This past week our pastor encouraged us to spend “significant time in the word,” meaning that if we want to know God we must know him through the gospel, which is recorded in the collection of writings we call The Bible. The gospel is the “good news” that Jesus gave his life for ours, to save us from our sins and restore us with a right relationship with God. Sounds great, right? But, I think if we’re honest we will admit that it’s no easy task. After all, the Bible was written thousands of years ago in a language radically different than ours and it’s difficult to understand.
And its also not helpful that all the books out there about how to have “quiet time with God” are written by men and women who have schedules that allow them to get up at 5am and “spend an hour with God.” If you’re anything like me, that’s almost impossible!
This might sound weird coming from a pastor, but bible study has been overrated in some circles. Please here me out. I love the Bible. I love studying the Bible (I once memorized the entire book of Romans!). I love teaching people about the Bible. But Bible study alone has never built me up in the faith. In fact, it has often had the opposite effect. There have been times where my knowledge of the Bible has simply built up my own pride and distracted me from doing real ministry.
We need more than Bible knowledge. Our Bible study must lead us to knowledge of the gospel, not just knowledge of the Bible. It’s the gospel that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12, ESV), not “the Bible.”
The following article by Ann Swindell points out ways that those of us who are not biblical scholars can relate to God through the gospel knowing the basics of what the Scripture says about the gospel, namely that God is the great creator of all things, desires a relationship with his creation and demands that we exist in relationship with him and our fellow creatures.
Please consider these suggestions not as a replacement for knowing your Bible, but as a more freeing way to know the gospel that is recorded in the pages of the sacred writings. The two go hand in hand. Just don’t feel like you have to be a scholar to relate to God, or that you have to relate to God the same way someone else does in order to be living the Christian life for all it’s worth.
Please keep in mind that all of these things are empty apart from the gospel that we mentioned above that has been given to us through the Holy Spirits’ work of inspiring men to write it down in a book.
One more thing… It’s helpful to point out that none of the things above, though all valid experiences of worship are a replacement for community. The “I worship God better in my deer stand than I do at church” excuse won’t fly here. Everything in the Christian life is meant to be experienced in community, and apart from the Spirit-filled community that Christ died for our efforts to worship God are but vain and meaningless.
Here’s the article:
Quiet time, devotional time, prayer time, personal time—whatever you want to call it, most of us are referring to something similar: a regular time when we seek to meet with the Lord, read his World and worship Him, love Him and know Him better.
It’s a wonderful value and a beautiful aspect of our relationship with Christ—that we can, actually, have a personal and meaningful relationship with the King of the Universe. When you think about it, it’s fairly unfathomable that the biggest power in the world has time for each of us, especially if, like me, you’re not a foreign dignitary, a millionaire or a superstar. It’s pretty incredible that God wants to have an intentional relationship with each of us.
And as with anyone we want to get to know, we need to actually spend time with that person in order to grow in friendship. Thus the idea of regular time with God. Often, this time is spent reading the Bible, praying, perhaps journaling or singing. But do our quiet times actually need to be, ahem, quiet? I don’t think so.
Here are a few ways, other than Scripture reading, we can get to know God in unexpected avenues.
If you’re a creative at heart, consider adding in an artistic element to your devotional time. Paint your prayers, doodle your thoughts, pen a poem to God. As you participate in the creative process, consider God’s creativity in the world, and ask Him how you can partner with His creativity at work.
If you’re musical, consider writing songs that focus on what you love about God. Put Scripture to song, or sing to Jesus about whatever bubbles up out of your heart. God, who sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), welcomes our songs of praise and thanksgiving back to Him.
If being outside makes your soul come alive, set aside intentional time to connect with God in the great outdoors. The One who called the earth into existence is the same God who died on the crossbars of a tree to save us. The whole earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3)—so go and encounter Him there. Sit by a river and meditate on Scripture. Go on a hike and let the beauty of the earth remind you of God’s beauty.
There is a long and biblical history of God’s people gathering together to worship Him—and weekly church is a wonderful thing. But what about spending “quiet time” together with a friend or two? You can pray for and with one another; you can read Scripture to and with one another. You can eat together and share your hearts over a shared meal. The early church was meeting together daily (Acts 2:42-47); we can too.
Dance or Exercise
If you love working out and feel alive when you’re running, or swimming or playing basketball—do those things and praise God for the opportunity to move a functioning body. If you are a dancer and you feel great pleasure in dancing, dance as a form of worship to God. He is the one who has formed us (Psalm 139) and given us life; let our whole being praise him!
Cooking and Eating
If you love flavors and colors and the process of turning food into meals, then seek God in that place. Contemplate the beauty and taste of every different type of food you are cooking and let it point you to God’s abundance in creation. The Old Testament is full of various feasts that the Israelites had to commemorate God’s goodness, provision and presence in their midst. What might it look like to host a feast celebrating God’s goodness with your friends?
Consider mixing up your quiet times and seeing how He might surprise you with his goodness and presence in new ways.