In 2016 I read through the Bible in a year. And I highly recommend it. Without a goal and direction I find myself aimlessness reading random verses . . . which often leads me to get out of the habit of reading. With a challenge of finishing in the year I have motivation to stay on track because I know what happens if I miss too many days.
This year I’m using the same platform, but using the BIBLE in a year plan. So far it seems like a little less reading than last year. The daily reading includes passages from the Old Testament and New Testament everyday and a chapter from Psalms or Proverbs every second day.
In addition to reading the Bible, I use the SOAP method:
Without using the SOAP method I tend to read . . . and then quickly forget what I read. The SOAP method helps me to retain and think on a deeper level about what I read.
I’ll also be using this blog to track some of my Observations and Applications.
And of course, if you would be willing to join me in this challenge it will help keep me motivated and we can discuss what we are learning together!
When I started getting more serious about my spiritual walk over four years ago I was very focused on my career. It took almost all my energy just to get done with my daily to-do list. And though I hate to admit it, my husband and children were often another item on the list that needed to be tended to and maintained. And reading the Bible was something I did if I had the time and energy at the end of the day.
Through a Bible study I felt a whisper: my priorities were all wrong and my identity was in the wrong place. I was putting my worth in my professional accomplishments. I needed to put God first. Then my husband (and I needed to respect him, something I am TERRIBLE at). Then loving my children and demonstrated to them how to live a godly life. I’ll be really honest, the thing I was most concerned with demonstrating to my children was how to be a hard-working, driven, successful woman. Demonstrating to them how to submit to God’s will wasn’t on my radar. And demonstrating respect to my husband didn’t cross my mind.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5 NIV
The answer is where I set my mind. The more time I spend reading the Bible, studying, praying, memorizing verses . . . the more my actions change. The more I submit to God. The more I respect my husband. The more I love my children.
I can’t change on my own. But the more time I spend with God the more my life is transformed.
Most days I feel good – positive, happy, etc. But then there are days that I feel overwhelmed. My children don’t obey me. My husband hurts my feelings. I yell at all of them . . . and then feel guilty and like a failure as a mom and wife.
I feel tired and distracted when I read the Bible.
I feel uninspired when I write my blog and muddled when I pray.
But then I read about Job and Peter. These men were facing horrible experiences – the death of children, health issues, prison, murder of friends and more. These aren’t just stories. These were real men. Men who ate, slept, laughed and probably cried. Men who experienced ups and downs in their walks with God. From Job crying out for death and Peter denying Jesus . . . to God restoring Job’s fortunes and Peter being freed from prison by angels.
God had wonderful things in store for these men and plan for their lives beyond what they could have ever imagined. But their lives were far from “happy” and they experienced deeper lows then I have ever experienced. But they persevered. They kept their eyes focused on God. They fought the good fight, even when it was hard.
This is what I am loving about reading through the Bible – meeting these mentors through their words and experiences. Learning from them. Seeing the big picture. And being encouraged to keep up the walk and the faith, even on days when I feel like my head will explode and I can’t do anything right. Just keep walking. Day by day. Step by step.
I belong to “small group” at church of wonderful, funny, broken people who are all in different places on our Journey of faith.
At our 2015 Christmas party we busy playing games, eating cookies and exchanging white elephant guests when it was announced that everyone needed to vote on the next Bible study we’d be doing as a group.
With my white elephant gift in tow – a bag of quinoa and a can of mandarin oranges – I checked out the options:
I voted for the study on parenting. I struggle as a parent. And my husband and I have very different parenting styles.
Also, I’ve already read Renovation of the Heart previously and reading through the Bible seemed like a very daunting task. Finding even 10 minutes a day to read the Bible has often been a losing battle for me.
The group voted and we tallied up the ballots – Reading through the Bible in a year won.
Pinterest to the Rescue
I love Pinterest. I have a huge collection of Pins – recipes to make, places to travel, great cleaning tips, DIY projects and gardening hacks. 98% are pages I like and pin, but never attempt. I’d much rather read about “green” cleaning techniques and how to make mason jar crafts than actually attempt any of them.
January was quickly approaching and my group had yet to come up with a reading plan. I decided to see if Pinterest had any ideas.
Who knew how many great Bible study ideas are on Pinterest? From color-coding your Bible to creating a war room out of a closet, Pinterest had everything! Before getting too distracted by the ideas on creating Bible Study baskets out of shower caddies, I discovered a Pin recommending “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.
The basic premise of the book is that nothing has the power to transform your life like sitting at the feet of the Savior.
The book includes a reading program – I have the app – and use the Life Journal Reading Plan. I also use the SOAP method outlined by Cordeiro:
Every day has been a blessing. What a privilege that I have the opportunity to spend time with a Moses, David, Paul and Peter. I have gotten to know women who have experienced so many of the same highs and lows that I experience thousands of years later. But mostly, I have been able to read a love letter from a man who died for me.
1 Corinthians 2:13 New International Version (NIV): This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
If you are wanted to grow in your spiritual life or are struggling to find a reading plan or Bible study, I highly recommend this plan.
Will you join me in sitting with Jesus and seeing where he leads us?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV): All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Deuteronomy 8:1-3 New International Version (NIV): Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
My husband, daughters and I attend a wonderful church in Gretna, Nebraska called Journey Church. I love everything about it. The music, the sermons, the Facebook community and the beautiful people who make up the church.
We meet in a middle school gym – in the same building where I attended high school. The stage where Pastor Phil preaches about grace and love is the stage I walked across to receive my high school diploma over twenty years ago.
Being a small church that meets in a middle school means we rely on other to churches in the community to provide some of the learning and ministry opportunities for our congregation, which is actually a wonderful way to break out of our church family and denomination mold to meet other Christians in different walks of life.
Over the last few years I attended two different women’s Bible studies at the Gretna United Methodist Church. In both of these studies I learned a lot and felt a very clear tugging from God to make some changes in my life.
GIDEON, by Priscilla Shirer, August 2014
When I read the brief announcement in my church’s newsletter about a neighboring church offering a Bible study, I was interested. The Facebook invite for the study said: “Here is a synopsis from the back of the workbook: ‘God can use your weakness. Do you feel overwhelmed? Inexperienced? Intimidated? Insufficient? Too old? Too young? Too invisible? Too afraid? Gideon’s story involves far more than a wet fleece and a battle won with 300 soldiers. His epic victory actually tells of one man’s struggle with his own weakness — and the One True God who transformed it into triumph. So if you’ve ever struggled with insecurity or had trouble accepting your limitations, this study will help you see how God can use your weakness to unlock His strength. Yes, Gideon can attest — weakness is a gift.’”
I started the study excited to see what God would teach me. I really thought He’d show me some huge mission he had for me to save the world.
But looking back I wonder if I was even listening. Or just looking and walking away without applying it to my life.
James 1:23-25 – New International Version (NIV) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Looking at my handwritten notes in the margins in my study guide, I can see I was asking important questions and gaining insight as God was shining his truth into my life through Priscilla Shirer.
– “I often put my job before God, my husband, kids, etc.”
– “My calling as a wife and mom is NO less important than the callings of Abraham, Moses or Gideon. I need to do it to the BEST of my ability.”
– What realm of life do you think God wants you concentrating on while doing this study? Don’t overlook the ordinary or minimize your role in a larger arena. Let Him Lead your thinking and trust him to equip you for whatever He inspires: “My relationship with God and my role as wife and Mom. I need to prove myself in these areas first.”
– “Life is all about choices and every day we choose who we will serve – God, ourselves or other “gods” that enslave us. A daily, hourly choice. Who will I serve? And every choice has a consequence. We choose the path but not the outcome. I need to be diligent about making a daily choice to serve Jesus.”
– “Quit watching Sons of Anarchy.”
– “I should never make any career choices that impede my calling as a follower of Jesus, wife and mother.”
Hindsight is 50/50.
Reading my notes from 2014 I wish I’d taken more time to explore how God wanted me to apply those nuggets of truth.
At that time I didn’t re-align my priorities. I didn’t spend more time with my husband or kids. I didn’t make Jesus my first priority.
The only real change I made was to stop watching Sons of Anarchy (and believe me that wasn’t easy . . . my secret fantasy of someday being in a motorcycle gang went up in smoke!)
The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst, January 2015
I started The Best Yes study about four months after ending the Gideon life study. My only application/life change from the Gideon study was to quit watching Sons of Anarchy. And, in those few months between the studies, I had also taken on a lot more work. Business was booming.
And the more business grew, the less time I spent with Jesus.
I was actively making career choices that were impediments to my walk with Jesus as I grew more and more busy.
In January 2015, I was again blessed by the women at the Gretna United Methodist Church and the Lysa TerKeurst’s video series they shared. And my questions became more pointed and the answers more clear: – “What is God’s priority for my life?”
– “I say ‘yes’ to work and clients to make money and grow business; but if I get too busy and stressed my children and husband suffer.”
– “If I get too busy and let my priorities slide my walk with Jesus takes a back seat which hurts everything else.”
Even with clear questions and answers, I am a slow learner. Or at least I’m very slow in moving from learning and observing to actually making life changes.
Romans 7:15-20 – English Standard Version (ESV) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
I had written down a prayer in my “The Best Yes” study guide . . . “Lord, please give me an undivided heart. Help me to focus on you in all things and prioritize my time with you above anything else.”
God was listening.
And even though I am slow to learn and even slower to put His wisdom into action, God was at work.
He was starting a revival in my heart and answering my prayers in ways I couldn’t imagine.
Martha Stewart I am not . . . if anyone ever showed up my house without giving us at least 2-3 hour notice, he or she might be tempted to call Health and Human Services to report deplorable living conditions.
And while an unannounced visitor wouldn’t find a Pinterest perfect home, he would have found a “successful” business owner with a constantly hectic schedule. He would find a frazzled woman with a feverish drive to accomplish.
Through my front doors he would have found a mom who couldn’t sit for 20 minutes playing with my kids without feeling an impatient tug of email, Facebook and a demanding to-do list. He’d find a wife who’d rather impress her clients than her husband.
My unannounced visitor would have seen a woman who showed up at church on Sunday and participating in the occasional Bible study, but who wasn’t loving Jesus with all her heart, soul and mind . . . .
Jesus would only get the 10-15 minutes I could carve out in the morning before the pace of life hit me full in the face. And maybe he’d get an exhausted prayer while I was falling asleep. If I was going through an especially rough patch Jesus might be “lucky” enough to get a few extra minutes of my complaining and explaining the list of things I wanted him fix. But that was it.
Jesus got my left-over time and attention.
Luke 10:38-42 New King James Version (NKJV)
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
I was Martha.
Every inch of my being was distracted. By work. By Facebook. By Pinterest pins that were never again opened. By Twitter. By the demands of my clients and the mess of my house.
And I was missing out on the one thing I needed.
Just one thing.
To sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his words.
This blog is my journey to leave a life of distractions and focus on the thing that matters most. My prayer is to be transformed from Martha to Mary.