“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5, ESV)
When Maija and I fell in love during our college days, we did some crazy things just so we could spend time together. We deprived ourselves of much needed sleep, drank too much Mountain Dew and re-arranged our busy schedules so we could enjoy one another’s company. Time together was a priority because we loved each other. In human relationships, we WANT to spend time with those that we love and we SHOW we love them by making time for them.
Jesus makes a profound statement in John 15:5 that we should be careful not to overlook. One of the many ways that Jesus demonstrated his great love for us was by giving his life on the cross so that he could spend time with us --- forever. However, Jesus doesn’t want us to wait until eternity to get know him better. He wants to spend time with us now. The Lord encourages his disciples to make time with him a priority by using the Greek word meno, which means “to abide, remain or stay in certain place” for a period of time.
One of the ways we can show Jesus we love him is by making time for him at the beginning of our day.
For the Christ-follower, one of the key ways that we can “abide” is by dedicating time each morning in what is commonly called “devotions” or a “quiet time”. Spending time with the Lord at the beginning of each day allows us to rest in Him (Mt. 11:28), cast our cares upon Him (1Pet. 5:7), to absorb His Word into our hearts (Col. 3:16), receive our marching orders for the day (2 Tim. 2:3-4) and much more.
As I approach nearly 20 years in full time pastoral ministry, one of the surprising trends I am observing amongst professing American Christians is how few adults are spending time in God’s Word at the beginning of their day. The reasons for this may vary from person to person, but for those that WANT to spend time with their Savior but don’t know how…I thought it might be helpful if I shared how I structure my devotional time each morning.
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED…
- Pick a definite time: Carve out a consistent, non-negotiable time when you can give God your best attention. In the morning is best so that you can set your heart and mind on the Lord before you start your day (see Ps. 5:3; 59:16; 88:13; Mk. 1:35). Put it on your calendar like you would any other high-priority appointment and plan other activities around it. I recommend budgeting at least 30 minutes.
If you will spend 30 minutes a day 5 days a week in devotional time, you will see growth in your walk with the Lord.
- Pick a definite place: Choose a place that is private, quiet and free of distractions that will allow you to give your complete attention to the Lord. That means the shower or your car while driving to work don't qualify as options. Choose a place that is enjoyable and consistently accessible. For some, this is the kitchen. For others a coffee shop or their bedroom.
- Choose a modern bible translation: For decades the King James translation (KJV) was one of the only translations available to Christians. Unfortunately, its archaic language required a PhD to understand it. Thankfully, newer translations have been developed that are more readable and still accurate to the original texts. I personally recommend and preach from the English Standard Version (ESV) because of its balance of accuracy and readability. The New International Version (NIV) is another translation that works well too.
- Choose a bible study plan: You could use a devotional guide, do a chapter-by-chapter inductive study or read through the bible in a year. It’s important that you decide how you are going to study God’s Word in advance so that you can make the most of your time in the morning.
DURING YOUR 30 MINUTE APPOINTMENT WITH GOD…
- Quiet your heart with prayer (1 min): Begin by settling your heart and mind before the Lord with a short prayer (see Ps. 131). Ask the Lord to help you focus, to protect your time and give you Holy Spirit insights from His Word.
- Read the Scriptures (15-20 min): If you’re using a devotion book, read the passage for the day and then read the commentary provided. Devotional guides can be a helpful resource. Even I like to use them. However, they are never meant to replace the Scriptures. They are a supplement to help you understand God’s Word better. If you’re studying the Bible only, read the passage or chapter a couple of times then ask the Lord to highlight a verse that He wants you to focus on. Then ask yourself these questions: What does the passage say about God? What does it say about you? Is there something you need to start doing or stop doing because of what you’ve read? Is there a verse you should write down and memorize so that it can encourage or give you wisdom throughout your day?
- Close in prayer (10-15 min): Take one or two truths that you gleaned from your Scripture reading and pray over them. Ask the Lord to help you apply to your life what you have read. Repent of any sins that God’s Word and His Spirit revealed to you. Praise Him for any facets of His character that you discovered in the verses you read. Then submit requests to Him that you have for yourself or others. Sometimes I choose to journal my prayers. Doing so has helped me record what God was doing in my life for later reflection, helped me to go back to see prayers that God has answered and provided a record of my walk with the Lord that I can some day pass onto my kids.
What needs to change in your schedule so that you can “abide” and bear fruit? Making time for the One who loves you is important because He made time for you, but also because without that time --- we “can do nothing”. Relationships need time to survive and grow. God’s Word promises that when we make our relationship with Him a priority, it will not only be the best relationship we ever had but we will also experience the abundant life He intended for us (John 10:10).