". . .how can we make sure to keep our personal relationship with Jesus Christ real and…personal?"
I'll tell you what's working for me: pouring out my whole heart to Him, and reading His word consistently.
Sounds simple, right? Try doing it for a week. The enemy of your soul will throw so many distractions at you, you'll do well to remember up from down.
For a Mother's Day present to myself, I made a commitment to try (again) having a morning "quiet time." Instead of using a daily devotional book, or a daily quiet time plan, I decided to use the New Living Translation Chronological Bible that Michael gave me for my birthday a few years ago. Only this time, I'm reading with a mechanical pencil in my hand. That's right! I'm writing in my Bible!
I'm also writing in my journal. I heard Beth Moore say a few weeks ago (on video, I think), "God wants you to pour out your heart to Him. Even the broken places. He wants the whole mess!"
So I've been trying to give it to Him--the whole mess of my heart--before I tell Betsy and Melisa about it. One part of the mess has been on my mind and in my face constantly lately. The thing is, last year, God told me specifically to be quiet and stay out of His way in this thing. Naturally, when it came up again recently, I really wanted to be able to speak my mind to the people involved.
Except I've been reading God's Word. Guess what? If you're praying about something and reading God's word simultaneously, He'll tell you what He thinks about what you're praying.
Guess what He told me last week?
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.
Don't worry about evil people who prosper, or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop your anger! Turn from you rage! (Psalm 37:7&8)
Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
and they will receive a reward that lasts forever.
They will survive through hard times;
even in famine they will have more than enough. (Psalm 37:18&19)
Don't be impatient for the Lord to act!
Travel steadily along His path.
He will honor you, giving you the land. (Psalm 37:34)
All our busy rushing ends in nothing. . .my only hope is in You. (Psalm 39:6,7)
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me , and He turned to me and heard my cry. . .
He lifted me out of the pit. . .He steadied me as I walked along. . .(and all the rest of Psalm 40)
He gives me comfort and prosperity, easing my pain and discomfort when I am sick and betrayed by a good friend (Psalm 41:2,3,9)
The wilderness is quiet and can be a place of refuge (Psalm 55:7&8)
I need to give my burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of me.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. (Psalm 55: 22)
He is my safe refuge. . .He has given me an inheritance (Psalm 61)
[And then there are Psalm 62 and Psalm 131.]
When I was praying about the fallout from 2008 (a lot of stuff happened to us, which has resulted in a mound of grief), God spoke again through the psalmist.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The wilderness becomes a lush pasture, and the hillsides blossom with joy.
Our lives are in His hands, and He keeps our feet from stumbling.
Hard stuff has happened, but He's brought us to a place of great abundance.
Psalm 66:9, 12
So. He's told me to wait on Him, to wait patiently and quietly. In case I didn't hear Him by now, He told me again today, in 1 Kings 6.
(verse 7) The stones used in the construction of the Temple were prefinished at the quarry, so the entire structure was built without the sound of hammer, ax, or any other iron tool at the building site. (= Work quietly.)
(verses 20-22) Solomon overlaid the walls and ceilings of the Temple's inner sanctuary with pure gold. He overlaid the cedar altar with gold. He overlaid the Temple's interior with gold, indeed, the entire Temple was overlaid with gold. (= The inheritance He is building in me and my family will be a thorough treasure.)
(verses 37-38) The foundation of the Lord's Temple was laid in midspring of the fourth year of Solomon's reign. The entire building was completed in every detail by midautumn of the eleventh year of his reign. So it took seven years to build the Temple. (= Complete construction with attention to detail takes time.)
Is my God personal? You bet He is. I asked Him for springs last year, and He is causing streams and rivers to gush forth (Psalm 74:15). He cares for me with a true heart, and He leads me with skillful hands (Psalm 78:72). His road leads through, not around--through the mighty waters, through the barren wilderness, through the sin-caused captivity--on a pathway no one knows is there (Psalm 77:19). I still belong to Him, even after everything. He is holding my right hand. He keeps on guiding me with His counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny (Psalm 73:23).
Wow. Thanks, Jesus!