"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word." -Psalm 119:9 (HCSB)
My wife previously blogged about a study I was working on and then leading a small group through at our church on Wednesday nights last fall. For one of my first posts here, I thought I would give some background and overview of why this topic is so important to me.
For those of us who strive to follow God and Christ, there is no doubt that reading the Bible might be the most important thing we can do. The verse in Psalms I've noted at the first of the post shows us the importance of it. Some of you may refer to this as a quiet time or devotion time. I prefer to call it a priority time, because studying the Bible and meditating on it needs to be a priority. It wasn't always that way for me, however.
It was the fall of 2006. Things were happening in my life that, well, did not make me a happy person. My wife now jokingly refers to this as my "angry period." In any case, I was not happy with a lot of things or a lot of people. Something had to change. I knew I could not keep going up and down this emotional and spiritual roller coaster. I made the conscious decision to open my Bible and spend time each day (hopefully) reading and studying. I started with the book of Romans and began studying and taking notes in a notebook on what I read, thought, felt, and prayed. I would love to tell you that things changed quickly, but that would not be the case. Still on the roller coaster and still angry, bitter, and sad, I struggled with consistency, would read for a couple of days, and then miss the next five. That all changed when I came across these words in Romans 12:2 - "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Message received.
If I wanted to get off the roller coaster, if I wanted to not be angry, if I wanted to go beyond the faith I currently had, then I had to renew my mind. I had to read God's Word, study it, learn it, and let it soak throughout my mind, heart, and soul. Since that point, I know I have changed. Do I still have the setbacks? Well, yes, that's part of being human. But from where I was 6 years ago to where I am now is no comparison.
So what is a priority time? For me, it is a daily, unhurried time to read the Word of God to know the God of the Word. What unhurried means is that if you have 20 minutes, you don't read a whole chapter but rather a few verses. You don't rush through a passage. You take your time. (I have spent 45 minutes sometimes on just one verse.) You break down verses, rewrite them in your own words, and consult commentaries if needed for additional insight. You highlight, circle, or underline important words. You pray over what you've read. And for me, I journal over what I've read, because I want to be able to go back over what I've studied, what I've seen, and where I've grown. I want to look back at what I prayed. The notebooks I've filled up are records of my journey of faith. They contain my story. And when I feel the time is right, I will give those journals to my girls as proof that Dad strived to be a godly father and husband. I want them to see the verses I prayed over them. I want them to see my struggles but also see that there is freedom and power that can only come from the Giver of life.
Everyone will read and study the Bible differently and at his or her own pace, but what we cannot forget is how important it is. The life and values I want my girls to live must be valued and lived out in my own life. That means I've got to learn as much as I can. I've got to grow, because if I don't, they won't. If I want them to discover the potential of a life intersected with and changed by faith, then I better discover it myself.
With that, I wish you a great weekend!
To check out an entire sermon series on this topic, I'll point you here. When preparing for the series I did last fall, this was a great resource.