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Experiencing the Bible in Today's Life without Going Out of Your Way
A Chance Encounter in the Anglican Resource Centre
It was eleven days into 2012 when I was sorting out the books that the priest brought over from Kuching for sale. Seven months went by since I begun my soul searching and ministry exposure at the Parish Office. I probably had over a hundred books to go through, label and record. But one in particular stood out: The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro.
I may be 26 in October, but I cannot say that I have had a consistent amount of spirituality. Before June 2011, I only attend church for the sake of attending - thus, poor participation. I'm the typical nominal Anglican. On this journey, I needed to know more about God and His call for me. And this book, I thank God, has showed me an easy way to walk through life.
Cordeiro introduced me to a the simple S.O.A.P. technique of Bible study and reflection. I must say that reading the Bible has changed for me. I'm no longer looking for "magic verses" to invoke for protection. My mind is not confined to the "feel good" portions. I begin to appreciate the Bible in it's totality: the good and the bad records in God's Holy Scripture.
Scripture: The Anchor and Key
Begin by reading the portion of the Holy Bible. I recommend having a daily reading plan. I go about by referring to the Lectionary 2012 for the use by the Anglican Church in the Province of South East Asia.
In that portion, say John 6: 1 - 21, give it some thought and jot down the verse that stands out the most. Which verse caught your attention? Which verse moved or moves you?
This verse is what you write down in your journal or notebook. This is your Scripture.
Do you use Bible Commentaries?
Do you use Bible Commentaries for your Private Bible Study?
Observation: Being Still and Listen
The Bible Study is meant for you to know more about God and God's Word. This daily exercise is designed to allow God to speak to you - experiencing what God wants you to know from His Word. Therefore, in the observation, you observe based on what you have read.
How did you get there? What was the flow before and after that verse? What was happening surrounding that verse? Was it a conversation? With whom? Was it a speech? From who to whom?
What can you find with your own faculty and experience from the Scripture? Refrain from using commentaries. Commentaries are the comments and meditations of the authors. How can a 59 year old white middle class American, living in urban Hawaii, relate to a 25 year old Asian living in the suburbs? The two would notice different things. Plus, commentaries tend to limit your perspectives to what is "acceptable" per the reference.
Besides that, be honest. The Bible is God's record of how He tries to reconcile us to Him. It is our beacon and our guide. It is the light onto our path. The Bible records both the good and the bad: Peter and Paul's devotion, Paul's contempt for Christ, Thomas' disbelief, salvation, David's adultery, David's victory etc. The Bible isn't a feel good document. It is there for us in goodness and in weakness.
Observe to listen to God. What occurrences or details strike you?
Application: From Word to Being
Based on the observation, what can you learn from the Scripture? What can you apply in your own life?
You are sitting at God's feet to feed on God's Word and be fed with the Bread of Life. This is a time to reflect on how closely you follow the Scripture. If you aren't, how are you falling short? What can you immediately do?
It is tempting to apply the observation, the wisdom and the revelation from God through His Living Word on others. It is tempting to see how your community or friends fall short of this. But you are not doing this for them. You are doing this for yourself.
Remember that a Bible Study is meant to help us to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally to be like Christ. We are not to judge.
Write down what you can apply and apply it in your life: it may be applied while you are in trouble, it may be applied in thanksgiving. It may even be a guide. But, having all these written down, you can refer back.
Prayer: For Courage and Consistency
This is rather unique to SOAP. I took for granted prayer for years because it is likened to a Christian's code word for "I don't want to have anything to do with you. Here is my prayer. Now leave!"
But Cordeiro convinced me otherwise. Prayer is important in our lives. Prayers range from the asking for something to thanking God for something. Really, it is profound. We have a hard time expressing or asking something from our leaders (prime minister, president, governor, king etc), but we are privileged to ask from God.
In the SOAP technique, we write down our prayers. The prayer can be simple and short, or it can be elaborate. Whatever you are praying for, it must be connected with the Scripture, Observation and Application that you did. Your prayer sums up what you learn and what you want to be.
Besides that, your prayer is also your vow in supplication to God. When you pray to be, you promise to do in faith, knowing that God will guide, strengthen and bless you. Your "Amen" is your agreement to the bargain.