I need a reset. Advice and prayer welcome.

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by Rutherglen1794, Jul 16, 2019.

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  1. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore


    I’ve been pondering this for a while. Hear me out.

    As some of you might notice, I often post here about practical topics such as family worship, reading books, selecting books, etc. I ask a lot of questions about resources and methods, because I’m trying to find something that works; something to kickstart me; something to help.

    Obviously no book or method can revive my soul; yet there are practical things one must do to be spiritually healthy.

    Ever since the birth of my twin boys (2.5 years ago!), and the massive time and work level shift that it brought to my life, I have had no spiritual consistency; no lasting profitable devotional habits; no good spiritual growth.

    I struggle with assurance; I struggle with carrying out right priorities; I struggle with the duties of leading my family; and now I struggle with smartphone-induced lessening of brain power and focus.

    I’ve added sin to foolishness, and now I am reaping the fruits thereof.

    And now I have baby #3 to add to it all.

    So, why am I writing this?

    I want to do some pruning in my life. I want to practice self-control. I want to get back to the basics.

    I want to lay out my plan here, to get your opinions, and your encouragement.

    Here are some things I believe I need to do, and some things I want to do:

    1. Go to bed early. Give myself some time to read in bed (what to read?), and stop setting myself up for failure the next morning by being too tired.

    2. Get up early. Go to God first. Develop a habit of mornin devotion. What does it look like? Pray, read, sing?

    3. I want to minimize the smartphone usage to only the essentials. Any tips?

    4. I want to curb my booklust, and stop hopping from book to book to book. I need to benefit from a book I read, not indulge in books.

    5. I want to systematically read the Scriptures. I have been following a reading plan since January, so that will continue, but it has not been done in the context of daily devotion to God.

    6. I want to systematically study the Scriptures. The men’s group at my church will be going through Philippians in September. My hope is to attend those meetings, as well as go through it on my own with Matthew Henry by my side.

    7. I want to establish consistent family worship. I’ve had starts and stops with this, but now in a big stop. I need tips and prayer here. It’s all the more difficult with three children under 2.5yo now, and especially hard when private devotion is lacking.

    8. I want to set apart the Lord’s Day. Advice and prayer needed.

    That’s all I can think of right now. Please feel free to comment on any part of these things.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  2. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    I have noticed that I am most successful at many of your items when I can get to bed by 10:15.

    I'm not the one to give advice on many of these, but I will say that I went back to a simple flip phone. It is freeing overall, with GPS being the only thing that I miss in the slightest. It isn't an automatic spiritual booster in itself, though you will have more time available and less mindless scrolling. And you might not see what Megan Markle wore today.
  3. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Earlier bed time seems to be an absolute necessity.

    As for the phone, I’d like to go back to flip, but it is my work phone that I use for home as well, so cant change it.

    Perhaps I could make a point of always leaving it plugged in at home? Hmm
  4. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    It sounds like you know what you need to do, now you just need to actually do it. A passion for the things of God and the work of the Holy Spirit will help you be faithful in these things. It's also good to keep your priorities written down so you can consistently go back to them. I don't have time to address everything on your list but maybe this can be an ongoing thread and things can be addressed one at a time? Wish you the best, brother.
  5. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior

    You just need to eat a Chee .....totally joking:p

    I will try to give reflection on each of your points, but you are right to be alarmed and the best advise is for you to go and speak to your Pastor. He needs to know of your spiritual condition as your God appointed under-shepherd who will have to give an account of his flock. Don't delay in this. If you have not been setting aside the Lord's Day, family worship, and neglecting the Word, then these are signs you need counsel, pastoral rebuke, and encouragement from your Pastor.

    Great idea. I try to open and close the day with secret worship consisting of at least reading and prayer. I also use this time to help me prepare for our daily family worship sessions. I don't keep this perfectly, but this is my goal. I usually stay up a little after the kids go down (8pm-9pmish) for reading and then wake up while they are sleeping for reading (5am).

    If you recognize this as a problem in your life, then consider a social media shutdown. Limit yourself to emails, calls, and text. I only do PB and I even have to make myself takes breaks from it because of my own failures in abusing it (by neglecting other duties).

    I tend to be OCD. I make list. I made a list of books (outside of scripture) I currently have 6 on the list and I am refusing to add to this list until I finish. So when someone says: "you gotta read this", I respond "NO NO NO NO NO", in a more politically correct manner.

    Don't stress on the "how" until you can get an established routine of getting in the word at least daily, setting aside the Lord's Day, and leading your family in the word. You likely feel need of revival because you have been neglecting the very things the Lord has given to keep us revived! Secret, Family, and Corporate Worship. However, on some level we should all desire to be affected by the gospel in a more intimate way with every waking day, but running is a discipline.

    Start simple. Read scripture, pray, sing (15 minutes), and make it into a daily routine, then you can worry about the rest. Make a list of the things that are the usual excuses for the "stops" and CUT LOOSE:chained: the things that weigh you down. Your family needs this. Don't be discouraged, God has commanded it to be a blessing to our souls.
    Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Setting aside 1 in 7 on the Lord's Day is not only a command, but an actual blessing God has given to creation. Fill this day with worship (secret, family, and corporate) and you can consider it set apart. Again make a list of what hinders you from doing this and begin making adjustments to eliminate the sinful things and push the lawful things into the other 6 days.

    Remember the best routine is all for not if we remain dry and empty of affections in our hearts. Recognize yourself (me included) as spiritual beggars before our Father. Beg him in prayer for grace and mercy. Plead to him to make the gospel a reality in your heart. Plead that the Fountain of Living Water might refresh you. And then get off the couch and go do it...seek him in the ways he has commanded. It seems you are neglecting the primary forms of worship, which God has commanded to be blessings to his children, which are secret, family, and corporate worship.

    Also, if you just had a new baby make sure your big focus, especially right now, is helping one of the biggest blessings God has given you..........a wife....not PB. Talk to your Pastor and help the Wife! That is the best I got! I mean the above sincerely and I am trying to speak lovingly but bluntly as often I have needed this in spiritual ruts:detective:
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  6. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you. I will take a look.

    Yes, writing them down is a great idea. Thank you. As far as this thread goes, I’ll have to think about that. I’m sure each point is worthy of a discussion, if others are willing to humour me.

    Thank you for your words. I will talk to my pastor.

    I’ll read through your post more in-depth and get back to you.
  7. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I can sympathise with your situation as i have faced similar trials at various times.

    You have been given excellent advice - I will just add to it a couple more things:

    It is very important to not only read scripture, but also meditate on it. Joel Beeke's little book "How Can I Practice Christian Meditation?" is very helpful.

    The Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote much on how to live a godly Christian life including encouragement in trials. His books "A bruised reed" [Banner of Truth] and "A souls conflict" [Puritan Publications] are a must read In my humble opinion.
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  8. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    Man this is good stuff. What wisdom!
  9. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Except that the Chee is not as good as a Kiwi burger :p
  10. Chad Hutson

    Chad Hutson Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother I have had times of drought as well, but thankfully have overcome them by God's grace. My advice to you may not suit your lifestyle, but since you are asking for advice here is my take on #'s 1 & 2:
    I go to bed early, between 9 & 9:30. My church people know this, so they don't call me this late unless it is a dire emergency. I read sometimes at night, but that is not the best time for me, as I am exhausted and ready for sleep.
    I get up early, between 4 & 5 every day (even weekends). The quiet of morning serves to help me focus on God's word and my need for His presence. I can read for an hour and study the Bible for an hour or two before most people get out of bed.
    I also run 4 miles at least 4 times a week, sometimes more. While running I listen to sermonaudio.com, which also feeds my soul. Sometimes I just reflect on what I have read earlier in the morning, a type of meditation, I suppose. I go to the office at 9 and continue in my day.
    Avoid the trap of social media and digital stimulation at all cost! Go online and find a digital detox program to help you.
  11. Chad Hutson

    Chad Hutson Puritan Board Freshman

  12. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore


    Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. Takes guts.

    I think your #1-3 are the most key. Getting up early is huge, and to actually do that going to bed early is something you've got to do (cf. Ps. 4:8 with 5:3).

    I too have had a lot of personal struggles with the screen-time issue. I think I was border-line addicted to CNN (don't judge me) and NFL (don't judge me). Nothing wrong here but I was spending way too much time on them. A few practical ideas: Whatever 2-3 sites you go to, could you limit to once or twice a day (mornings/evenings)? There should also be APPs that limit your use of other APPs on your smartphone. Another idea: I started getting the newspaper in the mornings (hard copy) and I've absolutely loved it. That way I get the news without being on the screen. I think something else that can be really important here is having someone in your life that can ask about these things. All the better if you and that person could be probing your heart with all this stuff...Why is it that I find myself so often running to my phone? What's behind all this?
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  13. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    1. How about either reading a chapter in the Bible or a Psalm or a few Proverbs or how about going through other shorts like Valley of Vision prayers? Volume 3 of the Banner of Truth set of Thomas Brooks, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, is great for short reading times as each thought as he goes along is half a page or a little bit more.

    2. It could be reading or praying. Meditating on a passage. Right now I'm trying to read the whole Bible all the way through in the mornings. That is to say a chapter at a time ;)

    I would say spend time in the morning with a little portion first. Things can get busy.

    2Co 8:12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

    From Albert Barnes on that passage:
    "He is not required to give what he has not. His obligation is proportioned to his ability. His offering is acceptable to God according to the largeness and willingness of his heart, and not according to the narrowness of his fortune - Locke. If the means are small, if the individual is poor, and if the gift shall be, therefore, small in amount, yet it may be proof of a larger heart and of more true love to God and his cause than when a much more ample benefaction is made by one in better circumstances."
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I once grew very emotionally/spiritually dry, and so I switched from reading to listening to the bible being read while I walked. This worked wonders for me and I was able to listen to several shorter letters of Paul on repeat as I hiked and came away with a much better sense of the overall unity of those letters because I heard them read all in one setting (without distraction, in the woods). This would take you away from looking at a screen because you'd be walking.

    Also, maintaining the same rigid schedule every week can be soul-crushing. Even duties can become dreary in this manner. We think of morning devotions as sitting and reading something. But why not get out and walk and pray as you walk in the mornings? Walking alone in nature usually does the soul good.
  15. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    There’s more replies than I can respond to right now, but thank you for writing! I will get to it when I can.

    One question for now though:

    For family worship with toddlers, do you recommend using a real Bible, and have the children “grow into understanding” it over time?

    Or, do you recommend using a age-appropriate “Bible”?

    If using a real Bible, then read from the age appropriate “Bible” at a different time?
  16. LongWar

    LongWar Puritan Board Freshman

    There's a lot of wisdom in your plan of action. I can't recommend the book "Reset" by David Murray enough. It's short and light reading (heavy on the stories) but the principles that are in the book are extremely profitable.

    I have three children and we are homeschooling them. They have age-appropriate Bibles and the oldest (and only one who can read) uses Bible story primers for language arts. We play kids worship music in the car and read wholesome books such as the Narnia series or Little House on the Prarie as well. Several times a week, I read a chapter from the NT and we have been working through Genesis as well one chapter at a time. Obviously, it goes over their head, but I want them to see the reverence that their mother and I have for God's word and the gravitas with which we treat scripture. When they are old enough and understand, they'll inherit that appreciation as well.
  17. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    For smartphone management, go to headhearthand.org, look up "Digital Detox", and you will have plenty to keep you busy. Well worth the effort to train your digital life!

    That includes taming your tracking of controversial threads on PB, rather than circling them like a starving vulture :)
  18. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    For worship definitely use a real Bible. Not only does it get your children accustomed to it, it's appropriate for what you're doing. At other times certainly make use of good Children's Bibles, Bible story books &c.

    As to your other points in the op. From my own experience I can definitely recommend getting to bed earlier. I try to go around 9pm. I don't have to get up until 7am and can make do with 6-7hours sleep a night so it gives me a few hours to try to read (or use my phone!) but at least it's chill out time and I can just roll over and go to sleep.

    On Sabbath put internet and phone away.

    For daily worship establish a routine of short morning and evening worship. Get that established first. I wouldn't even worry about including devotional reading as part of that. Keep it simple: sing, read a portion of Scripture, pray.
  19. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Brother, I intended to come back to your post and give a little closer read; and looking a little closer this line jumps out at me.

    Perhaps pastor and elders will chime in here, but I'd think that this should perhaps be your starting point in making these personal reforms. I would agree that the integrity of our walk does inform our assurance, and inconsistency will harm our assurance, but I also think that unless you have a robust doctrine of assurance and how to attain it, that the reforms you've listed will become a burden to you rather than a help. And, just from personal experience, your lack of assurance and how to properly obtain it might be at the root of your inconsistency.

    My own personal experience... I was converted in either 2009 or 2011 at the latest. Even afterwards, though I understood justification, I wasn't solid on just what brings a Christian to be holy. Neither was I clear on assurance, evidenced by the fact that my assurance had always gone up and down based on how I was doing that day. The usual result was that holiness was more of a burden than a joy, and even simple reforms in my personal life were quite troublesome, and I developed an imbalanced fixation on duties which only increased my troubles.

    Everything you're aiming at in your post is excellent and noble, and I'll encourage you all the same to work at the things you've mentioned. However, ask yourself if maybe these are things that you've listed out with an intention to better your assurance?
  20. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    This "early to bed" topic keeps popping up so I will add my amen and personal testimony.

    About five years ago, after many years of inconsistency in my devotions, somehow the Lord stirred me to get serious. I started getting up earlier and would read 10-13 chapters each morning to get the big picture in my head ASAP. Man, did I ever have a difficult time. Often I would fall asleep while reading or praying. I used to walk as I read thinking I couldn't fall asleep on my feet. The first few months were not encouraging at all. I felt like I couldn't retain what I read, and my prayers were dead and seemed to go no farther than my ceiling. But by the end of the first year, things were starting to improve. I said brief, so fast forward to today.

    For the past three years I go to bed by 8:30 and get up on average at 3:30-often much earlier and quit at about 7:00. That comes out to over 1,000 hours per year. I no longer need an alarm. I never miss a single day. Never. Not when I am sick. Not when I am on vacation with my wife. Not even if for some reason, I could not get to sleep until midnight or later. If it is very late, I don't go to bed at all.

    Do I sound like I am bosting? Maybe to you, but from my point of view, the Lord has exposed and nearly killed what pride I have left—and I had a lot. Most of us do. I am sharing this both to encourage you to "follow on to know the Lord" (Hosea 6:3) better and to make you jealous of what I have. Paul did as much.

    My morning time with the stunningly beautiful Triune God is now more wonderful than I can describe. On an average morning, I have more fulfillment than anything else I have ever experienced in my whole life. Even the very best times with my beautiful wife can not compare to real fellowship with God who loves me. I often tell Mary to "Watch out because you have some competition." Prayer is natural and filled with deep communion, fear, joy unspeakable, strong crying, tears, and much more. The Word of God comes rushing into my mind with perfect timing. At the end of maybe 90 minutes of intense prayer, I am exhausted and amazed at how fast the time went by. He has done all this and much more as grace and reward for my feeble but dogged persistense five years ago. This morning time has been so effective that my life-long struggle with bipolar disorder is for all purposes gone. My wife and doctor were reluctant at the beginning of ceasing treatment, but I am no longer on medication for it. I'll stop here.

    Dear @Rutherglen1794 (wish I knew your name),
    If my comments perk your interest, I invite you to start a conversation with me. My hope is that we then talk by phone about a few of your concerns and the few things I have learned in my 45 years as a Christian.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
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  21. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior


    Just after I finished the previous post on diligence in seeking God, I read the next verse where I left off in Bridges Commentary on Proverbs 19:24 and thought it providential enough to post here.


    24. A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

    Another forcible figure of the palsy of sloth!13 It so grows on its victim, that he has no heart to do even necessary things for himself; as if he could not take his hand out of his bosom; and would rather suffer the cravings of hunger, than make the exertion of putting his food into his mouth. A melancholy picture it is of many fair intentions and promises, and apparently good beginnings in religion—all stopped for want of the effort to overcome the least hindrance. Every religious duty is a burden. The struggle necessary for prayer—the only means of receiving our spiritual food—is too hard. And the soul that seemed to have been awakened, sinks into its former lethargy; and the effort to rouse it becomes each time fainter and more hopeless.

    Some indeed seem to feel little or no exertion to be necessary, a plain proof that they have never been really in earnest about this momentous concern. The conflict is not imaginary. “Woe unto those,” who reposing on the lap of indulgence, “are at ease in Zion.”1 A religion without sacrifice, without diligence, will never open a way to heaven. It is treasuring up unavailing repentance against the latter days. If the work of the day—much more the work of eternity, calls for all diligence,—if the Emperor Titus could mourn, that he ‘had lost a day,’ what will be the stinging remorse of having lost a life! To think, that by a right beginning, followed up by “a patient continuance in well doing,”2 we might have effectively “served the will of God in our generation,”3 so as to have been missed in the world, after we had “fallen asleep;” to think that we might have sown seed for eternity, so that our “memory” instead of “rotting,” would have been “blessed”4—that all this was wished, contemplated—nay—even resolved—yet not an atom of it accomplished: will not this be a thorn for a dying pillow—perhaps the tormenting worm for eternity?

    How then shall we resist this deadly disease? Thomson’s excuse for reposing in his own ‘Castle of Indolence’ was—that he had nothing to do. The want of an object makes an idler of a man of talent. Oh! then have this grand object ever in sight. “To me to live is Christ.”5 Be employed for God and for his Church. Form habits of early energy. Beware of a dreaming sentimentalism. Cultivate bodily activity. Regard the incursions of sloth as the effects of those poisons, which, while they cause sleep—unless counteracted by constant resistance—must prove fatal. Yet with all these means, never forget the one only principle, that makes them effectual—prayer, unceasing, believing—“looking unto Jesus”—who not only gives life, but liveliness.6

    But are we then struggling in the conflict? Forget not to thank God for every victory—yea—for the continued strength, enabling us to persevere in the fight; for the wise dispensation also that appoints this holy conflict, as the means of invigorating our faith, our hope, our meetness for the crown, and our joyful expectation of it. If peace with God is our life, “the joy of the Lord is our strength,”7 our health, our happiness, yet not to be found in a listless enervated habit.

    13 See similar figures Chap. 12:27; 26:15, Eccl. 4:5.

    1 Amos 6:1.

    2 Rom. 2:7.

    3 Acts 13:36.

    4 Chap. 10:7.

    5 Phil. 1:21.

    6 Heb. 12:1, 2, John 10:10.

    7 Neh. 8:10.
  22. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    That is possible. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Lack of assurance affecting duty; or neglected duty affecting assurance?
  23. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Reading over what you wrote I now remember what else prompted the question, and that is you mentioned the need for a kickstart.

    The source of the kickstart and the source of regaining assurance are the same--The Vine Jesus Christ. The Root of the olive tree. The head and life of the church.

    The advice in the thread is excellent, and I'm rather convicted of tech addictions which I seem to systematically kick and get caught by. Routine and consistency are important, and we should zealously guard our private, family, and corporate worship. Assurance is going to be hazy and shaky without a consistent Christian life. Yet I know from experience that if you make the duties the source of assurance, they'll end up killing assurance instead, thus none of this should be the source of the spiritual kick-start you are seeking.

    The source of assurance and the life of holiness that you need is found in your Mediator, Jesus Christ. John 15:5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."

    Where does our life of holiness come from? It comes from Christ. How does it come to us from Christ? When we abide with Him. How do we abide with Him, and Him in us? We make a home for Him in our hearts, entertain Him, welcome Him, long for Him, spend time with Him. What does Christ do when He dwells in our hearts by faith? He cleans house, and rather than leaving it empty He abides there.

    As you consider how to worship publicly and privately, seek fellowship with the Triune God. Make that your goal and aim. Remember too, like any relationship it takes time and effort. As you get to know Him, He will change your attitude toward your inconsistency, and will show you your sins, and give the godly sorrow meet for repentance. And then out of sorrow for sin, thankfulness for His mercy, we irreconcilably put our sins to death and run after new obedience.

    More can be said, but growth in holiness begins by seeing what bankrupts we really are. Not just on a low charge, but dead by ourselves. A severed dying branch at best. But in Christ is all our spiritual life. We not only receive justification by faith, but faith is also how we grow in holiness. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

    And assurance that by faith God not only forgives you through Christ, but will make you a holy man because Christ has died to give holiness to you, that's the sina quae non of assurance, and assurance in itself. All evidences and acts of holiness simply confirm and testify to the truth of the delivery of this promise.

    Start with the Triune God, particularly with Jesus. Let Him be the the root, reason, and motive for your obedience. In spending time with Him, you will be made to be like Him.
  24. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    That’s a good word, thank you. Focusing merely on my striving and duty has certainly been a futile exercise for myself in the past.

    Thanks, brother.
  25. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore


    I’ve decided to pluck out my right eye of internet usage. This includes the Puritan Board.

    I’m also moved to this after pondering the death of Patrick.

    The stakes of eterna life and death are unbelievably high.

    Thank you all for your words of wisdom, admonition, and encouragement.
  26. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Lord make you fruitful in your obedience.
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