One winter, The National Weather Service in Miami issued an unofficial warning for falling iguanas due to the unusual cold snap that hit the Sunshine State.
"This isn't something we usually forecast,” the weather service tweeted, “but don't be surprised if you see iguanas falling from the trees tonight as lows drop into the 30s and 40s.”
When the cold-blooded reptiles’ body temperature drops to fifty degrees, they become lethargic. Below forty, they stiffen up, lose their grip on the trees where they live, and drop onto unsuspecting passersby.
I’ve never seen a frozen iguana,—but I have seen the effects that cold has on people’s spiritual lives.
The Danger of Spiritual Coldness
Spiritual coldness can be deadly. Like the iguanas in Florida, it has the power to sneak up on us, with disastrous results.
Busyness can squeeze out our times of Bible reading and prayer. A change in work schedule (or an international pandemic) can make church attendance difficult. Even happy events like a new relationship, a new home, or a new baby can distract us from the habits and routines that govern our spiritual lives.
Our spiritual temperature drops, and we grow stiff and lethargic. We lose the desire to spend time in God’s Word and with God’s people. We’re less likely to give and serve. We justify our lack of spiritual energy. These are difficult times. I’ll spend more time with God when things get back to normal.
Before long, we’re in danger of losing our grip and falling. We’re not dead, but if something doesn’t change, we soon will be.
Has your spiritual temperature dropped to a dangerous level? Are you a toenail away from losing your grip and taking someone else down with you? Then it’s time to make a change. Here are 10 ways to renew your quiet time with God and get your spiritual blood pumping again.
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1. Spend Time with God First
Most mornings, I climb out of bed, grab my cell phone off its charger, and head into my study to read and pray. I’ve discovered, almost without fail, if I open my phone for even an instant, I get sucked into the rabbit hole of texts, emails, and social media. Before I realize it, 20 minutes have gone by, and I haven’t even cracked the cover of my Bible. I’ve wasted precious time I could have spent with God by scrolling through stuff that has no eternal value.
The great hero of the faith and champion of prayer E. M. Bounds said, “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day.”
2. Invite God’s Presence
Many times I approach my quiet time the same way I would any other item on my to-do list. I plop down, throw open my Bible, and dig in. I don’t quiet my heart. I don’t acknowledge that I’m entering the presence of the living God. I don’t invite the Holy Spirit to speak to me. I just start reading. Or talking.
But when I quiet myself as I enter God’s presence, a holy hush falls over my soul. When I begin my time by praising God, my upended world rights itself. When I ask the Holy Spirit to open my mind, search my heart, and examine my life, God tenders my spirit and makes it more receptive to what I’m about to read. Instead of just another item on my to-do list, my quiet time becomes the most significant and beautiful part of my day.
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3. Read from a Different Bible
Choose a different translation, or a new way of reading. I love the MacArthur Daily Bible, where, every day, I read a portion of the Old Testament, a portion of the New Testament, and a Psalm and Proverb. This year, however, I’ve read The Chronological Study Bible.
I may try The Archaeological Study Bible next. Every new translation gives me fresh insight and helps me grow more excited about God’s Word.
4. Listen to the Bible
Some days I use a Bible app to listen to different translations and readers. Hearing God’s Word read aloud often gives me fresh insight. I catch emphasis and repeated words I would otherwise miss. Different translations have different readers, so find the one that resonates with your spirit.
I exercise every day. I also want to spend time in God’s Word every day, so I often combine the two. I lace up my walking shoes, stuff my earbuds in my ears, and click play on a passage of Scripture. I can listen to whole books of the Bible during my 45-minute walk or listen to a shorter book several times. By combining these two important disciplines, I grow stronger physically and spiritually.
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5. Use a Different Devotional
If you always read Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, read Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. If you love The Upper Room devotions, try Our Daily Bread. If you haven’t read my new book, Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, I’d love for you to grab a copy.
6. Pray Using a Different Method
Do you normally use the ACTS (Admit, Confess, Thanks, and Supplication) way? Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model instead. If you pray with a list in a prayer journal, go off script and invite God to bring people and situations to your mind and allow Him to direct your prayer time.
Or pray for missionaries and ministries one day; family members the next; and friends, associates, and strangers the next.
7. Meet with God in a Different Place
If you usually sit in your recliner in the den or read your Bible in bed, go somewhere else. Weather permitting, find a quiet spot outdoors, read in your car at lunchtime, or listen to a Bible app while folding laundry. It’s amazing how a change of venue can open your heart and mind to things you’ve never noticed.
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8. Pray the Psalms
The book of Psalms contains some of the Bible’s most personal and gut-wrenching words. Some psalms are songs of lament. Others are songs of praise. Some are historical testimonies of God’s work in the world.
When I feel especially disconnected from God, I use the psalms as a prayer guide. I pray them back to God and personalize them in appropriate ways. Psalm 51 is one of my favorites:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you” (Psalm 51:10, Psalm 51:12-13).
9. Ask Questions
Some of my most energizing and dynamic quiet times happen when I engage the Bible (and the Author of the Bible) by asking questions. Four of my favorites are:
Who was this written to (original audience)?
What is the primary message (interpretation)?
How does this apply to my life? What is God saying to me (application)?
If this is true (and it is), what needs to change in my life in response (action)?
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I’ve practiced a daily quiet time with God for more than two decades. During those times, I’ve experienced soul-soaring moments that linger with me to this day. Other times I’ve struggled through like I was studying for an Algebra test.
Regardless of how I felt, God has rewarded my commitment to spend time in prayer and His Word. Building the habit of a daily quiet time into my life and persevering until it bore fruit has paid rich dividends. As with any habit worth cultivating, we do it whether we feel like it or not because we know the benefits will follow.
As I’ve persevered in God’s Word, I’ve found rich caches of peace, wisdom, and strength I never would have found if I’d quit when it wasn’t always engaging. The more familiar I’ve grown with God’s Word, the more I’ve come to love it. Even better, as I’ve learned to love God’s Word, I’ve fallen madly in love with the God of the Word. I’m so glad I persevered!
Physical coldness can damage crops, ruin landscapes, and freeze iguanas. Spiritual coldness can damage our witness, ruin our families, and freeze our spiritual lives.
Because spending time in God’s Word and prayer is crucial to maintaining our relationship with God, we want to do everything we can to keep our quiet times fresh. Instead of slipping into spiritual hypothermia, we can employ creativity, prayer, and perseverance to keep our spiritual blood flowing.
Praying through the Most Beloved Psalms in 30 Days
Why Do We Ask God to ‘Create in Me a Clean Heart?’
How Do I Know Which Bible Translation Is Right for Me?
10 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible
Photo Credit: ©Pixabay/Daniel Reche
Originally published Monday, 22 June 2020.