This was written by FAITH RXD Marketing and Merchandise Director, Lindsey Strickler. Originally used for True Strength Choice Sessions. If you haven’t experienced a True Strength Camp where we spend a weekend strengthening our faith and fitness, we would love for you to join us! Or join us again! Every camp is a little different. You can find more info about the next one at www.faithrxd.org/events
Reading the Bible can seem intimidating and you may not know where to begin. That’s so normal! I’ve been a Christian for 30 years and I still feel that way. However, the simple tool Observe, Interpret, Appy has radically impacted my life and made something that seemed daunting become very approachable. I’ve learned more about God, his story, and who I am in light of these truths using this technique. God’s word is powerful on it’s own. So why not go straight to the source?!
Getting to know God is like any relationship, it’s a lifelong process.
At a FAITH RXD Camp a few years ago, one of our coaches taught us a technique for diving deeper into a portion of scripture called, Observe, Interpret, Apply. During this time, I had started studying the life of Abraham and began applying Observe, Interpret, Apply to my personal devotion time. I’ve been going through only 3-4 verses at a time and it’s caused his story to explode with color and richness. Some days aren’t as profound as others, but the compound effect has been huge.
It’s a different approach than what a lot of devotion times look like right? Often times we think we have to have an additional book we’re going through like Jesus Calling or something like Tim Keller.
Which are all awesome, but we also need to take time to strip away the noise and just go straight to Jesus. Straight to his word despite how awkward or unnatural it might feel.
So what does this tactic observe, interpret, apply, mean or look like?
The first step is to Observe. This is where you state the things that you see in the verses. The who, what, when, where, why, how. It’s really easy to jump to interpreting the text where we figured or trying re out its meaning, or to apply it or see yourself in it, but at this stage, it’s simply stating or re-stating the obvious.
For me, I do this as a bulleted list in my journal. Or in a group setting, like my women’s Bible study, we set a timer for 5-10 minutes. And we each do it on our own with some worship music playing then come back together.
Do you guys have your phones or Bibles? Let’s open to Genesis 12:1-4 and do this real quick together.
Take a couple moments and read the verses.
Okay, what do you observe? Write it down in a journal or on a piece of paper.
Okay, so now the second step is Interpret. What does this passage mean? This is where I start to read into things, I may see something that I want to look up and try to understand why it’s important. In verse 4 we know that he’s leaving Haran. What do we know about Haran? Not much, with a little research or a study Bible, you can find out that it’s the commercial center of the Ancient East. That means that Abraham is probably really well off and living in a posh area for the time.
So God’s asking him to leave everything and just start moving and trust that God’s going to lead him to where he needs to go. Again, I’m not applying this myself right? I’m just trying to understand what’s going on in the story a little deeper.
What else can we interpret or assume? Write those things down.
The final step is Apply. What can I, or others, do in response to this passage? Is there any action?
So can you see how we did that? And can you see how you could do this on your own time by yourself or even with a small handful of friends?
Oftentimes the excuse we use to not study the Bible on our own or with other people is, “I don’t know enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not articulate enough. I’m not I’m not x enough. I’m not the right kind of person. I don’t have enough time…”
I’m not qualified for this… but it’s not about being qualified. None of us were qualified to be a Christian when we accepted and proclaimed Christ as our Savior.
We think we need to know a lot in order to understand the Bible or take off the training wheels. Don’t be afraid to take off those training wheels to see where God can take you.
Read the Bible on your own. Grab friends and read the Bible together.
This is about showing up. Showing up with willing hearts. Showing up with open minds. Asking the Holy Spirit to come and guide, then trusting that he’ll take it from there. Abraham had no idea what God was going to do, but he had the promise that God was going to do something.
We have that same promise. If we spend time with him, if we’re intentional with him, if we show up, he’s going to move. Just try Him.
Another great resource to walk you through this is Living By the Book by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks.
I’ve taken some questions from their book and shared them below to help you out. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Observe- What do I see?/What are the facts?
- Things to look at
- Literary form
- Who is writing or speaking and to whom?
- What is the passage about?
- When does this take place?
- Where does this take place?
- Why does the author write what he does?
- How does this passage fit in with the context?
- What is happening in the culture at the time of the writing?
- What problems were the recipients facing?
Interpret- What does it mean?
- Things to do
- Questions- Ask Questions
- Answers- Look for answers
- Integration- Look at the whole
- Additional Questions
- Putting yourself in the author’s shoes, what did the author intend to communicate?
- What did God mean when he gave the words to the author?
- How does the meaning match up with other scripture?
Apply- How does it work?
- Things to do
- How does it work for me?
- How does it work for others?
- Additional Questions
- How does the passage inform how we relate to God and others?
- Is there an example to follow?
- Is there a prayer for me to pray?
- Is there a promise to claim?
- Is there a command to obey?
Tools and Resources
- DA Carson
- Douglas J Moo
- FF Bruce
- You Version