I really like the start of the new year, it represents a new beginning, or a fresh reboot, for God to do something brand new. Every year, I start with a new devotional Bible study plan. Personally, I donít use scripted Bible study plans, although I have nothing against them. Many people are blessed by them, but I prefer to sit with the Lord, ask what He wants me to study, and how He wants to guide me through His Word in the new year.
The complexity of my life is not covered in one Bible study plan throughout the course of a year. More spiritual nourishment is needed than a few minutes in a pre-planned devotional.
There are several facets to take into consideration in my particular situation. Daily, I take time to pray and listen to the Bible first thing in the morning. I also have writing projects, then there are the teaching and preaching opportunities ó as well as trying to discern where the Lord wants to lead my company, and what He wants me to teach the staff throughout the year. Iíve divided my study into three areas (personal devotional time, public ministry study, and company leadership study), and most days, they happen at different times of the day. Sometimes there are overlaps, but most of the time, these stay separate. As I write this, I am wondering if other leaders do the same. Maybe Iíll ask a few friends.
This is my every-morning quiet time in Bible study where I will be covering the entire Bible within the course of the year, although I donít always go in order. I like to cover one book at a time and bounce from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Many times, the passages of the day speak directly to certain situations in my life. That causes me to go much slower and ask the Lord to dig out the life lessons that I need in this season. Other times, I cover a full book in a day during my devotions, simply because Iím enjoying it and the schedule allows the time to sit and soak in the Word.
I texted my friend Joel Richardson and asked if he separates his devotional time from his study time to teach, and he gave some insight into his routine.
I actually do not differentiate between devotional studies and my normal studies for writing and teaching. The Lord has been good to me in that whatever it is that he has led me into I am able to go deep, and naturally I tend to teach these things whenever I am given the opportunity. If someone asks me to teach something that is older, then there really isnít too much study involved at this point. Because I have five kids I have disciplined my life to get up at four in the morning so that I can have some good dedicated time to study and pray each day. So this is something that I look forward to every morning. It gets me out of bed with excitement. Iím not a naturally disciplined person so I have found it necessary to put some very deliberate structures into my life to make study and prayer a consistent part of my spiritual life. And walk with Jesus.
Public ministry study
Teaching, writing and speaking opportunities take a life of their own for me. If I was to make a food analogy, these would be special dinners versus my regular everyday breakfast. The preparation required is different, although the activity is similar. When I have a writing project put on my heart, I begin to dig in and study a topic versus going ďprecept upon preceptĒ through a book of the Bible. Same thing happens in teaching or speaking opportunities. The church, or conference, usually has a broad agenda to cover, so I begin to pray for a special word or insight, then dig in and study. I once had a minister tell me that he didnít need a devotional life outside of the speaking preparation because he felt he got enough Bible study in work as a minister.
That statement just didnít feel right. Sure enough, not too much longer after he made that statement to me, he had a moral failure. Notice this is the opposite of what Joel said. Joel does not neglect his devotional life in favor of using his time to study for teaching. He teaches out of the overflow of his devotional life.
Our devotional life is internal so that we have something to draw from to take externally. That reminds me of my drywall days. Sometimes, we would have to build scaffolding to get up to the job that was at hand. My devotional time is like the scaffolding; itís internal. It prepares me to do the work the Lord gives me as an opportunity externally. Without my devotional life I would have head knowledge not relational knowledge. One of the biggest challenges of being in vocational ministry is the temptation to teach what you know about God instead of teaching insights from your relationship with God.
I had lunch with my Monument, Colorado neighbor and friend Bob Cornuke the other day, and I took the opportunity to ask him about his daily Bible study routine. He and his wife Terri work through devotionals together, but he confessed heart-tugging devotionals were not his thing. Imagine that. However, being a wise man who likes to remain happily married, he happily does whatever Mrs. Cornuke asks. Bobís favorite way to study is to take a section of Scripture and really dig in deep to understand the context of the time it was written and what it meant to the culture of the day. He gains passion in his walk with God by exploring Godís word. Isnít it interesting how Bob has been on over one hundred Biblical archeological adventures and they all sprang from his daily devotional time of exploring the Bible. Connecting with his Heavenly Father ignited his passion to explore.
Both ministry and business have a life of their own, separate from your personal life with the Lord, and yet intertwined and inseparable. When I pray about my company, it has different needs that require me to study as a leader. Many of you are leaders of your own business, and you have management and leadership responsibilities. Every one of us who leads staff has to prepare to stand before the Lord and account for the stewardship of the people He put in our care. I also believe that we have accountability for the opportunities that we both miss and grasp.
I look at the life of Daniel as a chief administrator to emulate. Daniel kept a careful sense of Godís timing and how it lined up with his current situation. Dr. Missler has a fantastic commentary on the book of Daniel which outlines Danielís illustrious career in three administrations. Daniel 6:3 says Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials because an excellent spirit was in him.
As a leader, I would encourage you to go on an exploratory exercise. Ask God what impact He wants your company or ministry to make. Then ask how He plans to get you into a Kingdom-impacting place. Most of my new insights have come through praying over the company.
Some of you may not be a company leader or a teacher or writer. Even if that is not your gift set, I would challenge you that the Lord does want to use you to lead. Do you lead your family? Do you have influence on a group of friends? Do you have a church home that needs your volunteer service? What if you were called to teach a small group? Would you feel adequately equipped to do so? I used to be terrified about the idea of teaching the Bible in a small group environment let alone preaching in front of a crowd!
Do you have daily times with the Lord giving Him the opportunity to speak in your life? Are you a serious student of the word of God? My encouragement for everybody in 2019 is to take your Bible study to another level of intensity. Do whatever it takes to prioritize your time in a way that gives you opportunity to study at some point in the day. With technology there are many audio options. Most people have smart phones which can hold a vast array of Bible study opportunities. You may want to consider joining the Koinonia institute and walking with a group online in a self-paced environment, studying the Bible together.
We are in an era of our Christian faith where literacy in the word of God is at an all-time low, and not just in the pews, but also in the pulpits. You never know what God has in store for your future so make sure youíve created the opportunity to fulfill his Kingdom vision for your life by being thoroughly equipped with the word of God. Everyone God uses is surprised that they get the call from Him. As you study the heroes of the faith through the generations, you will find all of them have had a significant devotional life that included regular, serious study of the word of God.
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If you have any questions, please contact me via e-mail at GunnarJ@khouse.org.