Giving My First Moments to God
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
— Psalm 86:11
It is very early in the morning. Though my body begs me to go back I to sleep, my soul stirs to get up and talk with Jesus.
And though I can't physically see Him, I know He is present.
I open my Bible to the book of Psalms and pray through the verses I read to start my day. The more I do this, the less I hear the ongoing naggings of this world. A beautiful melody of God's truth rises up, and my worries fade in their light.
His perspective on what troubles me overshadows my anxiety. This time alone with God prepares me for what I will need throughout the day. He's equipping me to handle what is ahead with His gentle boldness, quiet strength, and loving grace.
In Psalm 81:10, God instructs me, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."
He will give me what to say. What to say in happy moments and in aggravating moments. What to say when I feel insecure and what to say when I am confident.
He also reminds me that sometimes it is good to keep my mouth closed and say nothing at all.
Psalm 84:1 reminds me that God's dwelling place is lovely. So I ask for Him to dwell in me richly. I want it to be evident that I'm a girl who spends time with Jesus and that He's working on me — shifting a wrong attitude, guarding my words, and whispering constant truths into my heart.
Psalm 86:11 prompts me to request, "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."
Each of these verses leads my morning prayer:
Lord, may nothing separate me from You today. Teach me how to choose only Your way today so each step will lead me closer to You. Help me walk by Your Word and not my feelings.
Help me to keep my heart pure and undivided. Protect me from my own careless thoughts, words, and actions. And keep me from being distracted by MY wants, MY desires, MY thoughts on how things should be.
Help me to embrace what comes my way as an opportunity ... rather than a personal inconvenience.
And finally, help me to rest in the truth of Psalm 86:13, "Great is your love toward me."
You already see the ways I will fall short and mess up. But right now, I consciously tuck Your whisper of absolute love for me into the deepest part of my heart. I recognize Your love for me is not based on my performance. You love me ... shortcomings and all.
But what's most amazing is that the Savior of the world would desire a few minutes with me this morning. Lord, help me to forever remember what a gift it is to sit with You like this. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
I'm now ready to face today. Armed with truth. Surrounded by love. Filled with gratitude.
Dear Lord, I love You. All that I've expressed above is the desire of my heart. I confess that sometimes my actions and reactions betray my love for You. Please forgive me. Thank You for Your grace that enables me to recognize this new day as a new chance to walk closer with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
The Pineapple Principle
Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
— James 1:21–22
I love fresh-cut pineapple. I love the way it tastes. I love that it has no I fat grams. And I love that it can be served at any meal — breakfast, lunch, or dinner — as the perfect, healthy side dish.
The problem with fresh pineapples is that they are slightly complicated. To hold up a fresh pineapple and look upon it longingly can be quite frustrating when you haven't a clue how to properly cut it open. So, for years I would walk by the fresh pineapples in the grocery store produce section, heave a sigh, and head straight to the canned fruit aisle. The canned version was fine in a pinch but honestly didn't compare to the fresh. It simply teased my taste buds that greater possibilities existed.
Then one day a friend I was visiting asked me if I'd like a snack. I gasped when she brought out a real pineapple. With ease she turned the fruit on its side and chopped off the top and the bottom. Then she sat it upright on its level end and proceeded to cut sections from each side, starting at the edge of the core. She then shaved off the outer skin, chopped the fruit into bite-sized pieces, and handed me a whole bowlful.
I was amazed. That's it? That's all there is to it? You mean for years I've missed out on the goodness of fresh pineapples because I couldn't figure out how to do that?
For years, I took the same approach with studying the Bible as I did with the pineapple. I looked at biblical truth from afar. I didn't feel equipped to open it and study it on my own. Instead of reading the fresh truth for myself, I only read books that talked about the Bible. Just like that canned pineapple, my experience with learning God's truth teased me that greater possibilities existed. But since I had no idea how to get them for myself, I avoided the Bible and settled for whatever I could glean from other people.
Then I attended a Bible study in which the teacher modeled how to open up the Bible and study it for ourselves. Each week I watched her dig into Scriptures with a passion and hunger for truth that I'd never known. The way she put verses into context and brought out the meanings from the original text amazed me.
Slowly, I decided to try it for myself. I started getting into God's Word so it could get into me. I no longer wanted to simply settle for learning facts about the Bible when it was meant for so much more. I wanted God's Word to interrupt me, change me, and satisfy me. And that meant not only reading and studying the Bible but also developing the habit of living out its message in my everyday life.
The apostle James addresses this in our key verses: "Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:21–22).
The more we make a habit of applying God's Word to our lives, the more it becomes part of our nature — our natural way of acting and reacting. Knowing God's Word and doing what it says not only helps us while going through heartbreak and trouble, it also brings more satisfaction to our souls than anything else ever could.
Thank You, Lord, for giving us good things to nourish us in body and soul. Help me to dig in to Your Word and let it become part of me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Stop Reading Your Bible
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.
— Psalm 119:34 NLT
I have a request today. One that might sound odd right after reading I the first two devotions: stop reading your Bible.
Does that shock you? Relieve you? Make you angry at worst? Curious at best?
Read on, and see what I mean by this request.
There have been many days in my Christian journey when God was reduced to something on my to-do list. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an unwritten checklist of sorts explaining what "good Christians" are supposed to do:
Read your Bible.
Go to church.
Being the rule-following girl I am, I subscribed to the good things on that list and waited with great expectations to receive the zap of contentment and happiness good Christian girls are supposed to exude.
But then something felt wrong with me. I still felt restless. I still reacted in anger. I still felt a bit hollow.
I was going through all the motions but didn't feel connected to Jesus. Others around me seemed very connected. They would talk of being "moved by the Spirit." They would hear from God Himself. They would clap their hands and shout "Amen" in the middle of a sermon that sounded like Greek to me.
I often felt like a weightless soul grasping at the air, hoping to somehow snag this Jesus that was just out of reach. Have you ever been there?
This nagging sense creeps in that you'll never get it — that you don't have what it takes to be a Christian. That's where I was. I lived there for a long time until someone challenged me to stop simply reading my Bible because it was a thing on my Christian checklist. Instead, they challenged me to experience God. To know God.
In other words, I needed to look at the words in the Bible as a love letter. God's love letter to a broken-down girl. A love letter not meant to simply be read ... but a love letter meant to be lived.
I won't lie. It took a while.
It took many days of sitting down with my Bible while praying gut-honest prayers. I told God I wasn't connecting. I told Him I wanted to understand, just like the psalmist in our key verse, Psalm 119:34.
I asked Him to help me. I begged Him to help me. Finally, one verse came alive to me. I literally felt moved when I read it. I memorized it and thought about it all day long. All week long. Maybe all month long.
I was overjoyed. I had a verse. A verse where Jesus spoke tenderly and clearly and specifically to me. It was Jeremiah 29:11, "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Slowly, I added more verses. Day by day. Chapter by chapter. And eventually my Bible became my greatest treasure, my love letter.
Now, every day I open up God's Word with great expectation and intentionally look for my verse for that day. Usually one verse among the many I read during my devotion time grabs my heart, and I know it's meant just for the day ahead. And then I attempt to live that verse out in some way, that very day.
When I make the connection between what happens in my life that day and why I need that verse, I experience God. I see Him active in my life, and I become even more deeply aware of His constant presence.
I'm sure some Bible scholars would probably take issue with my simplistic approach, but it sure has helped me.
So, back to my original statement. Stop reading your Bible. In other words, stop simply reading it because you have to cross it off the Christian checklist.
Instead, read it with great expectations of connecting more deeply and living more authentically with God.
Dear Lord, thank You for showing me the Christian life can be so much more than a checklist. I want to not only read Your Word, but live it out each day. Please give me the wisdom to understand and the courage to become more like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Great Sermons Aren't Preached, They're Lived
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 3:16–17
What if someone followed me around with a video camera all day documenting my every move? Catching all my words, facial expressions, actions, and reactions on camera. And then what if someone packaged it all together and played it on some sort of reality TV show for all the world to see? What would be the glaring message of my life?
I'm convicted thinking about this.
You see, if someone were to ask me, "What are you all about?" I would have some nice-sounding answers. But what actually happens during the strains of everyday life can sometimes betray my best intentions.
I want to be a loving mom. But my family seems to know the exact buttons to push that send me into a tailspin of emotion and exhaustion.
I want to be a strong witness for Christ. So why is it I can read my Bible first thing in the morning and then find myself honking at the person who cuts me off in traffic just an hour later?
I realize there is a place for God's tender mercies for me in all this. But I also know that while no TV cameras are following me around, my life is speaking a message about what I really believe, and I want that message to honor Jesus.
I once heard, "Great sermons are not preached, they are lived." Oh how I long to live a message that speaks loud and clear, "Jesus is true and the principles found in His teachings work!"
Let's just be honest: It's tough being a sold-out soul for Christ stuck in a body that's so tempted to sin. That's why it's essential that I view my time with God each morning as a preparation and an invitation.