My great nephews spent two nights with us this week, and, boy, are they fun! They rode horses and played trucks in the dirt and watched tractor videos on my i-pad. Brantley ate his weight in sausage, and Case put us outta business with sliced cheese.
One thing we didn’t do was read together. I used to love to read books to my boys when they were young. First of all, it was one of the only times I could get them to sit still. I also loved the way they’d memorize their favorite stories and “read” them to me even before they learned their alphabet. I miss those times. I need to get a library going here for my great nephews and nieces.
My boys loved to read the same stories again and again. They knew them backward and forward, and if I tried to skip a page or two to expedite bedtime, they’d always catch me!
Reading books with my boys reminds me of my Bible reading time with God. I crawl up in His lap and get comfortable as we crack open the pages of His Truth book. Some of the stories and passages are so familiar I can say them in my sleep, but God has a way of bringing out fresh new truths in the most familiar verses. Sometimes, God skips over pages, but it’s not to rush me through our time. He just wants me to receive just the nugget I need to get me through the day.
As much as my boys loved reading books with Momma, sometimes, they just weren’t into it. Some days, they reluctantly climbed in my lap but quickly wiggled down to return to their toys. Other times, they skipped me altogether.
I’m the same way with God. I try to spend time with Him daily, but some days, I just go through the motions. Other days, I ignore His beckoning and fill my day with lots of lesser things that somehow feel so urgent.
The best reading times with my boys or any kids is when they are actively engaged. I loved it when my boys would bellow out their favorite phrases and point out their favorite pictures. I loved it when we’d get the giggles over the funny parts and get goosebumps over the sweet parts.
God loves it when we are “all there” when we spend time in His Word. He’d rather us get fully fired up over a half a verse than absent-mindedly skim the passages of our “read the Bible in a year” plan. He likes to see us turning His words over and over in our minds. That’s what meditation is.
One way to make sure my time with God is vibrant and alive is to pray through my scripture reading. Let me demonstrate with the passage I read today from Philippians.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain (Philippians 2:12-16 NIV).
Let me give a tad of background. Paul is in prison, and he’s writing to the Philippian Christians to encourage them in the faith by praising their faithfulness and by spurring them on to keep running the race no matter how hard things get.
When I read a passage such as this, I take it phrase-by-phrase and talk it through with him. A lot of times, I journal my prayers, but I love to write. If you hate to write, which I know many folks do, just talk to Him. It’s not so much about the exact words we use as it is the earnestness of our hearts to hear what God is saying to us through the verses.
Here is a prayer this passage pulls from my spirit.
Lord, thank you for all the Pauls You’ve placed in my life. Men and women who point me to You and nudge me to be as close to You as possible. I want my faith to encourage them and to inspire them to keep on investing in the people You place in their lives.
Help me listen to You and follow my specific, personalized path. Yes, salvation is the same for all of us at its core. Admitting our sinful state. Believing You paid the price. Confessing to the world that You are Lord.
But walking out the Christian life looks different for us all. I don’t want to follow someone else’s path. I want to follow mine. I want to say YES to You every time You nudge me to action. Every time You tell me to speak of You to strangers and loved ones. Every time You nudge me to give money to missionaries or that man on the street corner. Every time You tell me to apologize or advance toward my goals. Every time You ask me to fast from food or social media. Every time You warn me of Satan’s snares and my stubborn sins.
Keep on working in me “to will and to act in order to fulfill [Your] good purpose” in me.
It’s so easy to focus on the stickiness of life rather than the sweetness of Your presence. Forgive me, Lord, for those times I’ve been whiny and rebellious. Help me to follow You with an excellent attitude. Praising instead of grumbling. Collaborating instead of arguing. I want to be be a “blameless and pure [child] of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” I don’t want to make this world worse. I want to make it better! I want to represent You well. I want to honor my spiritual influencers by my well-lived life.
Help me, Lord! In Jesus’ name, AMEN
Is your time with God growing stale, rote, or, even worse, non-existent? Bring it back to life by turning Your reflections into prayers. The prayers don’t have to be written with flowery phrases or written at all for that matter. Just talk it through with the Lord, phrase-by-phrase, word-by-word until the Spirit has the time to sink the truth deep in you.
What passage did you read today from God’s Word?