Every friendship has a unique structure to it, but they all begin from the same place: a desire to share your life with someone else and for them to share their experience with you. We can choose that same path with God but what we put into the relationship determines whether it grows and depends or whether it stalls out and becomes dormant.
Several spiritual disciplines will deepen your faith, but there’s a limit on how far that will go if you aren’t spending time in the word. God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, but He gave us the Bible in writing. Reading the Bible is like rereading a letter from a loved one. You’ll learn about the depth of His love, the plan for His people, and most importantly, about redemption that defies the sinful nature of the world and provides us with an everlasting salvation. Sounds like a pretty good book, huh?
Most often, when people are either new Christians (or maybe just out of practice), the idea of reading scripture can be daunting. It’s not like the last novel you read or the picture book you read to your littles. Unlike other books, you don’t have to start on page one and read all the way through. Whoever said that kids need structure so they will not become overwhelmed was right. There is something about the freedom of scripture that can provide pause and be unsettling when we get started. The good news is that there is no right and wrong way to begin to fill your mind with the word of God. So take a deep breath and let go of that worry!
Want some more good news?
There are tons of devotionals and guides out there to help you find your way to a new lifestyle where scripture is not only part of your daily routine but a guide for how you live. There are pros and cons to using a typical devotional so let’s get those out of the way first.
Pros of using a devotional:
• Reading scripture is easy, but sometimes applying it to your life can be confusing until you’re used to it. Devotionals provide context and guidance on what the scripture means and how you can utilize it.
• Just like a Pastor provides us with a message to chew on each week, a devotional has the words of another person who can give you insight and wisdom.
• Devotionals often come with a plan. These books can provide you with scripture daily or weekly and can be great for creating habits.
• A Bible study group can use these to keep everyone focused on the same topic for discussion each week.
• It’s easier to read a devotional than to pick up the Bible and make a plan for yourself.
• Someone else is telling you what scripture means, and if you don’t do your research before getting started, you don’t know if you can trust their wisdom.
• Devotionals last for a set period. When you complete the book, you will either have to find a new devotional or begin leading yourself in your daily scripture study. That’s not a bad thing, but often, when the book ends, so does the daily reading.
• Cost. It can get expensive to buy a new devotional every time you finish one.
• You’re not opening your actual Bible. There’s a reason your pastor will ask who brought their Bibles each week or to open your Bible. A devotional will show you a line of scripture, but if you have your Bible open, you’ll see the scripture leading up to it and following it. That provides an opportunity for God to work in your life without constraint.
• When you read a summary or analysis from someone else’s perspective, it blocks you from analyzing it for yourself. Reading scripture for yourself allows you to let the Spirit guide your understanding.
Use a devotional to expand your knowledge of scripture instead of using it in place of reading scripture.
There are some tips and tricks for using a devotional without the pitfalls. Research who wrote your devotional book, and be sure it’s someone who you trust theologically. If in their sermons they say something that isn’t scriptural, you should pass on that book. Even when there are printed verses in your book, make sure that you open your Bible, look up the verses, and take note of what you’re reading. It’ll help you to see context and guided readings in action, which will help you’ve finished the devotional. Lastly, do not just read and learn about scripture but to learn how to read scripture. You can see how the author read a section of the Bible and applied it, and that is an excellent tool for you to use yourself. Now you’re ready to use these tools to understand your walk with God better.
Devotionals we love…
To get you in a daily routine...
If you’ve ever looked for a devotional, this one probably came up at the top of your search, and there’s a good reason: it’s easy to use and doesn’t take up a lot of time. If you’re going to use this devotional, we recommend expanding the daily study outside of what is printed. Jesus Calling will give you a daily verse to dwell on and a little bit of inspiration too.
To get you connected with other believers...
Flourish: A Mentoring Journey
This devotional comes in two forms. There is a book for the mentor (or group leader) and one for a mentee (anyone else in the group). Use Flourish to build depth in your relationship with God and create a relationship with a mentor and other believers. If you’re looking to expand your community or build scripture-based relationships, this is a perfect fit.
To give you strength…
100 Days to Brave
Annie F. Downs
If life is looking a little differently than you expected or you need the strength to surge headfirst into a new chapter, this is the book for you. This year has been challenging in the best circumstances, so we could all use a little bit of braveness. Since this book only lasts a couple of months, it’s a building block that will help you jumpstart your next steps in life and faith.
To inspire your inner dreamer...
31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer
Kelly Ruecker and Jenn Sprinkle
Like the title says, this devotional is perfect for the girl who has her sights set on achieving her greatest ambitions but wants to do it while walking with God. It's actually a collection of devotionals written by other 'dreamer and doer' type women like Lara Casey, Jennie Allen, Jess Connolly, Valerie Woerner, Lindsay Sherbondy and more. It's perfect for entrepreneurs, business owners and ministry leaders.
To feel close to God...
Beyond being just such a beautiful book (hello linen cover!), Lysa Terkeurst (her name sounds familiar because she's the founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries) writes in a way that makes you feel like you're reading a letter from your best friend. The book has 100 devotions 'to know God is holding you close' and it really does make you feel that way. It makes a great gift too!
To keep you going…
Bible.com Reading Plans
Okay, stick with us on this one. It’s not a typical “devotional,” but it’s free, there are tons of options, and it will encourage you to stay in the Word. The web resource Bible.com has created reading plans to help you find a structure to your daily scripture study. Most of these are a week or so long and give you scripture surrounding a particular theme. Whenever you finish one, you can move on to the next one. We’d encourage you to look up reading plans by pastors or worship leaders you trust. Here are a few that stood out to us.
- Good News: Encouragement for a World in Crisis, by YouVersion
- The Blessing Devotional, by Kari Jobe
- (Un)Qualified, by Pastor Steven Furtick
- Release, Revive, Repair, Rebuild, by Brian Houston
- Irresistible, by Andy Stanley
Grab a pen (or lots of pretty colored ones), a highlighter, your Bible, and some new resources, and get started on the next phase of your relationship with God. Make sure to write down what you’re learning so you can circle back to that wisdom later on.
Do you have a favorite devotional that's not on our list? Leave a comment to tell us!