How to Use S.O.A.P.

by Erin Bird

I want to continue the blog series I began last week, a series about various Bible study methods that can help you get the most of the Bible. This week’s Bible study method is called the “S.O.A.P.” method. (And yes, most people pronounce it “soap”, not just rattle off the letters.)

Here’s how to “use S.O.A.P.”

Scripture

The first thing with this method is to start with the Bible. It could be a paragraph, a chapter, or an entire book. But to get started, you have to read. If the portion you have chosen to read is shorter, I suggest you read it two or three times.

To give you an example of how this works, let’s work with a verse. Take a moment to read John 14:1 once or twice or even three times:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Observation

After reading, simply highlight in your Bible or write down on a notebook what you see in the passage. As you begin to look back over what you just read, ask yourself:

  • What words are repeated?
  • Are there any patterns to the words or phrases?
  • What is the context surrounding the passage?

When I look at John 14:1, a few things jump out at me:

#1. These words are said by Jesus to the 12 disciples.
Jesus is at the last supper with his disciples when He says this (John 13:1)

#2. He says to “not let your hearts be troubled.”
Why were his disciples troubled? First off, Jesus started this Passover meal off by doing something really weird – washing the disciples feet (John 13:1-11). This was normally done by a servant, but Jesus (who the disciples believed to be the Messiah and true King of Israel) acts the part of the servant. Then Jesus tells the group one of them will betray him (13:21), followed with an admission that He was going to leave them (13:33). And finally, he tells Peter in front of everyone else that Peter will deny Him three times (13:38)

If I were one of the disciples, those would be troubling words and actions from Jesus.

#3. He says the word “believe” twice.
My ESV translation has a note by the first phrase “Believe in God” that says this phrase could also be translated “You believe in God.” It seems like Jesus is saying, “I know you believe (trust) in God the Father, so believe (trust) in me because I am God the Son.”

Application

Next, ask yourself “How does this passage apply to my life today? How does this passage help me follow Jesus?”

Like the disciples at the start of chapter 14 in John, I’ve gone through unsettling times. While I have never sat in a room with Jesus and heard Him say strange things like this, I know the anxious feelings and the confused thoughts the disciples probably had at the Last Supper. So even though Jesus’ words are said to The Twelve at a key moment in history, His words still ring true two thousand some years later. No matter what unsettling moment I am going through and no matter what anxiety I might be feeling about the future or a certain circumstance, I can trust Jesus.

Prayer

Then, finish off your time in prayer, asking God to help you live out what was revealed during the “Application” step of this method:

“Heavenly Father, I ask you to help me to trust you. Give me peace. Give me courage. Through your Holy Spirit, please help my heart to not be troubled. Help me to trust Jesus to always be with me, no matter in what circumstance I find myself.”

Conclusion

The S.O.A.P. technique is very simple, yet very powerful. I’m beginning this series with this method because it is one of the easiest methods to do, one of the quickest to learn, and one that can reap great spiritual rewards in your spiritual growth into Christoformity. While I hope one of the other methods we look at over the next several weeks will be helpful, if you only walk away with remembering one method, this is the one I would hope you would latch on to.

May you enjoy learning the Bible as you use S.O.A.P.

Getting the Most Out of Your Bible

by Erin Bird

I’m excited today to start a new blog series with you today. As our Growth Groups get ready to launch next week, the Elder Team thought it would be helpful for all of us to take some time to consider how you can get the most out of your Bible. So over the next few weeks, we are going to look at several different approaches to reading and studying the Bible, what some call “Bible Study methods.” This won’t be an exhaustive series, but hopefully one of the posts in the next few weeks will spark something that will help you go deeper in your understanding of Scripture and help you “get the most out of your Bible.”

But before we launch into the series next week, let me make a few preparatory comments:

1. Get a Bible

This is rather obvious, but in order to study the Bible, you have to have a Bible.

Almost every time I teach at Riverwood, you’ve heard me invite everyone to open their Bibles, and if they don’t have one, to either pick one up off the Give & Grow table, or to download one to their phone. And I don’t say this every week because I like hearing it come out my mouth. I say it because I truly want everyone to have a Bible!

So if for some reason you don’t have a Bible yet – get one! Find the Bible that’s been sitting on your bookshelf and put it on your nightstand or end table where you will pick it up every day. If you don’t have a paper-copy of the Bible, then this Sunday at our Worship Gathering, take one from the Give & Grow table and make it yours. Or if you want to go digital, head to Bible.com to download the appropriate app for your phone or tablet.

2. Come to the Bible

Next, if you are going to get the most out of your Bible, you have to have a plan to come to the Bible.

You might need to:

  • schedule it into your day
  • make a rule for yourself that you can’t open Instagram or watch Netflix or read the newspaper until you’ve spent time in the Word
  • ask someone to hold you accountable to reading it
  • sit down with a good friend or your spouse and read together

The point is that if you are going to read and study the Bible, then you need to discipline yourself to actually open it.

3. Be Open to the Bible

Lastly, as you come to the Bible to study it, don’t simply bring your preconceived ideas to it.

If you put on glasses with colored lenses, everything you see will carry the hue of the spectacles. Sadly, many people read the Bible with “colored” lenses. They see the words only through their own preferences, or culture, or past.

But as I’ve heard it said, “Don’t just read the Bible, let the Bible read you.” No matter which Bible study method you might be employing, always take a moment to pray and ask God to lead and guide you as you study His Word. Stay humble as you read, open to what He wants to teach you.

After all, the goal in Bible study isn’t just Bible knowledge, Scriptural consumption, or a spiritual task checked off our to-do list. The goal is to see God make us more like Jesus. So stay open to God’s work in your life as you read, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

So join me next week as we look at our first Bible study method – the S.O.A.P. approach.

How to Gauge God’s Love & Power

by Erin Bird

This week on the blog, I want to finish up our series on J.D. Greear’s “Gospel Prayer” found in his book simply entitled Gospel. In case you missed any of the three previous “Notes” on this prayer, you can catch up here on blog. And in case you need a simple refresher, here is J.D.’s prayer (with slight massaging by me) one last time:

“Heavenly Father, in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Help me realize Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others. And Heavenly Father, as I pray, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

Let’s take a few moments to look at that last sentence together: “Help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

Have the Right Scale

A few years ago, I was fairly focused on my weight. Now, I wasn’t obsessed with it. I simply wanted to make sure I wasn’t piling on the pounds. So roughly once a week, I’d jump on the bathroom scale at home. And most weeks, I held steady, content with what my scale told me.

One day, my wife and I learned the medical sharing group of which we were part was offering a discount for “healthy” people. If you could meet a few physical markers (weight, body-mass index, blood pressure, waist size, etc.), they gave you a discount on the sharing amount you needed to send in each month.

Since my scale at home indicated I met this medical sharing group’s “health incentive marker” for weight, I gladly found a medical professional to confirm the truth, so I could send the results in and save my family some moola. But when I stood on the clinic’s digital scale and the medical professional called out the weight on the screen, I shot him a look of shock. He had to be wrong. Either that, or my clothes weighed over ten pounds. (PSA: The clothes on your body don’t weigh ten pounds. If you include your shoes, everything together weighs far less than five pounds.)

A couple weeks later, I found another scale. While my home scale continued to tell me I was just fine, the whisper of the clinic’s scale continued to haunt my thoughts. So I wanted this third (and hopefully unbiased) scale to let me know if my home scale was telling me the truth, or if the “cruel” clinic’s scale had actually been accurate. As I stepped on this last scale, I let out a disappointed sigh when the number before me matched the clinic’s blunt assessment.

So what does my lying home scale have to do with today’s topic?

I think each of us carries an internal scale that measures God’s love and power. But like my home scale, our internal scale can get off. Too often, we judge God’s love with a “what have you done for me lately” scale. Sure, you might have seen Him do something really cool in your life 5 years ago, but when the past year ends up being really really difficult, you begin to doubt what happened 5 years ago. You begin to think either God doesn’t love you, is too busy to notice your circumstance, or just flat out isn’t capable of changing your situation.

That’s where the Gospel comes in.

The Historical Scale

The Gospel is like the clinic’s scale. It is FAR more accurate than our daily emotions to give us a clear picture of God. For the cross shows the immeasurable love of God, and the empty tomb shows the immeasurable power of God.

Here’s what I mean:

When you screw up big time, you need to look at the cross and measure God’s love for you through what Christ has already done versus the stupid thing you just did.

Or, when you are facing a crisis, like a health scare or a financial crash, you look at the empty tomb and measure God’s power through the resurrection of Jesus.

When your eyes look back on history, you realize God is so much bigger than your current reality. That’s why you need to not use the scale of today, or the scale of culture, or the scale of personal thoughts, or the scale of emotions to measure who God is and what He can do. Rather, you need to use the far more accurate scale of the gospel to let you see that God DOES love you far more than you can imagine, and He is far more powerful than you ever realized.

And when you realize how much He loves you, you want to come to Him in prayer. And when you realize how powerful He actually is, you can trust anything and everything to Him.

So join me in praying, “God, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

Do Unto Others What God Did For You

by Erin Bird

I’m pretty sure you have heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” But if you think about it, that could be potentially selfish. “Hey, I’d really like someone to give me a present, so I’ll give some else a present so that they get the idea!”

In the Gospel Prayer found in J.D. Greear’s 2011 book Gospel, the sentiment isn’t “do unto others what you want them to do for you.” Rather it is “do unto others what God has done for you.” Here is how J.D. puts it (with slight “massaging” by me):

The Gospel Prayer

“Heavenly Father, in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Help me realize Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others. And Heavenly Father, as I pray, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

We’ve already looked at the first two sentences in this short series on The Gospel Prayer (here is sentence #1 and here is sentence #2). So let’s take a few moments together to consider that third thought: “As you have been to me, so I will be to others.”

Gospel-Motivated Relationships

Because we are looking at the Gospel Prayer, we need to take a quick second to remind ourselves of what is the gospel. At Riverwood, our definition of the gospel is…

“The ongoing story of God redeeming broken and imperfect people and restoring them into the perfect and complete image of Jesus.”

The tools God uses to accomplish this spiritual redemption and restoration of people are the cross and empty tomb of Christ. As we look at the cross, we see God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, justice, kindness, and so much more. Yet as we look at the empty tomb, we see God’s power, presence, sovereignty, faithfulness, and more.

But here’s the kicker: These attributes of God seen through the Gospel aren’t to just stop at changing our lives. Over and over in the Scripture, God instructs us to take the attributes He has shown us through the cross and empty grave, and display them towards others, changing their lives in the process.

For instance,

  • just as God has given us forgiveness, we are to forgive others. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • just as God has shown us love, we are to love one another. (1 John 4:7-12)
  • just as God put your needs first, put the needs of others before your own. (Philippians 2:4-7)
  • just as God showed us great mercy, we need to be merciful toward others. (Luke 6:36)
  • just as God generously gave Jesus for us, we need to be generous toward others as well. (2 Corinthians 9:13-15)

But why pray this?

So it’s clear the Bible instructs us to do toward others what God has done toward us through Christ, but why do we need to pray it? Aren’t these just actions we need to do?

Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others

Perhaps you are holier than I am, but I am a selfish person. If left to my own ways, I will often try to carve time to give to myself. But the gospel does not teach that God changed me so I could be absorbed in “me” more. The gospel says God is transforming me to be more like Jesus.

So I need to pray not to tell God something He doesn’t already know, but to invite God to remind me of what the Gospel leads me to do. Praying “Just as You have been to me, help me be to others,” invites God to continue to transform you into the likeness of His Son, to love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

So I invite you to join me in asking God to help us do unto others what He has done for us through Christ.

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