Wednesday, January 17, 2018.
When is the last time I took the time to chew? When is the last time I enjoyed savoring every morsel? In the face of busyness (YES, BUSYness), have I simply learned to chew as quickly as possible? Or, have I even just by-passed this process altogether ? Have I learned to control my gag-reflex and to simply open wide, swallow and get on with other things? When is the last time I took TIME to CHEW… especially in regard to the Bread that sustains me: God’s Word, “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 3:8; Matt. 4:4, NIV)?Chances are you are far more busy than I am. After all, “pastors only work 1-2 hours a week!” –or so they tell me… But in all seriousness, our culture has become increasingly busy. I feel it. You feel it. Our children feel it. We all feel it! Busyness forces us to make a decision: 1) Either do less and resist the push to do everything (and possibly more) faster; or, 2) Pick up the pace and start moving faster! I don’t know about you, but I have to fight hard to live out option 1, even though it is much better–MUCH better!
This morning began like a normal workday (Sunday-Friday) morning for me. This is a brief look into my typical Wednesday: Wake up at 2am. Take a short shower and get dressed. 2:15am, grab a bowl a cereal and sit down to spend some time with my Lord in prayer and in His Word. 2:50am convert my study to an online classroom and transition to teaching mode. 3am, get to work. 7am, transition from teaching to parenting and help (rather, see) my wife successfully and consistently getting our school-aged children ready for school. 7:15-7:30am, spend some time in the word with my wife and kids before they head out the door. 7:45-8am, try to convince our youngest to sit down and eat some breakfast. 8am, devotional reading before getting ready for the start of my pastoral-work day consisting of planned hospital visits, pastoral counseling, Bible-study preparation, writing and editing, phone calls and emails, prayer meetings and Bible studies. Wednesdays usually have me arriving home around 8:30-9pm to debrief with my wife about her day before hitting the pillow. If it is the Lord’s will, there will be no midnight emergencies and Thursday will begin at 2am.
Now intermixed into my Wednesdays are multiple hours in which I do NOT work. I have the honor of having our youngest son with me today. Thus my work schedule is intermittent. We play and have lunch together. When our two school-aged children get home from school I attempt to help them with their homework after school and prepare (or order) dinner. If we have time we play before heading to the church for our Wednesday night meetings. My day is full, but it is intermixed with work and family. Probably just like yours!
I understand busyness. Praise the LORD that my days are now intermingled with playing with the kids, eating meals together, and talking to my wife! I can sadly remember a time when my days were very similar in length without those precious hours mixed within… Thank you Jesus for setting me free from my captivity to work!. Thank you to my wife and four children, especially our oldest, for all your grace and love!
Because I understand what it means to be busy, I DO NOT WANT TO ADD TO YOUR TO-DO-LIST! I do not want to add to your to-do-list, but I do want to raise an important question to you and to me: When is the last time you took time to CHEW? When is the last time you took time to chew–to memorize so that you can meditate–on God’s life-giving Word?
Time is a funny thing… No one has enough of it! We are jealous of the time others have even though we all get the same 24-hours in each day. Though we may try to fit 48 hours into 24, we can’t! What we can change is what we do with those hours. Yet, even if we do nothing with those hours, they will still come and go like clock-work. Time doesn’t stop ticking. We can’t accumulate it and store it up for another day.
Since these things are true: If we do not take or make the time, we will not have the time! If we do not take or make the time for our families, they won’t get any of it! If we do not take or make the time for God, He won’t get any of it! This again brings us to ask ourselves: When is the last time I took the TIME to CHEW?
When is the last time I took time to CHEW on God’s Word? When is the last time I took time to savor the bites I was tasting? When was the last time I memorized Scripture so that I could meditate on it, enjoy it, and be transformed by it throughout the day? When is the last time I took time to CHEW on God’s Word?
Below is an excerpt by Dallas Willard that I pray will be motivation for us to take the time to CHEW (to memorize so we can meditate) on God’s Word. By CHEWING on God’s Word, we can experience a more intimate and enjoyable relationship with our LORD. Even in the face of busyness, may we take the time to CHEW on God’s Word so that we can experience the Lord’s presence more and more as we go through our lives.
With love, Pastor Chris Montgomery
“Practicing the Presence of God”
The first and most basic thing we can and must do is to keep Christ before our minds. David knew this secret and wrote, “I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely” (Ps. 16:8-9, NASB).
This is the fundamental secret of caring for our souls. Our part in thus practicing in the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him. In the early time of our ‘practicing’ we may well be challenged by our burdensome habits of dwelling on things less than God. But these are habits–not the law of gravity–and can be broken. A new, grace-filled habit will replace the former ones as we take intentional steps toward keeping God before us. Soon our minds will return to God as the needle of a compass constantly returns to the north. If God is the great longing of our souls, He will become the pole star of our inward beings.
Jesus Christ is, of course, the Door, the Light, and the Way. We are privileged to walk in this profound reality, not just preach it. We first receive God into our minds by receiving Jesus. The way forward then lies in intentionally keeping the scenes and words of the New Testament Gospels before our minds, carefully reading and rereading them day by day. We revive them in word and imagination as we arise in the morning, move through the events of the day, and lie down at night. By this means we walk with Him moment by moment–the One who promised to be with us always.
As a beginning step in this “practicing” process, we can choose to practice constantly returning our minds to God in Christ on a given day. In the evening then we can review how we did and think of ways to do it better the next day. As we continue this practice, gently but persistently, we soon will find that the person of Jesus and His beautiful words are “automatically” occupying our minds instead of the clutter and noise of the world–even the church world.
Our concentration on Jesus will be strengthened by memorization of great passages (not just verses) from Scripture. Passages such as Matt. 5–7, John 14–17, 1 Cor. 13, and Col. 3 are terrific “soul growing” selections. This practice of memorizing the Scriptures is more important than daily quiet time, for as we fill our minds with these great passages and have them available for our meditation, “quiet time” takes over the entirety of our lives.
God’s word to Joshua, as he undertook the great task before him, was, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Josh. 1:8, NASB). Ps. 1 demonstrates that this became a part of the recognized practice of spiritual living among the Israelites. Meditation on Him and His Word must become an integral part of our lives too.
But how does this law get in your mouth? By memorization, of course. It becomes an essential part of how we think about everything else as we dwell on it. Then the things that come before us during the day come in the presence of God’s illuminating Word. Light dwells within us and enables us to see the things of life in the right way. “In Thy light we see light” (Ps. 36:9, NASB). This is the true education for ministry and for life.
-The above quoted section is from Dallas Willard’s chapter in The Pastor’s Guide to Effective Ministry, pages 13-14 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2002).