Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Books to help grow deeper with God

I've been pondering for quite some time a post about my top favorite books. My top favorite fiction books are quite hard to narrow into a neat & tidy finite number that can be easily scribbled about on these pages.

However, as I have been thinking and writing and sharing some of what I am learning recently, I've realized that I am drawn again and again to the same books that help me in my walk with God.

These are the books that I read again and again. In some of them, I have taken to writing in the margins the date next to something that spoke to me and maybe something of the current circumstances that go with that date. As I reread the books, it is encouraging to read the longings in my heart that I prayed about that have been answered and to re-read the words that encouraged me during a particular season or challenge in my life.

The books I have found myself in repeatedly are the  Read Through the Bible in a Year checklist from Discipleship Journal, Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot, and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

I have recently added two books to the rotation that I can see becoming regulars. They are 31 Days of Praise and 31 Days of Prayer, both of which are by Ruth Meyer. Another book on the honorable mention list is Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor.

Even as I write these few books down, I feel compelled to begin to mention the many other books that have helped influence and shape me.  

However, truly the biggest impact has been the encouragement to read the Bible directly for myself.

I read a passage of Scripture and then try to write the verse or verses that have stood out to me for that day. I say try because the writing doesn't happen every day. Yet, I like those days best. So that even when I am using a devotional such as Jesus Calling, I usually read the bible verses first, write the two or three verses down that are referenced and then read the devotional. Sometimes when I do this, I find that I spend more time -- or feel more spoken to -- in the verses referenced than in the devotional. Sometimes it is the other way around.

Before I began using devotionals more regularly, I read through books of the Bible, instead of the jumping around that occurs in the devotionals. I highly encourage this reading straight through of books of the Bible, and to reading all of it for yourself. It is good to understand the big picture, the whole word of God. Just keep reading bit by bit, day by day, year by year, for yourself. Read verses here and there due to devotional direction. Read verses in a book by book plan through the Bible. Read the passages that your pastor is teaching about. Read your Bible.

Though I find myself in the morning, reading devotionals, I still read through the Bible. I often use the read through the Bible in  a Year List and check off the books. 

If I am doing a Bible study or a devotional that day, I do that, but then, when I don't know what to do, I go back to my checklist of reading through the Bible in a  year and just pick up where I have left off.

It helps prevent me not reading my Bible just because I don't know what to read. So sometimes it has taken my three to five years to actually 'read through the whole Bible' due to my diversions. There have been other seasons when I have been determined to finish it in a year. For my son, who reads very fast, he finds a year is too long in which to read the whole Bible. He reads it much faster than that. I'm pretty sure that I have never done that.

However, my point is to find a pace that works for you and read through the entire Bible. And when you finish, begin again: either to read it in a year, or 3 months, or on the diversion trail that I have described. Do whatever pace works for you, especially for whatever season of life that you are in. Be encouraged that His word does not go back to Him void. He is faithful to bring forth fruit in your life due to the faithful reading of His Word.

In my reading times, I read a passage of Scripture, copy a verse or two that I really liked, and then I write some thoughts about what I read. Sometimes as I go through a particular book or passage, I will answer a few questions, selecting one or more from this list:

* What did I learn about God?
* What did I learn about Jesus?
* What I did learn about the Holy Spirit?
* What did I learn about man?
* What did I learn about believers?
* What did I learn about non-believers?
* Is there a promise to claim?
* Is there a command to follow?
* How can I apply this Scripture to my life?

Sometimes I will write down my prayer requests. Sometimes I will write down questions about the passage that don't make sense.

Also, when I read the Word has changed throughout the years. For many years, I read just before bed. Then, when I got married and started a full-time job, I found it hard to read at bedtime so instead I read in the nooks and crannies of my time. When I was a mother with young children, I often read during nap time, if I could stay awake. Now, with older children, I find that I can take a leisurely time reading the Word in the morning again. It sure seems luxurious; I am trying to enjoy it because life has proven that it changes. There have been seasons when I have been able to read a lot and study the Word for hours several days a week. There have been seasons when I read the verse taped to my mirror each morning and dashed off to my responsibilities for the day. And everywhere in-between (including days, seasons of laziness).

Just keep reading the Word for yourself. No matter how long it has been since you last picked it up, just keep reading: Day by Day, Week by Week, Year by Year. I hope this encourages you to do that. If I can do it, so can you. Really you can!

How about you? 
What tips do you have  about how to spend time in God's Word in order to grow deeper in your walk with Him?

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Thanks for being part of the conversation...I love hearing from you. Kathleen

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