Learning to use the Bible is not a intuitive thing. Something as basic as finding a passage from a given reference is a skill we use in no other area of life. At Oakland, there are people from all different backgrounds and upbringings, so we don’t assume anyone knows the basics of navigating the Bible. Therefore we have created this simple beginning guide for spiritual explorers hoping to study the Bible for the first times. Enjoy and feel free to share. A PDF of the same image is available HERE.
Hey Oakland. So I too am working my way through the Week 5 Reading Plan, and wanted to give you a snapshot of my Bible study time. The Bible Study time below took me about 30-45 minutes, including the writing and formatting. I use a basic inductive approach to Scripture - S.O.A.P.
S is for Scripture. O is for Observation. A is for Application. and P is for Prayer.
The process basically works by writing the Scripture down first. If it is a very long passage, then I pick out the verse that stands out to me most. Next, I make observations about who, what, when, where like a detective. To get to real, helpful, practical Applications, I make a few baby steps to interpret what this means generally and then to ask if I live this way or believe it. To get to a good application, I'm basically asking, "How would I live if this were true?" Finally, I pray to God what I have learned and ask God to help me.
I hope what follows helps you understand Luke 8, but also understand more about reading the Bible.
Now for Luke 8:4-15.
- 12 – “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
- Observation - The devil takes away the word from our hearts, like the bird takes it away from the path. The devil poses a real threat to us hearing and appropriating and applying the word of God to ourselves. It takes time for the word to be absorbed, and so the sooner the Devil can distract us or cause us to forget what we just heard, the better for him, and the worse for us. The devil tries to manipulate our memory, so we have to fight him.
- Interpretation– We need to take time to let the word absorb into our hearts. We need to make sure it cannot be easily plucked off.
- Question to Application – How long do I remember the words I hear on Sunday or read in the week? Are they on my mind and heart for a short time? How can I make sure they stay on my heart and mind?
- Application – Take notes. I need to write down the words and the main points of the sermon to aid in my absorption of the seed of God. The Devil may take my short-term memory, but unless he also burns my journal, I have a hard copy of all that the Lord is sowing into my heart. So I will try, not as a rule and a requirement, but because I want to grow and know the Lover of My Heart better, I will take notes on sermons, Sunday school observations, and my prayers.
- 13 – Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
- Receive the word with joy – how we emotionally receive the word can be deceptive. We can really like it when it comes into our ears, but then it doesn’t take root; or we can really hate it when we hear it, but as we meditate on it, we come to understand and see it. This is a very scary thought, cause they even BELIEVE it. They buy what is being said, and agree with it, but when the time of testing comes they fall away, they wither. I wonder, what is the disconnect between reception and belief and rooting and surviving?
- Have no root. – Roots, take time to develop. Hold trees in place when the winds come. Absorb water. Roots provide security and nourishment. To grow roots takes time in one place, and enough soil.
- Interpretation – Roots search out more nourishment. Roots seek down deep if there is no nourishment at hand. Difference between receiving with joy and putting down roots, might be just that. One only gets what is given and takes it at surface value (pun intended), but the one that roots seeks it out, tries to understand it more. Looks for even more opportunity to grow and understand. The one that lasts seeks.
- Question to application – Do I accept things uncritically? Do I hear, agree, and move on OR do I hear, agree, and then try to learn more, try to figure out why? Do I challenge the preacher or the book?
- Application – Never stop seeking. I need to keep reading, learning, trying, thinking. Think through my notes from above and ask new questions as they come up. Andrew cannot make every single point in any sermon (no matter how long it is) so what did he miss? What implications did he leave off?
Vs. 7 – Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
- 14 – The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
- Observations –
- There are thorns. Unproductive, sticky, painful things that tangle and choke. Thorns grow. Jesus says these thorns are “life’s worries, riches and pleasures.” That is a strange juxtaposition – worries || Riches and pleasures. Most of us assume the two are opposites, if we had enough riches and pleasures we’d have no worries, but Jesus says they are 2 sides of the same coin. Like Biggie Smalls, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” But the thinking above is the cause of the problem, we think if we have them we’ll have no worries, but they are false promises and false gods, whether we have them or not.
- THEY DO NOT MATURE – The seed should mature, but there are real things that keep it from maturing. Worry keeps us from maturing. But not just worry, more specifically running hard after riches and pleasures distracts us from our main purpose, to grow and to reproduce, to mature.
- Interpretation – see above.
- Question to application – What distracts and chokes me? What things so surround and entangle me that I cannot even focus on my prayers or my faith? What things intrude on my sacred space and an enjoyment of the holy?
- Application – I want to identify these Briars, so that I don’t get all tangled up in them like grapevines or kudzu. Briars and Grain can grow in the same place, so long as we can keep them from being all tangled together. I will pray God will remove the Briars, and I will try to focus my available attention and intentionality on MATURITY. Not enough to Be, must BE GROWING.
Vs. 8 – Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.
- 15 – But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering, produce a crop.
- Hear the word, retain it – all heard the word, and last 3 “believed it.” Last 2 retained it. So first step is to HEAR, got to be in the way of the seed, got to be in the area where good seed is falling. LISTEN – let it go in. RETAIN IT – This is the part where we don’t let the devil steal it out of our hearts and minds quickly. Meditate on it. Remember it. Hold on to it. Search it out, and guard it. Dedicate available moisture to it and available resources to it to grow its roots, apply it in my life, and live like it is true.
- Persevering – Strange that even the crop in the field has to persevere. No crop has it easy. All face struggles and opposition; all face heat, cold, rain, dry.
- Produce – the whole goal of maturity is reproduction. To create a new seed crop and enough for the farmer to enjoy. The problem with the others was both that they did not grow and ultimately that they did not reproduce. REPRODUCTION is the Goal.
- Interpretation – Hear, Retain, Persevere, Reproduce. – The formula for spiritual growth and the goal for every encounter with the word. I think this whole parable is both descriptive, meaning Jesus is describing what happens naturally when the word of God is read and preached, and proscriptive, meaning Jesus is telling us how to receive the word. How much control we have over the state of our own hearts is a mystery, and so we must try to hear, retain, persevere, and reproduce – but REMEMBER, all of our trying is PARTICIPATION with the farmer, so we must trust the farmer, trust the farmer’s goals, and pray to the farmer for good attention. Good farmers remove stones and plow hard soil. Good farmers weed briars. I participate by hearing, retaining, persevering, and reproducing, while God tills my heart.
- Question to application – What I the goal of my spiritual Life? Maturity? Reproduction? Self-fulfillment? The grain exists for the farmer and to reproduce.
- Application – I will listen well when I get a chance to hear/read the word of God. And I will retain it by taking notes and repeating it out loud to others and myself. I will persevere when the situation is not perfect by focusing on my goals, not on my worries. I will pray to the farmer.
Jesus, my heart is a mystery greater than your love for me or the way your word works. I need a good and noble heart. I need soft soil. I need roots, and maturity so that I can reproduce. Help me to participate in your farming through practical steps including, taking notes and re-sowing areas of my life where your word has not taken root. Make me a reproducer, and I will participate by telling Bible stories to my children and my friends. Thank you Jesus for casting seed everywhere, even in the unlikely and originally hard soil of my heart. You are too generous. In Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus I pray to you, your Father, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.