One of the most refreshing elements of the sabbatical was the beginning of each day. After grabbing my cup of coffee I’d settle in on my back patio or front porch and spend the first hour reading scripture and praying. I know people would like to believe that, as a pastor, I start every day with an hour of Bible reading and prayer, but that just isn’t reality. Some days indeed being that way, but other days morning commitments, group prayer meetings, Bible studies, or other pastoral items. None of which are bad. I just appreciated the opportunity to read the Bible for myself and spend non-rushed and undistracted time in prayer.
I am a distracted guy. My mind is always racing in a hundred directions. As stated in a previous blog, I am learning to slow my pace and be in the moment. This is ever so important when it comes to personal Bible study and prayer. Most of the time that I spend reading scripture I often drift into thinking about how to preach or teach that passage, or at the very least, how exciting it would be to share the passage with others. That is a good thing. After all, it is the primary reason I got into ministry in the first place – to share the excitement of God’s Word with others. Somewhere along the way, however, the Bible became more work and a shared experience than speaking to my heart and gleaning wisdom for myself. Reading through large sections of scripture in one setting was marvelous, and not having the option of preaching or teaching the passage was refreshing. It was truly a time of personal Bible study.
I began the summer with a long reading list of resources and books I’d hoped to read. I did read many of them, but not all of them as I found myself loving immersion into scripture. Why read books about the Bible when I have the Bible. In reading several chapters at a time I found myself viewing the stories through the eyes of the Biblical authors as opposed to viewing them through the lens of my life today. I found encouragement in the struggles of the apostles, not so different from some of our struggles today, and in some cases, far worse than what we face, yet they counted it all worth it for the glory of their Savior. I reveled in the teaching of Jesus, His care for the outcasts, and was filled with hope by the promises He made regarding things yet to come.
This time moved me each day into a meaningful and prolonged period of prayer. I was guided into prayer by God’s Word. Knowledge of who He is and what He has been and is doing. Seeing so many things for which to give praise and thanksgiving. My faith was bolstered, as I prayed for others, having seen the power of prayer lived out in the lives of Christ followers.
The effect of this time was viewing the remaining day through a Gospel lens. If God is for us, who can be against us? Being reminded as I started the day as to the character of God, that He isn’t done working, and that He is always with me changed how I tackled the challenges of the day and the unexpected I was bound to experience. I have already found it challenging to continue in a routine that includes prolonged daily time in the Word and prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I spend time in prayer daily and read God’s Word daily, but it definitely has been a challenge and also has not been for the amount of time spent in study and prayer as I was afforded during sabbatical. I have also noticed that those days or weeks in which I don’t spend uninterrupted and meaningful time in each I am more jittery, nervous, and less secure as I go through the travails of ministry and life. I don’t think it is surprising that there is a correlation between a sense of contentment and scripture reading/prayer. I invite you to join in my fight against the busyness of the trivial and make time for the treasure and riches that come in communing with the Most High. These “riches” may not be riches as the world defines them, but the peace, joy and wisdom found in Christ Jesus is truly the richest life we can have this side of eternity.