I’ve been doing devotional reading of the Bible for over 18 years now. What I mean is, I’ve been letting the God of the Word study me. For the 20-some years before that, I studied the Bible. I only bring this up to provide context for what I want to share.
For about about 14 years I followed a plan where I read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice every year. I posted a short series on this method back in 2016. For information about about that, check out “Letting the Bible Study You.” Another helpful post to help you understand where I’m coming from would be “Encountering the God of the Word.”
Going through the Bible every year like that was very helpful and gave me a profound understanding of God’s redemptive story, but since then I’ve landed on a more productive method of reading, for me, that I’ll share here. I think I can pretty much guarantee that if you practice this method on a consistent basis (best done daily), and have an open heart and do what it says, it will transform your life forever! Keep in mind, though, that the effect will be cumulative.
How can I make such a guarantee? Because I’ve come to find that there’s a type of truth that’s much more profound and goes far deeper than historical facts, scientific facts, or even theological facts…because this truth is a Person (John 14:6), and when we encounter Him in the text, we’re transformed from the inside-out; we’re progressively being shaped into the person we were always meant to become.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 NKJV)
First, use a Bible translation you clearly understand. You need to know what’s being communicated to you with no linguistic hindrances. I’ve used several translations over the years. I’m currently using The Passion Translation (TPT).
Second, read a passage of Scripture until the Lord seems to be highlighting something in the text. This Holy Spirit interruption is sort of like Moses with the burning bush: “I must aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” (Exod.3:3)
NOTE: start with the Gospels. You need to know the heart of Jesus before reading the rest of the Bible. (See “Jesus is how we understand God.”) As you’re reading the text, ask yourself, “How do I understand this passage through the “lens” of the resurrected Christ?” In other words, on this side of the Cross. For more on that, here’s another post” “Reading the Bible with the right glasses.”
Third, don’t refer to commentaries or study guides. These can be good but they’re a big hindrance to having God speak to you personally. What you want here is not necessarily correct doctrine, but what is God saying to me personally. In other words, what is God addressing in my life at this time?
One last thing before we get to the questions. Journaling, or writing out what you’re experiencing, is critically important. I promise you, it will make a BIG difference. When you write down what you’re getting from your time with Jesus, you’ll not only have a record of it to come back to, you’ll get more from God as you write!
Okay, now we’re ready for the questions.
Here’s what I do in simple bullet points with a brief explanation and examples:
- Write out the passage that God is highlighting. As with journaling, when we write out the passage it brings it into another part of our brain. Don’t skip this step! But you also don’t need to write out the whole passage. Just write what God is highlighting.
This is not the best example from my own journaling, but it will provide a recent one. I was reading through Matthew this morning and God stopped me at Matthew 4 with the following statement: “…once the accuser left him, and angels suddenly gathered around Jesus to minister to his needs.” (Matt.4:11 TPT) What seemed to jump out at me was that the angels came suddenly after the accuser left Him. Why not before?
- What is God saying to me in this passage? (Only use first-person language). How is this locating where I’m at right now?
In my example above, I wrote: “This speaks to me about how and why God allows me to be tested. What’s interesting is that the angels only came after the test. In times past, I’ve felt like God was not there during a trial I was going through but He was. What I’m seeing is that He was allowing me to test my faith in Him, which is how I know what I actually believe. And when it was over, I have felt His love and strengthening. Perhaps angels were ministering to me and I was unaware of it!”
- What am I supposed to do/change based on what God is saying to me? This is where you need to be open and honest. This is also where you’re getting out of your comfort zone! Remember that you can only apply this Scripture to yourself. What is Jesus wanting you to change or do, based on what you’re reading?
In my example, I wrote: “This really shows me how you’re actually there with me. Please forgive me for the times I’ve doubted you, or forgot that you’re always in me. I’m seeing, more and more, that this is Your maturing process for me. Jesus, this is how you were fathered. I need to see these trials as opportunities to help me strengthen my faith in You!”
- Pray for empowering grace to do/change what God is saying. Again, write out your prayer. It will help you think about what you want to say and gets rid of the fluff and will help you pray more effectively. It’s also a record of your time with Jesus that you can come back and pray again anytime!
My prayer: “Papa, thank you for fathering me and helping me to become a mature son in You. Jesus, please strengthen me by your grace and remind me that I’m in you, and you’re working in me, even when it seems like I’m in a battle all alone. I look forward to the times of refreshing in your presence afterward. I find myself being more and more amazed at how you work in me every day! Such grace! Such wisdom and love! Amen.”
Of course, the writing is nothing like the actual experience I had with the Lord when we were conversing together! I invite you to invite Jesus into your Bible reading. Give it a spin and see what happens. I think you’ll taste and see that the Lord is good!