Spend time alone with him
Our aim should be to keep in contact with our wonderful Lord as often as we can throughout the day (by being conscious of his presence, ‘thinking to God,’ sending up quick prayers such as, ‘Help!’ or ‘I love you, Jesus!’ – 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; Philippians 4:6,8). This is a skill that will take an act of God and perhaps a life-time to fully develop, but the more you are able to do it, the more rewarding it will be.
(Hint: you may find it helpful to choose something you do fairly often during the day – such as looking at your watch – and train yourself to remember to offer a quick prayer every time you do it.)
Thinking about how to solve a problem is helpful, but praying about it is even more effective! If we spend only ten minutes a day (about 1% of our waking hours) praying and thinking about our Lord, we shouldn’t be surprised if the problems and affairs of the physical world seem one hundred times more real to us than the spiritual realm!
So it’s good to offer up hasty prayers as we go through our busy day, but just as human lovers long to be alone with each other, so your Divine Lover longs for your undivided attention. If every day you set time aside to be alone with him to talk with him and read his Word (the Bible), you will spend the rest of eternity congratulating yourself of your wise choice.
If you are too busy for this, you are too busy.
A man desperate for work finally got a job chopping down huge trees for a timber company. Knowing that retaining the job depended upon his output, he enthusiastically set to work. After just a few days he was told he was no longer needed.
He was devastated. ‘Why?’ he stammered.
You started off excellently but each day you’ve been doing less and less until now your output is way too low,’ replied the foreman.
‘That can't be!’ protested the man, disbelief written all over his face, ‘I’m the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. I work through all my breaks. No one could work harder!’
The foreman stared at him, puzzled. ‘Have you been sharpening your ax?’ he finally asked.
‘No!’ come the reply, ‘I’m working much too hard to take time out for that!’
Devoting quality time to God is like sharpening your ax.
I'm told Martin Luther once said "I have so much to do today that I will spend the first three hours in prayer."
Not only does giving God quality time delight your precious Lord, it is vital to your spiritual welfare. At times, this practice will take considerable self-discipline, but without it your love for God would gradually cool and the eternal consequences could be devastating.
I suggest that you decide the minimum time you will devote each day to the Lord (for many years I committed myself to sixty minutes prayer and Bible reading a day), and determine never to spend less than this minimum, no matter how busy your day is. Decide that on days when there just isn’t time for everything, you will even go without food or sleep, if that is necessary to fulfill your personal commitment of time to God.
When Jesus was arrested, the disciples deserted their Lord. Their inability to overcome their natural cowardice was due to a crucial error they had made shortly before this crisis. They had failed to recognize that, even when exhausted, prayer is more essential for success than sleep (Matthew 26:36-45, 56, 69-75).
Since God is now your God, he is more important to you than anything or anyone else. You will therefore give him top priority in your day, every day. Should you begin to lose sight of this, life will gradually slide into a meaningless frenzy of activity that will accomplish little of lasting value. You will be wasting your precious life.
Where possible, it is best to set aside a regular time each day that you will give to the Lord. Getting into such a routine will ensure that God won’t get squeezed out of your life. It will always be necessary to make time for the Light of your life and not vainly hope that some spare minutes will arise during the day.
Amazing as it seems, you could never bore the King of the universe by discussing mundane things with him. (On the contrary, you are so precious to him that he actually loves every minute of it!) Share your deepest secrets and thoughts with him. Your powerful God wants not only to listen, but to help in every aspect of your life.
It is true that God already knows all about you before you tell him, but don’t let this knowledge discourage you. The mere fact that you took time to talk things over with him is precious to your Maker. If you heard from another person that your friend had a problem, wouldn’t you still like your friend to personally confide in you, even though you may already know every detail of the problem?
When you’re alone with your Lover, there is no need for archaic language, formal terms or lofty speech. This tends to reduce the spontaneity and intimacy that should be an important aspect of your relationship with him. By all means, highly respect your Lord. (He is so holy that to approach him, without having our sins removed by Jesus, would totally destroy us – Exodus 20:18-21; 1 Samuel 6:20; Isaiah 6:5.) But don’t be reluctant to use endearing terms. Tell him how much you love him, how precious he is to you, how beautiful his character is, and so on.
Although sharing your heart with your Creator is a wonderful part of your time with him, there is no need to ever feel obligated to keep up an endless stream of words. Of all our Lover’s wonderful gifts given in answer to believing prayer, the most precious is his very presence. So, in between times of speaking to him, you will want just to be quiet and enjoy his beautiful presence. Simply relax and focus your mind upon him (Psalm 46:10). Silently love him and let him love you.
One of the highly valued qualities of a good friend is that he is a good listener. So, as an intimate friend of Jesus, you will try not to let prayer slip into a one-sided conversation. Quietly wait for your Lord to reveal Himself to you.
Chances are that you’ll be much better at this than me. My ‘Type A’ personality always has to be doing something – even if it’s just staggering around in circles fuming. Inevitably I’m in a much bigger hurry than God. It’s not fair: God’s got all eternity and I have to save the world by lunch time at the latest. My impatience turns into awkward silences what should be comforting times of togetherness. And if the Lord gets around to speaking it’s usually on a level deeper than words – far too vague for my liking. God usually speaks not to the ear but down in the heart with thoughts and impressions that are hard to distinguish from our own. Yet in my saner moments I know it is right to honor God by giving him to opportunity to speak to my heart, and there is a good chance that even during those times when my patience wears thin, God is doing something within me at a deeper
level than conscious thought.
Conditioned as we are by our pressure-packed society, it seems difficult to wait calmly for anything. And yet, because it is so rare in our society, we probably need to learn the art of quiet waiting more than members of any other society. (Possibly, this is a significant factor in the rise in popularity of Eastern meditation – Transcendental Meditation, yoga, and so on. But, as mentioned elsewhere, these practices, despite the propaganda, are opposed to real Christianity. There is no way they can be used in worshipping the true God.)
As you wait for the King of kings to respond, sometimes nothing will seem to happen. But even if you are not always conscious of any benefit, such waiting will always be a source of spiritual strength to you (Isaiah 40:31). Rarely will God reveal Himself in a dramatic manner (such as a visions or audible voice). But just as a smile can be as meaningful and even more precious than a shout, so a mere awareness that you are pleasing your Lord can be as precious as a miraculous revelation from him.
Sometimes you will receive a sense of God’s leading to do a particular thing, or a thought will drop into your mind. This will often be so gentle that you may have difficulty in distinguishing it from your own thoughts. If it happened to be contrary to the teaching of Scripture, such as a ‘leading’ to do something immoral, you can know immediately that it is not from God (Matthew 15:3-6), no matter how blatantly supernatural that ‘revelation’ may have been (Deuteronomy 13:1-4). Also, if you thought the Lord told you that something would happen and it doesn’t eventuate, then again it is certain that it was not God speaking (Deuteronomy 18:21,22).
Despite the clear teaching of Scripture, an amazing number of people have fallen into sexual sin because they failed to recognize its sinfulness. They assumed it must be acceptable to God merely because their consciences didn’t greatly bother them. But our consciences are not divine, and are by no means infallible (Proverbs 16:2,25; 30:12; Jeremiah 17:9; 1 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 3:20). Our intuitive sense of morality is largely a product of our society and upbringing. We therefore need to have our consciences ‘reprogrammed’ with the infallible Word of God.
It is Scripture that is our ultimate authority, not our feelings. So whenever the two are not in harmony, we need to ignore other influences and adhere strictly to God’s Word. As we do this, our inner feelings concerning morality (such as what makes us feel guilty) will begin to correspond with increasing accuracy to God’s perfect conception of morality.
Wherever possible, don’t rush into following an inner urge, especially when an important decision is involved. Pray more about it, examine it in the light of Scripture, and discuss it with more mature Christians. Once you are sure that God has spoken then boldly act upon it and persist regardless of opposition.
If you find anything that Scripture says that all Christians should do (such as loving your enemies), try immediately putting it into practice. Don’t wait until you feel a particularly strong urge to do it. We should be constantly on the alert for further ways by which we can please our glorious Lord, not waiting until he has to shout at us to get us to respond!
Expect your prayers to be answered. The Lord of Creation wants to meet all your needs, whether moral, financial, marital, health, and so on. (John 15:7; 16:24) and he also wants you to pray for the needs of others (1 Timothy 2:1,2). But faith is an important ingredient of answered prayer (James 1:6-7). On each occasion, try to continue in prayer until you are so sure that God will give you your request that you can with confidence thank him for answering the prayer, even though you have not as yet physically received the answer (Mark 11:24).
Persistence is very important (Luke 18:1-7). Great faith will guarantee an answer, but not necessarily an immediate answer. Some prayers are answered instantly. A few are answered only after years of persistent praying. An apparent delay often reveals much about our faith. Delays also reveal the intensity of our desire for what we are praying. (Often our desires for good things need to become stronger.)
This is another important area in which we need to learn to wait. God’s timing is always perfect and as we persist we will receive the answer at the best possible time.
If you find it helpful, you may, of course, bow your head and close your eyes when you pray. (But not while driving!) However, nowhere in the Bible is there reference to closing the eyes when praying. And sometimes bowing the head tends to make prayer seem more like a solemn obligation than a joyful privilege. The relationship between a bowed head and depression is so strong that we use such expressions as, ‘downcast’ (ie. looking down), ‘hang your head in shame’, ‘keep your chin up’, and so on. The Psalmist called his God ‘the lifter up of my head’ (Psalm 3:3 – literal translation) and prayer should usually be enjoyable. So you may find it more helpful at times to follow the example of many people in the Bible (eg Psalm 123:1; Mark 6:41; 7:34; John 11:41; 17:1) and look upwards when praying.
Some people find it easier (and quieter) to pray in a small, private room (Matthew 6:6). Others would prefer to sit or even kneel in a garden (Luke 22:39-41). Some find that walking helps their concentration, but for others it would merely be a distraction. So use whatever method you find the most helpful.
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Some people think that the Bible is dry, archaic, irrelevant and hard to understand – something more suited to the classical scholar in his ivory tower than a person who is really ‘with it’. It’s obvious that anyone with that attitude has read little of the Bible, especially in a modern version, since commencing a love-relationship with Jesus. A love-letter addressed to someone else might be boring, but a personal letter from your lover is exciting! And there is much more to it than this.
The Bible is:
The purpose of this webpage is merely to tide you over until you discover the same truths in God’s Word. You may read thousands of books about philosophy, psychology, religion, sex, human relationships, child-care, health, finance, skills, and so on, but you will not find one nearly as important as the Bible. No wonder this book is the world’s all-time best seller!
More up-to-date than today’s newspaper (Revelation 1:19)
More exciting than a big lottery win (Psalm 119:162)
More useful than your education (Psalm 119:97-100)
More exhilarating than sensual pleasures (Psalm 119:103)
More valuable than a fortune in gold and silver (Psalm 119:72)
More reliable than the latest scientific journal (Psalm 119:160)
More vital to your life than food (Job 23:12; Matthew 4:4; John 6:68).
It might take millions of words to adequately describe how unique and fascinating the Bible really is, but the most exciting and crucial thing is the fact that the Bible is God revealing himself to you.
Bible reading is essential nourishment for your soul (1 Peter 2:2; Jeremiah 15:16; Job 23:12). Without any, you’ll starve spiritually. And without sufficient, you’ll suffer spiritual malnutrition. Read God’s Word every day.
Understanding the Scriptures hinges on one’s relationship with God (Proverbs 1:23; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3-4) not one’s intelligence (Psalm 19:7, 1 Corinthians 1:18-27; 2 Timothy 3:15). There are many life-changing truths in God’s Word that will remain hidden from you until God reveals them to you (Luke 24:45). It is therefore essential to pray for understanding (Psalm 119:18,125). The more you pray about it, the more things God will reveal to you and the more exciting God’s Word will become.
As time progresses, you may discover that Scripture is gradually becoming less interesting to you. This is a sure sign that you need to pray more diligently that God will increase your understanding. You may soon find it hard to put the Bible down! But even if the Bible seems dry, it is vital to resist the urge to reduce your Bible-reading. Even when it seems to be achieving nothing, Bible reading is like working on a jigsaw. Every time you read you are putting pieces together that will one day suddenly fit into place. The big, exciting picture will snap into place because of your daily plod.
Right from the beginning, you will benefit from Bible reading but since our Lord insists we spend much time reading, discussing and thinking about Scripture (Deuteronomy 11:18-19; Psalm 1:2) we can’t expect to understand much of it until we have devoted considerable time to it. The more you read it, pray about it, think about it and discuss it with others, the easier it will be to understand.
Never lose sight of the fact that the main purpose of Bible study is to help you live the victorious, fulfilling and useful life that the Lord wants you to enjoy (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:11). Therefore it is essential that you put into practice what the Bible says (Matthew 7:24,26; James 1:22). Merely reading your doctor’s prescription without taking the medication it prescribes is about as helpful as reading God’s word without doing what it directs you to do!
Now is the time for serious Bible study. Regardless of your present age, it is almost certain that your memory will never be better than it is right now. So make the most of it! You will discover that memorization of key Scripture verses is of great value.
As you read the Bible and put it into practice, you will grow in wisdom and spiritual strength. Each new truth you discover will make life much easier and more satisfying for you. You’ll wish you had learned it years ago. So try to discover the truths as quickly. Be like a man looking for buried treasure! (Psalm 119:162)
The Bible is good and 100% reliable, but some parts of it you may find offensive, at first. The main reasons for this are:
1. Not reading with sufficient care
For example, Exodus 21:29-32 gives the law for a particular situation where a person, though not guilty of willful murder, is partly responsible for someone’s death. By comparing verse 29 with verse 32 it looks as though there is a vast discrepancy between the value placed on a free man’s life compared with that of a slave. If, due to negligence a free man is killed, the penalty is death, but if it is a slave who is killed, the penalty is merely a large fine. This doesn’t seem right! Does God actually place a greater value upon the life of a free person than that of a slave? I must confess that this discrepancy had me baffled for a considerable time until I finally read the text more carefully. In between these two verses (verse 30) it shows that even when the accident victim was a free person, a fine could be substituted for the death penalty. In other words, regardless of whether the victim of negligence were slave or free, the offender could avoid the death penalty by paying a fine. So what I thought may possibly have seemed a questionable judgment by God was merely a figment of my imagination, created by not carefully reading the context.
The answer was literally staring me in the face, but with another difficulty, the solution could be a thousand pages away. So if you come across something doubtful, don’t jump to conclusions. Our Heavenly Father’s decisions are always right, but the same can’t be said for our hasty conclusions!
For example, the Bible records life as it really is. It pulls no punches. It records evil acts to show the degradation of man (and this often exposes our own sinfulness) but, of course, the mere fact that it’s recorded in the Bible does not mean that the good Lord approves of it. Sometimes the Bible mentions an event without bothering to immediately point out that it was immoral, because it assumes the reader is familiar with the teachings of the rest of Scripture and that the reader will therefore immediately recognize the action as being contrary to God’s ways.
Failure to realize such principles as the above, will, of course, result in misinterpretation.
3. Your sense of morality is deficient
I used to think that it is morally wrong to ever get angry. If this is so, then God is immoral. My mistake was due to a failure to distinguish between righteous anger (such as anger at injustice) and selfish anger (such as anger because I have been inconvenienced).
‘All Scripture is profitable (useful) ...’ (2 Timothy 3:16). So, even if you find a passage that seems quite useless, don’t let it spoil your appreciation of the Bible. The correct interpretation is not only morally acceptable but, locked somewhere within that passage, are precious truths. Since it may sometimes take years to discover these truths, it is often helpful to discuss difficult passages with those who know God’s Word very well. Bible commentaries are also helpful, though, like any preacher or teacher, they are by no means infallible.
There are many different Bible study methods and the choice of method depends largely upon the individual. However, the following hints should help.
Mark your Bible. If you are reluctant to do this (you shouldn’t be) buy a cheaper Bible. Underline those parts that are a blessing to you. This simple act helps to impress it upon your mind and makes it easier to find when you next need it. It is helpful to write comments in the margins, question marks besides parts you don’t understand at present, and so on. As time progresses, that marked Bible will become far more precious to you than a brand-new or more expensive one.
Choose an easy-to-read version. The original Bible was written mainly in Hebrew and Greek. It is this that is perfect, and not any English translation. But, for practical purposes, almost any translation is reliable (except the Jehovah’s Witness ‘New World Translation’). If you compare different translations, you’ll find little difference in meaning. The main difference is style. The original Scriptures were written mainly in the language of the common people, not some archaic language. I therefore suggest an easy-to-read version such as the New International Version. (There is no virtue in making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself!)
It is usually best to read each individual book of the Bible from beginning to end, in the order that it is written and your aim should be to read the entire Bible. However, I don’t recommend that you go from book to book in the order in which they normally appear in the Bible, because the books are grouped according to similarity. This means that books that are side by side (eg. the first four books of the New Testament) are often very similar. It is therefore generally more interesting to jumble the order in which you read the books, and it gives you a broader and more balanced view of the Bible. The only major exceptions, where jumbling is not helpful, are Genesis and Exodus, and those Old Testament books that have names indicating that they have been divided into two (eg. 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel). It’s best to read the second book with the same name immediately after completing the first book.
Especially at first, you should find the New Testament more helpful, and so I suggest you read the entire New Testament before starting the old. After this intersperse the New and Old as you jumble the order of the individual books.
A simple way to keep track of what books of the Bible you have read is to tick them off where they are listed in the front of the Bible (the contents).
Most parts of Scripture (especially the book of Revelation) draw on ideas and symbols that are more fully developed in other parts of the Bible. So, the more of the Bible you read, the better will be your understanding of any given passage.
If you average four chapters a day, you will complete the entire Bible in one year. Alternatively, you could set aside a certain period of time that you will spend each day in Bible study. (This overcomes the temptation to rush through a passage just to complete the day’s quota). Most of us can find quite a lot of time if we cut down on TV watching or some such thing. All of us can find sufficient time once we get our priorities right. For God to be our God, he must be number one priority.
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