- by CAREY NIEUWHOF
- FEB. 2, 2013
Don’t let your relationship with God fall into a mechanical rut.
If you’re like me, you’re already thinking about how to make the new year better than the current year. Been thinking about that for a while, actually.
In fact, I’m using this week of holidays to get a few things moving. Today I set up my bike trainer in the family room, started outlining a new book and am going to tackle some family projects.
I also think about how I want to recalibrate my own relationship with God.
Like any relationship, it can fall into a rut. If you’re not careful, what was once meaningful can easily become mechanical.
Or maybe you’re new to a relationship with God, and you’re looking for a way to begin a relationship with him. I realize my tips are mostly around reading the Bible, but here’s what I find:
The more I engage the Scriptures, the more I engage God.
Here are five ways to kickstart your devotional life:
1. Find Your Best Personal Time.
For me, it’s a no-brainer. I’m always best in the morning. If I try to spend time with God at night, I fall asleep (it’s nothing personal—I also treat late-night movies, friends and family the exact same way after 10 p.m.). I love having time with God between 5 and 6 a.m. I’m fully awake, engaged and present.
What’s your best personal time? Give it to God. You’ll grow.
OK, I better come clean. I have a bias. I think everyone should become a morning person. I think there are inherent advantages you don’t get any other way. I started becoming a morning person in my early 30s and have never looked back.
2. Find the Medium That’s Best for You.
I’m a reader, so a written Bible has always equalled awesome for me. But a few years ago I discovered I had stopped reading my Bible in a fresh way because I had been reading it for so many years. The words didn’t feel fresh anymore because they had become so familiar.
Around that time I had bought my first iPhone. I downloaded the YouVersion app2 and suddenly I found I was reading the Bible as though it was the first time. Every word looked new, even though I had read it before. And that meant my connection with God and the Bible was stronger. The only thing I changed was the media. Now I read it off my tablet with the same effect.
Experiment with mediums. See which one works best for you. If you don’t like reading, get an audio Bible and listen.
3. Get a Translation You Can Understand.
Many new Christians I talk to think there is something sacred to the King James Version of the Bible. There isn’t.
It’s a beautiful translation that works powerfully for people with a solid command of 17th-century English, but that’s not me.
There are many great translations out there. I personally prefer the New Living Translation. The TNIV (Today’s New International Version), the Message and even the English Standard Version are used by many people effectively.
4. Use a Reading Plan.
After a few years of trying different plans, I’m going back to the One Year Bible4 in January. Over the years, nothing has kept me more engaged with God on a daily basis than that. It’s about 15 minutes of reading a day (so it’s a commitment), but for me there has been nothing better. I love it because I simply look for the daily readings and they’re all laid out. No flipping pages all over the Bible. If it’s July 6, all the readings for the day are laid out.
So whether you use a paper Bible or an app like me, it’s all there for you. So easy to use. If reading through the Bible in a year is not something that will help you, there are a ton of other reading plans out there5.
5. Take Time to Reflect and Pray.
A combination of prayer and some kind of reflection time is advised. Some people love to journal. I’ve tried to journal, but I’m not sure it’s me. (I might again in the new year.) Other people reflect when they pray. I often do when I cycle.
If you make your prayer time a time of asking God to help you apply what you’re learning and apply what you’ve read, you will never run out of things to pray about.
So those are five things that help me kick-start my devotional time with God.
What has helped you? What would you add?