Ten years ago at the end of one of my monthly spiritual direction meetings with Ray Ortlund Sr. he smiled brightly and urged me, as he so often did, “Bill, be all and only for Jesus!”

Then Ray encouraged me to read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I should tell you that whenever Ray made a suggestion to me I followed it. I know that’s a lot of power to give someone, but that’s what you do with a spiritual director who is helping you to follow Jesus Christ. It’s a discipline of submission to God.

I had already read Bonhoeffer’s classic devotional book years before that, but I read it again. I read it seeking more of the warmth of the light of Christ that shined from Ray — the fires of a joyful devotion to the Lord!

What are Your First Thoughts?

Sure enough, I read these words from Bonhoeffer:

Christ is the”‘Sun of righteousness’ risen upon the expectant [people]” (Mal. 4:2), and they that love him shall “be as the sun when he goes forth in his might” (Judges 5:31). The early morning belongs to the Church of the risen Christ. At the break of light it remembers the morning on which death and sin lay prostrate in defeat and new life and salvation were given to humankind…

The Scriptures, moreover, tell us that the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord (Ps 5:3)… “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake psalter and harp (Ps 57:7-8)… God’s mercies are “new every morning” (Lam 3:23). (p. 41-42)

There it was again! Ray’s smile — the joy of Jesus! — shining on me! Yes Lord God! I want to be the kind of person that my first thoughts in the morning are, “I love you Jesus!”

But I had to confess that my first thoughts were anxious thoughts. I thought about everything I felt pressured to get done  that day. I didn’t praise the Lord when I awoke. I didn’t think about God and what he was doing around me. I bolted out of bed and got to work! — even if the work I was doing was “for God.”

Listen to That Other Voice

How could I become the kind of person who smiles to Jesus with my first thoughts each morning? C. S. Lewis (another author Ray recommended) gave me the practical counsel I needed:

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

Linger in Bed to Pray

My friend, “Be all and only for Jesus!”

It starts by lingering in bed in the morning to set your first thoughts on God. It’s a little Sabbath — a time to rest in God, enjoy him and love on him, appreciate his wisdom and his work, meditate on Scripture, and submit your “To Do List” to him. You’re disciplining your mind and body to follow the Spirit of Christ, step-by-step all day long, every day.

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