I have often said that reading the bible is a daily necessity... as essential as a shower. In fact that is exactly what it is; a shower for your heart and mind. I read the bible all the time. I love to read it just as much as I love to just stand and soak under the soothing stream of hot steamy water in my shower.
But how effective at washing away all the dirt and grime of the day is just standing in the shower like that? Unfortunately not very... Because every good shower needs a very important ingredient; SOAP.
Sure, soaking in steamy hot water is great... and it feels so good! But I never truly understood how powerful and refreshing being so squeaky clean afterwards could be until I discovered SOAP. At this point you are probably wondering what kind of crazy person spends their entire life up to this point showering without soap. Ridiculous right?! And you also may be trying to figure out what kind of relevance my showering habits have to do with reading the bible. Bear with me here... I promise it will all make sense in the end.
To understand the relevance of this analogy I need to describe what SOAP, as it applies to reading the bible, actually is. SOAP is actually an acronym that stands for:
Sounds promising right, but how do we apply this acronym? To do that you need only three things:
1- The Bible
2- A blank notebook
3- Something to write with
The application of this concept is very very simple and can be done on an individual basis or in groups. Pick a book in the bible, any book will do. Read a chapter each day and while you read pick one verse that really stands out and speaks to you. Highlight that verse and maybe even make a little date annotation off in the margin so you can reference your notebook in the future. Now whip out your journal, flip to a blank page, write the date up at the top, and begin writing, starting with the first letter of the acronym:
S: Write out the scripture you highlighted word for word. Don't forget to make note of the Book:Chapter Verse.
O: Now write out a few sentences on your observations about that verse. What about it stuck out to you? Within the context and relevance of that particular chapter, why did it capture your attention?
A: Shift your focus now onto yourself, your life, your habits and behaviors. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you write about the application of this verse. How does the wisdom in this verse apply to you? Does it challenge and/or convict you? Does it encourage you in some way? What is it about this verse that makes it powerful and relevant to you? How would you apply this wisdom to your life?
P: The final and most important step in this whole process is prayer. Prayer is the first step towards taking the wisdom you discovered here and applying it to your life. Now you have the bar of soap in your hand... time to do some scrubbing! No short cuts here, think about and write out your prayer and when you are done re-read it and pray it out loud.
If you are doing this in a group bible study, you would take time to read through the chapter together first. Then go off on your own and spend 10-15 minutes writing your journal entry. When everyone is complete the group would reconvene and share their verses, observations, and applications of it to generate discussion. An alternate method is to have the group read through the chapter on their own at home and come prepared with their SOAP in hand. It always helps to re-read the passage together and then open up the floor for discussion. A sort of SOAP show and tell. At the very end would be a prayer where each individual would read their prayer aloud. This way everyone will know how continue praying for each other.
So what is the point and relevance to all this? What does SOAP do for you? Well first and foremost it maximizes the cleansing effect of your shower as you read the Word of God. It fosters the discipline to not just stand under the hot steamy stream of water and read words on a page, but to take some action and do some scrubbing. It forces you to dig deeper, seek out those hidden difficult places water alone doesn't always reach... where dirt and grime like to collect and hide... like your belly button... or in between your toes. And it leaves your heart and mind completely refreshed afterwards; dwelling on Spirit filled thoughts. I guarantee, once you start using it... you'll wonder why you ever tried to shower without it.