You more than likely already use soap - at least we hope you do. But this SOAP is actually a little different than that soap. SOAP is an acronym that will help you read the Bible.
If you are going to seek God you have to be willing to dive into this life giving book. This book is so much more than a good nonfictional book. It actually reveals who God is, and what He has done for you through Jesus. It will also reveal what God is wanting to do in and through you today.
Some say the Bible is too hard to read or understand, but it really isn’t. It was written for you and to you! So, as soon as possible, you should find a version of the Bible that you enjoy reading because when you enjoy reading the Bible, you are more likely to continue reading it.
You might be wondering, aren’t all Bibles the same? Well, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, so all of our copies in English had to be translated from those original languages.
Some translations like the New King James Version (NKJV), were translated word-for-word; while others like the New International Version (NIV), was translated more thought-for-thought. Then there are Paraphrase versions like the New Living Translation (NLT) that make for easy reading. Speaking of easy reading, they even have the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV) which was designed for children to be able to read and its awesome!
Easiest way to discover which of these translations work best for you would be to check them all out on the You Version Bible app. That is right! You can get all these translations on your phone for free. Technology is great, but we also understand for some you will want to get a printed book as it is an easier format for you to learn from. But finding the right translation before you go buy the book version might be a smart financial move.
Next question is what part of the Bible do I read?
Unlike most books, the Bible wasn’t intended to be read from front to back. You can read it this way, but it doesn’t exactly go in that order. The Bible is actually a collection of 66 smaller books that were written by different people at different times. Some books of the Bible are like history books, telling us the stories of how God relates to His people. Other parts of the Bible are poetry, letters, or songs. One thing they all have in common, however, is that each book helps us understand the truth about who God is and how He wants us to live.
Having a system to help you pull out those truths is really important. The system we encourage you to use here at Timbers is called SOAP. Like we said at the start, SOAP is an acronym that will help you get the most out of a daily reading practice. It would be very hard to apply this system without seeing growth begin to happen in your life.
Ok, let’s explain what the letters in SOAP stand for: Scripture (that is another name used to refer to the Bible), Observation, Application & Prayer.
Here’s how you use your SOAP:
First, you will need a journal. It could be a plain notebook, a fancy journal, a computer or anything. The key for what ever you choose just needs to be something in which you can write in over a long period of time (at least a year). By keeping your SOAP notes all in one place, it will give you the opportunity to reflect on how much God teaches you over time. Personally, I (Marcus) love using the Day One Journaling App. You can tag things making it easy to find later along with having a way to look back on what you wrote in years past… if you keep it up over the long haul which I highly encourage you to do.
Now that you have your Journal set up, begin to use SOAP as you
engage with the Bible.
“S” IS FOR SCRIPTURE
Begin by reading the specific chapters for that days' reading. I will give you a 21 day reading plan at the end of this so you have a place to start. If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. Just pick up where you left off. The key is to simply keep reading each day. Since the books of the Bible aren’t in alphabetical order, you can use the table of contents to look up the book and chapter you want to read for that day.
Don’t rush it. Take your time reading the chapters. Don’t skim it like you are reading an article online, but take time to let it sink in. Ask God to speak to you through the words. (You can even read it out loud if that helps.) As you read, look for things in the chapter that capture your attention or seem to apply directly to a situation in your life. Highlight and underline those verse(s) so you can come back to them. When you're reading is done, look at what stood out to you and pick one main thought you want to focus in on for the day.
Now take that main verse and write it out or copy and paste it into your journal. Give it a title so you know the topic you are getting ready to unpack.
“O” IS FOR OBSERVATION
Once you have written down the verse(s) that stood out to you, ask yourself what was happening? What stood out and caught your attention? What question does it bring to my mind? What might God have been saying to me through these verses?
God may be asking you a question. He may be telling you something He wants you to do. Or maybe He is giving you a message of encouragement. Write these observations out in your own words in the journal.
“A” IS FOR APPLICATION
This is where you personalize what the verse is saying to you. How could this apply to my life right now? Write it out. Perhaps you need to change your attitude about a situation? Maybe you need to apologize to someone? This could be showing you an area in your life that isn’t like Jesus and needs a change.
You will be excited to find how quickly the Bible starts to give you specific direction for your life. You will see how this is not just a book but it is a living book. As you write out your application be as specific as possible. Remember, this is between you and God; no one else has to read your journal or see what you write. This is a record of your own personal journey with God and what He is speaking directly to you.
“P” IS FOR PRAYER
To conclude SOAP write out a simple prayer asking God to help you apply what He just revealed to you. Pray the prayer out loud also. We will talk more about prayer and the different kinds of prayer in a later unit. But for now, know that prayer is a conversation with God. He is listening to you and He is also speaking back. Talk openly with Him and take the time to listen to what He might be saying back.
This process is simple. Don’t worry about getting it “right” or “wrong.” As you consistently read and ask God questions, He will begin to teach you. Remember, you are reading the Bible to get to know Jesus. Getting to know someone means investing into time spent with them - and not just spending time, but really listening to what they say.