I introduced the concept of letting the Bible study you instead of just studying the Bible last time. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you read part one before continuing here, for it lays an important foundation for what I will share here.
Now we’re ready to start looking at a couple of very practical ways to do this.
As I said in part one, when I’m reading the Bible devotionally, I’m not studying it exegetically. I’m not looking for the correct interpretation, context, nor am I using commentary, study aids, or reading anyone else’s devotional. I’m simply reading the Bible text to personally interact with God, intimately and relationally. I’m asking Him to reveal what’s in me that needs to change and trusting that the outcome of the experience will be for my highest good.
I will start with a devotional method I’ve been using for about ten years.
I first heard about this method from Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. I’ve since adapted it slightly, but you can find out more about this method here.
If you follow the normal reading plan you’ll go through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year, but you don’t have to be this aggressive in order to benefit from it. You can start with the New Testament and work up to the whole plan. The important thing is the interaction with God. It also doesn’t need to take a lot of time. I do my daily reading and journaling in about 30-45 minutes.
The best way to follow this reading plan is to have a Bible that does not contain commentary or study aids (If yours does, don’t refer to them while you’re reading). Again, we’re not trying to find the correct interpretation or what other people think. We’re simply letting Jesus “look under our hood” to see what’s going on in us.
Jesus, the Living Word, does this through our cooperative interaction with His Spirit that searches the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
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. (Heb.4:12 NLT)
You can get a Life Journal that’s designed specifically to work with this method. It has the daily reading plan, a place to journal your thoughts, and is conveniently organized. But a simple notebook will work as well. There’s also online versions you can subscribe to, and free Bible apps like YouVersion that let you can share your progress with others online.
Briefly, here’s how I use the S.O.A.P. method:
S: Scripture. As you’re reading, what particular verse is the Spirit highlighting to you? Write it down.
EXAMPLE: If today’s reading was Hos.10-12; Psalm 73; Heb. 4, I might write down Heb.4:12 (see above). Write the whole verse in your journal.
O: Observation. Why did this particular verse stand out to you? Again, you’re NOT looking for doctrine, but what it’s saying to you (use first person language).
EXAMPLE: I see here that God wants to expose what’s going on in my heart…why I do what I do, and why I react to other people the way I do. I can see that this is an important way to interact with Jesus and the Bible text.
A: Application. What am I going to do/change because of what God is showing me?
EXAMPLE: I need to start reading the Bible this way: letting Jesus show me what needs to change in me so He can heal me from heart issues that affect how I think about life, God, other people, and how I think about myself.
P: Prayer. Write a prayer for God’s empowerment to do this. This is a simple “Help!” prayer.
EXAMPLE: Father, thank you for making Your home in the deepest part of me. I give you permission to search my heart and heal me from the inside-out. I need your help to remember to do this everyday so that I will respond to every situation, and in all my relationships, with your grace and love. Amen.
I can guarantee from personal experience, and from what many others have experienced, that if you apply this simple method of Bible reading and journaling to your everyday life, you’ll be massively transformed!
This type of daily interaction has an accumulative effect on your soul. God uses the Bible like a plow to your heart, steadily digging up the weeds and cultivating your “soil,” making it fertile for much fruitfulness. There’s nothing like it!
One more thing. You may wonder why it’s important to write down your thoughts and prayers in a journal. First, we get more out of the encounter by writing it down. Second, we’re creating a valuable archive of “God moments” to refer back to anytime in the future. For instance, I can tell you what God spoke to me on August 29, 2008, simply by referring to that journal. I may have an issue in the future that God already spoke to my heart about several years ago. I simply go back and see what He said about it and re-enter the experience. God’s word to our heart and our prayers have no expiration date!
The prophet Habakkuk said this about writing it down:
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.” (Hab.2:2 NKJV)
If we’re to become faithful “doers” instead of “forgetful hearers” (James 1:22-25), and if God is speaking to us through His Living Word, shouldn’t it be important enough to write down so we “may run who reads it?”
We’ll look at one other practical method that’s just as effective at transforming your soul next time.