At the beginning of the year i had a wake up call. I had been playing hop, skip and jump in my personal bible study and prayer time and i experienced an unusual and uncomfortable feeling of emptiness inside me that i couldn’t bear to live with it. This persisted over a period of time until i realised it was God letting me experience the emptiness of a life without Him at the centre of it. I knew without being told that it had everything to do with the lack of consistency in my learning about God and his ways and in my training in being like Jesus who is the exact image of who God wants us to be. I also knew it wasn’t just a question of my not doing the ritual of “quiet time” or “daily devotion” or “personal altar” or whatever you might call it, i knew it was an issue bordering strongly on my attitude to God and the things of God. It was an issue of things like committment and faithfulness. Those are terms that come up when you’re in a relationship with someone you’re into and these are the qualities that take our experience of God out of impersonal routine into a real , tangible, results- to –show- for – it, relationship with the Living God. God will always match committment, faithfulness and obedience with passionate involvement but he barely tolerates reluctant, hot today; cold tommorow, once in a while, when i can, committment. It’s like a relationship between you and someone you love, their indifference to you would be worse than their outright rejection of you.
So i brushed up. I got my act together and stopped slacking like someone reading this should. I looked into all the reasons why i had been unable to maintain the discipline of devotions before and here is one; I didn’t have a plan to follow. The reason you hop, skip , jump on your devotions is because you don’t have a plan. If you rely on just opening your bible to some random page and reading whatever you see, it’s just as silly as preparing for an exam by guessing the pages and topics to read instead of reading the syllabus.
An example of a plan is one of these: Read the bible from start to finish in one year by reading a minimum of two chapters from the old and new testament each; Read the entire New testament in one year by reading at least two chapters a day; Read the entire old testament in one year by reading at least two chapters a day; Read selected books each month e.g study the life of Esther or Daniel; study all the books that chronicle the life of Jesus on earth- the gospels( Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); Read the books that deal with your attitudes or areas of weakness e.g the book of Proverbs that deals with issues like anger, talking before thinking, hard work or wisdom, the book of Hebrews to understand the free gift of salvation, the book of Timothy and Titus to understand what the bible says about you and your family, your spouse, your employers, the government and your church or read the bible by topics using a devotional, your bible index or a book that gives you selected reading over a certain period e.g The purpose driven life by Rick Warren. This is a very good book, please read it.
What Is Your Perception About The Bible?
The bible is not a book of stories, a book of histories, a religous book, a collection of psalms and proverbs, or “whachumacallit” , it is all of these and more. It is a library of resources for life, it is a guide that points the way to God, it is a friend that holds you accountable, it is a teacher of the very principles on which human endeavours thrive... not convinced? Tell me what you think it is and we’ll take it from there but for starters know that the bible is the truth about God and how he relates with you. If you question the authenticity of the bible and don’t believe it, i want to help you so write back, but this is what the bible says about it’s own authenticy - (2Timothy 3:16) All scripture is given by the inspiration of God; this is what we believe. If you see it as irrelevent to today, you probably have your good reasons, i want to hear them but know that your basic attitude to the bible limits your experience of what it says.
Back To The Basics.
Own your own copy of the bible. Buy a Version you like, one that appeals to your style and your person. Consider the size. Personalize your choice.
Set aside a convenient time to read it at the same time everyday, like brushing your teeth.
Take time to pray before you start, like saying grace before a meal. David in Psalms said ” Lord open my eyes to see the good things in your law”. He was one guy that was passionate about his daily devotions, he wrote all about it in the longest psalm of the collection. Ask God to settle you in a frame of mind that is peaceful. Ask him for undersanding. Ask him to help you not to reason contrary to what it says; have you ever thought you were right about something beyond any REASONABLE doubt and then found out that you were oh, so wrong? Ask him to give you a receptive mind.
Bite what you can chew. Value quality over quantity; a verse you understand and apply is better than an entire book you forget. Do a bit everyday. Think of reading your bible like the acts of eating and sleeping. We sleep only for a few hours of the day, everyday; we don’t sleep all our sleep time for life at once, so don’t do it all at once, you will go a long way by just reading a bit consistently and on a daily basis.
If you are not a very disciplined person like me, this might be a long struggle for you but the success is in getting right back to it when you miss a day, a week or months. It’s natural to feel quilty about forgetting or outrightly refusing to read your bible but don’t let the Devil take advantage of your emotions and make you feel so guilty that you think you are a bad person or God is angry with you or you’re not going to be able to keep this up because you lack what it takes, e.t.c. Any feeling of guilt that makes you unable to read your bible is not from God. Guilt that makes you feel unhappy that you haven’t kept your committment but pushes you to do the right thing now that you’ve realised your mistake is healthy. Practice makes perfect so just keep doing it till you form a habit of it. To buttresse more on the importance of consistency, in the parable of the sower, the inconstant reader of the word is described as a person who is like rocky ground that when the seed of the word is sown into him, because it has no real roots, no depth, the crops dried up and whittered away. Only the consistent develop roots so go be a root LOL.
Getting The Most Out Of Reading Your Bible.
Try to grow beyond reading your bible just to satisfy your conscience. I remember those days in Sunday school when the teacher will go round the rows asking if we had read our bibles, some days my heart would just sink as i waited my turn. Grow beyond that type of bible reading motivated by fear of punishment or rebuke. Approach the bible like a student of it and like a student don’t read but study it. I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you but consider it thoughtfully and strive for it. You should have a notebook where you take down notes as you study your bible. It’s called SOAP.
S - Scripture: As you read the portion for the day, write down the verses that make sense to you in your notebook. The ones that strike a cord or gets your attention.
O- Observation: Concentrate. Reason. Think. What does what you have read mean? The measure of thought and study you give to the truth you hear or read will be the measure of benefit, information and knowledge that comes back to you.
A- Application: Think through an application of what you have read. This may require you to recall situations in the past and make comparison between the way you acted and the way you’ve just observed from the bible that you should act. Replay the scenerio and reason out how you would act next time. Your premeditated course of action about a hypothetical situation or one that occurred in the past will help you be a better doer of the word if you have to face it in future. You may also see in your bible things you should do, write them down and make a commitment to do them. Best of all, you might see things you didn’t know before, write these new lessons down. God will be speaking to you through them. After a while when you go over all you’ve been learning, you might find a re-occurring topic or theme God is trying to teach you about.
P- Prayer: When you pray, thank God for showing you what He needed you to see. Ask him to help you apply what you’ve learnt in real life, also ask him to help you remember what you have read when you need it.
What To Do When You Don’t Understand What You Are Reading.
Don’t get discouraged, read till you can pick out something you’ve learnt or understood. You might also want to consider using a daily devotional which not only gives you a bible reading plan but also explains the passages you have read. When you use a devotional, don’t just read the story or write up in the devotional without checking out the verses yourself, God will speak to you every time you pick up his word. Devotionals you can use include: Everyday with Jesus, Inspiring women, Daily manna, Our daily bread, The word for today, Rhapsody of realities, there are a lot more out there. Again choose one that suits your style, the goal is not for you to rely so much on a devotional that you cannot read your bible without one. Look up devotionals online too but please have someone recommend a good one to you, you don’t want to find out that you’re reading a devotional by the church of Satan!!!
www.lifejournal.cc is one you can try.
A final word.
The blessing in reading your bible is in doing what you learn, you are blessed in the doing not in the reading or hearing. One reason we do not do the word even though we hear it is that we forget. The bible likens that to someone who looks in the mirror, sees how fly he looks then leaves his house and completely forgets who he is, dumb yeah? The bible calls us heedless listeners who forget when we act like that but we should grow into active doers who obey. Just remember that the taste of the blessing is in the doing. Have i helped you in any new way? Let me know how. Enjoy your devotions!