Developing the discipline of early morning prayer and Scripture reading is important to us as Christians, but it’s not easy. I resisted this practice for years, despite hearing and reading multiple exhortations. What finally got me was this quote from George Washington Carver:
All my life I have risen regularly at four o’clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There He gives me my orders for the day.…When people are still asleep I hear God best and learn my plan.*
I have found great joy in this simple practice, though I sometimes struggle with focus and with deepening my prayers. I’ve tried using devotionals. Among my favorites are The Daily God Book and My Utmost for His Highest. But you can only read the same devo so many times.
Bible study apps have been helpful, to a degree. I use Olive Tree’s Bible Study app most of the time now. I like its user interface, and it has tons of reading plans. The chronological plan is my favorite. I’ve read through the Bible using this app several times now, but this year I really got bogged down in Deuteronomy.
So I went looking for a new app to liven things up. I thought maybe something lectionary-based would suit my Judicious temperament. The Roman church has several, and the Episcopalians have a couple. I was pleasantly surprised to find one from my own denomination: Daily Prayer from the PC(USA). It’s a really simple app, but I like it.
But while I was searching the other options, another one caught my eye: Bible Study That Doesn’t Suck. This app isn’t released by any denomination, though its contributing pastors are Lutheran. Here’s how the developer, Megan Rohrer, describes her app:
Bible Study that uses multimedia to provide postmodern commentary about ancient themes. Videos, pop music, geeky church talk, and conversations with grandma will help you get a deep understanding of weekly Bible texts—but without all the abusive baggage that some folk have invented to justify prejudice, homophobia sexism, ableism, and whatever yucky stuff people do in the name of the Bible.
She concludes her description with this sobering thought: “We hope this project will remind you that no matter how many times people have lied to you about it, God does in fact love you. Just as you are and all that you will become.”
So this search for a new devotional became for me a devotional itself.
There is great hope in that message for those who have been hurt by church people. There is also great conviction there. We must always remember that God does love those people we’re tempted to shun. We should continually pray for the ability to see them as God does.
Jesus often rebuked people for their behavior. He could do that, because he was the One Sinless Judge. We can point people to his words, but we can’t render judgment as he does. Yet even in his rebukes—and please remember, his harshest rebukes were for religious hypocrites like the Pharisees—he still welcomed people. He dined with them, instructed them, and healed them.
Jesus never shunned anyone. As his followers, neither should we.