This past Fall, my family and I had the amazing privilege to go to Berlin for almost 4 weeks on a missions trip. We ministered at Crossway International Baptist Church and had one of the most memorable experiences as a family as we served together in that church and in the city. This was the 4th time that I had been to Berlin, and every time I’m there, I fall in love with the city a little more. There’s one place in Berlin that everyone must visit when you’re there: the Brandenburg gate. It’s a symbol that is easily recognizable and it’s the hottest spot for tourists in Berlin. The scene at the Brandenburg gate is always a little bit crazy. Tour groups are everywhere, 5-6 different languages are being spoken all around you, there’s men dressed in old USSR military uniforms taking pictures with tourists, and oddly enough, last time, there was Mickey Mouse dressed like a Jedi.
On the last weekend we were in Berlin, we went to go visit the Reichstag, the equivalent to the US Capital building, which is right next to the Brandenburg gate. The kicker was we could only get tickets into the Reichstag at 8 am on Saturday morning and they require you to be there 15 minutes early. That meant a real early Saturday morning trip into the heart of Berlin. After we took the S-bahn to the Brandenburg gate station, we walked up the stairs from the train station to see something that was probably my favorite moment in Berlin. We saw the Brandenburg gate in all it’s glory with the morning sun shining on it…with absolutely no one there. There it was standing alone in the heart of the city. It was beautiful. Before when I had visited this site, I noticed the gate, admired it, and even took pictures by it, but the crowds and the craziness always seemed to take away from its majesty. Our family stood there for a few minutes and just soaked in that moment. It was just us in this giant space looking at this historical monument. It was truly special. We still talk about that moment when our family reminisces about our time in Berlin.
As I was looking at pictures of our trip the other day with our family, it struck me how that moment on Saturday morning at the Brandenburg gate is a lot like what meeting with God looks like. Our lives are filled with people and craziness. In my house, the demands from kids begin quite early.
The e-mails, phone calls, and texts start filling up grabbing my attention, and something to the equivalent to Mickey Mouse in Jedi regalia shows up just when things start settling down. Life is busy. Sometimes it’s so busy, we don’t spend the time with God like we should. Sure we know He’s there. We murmur quiet prayers throughout the day when we feel stressed, thinking that it passes for “praying without ceasing”. But recognizing that God is there is no substitute for the intimacy of spending time with Him alone. Just you and Jesus. No one’s around. Being quiet and resting in His majestic beauty.
I don’t know about you, but spending time alone with God is the hardest thing for me. It’s the most basic thing that we are taught as Christians, but the hardest to maintain. Being a pastor doesn’t make it easier. Growing older doesn’t make it easier, and going to church on Sunday doesn’t make it any easier on a Monday morning to pray, read and meditate on the Scriptures. So what should we do? Here a few suggestions for developing a consistent meeting time with God.
1. Become a morning person. I know just hate me now. There are some verses in Scripture that talk about meeting with God in the morning and I could even pull out the verses about Jesus waking up early to pray to make you feel guilty, but the reality for me is that my kids wake up early, so if I want to get alone with God, it has to be at least 30 minutes before they usually wake up. I’ve had to train myself to wake up early to spend those moments in worship that I need. Of course getting up earlier means going to bed earlier. You may love to sit and veg in front of the TV after a long day, but I’ve never talked to anyone that was happier they stayed up to watch the latest episode of Ice Road Truckers than get up to spend time with Jesus. It’s also easier if you get up at the same time everyday, even on your day offs. I know there’s something magical to all of us about sleeping in, but I’ve found that the best way to getting up early is to pick a time and wake up at that time every day. Now if you are a late night person, you might use the argument that you’ll do the meeting time with God at night. That’s fine, but just remember at night, you’ll have to clear out that crowd in your mind that’s at the gate.
2. Schedule it. I always have weekly appointments. You probably do to. Whether you have a business or stay at home with your kids, you have weekly or daily schedule and routine. Make spending time with God a scheduled event in your day. Maybe it’s just semantics, but there’s something about having that event on your calendar that makes it seem like it’s something you should do.
3. Plan it. Have something in mind that you are going to do. Pray through a Psalm. Read through a book of the Bible. Memorize a verse. Don’t just wake up and wait for inspiration. Plan how you will use your time. It’s a simple thing, but it changes the dynamic of our devotional times.
4. Love Him. Meeting with God isn’t just about routines and discipline. When we love someone, we do whatever we can to spend time with that person. It may just be that we need to check our hearts. Do we realize the awesome privilege of spending time with the God of the Universe? Do we grasp the depths of His love for us? Have we reflected on His faithfulness and sacrifice? Do we hold onto His promises? Have we let His Spirit comfort us and not another idol? Spending time with God should always be motivated out of love and worship. We need to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34), but how can we taste and see if we never spend time with Him. The more we bask in the glory of God and His gospel, the more we will desire to spend time with Him.
It’s Monday morning. You may have a crazy day ahead of you. The people may be starting to fill up the square in your mind. Let’s purpose in our minds and hearts to spend time with God this week. To be honest, I need this now more than anyone. Our soul craves moments of worship with our Savior. Feed it with the Word and prayer. May God change us into His image as we spend time with Him.