Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Maintaining a Fruitful Quiet Time in Summer (Part I)

A common summer struggle is maintaining a regular quiet time.  During the school year, you have a routine: spending time in the Word before your first class, one-on-one time with God before you go to bed at night, but then summer begins and everything spins off-kilter.  Your schedule changes and it's far too easy to put quiet times on the back burner.  Suddenly, you sleep in late and stay out with friends until the early morning hours.  You spend a few weeks at a camp or on a family vacation and you just keep forgetting to spend time with your Father.

Perhaps you've been struggling to keep a quiet time for a while now and you would like to use this summer to focus on creating time each day to spend on prayer and growth in your relationship with Jesus.

While 2 Thessalonians 5:17 tells Christians to pray continually, you should still make time to sit and commune with God, the Creator of the universe, the Father who longs for you to know Him more.  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  It is important to live each day in conversation with the Lord, but there is also so much value in spending focused one-on-one time with Him.

If you are eager to begin this summer with a renewed focus on your quiet times, I will be sharing ideas and encouragements today and next Tuesday.

1.) Make goals, not rules.  One of the biggest mistakes I've made when having quiet times is planning a detailed routine instead of simply spending time with my Father because it brings me delight and because He is worthy to be praised.  Be cautious as you make quiet time plans, such as going through the Bible in a year or following a study schedule.  While these challenges are great tools to staying accountable and better knowing the Word, they can easily drain the passion and life right out of your quiet times.

A few years back, I committed to reading through the Bible in a year.  The tool I used had me reading through several chapters a day.  Reading five chapters of Numbers in a row and then ending my quiet time on that note was difficult.  On days when I was busy and only read one chapter, I found myself feeling stressed out because I had nine chapters to read the next day.  Needless to say, after a few months, I quit.  I felt burned out and tired because of the quiet time legalism I had created for myself.

Time with the Lord should not be burdensome.  It should be filled with restoration and great joy.  Communion with your Creator is a precious thing.

If you choose to use a year-long Bible reading tool, don't follow it religiously.  If you miss days, there is no need to overwhelm yourself trying to catch up.  If you finish in fourteen months instead of twelve, it's fine.

Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study the Word.  Some days, you might spend a couple of hours worshiping and reading through the Gospels.  Other days, you might read a few verses from Proverbs.  There may be days when you forget.  Don't establish stressful rules for yourself.  Seek the Lord and spend the time with Him that you need.  A daily quiet time does not always need to look the same.

2.) Devotionals are not meant to replace spending time in the Word.  You may be searching for a devotional to use during your quiet time.  These are helpful tools to add growth and passion to your time in the Word.  During spiritual droughts, devotionals can offer encouragement, as well as helpful information when you are struggling to understand certain passages. 

There are some daily devotionals that are filled with joyful truths, like My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  If you choose to use a daily devotional, be sure not to become entangled in routine or allow your devotional to be more important to your daily quiet time than the Word.

From experience, I once used a year-long daily devotional during my quiet time.  It bothered me to miss a day in the book, so if I was in a hurry that day, I would read from the devotional rather than spend time gleaning from the actual Bible.

Devotionals do not replace time spent in God's Word.  They are only to encourage growth and understanding as you continue to study the Bible.

Sometimes, instead of a daily devotional, I've used inspirational Christian books during my quiet time, such as Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, or Live Like a Jesus Freak by dc Talk.  These books have encouraged me to live a passionate lifestyle, while pointing me to truths in the Bible.  I have also read chapters from autobiographies and biographies of influential Christian missionaries like Amy Carmichael and George Muller, eager to see how they walked with Christ.  Again, these books are wonderful encouragements, but they do not replace time spent in the actual Word.

Finally, you could consider using a study Bible or Apologetics tools to help you further your understanding of the Word.  You could also use varying translations of the Bible.

Devotionals can be huge blessings as you take time to grow in the Word, but they are meant to be helpful tools for quiet times, never the focus.

Next week, I will finish tips for maintaining a fulfilling quiet time over the summer.

Two years ago: How Jesus's Sacrifice Can Make Sense to Muslims and Blogging: The Right Name
One year ago: Tatters

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