According to a 2011 survey of Presbyterians across our denomination, just 50% of pastors reported reading Scripture daily or almost daily. For ruling elders (who, together with the pastors, make up the leadership bodies at every level of our church), the numbers were even worse; just 17% of ruling elders reported that they read the Bible daily or almost daily. How can God’s Word be a light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet if our senior leaders are not in the habit of daily reorienting their lives toward the Word of God?
In recent weeks, I have re-engaged a spiritual discipline of regular Scripture reading and journaling to start my day. It has not been easy. I have forced myself to resist checking e-mail or phone messages before turning to my bible and journal. Usually, I keep my office door open, but I’ve found it necessary to keep it shut for at least a few minutes at the beginning of the day.
However, after just a few weeks, I have found that some of the the dryness that had set up in my spirit has begun to ease. I find myself less discouraged by the many challenges facing our ministry from both within and without. To put it bluntly, I just feel better when I’ve started my day with some time in God’s Word, and it’s bearing fruit in my life.
I am using a bible reading plan that covers the bible in one year. However, rather than reading straight through from Genesis to Revelation, it covers a bit of Old Testament and New Testament each day. My journal discipline involves looking for one verse or phrase that seems to speak to me from the day’s reading, and then I use the acronym S.O.A.P.
I pick a verse or a phrase of the scripture for the day that spoke to me – that is the ‘S’. Then I make an observation about that scripture and write a sentence or two about it – that was the ‘O.’ For the ‘A,’ I make a few notes about how I might apply that particular scripture my life in some tangible way. Then I jot down a short prayer for the ‘P.’ Then I go back and give each entry a title for quick reference.
In an effort to both give myself some more accountability for this discipline and to increase engagement with Scripture among those with whom I minister, I am going to experiment for a season with regular posting of my journal entries. I hope that this effort in some small way encourages you in your daily walk with Christ. Find below today’s entry for Wednesday, November 2, 2016. Feel free to comment below or contact me if you’d like to know more.
Scripture: But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven..'” — Mark 14:61-62
Observation: Jesus is on trial for blasphemy before the Sanhedrin (the religious court of his day) and he is being interrogated by the high priest. The high priest asks him directly if he is the Messiah. When Jesus answers “I am,” you can almost hear the thunderclap in the courtroom and the gasps of the witnesses. By his own mouth, he has just confessed to the “crime” of which he is accused.
Application: There are so many ideas out there these days about who Jesus is. Some say he was just a good teacher who taught good morals. Some say he was just a historic political figure who tried to take on the Roman empire and got himself executed for his troubles. Some say he was a prophet on the order of Moses and Elijah. Some say he never existed and was just made up (despite significant historical evidence to the contrary.) For Christians, however, we claim that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), the long-promised and long-awaited one of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus isn’t just a historical figure; he is God in-the-flesh, God-with-us. He is the one in whom all human history and all human destiny meet. In this day of religious pluralism and moral relativism, what we Christians say and do and teach about the nature, person and work of Jesus Christ matters more than ever.
Prayer: Holy God, thank you for revealing yourself to us in so many ways. Thank you especially for revealing yourself through Jesus the Christ and through your Word. Help us be faithful stewards of your truth this day, come what may. Amen.