Applying S.O.A.P. to God’s Word

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For some (myself included) studying the Bible can seem like a daunting task. There is so much to think about: context, theology, relevance for the original audience, relevance for us today, etc… It can be quite intimidating to think that we can not only read God’s word, but understand it and apply it to our lives.

Of course there are thousands of great resources out there to help us along our journey. But, again the intimidation factor weighs in. …and sometimes the time factor does too. For however much we love spending time with our Lord, we humans have a knack for over scheduling our days. This may not leave us a ton of time to dig deep into theological works or studies (And just so you know, I’m talking to myself here too.)

On the other hand perhaps it is not the depth of study or time that concerns you, it is the fact that you have gotten into a rut of sorts. Perhaps you’re in a season where study of the Word is more like a task on your check list of things to do. A time where the still small voice of the Holy Spirit seems more still than speaking… I’ve been there too.

The point is: whenever we seem a little lost when it comes to God’s word there might just be a few simple adjustments we can make.

The first suggestion is an easy one: find an online Study group. There are a bunch out there. I’ve been a part of several over the years and find them to be an awesome resource and encouragement. There is also a wealth of books on the market that vary in depth as well as subject. I don’t think I need to go into more detail on these as it is pretty easy to understand how they work.

For those of you who wish to study God’s word as he leads you, independent of a study guide. Yet not really knowing where to start or how to go about it; I can suggest a few things you may find helpful.

Pray. Pray that God would lead you in some area of study. If you are really bold, pray God would reveal something that he would like you to work on or an area in your life that needs adjustment. But, be warned – He will answer.

Another option is to just start at the beginning.  I currently am doing this. I love neat packaged studies as much as the next gal. But, right now I have this hunger to feast on Gods word. All of it. I want to know what the whole of Gods word says. I’ll be honest; for though I have read a lot of it, I haven’t read all of it. Especially the Old Testament. I mean it has Leviticus, and Numbers falls right after that! Sorry, those books have just always been a bit intimidating to me. See? The struggle is real.

But, what if you are not used to consuming great amounts of God’s word? It can be daunting can’t it? It can be hard to focus. Believe me I know. We as a culture are rewarded for our ability to multi-task. It is considered a great achievement. So, it does take some reprogramming of the mind and heart to simplify in this area. But, don’t we hunger for that? For a life that is simpler? Less chaotic? less noisy? I know I do. And the one place that I find this solace is in God’s word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16

Without daily immersion in God’s word I believe we easily open ourselves to walking with a fractured connection to him.

So tip #1 Plan to read God’s word and put on the same level of importance as you do eating or brushing your teeth. It really needs to be high on the list of important things we do daily.

But, how do we study it? What if we have a hard time understanding it? What if you don’t have commentaries or a great library of resources at your fingertips?

Let’s talk about those resources for a minute. While commentaries are wonderful and someday I dream of having a whole library of amazing resources. You really can start without them and still learn and glean so much. Most of the time I use the same Study Bible I got as a high school graduation gift. Add a notebook and pen and I’m ready to get started.

I learned a couple of helpful acronyms a few years ago that help me with Bible Study. One is S.O.A.P. and the other is T.A.N. Used together these little prompts can enrich your study time and help with the focus and navigation of God’s word.

First S.O.A.P. This acronym stands for S-Scripture, O-Observation, A-Application and P-Prayer.

S-Scripture: The way this works, is first you read whatever passage of Scripture God has led you to. In this method you can choose short passages or whole chapters or books, it’s up to you. Just read. However, when a verse or passage speaks to you that is where you’ll stop. And by “speaks to you” I mean: sparks your interest, makes you curious, inspires, brings a question to mind, etc… These are the ways I believe God begins to speak with us through his word.

Next re-read that verse or passage and copy it down. This is important. I think there is something that happens when we write Gods word. I almost always see something I didn’t before.

O-Observation: As you are writing and reading the passage that you have written, this is where you begin to observe what God is saying. This is also where that other acronym T.A.N. comes into play. T.A.N. stands for: T – Then, A-Always, N-Now.

Now, I’m just going to go out on a limb and say something. I personally think one of the worst questions you can ask when reading Gods word is: “What does this mean to me?”
Honestly, I don’t really think it matters what the Bible “means to me.” What matters is, what is God really saying? So, using the T.A.N. acronym will help us in our observation of God’s word. So, here is where we ask: Who was this scripture for THEN? Who was the intended audience? If you have a Study Bible, the notes should be able to give you some sort of clue as to who this passage of scripture was originally intended for. Next, consider the ALWAYS. What is this passage of scriptures timeless message? And then Consider the NOW: how does this passage relate to our world today?
What you glean can be as short as a phrase or God may lead you into some deep observation, but it is important to write it down.

After we have spent some time in observation of a passage or verse, we can move onto the A-Application: This is where we glean from our observation of what God is saying through his word and apply it to our lives.  It might be simple and short or deep and thoughtful. This is where we record God’s movement in our heart. Try to write it down, especially if you are feeling the call to make some changes. Writing will help you with your accountability to let God work in your life.

Finally, P-Pray: Pray God’s word back to him. Pray about what you have been learning. Pray that God will show you more. Pray as God leads you. This is the only area that I say it is up to you to write it down. I sometimes find writing my prayers helpful, but sometimes I have so much to say or confess that I could fill volumes, so I don’t write everything I pray. Also, don’t forget to listen. Speak to God certainly, but at some point during your prayer time take a moment to be still. Let Him have a word edgewise. Let His peace fill your heart. Let Him guide you along the path.

Well, I hope you find these idea’s helpful. Most importantly know that it really doesn’t matter the method you use to study God’s word. What is important is that you pursue the study of it. God wants you to grow and mature in Him, we cannot do that if we are not feeding our souls on a regular bases.

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:32-35

~Rita

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More on the S.O.A.P method of Bible Study:
http://lovegodgreatly.com/lgg/how-to-soap/
http://www.soapstudy.com/

A New Year, New Habits

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Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Psalm 143:8

We are already a month into the new Year and you may have noticed that I took a little sabbatical in the month of January. Though, it was not because I lacked inspiration. I just felt the call to reorder a few things. And so that was what I worked on. The funny thing is God was hard at work re-ordering me and now I have a plethora of new lessons he has been teaching me that I can share with you.

But, let’s start here. How did your New Year’s go? Did you make any resolutions? And how are they going today? I know, I know, getting deep pretty fast.

If your like me, you might find your resolves waning a bit. I get it. February is a hard month. It’s hard to stay motivated to do anything in February, except maybe hibernate. Ha, ha.

I digress.

Here is where God has been dealing with me: We must remember that while goal setting is good and that living in the knowledge that God has offered us an abundant life here on earth, and that he wishes to bless us so that we can have joy –It really is nearly impossible to do so without HIM.

I personally made a resolve to read through the entire Bible. But, I’m going to do it a bit different than I have ever tried to so before.

My goal is rooted in the fact that to know God we must know what his word says. We need to truly internalize the fact that the whole of Gods word was written with purpose. That in order for us to walk closely to him, reading his word, meditating on it, memorizing it is truly is the best way to hear His voice.
So, this year I want to read every word of it. Or at least as much of it as I can in the next twelve months. But, rather than pick up one of those neat and tidy guides, that are all pretty in the package, but quick to overwhelm, I’m going to adopt a little bit more flexible approach.

 

First, I’m getting up in the morning. Though this has been my habit for a while, I want to encourage you to know of its value. I’m not saying that you have to study God’s word first thing in the morning, but I do believe it is vital that we make a plan for Bible study in the same way you make time for other tasks throughout the day. Do you brush your teeth everyday? What about that morning cup of Joe? Do you make it a point to arrive to work on time? Why do we make time and plan for these things? Because they are important for our health, sanity and livelihood, right? Well what if we gave God’s word the same relevance to our lives? What if we felt like we still had stinky morning breath if we missed him during the day, or had that brain fog like we would if we missed our morning coffee? God’s word really is an awesome way to start your day, or end it, wherever you need it to be. But, it must be without fail, one of those things we build in as a daily habit.

But, what if you just have that jam packed schedule that is already full to the brim? I know mine is most days. Some days I wake up late because the girls where playing that fun toddler/child game: Let’s see how many times I can wake Mommy before she snaps during the night (Please extend grace because I’m human too.) Hey, I get it. It happens. But, I hope those days will be the exception not the rule. We need to develop a hunger for Gods word just as we hunger for our meals. While snacks are fine, a nutrient dense meal is the only way to truly satisfy our bodies needs. Taking in little bites of Gods word through the day is fine, go ahead read that verse meme on Facebook, tune into that Christian Radios Station. But, don’t ignore the nourishment for your soul that comes from feasting long and deep in His word.

So, today I encourage you to open your Bible and read it. Wherever God is leading you. Next time, I’ll be sharing a few tips on how to study God’s word even if you don’t think your a great Theologian.

Blessings,

~Rita