how to read the bible.
Let's begin by stating the obvious: The best thing you can do is actually just read it. We don't want to make things more complicated than they actually are.
That said, sometimes it's possible to open the Bible and start reading it and just feel a big, gaping, "Huh?" in our souls. It's supposed to feed us, excite us, direct us … but all we feel is, "Huh?" And then we wonder, "Did I miss something? Is there a better way to do this?"
There are many ways that Christians have read the Bible throughout the centuries. You can study it, analyze it, get into the history, the meanings of various words, go "deep." You can read slowly -- just a verse or two, and memorize; soak in it.
Here we want to introduce you to a simple way of reading the Bible that 10s of 1000s of Christians have found helpful through the years. We call it the "S.O.A.P." method. The acronym stands for: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. Specifically, this is how you do it:
(1) Read the SCRIPTURE. Read it and re-read it. Read it slowly. Read it in more than one translation. As you “bump into” words, phrases, ideas ... slow down. Circle them or underline them in your Bible. Read it again.
(2) Make OBSERVATIONS. Why do those words or phrases or ideas jump out at you? What do they seem to be saying? Grab a piece of paper and begin writing things down. Asking questions. Making notes to yourself. What do you think the text is really saying? How might this have been understood by the first people to read it?
(3) Begin to APPLY it to your life. What do you think you can (or need to) learn from the text? What might God be wanting to say to you right now? How might your life be different? More like Jesus’ life? What actions might you take as a result of reflecting on this? Is there someone you need to talk to? Something you need to do?
(4) PRAY about it. Begin an on-going conversation with God about what his text is saying and how you might live it out. Often people even journal their prayers. They begin to turn the text and their learnings from it directly into prayer to God.
Now ... MIX it all together. In truth, SOAPING is not a one-step-at-a-time thing. You begin by praying. Then you’re reading, and while you’re reading you’re praying, asking God what he wants to say to you. Then you’re observing, but while you’re observing, you’re already reflecting on how this applies to you. Why it stands out to you. And then you’re praying again, and re-reading again, getting even more out of it ... you get the idea.
The Back Story
A lot of times when we're reading the Bible, we're left wondering, "What's going on here? We feel like we just walked into the middle of a movie. "Why did he say that to her? Isn't she with them? No?! I thought she was with them! Are they good guys or bad guys?" We don't know the story!
Would you like to know the Story? Click here for a TerraNova weekend message where we took one weekend service and told the whole story of the Bible in a single message.