Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ditch the Devotional: 8 steps to energize your time in God's Word

Three different friends have told me lately that they want to spend time in God’s Word on a daily basis but they don’t know what to do.

They’ve used little devotional booklets but they feel like they need more. These little booklets have their place in spiritual growth. They can be a good resource to help us develop the discipline of spending time with God daily. However, the brief “share a story – tie in to biblical teaching – quote a Bible verse” format often leaves us hungry for more of God’s Word.

They’ve tried reading long portions of Scripture but the time investment is high. The frustration level also increases as they try to figure out the overall message of the text, wonder what words mean and who people are, look up cross references, look for answers to questions, and figure out an application for their life.

I don’t know if this will help, but I shared a technique with them that I’ve used in my own life for a few years now. I’d like to also share it with you.

I developed this method as part of the Grow Barefoot focus theme for each month. However, even if I stopped sharing each day on social media, I would still use this method for a morning devotional time.

Here’s what I do

1 – Pray for God to give me a word for the month. He’s been faithful every time to answer that prayer. However, sometimes He doesn’t give me one until the last day before the start of a new month; I have to be patient. The important thing is that He guides you into a theme; you don’t pick something at random. When you pray, listen for the answer. He wants you to read His Word so He’ll work with you on this.

God knows what your coming month is going to hold; when He guides, you’ll be amazed at how valuable that word will be as you face the month. For example, this month my word is “peace.” That word has been very significant as I’ve helped friends with less than peaceful situations and considered the turmoil breaking out in the Middle East.

Sometimes a theme is very broad; an example of this might be the word “love.” In those cases, I narrow my search to a specific section of Scripture – such as the Psalms, the Old Testament, the Gospels, the writings of Paul, or the writings of John.

2 – Search for the word on a website like Blue Letter Bible or Bible Gateway. I make sure to do the search in my favorite translation. If you have more than about 100 results, consider narrowing your search to a specific section of Scripture as I mentioned earlier.

3 – Copy and paste the results into a spreadsheet. This is just me – I like to use Excel more than Word because I can do more with the results. A lot of people don’t like spreadsheets and are more comfortable with word processing software. That’s fine – not a big deal. Just paste your results into some file you can come back to everyday. Don’t forget to save your file.

That’s the monthly prep work – actually doing it will probably take less time than it has taken you to read through this article so far. Here’s the daily part…

4 – Find a time each day to read through the list and pick a verse. I read through the verses until I find one to focus on for the day. This means I read the list through many times – not the whole thing every day but by the time the month is over I’ve read it a lot.

5 – Pull one thought out of your chosen verse and put it into your own words.

6 – At this point you’re going to have to figure out what to do with your verse and thought. Here are some ideas…
  • Share it on your favorite social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Write them on a post-it note. Stick it to your computer monitor so you’ll see it often throughout the day.
  • Text it to your spouse or a good friend.
  • Come up with your own, unique method of focusing on the verse and thought throughout the day. If you have one, share it in the comments below to help others!
Whatever you decide, do something with it. This is important as it will help you focus on the verse and thought more throughout the day. Writing or typing it helps your brain retain it plus writing your thought helps you develop it clearly.  

7 – Start noting aspects of the theme that you see repeated. Toward the middle or end of the month you’ll start to see that Scripture repeats itself on some important issues related to your theme. For example, this month is peace. As I read through my list each day, I've repeatedly noticed four key points…

That last one I actually picked up on the last time I focused on peace in April 2013. It led to one of my most highly read blog articles.

8 – Let those key points transform your thinking. Some examples from my peace focus…

  • If I hear someone talk about finding peace within themselves or hear of peace talks in the Middle East, I know it’s not true peace because that only comes from a relationship with Christ.
  • I start making efforts to live at peace with those around me because peace won’t just spontaneously happen on its own. I have to pursue it.
  • Living at peace means I’m also extending grace to others because the two often come in a package deal.
  • Peace is possible in my life because God is a God of peace. He who created the universe desires peace within it. That’s why He thought of and instituted a plan to enable peace…a plan that involved the death and resurrection of His Son so we might experience forgiveness and a peaceful relationship with Him.
So there you have it. It may not be perfect; it may not be for everyone. In fact, it isn't. But it might work for you if you give it a try. I encourage you to do so with the start of a new month only a few days away. Be sure to come back and tell me how it went in the comment section!


  1. Thank you for this post! I love the idea of seeking God for a word each month. I've been doing that on a yearly basis--picking a word for the year, but not monthly. So with the start of a new month, I'm praying for a word from God. Thank you for sharing!

    1. So glad you're going to try it! As I developed my new word for this month ("trust"), I wondered if anyone was going to try this. Thank YOU for sharing, Mary Beth!