Have you determined to read the Bible Daily – maybe as part of your New Year’s Resolutions … or your 2013 “Plan for Purpose?”  I hope you have!  We all should be reading and studying the Bible daily.  At Redeemer by the Sea, we encourage using the “Life Journal” as a means of getting into God’s Word daily.  If you don’t already have a Life Journal, let me know and I can help get you one.  But how do you use the Life Journal?  Let me show you a VERY SIMPLE, YET POWERFUL devotional method that you can use with your Life Journals.  It will help you:

      1. get more out of your daily devotions.

      2. be more regular in your devotion time. 

      3. learn and remember more Scripture.

      4. start a regular devotional pattern if you don’t already have one.

This practice can be transformational for you… it has been for me!.  It is very easy, and while the Life Journal provides a reading plan that will help you read the Bible in one year, you can use the Life Journal, and this devotional method with any Bible reading plan, and with any notebook or even the computer.

Here’s how it works…Just remember the acronym “SOAP”:

1.“S” SCRIPTURE. Read whatever Scripture is on your plan to read for that day.  It is important to have a PLAN.  This method would work even if you open your Bible and plunk your finger down on a verse, but in order to receive the “whole counsel” of God, you should methodically work through all of Scripture, so you don’t just tend to the parts you like.  As you are reading through your Scripture, begin to underline or highlight verses that stick out, or really speak to you.  Use a Bible that you feel comfortable marking up and making notes in.  Don’t worry about summarizing anything at this point.  Just let your Spirit be open to God speaking to you through His Word.  When you are finished reading your section of Scripture, skim back over it, and note the sections that you’ve underlined.  What stands out to you the most?  Where do you feel God really opened your eyes today?  Whittle that down to a phrase or a verse or two of Scripture.  Then in your Life Journal, write down today’s date, and then under that put an “S” and then write out the verse of Scripture, Then make a note of the Biblical Reference (Isaiah 44:1, for example).

2.“O” OBSERVATION.  Write down an “O” and then write things that you observed during your reading or study of today’s text.  This can be as extensive as you like.  You can write down what’s happening in the preceding and following chapters and verses (immediate context) of the section of Scripture you’re reading, or if you’d like to go deeper, you can lookup some historical information on the internet or in a Bible Dictionary.  If your Bible lists “cross-referenced” Bible verses, you might look those up and see what additional insights they provide and write that down. Whatever you observe that helps “set the stage” for today’s reading… write that down.  I find that this is the sort of thing that may be obvious to you while you are reading, but very often flees your memory when you look back at just a section or verse of Scripture out of its original context.  Record those observations for ‘safe keeping’ in the “O” section of your journal entry.

3.“A” APPLICATION.  Now write an “A” and then write how God is speaking to you personally through this verse.  What is He saying that you need to hear?  What is He saying that challenges you, or perhaps that comforts and encourages you?  This section in your journal, simply helps you apply the verses of Scripture to your life and your current situation. 

4.“P” PRAYER.  Finally, write down a “P” and the prayer(s) that emerge in your heart following your devotional time.  By this point in your time with God, it is likely that you will realize that you need to make a change, to be strengthened, or just to be comforted and given hope.  Talk to God in this section.  Tell Him what’s in your heart, and ask Him to give you what you need.  He longs to do this for you… He is waiting for you to come to Him.  This is the part of your journal where you don’t want to ‘hold back.’  You cannot hide anything from God.  By not coming to Him on your knees in your journal/prayer you are only short-changing yourself of God’s power to heal, strengthen, comfort or grow you.  Write it down.  Be “Real,” honest and sincere with God.

That’s it!  It’s a pretty easy thing to do, and the blessings are many.  In fact, the blessings can be compounded when you SHARE your devotional (SOAP) thoughts with someone else!  Try it the next time you get together in small groups, or with a new-believer you are mentoring, or at a meeting for church, or even with someone with whom you might differ theologically!  It is a great way to open the Scriptures and dig in.  This way, you are ready and ‘prepared,’ since God has already spoken to your heart on the topic.  You can even use it as a means for accountability.  The next time someone tells you that they wish they read the Bible more, you might suggest they try the S.O.A.P. method.  Then when you see them, ask them to share something with you from their journal.  If the pages are empty – then it’s clear that they haven’t yet begun to really work at studying God’s Word devotionally.

Oh, one more thing.  When you are working on your Life Journal, it’s good to have a blank notepad next to you. You can use that to write down any “busy thoughts” that come to your mind while you are reading and studying Scripture.  So many people struggle with this.  When we sit still to study the Bible, we can tend to have a flurry of thoughts flood our mind with what we have to do today or tomorrow.  If you think to yourself “I’ll remember it,” and you don’t write it down, what tends to happen is that your brain keeps dwelling on it, and it clouds your thinking and focusing on God and His Word.  It is far better to set your Bible down for a moment, make a note of what you have to do in your planner or notepad, and then move on with your devotion.  In fact, I’ve found that God uses my devotional time to bring me to some of my best thoughts and ideas.  It is a good feeling if you sense that God is leading you in your daily tasks.  It gives you a greater sense of purpose.  The main thing, though, is not to let these thoughts distract you from reading and praying through Scripture.

Why am I trying so hard to get you to try this devotional method?  Because it has been truly transformational for me!  It has changed the way I approach my devotional time.  By being a more active ‘participant’ in my time with God, I get so much more out of it. For years I tried sitting down and doing devotions with nothing but my Bible in hand.  But there’s something about bringing a pen and paper into the picture…  It means that I seriously expect God to say something to me, or show me something that day!  I pray that you will enjoy many such encounters with God using your Life Journal!

Studying the Bible with you,

Pastor Augie