“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Acts 17:11 NIV
Raise your hand if you don’t like to read your Bible. (Don’t worry – no one can see you.)
That used to be me, too. I had no idea where to start reading or what to do with the information I read. I remember wishing I could be one of those people who had one of those well-worn Bibles – kinda like the Velveteen Rabbit version of a Bible. A Bible that has highlighter marks all over the verses, notes scrawled in the margins, the bindings loose and torn; I wanted that to be my Bible.
But, that wasn’t my Bible.
Then, I learned this one SUUUUUUUUUPER simple trick and everything changed. Now my Bible is a completely lovely mess and I can even SOMETIMES remember Bible verses in the middle of conversations!
The trick is to use the acronym “S.O.A.P.”
- S: Scripture – What one verse stood out to you most? In your reading (I read one chapter a day) choose ONE VERSE that stands out to you and – this is key – helps you understand God better. Don’t choose a verse that makes you more confused. And force yourself to choose only one verse. The process you go through to decide which verse is YOUR verse is a process that will help you really lock in on what it is that you learned about God.
- O: Observation – What is the context of that verse? What’s going on around that verse in that moment the verse was written. Who wrote the verse? Who is the writer writing to? Record any details that will help you remember later why that verse was so powerful to you.
- A: Application – How does this information change your life? What are you going to do differently in your life because of this new understanding of God? BE SPECIFIC!!!!
- P: Prayer – Have a conversation with God about all this.
That’s it! That’s the whole trick. I use it every time I read the Bible. I have a journal that I hand-write all my SOAP notes in. (For me, writing things by hand helps me retain the information better.) You can even come up with clever titles for each SOAP note to help you remember what the take-away was.
Here’s an example of one of my SOAP’s (in case you are still confused):
Title: Check Your Source!
- S: Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
- O: Paul and Silas were met with some resistance in Thessalonica, so they traveled on to Berea. People there received the message with enthusiasm. Some translations say they “listened eagerly” and they compared what they heard from Paul and Silas to God’s words in the Bible.
- A: The people of Berea were normal people just like me. They were credited with enough understanding of scripture to be able to “check up on” the preaching of Paul and Silas. I need to have confidence that the Holy Spirit will give me enough understanding of the Bible to know if I’m being enriched by a person’s teachings or misled by them.
- P: Dear Lord, thank you for giving me examples of role models who did what I should do to grow in my faith. Give me the discipline it takes to read your word daily and the wisdom to understand what it says. Help me be an enthusiastic learner like the Bereans! Amen.
Finally, just to be clear: I didn’t create this method – I have a really fantastic pastor friend to thank for that. SOAP is how I create all my Messy Worship posts and how I teach my kids to have a relationship with God. Now I’m passing it on to you. I’m praying it helps you read your Bible with confidence and purpose!
Please let me know if you try SOAP’ing with your Bible and email me your favorite SOAP’s at Emily@messyworship.com.
I can’t wait to hear from you!!!
Prayer: Dear Lord, it blows my mind that you can give me the same understanding of your words that you gave your very first disciples. Thank you for giving us your words and your truth so that we can make decisions with wisdom and grace. Help us to carve out the time every day to learn more about you! Amen.