You Can Read the Bible: Three Approaches

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

I. You Can Read the Bible by Steve Harper
One of the biggest mistakes we have made with the Bible is leaving the impression that only scholars can correctly interpret it. Everything is made so layered, nuanced, and complex that many folks instantly feel they lack the “training” and “horsepower” to make it through all the mazes.

So, they either stop trying or they become passive and wait for the “experts” to tell them what’s “right.” But the fact is, the Bible is intended to be understandable! The original languages do contain levels of insight, but their essential meanings are accessible to us all.

Here is a way to make it so in your personal reading and in your conversations with others. Take a passage, read it, and ask:
(1) What is the big idea?
(2) Why is it important?
(3) Where does it presently connect with my life–or–why is it not a part of me?
(4) Should it be part of me? If so, how can I continue (or begin) to put it into practice?

Most Bible passages will “bear fruit” when these questions are applied to them, either in private or in a group. And when you add to your own inductive study the additional resources of concordances, dictionaries, maps, and commentaries, you will find the messages of scripture influencing your life day after day.

II. SOAP
The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word in your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

III. Lectio Divina explained by Whitney R. Simpson in his book Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit
The words Lectio Divina are Latin for “holy reading.”

This ancient prayer practice includes the following steps:
lectio (“to read”)
meditatio (“to reflect”)
oratio (“to respond”)
and contemplatio (“to rest”).

Lectio Divina allows you to listen for God’s activity using scripture and to connect to God through the ancient Word while delving into a particular passage.

The practice of Lectio Divina focuses on formational reading of scripture, as opposed to informational reading. Formational reading invites the text to shape you, while informational reading invites you to understand the text. Though both types of reading can be useful on a spiritual journey, the art of Lectio Divina allows you to interact with God’s Word through meditating on a passage and listening for God’s leading.

My personal journey has been shaped by spending time in the Word using Lectio Divina. Through this practice, I have realized how scripture can speak to my life regardless of what I am facing. Lectio Divina has allowed me to see and hear God in new ways.

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So, let’s get reading. Here are three simple reading plans to get you started. Each will take you through the New Testament in one year. It’s especially helpful to start with the New Testament if you are new to Bible reading.

1. New Testament Reading Plan- Bible order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which it is printed in the Bible. Easy. Just read straight through.

2. New Testament Reading Plan- event order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which the events most likely happened. You’ll jump from chapter to chapter in different books in this plan. Is it scholarly perfect, no, but it is helpful for those of us who want a chronological approach to Jesus’ life and the lives of the first believers. (We aren’t getting caught in the perfectionism trap. If this sounds interesting, go for it.)

3. New Testament Reading Plan- mixed
This plan spreads the Gospel readings throughout the year with the other books mixed in between. Even though you skip around the New Testament in this plan, you will read a book at a time.

Click Here for more information on today’s featured image, South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans

Sermon Recording: The Blessing of God’s Word (and why I need it so badly)

Bible engagement study journalMessage: The Blessing of God’s Word (and why I need it so badly)
Scripture: Isaiah 25:6-9
Offered 1/10/16, Bible Sunday, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

On Bible Sunday we give elementary school age children their first Bibles and rededicate ourselves to the blessing of God’s Holy Word. This day was especially wonderful because we also dedicated new pew Bibles and songbooks. Click Here for the resource we us when presenting Bibles.

Bible Reading Program 2016
The Five Day a Week, through the Bible Reading Plan from Lower Lights Publications mentioned in the sermon.

Ways to Engage God through the Bible

  • Have a plan- what to read and when/where to read it
  • Bible Buddy- for support and accountability
  • Listening – Audio Bible
  • Highlight
  • Copy a verse and carry it with you
  • Journal
  • Art/doodle a verse
  • Pray the scripture

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NRSV
When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:4 NRSV
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Series Recordings: The Way, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

theway400
Sermon Series: The Way, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus
Inspired by the book and small group curriculum by Adam Hamilton

Message 1 of 8: Named and Claimed at the Jordan River
Scriptures: Luke 3:2-22
Offered 2/15/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 2 of 8: Season of Strengthening in the Wilderness
Scriptures: Luke 4:1-13
Offered 2/22/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 3 of 8: Healing and Forgiving in Capernaum
Scriptures: Luke 4:18-21; Luke 5:17-26
Offered 3/1/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 4 of 8: Teaching on the Mountain- Salt and Light
Scriptures: Matthew 5:13-16; Psalm 112:4-6
Offered 3/8/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 5 of 8: Stormy Sea of Galilee
Scriptures: Mark 4:35-41
Offered 3/15/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 6 of 8: Friends in Low Places
Scriptures: Luke 18:9-14
Offered 3/22/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 7 of 8: Jerusalem: Pick Your Parade (Palm Sunday)
Scriptures: Zechariah 9:9; Luke 19:41-44; Psalm 146
Offered 3/29/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 8 of 8: Your Defining Story
Scriptures: John 20:1-18; Ephesians 2:4-5
Offered 4/5/15 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Worship Resource: Presentation of Bibles and Blessing Their Use

child read bibleEarly in the new year we celebrate a Bible Sunday. Everyone is encouraged to bring the Bible they use for devotion and study to worship. (Many do this year round while others use the Bibles we provide in the pews.) This is also the Sunday where we distribute the Bible reading plan for the year and present Bibles to persons who have not received one before- children, teens, and adults.

The following liturgy is for presenting Bibles and blessing their use. I pray it is useful to you as you honor and spread God’s Word. – Lisa <><

PASTOR OR OTHER CHURCH LEADER:
It is our joy and privilege to present you with a Bible. When you read it, remember how deeply you are loved by God and all of us.

The Bibles are distributed to those who have not received one before.

PASTOR OR OTHER CHURCH LEADER: Proverbs 3:1, 2, 5, 6 (NRSV)
King Solomon advised his son, “My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

PASTOR OR OTHER CHURCH LEADER:
Receive the Word of God
Learn its truth.
Here God reveals who we are.
Here God leads us, strengthens us, and gives us purpose.
Here God grants wisdom far beyond what any human can provide.

Everyone is invited to hold their Bible to their chest. Or you could invite them to hold their Bible in the air.

ALL:
Gracious God, thank you for your Word. I accept it and treasure it as a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Thank you for every person who has loved me, prayed for me, and invested in my spiritual development. Multiply the wisdom, skill, and faith you have shared through them. May it live and grow in me and in every person I influence. For the honor and glory of your Name. Amen.

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Worship Resource: Presenting Bibles and Blessing Their Use
© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.

You Can Read the Bible: Two Approaches

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

I. You Can Read the Bible by Steve Harper
One of the biggest mistakes we have made with the Bible is leaving the impression that only scholars can correctly interpret it. Everything is made so layered, nuanced, and complex that many folks instantly feel they lack the “training” and “horsepower” to make it through all the mazes.

So, they either stop trying or they become passive and wait for the “experts” to tell them what’s “right.” But the fact is, the Bible is intended to be understandable! The original languages do contain levels of insight, but their essential meanings are accessible to us all.

Here is a way to make it so in your personal reading and in your conversations with others. Take a passage, read it, and ask:
(1) What is the big idea?
(2) Why is it important?
(3) Where does it presently connect with my life–or–why is it not a part of me?
(4) Should it be part of me? If so, how can I continue (or begin) to put it into practice?

Most Bible passages will “bear fruit” when these questions are applied to them, either in private or in a group. And when you add to your own inductive study the additional resources of concordances, dictionaries, maps, and commentaries, you will find the messages of scripture influencing your life day after day.

II. SOAP
The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word into your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

*************
Click Here for more information on today’s featured image, South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans

Quotes: Fasting and Prayer

Fasting Prayer graphic

Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Fasting calls us to the remembrance that Christ alone is our “food and drink,” and as we make him our Source, we are liberated from the addiction to secondary things.
– Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (1)

Many of the traditions of spiritual life that have developed within Christianity are intended to help that dying to self that Christ describes as poverty of spirit. Fasting is one of these traditions– a small dying to certain foods and drinks. The chief value of fasting is not dietary but is linked to intensified battle against the tyranny of one’s never satisfied appetites and desires. Fasting is always linked with increased prayer and almsgiving: the deepening of communion with God and with neighbors in need.
– Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Extended quote from Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr
There are three primary things that we have to let go of, in my opinion. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right—even, and especially, to be theologically right. (That’s merely an ego trip, and because of this need, churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.) Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.

I’m convinced these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Until we each look these three demons in their eyes, we should presume that they are still in charge in every life. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious, controlling, and self-righteous we all are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.

John 4:13-14 NRSV
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

John 6:35 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Fasting kind of “hangs the soul out to dry,” and in doing so we find that we can live (indeed, live better) when we are not attached to things which are subject to loss, decay, and death. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (2)

Prayer, fasting, watching may be good in themselves; yet it is not in these practices alone that the goal of our Christian life is found, though they are necessary means for its attainment. The true goal consists in our acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.
-Seraphim of Sarov

Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV
Jesus said, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The value of fasting was (and still is) not the amount of mortification we practice, but rather the concentration of our attention upon God.  The value of fasting is not how much we suffer, but rather how much we allow the time we would have spent eating to become time we spend “feasting” on God. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (4)

Click the link for an excellent article on the concept of a “perpetual fast” from “inferior appetites,” by Bill Guerrant entitled Rethinking Your Lenten Fast

Click the link for questions and reflections to consider as you experience your fast, Fasting by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Rest = Sabbath Re-creation

Lily Cousins by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. My photography hobby helps me to slow down and appreciate life. What hobbies or practices help you to sabbath?

Matthew 11:28-29 The Message
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

The practice of Sabbath is an essential spiritual discipline due to its origin as a command (God requires us to observe sabbath) and to its therapeutic value (we cannot continue to work or serve without rest). At its best the sabbath is an opportunity for prayer and play, self-denial and celebration. The practice of sabbath is also an act of trust and witness: God is able to act in the world apart from human effort or achievement. In this sense the sabbath can become a sign of God’s grace. … In a culture that affirms activity and busyness, the gift of sabbath is both a challenge to our lifestyles and a means of God’s saving grace in our lives.
– Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., Alive Now, July/August 2012

The sacrament of Sabbath—keeping a chosen time sacred (though all time is holy; there is no distinction or division between profane and sacred!)—was offered by the Jewish people as a gift for all of humanity. And in our busy, technology-driven culture, it is especially important that we intentionally seek rest and re-creation. It might be saying that at least one-seventh of life must be about non-performance and non-egocentric pursuit, or we forget our life’s purpose. – Richard Rohr

Perhaps you need to consider a retreat because you were made for both engagement and withdrawal–engagement with the world and life and withdrawal to be renewed and re-created. In the Creation story, this profound truth is modeled in the action of God who labored for six days and rested on the seventh. What kind of Superman or Wonder Woman would it take to say, “God may need withdrawal and rest, but I don’t!”
– Ben Campbell Johnson and Paul H. Lang, Time Away: A Guide for Personal Retreat

Some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual … And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform. -Thomas Merton

Mark 6:31 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi 

Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.
-Ashleigh Brilliant

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes. – Etty Hillesum

I do not know what restores you, where you take your rest, how you find the sustenance that enables you to meet those who wait for you with their insistent hungers. But whatever it is, whatever soothes you and brings you solace, may you find it in the rhythm of this day, as close as the beating of your heart, as quiet as the space between the beats. – Jan Richardson, Come Away and Rest

Prayer for Rest
Cleansing breaths are incorporated into this prayer as a means to help us slow down and clear away the distractions that keep us from deep communion with God.

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Jesus
Lord of the Sabbath
Prince of Peace
You invite me to come away with you and rest a while

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

My world is so fast
So noisy
So needy
So full
Help me rest

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Reveal the fears that drive me
Free me from false pressures and priorities
Renew a right spirit within me

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Cover me with your healing wings
Surround me with your refuge and grace
Fill me with your peace and hope and home
Till my being finds complete rest in you

Breathe in…. Breathe out…
Rest in God’s presence…

For another breath prayer/poem entitled Rest a While by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, click here

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Prayer for Rest © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

For a reflection and worship resource entitled Claiming Sabbath and the Bread of Life, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.