What God is teaching me about my personal time in His Word

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For most of my life, I have believed that Bible study is critical for spiritual growth. However, I didn’t know how to get started. The thought of opening the Bible felt overwhelming to me and at times even felt boring. As a result, I missed out on the incredible blessing of hearing God speak directly into my life through the Scripture.

Today I am jumping into a new Bible reading plan with First McKinney. Last year I did the plan with four other men in our church. This year, that group of five (counting me) has multiplied into five groups of five or six guys. As we dive in again, I’m reflecting on what God is teaching me about how to be transformed through my time in His Word.

Schedule Bible Reading Into Your Day

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”- Mark 1:35

Years ago, a mentor taught me the importance of scheduling quiet times into my week. In order to have a successful personal Bible study, you should set a time, a place and a plan. Schedule your meeting with God before your day even starts.  Look at your calendar a week at a time. Prioritize this meeting and honor it like you would a meeting with the most important person in your life.

  • Time – When are you most alert?
  • Place– Where will you be distraction free?
  • Plan– What will you do?

 Choose a Reading Plan

Blessed is the man… whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, And on His Law he meditates day and night.  – Psalm 1:1-2

Maybe you are like me and have tried to start in Genesis and read the Bible straight through. Multiple times I found myself getting bogged down after a few weeks. It was my incredible wife, Rebecca, that showed me how a Bible reading plan (we used the One Year Bible for many years) helps to engage different parts of scripture and keep each day’s reading dynamic. One year we did a chronological plan. You can look for all kinds of plans online and through the outstanding free Bible app, You Version. This year I will be doing the Read the Bible For Life 4 + 1 plan and focusing on the New Testament and Psalms.

If you are a new believer, consider reading John and Romans first.  These books will give you a good picture of the climax of all of the scripture: Jesus.

Set goals. Seek accountability. If you are consistent in your personal Bible study, you will see your time move from a duty to a delight. You Version is a great tool to do your Bible reading with others.

 Meditate on God’s Word

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

Consider starting a spiritual journal so that you can see God direct your life.  Begin your time in prayer. Ask God to speak to you through His Word. As you read the Bible, note a verse or verses that stand out to you. Then pick one verse to write out and ask and answer these questions in response:

  • What is God saying to me? Summarize what God is saying through the verse or passage in your own words. What does this say about you? What does it say about God?
  • How will I obey? Is there a command to obey?  Is there an example to follow?  How can you apply this truth to your life today? Be specific. So many times I have stopped with something like: “I need to love better.” Instead of listening to How God wants me to obey like: “I need to stop right now and send an encouraging text to…”
  • Who will I tell? We are called to be Jesus’ witnesses not lawyer. A witness shares what they have seen and heard. Who can you share with what God is teaching you?

Title the journal entry, date it and create a contents page in your journal so you can quickly reference what God has been teaching you during your personal Bible studies.

Example:

  • 2/18 – Wisdom Promised
  • James1:5“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
  • What is God saying to me?:(My own words) Are you desperate for God’s guidance? Request it from the benevolent King… and He is going to dump it on your life.
  • How will I obey?: (Be specific) I’m driving to my parent’s camp to do future planning for the ministry I lead. I will block 30 minutes in my drive to just ask God to give me wisdom… How awesome that He promises that “he will give it to me!”
  • Who will I tell?: My parents

Obedience Matures and Motivates

 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  James 1:22

The Bible is the Word of God, but the power of God is not released in our lives until we apply it! When we apply the Bible through the power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes a life-transforming book. Nothing is more exciting than seeing the God of the universe actively leading our actions. Nothing is more difficult and discouraging than reading the Bible when we are not applying it.

Note: You must be saved through faith in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit in order to understand and apply the Bible. Obedience follows faith. If you have questions about how to follow Jesus by grace through faith, click here.

 Resources

Recommended Books:

30 Days to Understanding the Bible(by Max Anders) Understand in a basic way how the Bible is put together.  Awesome foundation for everyone’s personal Bible study.

Living By the Book(by Howard Hendricks) Gives an inductive approach to studying scripture along with unique procedures for observation that will lead to rich time with Jesus in His Word.

Bible Reading Plans and Websites: 

One Year Bible: http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com: Print this plan and keep it in your Bible as you read with PCBC in 2013.

YouVersion.com: Many diverse reading plan options that can also be pulled up on your smart phone or tablet.

ESV Bible Reading Plans: http://www.esv.org/resources/reading-plans-devotions/Find a plan that fits you.  Easy to print out these plans to keep in your Bible.

Project345.com: Basic reading plan through the New Testament that takes approximately three minutes and 45 seconds each day for a year.

Going Further

First McKinney seeks to base our teaching on God’s Word.  Join a Connect Group and dive into scripture with other believers.

Books that are Impacting My Life

At times I get asked for book recommendations. This morning I did some copying and pasting to put together a list of ten books for a friend in our church and I thought it could be helpful to share.

  1. The One Year Bible in Hardcopy or through You Version – I had been having personal quiet times since the age of 9 and had been in seminary for several years when I got married. However, I had never read through the Bible. Rebecca was using this when we got married and I joined her. It gave me a plan that changed my quiet time. Now, through using it and other very similar reading plans, I have read through the Bible 8 times. I’m working on number 9.
  2. A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie – This book has been my parents and my own favorite prayer book. The older version has rich language. It guides my heart to pray on a deeper level.
  3. Living by the Book by Howard Hendrix – I had applied for and was planning to get my MBA when a friend invited me to audit a class. This was the text for the class. It was so exciting for me that it switch the direction of my life. For the first time I felt like I didn’t need someone to teach me the Bible. I could open it myself and the Spirit of God would speak into my life. I decided to drop the MBA idea and pursue seminary instead.
  4. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp – By nature I default towards trying to control actions instead of talking to my children about the motivations behind the actions that prompt real change in their lives. This book was huge for me. It also pushes me to see the way that God disciplines me.
  5. You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan – This is different than most books out there on marriage. It focuses on how to live for eternity in and through your relationship. “People accuse me of going overboard in preparing for my first ten million years of eternity. In my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten years on earth… Because I’m crazy about Liza, I want her to have a great life. But more than that, I want her to have a great eternity… I want her to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
  6. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – I know, the title will through you off if you aren’t into reading academic stuff, but this book is phenomenal. When people ask theological questions, I will often, unapologetically, copy several pages and send it their way…. and tell them that they need this incredible resource.
  7. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas – Most powerful biography I have read. Metaxas does a great job telling this true story in a more intense way than most fiction authors tell a fantastical story. I couldn’t put it down.
  8. Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson – Living by the Book (on this list) is why I went to seminary. Biblical Preaching is why I am a preacher. I didn’t think I would ever work in a church because I feared the act of communicating and felt I didn’t have that many good ideas. This book helped me to see that preaching is not coming up with your own ideas but learning how to expose the ideas that The Author of the Bible has given us already.
  9. Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper – This shorter version of Piper’s longer “Desiring God” floored me in college. I grew up feeling that Christians had to hold back the desires that are naturally part of our life. Piper showed me that those desires are God given and can only be met in God. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Christian hedonism is beautiful and at the root of the Gospel.
  10. Church Unique by Will Mancini – I have used this book to help guide the process of identifying and defining existing church’s DNA. In addition, it has helped our leadership teams to set mission, vision, values and strategy at both Park Cities and First McKinney.
  11. Expository Exultation by John Piper – This is my bonus add… Piper is rocking my world again. The second half of this book has pushed me so hard that I often find myself going back to reread pages and paragraphs over and over. The beauty and power of God’s word and the purpose of Glorifying Himself through His Word has brought me to tears on many occasions over the last month.

What about you? Have you read any of the above? Is there a book that you have purchased copies of that you hand out like candy? When someone asks you what book they should read, what is the first one you point them to?

Did not our hearts burn?

Luke 24:32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

What is God saying to me? Two disciples spend the afternoon on the road to Emmaus with the unrecognized Jesus. At dinner Jesus reveals himself to them by blessing and breaking the bread and then vanishes. As they reflect on their lesson from Scripture with Jesus, they share how their hearts were kindled. Literally, their emotions were on fire.

How will I obey? I am wary of emotionalism. However, like the 80’s worship song “Light the Fire” expresses, there is nothing that compares to the passion that God can give (specifically here through seeing Jesus in Scripture). I often go to my marriage, my job, my hobbies, my kids, sports, exercise, etc. to excite and satisfy my heart. Today, I am going to pray “Lord, light the fire in my heart again” and then go to Scripture for the kindling.

Who will I tell? Clint

Finding Freedom Through Forgiveness.

Psalms 32:1–2 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

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What is God saying to me? I have two people in my life who have recently shared the burden of guilt they are shouldering. I am reminded of the many times I have sinned and battled shame. Psalms 32:3-4 describes that feeling: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”

How will I obey? Confession… Psalms 32:5 David tells us how he found freedom: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Who will I tell? The two people in my life who have recently shared with me the guilt they are shouldering.

Why A Bible Reading Plan Will Change Your Year.

I had been a Christian for 18 years. I had grown up in a home that showed me how to have a personal Bible study, attended Bible teaching churches, gone to a Christian university and was most of my way through my Masters in Divinity… and I had never read the Bible cover to cover. Yep, I had tried many times and gotten bogged down in Leviticus or in better years in the 2 Chronicles range. I loved Jesus and loved the Bible, but could not figure out how to get through it.

Bible Reading Plan

In 2005, I was engaged to Rebecca and had been watching as she used The One Year Bible as her devotional book. I liked that her devotional was not someone’s interpretation of scripture but was scripture itself. She shared with me how it divided the Bible into 15 minute a day sections of OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. In a year you would read through the entire bible once and Psalms and Proverbs twice.

I decided to try it. I loved it. I read through the Bible in a year… and have done it every year since.

My second year through it, I had a mentor, Jim Leggett, encourage me to take a nugget each day and journal on it using the SOAP format. S – Scripture (one verse) O – Observation (what does it say) A – Application (how can I live it out) and P – Prayer. This was HUGE. I was now seeing the Word of God direct my life.

A few years ago, I tweaked the above journaling format to my church‘s three questions. Each day I still watch for a verse that jumps out to me. I write the verse down and then I ask: What is God saying to me? How will I obey? Who will I tell?

I cannot overstate the impact it has had on my life. I can now say that I have read through the Bible, cover to cover, ten times. But just saying I have done it is not the benefit. It is watching God direct my life through His Word. It is incredible to look back at my journals and see how my Bible Reading has guided me. Daily, God is speaking into my life and showing me how I can follow Jesus.

Several years ago a friend of mine was touring Israel. He asked his Jewish tour guide if he believed in a historical Jesus. The man answered: “Yes.” He then asked if he believed if Jesus was the Messiah. The man answered: “No.” My friend then followed by asking how he could believe in Jesus but not that Jesus was the Messiah. The tour guide answered with words that I have never forgotten. He said: “If Jesus was a true Rabbi, his followers would live like him. I have never seen a Christian that is living like Jesus.”

We are called to follow Jesus everyday. That is what it means to be disciples. How do you know the way Jesus wants you to live? You know because He tells you through His Word. I want to invite you to follow Jesus everyday by starting a Bible Reading plan.

Last year I tried a new plan, the Chronological Bible. It was good, but the first nine months were more difficult because they were all Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Old Testament, but holding all New Testament reading until the end was hard at times.

I invited many yesterday at our church to join us in reading through The One Year Bible in 2017. I’ve been encouraged to see so many jump in already. Some are reading with me on You Version – The Bible App. The One Year Bible is one of You Version’s free reading plans. You can highlight verses and make notes that friends can see. You can pick it up at any time during the day. You can even have the app read you your plan as you drive to work or workout.

Are you trying to live like Jesus? Have you struggled to read through the Bible. I want to challenge you to start a Bible reading plan and begin to ask yourself these three questions everyday: What is God saying to you? How will you obey? Who will you tell?

If you do, it will change your year… your life… and your eternity.

How Jesus Prioritized Time

Matthew 11:1 “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.”

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What is God saying to me? Even with a busy ministry schedule, Jesus prioritized discipleship. Before He physically ascended, Jesus commanded that His followers do the same: “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Cultural Christianity has changed Jesus’ command to “make disciples” into “make converts.” Mathematicians will tell you that Jesus’ strategy is better. If you convert 1,000 people to Christ a day, it will take you 16,000 years to reach the world’s 6 billion people. If you disciple 1 person a year who will in turn disciple one person a year, it will take you 32 years to reach the world for Christ.

How will I obey? Small group and one-on-one discipleship has proven to be the most fruitful and most fulfilling part of my ministry. In my church we refer to it as Multiplying: http://www.pcbc.org/multiply/. Today, I am going to invite someone I know into a discipleship relationship.

Who will I tell? Pat

What step can you make to pursue a discipleship relationship today?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. Occasionally I will blog my journal. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.

Where A Nation’s Pain Begins

Ezekiel 22:4 “You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries.”

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What is God saying? With the pain that is evident in the USA, Ezekiel has been especially challenging for me to read this year. God is clear with Israel that He is going to discipline His children. “As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you” (Ezekiel 22:20) What stood out to me this morning in 22:4 was the word “therefore.” The pain that Israel will experience is “there for” a reason. They are being disciplined because of their sin (violence and idolatry in 22:4 and promiscuity other places).

*It is important to note that the NT makes it clear that the church is the new Israel. We cannot say that God deals with all nations like He dealt with Israel. It would be more accurate to say that God deals with His people like he has always dealt with his people.

*It is also important to note that the wrath of God was fully laid on Jesus.

How will I obey? Praise God for Jesus and the unconditional forgiveness we have by grace through faith in Jesus. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Spend time as I drive this morning, asking God where I personally need to repent and also asking God how I can engage my community to bring about corporate repentance.

Who will I tell? Justin

How can you engage your community to bring repentance today?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.