Get up early to pray, listen to the Lord, and interact with His Word. Psalm 63 speaks of seeking the Lord early in the day with a thirst for Him, like a parched land yearning for rain. Isaiah 29 says I have desired you in the night and with my spirit within me I will seek you early. The psalmist again declares, “Oh Lord, in the morning, will I direct my prayer to thee and will look up.” Psalm 5
I am not a morning person. If that’s your excuse too, get over it. You are about to go on a trip, the journey of the day is full of the unknown, all you can really control is how you start, and it’s always best to start a trip with a full tank! If you already get up early, or have little ones who wake with the roosters, get up before the roosters. If you go to bed late because the only time you get to yourself or with your spouse is after the business of the day, great, God bless you - He will also give you the grace to get up an hour or so before you need to in order to spend time with Him.
What do I do in the morning besides guzzle coffee and try to read a couple verses? You listen, you still your heart. It is only in stillness, quietness and gentleness that you hear the Lord speak. His is a still, small voice. If you can’t stay awake to read (I can relate) listen to audio of the Bible. When you pray, don’t use many words. The bible says that where there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise (see proverbs 10) spend your time in let the text apply to your life and spend time in repentance and worship. It should be easy for Christians to repent, but we have the notion that it is something we did at one time for everything. On the contrary, a spirit of repentance should be near to us at all times. Like keeping a dog on a short leash, when he looks to the left or to the right to get into something he shouldn’t, you give the leash a little tug - that is the Lord nudging you, His servant, to correct your course. ‘Yes, Lord, forgive me, thank you!”
Read something that will minister to your heart and stretch you. I like to read old stuff. My favorite time of church history is the 3rd through 7th centuries. The days of the ascetic monks and early church fathers - wow! Now those guys walked with Jesus! I learn from them things that I’ve never heard from a contemporary pulpit. Try it some time.
Spend time fasting. During the season of Lent, which includes forty days of fasting leading up to the commemoration of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Most of us don’t really prepare for Easter, other than planning special services and meals. Ancient Christians set aside over a month to prepare their hearts to follow Christ, to die to self, be buried with Him, and then to rise in the power of His resurrection. Not literally, of course, but what an amazing annual reminder of what we need to be doing regularly! Fasting helps you deny yourself. If you are selfish or just dwell on yourself and your job, your education, your happiness, your…. me, me, me, me - fast and pray. Jesus said, “When you fast…” he didn’t say ‘if’, he said ‘when’ - fasting isn’t an option for the believer, it is the pathway to victory over your selfish desires. And it’s not just the denial of food for the body, but in outwardly serving people - giving beyond yourself (see Isaiah 58). Doing good things for people in need, feeding the hungry, clothing the needy. It’s the difference between the sheep and the goats (Mt.25) and one of the virtues of fasting.
Be humble and do not judge. Humility is the mother of all virtues. Being able to silence the loud voice of pride and honor others above yourself is the beginning of a walk of true joy and richness with the Lord. Humility is perfected in love and expressed in forgiveness. We size people up and judge them so quickly, sometimes by the way they act or words they use or even the way they drive. But it is not our place. Picture this - what if everything you could see and hear, everything within your view, was taken away so that all you could see was the face of God - how would you feel before the matchless, sovereign, Lord of Lords and King of Kings? Naked? Unworthy? We are only robed because He robed us, we are only forgiven because He forgave us, we are only adopted into the kingdom of His glorious light because of His love. Standing before the face of God I can’t see anyone else, just myself, and I have nothing to say, no accomplishment, no book I wrote, no good work, only filthy rags… And what about others? From the view I have before God’s face, surely they are better than me, surely I, like Paul, am the chief of sinners - so why do I judge others so easily? Don’t do it, instead, pray for them, love them, point them to Jesus. “In so much as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” They are brothers of Christ, they are Christ before you to serve - don’t judge.
Live sacramentally. A sacrament is something ordinary that is made extraordinary by the presence and touch of God. They become holy. The bread and juice of communion become a sacrament, a holy thing, and we digest them asking Christ to be ‘metabolized’ into our flesh and blood, that we might be His ambassadors in the world. The water of baptism, is sanctified and made holy - it’s just water, but it’s not, it is a death and burial, a doorway to new life in the Kingdom of God. Marriage is another sacrament, a holy testimony of Christ’s love for the church, don’t take it for granted and don’t blow it! When you live your life in a simple, attentive, watchful way, you will find sacrament in the simplest things, a child’s laugh, a bite of home made bread, the words to a hymn, the embrace of a dear friend. And your life will take on a new dimension, an awareness of the presence of God in you, with you and all around you.
Here is where I think we get bound up. We think a lot about God, we study and reason. And we feel a lot about God, we get excited and emotionally stirred. But what if those two things, our intellectual ‘thoughts’ of God, and our emotional ‘feelings’ of God, were taken away? What would your Christian life look like? I shared a word picture with our church on Sunday. Let me share with you. Have you seen the show “Dancing With The Stars”? Most of us have. There are three judges and an appreciative studio audience watching dancers perform in pairs. The dancers are amazing, they glide and twirl and move as one, it’s really beautiful some times. But then there are the judges, the sit over there and watch. They know everything about dancing. And, they get excited about each performance, dancing inspires them! The clap and shout praise when it is done well. And, lastly, they judge the dancers. Now, bring that over to the church. We sit, we know about God, we are emotional about God, and we tend to judge. The one thing we are lacking, the one thing we should be doing instead of all the sitting, thinking, feeling and judging - is DANCING! God wants to dance with us, one on one, personal intimacy with each of us where you are safe in His embrace and He holds you close and you follow where He leads and what you see Him doing that is the very thing you do. If we are missing the dance, folks, we are missing everything.