What is a Daily Devotion: Heart to Heart Conversation with God

A daily devotion is heart to heart to heart conversation with God.  We find out what is on God’s heart as well as express to Him what is on our heart.

In this type of relationship encounter, communication flows two ways.  It flows from God to us.  God communicates to us through His Word, the Bible and through the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is a written document where God communicates historical, proscriptive and predictive information about Himself.  He reveals what has happened in the past and what it means.  He discloses what He values and what He requires. He also indicates what we can expect to happen in the future.

Understanding the Bible requires correct translation, interpretation and application.

Another way God communicates is through the Holy Spirit.  In rare occasions someone may hear an audible voice from the Holy Spirit.  More often we recognize communication from the Holy Spirit by affirmation of things thought, heard, saw or felt. This affirmation may come by way of a spiritual sense of correctness or agreement often felt within the region of our heart.    Some have called this the still small voice of God.  It is the confirmation of God that certain things are true and in line with the character of God.

We communicate with God through prayer.  Prayer means talking to God.  We can talk to God out loud, verbally, as we would talk to any other person.  We can also talk to God in our thoughts.  We can also talk to God in our spirit, often felt in the same region of the heart that senses communication from God.

When we speak from our hearts to God and hear His heart from the Words of the Bible and through the Holy Spirit, we are having a heart to heart conversation with God

Whenever such two-way conversation occurs, you are having a devotional with God.



Forty Year Legacy of Daily Devotion

Here are some of the Spiritual habits I have added over the years that have proved to be a great benefit for me.

When I was  a young Christian, still in high school, I invested in reading the Bible for fifteen minutes a day.  This was the start of the a life long habit of Bible reading.  Every year I have the satisfaction of completing another pass.

In college, I added the habit of scripture memory.  First, I spent daily time memorizing new scripture verses.  Eventually this transformed to keeping in review verses already memorized.

I have used “fifteen minutes a day” mentality to add other devotional habits that also increased my skill set.       During Seminary, to maintain and increase my knowledge of Greek, I added the habit of daily reading the Greek New Testament.   A few years after Seminary, I added the habit of reading in Hebrew.  These habits have added depth and color to my Bible reading as well as strengthened my knowledge of Biblical languages.

I have tried various ways to sustain a daily prayer time.  I have at various times tried prayer journeying, writing down prayer requests on cards and praying through them and taking prayer walks.  The last few years, I make it a habit to pray daily, usually during a half an hour morning walk.  Starting while we were dating and continuing into our married life, my wife and I pray together most nights.  Just recently I skip two meals a weeks as a incipient effort at regular fasting.

While habits are not in themselves a devotional life, they provide times where devotion and connection with the Lord can take place.   Starting from small beginnings, and over 40 years, my devotional habits have expanded from a short daily Bible reading to something that requires and significant investment of time each day.  It has been well worth the investment.

Combating Doubt

Do you have doubts about God, about the after life, about the truth of Christianity?  Would you like to be more secure in your faith?

Paul gives the answer to doubt in Romans 10:17.  “Faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”  The way to gain assurance about God is to immerse yourself in the Word, the Bible.

Assurance comes when we hear from God himself.  When we “hear” God communicating with us, we understand that He exists, that He loves us, and that He intends the best for us.

The way to open your heart to hearing from God is  to spend time in the Bible. As we read the Bible and open up our hearts to the teaching, this opens up an avenue for the Holy Spirit to speak with us.  He may speak directly through the written word.  The words of the Bible are God’s communication to us.  When we read the Bible, we are hearing from God himself.  Like good listener we need to listen closely so we can understand the message.  It is possible to read a passage of Scripture and misunderstand, misinterpret, or misapply the message.  But as you keep at it, you will become skilled and experienced at hearing God’s communication directly through the written word.

In addition to the written Word, God communicates with us through His Spirit.  As we read the Bible we are training ourselves to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and to recognize who is speaking.

Not every spirit that communicates with us is the Holy Spirit, so we need to be very careful when we believe we are in spiritual communication with God.  As John the Apostles warns in 1 John 4:1:  “Do not believe every spirit, but tests the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophet have gone out into the world.”

One important test of the Spirit is to filter what you hear from the Bible.  The Bible gives us not only direct truths that can be compared with what we think w hear from a spirit, but it also informs us of the character and nature of God. As through our time reading the Bible we understand more about the character of God, how He acts and what He values, this gives a sense of who He is. The more we know God through His word, the more skilled we will be in recognizing when He is speaking to us in other ways.

So if you find yourself struggling with doubts, immerse yourself in the Bible.  Open up to communication from God and He will give you the assurance you desire and need.

Read through the Bible in a Year

For many, reading through the Bible in a year is a life changing investment.  Fifteen minutes a day invested in this has the potential to significantly impact the trajectory of your life.

If you are ready to start this investment, first consider the form of the media you will use for your Bible program .

If you are tied to your smart phone, perhaps a smartphone app will help you start and maintain this habit.  For example, the Bible in One Year app by Alpha International has helped many establish this pattern in your life.

If you prefer reading, you can get a “One Year Bible” that organizes the Bible into 365 daily readings for a year.  The “One Year Bible” is also available online at oneyearbibleonline.com.

Alternatively, you can use a One Year Bible Reading program downloadable from the internet or available at most Christian bookstores.

If you are truly not a reader, perhaps audio might work better for you.  There are excellent audio Bibles available, many for free.  These can even be downloaded for listening on the go, such as during a commute to or from work.

Once you have settled on media to be used, settle on a time and place.  Ask yourself questions such as “What would best fit my schedule?”  “Where and when would I be most motivated to read?”  “Where and when am I least subject to distractions?”

First thing in the morning is best for some.  Last thing at night is better for others.  During a commute using public transportation make work for some.  A break a lunch time may work for others.

Then begin.  Put a high priority on getting a daily plan established.  Monitor how you are doing.  If you come across an unforeseen obstacle to establishing a pattern of daily Bible reading, do not be hesitate to change.  Try a different time, place or even form of media.  Do what is necessary to establish and maintain a daily pattern.  You will experience life change as a result of a daily intake of God’s Word.

Escaping Difficult Times

Are you stuck in a pattern of destructive behavior that is difficult to obliterate once and for all?  Read on for an escape plan for your deliverance.

The clue comes from a letter from the Apostle Paul to his apprentice, Timothy.  Paul warns of difficult times that will come in the last days.  The difficult times come because of what men choose to love.

The list is a long one, demonstrating the many alternatives to loving God.   It is recited in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 and is repeated below:

…Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Do you struggle with any of the destructive behavior listed above?  Do you want to escape into a more peaceful existence?

Self effort focused on eliminating a destructive pattern of behavior is often not enough.  We can make intentions to do better, but then in a moment of weakness fall again into behavior we want to change.  How do we break out?

The key in Paul’s writing to Timothy are the words “rather than”. All these destructive behaviors fill the vacuum in a life that is not full of the love of God.  If we fill our life with the love of God, these other undesirable things will be crowded out of our life.  There will be no room for them.

How do we cultivate a love of God?  The answer is found in leading an obedient Christian Life.

Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used a Wheel illustration to represent an obedient Christian life.  The spokes of the wheel, represents connections we make with God.  The vertical spokes are prayer and Bible reading.  The horizontal spokes are fellowship and witnessing.

As you invest time in prayer, Bible reading, fellowship and witnessing, you will find your love for Jesus warmed and other distractions crowded out.

Establish the Pattern, then build on it

When you are trying to establish a new daily behavior pattern or habit, the focus should be on getting the habit established.  To do this you need to focus on eliminating or minimizing obstacles to carrying out your actions every day, or at least most days.

Typical obstacles are inconvenience, time spent and will power required to overcome inertia.  If you want your habit to last you will need to take all of these into account.

For example, suppose you are starting an exercise plan that requires 30 minutes travel each way and a vigorous one hour work-out.  The time required and the pain experienced would likely derail any but the most motivated to repeat the regiment more than a very few times.  The exceptions may be a motivated athlete training for an event or someone under the influence of a coach.

For the less motivated, an exercise program that is shorter and less painful would be more likely to succeed.  If you select exercises that can be performed in 15 to 20 minutes in your home or office, you have lowered significantly the barriers to daily exercise.  If you connect exercise with another activity you like such as listening to music or watching a short video, suddenly a daily routine is obtainable and even pleasurable.

Once the daily pattern is established, it has momentum.  Incrementally, it is not that costly to add 5 minutes or another exercise to an established regular pattern of exercise. In this way, from small beginnings, a modest exercise program can be gradually expanded.


Cost/Benefit Analysis Before Investing in a New Habit

Why is it so hard to keep a habit going after it is started?  Is there any way to increase the likelihood a new habit will stick?

Like so many ventures in life,  success or failure in maintaining a habit can be set in place before you start.  Good planning, and particularly a rigorous cost/benefit analysis, can help select habits that you will be able to integrate into your life.

Before implementing a new habit, consider first the following:

  • What is the cost to start and maintain the habit?
  • What is the benefit to be reaped from this habit?
  • Does the benefit far outweigh the cost?

When selecting a habit, minimizing the cost and maximizing the benefit will be a helpful aid to your continued successful implementation.

Cost of a habit:


The first cost to consider is time.  A habit is something you plan to do every day or at least most days.  Over the months or years you implement the habit, this will add up to significant amount of time.  The more time you invest each day in your habit, the more it will  impact the other things you have time for.  This lost opportunity cost can put pressure on your schedule and your freedom to do other things.  Therefore, selecting habits that require minimal amounts of time to implement can significantly reduce the cost of a habit.

For example, reading the Bible for 10 minutes a day takes a lot less time than starting an an hour long Bible Study program.  If your schedule is already full, consistently investing 10 minutes per day, for example when you first rise up or right before bedtime, is easier than trying to find a place in your schedule  for a daily hour commitment.


Another cost to consider is the relative amount of pain verses pleasure a habit will bring.  If a habit you select is painful, it will cost more effort to invest in the habit.  It costs will power to make ourself engage in things that are difficult for us.  On the other hand, if a habit brings pleasure, then we have motivation to follow through.   If we really doing enjoy something, then the cost in pain can be negative as pleasure is a great motivator to do things.

It is instructive to note that the things that are most essential to life, such as eating and procreation, the Lord made pleasurable.   This assures they get done.  Structuring our habits to include pleasure can be a significant motivator.

For example, if you have a great deal of trouble getting up early in the morning, and a new Bible reading program requires you to do so, the cost in will power may already set in motion the eventual demise of the habit even before you begin.  If, on the other hand, you enjoy reading before going to bed, reading the Bible for 10 minutes (instead of some other material), may be easy for you and even bring you some pleasure.  Taking into account your natural inclinations often is the difference between success and failure in establishing a new habit.

Benefit of a habit:

The benefit you reap from a habit should be significantly greater than your cost of investment in the habit.  We only have time to engage in limited number of habits, so you have the luxury of implementing only those habits where you will definitely reap great rewards for effort spent.

Some habits cost little, but also reward little.  For some, spending each evening watching TV each evening has little pain involved.  In fact, for many it is a pleasure, which is a negative cost.  Some who spend time this way may believe that the pleasure received outweighs the cost of their time.   So for them, this may be a very low cost investment of time.

But now consider what is the reward that is being reaped.  Perhaps a new habit may result in a little less pleasure (at least in the short run),  but may be very rewarding in results of improving your character, your peace of mind, your relationships and so on.  If you structure the new habit so that it costs little in time, gives a little pleasure, and has the promise of great reward, this can motivate you to restructure the way you currently spend your time to now include a new habit.

Tailor your Spiritual Habits to fit your strengths, weaknesses and aspirations

In the same way good eating and exercise habits can have beneficial effects on our physical health, good habits (daily patterns) can have a beneficial effect on our Christian life.

But just like a wise health coach will tailor an eating and exercise program to fit an individual, so we should tailor our spiritual habits to fit our strengths, weaknesses and aspirations.

We select habits to develop strengths because these are areas where we are best able to contribute to others.  God gives us strengths and gifts so we can help others, as pointed out in Romans 15:1:  “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.”  The spiritual gifts God give us are also for the benefit of others, as explained by 1Corinthians 12:7:  “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  As we build up our strengths and gifts through our habits, we become better equipped servants of God and others

We use habits to guard against our weaknesses to avoid doing harm to ourselves and others.  As pointed out in Hebrews 2:1: “…we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”  Likewise, as pointed out in 1 Peter 5:8 we need to be of sober spirit and on the alert, because our adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Our daily habits can be part of the guard we place on ourselves and our hearts.

We use habits to accomplish our aspirations because what we do daily forms who we become.  As pointed out in Galatians 6:7, whatever a man sows, he reaps.  Our daily habits sow the seeds that blossom into our character and destiny.  Our faithfulness in small things, translates into faithfulness in large things (Luke 16:10).  Our daily habits establishes a foundation of Godliness on which God can build a large house of ministry to others.

Using another analogy, daily habits are like the unseen roots, hidden below ground, that extend to extract nourishment from the stream of God’s love (See Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17). The result is a large fruitful tree that blesses many even in times of drought.  In stormy times, a deep root system  provides stability to allow the tree to weather the storm and live to minister in another day.

So when selecting  habits for spiritual health, assess your strengths, weaknesses and aspirations.  Then, in light of this, intentionally build devotional habits to accentuate your strengths, shore up your weaknesses and actualize your aspirations.

Habits–The key to accomplishment

Habits–what we do every day, or at least most days–have a tremendous power to shape our lives.  When we intentionally choose and maintain our habits, we gain ability to mold and shape our lives in ways possible by no other means.

It is often said:  “People overestimate what they can do in a single day and underestimate what they can do in their whole lives.”  Anonymous.  Rightly chosen and nurtured habits is a key that unlocks the power of time focused on achieving great ends.

Start with an assessment of what habits you currently have.  What do you do every day, or at least most days? Most sleep a certain amount of hours every day.  We have daily patterns of eating.  We have daily habits geared toward preparing our appearance for stepping out into the public.  We have certain times we invest in study, entertainment, work and so on.

After the assessing what habits you currently have, determine if there are any of these that are counter productive and therefore should be discontinued.  Look for time wasters, or even activities that are worthwhile where the same benefit could be accomplished in ways that consume less time.  Plan ways to eliminate these habits to free up your time.

Next be conscious of your goals and what habit(s), if established, could provide a short cut to accomplish your goals.  Successful athletes display an understanding of the power of habit.  A championship basketball player may shoot 100 free throws a day or regularly practice certain ball dribbling exercises.  A professional golfer might have a routine of daily hitting range balls, or a certain practice drill performed daily to improve his putting.

Christians likewise can harness the power of habit to grow in their faith in God and be more effective in their Christian walk.  In other posts we will explore which habits can be helpful to a Christian walk, as well as discuss practical tips to select, start and maintain habits for healthy Christian living.



Scripture memory and prayer

When I was a young Christian,  Bill Gothard’s yearly Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar was popular throughout the United States.   I remember actually attending only one night of a week long course; nevertheless, there was one theme promoted by Bill Gothard–which I heard from others that attended the full seminar–that had a significant impact on my life.  It was the story of how memorizing Scripture changed Bill Gothard’s life.

In high school, Bill began memorizing large sections of Scripture.  Although he had previously been a poor student, the discipline of memorizing Scripture helped his grades improve dramatically.  Through college and graduate he became an excellent student, and went on to have a significant impact on Christian youth in his era.  The memorizing of Scripture was of course, not just a benefit to his school work, but to his Christian life and character.

Inspired, I began to invest significant time memorizing and chapters and  books of the Bible.  While my pace of memorizing new passages of Scripture has slowed  over the years, I have maintained the habit of starting each day by reviewing sections of Scripture I have memorized previously.

I believed my investment in Scripture memory improved my memory and made me a better student.  More importantly, I have a storehouse of Scripture knowledge that is instantly available to draw on.  Memorized Scripture provides me  insight into all aspect of God and life.  It is instantly available when I am counseling others or sharing about the Lord.  It comes to my aid when I face temptation.  It brings comfort in times of trouble.  It cleanses my mind and leads me into ways of peace.

In addition, memorized Scripture helps with Scripture based prayer.  Memorized verses are always available for recall and meditation.  From meditation, it is a short step to responding in prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide into praise, confession and requests for ourselves and others.

Scripture memory is a discipline that requires investment of time and effort.  Establishing a life long habit take persistence.  However, if you dare to take this sparsely traveled road, you will be richly rewarded for your journey.