We should feel the freedom to express our emotions. Being around others can be inhibiting. You’ll feel freer to be a child before your Heavenly Father if you’ll find a place of solitude. If we desire to pray out loud, we’ll be more selective in where we choose to meet with God.

Praying out loud helps us to stay focused

[quote style=”boxed”]Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)[/quote] Some days our mind is like a freeway during rush hour. Thoughts race by on every side. It’s easy for our silent prayers to get car-jacked by rogue thoughts.

On other days we’re hardly present. If we’re not alert, our prayer times can easily become unscheduled naps.

In these situations, it helps to pray out loud. When we speak, our words call us to attention and overrule the disruptive thoughts. And It’s hard to ramble aimlessly without noticing it when we’re praying out loud.

I’ve also noticed that when I’m running late, praying out loud helps me to stay on track and cover more territory in a shorter amount of time.

If your mind is constantly wandering, praying out loud will keep you focused on the conversation you’re having with God.

Praying out loud adds an element of intimacy in our relationship with God

Imagine that you read a travel guide filled with beautiful pictures of the Grand Canyon. Then one day you travel there. Upon arrival you are given two options: You can close your eyes in an attempt to remember the beautiful images from the book. Or you can open your eyes and experience it in real time. Both ways would work. But using your eyes makes more sense.

In the same way, it makes sense to talk to God using words from our mouth. That’s how we typically communicate with someone who is in our midst. Just because God is all-knowing doesn’t mean that we should only pray to Him via our thoughts.

Speaking to Christ in the same way that the disciples did helps us to grow in intimacy with Him. He is a real person and we can know Him. If He doesn’t seem very real to you today, perhaps it would help to interact with Him as though He were in the same room with you. As a matter of fact, He is!

So get alone. Be comfortable. And lift your voice to the God of your creation.

You don’t have to do it this way. And God will still hear your prayers if you don’t. But if you would like to add an element of intimacy to your relationship, talk to God as though you were sharing your heart with the most caring and loving person you’ve ever met. As a matter of fact, you are!

Planning for Flexibility in Your Daily Devotions

Kyrenia Northern Cyprus
Photo by greenacre8

If you want consistency in your daily devotions, it’s helpful to have a plan. And to keep from becoming discouraged, you should plan on being flexible.

You don’t have to script out every detail. But if you wake up in a different world every day, you’re increasing the likelihood that distractions will throw you off course. And if you’re too rigid, you’ll miss the pleasant surprises that often accompany the unexpected.

I learned the value of both many years ago during an impromptu weekend getaway.

No reservations required… usually

I was living in the Middle East at the time and I needed a break. So I decided to fly to Northern Cyprus. I bought a ticket, and a few hours later I was on my way. I had been there a couple of times before, and I thought I could just work out the details as I traveled. There was one problem. I hadn’t made a hotel reservation.

It was late when I arrived. I took a taxi to the coastal town of Girne (Kyrenia) and, to my surprise, every hotel was packed. Though the tour groups were scheduled to depart the next morning, I was in a bit of a jam for the night.

Pulling my carry-on behind me, I walked to a small restaurant that catered to the locals. The place was empty and the waiter was stacking chairs. But he invited me in anyway and I ordered a bowl of lentil soup. I told him my story, and he was nice enough to allow me to stay for a while as he continued to clean up.

The disruption in my “schedule” took my mind off of autopilot for a while. Though I was “homeless” for the evening, I remember being filled with a sense of thanksgiving, knowing that God was watching over me.

It was about midnight when I left the restaurant and made my way to the harbor. I found a secluded spot near the ruins of an ancient Roman castle and, with no other options, settled in for the evening. I fell asleep in the cool night breeze, illuminated by the moonlight reflecting across the Mediterranean Sea.

It wasn’t a very well-thought-out travel itinerary. But as a memory, it remains one of my favorites. I couldn’t have planned it that way. And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Making the proper application

Over twenty years have passed since that night and I’m married now. I’m thankful that I have an adventurous wife. Knowing her, she would have enjoyed that experience too.

But what if the memory of that special moment persuaded me to never make another travel reservation? What if I always showed up at my destination, wife in tow, and started looking for a place to stay? I have a feeling that the frustrations might soon exceed the rewards. The memories might cease to be so pleasant.

I think it’s common to approach our devotional life in this way. We just show up, if we show up at all. We certainly don’t need reservations. And that may tempt us to assume that no preparations are needed either.

We might tell ourselves that God deserves more than a routine. And He does.

And we might long for spontaneity in our daily walk. And we should.

And after all, God is everywhere. He already knows our thoughts. And He, more than anyone, understands the reasons why we couldn’t quite get alone with Him today. And once again, these are all true.

But what is the real reason we avoid a plan when it comes to our daily devotions? Is it because we want to keep it pure and unstained by the sweat of legalism? Or are we afraid that we’ll disappoint ourselves and God?

5 “Prep Steps” for a consistent quiet time

As long as we don’t go overboard, a simple plan can help us to be more consistent in our daily devotions. The following 5 steps can eliminate most of the distractions that throw us off course:

  1. Decide that you will spend at least a few minutes alone with God today.
  2. Decide where you will have your quiet time. (Choose a quiet place, free from distractions.)
  3. Decide when you will do it. (Choose the time of day when you will have the fewest distractions.)
  4. Decide in advance what section of the Bible you will read. (This is better than just opening the Bible to the first verse you see.)
  5. Gather what you will need beforehand (e.g. Bible, prayer list, journal, pen, etc…).

This is simple stuff. But thinking through these issues in advance will give you an edge in the battle for consistency.

Time alone with God deserves a plan

I’d like to think that it was my adventurous spirit that saved the day in Cyprus. But it wasn’t. The truth is I was disorganized and a bit lazy when it came to the details. It was God, and not my failure to plan, that made the difference.

Spending time alone with God is worth a little advance work on our part. So I encourage you to have a plan. And then be flexible on the days when it all seems to fall apart. Meet with Him anyway. He’s still there. And He’s still God. At the very least, you will have taken one more step toward consistency in your devotional life. And even better still, you may end up with a breakthrough, or an insight, or a memory that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

The Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool?

Ten Commandments
Photo by @jbtaylor

I’m not aware of a single Bible verse that commands us to have a daily quiet time. So if we’re looking for an excuse, we may be off the hook. And if we’re struggling with guilt over this practice, maybe we shouldn’t. After all, isn’t that a terrible motive for spending time with someone?

On the other hand, why wouldn’t we choose to spend at least a few minutes of dedicated time with God every day? Why would we tell the world that Jesus is the most important person in our lives while secretly treating Him like a stranger? I don’t want to discourage anyone. But I have to ask a question: Are we attempting to follow someone that we don’t enjoy being alone with?

I believe every Christian should have a daily quiet time. But I don’t think it’s a requirement. It’s just a tool. And if we make it a law, we will soon find ourselves swimming in a pool of guilt or pride. But if we see it as a space to practice disciplines that are encouraged and modeled in the Scriptures, it becomes a blessing that helps us to grow in Christ.

By “quiet time,” I’m referring to the daily practice of dedicating anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more to reading God’s Word, meditation, and prayer. So often, the Bible seems to present these actions as the all-consuming passion of the man or woman of God. With a quiet time, we’re just creating a small compartment in our busy day for practices that should permeate our lives anyway.

Instead of being an end in itself, a quiet time is the appetizer to a meal that we should be enjoying all day long. Ideally, it stimulates our desire for the things of God.

The quiet time helps us to develop a love for God’s Word

[quote style=”boxed”]This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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. (Joshua 1:8)[/quote]

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with doing anything “day and night.” Yet the Bible emphasizes the blessings that come to those who are always meditating on God’s Word. (see also Psalm 1:1-3) I don’t think this means we should live in a cave and recite Bible verses 24/7. But we can get to a place where the Word of God is ever on our hearts. It can impact our decisions throughout the day. We can grow in our understanding of God’s character and experience a deeper walk with Him. But we can’t if we won’t cultivate a love for God’s Word.

I have found that a daily quiet time provides a bite-sized way to make God’s Word a part of my life. It’s manageable. I can do it. It’s a place to start.

As I’ve prioritized this daily appointment with God, I’ve seen my love for the Scriptures soar. I’ve also discovered that the Bible is practical. I’m often amazed at how the passages of Scripture I read in the morning speak to my needs that very day. Over the years, as I have developed this daily routine, my appetite for God’s Word has increased.

If you haven’t been using a daily quiet time to grow in your love for God’s Word, I encourage you to give it a try. You may be surprised at how quickly you notice the change.

The quiet time helps us to develop a prayer life

[quote style=”boxed”]Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)[/quote]

Prayer is a lot like jogging or riding a bike or golfing. It’s not always easy at first. But then we start to experience the benefits and the joy of it. It gets into our blood. We come to love it. We look for opportunities to do it. There are days when it seems harder than it did the day before and times when it appears to be unproductive. And there are days when it’s exhilarating. In time, we become a runner, or a cyclist, or a golfer, or a person of prayer.

We can dabble in it. Or we can take it seriously. You can imagine what a difference either approach will make.

The Apostle Paul tells us to pray for everything (Philippians 4:6-7). He also tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Does this mean that we should just pray “on the fly,” as issues pop into our minds? There’s nothing wrong with that. I would love to engage in a never-ending conversation with God as I go through my day. I think that would be healthy. But what is it about our experience with prayer that makes us feel a need to multi-task while doing it? Isn’t prayer worthy, on its own, of a little dedicated effort?

In some ways, to “pray without ceasing” doesn’t take any discipline or effort on our part. It has the same appeal as the ads that tell us we can make money while watching TV or lose weight without diet or exercise. We kid ourselves into believing that prayer will be our “lifestyle” when we don’t believe in it enough to actually make it a priority.

A daily quiet time can help us to prioritize the discipline of prayer. It gives us the time and space to pray for a few things as we develop a heart to pray for everything.

The reverse to that approach never worked for me. I found that if I didn’t have a consistent daily time set aside for prayer, I also didn’t pray much throughout the remainder of my day. Having a time for prayer helps me to be more prayer-minded throughout the entire day.

I’m not advocating that we pray until it becomes a habit. I’m suggesting that we pray until we see the hand of God at work in our prayers. That is what ultimately makes us people of prayer.

 It’s good to have a daily quiet time

In the realm of things that I can control, nothing in my spiritual life has helped me more than deciding to spend at least a few minutes alone with God every day. It has helped me to grow in my love for God’s Word and to become more of a man of prayer. Of course, it’s God, and not the quiet time, that has brought about the transformation.

My daily quiet time is an imperfect attempt on my part to prioritize my relationship with God. But I have found it to be a wonderful tool to help me grow in Christ. Thankfully, God has chosen to bless me through this simple daily commitment.

I know that there is a lot of guilt-ridden baggage associated with the daily quiet time. But I think that stems from making the quiet time a law instead of seeing it as a tool. While you may be able to make a compelling case that the quiet time is not commanded in Scripture, I can think of no good reason not to have one anyway.

So in the spirit of grace, I encourage you to make time for God, His Word, and prayer every day. You’ll be blessed if you do.

What about you? What has been your experience with the daily quiet time? Does this subject fill you with thoughts of legalism or grace? Please give your responses in the comments section below.

Do You Possess These 4 Qualities of a Bible Treasure Hunter?

Greek Gold Quarter Stater
Photo by Ancient Art

How would your devotional life be different if you read the Bible expecting to find real treasure? The psalmist seems to have that attitude in mind when he says that God’s law is “better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (Psalm 119:72)

What do you think? Is that just poetry? Or is it possible to cultivate a love for God’s Word that exceeds our desire for material wealth? And if it’s possible, what qualities must we have to routinely find treasure in the Bible?

If only the Bible came with a metal detector

A few years ago my wife gave me a metal detector for my birthday. One of the first things I discovered is that treasure hunting is hard work. I’ve spent hours crawling around on my knees looking for lost coins and jewelry. I’ve blistered my hands digging holes in the property surrounding our home. While I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve never found anything of great value.

My sister-in-law, Janet, is a better treasure hunter than I am. She routinely finds coins and rings and other interesting artifacts. I imagine that’s because she’s more consistent and spends a lot more time at it than I do. (And she probably read the instructions that came with her metal detector.)

But consistency, tenacity, and the best functioning equipment in the world won’t render treasure where there’s none to be found. A big part of the problem is knowing where to dig.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem with the Bible. If it were possible to wave a metal detector across the pages of Scripture, it would continuously scream, “DIG HERE!”

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul says that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable… that [we] may be competent, equipped for every good work.” To paraphrase, there’s not a dry hole in the Bible… anywhere!

So grab a shovel and let’s listen to Solomon as he describes 4 Qualities of a Bible Treasure Hunter.

Quality #1: A Bible treasure hunter “receives” God’s Word

[quote style=”boxed”]My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you (Proverbs 2:1)[/quote]

It’s not enough to simply hold a high opinion of the Bible. We must read it. And we must read it with an open and expectant heart. And we must read it with a sense of the treasure we hold in our hands. And we should value it to such an extent that we long to make it a part of who we are. I don’t think this is a natural desire. So I find it helpful to ask God to give me this kind of love for His Word.

Quality #2: A Bible treasure hunter seeks to understand and apply God’s Word

[quote style=”boxed”]Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding (Proverbs 2:2)[/quote]

Even a cursory reading of the Bible can produce benefits in the life of a believer. But it would be wrong to assume that little else is required. As we read, are we leaving each page behind like the mile markers on a West Texas highway? Or are we enjoying the journey, picking up nuggets of truth and making them our own?

Diligence plays a huge role in what we ultimately get out of the Scriptures. If we are to live God’s Word, we must first understand it. Good doctrine enhances our worship of God. And applying what we have learned leads to greater wisdom.

Quality #3: A Bible treasure hunter asks God for help

[quote style=”boxed”]Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding (Proverbs 2:3)[/quote]

Have you ever begged God for insight on a passage of Scripture? Too often we let excellent teachers take the place of searching the Scriptures for ourselves. Both are important. But remember that God is the author of Scripture. Develop the habit of asking for His help first. In 7 Prayer Requests That Will Instantly Improve Your Daily Quiet Time, I share several practical ways to do this. Here, Solomon commends the person who is desperate to understand God’s Word.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Important: Even as we ask God for insight, we must still apply good principles of interpretation to the Scriptures. One of Satan’s tactics is to misuse God’s Word in an attempt to lead people astray. We see this in the Garden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) and again in the wilderness with Christ (Luke 4:1-13). And he still uses this method of deception today. This further underscores the importance of properly understanding God’s Word.[/box]

Quality #4: A Bible treasure hunter believes there really is treasure to be discovered

[quote style=”boxed”]If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures (Proverbs 2:4)[/quote]

How would you restructure your day if a friend told you that diamonds and silver and gold were buried just beneath the ground’s surface all around you?

Would you add “treasure hunting” to your list of future goals? Would you ask others to pray that you would have a desire to dig? Would you be serious about it for a few days and then gradually forget about it? Or would you bolt out of bed every morning expecting to be blown away by the day’s discoveries?

If given the option, all of us would choose pure gold over worthless scrap metal. But when it comes to the riches of God’s Word, we often find ourselves conflicted. What we lack in those moments is the belief that there are riches to be found.

Whether we treasure Scripture or not is ultimately determined by what we allow to keep us from it.

Thankfully, as we heed Solomon’s words in Proverbs 2, we will develop a deeper love for the Bible. Our goal should be to say, like the psalmist, “I rejoice at your word, like one who finds great spoil.” (Psalm 119:162)

A magnificent promise for the Bible treasure hunter

[quote style=”boxed”]Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5)[/quote]

God is so amazing that we only have to open our eyes to see elements of His glory. But to get a glimpse of how wonderfully awesome He truly is, we must receive and understand and treasure His Word.

The wonderful promise of God is that He reveals Himself to those who diligently seek Him. Since the Bible is filled with treasures from beginning to end, we will be enriched as we read it and apply it to our lives. But even greater still is the promise that in doing so we will truly know and revere our God.

Practical Applications

How would you rate yourself in each of the 4 Qualities of a Bible Treasure Hunter? If you’re not where you want to be, don’t be discouraged. Think of Proverbs 2:1-5 as a treasure map for moving forward. Remember that doing our part results in a sure reward. Here are some suggestions:

  • No matter what’s going on in your life, spend some time in God’s Word today.
  • Pray through Proverbs 2:1-5, asking God to help you possess the qualities listed.
  • Praise God for your desire to know His Word.

What are your thoughts on finding treasure in the Bible. Let us know in the comments below.

What Adam Could Teach Us About Desiring God

Photo of Apple with Bite Missing
Photo by Shane McGraw

Adam could teach us a lot about desiring God. He probably woke up every morning wondering if this would be the day that God would restore him to the Garden.

If we’re not troubled by a lack of intimacy with God, it may be that we don’t know what we’re missing. But Adam knew. And it must have haunted him every day.

Adam’s perspective

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Adam. So I guess I’ve always seen him as a simple man, easy to deceive. He lived in a perfect garden. He had a perfect wife. And he had a perfect relationship with God. Then he bought into the lie that the world had more to offer.

But I think my initial assessment of Adam was wrong. He must have been an amazing man. After all, he was God’s first man. God created him to propagate the human race. I’m sure he was as perfect as a man of flesh could be. He was created in the image of God. He walked with God. And God talked to him.

What’s it like to have that kind of intimacy with God and then lose it?

[quote style=”boxed” float=”none”]And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8[/quote]

Adam’s grief

Have you ever thought about the emotions that must have assaulted Adam as he swallowed the first bite of the fruit?

What was it like for Adam to hear his accusing conscience for the very first time? Did he break out into a cold sweat? Did he get sick to his stomach? Did he vomit?

Maybe we think his shame was more bearable because he wasn’t alone. Or maybe that made it worse. How did he feel as he pulled his wife behind a tree? Was his hand covering her mouth as God walked through the garden? What was it like, for the first time in his life, to hide from God?

Surely there is a correlation between the level of intimacy in a relationship and the degree of grief one feels when all is lost. We’ve all grieved over the loss of flawed relationships. What would it feel like to lose a perfect one?

For the rest of Adam’s life there must have been an agony in his relationship with God that we cannot comprehend. He remembered what it was like to be truly alive and innocent. And I’m sure he wanted that intimacy again more than anything.

If we do not deeply regret any day out of fellowship with God, we do not appreciate Adam’s grief. The chaos that so often keeps us from God would have been his constant reminder of the goodness and perfection he once knew.

Adam’s counsel

The message of the gospel is that God has given to us what Adam could only hope for: reconciliation and restoration. In Christ, we have the unhindered freedom to walk with God.

If Adam were with us today, can you imagine the counsel he would give? I believe he would tell us that nothing is better than knowing God.

Adam lived the remainder of his life wanting what he once had. And we live ours in hopes of what we have yet to see.

God calls us to come out from our hiding places. And the honor is profound.

He walks in the garden. And He extends the hand of fellowship to you and to me.

Have You Made This Critical Quiet Time Decision?

Quiet Time Study Bible
Photo by DrGBB George Bannister

Consistency in the devotional life is all about the present. It’s the humble acknowledgment that our Creator must be central in our lives today.

It’s not that we need God’s help; it’s that we are completely helpless without God.

If we truly believe this, then we must make a decision: Will we seek Him today, or will we let other people and circumstances set our priorities?

We answer this question in our actions… today.

Simple advice is often the most helpful. Case in point: The key to having a quiet time every day is to have a quiet time this day. It really is that simple.

Has it been a while since you’ve met with God? If so, that’s no reason to stay away any longer. Are you reluctant to make long-term commitments? Don’t worry. This one ends at midnight.

Here it is: Decide to meet with God today. And then do it.

If you’re not sure where to begin, How to Have a Quiet Time in 2 Easy Steps will show you one simple way to get started.

Establishing a consistent daily quiet time comes down to this decision every single day. But no day is ever more critical than today.

Practical Application

From a practical standpoint, today began when you woke up. It ends when you go to bed. Sometime between those two points spend at least a few minutes with God. Decide now that nothing will keep that from happening. Better yet, why not do it now?

7 Prayer Requests That Will Instantly Improve Your Daily Quiet Time

Photo of Sticky Note "Help"
Photo by Dimitri Neyt

The most important discovery I ever made about the daily quiet time is that God provides a wealth of instant help. By “instant,” I mean – always available, whenever we want it, whenever we ask. As we read the Bible, we have the awesome privilege of asking God to make it come alive in our hearts.

Disclaimer: A quiet time is not a Bible study

There is a difference between casually reading the Bible during our quiet time and a more intensive Bible study. The focus of this article, and this website, is the daily quiet time. The suggestions below are not intended to take the place of digging deeper and applying good principles of interpretation. And I strongly believe in surrounding ourselves with good Bible teachers and scholarly resources. But no matter when we approach the Scriptures, we should develop the habit of asking for God’s help, as is modeled in Psalm 119.

If you want to get the most from your daily Bible reading, consider adding some, or all, of the following 7 prayer requests to your quiet time.

1. “Teach me.”

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! (Psalm 119:29)

At least 8 times in Psalm 119, the writer asks God to be his teacher. Have you ever wondered what kind of teacher God would be? Would He emphasize the best points? Would He make it relevant? What about His command of the material? After all, it is His law.

If you wanted to learn to play the guitar or fly an airplane or be a surgeon, can you imagine the advantage of having the most accomplished person in that field as your personal tutor?

God’s resources are infinitely better. He doesn’t just know truth. He is truth. As we read God’s Word, there is wisdom in asking Him to be our teacher. (see also Psalm 119:12,26,29,33,64,66,108,171)

2. “Give me understanding.”

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. (Psalm 119:73)

Our Creator knows us inside and out. He understands how our hearts and minds are wired. And He’s aware of our passions and hopes. More than anyone, He sees our greatest need at this very moment. When it comes to our individual styles of learning, He always knows how best to impress His truths upon our hearts. The author of the Bible is the Creator of our souls. Who better to help us understand what He wants us to learn today? (see also Psalm 119: 27,34,125,144,169)

3. “Strengthen me.”

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (Psalm 119:28)

Our lives are filled with many trials. Difficult circumstances can tempt us to disregard God’s Word. In those moments, we need His life-giving love and mercy to continue walking in obedience. Some days we need it just to open the Bible. On our worst days, our most eloquent prayer might simply be “Help!” Remember that in good times or bad, we are equally in need of the counsel of God’s Word. (see also Psalm 119:25,40,88,156)

4. “Open my eyes.”

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

Looking back, I see that I spent many years trying to read the Bible with my eyes closed. I read it as a goal to be checked off of a list. I read it out of compulsion. I read it selfishly, trying to see what was in it for me. But I rarely read it just to behold the wonder and glory of God. This verse provides a backdrop for what I discuss in  My Journey: Getting Personal With God. It tells me that there are wonderful things to discover in the Bible. But it also tells me that I am dependent upon God to see them. For those reasons, I have been praying it daily for several years. And God has been faithful to answer. This has truly become a life verse for me.

5. “Incline my heart.”

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! (Psalm 119:36)

I used to think that our spiritual growth depended entirely upon practicing certain disciplines. But the problem is that our flesh is wired for the world. As new creatures in Christ, we still struggle with the sin nature. And if we try to walk in our own strength, we will naturally lean toward our selfish desires. So we must ask God to give us the desire to live out what we read in the Bible. For me, this has been a liberating discovery. It’s a prayer request that always honors God. Do you want your heart to beat in rhythm with God’s Word? Ask Him to make it so.

6. “Turn my eyes.”

 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:37)

Following Christ in the 21st century is a lot like surfing the internet. We have an idea of where we want to go. But we often end up somewhere else. The problem is not with Christ. It’s with our lack of focus. We don’t realize how prone we are to distractions.

The enemy is not passive. The interruptions are not an accident. Satan studies you and develops an advertising campaign to lure you in. And I’m not just referring to sin. He loves to waste your time with information and activities that serve no eternal purpose.

As you walk the obstacle course of life, ask God to turn your eyes from the worthless things that amount to nothing in the end. Ask that your focus be on His life-giving ways instead.

7. “Keep steady my steps.”

 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. (Psalm 119:133)

In Genesis 4, God warns of the controlling nature of sin. It crouches at the door, waiting to catch us off-guard. Sin doesn’t just fill us with regret and guilt. It seeks to own us.

I’m amazed at how thin the line can be between a healthy pleasure and an enslaving addiction. The things that bring us the greatest joy in life can also destroy us. How do we have balance? How do we know when moderation moves to excess? How do we walk with wisdom?

Since both paths can often look deceptively similar, we need God’s guidance with each step. Knowing God’s Word is essential to choosing the right path. And having God’s hand as we walk keeps us from falling off course.

Practical application

God is our greatest ally in understanding and applying His Word. And His help is always available. Ask God to transform your quiet times and your life as you pray these requests from Psalm 119. Here are some suggestions:

  • For each of the next 7 days, pray one of these verses before reading the Bible.
  • Think about which verse is most needed in your life right now, and commit it to memory.
  • Pray these same requests for others, such as your spouse, your children, or a pastor.

How do you see these verses making a difference in your devotional life? Let me know in the comments section below.

How to Have a Quiet Time in 2 Easy Steps

External Staircase with Many Steps
Photo by Darwin Bell

If you’ve been inconsistent in meeting with God, could it be that you’ve added some unnecessary “requirements” to your daily quiet time? While a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, it’s even easier to not begin at all.

I find it helpful to break a quiet time into two steps. First, listen to God. Second, respond to God.

God speaks to us in a general sense through the wonders of His creation. And He speaks to us explicitly through what He has revealed in the Bible.

We respond to God in prayer and by living out what we have learned.

We can add any number of steps or expectations to our daily devotions. But at the core, it comes down to listening to God and responding to God. We should only add practices to our quiet time that help us to accomplish these two goals.

Don’t over-analyze your quiet time

Sometimes we approach our devotional life in the way that I learned to bowl as a kid. In my very first game, I threw the ball straight up into the air and it bounced into another lane before going into the gutter. I was mortified.

But in a bowling alley, everyone quickly becomes your coach. In no time I had more advice than I could handle. Among other things, I learned that the ball was too light. The holes were too small. My posture was wrong. I was aiming at the wrong spot. I was releasing the ball improperly. I lacked follow-through. And with each frame, I was given another list of well-intended advice.

But it was too much. I couldn’t apply it all. Each time I threw the ball, I was trying to remember ten things at once. I became so frustrated that I didn’t want to bowl anymore.

Have you ever felt that way when it comes to your daily quiet time? Do you approach each day with a long list of deficiencies? Maybe you have an idea of what your spiritual life is supposed to look like. And maybe you’ve concluded that it’s out of reach.

Advice abounds in the Christian life. And it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In learning to bowl, I finally realized that I had to focus on one step at a time. And as each step became natural, I would add another one. With your quiet time, avoid the urge to fix everything today.

Optional quiet time practices

In the future, I will address many of the optional practices that can enhance our daily devotions. I rely on several of these myself. But as helpful as they are, they can also keep us from God if we become legalistic about them. Here are 7 examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Following a Bible reading plan
  • Establishing a certain amount of time to spend with God every day
  • Believing a quiet time should be in the morning or evening or at some other set time
  • Going through a prayer list every day
  • Needing a certain place to meet with God
  • Needing to be completely alone or free from distractions
  • Expecting to discover a life-changing insight or application every day

All of these can be good for us. But none are requirements for getting started today.

How to get started

If you would like to begin, I’ll offer two suggestions:

  1. Read from the Bible.
  2. Respond to God in prayer and obedience.

We’ll talk more about these in the future. But for now, keep it simple.

Quiet time exercise

As a practical exercise for today, read Psalm 19.

The first 6 verses reveal how God speaks to us through His creation.

In verses 7 to 11 we are told of the blessings of God’s Word.

Verses 12 to 14 conclude with a prayerful response to God in light of His revelation.

What comes to mind as you read this psalm? Do you want to worship God? Are you thankful? Do you have questions about some of the verses? All of these, and more, are fair game as you respond to God in prayer.

What do you think about this simple approach to a quiet time? Which is easier for you: listening to God or responding to God? Please share your comments below.