Do you have a consistent daily devotional time? It’s been my experience that most Christians do not, even though they have tried to be more disciplined. In my last post, I addressed Motivation. In this post, I would like to offer very practical advice giving you some tools to help you get more out of your daily bible reading.
I recently listened to a seminar given by Matt Chandler, the Lead/Teaching Pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (here’s a link to the MP3). This is probably the best seminar I’ve heard on personal devotions. The method I use is modified slightly from Matt’s. Not only have I found it helpful, but as I have received feedback from others, they have enjoyed it as well.
It’s important to mention, as Matt does in the seminar, what we are sharing are “tools not rules.” These are simply methods that have worked for many, but may not work for some. We certainly don’t want to be self-rightous about methods! Just try this on for size…see how it fits.
In order to have consistent devotions, you simply need to answer two questions; “When am I going to do it?” and “What am I going to do?” You’ve heard the axiom, “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” or something close to that. As worn out as that satement may be, it is very true. If you do not have a plan for growing in godliness, you will not grow.
When am going to do it?
Devotions just don’t “happen.” They have to be scheduled. Listen…we don’t “float” to godliness. We have to plan and work on being godly! So the first step to consistent devotions is planning a REGULAR, DAILY time when you will do them.
I’ve often heard, “I just don’t have the time in my schedule to do devotions.” I can understand where people are coming from..life is busy for all of us! However, we will plan time to do things that are important…even daily. Eating is an example. We will always find time to eat! Why? It’s important…and we get hungry! Spending time with God is also important and if we are “hungry” for Him, we WILL plan a time to be with Him (Matt. 5:6). Which brings me back to motivation. If we REALLY understand how GOOD and LOVING our God is…if we can remember how LOVED we felt when we came to the cross, then we will HUNGER for more of HIM!
So look at your schedule and find a regular, daily time to get with God. I do mine first thing in the morning, but that’s how I’m wired. Some of the guys I’m working with bring thier Bibles to work and read during lunch. Others find that bedtime works best for them. My wife enjoys the early afternoon hours when the kids are busy playing. Whatever the case, plan a time. That’s step one.
What am I going to do?
The other question you need to answer is “What am I going to do?” There are literally hundreds of options available for personal devotions. As I mentioned earlier, I use a modified version of Matt’s method. Here’s how it works.
I think it’s a good idea to follow some kind of reading schedule. Without a planned schedule, people tend to take one of two approaches. Some just start in Genesis and try to read through the Bible. If your devotional life has not been consistent, this may be a little too much too soon! Many who try to start being more consistent by taking on this daunting task get discouraged. They do OK until they get to Leviticus…then things slow down really quick! John Piper has said, “God put Leviticus in the Bible so that NO ONE will read through the Bible in a year!” :). Another approach some try is picking a random passage each day. This method tends to be more frustrating than helpful. Starting out each day trying to decide what you are going to read will quickly get discouraging.
I use the reading schedule found in the Our Journey Booklets from Harvest Bible Chapel. I will read through the “read through the Bible in a year” texts, as well as the devotional texts for that day. In addition, I’ll read a Psalm a day. I’ve been doing this for years so I’ve probably read through the book of Psalms more than 100 times! Yet, I’m constantly learning from them.
For starters, you can use the Our Daily Bread devotional guide, which is FREE online! Read the suggested reading…and if you are up for the challenge, read the “Read through the Bible in a Year” passages as well. Then journal about what you’ve read.
Journaling…are you familiar with how to do it? Ok…I’ll upack that for you.
As I read through the Scripture, certain verses will “hit.” For whatever reason, a verse or two will just jump off the page and speak to my heart that day. I will highlight these verses. Then, I will pick one of those passages (could be a verse or two) and will journal about why that verse impacted me today.
At the top of the journal page, I will write the date. On the next line, I will list the texts that I read that day. Then I will chose one of the passages that “hit” from my reading. For example, yesterday I read Colossians 4:2-4 along with other passages. Col. 4:2 really jumped out at me.
Col. 4:2 (ESV)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
So I wrote that down on the top of my paper. That’s right…I hand copied the entire verse! I love this part! It helps me think through the passage word for word as I carefully copy it down.
In my counseling and discipleship I often use the KNOW/DO method for homework. I want my counselees to KNOW what God’s Word says, but then I also want them to DO it (Matt. 7:24-27; James 1:22)! I use this same two-fold approach to my daily journal. I have section entitled “KNOW” where I make simple observations and about the text, mixed with a little interpretation (in case you are accustomed to the Precept Bible Study Methods). Then I write a section entitled “DO.” Here I get really specific about how I am going to obey this text.
Here is what I wrote yesterday for Col. 4:2;
“Paul instructs the Colossian church to be steadfast in prayer. This was a way to be watchful spiritually! Also, gratitude to was to be central.”
“I need to keep consistent in my daily prayer life. Today I am going to set aside an hour to pray. I will pray hard for spiritual vigilance and I will be sure to include praise for all that God has done in my life.”
I’m not writing a novel, but I’m recording specific ways I can be obedient to God in what He has taught me today. This journaling method is simple but also very effective. It’s drawn me closer to Him and helped me live more pleasing to Him. And as the guys in my church have started using the same method, it has really worked well for them too!
Now, as far as materials are concerned, I picked up a nice, leather journal from Barnes and Nobel. However, a cheap notebook would work. For what it’s worth, when I teach journaling, I use a Mead Five Star Advance, 2 subject notebook. These little half-sheet notebooks are set up perfectly for beginning journalers! There is a section for a prayer journal and a section for Bible study. The ones that we found even have a really cool 3X5 card holder in the front for Scripture memory! Awesome! Like I said, try it on for size and see how it fits!
Give me some feedback. What methods do you use? What has worked in your life? What did you get out of your Bible reading today? Share in the comments!
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad