It’s that time again! Skip the decaf and go straight for the good stuff! Grab your Bible, pen, and journal, and Wake Up! Today we’re going back to a very simple basic: reading your Bible.
In January we challenged you to pick your favorite Bible translation, find a Bible reading plan, and begin to dig in to God’s Word for 2017.
Did you do it?
Did you start it and not stick with it possibly? (I’ve done that many times myself.) If you started a plan to read the entire Bible in 2017 and stayed the course, you will now find yourself, here in mid-November, having read over 90% of the whole Bible. Nine-tenths! Ninety percent of God’s word full of love and wisdom, peace, history, and instruction. You are a different person now than you were 10 1/2 months ago. I know this because Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” As you have been reading and feeding yourself on His word this year, He has been changing you, achieving His purposes for you and accomplishing His desired work in your heart! Isn’t that encouraging? You may not see the growth and change when you look at yourself today as compared to yesterday, but think back to a year ago. You may be surprised by what changes you see that God has worked in your life!
Now, for those of us, like me, who are a little behind in what we hoped for this year, it’s time to wake up and re-focus. I have gottten 6 days behind over the course of the year. I know because I keep a list and check it off. I’m lazy if I don’t take measures to keep myself faithful in seeking Him. But I’m not quitting; I’m reading a little extra each day. Not that my goal is to check off a check list, but in pursuit of my goal to know God more intimately and know His word more fully, I press on.
So, if you find you haven’t been as faithful in coming to sit at Jesus feet each day as you wish you had been this year, do you give up and say, “Oh well.”? No. You recommit, dig in deeper, wake up earlier, and read His word more each day. The great thing about the Father is that we never run out of fresh starts with Him.
When you sit down with the Scriptures, pen in hand, if you only read and don’t think or take notes or pray, you won’t get as much out of it. Recently, I have picked up the habit of listening to the scripture as I read it visually. I use the Bible Gateway app on my phone. When you click on the menu icon at the top left you get a drop down menu that has “Audio Bible” as an option. It allows you to choose the version you want to listen to, the Bible book and chapter, and the person reading it aloud. I use Max McLean who has a great voice that helps you hear the meaning.
For the rest of this post I want to give you some ideas for a fresh start at approaching the Word of God. The first one is the one I use, though they are all somewhat similar.
1 – Prayer followed by Observation-Interpretation-Application. Each morning as I open my Bible, I begin by praying that the Father will open the eyes of my heart to see and understand the truths I’m reading that day. This gets my mind engaged and my heart focused on Him, and it let’s Him know I’m ready and willing to hear and obey.
Second, I read a portion of scripture making simple observations: Who is the passage about? What’s going on? What lessons are being taught? What promises are given? What does it reveal about God or human nature or sin, etc.?
Third, I try to interpret the meaning of the passage asking myself what the deeper meaning and implications of the scripture are. How does this portion of scripture fit in with what all I already know about scripture? Does it enlighten me on a deep truth I haven’t understood? Sometimes it expands my understanding of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Without doubt, it will help me interpret the overall message of scripture more clearly: scripture is the best commentary on scripture.
And finally, I try to see how to apply it to my life. Does it give me a list of practical helps that I can seek to live out that week? Or perhaps it reminds me to walk in faith or step out in service to others or praise him in the middle of our tough circumstances. Does it correct error in me, perhaps in an area of theology where I have followed the ways of the world without ever really considering what His word implied?
2 – SOAP – Scripture-Observe-Apply-Pray – The SOAP method starts and ends differently than our first method, but has some of the same components.. First you go to scripture. But you don’t just read it, you write out on paper the passage you are reading! (When we write things out we remember them better.) Then you follow a similar path as in the first option, You observe and apply God’s word as instructed above. In this model, you end with prayer asking for God’s wisdom and equipping that you can live out what you’ve learned.
3 – FLIP – Facts-Lessons-“I need to apply this”-Pray – In this one, you read the Word searching out the Facts: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The you read back through looking for Lessons (promises, principles, instructions, etc.) in that same scripture portion. After that you you consider how I need to apply this to my life. And once again you end with the prayers of your heart.
Whichever method you can remember most easily is probably a good place to start.
Wherever you find yourself in your spiritual journey right here at Thanksgiving, it’s never too late to seek God. Today is the time to start. Whether you are finishing up a year’s commitment to read a portion of scripture or you are just deciding to get started reading scripture methodically, go for it. As you immerse yourself in God’s word you will grow closer to the Father, find solutions to your challenges, understand the world better, and walk in a more Christlike manner. Scripture changes you! So don’t quit. And don’t make excuses or put off starting. Just do it!