Top Priority

Last week, in bible study, we were discussing the days leading up to the day of Pentecost, in the first chapter of Acts. We talked about how God took a group of ordinary people and brought them to a new level with Him, based on their obedience, unity, and prayer.

Somewhere during the discussion, we began sharing about how sometimes it’s so difficult to set aside time to build our personal relationship with God. For many of us there were periods in our lives where we had all the time in the world to study the Word, pray, or worship. It may have been a time when we were without a job, or as we sat beside a sick or dying loved one, or when we were simply at the end of our rope and had hit rock bottom, and the only way up was to cling to the hope found in Christ. But then there are periods in our life when we are overwhelmingly busy with family, jobs, community service & outreach opportunities, church–the list seems to never end–and our relationship with the Lord takes the back burner.

However, we must remember that we need God’s presence in every season of our life, not just the most difficult. Ironically enough, just like Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, when we feel at our weakest and turn to Christ for strength, is when we are truly strong, and when we feel strongest and try to make it without Him, we’re actually at our weakest! The Israelites were notorious for forgetting the blessings and promises of God during the good times in their lives and neglecting their worship and obedience to Him; thus causing them to eventually lose those very blessings and promised land.

As is often pointed out during these types of discussions, someone brought up the fact that we can approach God in prayer during any moment of the day. This is aligning with Scripture; I mean, the Bible actually tell us to pray without ceasing, to pray continually in the Spirit, and to pray persistently and on every occasion (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). But I also like to point out that Jesus Himself, often stole away from the busy-ness of His ministry to spend alone time with His Father (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12).

The truth is, when we desire to strengthen a relationship with someone we spend quality time with them. We participate in activities together, we communicate, we make time for one another; we try to learn as much as we can about one another. Sure, we can do that surrounded by others, but is our undivided attention upon the other individual? Or are we distracted by the television, the other cars on the road, the next activity or responsibility on our to-do list? As a newly married individual, I know that with two jobs, community service & outreach activities, and church, I may see and talk with my husband every day, but I know it’s not the same thing as spending quality time with him. Because I love him and want to continually develop and strengthen our marriage we still schedule “date nights.” We schedule that time because it’s important to us and important to our marriage.

wp-image-862409418jpg.jpgLikewise, when our time and attention are pulled in multiple directions and we’re not spending the quality time we need with our heavenly Father, no matter how many things we try to do or accomplish, we’re never going to get to the place where God can really use us the way He desires to use us. It’s just like we discussed before in Blemished Sacrifices about giving God our best, our first-fruits, instead of offering Him the leftovers. If we can schedule date nights, doctor’s appointments, coffee dates with our friends, mommy-and-me play dates, time to workout in the gym, or any other activity we deem important, then we can most certainly schedule quality personal time in the Word, prayer, and worship. If we call ourselves believers and we profess that Jesus is Lord of our life and that He comes first and foremost in our lives, then this is most certainly something we can, should, and desire to do.

HOW…

Now let’s get practical and discuss how we can do this. Some people are morning people. They have no trouble getting up early in the mornings to set aside time for prayer and the Word. I’m a morning person, but I still have trouble getting up earlier than I need to; in a perfect world I would study the Word between the hours of 9-11. But obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world, and I’m at work during these hours. Since I recently took on a second job, I now keep a written schedule that helps keep me on track and helps me manage my time better so that I can accomplish all my goals, rather than having time manage me.

Let me tell you, this has been one of the best decisions ever! Try it! Spend 30 minutes of your morning planning out your day. How long does it take you to get ready? When do you eat lunch? How long do you spend commuting? When do you eat lunch? Cook dinner? Go grocery shopping? Planning out your day is a lot like creating a financial budget; you only have so many hours in a day and you want to spend each of them wisely. Ever since I’ve started this I feel like I get so much more accomplished. You never realize how much time is wasted surfing the internet, watching TV or YouTube, or playing games until you give an account for each moment of your day.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I don’t have fun or time to relax. Even with a schedule, sometimes I still find a few free moments to scroll through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And there are still days when I keep part of my schedule clear so that I don’t always feel so hurried. Lastly, I think even when we have a schedule, we still have to maintain some level of flexibility. Sometimes something just comes up. Plans have to be rearranged, or changed, altogether; but this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

Some days I choose to use my 30 minute lunch break as my time to search the Word, while other days I get to spend 45 minutes of delicious time in His presence. But it’s only because I make it a priority. If we want to spend time in His presence, we must prioritize our time; because if we don’t, all the other activities of the day will consume us, and we will have nothing left to offer Him, but our leftovers.

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A Quiet Place

Yesterday, I woke up feeling ill. I ended up calling out sick for work and didn’t get out of bed until 10:30.

This seems to happen every so often–I later noted to Wilfredo, my husband–that I think that my body often knows what I need sooner than my mind or heart…but I needed some quiet time. I needed time alone to clean the house, relax, and reflect on what God’s been doing in my life through prayer (I love praying aloud during my quiet time).

In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been covering 1 & 2 Samuel, and we’ve been discussing 2 Samuel 5 which takes place after Saul & his sons have been killed in battle, and David has become king. After running from Saul for so long, here, David comes face-to-face with a new enemy–the Philistines–the same army that just wiped out Saul’s family. It’s so interesting to me that the first thing David does when he’s threatened, is return to the place where he’d spent so much of his time seeking the Lord, crying out to Him in anguish, questioning, and praising Him, when Saul was hunting him down: his quiet place, his stronghold in the mountains. (Even more interesting are the words David often uses to describe the Lord: Rock, Fortress, Refuge, and Stronghold…Kind of sounds like a mountain to me. 😉 Just something else to think about; perhaps a discussion for another time.)IMG_3489 (2)

David’s a prime example of what God desires from us at all times. He desires that we go to our secret, quiet place, wherever that may be, and seek Him first; but not only in moments like these, when the enemy is knocking at our door, but in the mundane of everyday life! To just talk to Him about our day, to reveal our fears and worries, to ask Him to walk with us through the changes and growth processes in our marriages/relationships, as parents, in our careers and school, and to take us further and beyond what we could ever expect to do on our own, especially in areas of ministry and sharing the gospel–which we’re ALL called to do as believers. So don’t delay…find your quiet place.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress [on the mountain] and my rescuer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge,
My Savior—You save me from violence.
 “I call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
“For the waves of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction overwhelmed and terrified me.
“The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
I cried out to my God,
And from His temple [in the heavens] He heard my voice;
My cry for help came into His ears.
“Then the earth shook and quaked,
The foundations of the heavens trembled
And were shaken, because He was angry.
“Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
“He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
“He rode on a cherub and flew;
He appeared upon the wings of the wind.
“He made darkness canopies around Him,
A mass of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
“Out of the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were set aflame.
“The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
“He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning, and confused them. 
“The channels of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
“He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of great waters.
“He rescued me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
“They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
“He also brought me out to an open place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me.
“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not acted wickedly against my God.
“For all His judgments (legal decisions) were before me,
And from His statutes I did not turn aside.
“I was also blameless before Him,
And kept myself from wrongdoing.
“Therefore the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His sight.
“With the loving and loyal You show Yourself loving and loyal,
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless.
“With the pure You show Yourself pure,
With the perverted You show Yourself astute.
“And You save the afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase (humiliate). 
“For You, O Lord, are my lamp;
The Lord illumines and dispels my darkness. 
“For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
“As for God, His way is blameless and perfect;
The word of the Lord is tested.
He is a shield to all those who take refuge and trust in Him.
“For who is God, besides the Lord?
And who is a rock, besides our God?
“God is my strong fortress;
He sets the blameless in His way.
“He makes my feet like the doe’s feet [firm and swift];
He sets me [secure and confident] on my high places.
“He trains my hands for war,
So that my arms can bend (pull back) a bow of bronze.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help and gentleness make me great.
“You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.
“I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
And I did not turn back until they were consumed (eliminated).
“I consumed them and shattered them, so that they did not rise;
They fell under my feet.
“For You have surrounded me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who stood against me.
“You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me [in retreat],
And I destroyed those who hated me.
“They looked, but there was no savior for them
Even to the Lord [they looked], but He did not answer them.
“Then I beat them as [small as] the dust of the earth;
I crushed and stamped them as the mire (dirt, mud) of the streets.
“You also have rescued me from strife with my [own] people;
You have kept me as the head of the nations.
People whom I have not known served me.
“Foreigners pretend obedience to me;
As soon as they hear [me], they obey me.
“Foreigners lose heart;
They come trembling out of their strongholds.
“The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
And exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation. 
“It is God who executes vengeance for me,
And brings down [and disciplines] the peoples under me,
Who also brings me out from my enemies.
You even lift me above those who rise up against me;
You rescue me from the violent man.
“For this I will give thanks and praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing praises to Your name.
“He is a tower of salvation and great deliverance to His king,
And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
To David and his offspring forever.”

2 Samuel 22:2-51, AMP