This is the first part of a series of posts on one of the most fruitful times of my life. You can read the introduction here.
On my last post I shared about how the year 2014 was pretty “odd”, and stated how the Lord had brought me to this open space, this Rehoboth this year. I then promised that I would share how the Lord did that, and looking back, it’s taken me at least six months to do so! I am happy to report that the Lord has been too good to me. He always is, but this year I have tasted His goodness in different and deeper ways, and I do not want to forget what He’s done and how He’s done it. Hopefully, it’ll serve as an encouragement to you as well for the year ahead!
For those of you who know me, what I am going to say next might come as a surprise:
In all my years as a Christian, I have never been consistent in spending time in the Word. That is until this year.
And that’s what has made all the difference.
I was born and raised in a Christian home and I went to a Christian school, so I knew what a Christian looked like. I became a Christian myself at the age of 13. For all those years I knew of the importance of being in the Word daily and I strove to do that, yet it was always a struggle. I remember at the beginning of every year writing down my resolutions and one of the first ones on my list always was, “Have a devotional time daily”. Writing those words down always made me cringe. “Why was I still stuck on this resolution? Why is it a goal for me every year to be consistent at reading my Bible every day?” The reason why I was always frustrated at myself was because I felt that reading my Bible daily was a chore, something to check off my to-do list every day. I wanted to be able to do this faithfully so that it would become a habit. Why? So that the next year that resolution wouldn’t be a part of my list. I wanted to just move on on other things in my Christian life. It was legalism and a lack of understanding of how the Christian life works that drove my life. My desire to read the Bible daily wasn’t gospel-centered. It was me-centered.
Fast forward a few years. During this intermediate period, God has been breaking me and making me anew. He has been opening my eyes to the gospel and its implications, also showing me my utter need of Him. At the end of last year I was desperate, distracted, tired, and empty. I began to understand that I would never “graduate” from spending time with God daily and continually. Actually, my life-long goal was to never separate myself from the source of life: the Word of God. Without it, I was nothing.
It was at this time, at the end of last year, that God sovereignly orchestrated a visit and a short conversation with my dear friend A. I’m sure it wasn’t the goal of our conversation, but she briefly mentioned a tool that was recommended to her to study the Word of God: the Journibles. I went ahead and bought myself one.
A Journible is a book that allows you to copy the Scriptures on the right hand page and your notes on the left hand page. The idea behind it is found on Deuteronomy 17:18-20 where the king of Israel is commanded to hand write his own copy of the law. There were six purposes behind such a task:
- That he would read it
- That he would learn to fear the Lord
- That he would obey the commands of God
- That his heart would not become proud
- That he would not turn to the right or the left from following the law
- So that his sons would serve in the kingdom after him*
I started this “project” on January 2015 and the impact that it has had in my life is incalculable. I have met with God and knew Him this year more deeper than in all my years as a Christian. Through the study of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, He has shown me His glory and overwhelmed me with His love in the gospel. He has humbled me and challenged me. He has shown me my sin and pointed me back to the cross. He has given me hope in Him. He’s stirred my affections for Him, and this overflow has resulted in more love for others. He has confronted and comforted me. He has made me more like His Son. He has made me more effective in His kingdom. In short, He has made me glad.
This year God has used the Journible to provide for me a space to slow down in my reading of Scripture, meditate on it, and study it.
2. A Specific Time and a Specific Place
I don’t know how many times I have heard about the importance of choosing a time and a place to meet with God. It didn’t click until this year. By the mercies of God, now I had a place to turn to to read and meditate on the Word (Journibles), but it wouldn’t make any difference if I didn’t plan and stuck to a time and place to actually do it. So He gave me the grace to set aside the minutes of my early morning before work started and a chair/desk in my classroom to meet with Him every day. That time and that place is my cherished spot.
Last June I was sitting at church listening to some teenagers recite by memory Jesus’s last discourse (John 14-17 )
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13)
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7)
Tears streamed down my face.
I want so many things in life: I want to get married, have a family, love well, serve at my local church, be faithful, travel, serve overseas…yet my highest desire is none of these things anymore. As I have abided in the Word this year (not perfectly, but consistently) He has transformed my desires. Now my utmost desire is to know Him and to make Him known. Surely abiding in His Word produces more desire for Him and His cause. He is faithful.
A Word of Encouragement
As we are heading to the end of the year and beginning of a new one, I want to encourage you to spend some time praying and asking the Lord what tools and strategies He wants you to use to seek His face and commune with Him in 2016. You can start by committing to reading your Bible for ten minutes a day. You could use a Journible like I did, or just a simple journal to write down what God tells you during that time through the study of His Word. Also, make sure you block a time in your daily schedule (think of the time of the day in which your energy is high- I’ve made it the mornings, so I usually go to bed early-ish) and set a space where you can be with Jesus uninterruptedly. Prayerfully, plan and make it your special date with the Lover of your soul. Pray that He will give you a strong desire for Him. He will answer! There is certainly nothing special about a Journible nor about the chair in my classroom, yet God honors those who seek Him and He is near to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). He alone satisfies (Psalm 107:9). He’s proven this to me again and again this year.
Here’s to more and more measures of His grace through His Word in 2016. I don’t want to let Him go.