Devotionally Frustrated: 5 Habits That Helped Me with “Devotions”

I grew up in church having heard (and used) the phrasing, “doing my devotions.” This was the terminology we (my youth group) used to describe a dedicated time that included reading our bibles and spending time in prayer.

Perhaps this is just my own experience, but in the 4 decades of attending church, “devos” has been both a source of blessing and issue of guilt; a place to be fed and the cause of frustration.

Congrats. You’re not the only one to feel that way.

Like many of you, I would hear stories from the pulpit about the preacher’s devo-moments that rivaled what happened on the Mount of Transifiguration. I would get inspired from the testimonies of leadership and friends. My mind would be filled with high aspirations as I decided, “Monday, everything is going to change” as I, one more time, was going to begin a new “devotional habit.”

Perhaps we’ve approached devotions wrong. I feel we may have treated this necessary, on-going, spiritually healthy routine into nothing more than a diet fad. I see blogs and post saying something to the fact,

“If you need help, follow my prescription for spiritual health for a guaranteed outpouring of personal spiritual revival.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading plans and strategies (here’s a great place to get some reading plans). I utilize them both and they can be very effective. But I’m afraid we’ve turned devotional methods into the South Beach Diet and Atkins as the plug-and-play solution for all of our spiritual woes instead of embracing the simplicity of communion with God.  That’s what devotions are about. And when that is realized, you’ll see “devotional time” lived out in two ways.

  1. A Momentary Discipline.
    • Developing the daily habit of having time in the Word, seeking the Lord in worship and prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
  2. An Experiential Devotion.
    • “Devos” will be shallow at best if they are left in the moment and never manifested in our daily lives. We must have a dedication to living out our devotion to Christ. I struggle when people profess to know the scriptures but fail to model Christ through love, mercy, and compassion. When I read scripture, Jesus definitely spent plenty of time in personal prayer. But most of His life was engaging the world around him with the Kingdom of God.

So I thought I’d help you work through some frustrations by making this as simple as possible. As we say at Kfirst, “simple doesn’t mean easy.” Like any human relationship, your relationship with God will rise and fall on communication. You were wired that way because God created you that way. And I want to take some of the confusion out of devos by giving you, what I hope are, simple and practical steps to developing a healthy devotional life.

Find your sweet spot.
So many people are devotionally frustrated at the method, time of day, and manner for which they’re doing (or have done) devos. Find that “fit” that brings both challenge and growth without having to jam into someone else’s model. From the time of day to the translations you use, find not necessarily what’s easiest, but what facilitates spiritual health. I’m a morning person with my scriptures. When I pray, I head outside and walk the neighborhood. Periodically, I change translations. I’ll even hook up with a reading plan to guide me down a thought (topic). BUT…just because a method/location works for someone (even your spouse) doesn’t mean it’s a right fit for you.

Quality over quantity.
I love reading through books of the bible. But I found that just because I read a lot, it didn’t necessarily equate to understanding or practical living. Don’t treat your bible reading like a buffet where you gorge yourself and say, “I don’t know what I ate but I am full.” If you don’t know what you read because of the “quantity,” then have a smaller “meal.” Read a few verses a day. You’ll digest it better and exercise it in your daily life. Some preachers need to understand that principle for their sermons. 😉

Set some attainable goals.
Start small and build momentum. Set goals that will require some stretching but not so lofty that one missed day doesn’t make you call it quits. It takes time to build healthy habits. And the more you put into the habit, the deeper and wider the habit will grow. I’ve been amazed at watching people who gave God 5 devoted minutes a day developed a habit that has grown into something astronomically deeper and wider than they ever imagined.

Make time to live and listen.
When spending time in prayer, I believe one of the most missed opportunities is time in silence listening for the voice of God. But there’s a whole other side to the voice of God. When you are engaged in the Word, look and listen to God throughout the day on when/how to exercise what you read. For example: If I read John 1:14 today on how Jesus was full of grace and truth, I need to look and listen for opportunities to show grace and truth. It sounds so simple, but it’s the most pragmatic way to get our devos out of our prayer closet and into the real world.

Journal. 
I used to be intimidated by journaling and frustrated with people who excelled in it as I was envious about their writing abilities. But when I stopped comparing myself to others and decided to be my own person, it’s sparked a major passion in me. My daily entry might be just 3-4 sentences (nothing more than what I read in scripture to what God was challenging me to do). Other days, 6 pages will pour out of my heart (had a rough, emotional day yesterday). Find your “sweet spot” in your journaling. It’s become a great reference point to help me look back and be encouraged in how God has grown me as well as what He has worked through me.

I wanted to keep this simple and clean. “Devos” are not as complicated as you may have seen. Remember, they’re isn’t about getting checklist done and doing your duty for God. The goal is to meet with God, hear His heart, and letting him do something IN you and THROUGH you. “Devotions” must be more then a description of a moment but the evidence of our love for Jesus Christ.

I love you all. I belive in ya. Get into your devotions and live them out “for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

The “Try”: 10 Things you should TRY in your marriage.

My wife married a sci-fi geek.  I’m not ashamed of it.  I embrace it.  Anne, not so much. 

In his endeavor to become a Jedi, Luke finds himself needing to get trained by the best.  It is here we get one of the most well-known figures in all of the Star Wars universe: Yoda.

For us geeks, his wisdom pours out in a fantastic line that is just as iconic as the character, 

“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ4yd2W50No

I’ve heard it used and stated in so many different contexts.  Why not?  It’s an amazing piece of wisdom used to motivate his young apprentice to take some actions-steps forward. A few days ago, I saw it tweeted in regards to sex in marriage.  My immediate first thought: 

Discouraging “trying” may not be the best marriage advice I’ve seen.  

So I thought I’d do the opposite.  I want to encourage “trying.” Why?

For the couple going through struggles, it’s the personal effort the two of you need to show each other.  It’s the extra “try” that screams “I’m not giving up…we’re going to make it.” 

For the couple going through a season of life where you feel you’re just “existing” together.  No fights, no scuffles, yet there is no fun and no passion. The “try” just may catapult you forward over the hump into a amazing season of refreshing. 

For the couple in a good place in life, the “try” can be an extra log to the fire.  The time to try something new and exciting isn’t when things are getting mundane or frustrating. That’s the worst time to try to get momentum.  The perfect time for the “try” is when things are great.  The momentum picks up and flows.  Makes me think when scripture says, “from glory to glory.”

Here we go, 10 things I want you to “try” in your marriage…we’ll start with a few simple BUT powerful tips but please don’t tell yourself “I’m not going to “try” to do any of these unless I’m in the mood.” It’s time to back away from what you need step up into the “try” for the sake of your spouse and your marriage.  

1. Try to smile.  Sometimes we save our smile for our kids, friends, and/or for the people at church.  We take our smile for granted when it comes to our spouse.  

2. Try to complement/encourage.  Sometimes we resort to “I’ll do it if he/she does it.” Or I’ve even heard this one, “He/she doesn’t deserve it.” Childish tendencies take over us sometimes.  What brings it out? Hurt.  This is a basic need in EVERY human. Hebrews 3:13 says to “Encourage each other daily.” If you don’t do this for your spouse, the enemy will use someone else to fill that need and NO ONE should out-encourage/complement you.  Step up and try it.

3. Try to surprise.  Get spontaneous. I’ll admit, my wife’s version of surprise is different.  She likes to know what it is before it’s “sprung” upon her. That way, she can prepare her OCD self for it and actually enjoy it.  I can’t push my style of surprise upon her and expect her to enjoy.  Find your spouse’s love language and get out of the rut.

4. Try prayer and devotions.  I know what you’re thinking: “Shouldn’t you have had this at #1?” I’m a pastor and I thought you’d expect that. Some couples, like me and Anne, have a hard time with doing “couple devotionals.” We tried it and it didn’t fit.  But the key is this: we tried it.  Now, we’ll pass on to each other books, blogs, and sermons  as we look out for the spiritual well-being of the each other. I love putting my arm around her at night and praying over her.  I love hearing her pray for me.  Our devos may be separate, but it’s morphed into us pouring into each other in a way I didn’t expect.  But it happened with the “try.” 

5. Try nudity. (I thought that would get your attention.)   We base so much of sex as a “mood” or “an act.” For those that push “the act” upon the other, you ignore the emotions/mood.  For those that are all about the “mood,” you ignore this necessary and beautiful act of marriage.  Bring the “try” into your bed.  Why? It’s humility; You’re not there for “you.” Try sex from the vantage point of your spouse.  The bed isn’t there to meet your needs; it’s there as a platform to meet your spouse’s needs.   Remember this: there is NO ONE else in the entire world that can meet this need in your spouse. It’s you.  

6. Try a date. Most couples know that dating each other is necessary…well, kind of.  This is so simplistic yet I find it’s completely ignored and taken for granted.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It may not have any cost for that matter.  Anne and I like the simple walks together.  We’ve even taken our kids on walks.  The point was to have time together (which is Anne’s love language…that and Swedish Fish).  Try it. Ask your spouse out.  Plan out the day/evening.  Pour into their love language. 

7. Try to listen. A friend of mine gave me a quote I’ve used on my kids and I’ve needed to use in marriage. “Listen to me with your eyes.” Eye contact speaks so much to the person talking.  It shows more that singular focus.  It shows you are valuing them and their voice. Proverbs 20:12 says “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” Get past “Elevator talk” in your marriage. Your ability to actively listen conveys the value your spouse needs from you.  

8. Try to forgive. The preach in me wants to just say “Just forgive.  Make yourself do it.” But I felt the Lord leading me to challenge you to “try” forgiveness.  Why? So many people are afraid to “try” it because of how it may be received and/or given.  Colossians 3:13 challenges us to “try”/step-out into it regardless of your spouse’s reaction.  The response of your “trying” isn’t your responsibility.  The forgiveness is. 

9. Try to be healthy.  I know we’re ‘merica.  We’re a nation of unhealthy activities with unhealthy food.  But this should’t be our excuse to develop healthy hearts, bodies, emotions, and spirits.  I’m not asking you to be a marathon runner. I’m not demanding you to become a vegan.  I’m asking you to take an honest inventory of your life and ask yourself, “Where can I get healthier?” The bible says, “the two become one.” If you are actively “trying” bringing health into your marriage (God’s word, healthy relationships, healthy food, exercise, etc) , you are setting your marriage up for potential success.  

10. Try ___________.  This is where you have to get your imagination going.  It’s about you knowing your marriage and trying something that may be new or it could be something that needs to be revived.  Get creative.  Talk with your spouse. Go after something today. 

Yoda had it wrong.  “Do or do not.  There is no try.” And unfortunately so many people don’t/won’t try.  This needs to be a new habit for this new year.  Don’t wait for you to be in the mood to “try.”  If that’s the case, it’ll never happen because it’s about you.  Get humble and get “trying.”  

Sometimes it isn’t really about the “what.”  Sometimes all that matters is you “tried.” 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 11

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Proverbs 23:19

My son, listen, be wise, and keep your mind going in the right direction.

Marriage Blog: “It’s just not me.”

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We’ve all used it to get out of things we don’t want to do.

“Do you want to ride the roller coaster?” “No. It’s just not me.”
“Do you want to try escargot?” “No.  It’s just not me.”
“Do you like country music? “No. It’s just not me.

It’s kind of our nice way of telling people that we have absolutely no interest in what they are offering.  As long as you say it in a nice tone, it’s amazing the stuff it can get you out of.  It’s like a “get out of jail free card” for moments in public places.

FreeJail

Sadly, it’s a line used to often in marriage.  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times.  I have heard the line used all over the place and in numbers of situations.  Casual conversations with couples, in small groups, dining, counseling…well, you get the picture.  I’ve heard it too much

“All he/she wants to do is talk…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to get all romantic…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to be involved in volunteering together…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants is sex…it’s just not me.”
“He/she is more the disciplinarian for the kids…it’s just not me.”
“Well that’s just his/her thing…it’s just not me.”

thats not me

cop out  n. An excuse designed to shirk responsibility.

That’s all this line really is…a cop out.  It’s the marital line we use to shirk responsibility of being an “other-centered” husband/wife that serves our spouse.  (as I type this, I’ve noticed there has been a common thread being woven through my latest blogs…And that thread is simply being a spouse ready to take up not just the JOY but the responsibility of serving our husband/wife.)

We live in such a self-centered ego-driven manipulative culture that is fascinated in pleasuring self.  As blunt as it sounds it’s completely true.

“I have to receive something for me to be happy.”
“What do I get in return if I do what you want?”
“If I get what I want, then you can get what you want.”
“I don’t feel like it. He/she just has to deal with it.”

We feel entitled to have our own needs met with little thought what our spouses needs are.  We justify our actions by calling their “needs”  as “wants” as to calm our conscience.  It is no wonder why people start emotional and physical affairs.  We send out our spouses empty and thirsty and we get upset when someone has stepped up to the plate to fill them up.  Note: I’m not giving ANYONE the excuse for having an affair.  Affairs are wrong no matter how you package them (Matthew 5:27-30).  But as a spouse, we cannot empower what the enemy is wanting to do in our marriage by neglecting our spouse as well as give our significant other an excuse to go looking for attention elsewhere.

Proverbs 5:18-19 Bless your fresh-flowing fountain! Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!  Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose – don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted!

This last part is what this blog is all about. The longer we are with someone (we’ve been married for 16 years + dated for 3 years) the more apt we are to taking them (their wants and needs) for granted.  We assume too much and neglect them.  I would love to assume I’ve never given the excuse “it’s just not me”, but honestly, I think I used it last weekend when she wanted to go for a “romantic walk” on a beach and I was comfortable in the shade.  I’ll say it this way: the more we put off our spouse, the more we push away our spouse.  It could be a walk, a conversation, a date, sex, or a simple cup of coffee, but to ignore them is to take them for granted. And to take them for granted is to stifle the love and passion in your marriage.

Be a listener to your spouse.  Then take that next step from being a listener to serving your spouse.  Get past the “it’s not me” phase and realize, if you are married, whether you like it or not, IT IS YOU! Never take your spouse for granted.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Marriage Devo – Day 15

Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we are in our Annual Marriage Series at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God and we’re going through devotions for couples. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Proverbs 20:12

The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.

2 Minute Devo Series: Book of Matthew Day 18

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Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we’re going through the Book of Matthew. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Matthew 17

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said,“This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you?How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[b] and it[c] came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.[d] 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”[e]

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

22 As they were gathering[f] in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”And they were greatly distressed.

The Temple Tax

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.[g] Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”