Staying Engaged With Bible Reading & Journaling!
Have you had trouble staying engaged with your Bible reading and journaling?
Almost every follower of Jesus struggles to maintain the habit of Bible reading and journaling. Unfortunately, when the Bible reading and journaling decline, so goes the ability to sense God’s presence and guidance. From my experience, having a specific goal and having some helpful expectations can keep you engaged for a lifetime!
Set the Goal
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
I believe the ultimate goal of bible reading and journaling is to know God more intimately and to live with Him more powerfully. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the bible, is essentially a person going on record with how meaningful it is to know God and live with His guidance from the bible. Reading and journaling through the bible can give us the same experience!
As I am reading through my selected chapters each day, I am regularly asking God, “What do you want me to learn?” I take note of the verses that catch my attention and I write in my journal what I call my “I Believe” statement. For example, I was reading the story of Moses appointing Joshua as the next leader of the Israelites. I wrote, “I believe God wants me to regularly develop leaders as Moses did.”
Knowledge alone, however, does not change how we live. We need to apply what we have learned to truly change. That is why I have a second statement in my journal called the “I Will” statement. My “I Will” statement answers, “What do you want me to do with what I have learned?” On the morning I read about Moses and Joshua I wrote “I will continue the habit of developing apprentices in every group I lead.”
My journals always contain the answers to both of these questions. Both answers are short and to the point. Reading the bible and journaling this way has helped me know God more intimately and live with Him more powerfully year after year.
Adjust Your Expectations
Disciples Made, the discipleship process I developed, has led hundreds of people to begin reading and journaling through the bible. Almost inevitably, getting the habit started is extremely exciting. The “I Believe” statements are filled with new insight. The “I Will” statements address specific life issues, catalyzing joyful results. Knowing God more intimately and living with Him more powerfully is exciting!
Like anything else, however, familiarity changes things. Reading and journaling familiar passages in the bible does not necessarily breed contempt as the saying goes, but it does run the risk of breeding indifference. In my experience, adjusting my expectations helped significantly.
For instance, early on in my reading and journaling my “I Believe” statements were filled with new insights. The bible changed or revised my thinking regularly. New insights, however, came less often the longer I persisted in the habit. This is where many get discouraged. Fortunately, I discovered that my “I Believe” statements were very valuable, even if they were not new to me.
As the insights came less often, I noticed the bible reinforced, or added support for, something I already believed. For example, 2 Timothy 2:2 records Paul instructing Timothy to teach what he has learned to others in a way that they would keep teaching it to future generations. This verse reinforced what I learned about developing leaders from the story of Moses and Joshua. The more I see a biblical idea reinforced, the more intentional I become in making it a part of my life.
Reading the bible also re-affirms, or reminds me about things I believe. There are so many truths in the bible, and I need each one to guide and encourage me through life’s challenges. Unfortunately, my memory is not good enough to keep them all accessible! Consistent re-affirmation of those truths helps me remember them.
My “I Will” statements changed over time as well. Early on, most of these statements were prescriptive, directing me to perform a specific action. For example, I once read “Love is not rude.” My “I Will” statement that morning was, “I will apologize to my daughter for being rude to her last night.” Prescriptive “I will” statements are often the most exciting because they have immediate results.
My readings, however, did not always have a prescribed action. Sometimes they were more preparative, prepping me for an upcoming situation. One morning I read, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” from the book of James. I could not think of anything specific to do so I wrote, “I will make an effort to listen more than I speak today.” I am glad I was prepared! A situation happened that day in which I needed to listen more than talk. That preparation saved me a lot of pain. If you are not sensing God’s Spirit prescribing something specific for you to do, He may be preparing you for something important.
The more I journal, the more my “I Will” statements are preservative in nature. The readings keep me committed to a godly behavior more than they prescribe one or prepare me for one. I recently read in Proverbs that “A three-stranded cord isn’t easily broken.” I have strong accountability partners in my life, so I don’t need to add accountability. However, I realized that my commitment to that discipline must be preserved. My statement that day was “I will continue to invest in my accountability relationships, and I will thank my partners today for their faithfulness to me.” As I look back over my journals for the last two years, I see that over 70% of my “I will” statements have had a preserve aspect to them.
Engage For the Long Haul!
If I expect my regular bible reading and journaling to continually revise what I believe and prescribe specific behaviors, I will eventually become disappointed and quite possibly disengage. If, on the other hand, I adjust my expectations over time, I can share a powerful life experience with the author of Psalm 119.
I can’t imagine trying to live through each day’s challenges without God’s presence and truth leading the way. God wants you to know Him. God wants to lead you. He has preserved His word, the bible, to make that possible. I believe that if you make this your goal and you allow your expectations to change over time, your life will change significantly.