Spiritual Formation

4 Ways to Improve Your Daily Devotion

May 8, 2017

Growing up as a child in the 1980’s, I remember when the Jenny Craig weight loss plan first began to spread throughout the nation.  Originally started in Melbourne, Australia, the craze made its way to the United States with vehement force.  Her brand of weight loss flooded commercials, billboards, magazines articles, and just about every woman’s auxiliary group in Baptist churches in the southeast.  What made her program so effective was that she prepared 6 prepackaged meals that provided proper nutrients and portion control.  Jenny Craig made dieting easy, fresh, and strategically appealing.  As a result of her visionary efforts, she created a culture of people who were excited and motivated about weight loss.

I think believers could learn something of this strategy when it comes to Scripture-reading.  For so many Christians, reading the Bible is a monotonous, mechanical drudgery.  It’s not that people don’t believe God’s Word or even accept it as a rule of faith; it’s just that they approach it in a disorganized fashion. Unlike the Jenny Craig ads, they never experience the thrill of the “Before and After” effects of the product.  Here a verse, there a verse, and nothing seems to stick.  You couldn’t lose weight that way and you certainly wouldn’t go to war in that manner.  So what can we do to ensure consumption of the most important meal of the day?

 

Have a Daily-Reading Schedule

It may seem remedial and even unnecessary to even mention this, but the truth is, many people either do not have a daily-reading plan, or if they do, they do not follow it. There are hundreds of ways to keep up with your Bible-reading.  Online resources, apps, and devotional books help us to keep track with daily assignments.  These plans are typically designed to help you read through the Bible in a year, and for many that sounds daunting, especially when just starting out.  Although I think it is a good idea to read through the entire Bible each year, that particular schedule may not work for you.  Qualitative reading is much better than quantitative reading.  It is better to read three verses each day with comprehension than to read three entire books with confusion. Here are a few ideas when it comes to your daily-reading schedule:

  • Read Chronologically from start to finish (again resources abound online)
  • Read a portion of the Old Testament and New Testament every day
  • Start a particular book and read a chapter each day until finished
  • Read two chapters in Psalms each day. Because Psalms contains 150 chapters you can actually read through the Psalms twice each year.
  • Read a chapter in Proverbs each day. Because Proverbs contains 31 chapters there is literally a proverb for every day of the month. You can read through the Proverbs 12 times a year.
  • Read sections at a time: the books of Law, the books of History, the books of Poetry, the books of prophecy, the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles, and the Revelation.

Remember, you do not have to wait for January to roll around before you start a biblical resolution.  Get a plan, get organized, and get in the Word of God on a daily basis.  Remember the words of A.W. Tozer, “What keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be.

 

Embrace a Method

Having a plan is one thing, implementing a practical approach to your reading is another. I am often asked the question, “How do you study the Bible?” As a preacher, I approach the Word of God differently at different times. For example, there are times I approach the text intentionally to prepare a sermon for the congregation. Other times I read the Bible because my soul desperately needs an answer for a particular issue of life. But every day I try to open it for spiritual development during my time of devotion.  During this hour I tend to use the S.O.A.P. method.  I never enter the devotional hour without some sort of journal or notebook.  For each entry I record the date, and then start the S.O.A.P. process.  This how it looks:

Scripture.  This is where my daily-reading schedule comes into play. Whatever assignment you have for the day, start there, and plan to meet God in His Word.

Observation.  While I’m my reading my Scripture assignment I am slowly and methodically asking God to speak to my heart through certain verses.  If a verse speaks to me, I highlight it, write the verse out in my journal, and continue reading.  During the observation stage I typically have 5-6 verses highlighted and written down from the various chapters of my Scripture reading. From those highlighted verses I begin to concentrate on the one the Holy Spirit is nudging me about.  (My daily intent is to only walk away with one verse).

Application. Once that verse is discovered I begin to ask questions: What next? What does this really mean? How can I put this into practice? How does this measure up in my life?  What can I do today with this verse in mind? I try to have at least three ways to implement the verse for that day.

Prayer.  I will have more to say about prayer in the following chapters, but it is imperative that we take God’s Word into the prayer closet for understanding, illumination, and implementation.  Tozer is once again helpful when he contends, “It is not reading the Scripture in the original languages or in some contemporary version that makes us better Christians.  Rather, it is getting on our knees with the Scriptures spread before us, and allowing the Holy Spirit of God to break our hearts.”

It is called the S.O.A.P. method for good reason; nothing cleanses the soul and washes the morning anew like a good bath from God’s Word.  There are many methods one can implement during the Scripture-reading time, but for me, the S.O.A.P. method is practical, useful, and easy to maintain.

 

Meet the Author

I am a consummate reader of books. I typically have two or three books going in any particular week. I try to screen the authors as much as I can to insure that I am not reading behind some lunatic or wild-idea-mad-man.  I typically know their background, education, associations, and ministries, but rarely do I actually know them.  This changed a few years ago with one author in particular.

Through a series of events, I was able to meet Jon Gordon, author of several best-selling leadership books.  On a speaking engagement close to our church, he actually stopped by my office to introduce himself.  I invited him in and we spent some time talking about books, leadership, Christianity, and our faith.  I had read all of his books prior to meeting him, but once we were introduced, his books took on a new perspective.  I was able to put a face with printed words. It changed the way I read his material.

With that being said, when we open our Bibles, we are, in essence, scheduling a time with the Author and Finisher of our Faith.  The Bible is distinctively unique from any other book in that it is the only Book in the world whose Author can be present with anyone reading it at any particular time, in any particular place.  My point is simply this: It is imperative to have a strategy, but the strategy has to be more than just accomplishing a goal or checking spiritual items off of your daily to-do list.  The plan, at its very core, should be to intentionally meet the Author every day.

 

Rely on the Holy Spirit

If I were to read a book written in Chinese, I would not be able to understand anything it contained. Obviously, as you would assume, I do not speak Chinese. Therefore, in order to comprehend anything it says I would need a translator.  One thing we must remember when reading the Word of God is that it is a spiritual book.  If we try to read it purely from an intellectual slant, we will become frustrated, disengaged, and even bored.  We need a Translator when reading God’s Word.  Without the Holy Spirit, you may be able to dissect sentences and understand context, but you will be hard-pressed to feed the spiritual man.

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