In our online life group, (feel free to join in) we were discussing the concept of “Doctrinal Distraction”. What’s that?
We get distracted within our belief structures, church life and relationship with God. There are so many tools available these days that it is often difficult to know where to begin in our attempts to pull ourselves from a spiritual slump or to find the necessary motivation to push through the tough times.
When money is tight should I read a book on prosperity or stewardship? When children are not listening, should I dive into a book on discipline or relationships? When marriage is the worst thing in my life, should I bury myself in a book on getting through a divorce or one on submission?
In my bible reading plan, should I start in the Old Testament and read a Psalm each day or should I focus on the gospels? But what about James and Romans? – I hear those are great reads too…
We are made complete when we turn to scripture to find the answers, direction and the vision that we desire. Scripture connects what we know about God to what we know about ourselves. Rarely do we find a book that is able to completely revolutionize a community, that can directly highlight the error of our ways and passionately give us fulfillment and not fear: a book that, with some study, meditation and application, changes our lives so radically. But it’s not just the Bible that can change our hearts. We need to have a full revelation and understanding of who God is, how he sees us and how He has wired us to be. Otherwise, we get right back to our search for the quick fix, and we will use the Bible to find scriptures or quotations to simply give us momentary answers to immediate problems or that temporarily fill some gaps in our lives.From the book Wired by Craig Smee
I want to suggest to you that if you have any of the symptoms above, you have a bad case of doctrinal distraction. The root cause of that distraction is caused by a common Christian ailment called Relational Deficiency. It’s what happens when we DO our spiritual disciplines instead of experiencing them WITH God. You can read the bible and let it be a conversation – in which case why worry where you start as long as you start and let God direct the conversation OR you can read the Bible for the sake of getting through it and get nothing out of it. It becomes like reading the paint on the wall in front of you. Now don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting for one moment that we throw discipline out.
We have to have “relational discipline” to get rid of “doctrinal deficiency”.
I have a relationship with my wife but we need disciplines to have that relationship. Date night still takes organization and does not happen organically. If we just let our relationship happen with no disciplines it would deteriorate and we would just go through the motions. If we leave our relationship with God to just happen, it too deteriorates and we go through the motion of being a Christian with an occasional “Oh my God I am such a bad Christian” wake up moment.
Here is what has helped me:
- I call my time with God a relational experience. Whatever I do is to experience God (All three – all the time) and not just read or study Him.
- I study myself, not only Him. I study what practices I do that work or don’t work in helping grow my relationship with Him. 5 am bible reading does nothing for me but I have 100’s of messages prepared that I may never preach. The practices that work – I repeat as often during the day as I can.
- I have a bible reading plan, that is sometimes led by YouVersion but always led by the Holy Spirit. How many reading plans start because of the situation you are in but end before they are finished because your situation changes?
- Prayer is a conversation, so I shut up sometimes and just listen.
I have a process of scriptural soaking that I use to get “back” or when I need to go deeper than just a reading plan, or when a subject matter pops into my head and I feel I need to study it…
Here is how it works…
I have discovered that my favorite chapter in the whole bible is Romans 12 – what’s yours? the one chapter that you can go to no matter what and it inspires you in a hundred different ways in the bible. I read Romans 12 and in a few minutes find myself in Matthew 1 and then onto Numbers. It is crazy what Romans 12 does for me. I discovered Romans 12 as my “pilot light chapter” by taking chapter after famous chapter and soaking in them. The one that spoke to me the most and became my relational epicenter, was Romans 12. I use it when I feel far from God to get back. I use it when I am counseling others. I use it to discipline my kids. I USE IT ALOT!
Since I started soaking in chapters, I have “re-soaked” Romans 12 about 8 – 10 times. Here is how soaking works – just a suggestion:
- Start with one chapter in the Bible. You can use mine if you like…
- Read the whole chapter 3-5 times a day for a full fourteen days. Wait what??? 3-5 times a day????? Yes, you will be surprised how the Word changes in a day depending on when and where you read it. Try it – you will see!
- For the next 14 days don’t stop reading it 3-5 times a day. But each day, at any time of the day, take out your phone and type up a paragraph on which verse of the chapter stood out for you that day and why.
- Take all your paragraphs and group them by verse into one long paragraph. Now for the next 14 days read your chapter 3-5 times a day and include reading your paragraph at every read through. Add notes, to your notes. Add other verses to the notes that might come to mind. Cross-reference with scriptures that the Holy Spirit gives you and not only what your study bible provides for you. If you don’t get a bible verse but you get a word or a concept or a name or anything always write that down and take time to LISTEN to God about that subject.
- Now for the final 14 days. You got it – keep reading the chapter 3-5 times a day but now start to take your notes and during the 14 days use them to rewrite the whole chapter in your own words as if you were writing yourself a letter and end the letter “From God”.
- When you have your letter, you can go back to those other scriptures that came into your heart while you were soaking and ask God which verse is the one He needs you to soak in for your next drenching. Whichever one you feel is the one, start the process all over again with the chapter of that verse.
Using this system, I have journeyed and soaked through several chapters but have read entire books of the bible many times. It creates a ripple effect through the reading and study of the bible.
This happens, I think, because when you soak you are experiencing a relational revelation and not a task-driven one.