Tag Archives: devotions

The all important morning watch

Next to receiving Christ as Savior, and claiming the filling of the Holy Spirit, we know of no act attended with larger good to ourselves or others than the formation of an undiscourageable resolution to keep the morning watch and spend the first half hour of the day alone with God.
~ John Mott

I read these words during my devotion time this morning and was struck by their truthfulness.   I can testify that the greatest blessing or hindrance to my spiritual well being rests on how and with whom I spend the first moments of each day.

I can also testify that this truth is the easiest for the enemy of our soul to minimize, distort and steal.   If you are like me you have probably had that internal dialogue that says things like this:

I just don’t have time.

I’m not a morning person.

I will make up for the time I missed today, tomorrow.

I don’t feel like it.  I’ll do it when I feel like it.

I don’t know how to spend time alone with God.  It feels forced or fake.

All of these are excuses manufactured not from the Spirit of God but by the enemy who knows that if he can distract us from the first part of the day, he can have the whole day.

One of the things I have to guard against is the lie that I can bank up grace and spiritual fortitude.  I have thought at various times in my Christian walk that since I spent an hour with Jesus yesterday morning, and since I’m too busy this morning, I can coast.

But trying to stockpile grace when it’s convenient for me to do so, and expecting it to sustain me for the days ahead while I’m too busy works as well as collecting multiple days worth of manna worked for the Hebrew people seeking the Promised Land (see Exodus 16).

Why?  I am convinced it is because the One who created me and you knows better than we that with each setting and rising of the sun we must acknowledge our desperate need to abide in Christ today.   Apart from me, Jesus said, we can do nothing (John 15:5).   When I think that yesterday’s grace is sufficient for me today I presume upon the gracious gift of God, using it in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

When I wake up and tend to a thousand other perceived needs besides spending time alone with God I am saying I have the power to manipulate yesterday’s manna to be good for today.  I am taking control of a gift that was never mine to begin with.

The quote above from John Mott reminded me of a few key things.    First, keeping a morning watch is an act of will, not emotion.   There must be an “undiscourageable resolution” to make the first part of our day the Lord’s part.   There will be plenty of times where we will not feel like it.  There will be plenty of times where other things, even good things, lobby for our time.    But if it is true that apart from Christ I can do nothing, than even these good things must wait until I have spent sufficient time alone with God today.

Second, this undiscourageable resolution is formed, not innate.   It will go against our nature to lay aside a morning watch with God.   It doesn’t come naturally to any of us.   Hopefully you can receive this as good news!  You aren’t a terrible person because you don’t feel like spending time with God this morning.   What is true, however, is that you are human and acting and feeling precisely the way God’s word says you will.   The will to spend time alone with God is something that must be formed in each and every one of us.   No human since sin entered the world has desired this naturally but every great man and woman of God who experiences the fullness and richness of God’s grace each day have been formed into such people over time.   You can be, too.

Finally, it’s of the greatest good to ourselves and others.  Our Father in Heaven who created the days, who proclaims that His mercies are new every morning, knows His children can’t experience the abundant life nor have the capacity to love others well if we don’t first rest in Him.   The greatest gift I can give to those I love, who may be demanding of my time and resources, is to rise early enough to spend time with my Creator and soak in His mercy.

During my time at Pure Life Ministries the first task I was given was to spend the first 20 minutes of each morning with God.  Ten minutes reading scripture and 10 minutes in prayer.   Over time that was increased bit by bit.    A year later those 20 minutes blossomed into 90 minutes of the most precious time of my day.   It is without question the habit formed which is most essential to my well being and my ability to love others well.  When I neglect this, I, and those I love, suffer.  Leaders at Pure Life tell me that the number one cause of relapse is when people minimize this morning time with God and begin to think yesterday’s grace will carry over today.   Setting a time aside to be with God each morning is as essential to our recovery as breathing is essential to life.

I want to encourage you today to determine to begin being formed in new ways.   Resolve to set a morning watch and then taste and see how God honors this with not only a greater capacity to love and be loved, but also changes your desires.    Please feel free to share with me how God shows up in your life over the upcoming weeks and months!

How Psalm 119 Saved My Life (and can do the same for you)

To those who desire to distance themselves from a life of bondage to habitual sin, who cannot seem to muster up enough faith to make it through the day (let alone move a mountain), and/or have lost or never had an abiding love for God’s word nor the discipline of reading it much and often, I offer the following discipline which, by the grace and power of God, helped to save my life (and can do the same for you, too).

My counselor at Pure Life gave me an exercise to do which I thought very little of at first.   He told me to read a portion of Psalm 119 every night for the entire time I was there (7 months).   Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  It is broken down into 22 stanzas, each one a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.   My task was to read 3 stanzas a night and 4 on the 7th night.   This would mean I’d read through the entire Psalm in a week.

But I was to do more than just read.   I was to take note of the verses that didn’t describe me at present and pray that the Lord would make that true of me.    Let me give you an example…

Verse one reads (yes, at that time it didn’t take long to find something that didn’t describe me!),

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

My way was anything but blameless and I knew I did not walk in the law of the Lord.   I continually gave over to my flesh, feasting on whatever my eyes desired, and as a result my life was anything but “blessed.”   I was heading towards divorce, estranged from my 5 children, jobless and homeless.   Not blessed!

So, when I read this first verse and recognized this was not me, I prayed,

Lord, my way is anything but blameless and I have walked my own path for far too long.   Help me!   I want to be blameless in your sight.  Make me know and walk in your ways!

psalm 119_1

 

Verse 7 reads,

I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.

Oh how I wanted to praise God with an upright heart!   For years I would stand in church whether as a spectator or a pastor and could not praise God with integrity.   How many times I would hoist up some shallow prayer of confession just before church, promising I’d not look at porn again (knowing I would at the first opportunity on Monday), just so I could appease my guilty conscious for an hour, further deluding myself that my praise was acceptable and pleasing to God.     Dear God, I prayed, teach me your righteous rules!   I want an upright heart!

On and on this inspired Psalm goes, with verse after verse which did not describe me as I was but as I hoped to one day be.    Over the weeks and months I began to see how the Holy Spirit was using these holy words to change me from the inside out.    I began to rejoice as I read these same words which weeks before condemned me.    What a joy it was to cry out to God in praise, “Yes!  Because of You I have an upright heart!   I can praise you with integrity!  I am truly blessed!   Your law is sweet and good, it is a light for my feet!   Your word keeps my way pure!”

Psalm 119 is about falling in love with God’s word.   It testifies to the power and authority of the words of God to change a heart from being consumed with self to becoming consumed with the Word.   Do you believe that God desires to make you new?   He will use his Word to accomplish this task.   Trust it!

If you are struggling with some habitual sin in your life, or find yourself less-than-passionate about reading God’s word, I challenge you to read/pray through Psalm 119 once a week for the next 6 months.   The person who comes to this inspired text with hands open and head bowed will not be disappointed.    You will be blessed.   God promises to do it!