By Janet Thompson, Crosswalk.com
I’ve been happily married for over thirty years, and I love my husband dearly, but he is not my first love; Jesus is. This realization led me to wonder if I lavished on Jesus the same expressions of excitement and endearment as I did when I fell in love with Jesus as a child. Do you remember when you first accepted Jesus as your Savior? How you couldn’t wait to spend time with him and wanted everyone to know how Jesus changed your life? But over the years, our relationship with Jesus and studying his Word can become routine or stale. Maybe it even turns into a mundane duty or seems repetitive instead of full of the enthusiasm, exuberance, and eagerness we first felt when learning more about Jesus by reading and studying our Bibles.
I’ve prayed about ways to approach my Bible study time with Jesus each day with the same attitude I should lavish on my earthly love, my husband. Just as many couples have date nights, I began to think of my Bible study and prayer time as a date with Jesus. One I could actually experience as often as I wanted. You might also like to incorporate some of these fresh ways to spruce up your Bible study that I’ve found so enjoyable when lingering with my First Love, Jesus Christ.
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1. Create a Prayer Garden
Thinking of Jesus as the lover of my soul and the One I love above all others, gave me the idea of creating a romantic date atmosphere for my daily quiet time with him. It needed all the touches of a special date so I decided outdoors would be perfect. Since my backyard at the time was all cement, I arranged colorful potted plants in a shaded alcove of the patio and hung a hummingbird feeder. I placed a chair for Jesus and a chair for me with a small table in the center for a romantic fragrant candle. I later added wind chimes, and my son-in-law made a waterfall. Walla, I had a prayer garden.
Now that we live in Idaho with its four seasons, my Bible study location changes with the season. When the weather is nice, I’m out on the deck, and when it’s snowing or cold, I have a lovely area in my office loft with a beautiful view out the upstairs windows.
The goal is to have a designated special location to meet with the Lord, uninterrupted and quiet whether it’s inside or outside. Maybe it’s a corner of a room or some people actually have a prayer closet. But it’s your place together and you know that Jesus is waiting there for you even on those days you stand up your date for whatever reason. When you walk by your quiet time spot, it’s a reminder you missed that precious time together. Not to make you feel guilty, but to help you stay consistent in a daily Bible study time. It’s never too early or too late to meet with the Lord.
Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. Gen. 2:8 NLT
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2. Have a Jesus Date Bag Always Packed
Pack a tote or “date bag” with your Bible, a journal, devotional, highlighters, pens, Post-it notes, current Bible Study, a candle, and oh yes, a lighter. One trip back into the house or getting up out of the chair for something you need or forgot could be a major distraction to start answering emails or washing the dishes.
I have my Quiet Time bag packed and ready for wherever and whenever I’m having my date with Jesus. My husband puts his Bible study materials in a backpack and if he misses his morning quiet time because we have to leave the house early for appointments, he takes it with him to read his devotionals while in waiting rooms or maybe even waiting in the car for me to run errands.
First thing every morning, or whatever time works best for you, grab a cup of coffee, tea, or bottle of water, your date bag, a blanket or sweater if it is chilly, sunglasses if you’re outside and it’s sunny, and settle in for your date with Jesus.
When your date is finished, repack your date bag and put it back in the same spot every time so it’s ready for tomorrow’s big date.
You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. Matt. 24:44 NLT
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3. Quiet Please!
Here is a major key to intimate time with your First Love—eliminate all interruptions. Don’t take your cell phone on your date! Voicemail or the answering machine can record your calls. Let the family know you’re having your Jesus date. Maybe even make or purchase a Do Not Disturb sign.
Sometimes, this means getting up before the rest of the family or staying up a little later after everyone is in bed. Susanna Wesley, mother of famous pastors John and Charles Wesley, vowed that she would never spend more time in leisure entertainment than she did in prayer and Bible study. Even as the mother of a large family, she still faithfully scheduled two hours each day for fellowship with God and time in His Word. Her challenge, like many of you might incur, was finding a place of privacy in a house with young children.
Many pictures depict Susanna’s famous solution. She would sit in a favorite chair with her Bible and then throw her big apron up over her head forming a makeshift tent. Every person in the house respected this signal that mama was having her quiet time with the Lord and only an emergency was allowed to disturb her. Try to find a way to convey that same sacredness and respect in your family when they see you have your Bible open ready for study and absorbing God’s message to you uninterrupted.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Ps. 46:10 NLT
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4. Play Soft Worship Music
What’s a date without music? Choose your favorite worship music and sing along if the Spirit leads. Praise music drowns out the sounds of the world and Satan can’t be in its presence to make you feel guilty or accuse you of wasting time. He doesn’t want you studying God’s Word and he’ll do everything he can to prevent you from enjoying your Jesus date.
Another way to cast out Satan is to start your Bible study date by praying the armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18. I would never think of going into my day without this spiritual hedge of protection.
Rise up, O Lord, in all your power. With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts. Ps. 21:13
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5. Write a Love Letter
You may have heard the Bible referred to as a love letter from God to his people. Studying the Bible with the attitude that it’s God’s precious words to each of us personally because he loves us so much provides an entirely unique perspective to our Bible study time. Try reading the scriptures as if God was writing them just to you. Personalize each one by putting your name into the scripture. For example, For God so loved me, Janet, that he gave his one and only Son, that if I, Janet, believe in him I shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 personalized)
Journaling may sound intimidating. But writing an endearing love letter back to God allows you to express thoughts and feelings that may be hard to put into words verbally. The beauty of a love letter is re-reading it over the years and seeing how Jesus answered prayers or maybe provided new insights into Bible study or difficult issues. You’ll appreciate how your faith has matured and deepened.
Sometimes, we forget the things we asked of the Lord, so adding a prayer journal allows you to review those requests. I like to put a line down the middle of the page with prayer requests on one side and praises/answers on the other side. Always note the calendar date of the request and God’s answer. Sometimes, the answer is no. Then other times he gives you new ways to look at a situation or maybe the answer you were hoping for all along.
If you’re afraid of someone discovering your love letter where you’ve written private things, you can always come up with your own abbreviations or code words like lovers often do. Make it personal. Other times, like anyone in love, you’ll want to shout to the world what Jesus has done for you and can do for them too.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matt. 22:37-38
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6. Add Variety
To keep romance exciting and revitalizing, it’s always nice to vary activities on dates. I continually look for ways to add freshness to my Quiet Time and Bible study selections. Every Christmas, I pick out a new devotional for the coming year. I like to select one with an area for journaling love letters to the Lord. I alternate working on my small group Bible studies or one I am doing for fun. Some years, I read completely through the Bible and vary the translations. Other times, I leisurely enjoy the scriptures by selecting Books of the Bible that intrigue me to study deeper.
There are also Bible studies that incorporate drawing, coloring, painting, poetry, music, and other ways to express creativity while studying Scripture. My husband and I once memorized scripture with musical CDs where we sang the scriptures. Some people like to listen to the audio Bible while driving, exercising, or walking.
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Ps. 119:11 NLT
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7. Don’t Do All the Talking
Like any relationship, we want it to be two-way where one person doesn’t dominate the discussion. So at the end of your Jesus date, sit back, close your eyes, and linger in conversational prayer allowing your First Love to talk to you. He will whisper words of love and endearment as he reveals his plans, visions, guidance, and goals for you. Often, there are even answers to prayers and questions.
Don’t rush it if at first you don’t hear his still small voice. You might just share a time together of sweet silence.
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! Ps. 95:6-7 NLT
Like any wonderful date, you’ll hate for it to end, but you know your First Love will be waiting eagerly for your special date tomorrow. It will soon become your most favorite part of the day!
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matt. 11:28 NLT
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