Devotions: What’s the Outcome?

Note: I apologize for how quiet it’s been on my blog the last couple of weeks. Life happens sometimes. Amiright? Updates to come… 

Bible with glasses

One of my favourite topics to write and speak about is something I used to struggle with for years and, I suspect is a common issue: my quiet time with God or, to put it another way, my devotional life.

You may be a new Christian who needs to learn how to develop a devotional life. Or maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while but your quiet times are dead in the water and need resuscitation. Maybe they’re just irregular and haphazard and you need some renewal. You may be very disciplined in your devotional life but feeling like you need a new spark, a bit of a turbo boost to take your quiet times to the next level.

Let’s look at why quiet time with God is essential to our spiritual growth:

  • Jesus demonstrated and talked about a devotional life. (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 21:37, Luke 5:16)
  • It is our primary source of spiritual nourishment and growth. (Psalm 1:1-3)
  • It protects us from sin and strengthens us in times of crisis and temptation. (Matthew 26:40-41, Psalm 119:11)
  • It guides us in our everyday lives and in long-term decisions. (John 10:27)
  • It results in fruitfulness. (John 15:4, 7)
  • It plugs us into God, our source of power. (John 7:37-38)

The first step to reviving our quiet times is to acknowledge that something is missing in our encounters with God and His Word. Then we must reconsider the value of the Bible in our lives (see Psalm 119:50) and start relating to it the way Jesus did. He knew Scripture intimately and used His knowledge to teach others. Jesus also lived Scripture and walked in fulfilment of God’s Word.

It’s important to remember that the Bible is not just a story—it’s your story. It explains your origins, your value, your redemption, your call and your future. When you can recapture that sense that God’s Word is living, breathing  and life-changing, you can begin to connect with Him in a new and exciting way.

Remember to focus on the outcome of your quiet times and not on the activity itself. Your goal shouldn’t be about how many chapters you read or how long you pray, but about really connecting with God and becoming more like Him.

Ann-Margret 

If you would like to read more about how to effectively engage with God’s Word, you can find my articles on the American Bible Society Bible Engager’s Blog here.

 

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The Humble Branch

I love this old saying:

“It is the laden bough that hangs low, and the most fruitful Christian who is the most humble.”

In other words, the more fruit a tree branch has on it, the lower it will bend toward the ground from the weight of the fruit. Similarly, when the fruit of the Spirit grows in our lives, it should make us humble.

Naturally, as you grow in Christ, you may begin to recognize in yourself some of the characteristics described in Galatians 5:22-23a—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” In fact, you should see these traits in your life, as should those around you.

What we all need to guard ourselves from is the temptation to compare ourselves to others: “Hmm, she’s really impatient and rude. She’s not a very good Christian! And he has absolutely no self-control. God should discipline him. And that whole family is so miserable all the time—how ungrateful!”

If the good that people see in our lives doesn’t come from a humble heart that recognizes it has nothing to offer except what God Himself puts there, then it’s not genuine. It’s like taking a hot glue gun and attaching store-bought plastic pears and apples to a tree. Deceivingly attractive perhaps (though sometimes very obviously fake), but horrible—if not dangerous—to eat!

You know what makes a low-bending branch full of fruit so wonderful? Its fruit can nourish and delight those who come across it! What would be the point of being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled… if it didn’t benefit and bless the people around you?

I’ve always found it curious that humility isn’t listed among the fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps this concept of the “laden bough” has something to do with it. We can be intentional about developing the nine characteristics Paul listed in Galatians. However, I’m not sure we can make an intellectual decision to be humble. That must come as a result of maturing, of being so unwaveringly connected to Christ that we produce spiritual fruit as easily as we breathe.

At that point, I believe, we truly understand that the “fruit of Ann” or “fruit of Jimmy” or “fruit of Jane” is useless and undesirable, but the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit living in us is what really transforms lives. The humility must then come naturally—unrehearsed, unplanned and without any conceit.

May God bless you fruitful branches this summer!

Ann-Margret Hovsepian

P.S. A shorter version of this devotion is found in my colouring book Restore My Soul. Check it out!

 

Saturday Round-up

Here are some of my favourite things from the past week or so:

Flip Flop Art – This video is only 60 seconds long but that’s all you need to be inspired by the creativity of this wonderful project. It’s great for the environment, it’s great for those it employs and it’s just plain COOL!

APPLE PIE TACOS! Okay, so I haven’t tried this recipe yet but how delicious do these look? I would love one right now! If you try them before I do, please come back and let me know how they turned out.

You’ve got to see this video of a Nigerian street evangelist with inspiring courage and an obvious burden for telling people about Jesus. Let’s pray for this man’s ministry, and that we would have that kind of commitment! (Note: I can’t seem to find this video outside of Facebook, so I apologize to those of you who aren’t signed up.)

An interview I did for Christian Creative Nexus. Just a wee way to get to know me a little better. 🙂

And, finally, here’s a little funny to send you off you with:

They had been up in the attic together doing some cleaning. The kids uncovered an old manual typewriter and asked her, “Hey Mom…what’s this?”

“Oh…that’s an old typewriter,” she answered, thinking that would satisfy their curiosity.

“Well what does it do?” they asked.

“I’ll show you,” she said and returned with a blank piece of paper. She rolled the paper into the typewriter and began striking the keys, leaving black letters of print on the page.

“WOW!” they exclaimed, “that’s really cool…but how does it work like that? Where do you plug it in?”

“There is no plug,” she answered. “It doesn’t need a plug.”

“Then where do you put the batteries?” they persisted.

“It doesn’t need batteries either,” she continued.

“Wow! This is so cool!” they exclaimed. “Someone should have invented this a long time ago!”

Uh, yeah. 🙂 Have a lovely Saturday!

Ann-Margret

Is Christ at Home in Your Heart?

 

MHCHNearly 70 years ago, Robert Boyd Munger wrote a challenging meditation about Christian discipleship called My Heart, Christ’s Home (click on the title or image to open the full text, which is only six pages long) and it is estimated that more than 10 million have read this book. I read it for the first time about 15 years ago and it had a great impact on my life.

Imagine Jesus coming to the home of your heart when you receive Him as your Saviour. As He moves from room to room, what does He see? In the library, are you embarrassed to let Him see what is on the shelves?

In the dining room, what’s on the menu? What appetites do you try to satisfy there? Do you allow Christ to replace your secular fare with His soul-satisfying food and drink?

In the workroom, does He find that you are using your gifts and talents for His glory or are your tools rusting and collecting dust?

Do you even allow Him into the rec room where you go for fun and leisure activities? Is it a place you would feel comfortable inviting Him to hang out with you?

What about the bedroom? Are your relationships pure and godly? Will you consider His guidelines, keeping in mind that He gives them out of His love for you and not to stifle you?

Is there anything rotting in your hall closet that you’ve hidden away? Will you let Him clean it out?

The living room is the ideal place to meet with Him for fellowship. But do you visit with Him regularly, talking and sharing or does He sit there waiting for you to make some time for Him?

I love Munger’s interpretation of what Jesus might say:

“The trouble is that you have been thinking of the quiet time of Bible study and prayer as a means for your own spiritual growth. This is true, but you have forgotten that this time means something to me also. Remember, I love you. At a great cost I have redeemed you. I value your fellowship. Just to have you look up into my face warms my heart. Don’t neglect this hour if only for my sake. Whether or not you want to be with me, remember I want to be with you. I really love you!”

Jesus may be your Saviour—but have you truly made Him Lord of your life, of your heart…His home?

Ann-Margret 

 

It’s my birthday!

I’m 46 today. Gasp! 🙂

Instead of the usual Saturday round-up, I’m simply going to share this today:

Begin at once; before you venture away from this quiet moment, ask your King to take you wholly into His service, and place all the hours of this day quite simply at His disposal, and ask him to make and keep you ready to do just exactly what He appoints. Never mind about tomorrow; one day at a time is enough. Try it today, and see if it is not a day of strange, almost curious peace, so sweet that you will be only too thankful when tomorrow comes to ask Him to take it also. – Francis Ridley Havergal

Rending and Mending

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA common joke among quilters is that we take perfectly good fabric, cut it up, and then sew it back together again. Yet, as much as quilters often cringe at the thought of ripping into beautiful fabric, we can take that bold step because we know that final project—a mosaic of many pieces of torn and cut material—is far more valuable than the original “whole.” And the wonderful thing about a quilt is that not only is the final product a treasure, but each patchwork piece is special and necessary.

Although “The Teacher” stated in Ecclesiastes 3:7 that there is “…a time to tear and a time to mend,” he probably wasn’t literally referring to quilting or sewing—there are other analogies we could use to describe separation and union—but he knew that everything on this finite planet has its time and place.

If we take the verse literally, we might think of times we acknowledged a worn-out bed sheet had served its purpose and then ripped it into squares to use as rags. Perhaps we’ve had to let out a skirt that mysteriously shrank while we weren’t paying attention. At other times we may have had to mend socks, repair a fallen hem or sewn an entire project. How many of us have ripped up old love letters or shredded confidential documents? Or rushed to the hospital for stitches after getting a bad cut? At one point or another, we’ve all decided to take something apart or to fix something (or have it fixed by someone else).

Similar to the vows marrying couples make to each other, the opposites listed in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 remind us that real life brings change and we must be ready for both good and bad. Who doesn’t dream of a life with no pain, no messiness, no fear? It would be much easier if the good things in our lives remained intact—our health, finances, relationships, favourite possessions. We can look forward to such blissful existence in heaven but, for now, we must accept the tearing and mending that happens on a regular basis.

When we find ourselves in circumstances where pain and blessings come at the same time, or when we must make a choice between two good opportunities or two people we love, it’s easy to feel torn. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid every situation that involves tearing. There are times we must let it happen, trusting God to give us the strength we need to endure the pain, believing that after the rending comes the mending. What is torn may not necessarily be put back together, but our hearts can be healed.

Ann-Margret

 

Saturday Round-up

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

I’m thankful for the wise people in my life and can only hope and pray that some of their wisdom is rubbing off on me. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of it with you.

Jocelyn Green, a beloved friend who is also a beloved author, recently posted this caution on Facebook:

I just read a meme on Twitter that really has me scratching my head. It’s a quote from a book that says, “I can’t think of a single time where Jesus held someone accountable. He just held people closely.” Can we think about this for a second? Can we be discerning?

First, I understand that the idea is that we are to love our neighbors. That is a truth that cannot be denied. (See Matthew 22:36-40.) Jesus says love, so we should.

But let’s look at the first sentence in the quote. Not a single time where Jesus held someone accountable? The definition of “accountable” is responsible or answerable, or subject to the obligation to report, justify, or explain something. Check out Matthew 23 to see how Jesus holds the Pharisees accountable for their actions and hypocrisy. Matthew 25:31-46 clearly shows how we are all accountable for our decisions, and the consequences are eternal. In John 8, people are getting ready to stone an adulterous woman, and Jesus tells them to only throw a stone if they have never sinned. Isn’t that holding them accountable/responsible? At the end of that story, he pours grace over the woman, but ends with “Go and sin no more.” Again, he’s giving her the responsibility to make better choices. The book of Revelation contains letters to churches, holding them accountable for what they did or didn’t do. There are more examples, but I’ll stop there.

I’m sharing this as an example that we all need to be discerning when reading memes and hearing sound bytes and listening to famous people. I’m an author so it’s no secret that I love books. But we should be holding up those books to the Truth of God’s Word. We don’t get to decide what Jesus did and didn’t say. It is written.

Amen to that!

Here’s some more great advice from another author friend, Jackie Johnson: Feeling Lonely? Isolated? 5 Essential Life Connections

Just for Fun

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Something I came across on someone’s blog several years ago:

“Today, whilst I was driving, a speed camera flashed me. I was not over the speed limit, so I turned around and went past it again even slower, again it flashed me. Confused I did again, it flashed. Finding this funny, I drove past again at snail’s pace. Only later receiving four fines for no seat belt.”

Oy vey!

Have a great weekend! 🙂

Ann-Margret

 

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