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Archive for the ‘Quiet Times’ Category

A lot happened over this past year.

In reality, that is a sentence that holds true as I look back over each year of my life. This makes it even more crucial for me to keep a journal– a record of God’s faithfulness. In another post about journaling, I quoted Elisabeth Elliot. She called her journal “A Chronicle of a Soul.” She says:

My memory is poor. A journal is a record of His faithfulness (and my own faithfulness too- which teaches me to value His grace and mercy).

Reading the outpourings of my heart to the Lord truly shows me how faithful He is to me. I can see glimpses of His plan for me in all things.

A journal has been a most instrumental part of my devotional life. It is a place where I can dedicate my day to God in writing, where I can record Scripture and prayer requests, where I can thank God for His goodness to me, where I can plunge the depths of my grief.

Past journals are an encouragement to me even today. Seeing my past growth and God’s constant faithfulness encourages my present self to continue studying the Scriptures, praise God and continue in prayer with thanksgiving. My younger self, in black and white on the pages, reminds me that the way to live the Christian life is to trust and obey. Journals have also helped me see those deeply entwined sins that I might have otherwise missed. I write me journals as prayers to the Lord because I am tempted to rant about situations or drown in my pity. Journaling in this way helps me see things in perspective– in light of eternity.

As another week of 2008 begins, I encourage you to start a journal if you do not already do so. And if you already keep a journal, resolve to keep it even more faithfully. Over at The Rebelution, you will find a very encouraging post that explains a purpose of a journal and will further motivate you in your journaling pursuits.

Happy chronicle-keeping!

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Today I want to encourage you to appreciate the beauty of God in everything. What an amazing gift He has given us that we can see glimpses of Him in Creation! I often find that the times I delight most in the Lord are the times that He showers me with the spectacular aspects of His Creation. Driving to class in the morning, as the sun peeks up from a distant mountain, illuminating the trees with mantles of gold, I worship Him. I smile, laugh, and sometimes, cry out of pure joy and awe that my God would show me such wonders. I know these are just tiny, tiny glimpses of His beauty and majesty. I encourage you to take time to see the wonders of His love around you. Whether in a winter snow storm, the twinkling stars, or a sunset, praise Him for His goodness revealed in Creation. And may these “little gifts” that He gives you cause you to declare:
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!” Psalm 56:11

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As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Are you satisfied in Him? Are you trusting in Him, knowing that His will for you is perfect and good? Are you praising Him constantly? At all times, let us delight in our awesome King!

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Before I go on a blogging break, I want to write a brief “Wednesday Words” on quiet times during the holidays. Honestly, I used to have such a hard time with holidays because when schedule and order disappeared, so did my quiet times. Here’s my encouragement:

No matter how busy you are, try to find at least 5 or 10 minutes of time to be alone with the Lord. Read a passage or two, pray, and sit quietly. This “revival” will give you the strength to love and serve during this busy season. You might need to wake up a few minutes early or go to bed a few minutes later than usual. You may have to go outside (yes, you might freeze, but it’s worth it!) to find a quiet place. The bathroom works, too. But spending time alone with the Lord will transform your outlook and focus during the holidays. If you have anything that has helped you in this area, please comment. I really appreciate suggestions, encouragement, and stories of how God has used these times to minister to your heart.

Seeking Him,

Ella

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Maybe this should be called Thursday Thoughts because, yet again, I have posted it on Thursday. However, I am afraid that if I called it that, it would move to Friday (a day late) and I would have to call it Friday (hmmm… what’s a good word to go there?).

So, I apologize that this is late again.

Today, I want to talk about something that has helped me tremendously in my quiet times: accountability. Accountability is being held accountable by a friend, sister, mother, etc., for doing your devotions. It can be helpful to have someone that will “check-up” on you (and you can check up on her, too).

The purpose is not “devotion police”. The purpose is to encourage one another. It helps to know that someone else is doing her devotions regularly. In addition, it is great to know that someone cares. However, please do not become prideful if you are consistent and she is not!

Encourage one another with Scripture, prayer, and sharing what you have read and learned. This cements what you have learned in your mind, and it is wonderful to get someone else’s input, too. I know girls who give each other verses written on different index cards to read and meditate upon each day. This is a wonderful way to supplement your devotions! You could also do a study together on a concept, reading separately each day, and coming together later (maybe once a week) to discuss.

The main point is that you have someone to urge you to fight against fleshly desires (sleep, school-work, computer, and whatever else tempts you to neglect your time with the Lord). It is also encouraging when you go through “dry spells,” times when the Word seems dull, prayer seems meaningless, and you feel distracted and weary, to have someone who is joyful in the Word.

So, I encourage you to find someone who will help you stay consistent and faithful in your times with the Lord. May you sharpen one another in your pursuit of Christlikeness.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Iron sharpens iron,

and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

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First, I want to apologize that this post is a day late. I was sick yesterday, and so I slept a lot.

Today, I want to talk about methods of reading the Bible. You need to have some sort of plan when you open the Word! In addition, as much as you might want to stay in the Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles, you need the rest of the Word, as well. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis mine)

I am going to talk about several helpful methods below. In addition, realize that there will be times when you will want to take a break from your normal reading through the Bible and do a word study, concept study, or character study (more about those later!). But today, I am going to just give some ideas for splitting up the Bible.

1. Read straight through. This can be wonderful, but I suggest that you at least read a Psalm per day, along with your daily reading. Sometimes those genealogies by themselves may be draining (although, there’s a lot to learn even in the “difficult” books!). You may find it helpful to jump around after you finish a book. For example, when you finish Numbers, instead of going to Deuteronomy, go to Mark (just an example). Just keep up with what books you have finished.
2. Old Testament and New Testament readings. Read one (or more) book(s) out of each section beginning with Genesis and Matthew. You could also read a Psalm or Proverb with these each day. This is one of my favorite methods. It helps you see how the Bible fits together.

3. This is what I have been doing for almost two years. It is borrowed (although I tweaked it) from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ inspiring book, A Place of Quiet Rest. Here’s what she says: “Some time ago, a dear, older servant of the Lord recommended an approach to Bible reading that I have found to be a great blessing. He suggested dividing the Bible into six major sections, beginning in Genesis, Joshua, Job, Isaiah, Matthew, and Romans. Each day, read one or more chapters consecutively in each of those sections. Mark where you end up in each section so you can pick up at that location the next day.” That method has been a blessing to me, too. Instead of doing it the way she suggests, I split it in half so that I am reading a book from the sections beginning with Genesis, Joshua, and Job one day, and the others, the next. But that’s because I wanted a slower approach. I love this method because it helps you get a good idea of how Scripture fits together. But for some, it’s too much page turning.

Whatever way you decide to read the Bible, remember that the overall message of the Bible (or, as our youth pastor says, the scarlet cord that runs through the Bible) is the message of redemption through Jesus Christ. It all points to Him! Read the Bible understanding that. And please do not think the the Old Testament is just law and the New Testament is just grace. They are both the law and grace. So, read prayerfully, and read understanding the Jesus Christ is the central theme.
Two last things-

1. If you want a checklist or Bible plan, you could google “Bible reading plan.” There are lots!

2. I HIGHLY recommend this article by Noel Piper. It’s only about a page long, and her suggestion is incredible. I also enjoyed reading what Carolyn McCulley said about Bible study in her recent post.

May the Lord open the eyes of your heart as you read His Word!

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One of the first ones is laying beside me right now, as I type. It is open to the first page. The cover is purple and white, and it is spiral bound with white metal. At the top of the first lined page, in perfectly shaped cursive. Hebrews 11:1 is written out under the date: Sunday, January 23, 2005. Then, it begins with the words: “Father, I thank you for today, and I thank you that we can believe in you.”

This was only the beginning. Somewhere along the way, I remember writing a prayer that God would continue to bless my efforts in writing in a prayer journal. This first prayer journal is filled with pages lined with my perfect script in a black pen. Now, many journals and quickly scribbled thoughts later, my handwriting has almost been ruined. But I suppose that’s the joy of a prayer journal.

So, what is a prayer journal. In all my years of hearing about them, I have heard so many different explanations. Some people list everything they did during the day, some are written to God, some are written about God, some are books that are filled with Scripture and quotes, some are lists of prayer requests. Prayer journaling varies from person to person. However, there is a good deal of value in a prayer journal.

First, I think we should distinguish a prayer journal from a prayer list (or record).
In an ordinary diary, journaling implies writing about the day. Think of a prayer journal as a written record of your spiritual journey. Elisabeth Elliot refers to this type of journal as “Chronicle of a Soul”. She says: “My memory is poor. A journal is a record of His faithfulness (and my own faithfulness too- which teaches me to value His grace and mercy).” That’s a great way of looking at a prayer journal! This journal is a way for you to glimpse more of His faithfulness, grace, and mercy, especially over time.
The definition you have for a prayer/spiritual journal greatly affects what you put into it. I am not going to tell you all about my own prayer journal. However, I am going to give suggestions for what to fill your Chronicle of a Soul with.

1. Prayer Requests- Sometimes, I take the time to journal specifically about a specific issue. I think it is wonderful to have a place where you list all your prayer requests and their answers. But use your prayer journal as a place to journal more specifically about a prayer request that God has placed upon your heart.

2. Copy down Scriptures and quotes from your other reading.

3. Journal about specific ways a particular Scripture or quote has affected you, or how you desire to be changed

4. Tell God about your struggles, joys, pains, ideas… I talked about how God used my journaling to solidify parts of my decision regarding college (LINK)

5. Praises- reasons to be thankful, praising Him for His attributes, etc.

6. Anything else pertinent to your journey with Him.

Some people have lengthy entries every single day. Others write things down sporadically. I suggest that you have some type of routine (including it with your devotions), but also use it whenever you find something that speaks to You, something that reminds You of God, etc.

Write as you would write a letter to God.

Recently, a friend and I were talking about spiritual growth. She said that she would not realize God’s faithfulness, were it not for her prayer journals. The value of a spiritual journal immeasurable. And it is wonderful treasure for future generations. You can look back and see answered prayers, praising God for who He is and what He has done.

So, what do you think about spiritual journals? Any questions or ideas are welcome!

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If you have not done quiet times before, or if you have not done them in a while, I want to encourage you with some things that I have found helpful. Please understand that these things are not original ideas that I have had; instead, they are things that I have learned from reading books on the topic, talking to other Christians, and some amount of trial and error. I have been in the “have not done them in a while” category many times!

First, you must simply begin. Please do not feel frustrated or guilty. You can start right where you are. Begin by sitting down in a quiet place and praying. Pick a chapter, book, or even a verse to read. Read slowly. Very slowly. You may wish to write observations in a journal, and you may wish to mark verses that stand out to you. You could also copy them down on a card to memorize later. Pray for wisdom from the Holy Spirit as you read. Pray that God will show you what He has for you in the passage. Close by praying and sitting still for a few moments.

As time goes on, you may want to add singing, more time for writing, a devotional book (Thanks to the ladies at Girl Talk, I bought Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. It has a two short readings and Bible verses for each day. I love closing my devotional time with this book!). Be flexible with your time.

Also, you must plan the time. Pick a time frame that works for you. However, do not think that a longer quiet time is necessarily better. You will fall into the trap of checking you watch or clock and losing focus! Give yourself time, but instead of following a set aside time (i.e.: “It’s only been twenty minutes, and I’m done! I better do something for ten more minutes!”), have a plan. A plan consists of a book of the Bible to read, people and situations to pray for, and time to pray and sing. I am sure that you may be able to add things to this list.

Even when you do not feel like it, sit down and pray and begin. Satan often uses various means to try to tempt me out of my time with the Lord, because he knows how powerful this time is! I have found that begging by honestly, telling the Lord that I do not feel like this time, helps tremendously. Be honest with Him! Ask Him to refresh you. Patiently wait upon Him. Often, when you do not feel like it, you need time with Him the most. John Piper puts it much better than I can:

“Even on days when every cinder in our soul feels cold, if we crawl to the Word of God and cry out for ears to hear, the cold ashes will be lifted and the tiny spark of life will be fanned. For ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.’”

And be encouraged! Though you may not see much growth at first, though it may seem a waste of time, please continue spending time with the Lord! It is worth it. And what a privilege to spend time with the Maker of the Universe!

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart…” Psalm 119:1-2

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