20 Tips For Personal Devotions in the Digital Age

Yesterday we looked at 18 Obstacles to A Devotional Life in the Digital Age. Today I want to give you some tips to keep your spiritual head above the water in the face of the digital deluge.

1. Take guilt to God: Mention devotions to most Christians and the guilt meter goes straight to red: guilt over failure to do them, guilt over lack of profit in them, guilt over rushing through them. As there’s nothing so motivating as starting with a clean sheet, let’s take all our guilt to God and find the energy and freedom that comes from a full and free forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

2. Get to bed early: The main reason why people skip devotions is going to bed so late that they cannot get up in time in the morning to read and pray.

3. Turn off your phone and avoid computer: It’s absolutely vital that you meet with God before anyone else in the day. Keep your mind free of digital distractions.

4. Have a shower and eat breakfast first: Refresh yourself by getting the blood flowing and the blood sugar levels rising.

5. Don’t share your daily devotions in social media: This changes the whole nature of the communion and communication between you and God because you are thinking “How can I FB or Tweet this?” Keep it just between you and God.

6. Establish regular time and place: For the vast majority this will be first thing in the morning before everyone else is up. Ideally a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and where you will not disturb others.

7. Build a systematic routine: Read consecutively in the OT and NT so that you are exposed to the whole counsel of God. There are various Bible reading plans available. If you don’t plan and map out your journey, you won’t get there.

8. Vary the routine: Although you should have a general routine that you stick to, every few months add a bit of variety by maybe reading a book more slowly, or study a book with the help of a commentary, or memorize a chapter, and then go back to the routine again.

9. Read easier parts together with more difficult parts: For example, don’t get stuck reading Leviticus without also reading say one of the Gospels at the same time.

10. Start a short prayer list: Not too long so that it dominates the whole prayer and becomes like a shopping list. Don’t feel obliged to pray for everyone every day. Sometimes pray for just one person in detail.

11. Sing and speak out loud: Singing awakens and enlivens the soul. Reading and praying out loud avoids half-hearted reading and mumbling jumblings in prayer.

12. Turn your songs and Bible readings into prayer: Pause at verses and ponder how to make this a prayer.

13. Learn from set prayers: I don’t like using formal prayers written by someone else, but I can read them to see how others pray and discover what elements I’ve been missing in my prayers.

14. Be careful with Study Bibles and Daily Devotionals: These are sometimes good when you don’t have a clue what the passage means. However, don’t let them become a substitute for prayerfully seeking God’s help to understand His Word. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you.

15. Start small: Don’t go from doing nothing to spending an hour on devotions. You’ll never keep that up. Start with 5-10 mins and slowly increase to 20-30 minutes.

16. Journal: Don’t write a novel; instead write down a sentence or two or a verse that struck you while reading. Don’t make this too big or you won’t keep it up. Regularly review what you’ve written.

17. Dads, help young Moms: If Mom can’t find the time in busy mornings, then each evening you need to relieve and release her for 30 minutes or so to be on her own with the Lord. Why not each read the same passages and then you can share your thoughts with each other over supper.

18. Fight formality and self-righteousness: Pray for God’s blessing and that He would prevent this blessing turning into a curse by it becoming just a formal routine or else a source of pride.

19. Learn meditation: And if you want some tips on meditating on Scripture have a look at Meditation: 10 Motives and 10-Step Method

20. Don’t end the devotional life: Try to carry it on into the day. Perhaps write a verse to keep in your pocket and refer to every time you eat or wait in a line. Write it at the top of your to-do list. Look at it before you seep at night.

Read #1 again, and again, and again.


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Group Discounts For Jesus on Every Page
Nelson’s have just released some new discount pricing for churches and individuals who want to make bulk purchases of Jesus on Every Page.

  • Buy 1 for $12.99
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The Best Way To Improve Your Preaching
100% agree.

22 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World
Simply fascinating. (HT: Aaron Armstrong)

How Pornography Works: It Hijacks the Male Brain
And for at least part of the remedy here’s some great advice from Tim Challies in The Porn-Free Family.

3 Business Books I Recommend to all Pastors
Yes, yes, and yes.

Free eBook: John Calvin – A Heart for Doctrine, Devotion, and Doxology
A highly respected and multi-faceted look at Calvin’s life, teaching, and influence.


18 Obstacles to Personal Devotions in the Digital Age

Australian research found that “If pastors could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ…they would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.”

Similarly, The Center for Bible Engagement discovered that “the number one thing you can do for yourself spiritually is read the Bible four times a week or more. Read it this frequently, and your life looks completely different to those who don’t read the Bible, or read it less than that.”

Another survey that resulted in the book What 1000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, found that “Reflection on Scripture is, by far, the most influential personal spiritual practice.”

And yet these basics of personal spirituality, Bible reading and prayer, are so difficult to maintain in the digital age. Consider some of the obstacles we face in trying to make prayer and Bible reading a regular part of our lives:

1. Loss of boundaries: Working life is no longer limited to one place and certain hours, but we are always on from first thing to last thing at night, always contactable, even on vacation. 75% of 25-29 year olds sleep with their phones. 25% of employees say that they feel their job security depends on them being available beyond normal working hours.

2. Loss of concentration: Tests of office workers reveal that they check email 30-40 times an hour, although they think it’s only 10-15 times an hour. 1 in 4 people check their smartphone every 30 minutes, 1 in 5 every 10 minutes.

3. Loss of reading ability: Computer scrolling has resulted in much more scanning and speed-reading, the exact opposite of what’s required to profit from Bible reading.

4. Loss of meditation: Deep and prolonged thought on anything is very rare as minds flit from thing to thing to thing. We consume three times as much info as we did 50 years ago but think about it much less.

5. Loss of memory: Memorizing Scripture texts and references has become a lost art because we just need the odd word and a rough idea of location to Google the verse.

6. Loss of problem solving: We don’t work at answering questions, puzzling something through  but, again, just Google it.

7. Loss of social connection: We don’t need people’s help but just Google it. “In YouTube is my Father,  Michael Anthony Adams describes how YouTube has become his substitute father, teaching him things like how to tie a tie and fix a flat.

8. Loss of sleep: Excess and late technology use damages quality and length of sleep. Kids are consuming 11 hours of media a day with huge impact on quality and quantity of sleep.

9. Loss of quiet: Constant beeps, buzzes, and updates reduce undisturbed time for the brain to rest. Unlike other revolutionary media like radio and TV, the Internet is ubiquitous. We never get even a few minutes waiting in line with our own thoughts but turn to the smartphone to fill it up.

10. Loss of friendships: Online friendships have become more common than face-to-face. Loneliness has become one of the most common complaints of our day.

11. Loss of family time: Family members are constantly connected to outside world when in the home.

12. Loss of privacy: We don’t have much of a private life any more as so much lived out in public arena, making mistakes very public too. Also, so much gathering of personal data is going on undetected.

13. Loss of time: So much time being wasted, reducing time for devotional life and Christian service

14. Loss of purity: Multiple and manifold temptations and all in the privacy of our own homes.

15. Loss of patience: We have grown used to instant results, but daily devotions are a long-term program with rarely or barely perceptible changes and improvements.

16. Loss of wisdom: We can access more knowledge via the Internet but the lack of possessing and owning that knowledge in our own minds prevents our brain making connections, discovering connections, seeing the bigger picture.  How do we interpret information, organize it, process it, discriminate, draw conclusions from it, when all we know is in Google rather than in our brains?

17. Loss of humility: In This is your brain on GoogleKate Shellnut wrote: “These days, we still say things like “I don’t know how” and “I can’t remember it,” but our ignorance rarely lasts long. Seconds later, it gets pulled up on Google or YouTube. The information we don’t know is so close—quite literally at our fingertips—that we forget we don’t know it.”

18. Loss of routine: Regularity and rhythm are rare in people’s lives because of the unpredictable nature and hours of jobs nowadays.

Personal devotions in the face of such a digital deluge? Impossible surely!

Difficult, but not impossible, and tomorrow I’ll give you 20 tips for maintaining a devotional life in the digital age.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to 20 Tips for Personal Devotions in the Digital Age.


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Sinclair Ferguson Announced as Dean of Ligonier D.Min Program
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Report on Rosaria Butterfield’s Lecture as USF
The Lord mightily helped in extremely difficult circumstances.

Pastoring Your Family
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Four Books for Would-be Writers
I’d add William Zinsser On Writing Well.

The Christward Collective
Some fine recent posts here. The Power of a Preface: Packer on Owen by David Filson, One Glorious Ambition by Tim Brister, and What Would Jesus Drink? by Nick Batzig.

Is Your Girl Drowning in Busyness?
“We all get 168 hours each week. Between school, sports, and friends, girls are spending eighty hours of that time. Add in some time for sleep, and 133 hours are gone. Now factor in family time, involvement in church, and time for fun, and we’re well past 168 hours.”


Jesus on Every Page Podcast: Free as a Bird!

Link to Jesus On Every Page Podcast

You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

The timeline of today’s podcast is as follows:

0:44 Quote of the week

1.02 Book of the Week

2:11 Sermon of the week: Getting Out by Tim Keller

2:29 Blog of the Week: Jesus and the Old Testament in John 3:1-15.

3:18 Question 1: In your new book you say that angels were created in the first 6 days. Do you have scripture to prove this?

4:32 Question 2: Thanks for your book , recently purchased it and it has been helpful. My question to you is that’s pretty easy to connect the ark and Jesus together; however, would you go into saying that Noah is a type of Christ ?

6.51 Commentary recommendations: Exodus

Saved for God’s Glory by Phil Ryken

Exodus by John L Mackay.

Exodus by John Currid

The Message of Exodus by Alec Motyer

8:15 Free as a bird! Leviticus 14

Previous podcasts here.


Death Watch or Happiness Watch?

Would you like a watch that tells you when you will die? Buy a Tikker Watch, fill out a medical questionnaire, subtract your age from the result and you’ll get a “death score” to enter into the watch, and then the second-by-second countdown begins.

“Macabre!” you say. Who’d want to do that? That would make you miserable, surely.

Well, its inventor, Frank Colting calls it ‘The Happiness Watch’ and claims it has been designed to help people make the most of their life and cherish the time they have left.

Not many seem to be convinced. Only 200 have backed the project so far on Kickstarter.

Although, of course, no watch can predict our deaths, the selling points seem eminently biblical (e.g. Psalm 39:4). As the cartoon characters in the video tell us:

  • Knowing how long you have to live will change the way you live.
  • We must learn to cherish time and the life we have been given, to honor it, suck the marrow from it, and the best way to do this is to realize that hours, days, and seconds are passing never to come again.
  • Remembering that time is marching onwards to death will help us to choose forgiveness over anger, a smile over a frown, happiness over sadness, etc.

Or as Moses said: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).