I know the majority of you reading this title are saying, “yeah right, not possible.” Hold onto that thought and consider that I was once of the same mind set. Let’s face it. We are inundated with worldly demands that vie for our attention with diligence and tenacity. With the ever advancing technological dynamics of our day, we are lead to believe that we can recover time or at the very least use it wisely. Unfortunately, neither of these misleading paradigms are true.
We soon find that the ever expanding technological advances simply demand more work, more effort, requires more ways of communicating, which leads to increased expectation on those utilizing the technology. Let me preface this by not saying what you think I am saying. Technology is simply a tool with no inherent value aside from what we put on it. Therefore, it is neither evil nor good. It is truly in the eye of the beholder. If you spend 50%, 30%, 20% or any time of your day on a particular social media platform or video streaming service, it is not the social media platform/video streaming service, nor the internet, nor the device of your choosing at fault.
The fact is simply this, as soon as the alarm screams its ominous toll our precious time starts to fade quickly. We need to intentionally forecast time on our Creator. Therefore, before we get started on the how, it would prove useful to address the why. Although, the aforementioned address to technological advancement and its insatiable lust for our time probably gives way to some form of “why,” we will address it from the lens of Scripture.
Our world is full of “why.” If you want to experience this in all of its fruitfulness, simply allow yourself an afternoon with a toddler. All jokes aside, there are many reasons why we should want to grow closer to God. The first and most important reason is this: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, soul, and strength. In addition to the first and greatest commandment, we can look at a few verses that further support the “why.” However, by no means an exhaustive list, we can see the importance God places on growing closer to Him.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
1 Timothy 4:7
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness
While all of these verses address the “why” I want to focus on the 1 Timothy. Paul says here we are to train ourselves for godliness. That is the process of sanctification over the course of our life as God the Father continues to mold us into the image of God the Son (Jesus) by power of God the Spirit (Holy Spirit). What do we have to loose with growth in godliness (sanctification)?
Our fears, our propensity toward sin (Caveat of course I mean we will willingly choose to sin less), our shame, our guilt, our baggage, our meanness, our anger. What do we have to gain? We gain the ability to properly love, choose joy, experience true peace, maintain patience in all situations, extend kindness, overflow with goodness, keep faithfulness to God, pour out gentleness and exercise self-control. All to the glory of God, for our good by His mercy and grace. Let’s move to the “how.” How can this be accomplished in 30 minutes? Well, there are 4 things we can do each day that will help us. This is not an exhaustive list but a great start.
I know what you are thinking, “I can’t sing.” No worries, I cannot sing nor carry the proverbial tune in the 5 gallon drum; however, this practice does not mean you have to sing. The purpose is to worship the Lord in song by focusing our hearts, minds and ears to the tune of the music while simultaneously praising God. Find a station on one of the many smartphone apps that allow you to listen to music or search a web platform. I listen to older hymns not because they are inherently better than contemporary music; rather, I do so because they generally contain a lot of theological truth/doctrine in the lyrics and this helps keep me focused on God.
2. Pray the Bible
If you have never done this, you are missing out. If you have ever felt like you say the same things about the same things in prayer, this is for you. If you feel like you don’t know how to pray or what to say, this is for you. All that aside, this is for everyone. Praying the Bible is the amazing process of reading scripture, steeping it in your heart and sending it back up to God in prayer. Let me explain how it works and then give an example.
Thumb to the Psalm of the day (e.g. if It is the 10th, Psalm 10, the 25th Psalm 25 etc..) and read the first verse out loud or silently. Whatever comes to your heart or mind, simply turn it into a prayer and send it back to God. When nothing else comes to mind, read verse two and repeat praying until nothing else comes to mind and then on to verse 3 and so on. This can be done until you meet the time you have set for prayer or nothing else comes to mind. I thought when I first learned this technique that there would be no way I could ever pray for 10-15 minutes let alone 5 but once you get into this routine, time will easily pass by. Your heart will be filled with God’s word and your lips will be full of prayer.
We will use Psalm 4 as an example. – Psalm 4 Verse 1 – Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. God, I pray that you will answer me when I call to you and right now Lord I call out. Please bless my family today… Lord God you are my righteousness, thank you for being my righteousness God. Without You oh God, there is no Salvation, thank You for Your Salvation….God you relived me in my distress Lord when I was dealing with that storm or sickness or temptation… God thank you for your grace, be gracious to me and hear my prayer as I pray for so and so, and for situation and thus…. I hope you can see the potential for your prayer life in using this method. Remember whatever or whoever comes to mind, just pour out your heart to God with His words.
3. Bible Intake
This process is simply reading the Bible to yourself. A good practice is to choose a book of interest or one you have not read through and begin in chapter one. Read out loud and slowly while trying to mentally soak in the Word. This will help you get through books of the Bible and cause you to start probing the text more as what you read manifests applications and questions for your life. Remember this process is simply to read God’s word and take in what you read. It is not time to study the depth of the text.
4. Meditate on Scripture
This process is where you choose a devotional book to begin in and study the text more thoroughly. For example, if you choose the book of James, begin in chapter 1 and read a few verses. Have your journal handy so that you can focus your thoughts as you meditate on what you read. You might wish to focus on “bond-servant” in James 1:1. There are various ways to meditate on this. You can ask questions :
The main idea behind Scripture meditation is to focus deeply on the text. James says in 1:2, “Consider it … ” The word consider means to think deeply on, look at from various angles, meditate on, concern yourself with. Simply put, we should consider the text as we read it. Scripture meditation is a great way to increase our understanding of the text as well as draw out application. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive but a small starting point for us to intentionally grow closer to our Creator using a Biblical method. Furthermore, this process is flexible which means if you only have 10-15 minutes a day, great! Start there and slice up the 4 activities in a way that works for you.
I know it is tough to schedule more things in our already too full calendar but when it comes to sanctification and growth in godliness, let something else go and make this a priority. The benefits far outweigh the cost. Make more time for God and less time for the world. In the words of most notable missionary evangelist, Jim Elliot: “I believe the enemy has made it his business to monopolize on three things, noise, hurry and crowds. Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” Don’t let the world steal all your time. Give some to God for worship, prayer, reading His word and meditating on its meaning. When we go to face our Great Creator we will be asked what we did with the time we were given.
The definition of Savior is:
"a person who saves someone or something (especially a country or cause) from danger, and who is regarded with the veneration of a religious figure."
Why say Everyone is Looking for a Savior? Well, the short and simple answer is because they are. It’s our nature as human beings. Consider why every story containing a heroic protagonist always involves good triumphing over evil. From video games to movies everyone is looking for a savior. Most have a distorted and self-absorbed understanding of this “savior” but the concept holds true all the same.
We will consider one video game from years ago and one recent movie. I used to be into the Final Fantasy video game franchise. From FFI to whatever number they are at now, the premise is the same. Some terrible tragedy is happening or about to and it is up to some unsuspecting slightly arrogant and pride filled person to stop it. Along the way the protagonist learns very important things about life and self. There is personal reflection, introspection and a host of other life lessons that turn our once arrogant pride filled goober into a wise, “others focused” hero who would do anything to see the greater good realized.
Final Fantasy 10 carried the same premise but in this case our protagonist was a self-diluted insecure boy whose father he thought abandon him early in life to chase a ridiculous dream of becoming a famous blitzball player. Tidus, the protagonist is also a blitzball player like his “dead beet” dad and during a major game in his home town a creature massive in size destroys the city. Auron a longtime friend of Tidus’ father (we realize later in the game) tells Tidus the creature is called Sin. It goes from city / world to city / world and destroys almost everything in its path.
Now as the story goes, Tidus meets many other friends and a young woman named Yuna through Auron. He soon realizes that the many friends are Yuna’s “guardians” and she is on a quest to defeat Sin. Tidus therefore becomes the 11th or 12th guardian (I can’t remember) and travels with the team. Yuna goes to various temples and worships to gain strength for her plight. When she comes to a town that Sin has already destroyed, she performs some sort of healing or miracle that helps the townspeople. Starting to sound familiar yet?
After Tidus and Yuna develop a close emotionally and conversationally intimate relationship he finds out that the only way for her to defeat Sin is to give her life in the final battle at which time she both defeats and becomes Sin. Does this sound like the game developers picked this story up somewhere… anywhere… or I don’t know perhaps the Bible. Most every other video game that involves good and evil follows this same concept.
Next we discuss a recent movie. The Death Cure was the last in the Maze Runner franchise. Many are familiar with either the movies or the books so I will not go into much detail. However, the same premise holds. The protagonist does all he can to help everyone. There is a contagion spreading in the Maze Runner series that turns people into “crazies” who attack everyone and everything and suffer from violent outbursts. Those in power are trying to find a cure but every promised development comes up short. After a lot of running, fighting and rescuing we find out toward the end of the movie that they found a cure. At this point the Maze Runner world is in complete upheaval.
There are fires, buildings collapsing, people are dying and the medical staff, down to just one person still desperately trying to find the cure, realizes that the blood is the cure. In a very dramatic way they call back the protagonist by telling him how many lives he can save and how he can make the world a better place. He need only come back, possibly sacrificing himself to save everyone because his blood contains the cure. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Ever heard a story like this before?
My point in simply this, everyone is looking for a savior. However, because we live in a sinful world we are prone to make up our savior in our own image so that s/he acts, thinks, speaks, and saves how we want. We commit the egregious sin of idolatry to comfort ourselves. Why are we willing to do that? It is because we are all looking for a savior. We desperately hold onto anything in this life that is good and brings us joy because in this world we will have pain, suffering, heartache, trials, temptations and death. None of which was part of the original design by God. All of this is merely the effects of sin.
"And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned."
The problem is our desire to make up a savior in our image. If the savior we are so desperately trying to find is made in our image than that savior is wicked to the core (Jeremiah 17:91; Romans 8:62; Revelation 21:83; Ezekiel 18:204), insecure, tired, heartbroken, and is unable to save self let alone anyone else. We desperately search out a savior because deep down we know that we are hopeless and even on our good days we feel a longing that cannot be filled with the worlds fleeting carnal pleasures.
God tells us that He is the only savior (Isaiah 43:115). God is the only God there is no other (Isaiah 45:56). God promises a savior to deliver His people all throughout the Old Testament and delivers in Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:217; Acts 5:318). Jesus says He is the only way, the only truth and the only life, no one can get to the Father except through Him (John 14:69).
Recently I read a very sad letter. It was not a letter addressed directly to me. It was not a letter addressed to anyone specific, rather it was a letter addressed to whoever would read it. It was a very tragic letter. This letter was written by Tara Condell, who on the surface appeared to have achieved everything she hoped for. She held degrees, a good career in what she loved, friends, family and a start on what could have been a successful and joy filled life. Tara tragically ended her life.
Like so many other souls, eventually there comes a time in life when the struggles appear to be insurmountable. It does not matter what we have monetarily, materially, nor physically. We can get to a point where hope seems hopeless. This young lady got there as she said, “I have accepted hope is nothing more than delayed disappointment, and I am just plain old-fashioned tired of feeling tired.”
What a tragic place to arrive at. There were times in my life where my response to “how’s it going” would be, “well I recently found out that the light at the end of the tunnel is nothing more than a locomotive about to run me down!” Then one day this all changed for me. I found hope. More than that I found out that hope was not just delayed disappointment. I preface this by humbly acknowledging I did not know this young lady nor her heart. That is not what I intend to address here, but rather the feeling of hopelessness.
We are a people created in God’s image and made for relationships of love, unity, trust, and hope, both in Him and in others. Our soul can only be filled to the fullest capacity in hope by Him who created us. Sin distorted our ability to have these proper relationships the way God intended them to be. As a result we drew away from God and sought our own way.
We started looking for everything we could that would bring us hope but it only left us more hollow than before. We thought that maybe, just maybe we have not yet understood the correct equation to acquiring this elusive hope. So we tried everything we could to fill our tank of hope. Unfortunately, we were wrong again. Nothing we did seemed to matter and we only felt more alone, more isolated, more sadness, pain, anger, frustration, and eventually despair.
Despair became the light at the end of the tunnel. Because the One who created us to find our all in all in Him was no longer who we sought for hope. Rather we openly admit it or not, despair is one day where all of us will end up apart from God. For true lasting hope can only come from the One who created us to have hope, from the One who created us to Hope in Him for everything we could ever need or want.
Revelation 21:4 is the perfect unblemished epitome of hope!
“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Hope is to know Jesus Christ, to be in Jesus Christ, to follow Jesus Christ, for He promises that one day our hope will be fulfilled in Him forever more. That my friends is the very bright light at the end of your dark, insurmountable tunnel.
I humbly ask if you are reading this, pray that God gives you the opportunity to share hope with someone who is struggling to see anything other than the light of the locomotive in their dark tunnel. If you are reading this and are struggling, please know that there is hope even in the darkness of circumstances. If you are contemplating taking your precious life, please call the hotline and talk to someone.