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  • Closet Time

    By William B. McGrath

    Two books that strike me as having exceptional insight into the New Testament Bible accounts are The Wind of the Spirit and The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ by James Stewart. Picking up a Bible and reading through the stories, I’ve found it easy to miss many of the important principles and life lessons that are there. Even though I have been reading the Bible for years, I can miss some of what is important to see. But that insight has been noticed and written about by others. I’m happily taken aback and surprised when I’m shown a new insight into Bible accounts from an author of some such book. Having read the account so many times, I’ll often think, Why didn’t I see that before?

    In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey commented: “A scholar at the University of Chicago estimates that more has been written about Jesus in the last twenty years than in the previous nineteen centuries.” The books and writings we now have are so many, and they vary in approach, quality, and style, depending on the author’s character. Many of the writings that have spoken the most to me have been written by authors from unlikely backgrounds, folks who didn’t assume themselves to be anyone special, but they are (or were) men and women of God who are a great blessing to many. They practiced listening to the living voice of His Word, and they enjoyed their “closet time.” From the first century to the present time, these men and women have contributed to the vast spiritual treasure that is available to all of us.

    My reading room is surrounded by my favorite books from many of these people. I value physical books more than an electronic library. However, although I have an abundance of quality material to choose from, I still sometimes feel that my closet time is lacking. I wondered what I was doing wrong. Then one day I picked up a small paperback that I had found in a Christian bookstore, The Believer’s Daily Renewal by Andrew Murray. My renewal had been a bit dry lately, so this book came to me at just the right time. Although the book was written over a century ago, the words were fresh and lively, and the advice really helped me.

    Andrew Murray helped me realize that part of my problem was that I had fallen into treating God’s Word in such a way that I was not really expecting God to speak to me through it. I can begin to read the Word in an obligatory sort of fashion, out of duty, routine.

    Here is a key verse about our quiet time that the book talks about: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”1 That verse tells me that the Father is there, in my secret place where I place my attention on Him, wherever that may be. Making a fresh connection with Him is more important than the amount of time I spend reading, or how carefully I pray for everyone and everything. Also, my disposition matters, having the humility to try to listen to Him, and that entails being willing to follow through on what His instructions are. And I need to remember to trust and not be fearful about what He may tell me. I want to remember that what He has to say to me, what He wants to impart to me, is the highlight and the most important part of my closet time. Many times He only wants to assure me of His love.

    Prayer and Bible study are important, but they’re not to overshadow the experience of fellowship with God, and having an interchange with Him; the giving of my love, life, and heart; and the receiving from Him of His love, life, and heart. To experience that is really special. Without having entered into that communion with Him, even if I have read some good books and prayed for many situations, I still feel something is missing. But once I have experienced that communion with Him, I’m deeply assured everything will be okay. I can relax and not worry, all through the day’s events.

    Andrew Murray brings up these verses to give us a starting point on how to approach God’s presence in our closet time: “The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way.”2 “What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way that He shall choose.”3 “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”4 “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes.”5 I want to cultivate this habit of childlike receptivity and teachableness. I want to be ready and willing to confess my dependence on God for everything.

     “And thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”6 If I am enjoying high-quality closet time, I know He is going to reward me. He is going to lead my life in the direction He has planned. And He will reward me by allowing me to become more like Himself, in my thoughts and behavior; and that is what I want, that is what will bring peace to my heart.

    Good closet time makes for wholesome Christians. Maybe some don’t like the idea of babelike dependence and childlike teachableness. But Jesus taught us to have it, so it must be important. For me it was the key to improving my connection with Him. When you think about it, it seems that this dependence is what is needed to bring us the peace He promised, as it relieves us of trying to carry all of life’s burdens on our own.7

    When God speaks, the high mountains tremble;
    When God speaks, the loud billows roll;
    When God speaks, my heart falls to list’ning,
    And there is response in my soul.
    When God speaks, the angels obey Him.
    When God speaks, all nature is stirred.
    When God speaks, hard hearts are softened,
    For no sweeter voice was ever heard.
    When God speaks, ’tis mine then to answer.
    When God speaks, my tempest to still,
    When God speaks, ’tis mine then to follow,
    And following Him, do His will.
    Speak to my heart,
    Speak now, I pray;
    God of salvation and Lord of creation,
    Oh, speak to my heart today!
    —Carlton C. Buck


    1 Matthew 6:6.

    2 Psalm 25:9.

    3 Psalm 25:12.

    4 Matthew 18:3.

    5 Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21.

    6 Matthew 6:6.

    7 Some of the views expressed are based on The Inner Chamber and the Inner Life, by Andrew Murray, 1905 (republished as The Believer’s Daily Renewal, 1981).

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Directors’ Corner

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  • Exploring the Wonders—Psalm 104

    I was just listening to Psalm 104 on my MP3 player. I think this is the most beautiful description of creation I’ve ever heard. I can almost feel God’s magnificent power sweeping through the heavens, pausing here and there to fine-tune the infinitely intricate details, shaping perfection and life into its many forms! It’s like a word painting forming before our eyes in all its glory! No matter how many times I’ve heard it, it never fails to stir me into wholehearted praise for our Creator. I hope you will take a few moments to share this experience and let it come to life in your heart and mind.

    I’ve found that the best way for me to absorb something like this is to take each verse or description and try to visualize it. As you read, try to see it in your imagination, or even ask the Lord to give you a vision of His workings. With each verse where the psalmist praises God, we can join him in praising, too. It can make the experience with Him a meaningful time of worship.

    Try to envision these elements of creation erupting with life at God’s command. Imagine the raging turmoil as the water flees from the land as the mountains rise higher and higher toward the sky. Picture wave upon wave of greens and blues and brilliant colors swirling across the barren land as He “clothes” the earth like a living being. Imagine the absolute awe of watching God in His chariot of clouds, soaring from horizon to horizon, drawing the rain in His wake, like vast curtains falling, to ensure that life will flourish in even the tiniest crevice.

    Marvel at the Creator of the entire universe tenderly shielding a tiny flower or watching with joy as even the smallest creature brings yet more life into being. Consider the wonder of the intricacies of His plans to provide not only what we need but those things that can bring us pleasure—the tastes of foods, wine to make us merry, the oil of the olive for our skin.

    Of course, in this Psalm, the writer can only briefly summarize the immense work of creation and all its intricacies. There’s so much more that awaits our discovery!

    Let all that I am praise the Lord.

    O Lord my God, how great you are!
     You are robed with honor and majesty.
    2 You are dressed in a robe of light.
    You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
    3 you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds.
    You make the clouds your chariot;
     you ride upon the wings of the wind.
    The winds are your messengers;
     flames of fire are your servants.

    You placed the world on its foundation
     so it would never be moved.
    You clothed the earth with floods of water,
     water that covered even the mountains.
    At your command, the water fled;
     at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away.
    Mountains rose and valleys sank
     to the levels you decreed.
    Then you set a firm boundary for the seas,
     so they would never again cover the earth.

    10 You make springs pour water into the ravines,
     so streams gush down from the mountains.
    11 They provide water for all the animals,
     and the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
    12 The birds nest beside the streams
     and sing among the branches of the trees.
    13 You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
     and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
    14 You cause grass to grow for the livestock
     and plants for people to use.
    You allow them to produce food from the earth—
    15 wine to make them glad,
    olive oil to soothe their skin,
     and bread to give them strength.
    16 The trees of the Lord are well cared for—
     the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
    17 There the birds make their nests,
     and the storks make their homes in the cypresses.
    18 High in the mountains live the wild goats,
     and the rocks form a refuge for the hyraxes.1

    19 You made the moon to mark the seasons,
     and the sun knows when to set.
    20 You send the darkness, and it becomes night,
     when all the forest animals prowl about.
    21 Then the young lions roar for their prey,
     stalking the food provided by God.
    22 At dawn they slink back
     into their dens to rest.
    23 Then people go off to their work,
     where they labor until evening.

    24 O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
     In wisdom you have made them all.
     The earth is full of your creatures.
    25 Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
     teeming with life of every kind,
     both large and small.
    26 See the ships sailing along,
     and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.

    27 They all depend on you
     to give them food as they need it.
    28 When you supply it, they gather it.
     You open your hand to feed them,
     and they are richly satisfied.
    29 But if you turn away from them, they panic.
     When you take away their breath,
     they die and turn again to dust.
    30 When you give them your breath, life is created,
     and you renew the face of the earth.

    31 May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
     The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
    32 The earth trembles at his glance;
     the mountains smoke at his touch.

    33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
     I will praise my God to my last breath!
    34 May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
     for I rejoice in the Lord.
    35 Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth;
     let the wicked disappear forever.

    Let all that I am praise the Lord.

    Praise the Lord!—Psalm 104 NLT


    1 Small, thickset, herbivorous mammals in the order Hyracoidea. Hyraxes are well-furred, rotund animals with short tails. Typically, they measure between 30 and 70 cm (12 and 28 in) long and weigh between 2 and 5 kg (4.4 and 11 lb).

     

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