Monday, July 11, 2011

Creating A Daily Devotional Plan

     Many people view the Christian life as a long list of  do’s and don’ts. They haven’t yet discovered that spending time with God is a privilege that we get to do not a chore or an obligation that we have to do. 
     Getting started with a daily devotional simply takes a little bit of planning and can be richly rewarding. It wasn't until I started pursuing Christ through His word that I not only felt more equipped for facing life head on, but I found peace and understanding. Here are 10 simple steps to help in pursuing a personal relationship with God.
1.     Decide On a Time.
If you view your time spent alone with God as an appointment to be kept in your daily calendar, you will be less likely to miss or skip it. Just as my husband and I have time together each evening, I reserve time together with my Savior each morning. There is no right and wrong time of day. I prefer having my devotions first thing in the morning as this is the least likely time of day for an interruption. Whatever time of day you choose, let it be the best time of day for you. Perhaps a lunch break fits better into your schedule.
2.     Decide On a Place.
Finding the right place is key to your success. Designate a place specifically for your devotions. For me, it is our comfy couch OR depending on the weather, I sometimes sit on our balcony. Make sure your "tools" are ready and easily accessible - like your Bible, pen, journal, and devotional book. When I get up in the morning, I simply go to my place and everything is ready.
3.     Decide On a Time Frame.
Once again, there is no standard time frame for personal devotions. You have to decide how much time you can realistically commit to each day. Getting started with 15 minutes a day can quickly develop into more. Some people can commit to 30 minutes, others an hour or more a day. Start with a realistic goal that you feel you can meet. If you start with a plan of 2 hours a day, failure to meet the goal will quickly discourage you.
4.     Decide on a General Structure.
Spend some thought on a general structure for your devotional and how much time you’ll spend on each element of your plan. This would be like an outline or agenda for your meeting, so you don’t wander about aimlessly in thought and end up accomplishing nothing. The following few steps will cover some of the typical elements you can include.
5.     Choose a Bible Reading Plan or Bible Study.
      This may take some time, but choosing a Bible reading plan or study guide will aid you in having a more focused time of reading and study. If you just pick up your Bible and start reading randomly each day, you may have a difficult time understanding what you read, or applying it to your daily life. There are many Bible reading plans to choose from such as: Read Through the Bible in One Year Plans; Chronological Sequence Plans; and Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs Plans. What I've personally found beneficial is the Word For You Today devotionals which are given out at many churches or can be found online. This offers scripture and application in bite-sized pieces with specific dates to help keep me motivated and on track. Try whichever plan that seems to fit your interests.

6.     Plan to Spend Some Time in Prayer.
Prayer is simply two-way communication between you and God. Talking to Him, telling Him about your struggles and cares and then listening for His voice. Some Christians don’t realize prayer includes listening. Remember to give Him time to speak to you in His still small voice (I Kings 19:12). Also, one of the loudest ways God speaks to us is through His Word. Spend some time meditating on what you read and allowing God to speak into your life.

7.     Spend Some Time In Worship
God created us to praise Him. I Peter 2:9 says, "But you are chosen people...belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." Praises can be expressed in many forms, they can be spoken, or through singing, or silently in our hearts. Again, there is no right or wrong way. Genuine praise pleases God.
8.     Consider Writing In A Journal
You can journal your thoughts and prayers, providing a valuable record. Later you will be amazed and encouraged when you go back and note the progress you have made or see the evidence of answered prayers. This can be hand written or in virtual form such as a blog. Journaling is not for everyone. I suggest you give it a try and see if it’s right for you.
9.     Stay Committed
Keeping your commitment to follow your daily devotional plan is probably the hardest part of getting started. Determine in your heart to keep it up, even when you fail or miss a day. Rather than giving up or beating yourself up over it, just pray and ask God to help you. And, be sure to start over the next day. The rewards you will experience as you grow deeper in love with God will definitely be worth it!
10.     Remain Flexible and Don't Give Up!
 If you get stuck in a rut, try going back to step #1. Perhaps the plan you had chosen is not right for you. Change it up until you find the perfect fit.  Don’t give up. Eventually you will discover the joys and blessings of your obedience. Pray for God to give you the desire and the discipline to spend time with him each day.

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