Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pursuing God Through His Word

Think about the most important relationship in your life right now, whether that’s your husband or your best friend or a parent…whoever that most important person is.  How often do you interact with that person?  Every day?  Every hour or so?  Non-stop?  Now, imagine what it would be like if you only talked to that person once a week, or once a month, or maybe even less than that. What if, when you did finally get to see that person, all you did was talk, talk, talk, and never stopped to listen to what they had to say?  Would you be able to achieve the closeness, the intimacy, that really makes that relationship special?  Would you really know that other person, inside and out?  Would you be able to trust that person with your deepest thoughts and insecurities?  I would say probably not.

And yet, that’s often the approach we take with our relationship with Christ, and with His Father.  We show up on Sunday mornings to sing songs about Him, maybe even to Him, and we listen to people talk about Him and we say a few prayers to Him.  But we never really take time to get to know Him.  We don’t take the time every day to cultivate that relationship with Him.

I wrote last week about pursuing God in order to find the satisfaction that we're looking for.  One way that we pursue Him is through His Word, through intentionally interacting with God on a daily basis. Many times we call this our “daily devotion,” but I think that word “devotion” has really been weakened into something that doesn’t truly communicate what this one-on-one time with God should look like.  Our time with Him should really go so much deeper.  We’ve got to spend time every day reading the Word, and then meditating on it, allowing the Spirit time to speak.   When we do, we will open the door to a fullness of life like we have never experienced before.

So what do we really accomplish through our daily interaction with God?  What makes it so important?

First, it allows us to draw near to God.  In a world that is desperately trying to pull us AWAY from God, we have to be intentional about drawing NEAR to Him.  James 4:8 tells us that if we draw near, or come close, to God, He will draw near to us.  David reminded Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9 that when we seek out God, we will find Him. Of course, we understand that this is a relational closeness that we’re talking about, not a physical one, and it involves an emotional connection as well as an intellectual one.  That closeness, that connection, has no opportunity to happen if we don’t intentionally put ourselves in a position where it can happen.  Immersing yourself in His Word on a regular basis provides that opportunity.

We also receive the Spiritual nourishment that we need when we devote ourselves to one-on-one time with the Lord.  We all know that we can’t give our bodies nourishment just once in a while.  We have to eat a certain amount of calories every day just to give us the energy to survive.  And we can’t live off of a diet of chocolate milk and cookies, no matter how much our taste buds would enjoy that, because we need the protein and vitamins and things that we get from healthier foods.  Either of these options – starving ourselves or living off of junk -- would leave our bodies weak and malnourished.   

Our spirit needs nourishment just as much as our body.  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Our spirits, our souls, are nourished by the Word, and we “digest” that Word by reading and meditating on it regularly.  We don’t want to leave our soul weak and malnourished by neglecting to feed it or by feeding it junk.  Devotional books and self-help books, even Bible-based ones, are not “junk” but they are no substitute for the Bible itself.  The true nourishment that our soul needs comes from daily consumption of God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.  Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness."  

I don't know about you, but there are some days that I just CRAVE chocolate.  And nothing else will satisfy that craving, no matter how hard I try.  I have, at times, attempted to totally eliminate chocolate from my diet, and for the first few days or so, I crave it constantly.  Finally, after about a week, that craving dies away.  But the moment I put a piece of chocolate back in my mouth, the craving starts all over.  The more I eat, the more I crave.  Can I tell you that the Word of God is the same way?  (Only MUCH healthier!!)  If you separate yourself from the Word, eventually (sometimes quickly) you will stop craving it, but when you begin to immerse yourself in it on a daily basis, you will find yourself wanting more.  And the closer you draw to our Lord, the closer you will want to be.  But you have to take the first step by making a deliberate effort to spend time in the Word.

Now it’s time to get practical and talk about how we can make this happen.  There is no one-size-fits-all way to have "quiet time."  I can give you some basic suggestions, but of course you’ll want to tailor it to your own needs. 

First, make an appointment.  You know, everything else we do gets written on the calendar, why not our daily quiet time with the Lord?  Do you keep a daily calendar with all your appointments and obligations?  Pick a time and write in “God” as your appointment.  Don’t let anything or anyone bump Him from that time slot.  This time of day is going to look different for each one of us.  I know a LOT of people that get up and have their quiet time first thing in the morning, and they’ll tell you it’s absolutely the best way to start your day.  Can I be honest and tell you that this has NEVER worked for me?  I am NOT a morning person, and for me to wake up enough to actually stay engaged in what I’m reading and stay awake enough for my prayers to make sense, it has to be after 7 a.m.  I’m privileged enough right now to be able to do my quiet time later in the day when the kids are all at school, but I know not everyone has that opportunity.  Some people do their quiet time at night.  Some do it over their lunch break at work.  It doesn’t matter WHEN it happens, just as long as it DOES happen.  Find a time that works FOR YOU and make it a HABIT.  

As far as the amount of time, that’s going to change as obligations and needs in your life change.  Some days, your prayer time alone may take 20 or 30 minutes, depending on what kinds of things you need to pray about.  Moms with young children, you might get to have your “quiet time” in five minute segments throughout the day.  I learned when my kids were tiny to live by 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that says, “pray continually,” because I never really got to sit down and have an extended prayer time.

Secondly, you’ll also need to find a place that works for you.  I know some people are able to have quiet time with God even in a public place, like at a coffee shop.  I find myself highly distracted in that setting, either watching other people or worrying that they’re watching me.  If I’m at home by myself, I prefer to curl up on the couch with my Bible and a cup of coffee.  If the kids and Scott are home, I hide away in the bedroom.  The place really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s free from distraction, where you can really have one-on-one time with the Lord.

Here are some practical suggestions for how to go about having quiet time:
     1) Start with prayer.  Look over your previous journal entries and give praise for the requests that have been answered.  Write down any new things that are weighing on your heart and pray over them.  Of course, spend time praising God for Who He is and all that He’s done.  Pray also that God will reveal His Truth to you as you study the Word.  (I also generally pray that my quiet time will be free from distractions, both those that my own mind generates and those that are caused by other people or things.)

      2) Find a very Scripture-based devotional book or a Bible study book and use that as a guide for your Bible reading.  Or, find a Bible reading schedule to follow.  Find something that will give your Bible reading/study time some direction and purpose.

      3)After you’ve read, spend some time reflecting on the passage of Scripture you just read.  Read it again a time or two. This is what we call “meditating” on the Word.  Ask yourself what the author was trying to communicate and how it applies to your life.  Ask God to plant the Word in your heart and bring it to mind throughout the day.  Spend some time just listening for God to reveal Himself to you.
 
     4)Spend a few minutes writing in a journal about what you’ve read, what you’re experiencing, where you need help.  This is your private conversation with God.

     5)Spend some time in private worship of God, through prayer or song.  Yes, you can sing to Him at home; worship doesn’t have to happen in a church building on Sunday morning!  Let Him know that you adore Him and choose to follow Him.

You can, through intentional study of God’s Word and interaction with Him draw close to God in a way that is exciting and fulfilling.  It’s a lot of work, I’ll be honest, but really…what relationship worth having isn’t hard work?  The blessings will far outweigh any difficulties, and the satisfaction and peace that God will give you through your relationship with Him absolutely makes it all worth it.  Pursue Him, my friends...it is what we were made for.
"God's purpose was for the nations to seek after Him and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him -- though He is not far from any one of us.  For in Him we live and move and exist..." Acts 17:27-28

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