I’ve always known that reading the Bible is a good thing, but over the years I’ve struggled with finding a good devotional book or reading plan. When I was in Bible study groups I’d usually read a week worth of homework the night before and still couldn’t get in a good reading/study routine.
Then I read the book The Divine Mentor, which really changed the way I viewed Bible reading. Instead of looking for authors to explain the Bible for me or devotional books that included some verses of the day, The Divine Mentor’s premises is that the #1 book I should be reading is the Bible. I don’t really need any other commentaries, though sometimes they are nice. The Bible is God’s gift to me. For spiritual growth – or sanctification – the basic tools are the Bible and prayer.
For me, the S.O.A.P. method has been helpful in keeping me focused and digging deeper into the Bible. All you need is a pen, journal, and Bible.
#1. Scripture: Consistently read the Bible. I like using an annual “read through the Bible” plan, like this or this, on Bible.com or YouVersion app. With the YouVersion app, you can read the Bible or listen to it.
#2. Observation: What did I learn in the day’s reading? Some questions to ask:
What verses stood out?
What did I learn about God?
Is there an example I should follow?
What does God expect of me?
What does the reading say about human nature?
Is there a command I need to obey?
Is there a promise for me?
#3. Application or Action: How can I apply what I learned to my life in a real way? Is there something I need to do . . . or not do? Is there something I need to pray about? I try to make the action something I can actually do that day, if possible.
#4. Pray: Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield.
This is a very simple concept, but for me, has made a HUGE difference in my daily walk with God. It has given me direction and focus. It has taught me more than any Bible study I’ve done.
If you are intersted in being part of a Facebook group reading through the Bible in 2018, please visit here. I’d love to hear what techniques or disciplines have been the most helpful to you in growing closer to God.
My youngest daughter has allergies and asthma. She takes multiple medications in the morning and before bed – including an asthma maintenance inhaler – and never goes anywhere without a rescue inhaler and epi-pen. This past weekend she had a friend spend the night and in the excitement of a sleepover, she didn’t take her medications before bed. By the next evening, she was wheezing and congested. After only one missed dose and she could feel the effects.
I had a similar experience but in a spiritual sense.
Sunday morning I was worn out from listening to a late night slumber party giggle-fest. I decided to skip my morning time of #DailyBibleReading and sleep in. I figured I’d get my Jesus fix at church. I’d read the Bible and pray later.
We went to church and then in the afternoon I prepared to do my #DailyBibleReading. But I got distracted by Facebook and HGTV and Sukuku (I’ve advanced to the “extreme” level) and a library book that is due soon. I didn’t read the Bible or pray.
By evening I could feel the effects of missing one dose of my personal time with Jesus. Seriously.
I was crabby and irritable. I yelled at my husband. I was letting my mind wander to places it shouldn’t.
I’m not trying to be legalistic about #DailyBibleReading, but here’s the thing: I have a disease called sin. I can’t control it. Only Jesus can. My daily time with Him is like a maintenance inhaler. If I don’t take those 30 minutes with Him every morning I can feel the effects.
This spiritual race isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. And the only way my lungs stay strong is through time with Jesus. Every day.
There is chaos all around us. Anytime I turn on the TV or look at my phone it is swirling around me – from the KKK in Charlottesville, to nuclear threats, to political unrest, to celebrity suicide. And then there is the chaos of everyday life. From getting kids ready for back to school and keeping up with my to-do list.
But my God is a God of peace. And if I focus on Him, all the chaos falls away.
Chaos is nothing new. War, racial tension, family disagreements, and unrest have been here since sin entered the world. God didn’t create us to live in chaos. Our eyes aren’t meant to focus on the worries of the world.
Our eyes should be focused on Jesus.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:7,10
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3
Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. Psalms 119:165
Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalms 34:14
How do we find peace in this chaotic world?
Seek Jesus: Read the Bible every day. #DailyBibleReading
Do a Self-Inventory: “Am I doing good in the world?” Do something good. Every day. Show kindness to a stranger. Do something loving for a family member. Pray for an enemy.
Pray: Keep a prayer journal. Take your worries and hurts to Jesus.
Prior to the end of 2015, I didn’t read the Bible every day. I’d read other devotional books or Bible studies that usually included reading a few verses. I was rarely reading whole chapters in the Bible. Let alone whole books. Most of my quiet time consisted of reading what other people had discovered in their quiet times.
Then everything changed.
I was frustrated with the lack of progress I was making in become more Christ-like. I know Jesus wants me to be loving, patient, kind, etc. But I wasn’t seeing any changes in my life. I was a Christian . . . so why wasn’t I becoming more like Christ?
I read “The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior” by Wayne Cordeiro (More here). Basic premise – spending time reading and studying the Bible everyday is the key to life transformation.
My church small group voted to read through the Bible in 2016. I decided to get a head-start and begin in 2015.
Here are the tools I use:
Bible Reading: I use the YouVersion app and read the Bible on my phone. I like it because I can highlight verses, read a passage in another version (NIV vs. NLT), create pictures from the verses, etc. Lately, I have found myself getting distracted on my phone. It seems like the minute I start ready the Bible an all-important Facebook notification pops up. I may be switching back to my actual physical Bible soon!
Bible Reading Plan: Last year I used Wayne Cordeiro’s “Life Journal Reading Plan”. This year I am using Skövde Pingst’s “The BIBLE in a Year” plan. Both have been great – they include some New Testament, Old Testament and usually either some Psalms or Proverbs. And remember, you don’t have to start a plan on January 1st. I started in November 2015. Start today!
S.O.A.P. Journal. In The Divine Mentor Wayne Cordeiro explains the S.O.A.P. method of journaling while reading the Bible. I’ve adapted it a bit. My journal includes my own personal journal, my prayer journal and my daily SOAP. In this video Wayne explains the method (and it doesn’t hurt it is filmed in Hawaii – I think I could spending hours doing S.O.A.P on the beach!).
A: Application or Action
Personally, reading the Bible every day has been the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done. I’m finally seeing my life changing – from the inside out. No, it hasn’t happened at the speed I’ve wanted. And sometimes I get in a slump. But I am seeing changes. Slowly and steadily.
Here are a few passages that also explain the importance of reading the Bible.
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.Psalms 119:105
Instruction for the kings of Israel:
When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.Hebrews 4:12
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I haven’t written my blog for a while. I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual slump. I’ve still been doing my daily Bible reading, but nothing seems to sink in. I’ve been doing my SOAP . . . but the “A” (Action) has been lacking. I’m distracted.
I read the Bible on my phone on the YouVersion app and lately in the middle of reading I’ll get a text (or remember a text I “need” to send) or receive a Facebook notification and soon I’m 20 minutes deep into social media and my Bible reading is forgotten. And then by the time I get back to the Bible my mind keeps wandering back to social media.
Looking back over my journal the last few weeks some lines I’ve written stand out:
“I am irritable” (July 7th)
“I am worn out” (July 6th)
“Sometimes I’m embarrassed to say that I am a Christian . . . not because I’m ashamed of Jesus but because I’m ashamed of the terrible job I do showing His love to others” (July 5th)
“My mind is distracted by social media, TV, etc. I don’t have peace” (June 29)
“I am having a hard time focusing and praying right now” (June 27)
Interestingly, just a few days before my “slump” started I had attended a Bible Study on “The Invisible War” by Chip Ingram. The study I attended was on prayer. We are in an invisible war and we need prayer at all times. Our prayers should be constant, intense, and focused.
Satan hates when we pray.
Satan wants us distracted. He wants our Bible reading and prayers to be a half-effort. He wants us to just go through the motions or not at all.
When I let myself slide in my prayer life and Bible reading I can see the effects in my actions and attitudes. I become irritable and unloving. I don’t have peace.
Is it a coincidence that I made a conscience decision to get more focused in my prayer life and then – BAM – suddenly a million distractions seem to pop up every time I sit down to pray and read the Bible?
I doubt it.
Satan doesn’t want me praying and applying what I read in the Bible. He knows that amazing things will happen if I do. This race is not a sprint . . . but a marathon. I will have distractions and pains along the way. But I need to push through. Persevere. Run the race before me.
Knowing the schemes of Satan and putting on the Armor of God. #armorofgodstudy #DailyBibleReading @PriscillaShirer
Last night I read an article about a man whose teenage daughter went missing. After an extensive search, involving the police and the FBI, they found her. The girl had been sold into the sex industry. Her father explained that several years ago a man had found her online and started to prey on her. The man figured out her strengths and weaknesses. He lied to her about his identify. He groomed her. He was patient and cunning. This complete stranger spent two years building a relationship with her for the sole purpose of getting her to willingly follow him. This was his full-time job – recruiting kids to be sold into the sex industry. Grooming and selling one child into sexual slavery meant a $150,000 – $300,000 profit for this predator.
This father told his story as a warning for other parents. He implored them to be vigilant in guarding their children’s online activity and to become educated on the schemes of online predators. These predators are smart, manipulative and secretive. And many parents think their children are safe at home when there is actually terrible danger lurking behind their screens.
My #DailyBibleReading this morning included 2 Corinthians 2. Paul was writing to a church and one line in his letter really stood out to me – especially in light of the story I had read last night:
so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11 NLT
Satan is like that online predator – patiently manipulating and lying to us. Tempting us. Trying to outsmart us.
Paul said that the church in Corinth was familiar with Satan’s evil schemes.
But am I familiar with Satan’s schemes? No. Usually I am completely unaware.
How often do I look at a person or a situation as the enemy? I usually blame a human – or even God – as the cause of my hurt or temptation or frustration; without ever considering that my real enemy, Satan, is behind the screen, manipulating the situation.
To another church Paul said:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NLT
How can I be fighting against and protecting myself from evil forces if I don’t even know their schemes?
One thing I love about my #DailyBibleReading through Bible.com or the YouVersion App is the easy ability to study deeper into a topic. In the “Search” bar I looked up “Satan” and started reading through the Bible verses that came up to have a better idea of Satan’s schemes so I can identify them in my own life. This link will take you to the search if you’d like to read through the list on your own. Some of my observations are below the picture.
Just like the father whose daughter had been sold into sex slavery explained, intellectually knowing the schemes of predators isn’t enough. I need to act. I need to protect myself and my family.
How can I protect myself from the schemes of the devil?
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:11,13-18 NLT
Truth: Satan is the father of lies. We need to know what is true and what is a lie. And not fall for his lies.
God’s righteousness: To protect my heart, I need to obey God. I need to flee sin. And cling to God’s goodness.
Gospel of Peace
Word of God: #DailyBibleReading, meditation, memorization
Prayer, Prayer, and more Prayer
Priscilla Shirer is one of my favorite Bible Study authors and speakers. Recently I had the opportunity to see her in person during her Fervent Tour (which I highly recommend). She talked quite a bit about the Armor of God during the event, which was very helpful in better understanding the Armor of God and recognizing Satan’s strategies and combating them.
I haven’t done the study, but hope to. Here is a link to a video with the first lesson of Armor of God Bible study. The promo is below:
I’ll be keeping my eyes open for this Bible Study taking place locally – I would love to participate with a local of group of women studying how to put on the full armor of God and be ready for battle.
How about you? What has been your experience in putting on the Armor of God and being aware of and combating the schemes of the devil?