Friday, April 8, 2016

Understanding How To Study the Bible: Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open Even When Your Bible Is Shut

Keep your eyes and ears open even when your Bible is shut.  Sounds strange, doesn't it?  But I think this is the biggest area where people miss out in their quiet time with the Lord.  They set up their devotion time (be it a half an hour or maybe even an hour).  They read their Bible.  They journal their thoughts (hopefully).  They have a time of prayer.  Then, the Bible is closed, and the person jumps up to begin his/her day, often failing to give another thought to what transpired in their quiet time with the Lord.  In other words, their time with the Lord is confined to that block of time that he/she has set aside for devotions.

Can you imagine if we treated our other loved ones this way?  "Okay, I have thirty minutes to tell you everything I want to tell you, and if you have anything you want to say to me, you'd better say it now because I'll be busy the rest of the day."  That wouldn't go over too well in our other relationships, would it?  News flash!  It doesn't go over well in our relationship with God either.

I honestly believe many people struggle with their devotion time and complain about not getting anything out of God's Word because they close their eyes and ears to God as soon as their allotted devotion time is over.  Whether knowingly or not, they basically give God the ultimatum, "Speak now or forever hold your peace."  But, my friends, God doesn't work like that.  He doesn't operate on our timetable.  He has His own.

Here's the truth of the matter:  God can, and often will, speak to us during our quiet time with Him, but that is not the only time He wants to speak with us.  (I don't use my "bold" feature very often, but I felt that statement needed some emphasis.)  If we will meditate on God's Word and pay attention to what He's doing around us in our everyday lives, we will hear so much from Him and learn so much about Him.  We will begin to see the Scriptures come alive in our lives and understand things in a way we've never understood them before.  But that means paying attention to God all day long, even when we're going about our other work.

Need an example?  No problem.  I have plenty.  One week, I was reading through the account of Abraham and Sarah and God's promise to them that they would have a son.  For the first time in my life, I decided to take note of how many times God promised a son and how long it was before the promise actually came to fruition.  I discovered that it was twenty-five years from the time that God first promised a son to the time that Isaac, the promised son, was born.  Twenty-five years!  Putting myself in Abraham's place, I wondered how I would have felt during those twenty-five years of waiting.  And for a few days, I meditated on these things.

When I went to the grocery store that week, I immediately heard a barking dog upon pulling up to the parking place. (Yes, I have told you this story before, but bear with me.)  Being a dog lover, I looked around to find the dog that possessed such a deep, ferocious bark.  I like big dogs!  But as I turned my head, I spied this tiny dog-wanna-be in the van parked beside me.  Sure enough, he was barking up a storm, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how that deep, rumbly bark could be coming from that pitiful little excuse for a dog (no offense to all of you who love little dogs).  Anyway, to read the whole story, you can view this old post, but for the sake of time, I'm going to cut to the spiritual lesson.  The deep bark was coming from a big German shepherd that was behind me.  It just happened to be barking at the same time the little dog was barking.  As I laughed at my confusion, I thought of Abraham, trying to believe in what He knew (that God wouldn't lie) yet seeing something totally different (that years were passing without a son).  And in that moment, I understood Abraham and his story better than I ever have.

When I'm paying attention and open to what God has to teach me, hardly a day goes by when He doesn't show me something outside of my Bible time.  But here's the kicker:  it's always related to my Bible time.  Sometimes, God shows me something after the fact that reminds me of what I read that day or the day before.  Sometimes, God opens my eyes to something fantastic, and then when I sit down for my devotions the next day, I'll come across a verse that reminds me of that very thing God showed me.  If I hadn't been paying attention, that particular verse probably wouldn't have meant anything to me, but now it has new meaning.  See what I mean?

In I Thessalonians 5:17, the Bible says "Pray without ceasing."  That doesn't mean we have to stay on our knees all day in prayer.  We wouldn't get anything else done.  What it means is to keep an open line of communication with God all the time.  You can talk to Him.  He can talk to you.  There's nothing formal about it.  It's just a matter of being constantly aware that God is with us and that we can talk to and listen to Him at any time of the day.  That's what I'm talking about in this devotion.  Keep your eyes and ears open all the time.  God has a lot to show you but only if you're paying attention.

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