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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, January 24, 2014

Personal Devotion - Daily Quiet Time

Every now and again we should revisit the basics, and the beginning of a new year is often a good time to do that. So, last week we looked at Prayer as Communion with God and next week we look at The Bible as Light on our Way. This week we look at Personal Devotion - Daily Quiet Time.

While on holiday in the UK, I came across this story in the Sunday Times about the quietest place in England
 TREVOR COX did not need any scientific instruments to tell him that his odyssey to find England’s most tranquil spot was over: all he could hear was his own panting and the squelch of his feet in the peat bog.
Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering, walked to the spot two miles from the Scottish border after he persuaded the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to reveal the secret location. This weekend Cox admitted that although there was no sound of human activity, nor even of wildlife, he found the experience far from relaxing. Suffering wet feet, biting insects and a nagging worry that he was trespassing on military land, Cox spent only 20 minutes on the moorland on the edge of Kielder Forest in Northumberland.  

Now, you and I don't need to go to the trouble of finding the quietest place in our country in order to have a quiet time :-) but we do need to make an effort to have a quiet time with our LORD

Our gospel reading, shows us that even Jesus sought to have time alone with His God on a regular basis. Galilee was a difficult place to be alone.....it was/is only 50 miles North to South and 25 miles East to West.....it would fit into our Kruger National Park several times over. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that it had 204 towns and villages, none of which had a population of less than 15 000 people.......it was a very difficult place to be alone.

Jesus, like you and me, had to find time to be alone....firstly, because just like you and me, He was human and needed to rest.
Secondly, He never recklessly ran into dangerous situations or took any major decisions without first drawing near to God in a place of quiet.
Thirdly, Jesus knew how important it is to meet with God before we meet with people.

Over and over in His ministry we see Him seeking to be alone. Do you remember what He did at the start of His ministry?......He went into the wilderness for 40 days....His only company there, God and the devil.

Then, in Mark 1:35, before His first preaching tour of the synagogues in Galilee, we are told: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Jesus knew He needed spiritual reinforcement and so He regularly found time to be alone with God.

On another occasion, in Luke 6:12, we read: One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God....and immediately after this He chooses the disciples. Now I think He probably already had a good idea who was going to call, so He could have gone ahead on His own, but no doubt He chose to be alone with God and seek His guidance and confirmation.

We all need to make time to be alone with God, to seek His guidance, confirmation, affirmation, wisdom, correction, etc. People through the ages have known this....Jesus wasn't the first person to "have a quiet time".

Right back in the very first book of our Scriptures we read of a man named Jacob who arrives at the river Jabbok and he sends his family, servants, cattle and everything he owns across the river and then goes to a cave for some quiet time with his God and ends up wrestling with his God all night long.......when I preached on this I suggested that we often need to wrestle with our God, because His ways are not always our ways and it is in the quiet of one on one with God in our cave, our place, that God can work with us and change us.....Jacob comes away from that "quiet time" a changed man with a new name...Israel...and a new mission and a new strength to continue.

Can you remember what got Daniel thrown into the lion's den......his quiet time. He made no secret of the fact that three times a day he withdrew to be with his God and he let nothing stand in the way of that appointment, not even a decree of the king of Babylon outlawing such practice. Be warned...not everyone will like or allow or encourage you in the practice of a daily quiet time.....but please, don't let that stop you. It is so good for you.

The reason that you and I are here today, the reason that we Gentiles are in this wonderful creation of God's called the church, is because a man called Peter had a regular quiet time. You can read about it in Acts 10....but essentially the story is that when it was time for Peter's quiet time, he went up onto the roof (remember I said earlier how difficult it was to be alone in Galilee) to pray and because his quiet time allowed time for God to speak to him (which all quiet time should) God was able to give him a message which opened up the Jesus movement to us Gentiles and which gave us gentiles permission to eat pork....isn't God great?

So, long before Jesus, at the time of Jesus, and for 2000 years after Jesus, people have discovered and embraced the blessing of regular, set apart, quiet time with God.

Why?

Can I suggest three reasons:

First, it is the place where our conversion continues. Conversion is not a once and for all event. It is a continuous experience which begins when we open our lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  In solitude the process can continue. As I practice this discipline I come face to face with myself- which is one reason why we avoid this discipline and prefer activity and busyness. We resist this encounter with ourselves - our struggles, our contradictions, our deceits, our darkness, our sin. Yet solitude can become the place of ongoing conversion if we allow the encounter with ourselves to lead us into a deeper surrender to God. In this process our lives become more deeply rooted in God's loving presence, and solitude thus becomes an anchor in our lives with all their problems.

Second, it is the place where the Spirit of God forms a deeper compassion in our lives and the fruit of this discipline is a deeper compassion for all people. Since in solitude we come face to face with our own evil and sin, we are transformed from being self-righteous, judgmental people into people capable of genuinely compassionate relationships with others. God has the opportunity to do a deep work in us. Furthermore, as we practice this discipline, we place ourselves in a position where we can experience God's compassion towards us. As we become aware of our deep need for forgiveness, so we open ourselves more and more to the experience of God's grace and mercy.

Third, it is the place where the LORD is able to teach us to pray. Learning to pray is a lifelong process. It begins when we come before the Lord Jesus, our everpresent teacher and friend, and ask Him to teach us to pray. In times of solitude He has the opportunity to do so. Solitude is the cradle in which genuine prayer is born.

How do we learn to enter into this discipline in our everyday lives?....I think it begins with learning to use the little moments of solitude that occur during the day. These little moments are scattered throughout the tasks and activities of our everyday lives. They are opportunities for being silent, turning inward, whispering a prayer, repeating some word of Scripture.

But, more importantly, find a special place to which you can retreat on a regular basis....in your home or garden where you can be alone with God and undisturbed for a while.

It is a discipline really worth cultivating and encouraging.....it worked in Old Testament times, it worked for Jesus, for His disciples and for countless millions through the ages....and so I encourage you to embrace this discipline and find a way and a place to meet with God before meeting with people

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