As a Word & Spirit church, we encourage everyone to read the Bible and meet with God every day.
There are many different ways to do this. You can work through a Bible reading plan, like a paper version of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s, an app, or a structured Bible. Many have also benefited from the excellent Lectio 365 and Bible in One Year apps. For a few years, as a church, we worked through The Gospel Coalition’s two-year Bible reading plan and then Dr Michael Eaton’s Know Your Bible plan.
Thinking good thoughts
It’s important to remember that reading the Bible is a joyful privilege! It should be a delight, not a dull duty. Varying how you read the Bible can help to keep things fresh, fun, and formative.
Some people like to read through books of the Bible, or study Bible characters, like David, Mary or Moses, or themes, like atonement, as prompted by God. Whatever approach you take, it’s important to ask good questions.
Asking good questions
New York Pastor Tim Keller recommends asking three key questions as you meet with God in the Scriptures: 1. Adore: what stirs praise/gratitude for God? 2. Admit: what do you need to repent of/change? 3. Aspire: what are you challenged to ask for/act on?
Three more technical questions are: 1. Context? a. What is the Biblical setting, the immediate before and after, the whole book (e.g. see Mark 8:22-26 in light of 14-21 & 27-30) b. what is the historical context, and how does this shed light on what God is saying? (e.g. the significance of Samaritans in Luke 10:25-37). 2. Author’s Purpose? What is it? (e.g. direct statement of purpose: Luke 1:1-4; indirect statement of purpose: 1 Cor 1:10-12, 3:1-4, 4:6-10, 6:1-8, 11:17-18); how does this affect the meaning? 3. Language? What do the tone, linking words (e.g. therefore, but), and repetition tell us?
Reading good books
It helps to read good books that will enrich your personal Bible study. We recommend:
- Dig Deeper (Benyon & Sach)
- The Bible (Ollerton)
- God’s Big Picture (Roberts)
- How to Read the Bible for all its Worth (Fee & Stuart)
- Grasping God’s Word (Duvall & Hays)
- Through New Eyes (Jordan)
- A House for My Name (Leithart)
- Africa Bible Commentary (Adeyemo)
Following good models
For many years our Lead Pastor has followed a practice called S.O.A.P. If you stay around long enough, you’ll inevitably hear him talk about it. He learnt it from a mentor (who learned it from Wayne Cordeiro in The Divine Mentor).
First things first
Get yourself a notebook or journal. Ask God to lead you to a part of Scripture that you’d like to read through for a couple of months or so.
S is for Scripture
Ask God for revelation, that he would illuminate the text you are reading. Read a set portion of Scripture, a particular paragraph, a section of a narrative, or just read until you are drawn to a particular verse or part of a verse. Study the text. Read it and re-read it. Note down and even write out the particular bit of Scripture you are looking at (don’t forget to date the page, too, so you can look back on it).
O is for Observation, Observation, Observation
Study the passage in detail. Write out what is happening. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious and then build on that. Write what you see/observe. Ask yourself and God questions about it (use questions like those above). Keep looking. Can you see a foreshadowing of Christ in the passage? Can you see the scarlet thread of the gospel that runs throughout Scripture?
A is for Application
What principles does the passage contain that could be applied today? Try to apply the passage to yourself, not just people generally. Try writing out a bullet point list. What is God saying to you through his Word? What advice/guidance does God have for you in this passage/verse? What attitudes and behaviours should you change, do differently, start or stop?
P is for Prayer
Now write out a prayer to God from the heart in response to what you have learned, thanking him for what he has revealed, what he has done for you, and asking for forgiveness, help and grace to change, overcome sin, and become more like Christ. Try to be specific. Pray the prayer out loud and use it to launch into further prayer, praise and worship.