Getting Started in your Devotional Venture
"Remember the Morning Watch," was the rallying cry on the Cambridge University campus in 1882. Several students intended on growing deeper in their faith at a time when the popularity of Godly devotion was being replaced by scientific and liberal thinking. These students decided to take a stand against adversity and academic backlash. Their lives would echo, as they do today on our public high school and college campuses when young people have to fight their way all the way to the Supreme Court to go to a flagpole to pray. These Cambridge students found the harsh reality that Christianity was not just an academic pursuit, like filling their schedules with lectures, sporting events, studies, and student gatherings and so forth, just like we do today (but without TV!). The students found a fatal flaw in their busyness, even though they made a commitment to honor Christ: They had little time for the One they were honoring. As they described, "A crack in our spiritual armor, if not closed, will bring us disaster!"
So, they sought an answer to their dilemma, a scheme to balance their hectic schedules and still honor God. They came up with a plan called "The Morning Watch." The first few minutes of the day would be dedicated to knowing the Lord. One of the young men, who was not fond of mornings, devised a mechanical contraption with all kinds of levers and pulleys to persuade him out of bed! This idea spread like a wild fire and was used by God for a revival in England, which was depicted in the film "Chariots of Fire." The modern missionary movement was born along with many Evangelical Ministries that are still in existence today, such as YMCA and the Boy Scouts, who trace their roots to these fine young men. Many famous pastors and missionaries have influenced many generations-all stemming from giving God the first fruits of their day. So, will you meet this challenge?
The Challenge is simple, the idea is pure and practical, and it only requires your obedience and persistence. God desires our intimacy, our relationship, and our communion with His holiness. Wow! What an honor and opportunity to go before the Holy Creator of the universe!
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. Psalm 5:2-3; 57:7
So I challenge you to set aside time each day for devotions-the best time you have, when you are the most alert and able to go before your Creator and Redeemer, whether you are a new Christian desiring to know how to read the Bible, or if you have been away from it for a while. If you have not ever been discipled or never really put in the time and effort into your "Walk with Christ," then get ready to start. It is never too late, unless you, well…you die!
Getting Started with Devotions: 7-Up!
Here is a simple means to get your devotional life started or rebooted that I learned over twenty years ago. The following "7-UP" guide is an excellent way to start your new life in Christ, or renew yourself and get back on track! I believe I first learned of this from my mentor Ray Stedman while attending "Navigators" (a Christian outreach Bible study committed to discipleship on the college campus) meetings when I was in college.
Start it off simple, say seven minutes, and you can call it "7-UP!" Seven minutes a day, seven days a week.
First, pray for guidance, and prepare your heart and mind; take half a minute. Tell God how much you love Him. This is worship!
Second, read a passage from God's Word, spending at least four minutes. That can be just a couple of chapters.
Don't know where to start? Start with the book of John. Or, use one of our Bible reading plans or the "The One Year Bible" from Tyndale. It has a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and a Psalm and a Proverb that take you through the whole Bible in a year. (This is reading at a rate of 15 minutes a day. To start out, cut it in half, and you are on track for 7-up.) You can also read half when you wake up and half when you go to bed to start off with. Or, create your own schedule; just keep it up! If you are new to God's Word or have been away from it for a while, get the "New Living Translation." It is easy to read and understand.
Third, pray again, spending the rest of the two and one-half minutes in specific prayer. Pray for things such as your parents/family, school/work, people in your life, what you are thankful for-and don't forget to confess your sins. You may add the problems of our society, or spend the time in silence and reverent meditation over the passage you just read; and that's it!
Then, as you progress, you will have the desire to spend even more time. Most committed Christians will spend more than an hour in prayer each day plus time in Scripture. You say you do not have the time? Well many Christian leaders do it and they have schedules that would blow yours away!
There is always time; the question is will you take it? So, when the morning watch comes…. what will you do?
Where are your desires?
Our desires must be focused on Him-Christ our Lord. We must feel the anticipation and the excitement to be with and in Him, so that we not only hear His Word, but we do His Word-the Word of God. So if we become stuck in our anxious thoughts, confusion, or the stressed-out urgency of life, we can stop and get our focus right! Pray that the Holy Spirit intercedes in you and removes the disruptions. Allow yourself to receive His comfort and grace. Remember, it is not anything we do or any effort on our part; we are only to receive what Christ our Lord gives us. And to receive, we need to make sure that the stuff that gets in the way gets out of the way.
Augustine, also a "Catholic Saint," was one of the foremost philosophers and theologians of early Christianity. While serving as bishop for Hippo Regius, the leading figure in the Church (396-430), he was perhaps one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time and the one person with the biggest influence in theology for Catholics and Protestants, even more than the Reformers; Calvin and Luther were influenced by him. He also was the main person who influenced the "western world view," our cultural identity both in Europe and the U.S.! Augustine fought vigorously against his bad habits and sin nature so he could grow deeper in our Lord, until he learned a lesson from a small child, which he felt was the Word of God. Let Augustine's influence keep influencing you! His point? Don't let your desires rule you; you rule them by focusing on Christ.
© 1980, 2008, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org