Anyone who has felt frustrated by an unfulfilling pattern of daily devotions will find help and hope in The Nearest.
Have you ever felt that your devotional life falls short of the ideal? Have you ever wondered how you can have an intimate, meaningful relationship with God when the demands of modern life make it all but impossible? Do you feel trapped and frustrated by a pattern of daily devotions which you find unfulfilling? The Nearest sets out to tackle these questions by challenging many of the preconceptions which have become entangled with the popular understanding of spirituality in western Christianity. By looking at prayer and devotion from a different perspective, Tim Ross shows how a fulfilling relationship with God is both realistic and achievable within the confines of your life right now.
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Guilt about quiet times is a regular theme in the Christian walk. Here Tim Ross undertakes a masterful and moving journey that demythologises this sacred cow within Christian circles. Ross handles the reader with care, grace and much truth. Merit-making wouldn't be the declared currency of the believer but is often the unspoken life lived out. In Ross's own words;- ‘Find God and let yourself be found by him, and let that fulfil your desire for meaning and worth.’ This feels of the weight and wisdom of Brother Lawrence in its usefulness for our times. Beautiful, wise & unique. Worthy of re-reading because the truths can sink even deeper. Confessional, clear and full of gracious challenge. My heart, not my habits is what Christ desires. A title that deserves the widest circulation. ~ Johnny Douglas, GoodBookStall
‘An Admission: I don’t have a quiet-time’. So begins this book by Tim Ross, a Methodist minister, on prayer. I don’t know about you, but I am already hooked. This has been my guilty secret too. Now I find I share this failing with at least one other Christian, and his publishers evidently think there may be enough of us in this boat to make Tim’s book worth publishing. I agree with his publishers…
He is not suggesting that those who have managed to organize their lives to include a set time for daily prayer should change. Many busy people manage to fit a lot into their lives because they are as organized as the hero of Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’:
[Passepartout] observed…a programme of the daily routine of the house. It comprised all that was required of the servant, from eight in the morning, exactly at which hour Phileas Fogg rose, till half-past eleven, when he left the house for the Reform Club—all the details of service, the tea and toast at twenty-three minutes past eight, the shaving-water at thirty-seven minutes past nine, and the toilet at twenty minutes before ten. Everything was regulated and foreseen that was to be done from half-past eleven a.m. till midnight.
Tim guides us through the different Christian disciplines and approaches which have historically regarded prayer as a time when we move from where we are to where God is (even if we no longer think of him as a man with a white beard on a cloud, most traditions still visualize God as physically apart from us, a very spatial way of thinking about him). Tim now suggests that we, the busy or the merely disorganized, look differently at our relationship with God:
Incarnation – that is the beginning of the Gospel. In the stories of Jesus stilling storms he does not transport the disciples to the safety of the shore; in one account he comes to them from the shore, whilst in the other he is already in the same boat with them, but in neither account does he whisk them away from the storm. He saves us not by removing us from the world, but by being with us, sharing in all that we experience, and by healing and restoring us where we are. Surely this is what we should take to form the basis for a model of Christian spirituality. God is no longer remote, up there, The Furthest, but in Jesus he is Emmanuel, God with you, The Nearest. Now he is nearer to you than the storm. He is in the same boat with you. He is infinitely nearer to you even than a quiet-time.
So now we understand the title of the book: God is as near to us as it is possible to be (‘the nearest’) and we are to try another way of showing our devotion. Of course, those in monastic orders who do pray at set times also aspire with Tim to hold God in their hearts – here beautifully described by Sr Ruth Starman:
As the Holy Spirit dwells in the sanctuary of our heart and is unceasingly praying in us, we ourselves carry within us a constant prayer. But most of us are unconscious of his presence and the prayer which continuously goes on in us. Our heart lies asleep and needs to be awakened to this inner reality. The Jesus Prayer is a powerful means for awakening our heart, enabling us to become aware of the secret indwelling of the Spirit in a conscious way. For too long our heart lies dormant within us like the seed lying beneath the winter snow. Finally spring comes. Snow melts away under the warmth of the sun and the little seed begins to sprout forth with its latent energy. In the same way the name of Jesus, which radiates his power and energy, warms up and awakens our heart from its winter lethargy.
This is a book that has already changed my life. Tim has this to offer the Marthas:
Brother Lawrence, a French lay brother serving in a Carmelite Monastery in the 17th century, discovered the secret of living always in the presence of God. He called it, “The Practice of the Presence.” As a lay brother, he worked in the kitchens and as a cobbler, doing the kind of day-to-day tasks which may have otherwise kept the monks from their prayers and studies. Though he loved God very deeply this meant that he was not able to spend long periods in prayer, as the monks did. Instead he found that, by keeping his love for God awake in his consciousness all the time he was doing his daily duties, he was able to live continually in the presence of God.
And I leave you with his prescription for a life of nearness to God:
It is your uniqueness that God loves and values the most. Far more than any type of service or ministry you may be able to offer him. You mean more to God than the sum of all your actions, spiritual or otherwise. Find God and let yourself be found by him, and let that fulfill your desire for meaning and worth. All that your life entails, from traveling to work in the car, to going to the supermarket or just doing the washing up, is the Garden in which you walk in the presence of God.
Amen to that!~ Laura Sykes, http://www.layanglicana.org/blog/2011/08/20/the-nearest-devotion-not-devotions/
What a refreshing book! If you struggle with your “devotional life” (those who don’t will probably lie about other things) you are in for a wonderful surprise. With profound Biblical insight, freshness, clarity, humor and practical help, Tim Ross has given the church a magnificent gift. You will find teaching here that will revolutionize the way you think about God and your walk with him. This book could change your life! Read it and give it to your friends. They will “rise up and call you blessed” … and you will do the same for me for having recommended it to you.~ Professor Steve Brown, Professor of Preaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida; the author of several books and a teacher on the radio program Key Life.
Tim Ross has successfully and entertainingly opened up a discussion that is long overdue. This can only benefit a church that is too often ridiculously nervous about examining the truth about what actually happens to people.~ Adrian Plass, Writer and speaker with over thirty books to his name.