Devotion time. Bible time. Quiet time. Whatever you call it, you’ve resolved this year to make enough time and set the right space aside especially for it. Thank you. Celebrate that!
Time and space devoted to be with God and know Him more and better through the Bible ought to be paramount to every other time and space in our day. The hang up can come with how to do it. What practices could characterize the time to make it meaningful; to walk away feeling and knowing your life is somehow changed.
There are a lot of models for this, some more useful than others. These are five steps or points or practices or whatever that I give away to folks to try, and maybe they’ll serve you in your (or those you serve in their) resolution to be with God and know Him more and better…
It’s kind of fun to say, so say it over a few times.
First things, first: Find a Bible passage. You might pray and ask God where to start. You might just start someplace familiar. Keep it simple, though. Often, I’ll say, “Pick something you know, but someplace you’ll grow.” Imagine a passage you’ve waded into and paddled around in, but have never ducked your head under the water and opened your eyes.
And, for length, the section headings Bible editors have placed in the text are good marker points for starting and stopping. Whatever, pick a portion long enough to catch the gist, but short enough to read through a few times.
Then, read it. Read it over and over and over. Three times at least. Read it once…Did I hear something? Read it twice…It’s coming from over there. Read it thrice…There it is! You’ll catch pieces and points on that second and third time through that pass by in a blur during the first reading.
Then browse back over the text and pick one of those pieces or points to reflect on. Maybe it was a particularly unique phrase. Maybe it was a new-to-you verse or two. What popped off the page for you? What rang your bell every time you passed it?
When you’ve found it, pull your journal over—or a tablet or a page from recycling—and write it down, word for word. If you’re battling to find it, set it all aside and come back to it later. The thing is, as soon as you force this or any of these steps, you’ve taken steps away from the point of your resolution to spend time enough with God. On this step in particular, sometimes it takes me a couple days before something grabs my attention and stares me down. But, when it does, my journal is the first one to know.
Now look at it. Stare back at it. Psalm 1 tells us about a blessed guy who delights in God’s Word and meditates on it day and night. That’s the push here. Mull it over. Like a Jolly Rancher® tossing about in your mouth, stay with it long enough to get the full flavor.
Then write out your thoughts—any thoughts at all. Sentences, bullet points, scattered words; whatever has come to mind by now. Maybe draw something that captures what’s stirring in your heart. Do something to represent why you picked what you picked, and what it’s jabbing into your soul about God and you.
You’ve thought it through long enough? It’s gone from a rolling boil to a steaming simmer. Let it rise up into a prayer. Tell God what you read, wrote, thought. Pray it back to Him. Aren’t we thrilled when folks approach us and tell us something we said really impacted them? Same here. You were impacted. You’re different after reading and writing and thinking all that through. Tell Him in prayer and be willing to stay there in prayer for a while. Selah
Lastly, go tell someone. Move on from those devoted moments into the day and watch for opportunities to give away what was given to you. Maybe to your kids or spouse. Maybe to folks you serve in ministry. Maybe to a stranger at the bus stop or coffee shop. You’ll be floored by the doors God opens to share what’s been most meaningful and life changing for you that day.
Over the years and in varying seasons, each of these five practices has come about as needed life-lines in a sense. Only recently have they all begun to fit together into a whole, birthing for me a live manner of communing with God. But it isn’t the same every time. Be patient. Move graciously through the dry days. Celebrate the rich days.
I think you’ll find, taken as a whole, that you’re solidifying God’s Word and work in your life; drilling it deeper and deeper into your soul. Each successive one moves Scripture from words written to words spoken, and the text on the page becomes our testimony in these lives of devotion to God.
ANDY WEEDA has been serving young adults for 20 years. Currently, he is Pastor of Emerging Adult Ministry at Sunrise Baptist Church in Northwest Washington, where he leads The Branch: an emerging adults community, and directs LEAD Academy, an academic leadership initiative of the local church. You can read more from Andy on his blog.