Devotion

Studying the Bible, Part 3

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: there is no right way to study the Bible. If you are opening the Bible, reading it, thinking (meditating) about it and trying to apply it all day, and then gaining some insight from a Bible teacher, study notes, etc., then you are on the right track.

Studying the Bible is about getting it into your mind, letting it sink into your heart, and allowing it to flow out of you. If you want to use books by others to help you until you feel a little more confident, then I encourage you to do so. However, I also encourage you to set aside all the study helps and delve into the Bible by yourself and let the Holy Spirit speak to you directly through the scriptures.

Howard Hendricks once said, “There is no jewel more precious than that which you have mined yourself.” 

As you mature in your faith, you will need more in-depth study of the Bible to explore concepts, ideas, and even words. The inductive approach is ideal for such times, and let’s face it, books are expensive.

The S.O.A.P. method of studying your Bible works well with the inductive approach because it prompts observation and application. (If you are looking for other ways of studying inductively, I recommend Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible. It’s an oldie but a goodie.)

Tools:
a concordance or your Bible’s chain reference
notebook
writing utensil (you can use highlighters if you’re feeling fancy)

  1. Topical/Subject/Concept Study:
    A concept study give you a well-rounded understanding of what the the Word of God has to say concerning a specific subject, topic, or concept.

    For example, your pastor asks the congregation to participate in a corporate fast. This piques your interest, and you begin a concept study.  Using your concordance or your Bible’s subject index, find the first mention of fasting in the Bible. Read the entire chapter in which it is found to gain context and then start writing.

    Scripture:      Write down the scripture that jump out at you.
    Observation: Using the who, what, when, where, how approach, jot down what the Holy Spirit shows you in those scriptures.
    Who was fasting?
    For what were they fasting?
    When were they fasting (for how long)?
    Where was the fast taking place?
    How long were the people (or person) fasting?
    Application:  Make notes about how this passage answers your questions about fasting. How can you apply the new insights to your current fast?  How does this information fit with what you already know? How do you need to adjust what you think or believe about fasting?
    Prayer:

    Because you will not be able to read every portion of scripture pertaining to fasting in one sitting, meditate during the day on what you have learn. The next day, read the next place fasting appears in the Bible and apply the same S.O.A.P. method, synthesizing what you discover with your pre-knowledge and what you learned the previous day. Keep this up until you have worked your way through every instance of fasting found in the Bible.

  2. Character StudyCharacter studies, a close reading of a person in the Bible, are useful in gaining insight into the relational side of God.

    For example, during your daily reading in Numbers 25, you come across Phinehas the priest and are surprised to find it isn’t the same Phinehas the priest in 1 Samuel 2.  You are intrigued by Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, because he is quite different than Phinehas, the son of Eli, and want to know more about him.  You begin with the concordance or your Bible’s subject index, taking note of all the scriptures, chapters, and books where the character is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. You begin your study with the first reference (Exodus 6), reading the entire chapter for context.

    Scripture: As you read, write down the scriptures references containing notable character traits of Phinehas the zealous priest. Who was in his lineage? How did he become a priest? Why was he considered zealous? What individual character traits did he show?
    Observation: Discuss in writing why these character traits are worthy of being noted. Why is it important for Phinehas to have such character traits? How did he develop these traits (make sure to back up your claims with evidence from the passage. Always be careful not to insert your ideas into the scripture)?
    Application: Note how the character traits of Phinehas gives you insight into your relationship with Jesus. What do you need to do in response to this new information?  How can you apply what you learned about this character to your life today?
    Prayer: Thank the Holy Spirit for showing you the new information, and ask Him to bring it back to your memory throughout the day when you need it most.

    You will not be able to read through all chapters in which Phinehas is mentioned, meditate throughout the day on the insight to the relational side of God you gained from this particular character. The next day, read the next chapter in which Phinehas appears, apply the SOAP method, and synthesize with what you learned the previous day, always finding ways to implement the insight into your relationship with God.

The key to studying the Bible is setting aside the time and making it a priority. Determine in your heart that you will never give it up that time for anything else. Studying your Bible isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. Jesus will meet you there each and every time. Guaranteed.

Questions and comments are always welcomed. I’d love to hear how this series has helped you.

 

 

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Devotion

Studying the Bible, Part 2

I mentioned in my last post the most common question I get from new believers is how to study the Bible (find it here). I usually advise new believers to write down the scriptures their pastor uses in his or her sermon and then read the entire chapter throughout the week to gain context and insight into the sermon.

Eventually, a new believer will no longer be “new” and will need (and hopefully want) to expand his or her reach into the Bible.

That’s when I recommend the S.O.A.P. method. I started using S.O.A.P. after I was given New Hope’s Life Journal , a journal-based study tool that stresses applying the Word of God to our lives, by a friend. The S.O.A.P. method helped me dig deep into understanding the Bible and apply what I was reading to my life which, as you know, makes all the difference. There is no one but the studier and the Holy Spirit.

Supplies:
Notebook or journal
pen or pencil
Bible (preferably one that you understand with little to no help; Part One of this series)

How to use S.O.A.P.

Just like your physical body needs soap to stay clean, you need to use S.O.A.P. to keep your spiritual body clean. To stay free of funky smells, you have to scrub places intentionally. The same goes for your spiritual being; you know the places that need a good scrubbing because your life stinks in those areas.

It is important to have a open and willing mind when using the S.O.A.P. method. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the scriptures and be brutally honest with yourself with what He is telling you. No excuses. Just honesty.

S – Scripture
1. Pray over your time in the word, asking the Holy Spirit to show you what you need to know. I usually say the same prayer over my Bible reading time as I do my meals: “Father I thank you for this (spiritual) food and bless it to my (spiritual) body. In Jesus name Amen.”

2. Using a reading plan of your choice (one is provided in the New Hope’s Life Journal; otherwise, your Bible may have one or you can find one online by searching “yearly Bible reading plan“), begin reading the portion of scripture, making a note of what jumps out at you.
What makes you stop and say “hmmmm, that’s interesting”?
What did the writer mean by that?
Wow! I never saw that before!
Ouch! That portion of scripture kind hurt.

3. Write it in your journal.

O – Observation
Describe why that particular part of scripture grabbed your attention. What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell you through this scripture? You may want to paraphrase (put into your own words) the scripture.

A – Application
This is where you get down and dirty. You have to be honest with yourself and tell yourself the truth about how you will apply what you learned.

P – Prayer
This is the time where you and the Lord have a conversation concerning what He just revealed to you through Scripture. It can be as simple as asking the Spirit to help you apply the truth to your life today, or as involved as repentance and restoration. One thing that it should always be, according to Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Church, is a two-way conversation. Get used to giving time for the Lord to respond to you.

Now you are ready to take your new found knowledge for a test drive. Discover how this faith thing works! You can read about how to play basketball ’til the cows come home. Until you pick up a ball and start bouncing it, you will never truly know how to play basketball. Now get out there and live like a Christian!

The 5-5-5 devotional plan dovetails nicely with the S.O.A.P. 5-5-5 is simply 5 minutes of praise and worship with music, 5 minutes of Bible reading/devotion, and 5 minutes of prayer. Don’t be surprised when this method quickly turns into 10-10-10 and then 20-20-20.

I myself have experienced growth in my knowledge of the Word and my experience with Jesus using the S.O.A.P. method. It is a simple method that is easily tailored to an individual’s needs. It can be used to enhance topical studies as well as word studies.

Try the S.O.A.P. method out and see what you think. I’d love to hear how it has helped you.

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Devotion

Studying the Bible, Part 1

 

The most common question new Christians ask: what is the best way to study the Bible?

My answer is usually the same: whatever is the best way for you to understand it.

Helpful, huh?

Since there are many different ways to study the Bible, I usually start new students off with the most important thing –  a version of the Bible that is easy for them to understand. The next step is just as easy – just read it.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Bibles are expensive, so try out different versions of the Bible through a Bible app (YouVersion Bible App) or website (YouVersion Bible AppBible Gateway) before purchasing one. You don’t want to sink a lot of money into one that is hard to understand. Let’s face it. The King James Bible is just not for everyone. Bible apps and websites have practically every version of the Bible in a thousand different languages. You don’t have to read the King James Bible. Not everyone can understand 16th Century English. It’s difficult. I get it. Begin with the NIV (New International Version), the NLT (New Living Translation), or, for you word junkies, the AMP (Amplified).EPSON DSC picture
  2. Bibles are also deeply personal. The Word of God is alive and active. When you read it, it will speak to you. It has this mind-blowing way of giving you what you need at the right moment whether that be conviction, encouragement, enlightenment, comfort, or praise. Therefore, it should fit you like a favorite pair of gloves. It should sit just right in your hands. Your eyes should move across the page easily. Maybe you need room in the margins to jot down notes. A pastor friend of mine won’t buy a Bible unless it lays flat when opened.  Find one that is comfortable for you and meets all of your needs. Maybe you just can’t afford a paper and print Bible. That’s okay, too! Just use the app!
  3. Start by reading the Book of James or the passages your pastor used in church. James covers the Christian lifestyle, so it is a good place for new Christians to start (and a good refresher for those who have been around the faith for awhile). Start with James 1:1 and read until something jumps out at you, catch it, and think about it all day. Do the same thing the next day, starting where you left off. Repeat, repeat, repeat.Writing down the scriptures your pastor uses in his or her sermon is also a good place to start. Each week day, read a portion of the chapter of the book which was used in the sermon. For example, if your pastor quoted 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) – “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” – in his sermon about relying on God for strength in hard times. Beginning on Monday, read 1 Peter 5:1-3 and think about how it connects to your pastor’s sermon. Then on Tuesday read 1 Peter 5:4-6, Wednesday: 1 Peter 5:6-9, Thursday: 1 Peter 5:10-12, and Friday: 1 Peter 5:13-14. Each day thinking about how the scriptures fit together and build on what your pastor said.

That’s it. That is how I started studying my Bible. Eventually, I started taking more detailed notes in church, and then later I started writing down what the Spirit revealed to me during the week. The key words there are “eventually” and “later.”  You can start taking detailed notes and revelations, but that feels like drowning to me. “We’re throwing you into the deep end, missy. Sink or swim, baby. SINK. OR. SWIM!” That’s just a bit too overwhelming, and frankly, most people end up sinking. I don’t want that to happen to you. Start with bite-size chunks that you can process during the day.

First, get acclimated to this new Christian lifestyle. The heavy lifting will come later.

As always, please let me know if this helped you, and I’m always interested in what worked for you. Leave a comment!

 

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Devotion

I Will Lift Up My Eyes – Psalm 121:1-2

Scripture: Psalm 121:1-2 (AMP) “I will lift up my eyes to the hills [around Jerusalem, to sacred Mount Zion and Mount Moriah]. From whence shall my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Who made Heaven and Earth.”

Observation:  As the writer lifts up his head, his eyes lite on the hills around Jerusalem, Mt. Zion and Mt. Moriah.  These hills are very important to God’s people.   Setting his eyes on the hills brings forth memories of what God has done for him and his people in the past (Mt. Moriah) and of God’s promises for him and his people for the future (Mt. Zion). The writer already knows his help is not in the hills. The hills are just reminders of his Helper. His Helper/Rescuer is the Lord. The writer finishes the thought with a reminder of just what type of Helper the Lord is: He made Heaven and Earth. There is nothing He can’t do!

Application: The psalmist reminds me to not look to things, people, or ideas to help me through or rescue me from the hardness of life.

Ephesians 6:12 says ” We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  Therefore, I need a spiritual Helper – a helper not of this physical world (but who understands it) but of the spiritual world. I NEED JESUS!

The battle really isn’t about the situation in which I find myself. It’s about my soul and my living victoriously through the battle Christ has fought and won for me. I need to stop looking at the physical world for answers (“If I just had” type of thinking) and look to the Lord.  I can and should put “the hills” around me as a reminder of what God has done for me and what He promises to do, but I cannot look at the hills as my help. They are only reminders.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, that You have my back. I am so thankful that you and your angels are fighting the battles for me – battles I can’t possibly fight alone.  Holy Spirit, please remind me those battles that you have won for me, the times You have rescued me, and the times you have helped me. Thank you, Lord, for being faithful to this unfaithful human. I will keep Your mercies and loving kindnesses before me as a Mt. Moriah as I, at the same time, look to Mt. Zion to remind me of all the promises you have given me.  I love you, Jesus, and I give you my all.  Amen.

Something to consider:  Pinpoint a victory and a promise that Christ has given you, or select some from the Bible, and place it in your mind as a Mt. Moriah and Mt Zion.  When the challenges of life rear their heads, look to the hills not for your help, but as a reminder from where your help really does come.

What is your Mt. Moriah (past victory)?
What is your Mt. Zion (promised victory)?

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