At the start of January our Pastor of Worship & Arts, Justin Tamlin, returned from a 3 month sabbatical. For every 5 years of work, our pastors qualify for a well-deserved 3 month sabbatical period focused on self-development, rest and spiritual renewal.
We took the opportunity to ask Justin how God met with him devotionally.
How was your heart stirred towards personal devotion while on sabbatical?
My sabbatical has been one of the best gifts I have ever been given in 22 years of full-time pastoral ministry. What a privilege to have a few months off to reflect, read, write, travel, receive input and to spend extended time alone with God and with my family. In ministry it can be a real danger to read God’s Word and to immediately think of ways it could apply to other people in a sermon! I found it a joy to meet with God for extended times without the pressures of ministry in the background.
Any stories of how God spoke to you?
I realised that a busy heart is a closed heart. This unhurried season allowed God to speak deeply into my life. God exposed things in my life that I don’t always see amidst the noise of life.
God spoke to me through his Word about areas of self-sufficiency; fear; irritability, etc. He spoke to me about the difference between compliance and obedience. Compliance is mere dutiful performance, but true obedience is from the heart and motivated by love for Him. God reminded me of the gospel, His love, His purposes and plans.
God used His Word, prayer, long walks on the beach, significant conversations, and divine God-incidences to shape me, encourage me and remind me of gospel truths.
Paul Tripp’s book, “Dangerous Calling” was like heart surgery from a fellow pastor armed with a scalpel. In one place he writes: “You must die to your desire to be in control … You must die to your own kingship. You must die to the pursuit of your own glory … you must die to the maintenance of your own reputation. You must die to having the final answer and getting your own way. You must die to your unfaltering confidence in you. You must die.” Ouch!
Any tips to help others get in tune with God?
In our busy culture we have to carve out time for God – not just daily time, but special seasons and days where we can have extended time with the Lord. Longer times are like special meals where we get to savour and enjoy the nourishment! We live in a city where we are surrounded by tributes to our man-made endeavours. We need to spend time in nature so that we can look beyond the skyscrapers. Last year I took out an annual membership with the Botanical Society which allows me free entrance into any Botanical Garden in SA – an early morning before work at 6am; an early evening; an hour or two on a weekend – this was life transforming in my devotional life in the past year. Try a new (and trustworthy!) Bible translation – I recently purchased the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and have loved the freshness of discovering well known passages translated differently. Along with the new Bible I bought a set of Dry Highlighters and have been highlighting. It helps me to concentrate and to focus. Journal some points of application; read a good Christian book that can focus you on the Scriptures and expound them. Pray Scripture back to the Lord after your time in the Word. Use music to prepare your heart and finish your devotional time by singing truth! All these things and more have been a great blessing in reinvigorating my devotional life in the past year. Allow Christ, the living water to satisfy your soul! He invites you to come!