“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”Philippians 5:8
But First, Fill Up Your Plate With Some Good Stuff
In my last post, I shared how important it was to load up your spiritual plate with good things. Things that were true, honorable, just, pure, etc. The things that Paul talked about in Philippians 5:8. One way you can find out all the goodness God has to offer is to take a look into the Bible and see for yourself. Even if you don’t have a Bible on your bookshelf, you can have it right at your fingertips. Just download the YouVersion Bible app onto your phone. You will find tons of things there to help you get started. You can even find a reading plan there I created called Be Devoted among some great authors and teachers. (I feel incredibly lucky finding myself listed with their names.) The reading plan focuses on what the early church and how their practices strengthen and connected them.
One of my very favorite ways to investigate God’s word is to SOAK in it. The acronym SOAK stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Kneel.
Scripture + Observation
The SOAK method takes a portion of Scripture—let’s say three or four verses at a time—and investigates what it means. My practice is to write out the passage into my journal then take time to Observe what they say and how they say it. I may take time to look up words used in the original language of Greek or Hebrew. Finding this information can be done on the internet. The same goes for the customs of the times. Knowing how people lived sometimes helps us to see why things were said the way they were. I also use the English dictionary. This practice gives depth to the words that are familiar to my language. I add these thoughts to my journal, as well.
I then go on to look for how this example or instruction might Apply to my own life. How might I live better if I embraced what the words were teaching? Could it make me a better person? If I applied the lesson, would it help me to endure hardship better, love others more, or make wise decisions? What is the passage saying that I need to hear? Those thoughts about how God’s words apply to my life join the verses I’ve written out and my observations in my journal.
That brings us to Kneel. The picture of kneeling makes me think of a couple of things. One is prayer. Usually, this is when I acknowledge who God is, how I need Him and ask Him to help guide me through the process of learning His ways. It’s a way to communicate with God that doesn’t take specialized training or words, just an open heart. These prayers are added right alongside the passage of Scripture, my observations, and my applications.
The other image I see when I think of Kneel is the act of submission. I know most people hate the word submission, but don’t be afraid. It merely means yielding or bowing my will to God’s. It’s an essential part of my faith. If I am to be a follower of God, I must give Him authority to lead me, or this whole Christian life thing does not work. Submitting is where I put into practice what the Bible has taught me, trusting that God is good, and He has my best interest at heart. Both prayer and submission are necessary to successfully living in God’s ways.
So there you have my Bible study habits in a nutshell.
I have used this method quite a few years now. I started by looking up verses about peace when I was going through a difficult time, and it branched out from there. It is always an adventure. Each time I sit down to look into Scripture, I get a better view of who God is, what’s important to Him, and how I can have a life that reflects the goodness of God. And when I live that kind of life, I can reach out more effectively to others around me to share the good news the Bible contains.
If you would like to get started using the SOAK method, I, along with three other excellent Bible teachers, have produced a resource for you. Legacy: Living NOW for Future Generations is a devotional study guide that teaches the SOAK method while taking you through the book of Second Timothy. Along with step-by-step instruction for the SOAK method, you will also find prompts that will encourage you to go in search of word meanings, customs of the time, and other supportive information to deepen your understanding of the passage you are studying. And as a bonus, most lessons include a devotion to tie everything together. You can find Legacy: Living NOW for Future Generations on Amazon.
I hope whatever you do, you take time to load up on all the goodness God has to offer. There are loads of resources out there to help you get the most from your study time from blogs, to Bible studies, to podcasts, to study guides, to research tools, and more. Two of my all-time favorite Bible studies in print are A Women’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place by Beth Moore and Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry and Richard Blackaby.
Do you have some resources that you like? Please tell us what your favorites are. Let’s generate a list for readers to choose from.