After years of being a Pastor and a Christian I am continually surprised by how much God's Word can teach me on a daily basis. I can read a bible verse that I have preached on and even written seminary papers on and I will still get something new out of it today. The reason is that God's Word is a living thing. He speaks to us new everyday though scripture. If we are not praying and reading His Word everyday then we are missing out on that glorious conversation with Him.
What does that conversation between God and I look like? Well, I am glad you rhetorically asked. I have tried all different kinds of devotional systems but there is one that I have stuck with, S.O.A.P. The S.O.A.P. system is a simple, quick and easy way to be in conversation with God daily. Now that I have been doing this system for about a year, it takes me less than 10 minutes a day. Believe me, if it weren't simple, quick and easy I would not have been able to stick with it. I am very easily distracted by all the business... oh wait did I take the trash out this morning? Sorry, never mind.
3 ways the S.O.A.P. keeps my conversation with God going.
1. The S.O.A.P system gives you a small list of scripture to choose from everyday. If you do all the readings everyday then you can read through the whole bible in one year. I, however, am not that disciplined or ambitious. I pick one chapter to read a day. Then I mark that chapter in my S.O.A.P journal so that I will pick a different chapter next year on the same day. I figure it will take about three years to read devotionally through the whole bible. My advice is skip over the days you miss and come back to them next year. If you try and do a bunch of days at once to catch up, you may just get overwhelmed and never come back to it at all. Remember, if you miss a day, God's grace is sufficient for you. Just pick up with todays reading and move on.
2. The S.O.A.P system encourages you to write down what God is saying to you. If Paul or Isaiah or John never wrote down what God told them we wouldn't have much to read. Writing your devotions down will give you a history of what God has done in your life. Even if you never go back and look at it, writing it down also helps you understand God's Word better and retain it better. Writing it down makes you form complete thoughts that you may have missed otherwise. That means you will need a journal dedicated to your conversation with God.
3. The S.O.A.P system gives you a formula to follow to get the most out of your devotional time. This system doesn't just help you read the bible, it helps you apply it to your life and even pray about how you can grow or what you can give thanks for. That formula is: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.
Scripture: Find todays date on the S.O.A.P. reading list. Read 1 chapter from the daily reading list. Then write down 1-3 verses in your journal next to a big "S." When you are picking verses just write down the one that sticks out to you in the moment, even if you don't know why.
Observation: Write down what's happening in the verse or verses that you chose. Record a few observations as if you were describing what's going on to someone else. It also helps also to identify if the verse is law (convicting us of sin/ guidelines for how to live) or is the verse gospel (the goodness of God's grace through Jesus Christ).
Application: Ask yourself the question, "What does this text have to do with me?" Then write the answer in your journal.
Prayer: Finally, write a short prayer giving God thanks and asking God to help you live out this text in your life. Then pray that prayer.
That's it, S.O.A.P.! I am going to be posting some of my personal S.O.A.P. journal entries on this blog so look for them and learn the system yourself! See below for a real example from my journal:
Matthew chapter 4:
S - 8 the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
O - Satan tempts Jesus to worship Him by showing Him worldly splendor. Jesus uses scripture to counter the devil's attempt to deceive Him and to drive Satan away.
A - When I am temped by the splendor of this world, I can use scripture to remind me that God's splendor is greater. Knowing God's Word can help me not fall into temptation.
P - Lord God, Thank you for your life giving word, help it to always be on my lips and in my heart so that I will not fall into temptation or worship the things of this world. Amen