Five Practices For Freeing Your Time With God

I do not remember who first told me I needed to have a "quiet time" each day to be with God.  It was a great piece of advice and the worst.   Within many of the circles of Christians I was with, your "quiet time" became a litmus of faithfulness.  I find it funny (and sad) how people who are so literal about the Bible and condemn others (I’ve had people argue that "prevenient" grace isn’t a word in the Bible so it can’t be used and of course neither is the word trinity) will talk about having said “quiet times” though that word or phrase isn’t found anywhere in the Bible nor is there a rule for what a “quiet time” should look like.

Still, the concept is a Biblical one (just like prevenient grace and the trinity): going apart to be with God and returning to others to live out your faith.  It has had different names through the years and there are numerous ways to go about the practice.  But often there are some unspoken concerns or wonderings people have regarding spending time with God alone.  I want to share five of the things which seem to “stump” people in their spiritual formation practice of “quiet times.”  I have no doubt there are others and I could write more on each but for now, we’ll go with these starting with…

1.  One size does not fit all.   
In the opening of his book, Sacred Pathways,Gary Thomas writes these profound words of wisdom.  “Expecting all Christians to have a certain type of quiet time can wreak havoc in a church or small group.  Excited about meaningful (to us) approaches to the Christian life, we sometimes assume that if others do not experience the same thing, something must be wrong with their faith (17).”
While we should listen to wisdom from pastors and spiritual guides, it is ultimately important to be YOU when you’re with God.  Do the things you enjoy and where you feel God’s pleasure.  When I exercise, I am the opposite of "Chariots of Fire," I don’t feel God’s pleasure when I run, I hear God say, “STOP!  That looks like it hurts!”  So I walk, hike, ride or swim.  In much the same way, with your time with God, find the practices which fit you.

2.  When a devotional book stops “speaking” to you, put it on the shelf.
            It is hard to put down a book which has been helpful to you on your faith journey.  You may even feel a bit guilty.  I’m not saying throw it away, just put it on the shelf.  Come back to it later.  Books of the Bible may be the same.  When I don’t think I’m getting anything from God, I go back to read Psalms or Proverbs in the Old Testament and Mark’s Gospel or James in the New Testament.  I have David Hazard’s “Rekindle the Fire” series of 40 Day devotions taken frommany of the great Christian mystics.  Take the hint from your feelings and begin something new.

3.  Every day is different.
            I have kids.  Every day is different but heck, even before then I learned the simple reality of life that nothing stays the same.  We’re not living in the movie Groundhog Day (even if it may feel that way).  Our time with God will be impacted by how we feel, our family or our work routines.  When I have had the flu or some other nasty cold bug, I’m not interested in talking with anybody and God gets included.  God understands this.  Let the ideal go. 

4.  Grow up =  “Be the Christian you have become.”
            One of my youth pastors, Bob Swan, said those words one day in a Bible study and I never forgot it.  I don’t read the same devotionals I did when I was a teen or in college.  I have changed and the change is reflected in my life.  The point of the “quiet-time” isn’t for us to have feel-good time with God but to begin to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ – to have the mind of Christ.  Paul reminds us…
…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.  (1 Cor 2:14-16 (NKJV)

5.  Be a person of one book.
            John Wesley wrote, “I am a spirit come from God and returning to God… I want to know one thing. the way to heaven… God Himself has condescended to teach me the way… He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to Heaven.”
            Again and again, throughout his many writings, Wesley is in line with Judeo-Christianity that “The Book” contains all knowledge which we need for salvation, all we need to grow with God.  When we come to have time with God, the Bible remains the source book.  We may read different devotion books and use various prayers but consistently, for the Christian, we have the Bible as our source book for knowing God and being known by God.

May I Ask?  What have you found most helpful in these 5 practices?  What have you learned from your own experience?

May I Suggest?  Print this out and keep it nearby where you have your time with God or in your journal.  Remind yourself you are unique and so is your relationship with God.


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