How do I study the Bible?

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themessage
April 21, 2013
Flourish – How Do I Study the Bible?
Rev. Ron Geisler
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Scripture will change your life. When the power of God’s Word is applied to your life, you will grow and experience an intimacy with God as you trust in His transforming work. Last week we put down a foundation – any strong, long-lasting building needs a proper foundation. As we work to build our life with God, foundation is needed. That foundation is built on the Word. So now we’re going to discover one way of building into your life a commitment to daily Bible reading. If you don’t already have a plan in place and practice daily bible study you may want to begin by using this plan for a couple of months–to see how you like it. As you seek God and expect the Holy Spirit to teach, inspire and direct your steps, keep in mind that this tool is intended to serve you, not to make you feel guilty!

Also, remember that your goal is to worship God by hearing and obeying His voice. Worship the God of the Bible, not the Bible itself. If you miss a day, or even few days, don’t go back and try to “catch up.” Just pick up with the current day’s reading. Feel free to adapt how you use this tool. But, most importantly, use it to develop a healthy habit of spending time with God on a daily basis.

Here are few steps to get you started…

Step 1—Decide How Much to Read

A systematic Bible reading plan will aid you in developing the discipline for daily Bible reading. The Snack/Meal/Feast format gives you a choice of reading levels for each day of the year:

Snack—A brief Bible reading (5 minutes daily)
Meal—A more extensive reading (10-15 minutes daily)
Feast—A daily reading that will take you through the entire Bible in a year, including two times through the New Testament (15-20 minutes daily)

Step 2—Decide On a Time and Place

Develop as many routines as you can relating to your Bible reading. The routines give a sense of comfort to your commitment and help in the formation of a positive habit.

Remember that the goal isn’t to keep up with the plan—the goal is to spend time with God and allow Him to speak and interact with you through His Word every day.

Step 3—Bring These Items to Your Reading Place

Your Bible; your Bible reading plan; a journal/notebook; a pen/pencil/computer for journaling your thoughts; an open heart that desires to hear from God

Step 4—Record What Jesus Speaks to You (SOAP)
When you have chosen your snack, meal or feast, begin your reading time by asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you from His Word. Record the date and prayerfully read the assigned passages. Then, begin journaling by using the SOAP method.

What is the SOAP method?

The SOAP method for Bible study is a simple plan to help you get the most out of Scripture.

Scripture. Come to your moments of study with a Scripture in mind. For the SOAP plan, I’ve provided daily Scripture reading. They are found in the calendar section of the bulletin and will be posted on the Charge’s Facebook page every week. These Scriptures begin with the The Gospel of Mark. I’ve chosen this Gospel to reintroduce us to Jesus and if we are all reading the same passages we’ll be better able to have conversations together. However, this is just one plan. If you are already engaged in a Bible reading plan, keep up with that.

Observation. As you’re reading the Scripture passage for that particular day, you’ll be doing more that just giving a cursory reading. The next step in this method is to observe what is happening.

Typically, I’m a quick reader. I’ll buzz through an article or book without really reading deeply. I want to get to the main idea. I do that with the Bible, too. But when we slow down to observe what is happening we see so much more. So when we are reading the Bible passage we can apply some simple techniques. For instance we can ask those elementary questions like “who, what, where, when, and how?” These questions help us see the context and the bigger picture. For example, in our Scripture from James, when we slow down to see what’s happening, we observe that the author, James, says, “don’t just listen to the Bible, do what it says.” I observe that there seems to be a connection between hearing/reading the word and actually doing what it says. I can also observe that James says the person who does pay attention to the word and “does” the word is blessed.

When we observe, we let what we read and see ruminate in our spirits. When we slow down we can notice deeper things. And then from observation we can begin to ask, “how did this verse affect me?” I recommended keeping some sort of journal with this, something you can jot notes or ideas in and that will let you remember and reflect.

Then the next step moves us into Application. A lot of times we can have the habit of quickly reading a verse and then jumping and saying, “this is what this means,” without observing. Once we’ve spent moments observing we can then begin to see how a verse or verses actually apply to our life. In application, we’re discovering how the passage applies to your own life.

Let’s go back to this James passage. After I’ve prayerfully observed what is being said, I might come to an application for me that says, “I don’t really apply the Bible to my life.” I hear/read it but rarely do I do what the Bible says. My application might be – I’m going to take the Bible seriously and apply what I learn everyday. And then I’ll jot down some action steps for how I can apply things. One action step for applying what I’m reading might be to ask God to let me be aware of how I might have an open heart to the people around me so that I can be sensitive to their needs.

Action steps are critical. They provide us with a plan to apply what God is showing us in his word. I tend to tell folks that when they sense God speaking to them immediately move to do something about what they’ve heard. Because if you’re like me, you quickly forget.

Finally, Pray. Write down a brief prayer that expresses how you feel about the passage you’ve just read. “God, I’m sorry that I don’t often do what your word says. Help me to take it seriously and not just listen to hear but listen to do and be more faithful. Amen.” Praying keeps you in touch with God’s heart. And a connection with God happens over his word. Prayer allows me to begin the movement of transformation that this passage is directing.

SOAP is a very simple method to help you read and study Scripture for the purpose of letting God, through the Bible, transform you and make you more like Jesus and flourish in everything you do. I invite you to try this plan for the next 30 days and tell me what is happening in your walk with God.

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