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Excerpt from C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Morning, August 2

“Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”

Ephesians 1:11

Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the cornerstone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.

 

Evening, August 2

“So she gleaned in the field until even.”

Ruth 2:17

Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.

 

This work is published in the public domain.  

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5 Encouragements for the Spiritual Desert Wanderer

In your daily “quiet times,” do you ever feel like Moses and the Israelites just wandering around the desert waiting for Promise Land?  

You might think that having graduated seminary means that my daily time with the Lord in the morning is full of His Shekinah Glory every time I open my Bible and close my eyes in prayer. 

Let me assure you, it’s not. In fact, if anything, having been in seminary made my times with the Lord dryer and more difficult. I did not expect that this was going to happen in seminary. Yet, I found myself in quite the barren spiritual desert 6 months ago and I had been wandering for a long time. Knowing (some) Greek didn’t help. Knowing the cultural background and context of the text didn’t help. Honestly, it made it worse. I couldn’t just enjoy God’s Word for what it is: His Word! The Bible had become another textbook I had to read. 

Can you relate to this at all? Maybe it’s not because of seminary, but have you ever felt like the Bible was something that you “had to read” and not something that you have the joy and privilege of reading? Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual desert and your Bible reading and prayer weren’t helping? Are you in that desert now? 

Whether you have been, you are, (or will be someday), in a similar place, let me give you five encouragements that I pray bless you in those times: 

1. You’re not alone. I can’t say for certain, but I think that ALL Christians go through this at some point in their journey with the Lord. Take heart! The spiritual desert you find yourself in has been traveled before and others have made it through. Therefore, you will too. But… 

2. Just because you don’t “feel” close to God in your Bible and prayer time doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. I know many people who simply stop reading and praying during desert times and you know what? It doesn’t help. What would happen if I stopped talking to my wife every time I didn’t “feel” love towards her? If I did this, waiting for the morning where all of a sudden the lights came on, I’d be in the dark for a long time waiting to “feel” love for her. How do I “feel” love for my wife? I spend time with her. I talk to her. I share my heart with her. Spending more time, not less, stirs my affections for her. I believe that’s how it is with God. It’s a relationship after all, right? To put it another way: a sailboat won’t move unless the wind blows the sails. Therefore, raise the sails of your spiritual life (read and pray) and wait for the wind (the Spirit) to blow.  

3. I’ve been using John Piper’s IOUS acronym daily for the last 5 months and it has helped a ton: 

  • I—Incline “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36) 
  • O—Open “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) 
  • U—Unite “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) 
  • S—Satisfy “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) 

4. Repent. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of? Could there be some sin that is stifling your walk with God? I don’t know. Only you and God know. But if there is, then I urge you to repent and turn from your sin. Often, this is all it takes.  

5. Beg God to grow your affections for Him. Ask Him to give you the desire to even want to read and pray. Pray this daily, even if you’re in a good spot. This is a request our heavenly Father wants to answer. 

There’s more to be said here, but I’ll leave it at those five encouragements for now.

Everyone is different and everyone’s walk with the Lord is different. I’ve just laid out what I have learned and what has helped me. If this doesn’t encourage you, then go find someone whose Bible-Prayer life is one you want to have for yourself ask them how they do it. Then, go and do the same! 

It’s okay to be in a spiritual desert. It’s not okay to stay there.  

Here’s the really good news though… spiritual desert or not, if you’re in Christ, then Jesus loves you just the same. So take heart, beloved brother or sister.  

 

Gabriel Pech is married to Hannah and they have 3 beautiful children. They have been members at FCC since April 2017. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with his M.Div. in May, 2018. The Pech family now lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they are missionaries to the 80,000+ Americans/military members and their families who are stationed there.  

 

 

Posted in: Bible study, Christian Living, Uncategorized

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God Can Change How We Hear

Does this scenario sound familiar? You get out of bed. You shuffle over to the kitchen and make a bee-line for the coffee maker. Once you have your coffee, you head to the couch or kitchen table, and you pick up your Bible. You do this, because it’s what you do every morning. In your early morning stupor, you manage to mutter a few words in prayer, then you open up you Bible, because it’s what you do every morning. You take a few sips of coffee to wake yourself up a bit, and you start to read. Again, you do this every morning. But this morning, the words on the page seem to have the same effect on you as words on a billboard, or one of those inspirational posters. Nothing much more than, “That’s interesting. Time to go on with my day.” Or maybe it isn’t even interesting to you. It’s just nothing.

But maybe you don’t read your Bible in the morning, or your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily devotional time. Fair enough. Consider this scenario then: It’s a Sunday morning, and as you do every Sunday morning, you pile your family into the car and drive to church. You manage to find enough empty chairs to seat your family together. The music starts to play, you read the words on the screen, and you start to sing them, like you do every Sunday morning. You open your Bible to the passage being preached on. Pastor Tim is preaching his heart out. You hear his voice rise with intensity at the glorious truth that he is proclaiming. But the message simply doesn’t stir you nearly as much as he is being stirred. You know you probably should feel something, but you can’t feel anything.

Those are scary seasons. They are scary because the Bible warns about this. I have been reading in Luke about the effect the Gospel message has on its hearers. In chapter 8, Luke describes Jesus traveling with the accompaniment of his apostles and some women, and he is preaching about the kingdom of God everywhere he goes (Luke 8:1-4). Then Luke describes a parable that Jesus tells to a crowd of people, the familiar parable of the sower. The parable should be referred to as the parable of the soils. The seed gets scattered everywhere, but depending on the soil on which it lands, it yields different results (Luke 8:4-8). Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that the parable itself is intended to either impart revelation or harden the hearts of the hearers (Luke 8:9-10). And the content of the parable describes four different kinds of people who hear God’s word. The first kind doesn’t really “hear” anything, because the devil prevents them from hearing it. The second kind craves emotional experiences and get excited about the word of God at first, but then stop believing it when they realize that it brings unexpected trials into their lives. The third kind hear the Word, but it has no effect on them because their hearts are set on other things. And the fourth kind hear the Word, and it has a transformative effect on their lives, wherein they love God’s glory more, they love people more, and become more instrumental in the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11-15).

Jesus then tells them about the purpose of a lamp. No one lights a lamp just to hide it away. It’s put out in the open so that the whole house is illuminated (Luke 8:16-17). Many people use that illustration to encourage Christians to be more involved in evangelism and representing Christ. While that is a valid application of that text, I think that the primary purpose is to illustrate what God is doing. God’s message, His revelation to the world, is not something He is keeping hidden. His intention is to make the good news of the kingdom publicly known. That’s why Jesus says, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18). God has given direct revelation of himself in a very public way. So in light of having received that revelation, we are to be cognizant of how we “hear,” because we will be held accountable to how we respond to the truth we have received. The person who “has,” that is, who has a receptive, open-hearted, submissive attitude to God’s word, and an eagerness to hear it and respond to it… That person will bear fruit for God and experience an increasing amount of joy in Him. But the person who has a dead, cold, stubborn attitude towards the Word will become harder and harder the more they hear His Word.

Luke next describes the attempts of Jesus’ earthly family to get to him while he is teaching. And Jesus gives this response: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). The sign of having the closest, deepest, most intimate relationship with Jesus is in submitting to God’s word and allowing it to change you.

The way we hear the word of God is of utmost importance. If you can relate to the scenarios described at the beginning of this blog post, know that you are not alone. Some of the godliest people I know have experienced that at some point in their life. But also realize that you can’t afford to sit in this and “wait it out.” This isn’t “just a season.” It is up to you to make an intentional effort to get out of that state of mind. Your soul depends on it.

But you might be wondering, what can I do? How can I get myself out of this? And the short answer is that you can’t do anything. But God can. Once you have recognized the danger of your situation, and you’ve been shaken to the realization that you need help, start by asking God to reveal any unknown sin in your life. The Psalmist cries out, “See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:24) For example, there is a good chance that you have unknowingly elevated someone or something into a place of worship in your heart, where an idol has taken the place of God as the thing you look to for satisfaction and joy. Ask God to cleanse your heart from idolatry.

The Psalmist also cries out, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). If you can’t see wonderful things in the word of God, then this is what you need to ask God for. Ask that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of your heart to the Word of God. Ask Him to bring your heart a fresh sense of awe and amazement in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

And most importantly, be grateful for what God has done for you in Christ. Jesus died on the cross for your unbelief and idolatry. Jesus has set you free from the penalty of sin, but remember, he has also set you free from present enslavement to that sin. Lift your eyes to Him and live, love, and rejoice as someone who is free! And the next time you open your Bible in the morning, or come to church on Sunday, remember what it cost God to redeem you. Remember the love He chose to set on you before you were born. Remember who you are. And hopefully, maybe, there will be something, even if it’s just a flicker, when God’s Word is delivered to you.

 

Zach Ilten is a member of Faith Community Church. He is working on his M. Div. at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the grateful husband to Becca and dad to Lucy and Micah.

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Old and New

If you were asked to compile a list of things that are old, what would be on your list?  Perhaps an old friend, an old book, or an old memory come to mind.  On the flipside, what if your list needed to have things that are new upon it?  A new job, a crisp new dollar bill, or a new baby?  (Clearly, these are not in any order of importance!)

It is safe to say to that things that are old can be precious, and things that are new can be precious.  A couple that has grown old together throughout the years is a wonder.  A fresh new start can be exciting and adventurous.  Both “old” and “new” in a variety of contexts can be appreciated for their uniqueness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 states, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  These verses struck me with the thought that God’s “new mercies” are evidence of His “old faithfulness.”

Each and every day God pours new mercies into my life.  Sometimes those mercies look like a well-timed encouraging email or text from a friend or the unexpected kindness and generosity of a stranger; other times those mercies can be painful, like removing something from our lives that we are very certain we truly need.  Years ago, I was in a situation where I found it hard to believe that God had taken something away from me.  When I would share even small slices of the story with others, the overwhelming counsel that I received time and time again was that I had “dodged a bullet.”  Dodging that bullet was not in my plans and was not something I considered mercy at the time.  Rather, I felt like God was giving me the opposite of mercy.  However (to use a hospital analogy) in the operating room sometimes the most merciful action a surgeon can take is to cut away the illness or disease, and so it was in my case.  God’s mercies are purposeful even when they are painful.

God is good at being merciful to us.  Sometimes his mercies come in unexpected packages; sometimes we want the same mercies from yesterday to be His mercies for today.  Today, as you go throughout your day, try to look for those “new mercies” in your life.  And then tomorrow, when you wake up, do the same thing.  And the day after that, do the same thing.   May we be encouraged that His ever-changing new mercies in our lives are ever present evidence of His old faithfulness.

 

Meagan Cargill is an educator for surgical and anesthesia staff at a local hospital in Kansas City. She previously worked as a nurse in the Neurosurgical ICU.

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For the Purpose of Godliness

This is the phrase that is included in each chapter title of Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  I can almost hear mouse clicks all over the city as readers of this blog attempt to exit out after reading the word “discipline” – the “D word.” For some reason, we Reformed believers can mistakenly equate discipline with legalism. In his book, Whitney shows how the spiritual disciplines are far from being legalistic, restrictive or binding, but rather the means to unparalleled spiritual liberty. If you will think about the excitement of achieving a difficult goal, whether becoming proficient on a musical instrument, losing weight, running a marathon, or – you fill in the blank – you know that it took discipline to achieve that goal.

If you are a new believer seeking guidance in your new walk with Christ, or a seasoned saint feeling a little stale in your pilgrimage,  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life can be a means of grace in your life to give you direction and refreshment in your journey with your Lord and Savior.

Donald Whitney’s key verse for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” This verse is the theme of the entire book. In other words, the spiritual disciplines are means, not ends. The end – that is, the purpose of practicing the disciplines – is godliness. Whitney defines godliness as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that is both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ.

Whitney assures us that we stand before God only in the righteousness that has been bought by another: Jesus Christ. All who come to God trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ to make them right with God are given the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes all those in whom He resides to have new, holy hungers they never had before. They hunger, for example, for the Word of God, which before salvation may have seemed boring or irrelevant. Perhaps for that reason, Bible Intake is the first of the spiritual disciplines exposited by Dr. Whitney in his book.

Whitney limits himself to those disciplines that are Biblical, that is, to practices taught or modeled in the Bible. He skillfully unpacks ten spiritual disciplines, where they can be found in the Scriptures, and how they can be practiced experientially for the purpose of godliness.

I will confess that I am currently NOT practicing all ten of the disciplines as outlined by Donald Whitney, but I found the book very helpful in reminding me of the benefits of spiritual disciplines and redirecting my focus to my purpose in life until He comes or I go home.

My prayer for myself and for my brothers and sisters at Faith Community Church is that we will discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness for HIS glory and HIS alone. Amen.

 

Tina Bush

Posted in: Bible study, Book Review, Christian Living

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Family Worship

By Deanna Hanson

Family worship has been so helpful for our family. It has changed as our kids have grown. It has also changed as their spiritual walk with God has grown. We go through seasons where everyone is engaged in it and excited for it to start and seasons where a few kids have groaned when it was time to start. Each family can alter their family worship to what works best for their family. I am excited to share a few resources we have tried over the years and hope to help those who have been wanting to start a consistent worship time, but wasn’t sure where to start.

My husband John read Don Whitney’s book, Family Worship, to get some ideas before our family started years ago. It was very helpful and does a great job explaining the historical and biblical foundations of family worship. In chapter three, he advocates three practices that should play a part in family worship: reading the Bible, praying, and singing. He also provides some additional suggestions to be used only if time permits: catechizing, memorizing Scripture, and reading other books. At the conclusion of the chapter, he encourages readers to remember to keep it short, do it regularly, and be flexible.

We followed Whitney’s example. When our kids were younger, we would read shorter chapters of the Bible at a time, or sometimes only a few verses a night, pray and sing hymns.  As they got older, we began introducing different missionary biographies by Janet and Geoff Benge in addition to our Bible reading, prayer, and songs.  We would read one biography at a time, reading one chapter per night. If your kids are readers, you can rotate through your family and have each child read aloud that week. These biographies are short and so hard to put down. They are wonderful! We also started adding Global Missions to our worship time. We would spend the month praying for one specific country and use the book Operation World by Jason Mandryk for prayer ideas. This book is an excellent resource because it gives you an alphabetized list of countries around the world as well as information about people group, geographic, economic, and political information for each country you are praying for. Our kids got excited to learn more about each country we prayed for.  Here are a few other resources we recommend to adding to your family worship time:

Do you have any other recommendations for Family Worship additions? What has worked well for your family? Please share it with us.

 Deanna Hanson is a member of FCC and helps with our website. She and her husband, John, have four children and own a small business in North Kansas City.

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Goals for 2018

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of
God”

~Christ Jesus

I am not a big fan of resolutions but I do have some goals for the New Year. One of them
is to increase my intake of Scripture. I want to utilize the technology at my fingertips and
listen to Scripture with earbuds and blue tooth speakers. And I just want to read it more.
I came across a very simple plan in which the New Testament could be read in 30 days.
Basically, if I read 8 chapters a day, I could cover the entire New Testament. That is not
an unreasonable investment of time – four chapters in the morning; four chapters in the
evening. So that will be my goal for the coming year – consuming many more spiritual
calories. As I read, I just want to listen to the Scriptures. I want to lay down my
presuppositions – and all that I think I know about the text – and read it as much as
possible like it is the first time. I want to listen to the Word of God.

1 – Matthew 1-8
2 – Matthew 9-15
3 – Matthew 16-23
4 – Matthew 24-28
5 – Mark 1-7
6 – Mark 8-13
7 – Mark 14 – Luke 2
8 – Luke 3-8
9 – Luke 9-13
10 – Luke 14-21
11 – Luke 22 – John 2
12 – John 3-8
13 – John 9-15
14 – John 16 – Acts 1
15 – Acts 2-8
16 – Acts 9-15
17 – Acts 16-21
18 – Acts 22 – Romans 1
19 – Romans 2-10
20 – Romans 11- 1 Corinthians 6
21 – 1 Corinthians 7-15
22 – 1 Corinthians 16 – 2 Corinthians 12
23 – 2 Corinthians 13 – Ephesians 4
24 – Ephesians 5 – Colossians 4
25 – 1 Thessalonians 1 – 1 Timothy 6
26 – 2 Timothy 1 – Hebrews 6
27 – Hebrews 7 – James 2
28 – James 3 – 1 John 1
29 – 1 John 2 – Revelation 4
30 – Revelation 5-22

 

 Dr. Timothy Juhnke is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church. In addition, Tim also serves as President of Faith Christian Academy, a Classical Christian school in Kansas City. He and his wife, Lori, have four grown sons and three precious granddaughters.

Posted in: Bible study, Pastor Tim

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Our Daily Bread

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

Every morning before school my dad led us in devotions.  He always read from a little devotional booklet called Our Daily Bread.  Each day it had a few verses of Scripture usually accompanied by a brief – and sometimes interesting – story for application.  Admittedly, I probably enjoyed the stories more than anything, but looking back I am extremely thankful for those mornings.  First, it established in my mind honor for God and His word.  It also established a routine – I knew every morning what we were going to do, and my dad knew every morning what he was going to read to us.  But perhaps more importantly than anything, it modeled for me what would become a lifelong pursuit:  Daily encountering God through His word.  Our Daily Bread

One of the biggest challenges to daily Bible reading is the lack of structure and routine.  Structure and routine are the disciplines that must accompany daily Bible reading.  Establish a time that you are going to set aside for Bible reading.  Depending on your schedule it may be morning or evening; but get a time established in stone and keep it!  Secondly, I strongly encourage that you find a daily devotional that will help direct you every morning.  There are three very helpful resources that I strongly recommend.  We have a couple copies of these in our bookstore, but they can be purchased at almost any major book outlet.

I highly recommend any one of the following:

  • Strength for Today by John MacArthur.  This is an excellent devotional.  MacArthur has written a devotional for each day of the year.  There’s not a lot of fluff here.  Solid Bible teaching and application.
  • Read Through the Bible in a Year by John Kohlenberger.  This is a very inexpensive investment that will reap tremendous dividends.  Kohlenberger provides some brief background to each book.  Each day has a reading plan – that if followed for a year – will result in having read through the entire Bible in one year.  Maybe this could be your New Year resolution!
  • For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word by D.A. Carson.  In an effort to help preserve biblical thinking and living, D. A. Carson has also written thought-provoking comments and reflections regarding each day’s scriptural passages. And, most uniquely, he offers you perspective that places each reading into the larger framework of history and God’s eternal plan to deepen your understanding of his sovereignty—and the unity and power of his Word.

Posted in: Pastor Tim

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The Sinkhole Syndrome

BY DONALD S. WHITNEYsinkhole

You know the story. The man has been believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that—like most sinkholes—the problem didn’t develop overnight.

Several years ago, this man likely had a relatively consistent devotional life through which the Lord often refreshed, strengthened, and matured him. But with each passing year, his busy life became ever busier. Increasingly he saw his devotional life more as a burden—a mere obligation sometimes—than a blessing. Because of the massive doses of Bible teaching he’d heard—in addition to the knowledge gained teaching church Bible classes himself—he began to imagine that he needed less private prayer and Bible intake than when he was younger and not as spiritually mature. Besides, he had so many other God-given responsibilities that surely God would understand that he was too busy to meet with Him every day.

One small concession led to another; one plausible rationalization led to the next, until the devastating day when a tipping point was reached, and the spiritual weakness developed by too many private compromises could no longer sustain even the appearance of Christian integrity. And into the sinkhole fell his reputation, witness, ministry, and perhaps much more.

If you’re a strong young Christian, passionate about the things of God, and you find it impossible to imagine yourself coming to such a condition: beware. This situation could easily be yours in a few years. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 are an apt admonition here: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. For fifteen years I’ve been a professor of biblical spirituality. I’ve written several books and many articles related to spirituality. I speak on the subject to future ministers and missionaries on a daily basis in the seminary classroom, and in churches and conferences around the country almost every weekend. And yet I will freely admit that it’s harder for me to maintain my devotional life now than ever in my life. That’s because I’m busier now than ever. I have many more responsibilities than I had as a young man. And they all take time, time that must come from somewhere.

As the pressures of life increase and more deadlines loom, it becomes harder to maintain time for the devotional life. “Who will know if I abandon a consistent prayer life? Who can tell if I seldom turn the pages of Scripture? I know the Bible pretty well already, and I hear it a lot at church. God has given me this busy life; surely He understands.” And the erosion begins.

At the outset it’s likely that very few will know when the hidden part of your spiritual life begins crumbling. Just as imperceptible movements of water underground can carry away the earth beneath long before anyone on the surface perceives it, so the pressures of life can secretly displace the soil of our private spiritual disciplines long before the impact of their absence is visible to others. The more public parts of a Christian’s life, such as church involvement and various forms of ministry, can often continue with little observable change right up until the awful moment of collapse and the hypocrisy is revealed.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with many factors that undermine intimacy with Christ. Realize that it’s almost certain that the number of time-thieves trying to steal from your time with God will only increase as the years pass. My hope is that this article will alert you to this subtle, creeping tendency so that it won’t overtake you.

Never be deceived by the temptation to think that with the increasing spiritual maturity you expect to come with age, the less you will need to feast your soul on Christ through the Bible and prayer. What Jesus prayed in John 17:17 for all His followers—”Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”—applies to us all throughout our lives.

Jesus practiced what He prayed for us. While Jesus is infinitely more than our example, nevertheless He is also our example of sanctified living, of living coram deo. The Bible tells us (in Luke 4:16) that Jesus regularly attended when God’s people assembled to hear the Scriptures, and also that He would get alone to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23). Jesus’ followers need both the sustaining grace that comes through the public worship of God as well as that which comes to us when we meet with Him individually.

I don’t want to minimize the role of the church in preventing spiritual shipwreck in the life of the believer. In this piece, however, I am writing to warn those who will increasingly be tempted to think that frequently meeting God with others can compensate for seldom meeting with Him alone.

There are seasons of life when our devotional habits may be providentially altered. But the general rule is that those reconciled to God through the cross of His Son need conscious, personal communion with Him every day until the day they see Him face to face. And the ordinary means by which He gives it is through the personal spiritual disciplines found in Scripture, chief of which are the intake of the Word of God and prayer.

Pursue the Lord with a relentless, lifelong, obstacle-defying passion. Resolve never let your daily life keep you from Jesus daily.

Donald S. Whitney is Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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