Practical and Helpful Thoughts About Personal Devotions

George Müller, a man of deep and earnest prayer, gives some helpful advice on personal devotions and advice for time spent alone with God.

He found that “the most important thing was to concentrate on first reading the Bible [and] meditating on the chosen portion:

That thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by the means of the Word of God, whilst meditating upon it, my heart might be brought into [conscious or experienced] communion with the Lord….

The first thing I did (early in the morning), after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was, to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul.

The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer….

With this mode I have likewise combined the being out in the open air for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours before breakfast, walking about in the fields, and in the summer sitting for a while on little [benches], if I find it too much to walk all the time.

I find it very beneficial to my health to walk thus for meditation before breakfast, and am now so in the habit of using up the time for that purpose, that when I get in the open air, I generally take out a New Testament of good-sized type, which I carry with me for that purpose, besides my Bible: and I find that I can profitably spend my time in the open air, which formerly was not the case for want of habit….

The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this. Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time….

But what was the result?

I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc; and often, having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray.

I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into [conscious or experienced] fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.

It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.”

– George Müller, as recorded in Delighted in God by Roger Steer (Christian Focus Publications, 1997), 91-92.

Albert Mohler: Ten Books Pastors Should Read in 2012

Thanks to Rick Holland for posting this list!

“Every year I am excited to see what books Dr. Mohler recommends for pastors to read in that calendar year. In the March/April edition of Preaching magazine, he provided the following list. I’ve included links if you are interested in grabbing one or more.

Ten Books Every Pastor Should Read in 2012

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction Alan Jacobs (Oxford University Press: Oxford)

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way Michael Horton (Zondervan: Grand Rapids)

Reading Scripture with the Reformers Timothy George (IVP Academic: Downers Grove)

The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been…and Where We’re Going George Friedman (Doubleday: New York)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other Sherry Turkle (Basic Books: New York)

The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion Rodney Stark (Harper One: New York)

Christian Apologetics: Past and Present, Vol. 2 William Edgar & K. Scott Oliphant (Crossway: Wheaton)

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New G.K. Beale (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids)

Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Gregg R. Allison (Zondervan: Grand Rapids)

Lost in Translation: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood Christian Smith, Kari Christofferson, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog (Oxford University Press: Oxford)”

-Rick Holland, http://approachingdamascus.com/2012/03/14/albert-mohler-ten-books-pastors-should-read-in-2012/

Teach Children the Bible Is Not About Them

Here’s a great article from Sally Lloyd-Jones looking at how we should teach our children about God through how we teach the Bible.  Check it out at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/02/21/teach-children-the-bible-is-not-about-them/

 “When I go into churches and speak to children I ask them two questions:

First, How many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them.

And second, How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you? They look around and again raise their hands.

These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories and probably all the right answers, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all.

They have missed what the Bible is all about.

They are children like I once was.

As a child, even though I was a Christian, I grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you).

I tried to be good. I really did. I was quite good at being good. But however hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the rules all the times so I knew God must not be pleased with me.

And I certainly couldn’t ever be as brave as Daniel. I remember being tormented by that Sunday school chorus “Dare to Be a Daniel” because, hard as I tried to imagine myself daring to be a Daniel, being thrown to lions and not minding . . . who was I kidding? I knew I’d be terrified out of my skull.

How could God ever love me?

I was sure he couldn’t because I wasn’t doing it right.

Breaking Spells

One Sunday, not long ago, I was reading the story of “Daniel and the Scary Sleepover” from The Jesus Storybook Bible to some 6-year-olds during a Sunday school lesson. One little girl in particular was sitting so close to me she was almost in my lap. Her face was bright and eager as she listened to the story, utterly captivated. She could hardly keep on the ground and kept kneeling up to get closer to the story.

At the end of the story there were no other teachers around, and I panicked and went into automatic pilot and heard myself—to my horror—asking, “And so what can we learn from Daniel about how God wants us to live?”

And as I said those words it was as if I had literally laid a huge load on that little girl. Like I broke some spell. She crumpled right in front of me, physically slumping and bowing her head. I will never forget it.

It is a picture of what happens to a child when we turn a story into a moral lesson.

When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done!

When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God.

And that’s why I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible. So children could know what I didn’t:

1. That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

2. That the Bible is most of all a story—the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

3. That—in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him—God won’t ever stop loving his children . . . with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

4. That the Bible, in short, is a Story—not a Rule Book—and there is only one Hero in the Story.

I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible so children could meet the Hero in its pages. And become part of His Magnificent Story.

Because rules don’t change you.

But a Story—God’s Story—can.

**********

Editors’ Note: The new Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sam Shammas contains 44 lessons revealing how Jesus is the center of each Bible story and how every story whispers his name. It includes activities, notes for teachers based on material from Timothy Keller, memory verses, handouts for children, a hardcover copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and three audio CDs containing David Suchet’s reading.”