With New Year’s almost here, maybe you are instinctively considering a fresh start and new beginnings. It’s only human to think about having better health, both physically and spiritually. Showing up and spending time with me here in this blog is just one small, simple, and helpful way of walking step by step into the wonderful and gracious world of the Christian life.
What I care about for you is that you and I keep thinking about and practicing with deliberate patience the construction of our souls. The heart of that incredible adventure is exploring, discovering, and learning from the triune God himself – Father, Son, and Spirit. It is as simple as spending time at the feet of Jesus, and as complicated as engrafting spiritual practices into your busy life.
If you will make the decision to read Holy Scripture every single day this next year, even if it is only for a few minutes, you can look back at the end of 2018 and see with amazing clarity that you are a different person now than you were a year ago.
But where do I begin? The Bible isn’t exactly a novel to read from cover to cover. Rather, Scripture is a wondrous revealing of God’s workings in history designed to connect you with the person and work of Jesus Christ. And, I might add importantly, it is a compilation of books to be read over, and over again.
If Scripture leads us to Christ, then it only makes sense to start reading the first four books of the New Testament known as the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each has a similar yet unique perspective on the words and ways of Jesus, designed to help us connect significantly with God.
Now, if you choose to read a chapter a day, or even a few verses a day, you will begin to see your soul responding differently – a greater attention to others’ needs; a larger sense of peace; the realization that you are not alone in your struggles; and, a desire to love as Jesus did.
Yet, if you want to really get even more out of your time with reading the Bible, there is a way to press the benefits even deeper and larger into your soul with greater results. Just a few minutes of journaling your experience of reading the Bible amplifies and extenuates the construction of your soul and the enlargement of your heart. It’s like moving from driving in an alley to speeding on the freeway – there is no comparison, once you have done it for the first time.
Where do I begin journaling? What do I write? The most important dimension to journaling is to listen well to the Holy Spirit of God. This simple 4-part structure will help you connect, using the acronym S.O.A.P.
S is for Scripture. Choose the chapter(s) or verses to read, and write the passage in your journal. Read them over more than once, even several times. The goal is not to check off a list to a reading plan. The goal is to connect with God.
O is for Observation. Make just one observation from the reading. Is there something which really stands out to you? Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in what he wants you to see and observe in the reading. Simply write down the observation.
A is for Application. Continue asking the Holy Spirit to help you. How does God want you to apply this observation to your own personal life? Again, write down your application in your journal.
P is for Prayer. Write in your journal a simple prayer concerning the application you have gained.
Either short and succinct, or long and verbose journal entries are up to you. The aim is not length, but connecting with God in Christ by the Spirit.
In a subsequent post, I will give an example of this practice of reading and journaling. But, for now, just entertain the idea that you will read your Bible. You will not let it just sit on the coffee table, or collect dust on the bookshelf. You will make the time for it. You will carefully, deliberately, and divinely read it with God’s Spirit at your side helping you all the way. Begin today, even before the New Year, and start finding all that God has for you.