Upon me journaling this brief write-up, it was roughly 5:30 pm on a peculiarly cold spring day in the hills of Northern Italy. I am only just a few miles from the center of town in the old city of Vicenza. I felt slightly under the weather but the Lord was kind to provide the physical strength needed to drop my kids off at the local youth group ministry we attend with a few other churches. The midweek Youth Bible study has been a beautiful constant in their lives while overseas and they continue to covet the opportunity to go and they just love it (Hebrews 10:24-25).
It fulfills a desire in them by facilitating midweek worship while fueling fellowship with other like-minded Christians. It provides connectedness and empowers the local youth community from a few fellowships. In fact, it is this weekly event for my children that reminded me of this particular subject I decided to offer the readers of PMc. I thought to myself when dropping the kids off this week: “man, they are excited every single week about going to this ministry event and the joy is simply contagious.” I, like so many others, know that sweet internal feeling of joy in Christ when being able to worship Him apart from a Sunday service.
Admittedly I was coming off a month plus of what I would qualify as a ‘theological and personal devotional hitting slump.’ I have been distracted and it really began to show in my effort in ministry and my attitude toward my marriage. As men, in my personal experience, we tend to do better when carrying a load of responsibility. It often helps us to drive straight as we journey through the Christian life. The Lord has provided us the wonderful opportunity and responsibility to raise children, work, lead our spouse, and even pour into others in the local church. It is a lot for sure. But the more we shed our flesh and entanglements with the world we can see how our priorities fall into place and are fitted perfectly for and with the Kingdom of God.
My season of spiritual drought was in my personal devotion & worshipping of Him alone at home. I was hurting emotionally and spiritually just a few days ago and the Lord graciously brought to me repentance & restoration (Psalm 51:1-17). I must have cried two or three times at our last Sunday service. I think many of us (if not all) are at least somewhat familiar with this type of season. It was only by God’s grace that I was on fire at the beginning of this year and just riding a great wave of victories in study, and battling sin. I was even able to develop and incorporate some practical tools in order to recommit myself joyfully to a daily and thoughtful regimen of personal devotion and worship. It poured over into my spending time with my children in the word of God as well.
As an active lay minister in the local church, it is so vital for me to get this right in my personal walk. Granted, it is important for everyone but in my case, it can not only impact me or my household negatively but the congregation as well. It was last Christmas when I recommitted myself to improving personal worship and desire to increase my resolve to not only do it more frequently but effectively. I was able to reflect, pray, and ask our Lord for grace in this particular area of my life. I truly believed by faith that God would help me enjoy more time with Him and then He answered my prayers.
Despite the high demands of graduate school, ministry, work, and family, God assisted me in refining and setting up a better approach to priorities and though it was not perfect on my end, I could honestly say I felt and saw the fruit of my prayers. To be clear, the process was NOT about me adopting new rules for piety, a list of things to do, or creating and incorporating a new law for personal worship but instead fulfilling a simple desire to worship in Spirit & truth as an individual alone and as a household. It is a goal for my family and me to grow in worship and the gospel of John leaves me in deep thought with verses like these:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24)
So worshipping God in Spirit and truth is always the goal for all of us otherwise what are we really doing? Nothing to put it bluntly. So for a while, spiritually, I was literally on autopilot: that is really ALL glory to God. Early mornings were a regular thing and I used the Holy Scriptures, of course, the Book of Common Prayer, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith all to provide some much-needed structure of thought. I wanted to offer back gratitude, praise, and awe to our deserving God during the week. The writer of Hebrews writes this:
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28).
All of it was solely out of a deep and genuine love for God. I continued to read some incredible books focused on systematic theology, and there were times of sweet prayer, confession & tears, repentance, and lots of Bible reading. All was well...I was experiencing a really good season. But somehow a gradual & subtle decline of commitment started to slowly but surely seep in. Throughout my 10 years of being a Christian I have been well aware of a slump but other times to my shame I am guilty of being indifferent or just plain ole clueless or even worse: slothful & lazy.
We often become distracted with things of the world as well: our hobbies, our politics, career & vocation, friendships, and other things that are not even necessarily evil or sinful but with our heart at the wheel steering our journey on this side of heaven, we tend to revisit failure more times than we like to admit. All of us have to figure out how to hit that gospel reset button.
But when I thought about it this evening, I recall God did provide so much victory in this particular area of my walk...a divine victory that I ceased to steward well. The lapse in my schedule and priorities is my fault. In God’s mystery of sanctification, those convictions from His Spirit for me to continue on the road of individual worship and personal devotion are still here and by God’s mercy, I know how to get back on the bus. But not everyone knows how to get back on the bus or worse they were never even on it. So here’s a prompt that might help us work through a better and joyful habit of spending time alone with God.
I. Be Saved
I am writing to Christians I am sure but it is a qualification I cannot overlook. You must know Jesus as Lord and Savior (Acts 4:12). If you do not know Jesus then please pause here and scroll down to the end of the article where you can read a presentation of the gospel according to the Holy Scriptures.
II. Do Not Feel Hopeless
The bible says in Romans 15:13, “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Yes, it’s tough, and depending on how far we’ve drifted away from living out the truth of Scripture, our calling, and the sweet communion with the Lord it might even feel impossible. But with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
III. Remember that God Calls Us Into Fellowship With Him at Many Levels
We have fellowship with Him as sons and daughters, as Creator and creature, Teacher and student, Savior and redeemed, Shepherd and sheep, etc. We were designed and created to worship God for His glory and our complete joy and satisfaction. He’s a perfectly happy God who invites us to worship. Establish in your mind that the truth that God wants communion with us and believe that truth by faith. It is a fact that God desires to be with you during this time of personal worship. His love for us is sure and steadfast.
Psalm 33:18 says, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.”
Yes, as mentioned above the potential causes for this abandonment of Christian duties and disciplines are many but worship can and should be reinvigorated. In Christ, there’s always hope, spiritual reform & refinement, development, and spiritual growth. We can rest and stand firm in Christ that His grace will lead to a revival of personal worship for our joy and His glory & honor. Romans 5:1 offers this, “through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” So prepare your heart to engage the Lord intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, purposefully, and thoughtfully.
Practically, I would say this:
Take initiative to orchestrate your own success. Have the right tools in place, choose a good location, and ensure the Holy Scriptures are readily available. Be in prayer constantly; battling distractions today will be accomplished through prayers from yesterday. Pray unceasingly. Pray for fire in your bones! Pray for a strong desire to meet with God before work and perhaps again in the evening. Stop, pause, and think about the many blessings you have been the recipient of and this will provoke true worship and a heart that overflows in praise & thanksgiving. Giving thanks is the best way to prepare your heart to meet with God. Thank the Lord for the day, your spouse, salvation, and your children. Here are two of my favorite verses to consider when meditating on thanksgiving:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 2:6-7: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
The other aspect of personal worship is simply confessing the faith. As you confess what you believe and know to be true the process of gazing upon the source of truth is fuller and more meaningful. I read out loud and as I read it this way, I am also confessing the truth of Scripture and in my mind. I am saying, “Yes Lord, I agree with what you are saying here.” Then I immediately transfer this to my heart & soul and praise Him for it.
Now, some folks need more structure (I am one of them) others find it more useful to be flexible with the format, timing, and content as the Spirit leads them. As long as your approach is genuine, thoughtful, and helpful for your walk, I truly believe it can work. Pray for that element as well; God can steer you in the practical direction that you need most.
I personally prioritize Scripture reading and theologically rich hymns to confess what I believe. This sets the tone and I am typically led to more prayer by the Spirit. Remember, this is a key part of building our faith, killing sin, loving God increasingly, modeling worship for your spouse & children. Being alone with God is precious and an incredible gift. I am still working on it and will continue to seek every chance I get to be with Him in that capacity as much as possible. May we all make it our ambition to do the same. SDG
Check out this link to hear one of my favorite pastors and authors share the Gospel - Steve Lawson's Impromptu Gospel Presentation
You can see the same clip, plus another by Steve Lawson, at the PMc blog post - A Gospel Presentation
A Journal Entry Turned Article
by Daniel Barea (PMc Contributor)
30 June 2021
Daniel Barea serves as a lay preacher / teacher at New Life Vicenza, and has contributed dozens of sermons, Sunday school lessons, articles and commentaries throughout the years via multiple online forums and multiple churches. He is a graduate of Wayland Baptist University, a confessing reformed Baptist, father of five and husband to Mrs. Esther Caroline Barea.