Thoughts on Private Devotions

It has appeared that the subject of personal devotion seems to be getting more attention these days. In my church, a lot of discussion is spent on the three spheres of piety that a Christian should develop: church piety, family piety, and personal piety. Much ink (and typing) has been spent defending the necessity of the local church and family worship so I want to talk about a key component of personal piety: daily commitment to Scripture reading.

I assume that most of the individuals who are reading this blog are not pastors or full-time church workers. This means that for most people, your financial livelihood is not dependent on the time spent reading and interpreting the scripture. Personally, I work about 60-70 hours per week on average so if I am not intentional about this matter, it can easily be neglected. For this reason, I developed a couple of habits that I thought would be helpful to share.

Don’t Waste Your Sabbath

Chapter 22, Paragraph 8 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that the Sabbath is a day of holy rest in which the entire day is “taken up in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” Although this has specific reference to the corporate Lord’s Day worship, this also applies to family worship and private devotions. One can see the Sabbath as a day of rest from the ordinary affairs and work of life; however, one can also see the Sabbath as a unique day in which we can have concentrated time and devotion to the Lord. Throughout the week, there are times in which I may only have 20-30 minutes of free time that can be spent in private prayer and reading. However, on the Sabbath, the Lord has granted me the privilege to spend a significant amount of time in private devotion.

One of the convictions that I developed is to not waste the Sabbath. This means that I prepare myself to be fully engaged for morning and evening worship and I spend a significant amount of time studying the scriptures in-between the services. The Sabbath is also the day in which I can dedicate some portion of my time to reading theology… which leads to my second point

Develop a Sensible Reading Plan

bibleNow, if you have been following the posts on CredoCovenant, you could not have missed the various postings of the M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan for the year (which is a very nice and straightforward bible reading plan). As a younger Christian, I read the Bible once a year through various reading plans (here’s a list for those who are interested). As my workload has increased, I found myself skimming through my various reading plans just to complete them and consequently, I was not developing a deeper knowledge and familiarity with the scriptures.

To adjust for this, I decided to slow down and do a two-year Bible reading plan in which I read through the Old and New Testaments once, and the wisdom literature four times. This reading plan has been a blessing for me and I would recommend it to anyone who has difficulty finding time throughout their week going through the scriptures.

Part of my reading plan also involves reading good Christian literature. My goal is to read 4 solid books per year, in which two books are modern books (which tend to be easier to read) and two older books (which tend to require much more time to digest). Whereas personal Bible reading is done daily throughout the week, virtually all of my reading on Christian literature tends to be done on the Lord’s Day.

Exhort and Encourage Yourself

We all know that making a plan tends to be much easier than actually completing the plan. There are numerous days in which I’m feeling exhausted and during these times, an encouragement is in order. During times that I’m exhausted, I always remind myself that daily scripture reading is an essential act of worship and I should present myself to God sacrificially (cf. Romans 12:1). In these times, I remind myself that God was never obligated to give me His Word nor was He obligated to give me His Spirit so that I can understand His Word. It’s a privilege, not a burden, to dedicate my heart and mind to the study of God’s Word. For these times, I continue running back to the wisdom psalms in which the psalmists proclaim the many excellencies of the Word of God. Consider Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;

The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold

Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned;

In keeping them there is great reward


However, there are times in which I am lazy and during these times, exhortations are in order. Kevin DeYoung’s short book The Hole in our Holiness (which is an outstanding small book) gives many practical exhortations to stir us on through our laziness. Gratitude is a great motivation for studying the scriptures, but during my lazy time, I need to be reminded of my duty and calling in this matter. A classic exhortation passage for me is 2 Peter 1:5-9 in which we are reminded that anyone who is not striving with all of their effort in sanctification is “so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Therefore, we are called to “make our calling an election sure.”

Hopefully this has been an encouragement to you and I hope that in this new year that you will discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness through the study of God’s Word.

Giving in the Order of Worship (Part One)

Earlier this year our church underwent several changes. First, we ordained two new deacons (we now have three). Second, we ordained a new elder (we now have two). Third, we instituted a time of giving in our order of worship. There were several considerations that contributed to our decision to start “passing the plate.” The following are just a few:

Giving as a Command

One of the big questions commonly asked of Calvinists is how they reconcile their soteriology with the Bible’s exhortations to evangelize. There are many different angles from which Calvinists approach this issue, but ultimately, they will unanimously end up hitting on the big one: we are commanded to evangelize. The same is true for giving. We give because we are commanded to give in the Bible.

In 1Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul orders the church in Corinth to regularly take up offerings on the Lord’s Day. He had not only given this command to the church at Corinth, but had also given it to the churches in Galatia. The specific occasion for this command was a famine that had come upon the church in Jerusalem, but notice that Paul does not have them take up a one-time “love offering” to help meet the need in Jerusalem. Rather, he had them take up regular offerings. This was so that the flock would not be pressed for funds when he came to them to collect the money. Rather, out of their regular givings, they would have compiled a large sum that they would have been unlikely to raise with a single offering. The work of the church requires regular giving. Churches cannot function without it.

Passing the Plate 01Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are commanded to bring their gifts to the Lord. Even the sacrifices are referred to as gifts in some passages (Numbers 18:11; cf. Hebrews 5:1). The Magi brought gifts to Christ as an act of worship when He was a young child (Matthew 2:11). These commands to give are reiterated by the author of Hebrews when he says:

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16; NASB).

Such doing good and sharing is reminiscent of the early church in Acts 2 who shared all things in common and gave to anyone as he had need (vv. 44-45). So, if anyone asks why we should give, there may be many answers we can give. However, if all those were to fall by the wayside, we would still have the command given us in Scripture. Let us not withhold our gifts from the Lord who has so graciously given all things to us.

Giving as an Act of Worship

Another issue that was raised in our discussions about giving was the fact that pretty much any sermon you will find on subject of giving will inevitably make reference to the fact that giving in the Bible is an act of worship. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus gives instructions on worship through giving. He instructs those listening to His sermon to give in such a way that only they and God know how much was given. The point is that the gift is meant to be a theocentric act, not an act to draw attention upon oneself. We give out of worship toward God, not out of a desire to bring glory to ourselves.

This was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira, having seen that others like Joseph of Cyprus (Acts 4:36-37) were selling land and giving to God, sold their land and gave only a portion of the proceeds. When they brought the portion to the apostles, they were asked why they lied. The land belonged to them, Peter said. As long as they owned it, it was theirs with which they could do what they wanted. They chose to sell the property and give some of the proceeds from it in order to bring glory to themselves (Acts 5:1-16). The act of giving is an act of worship to God, not to self.

Before we decided to include giving in the order of worship, we had always had an offering box in the back of the room. This box made giving the only act of worship at our church that was not included in the order of worship. It took the corporate sense out of this one act of worship and made it individualistic. Thus, I and others argued that, if we were going to call giving an act of worship, it should be included in the corporate worship service.


In the next article, I will discuss three more arguments for giving in the order of worship: giving as a teaching tool (for our children), giving as a blessing to the giver, and giving as an act of stewardship.