Thursday, May 21, 2009
Simple. Practical. Real. I’ve been preparing recently for a series coming up in about a month that will help our church family rediscover the power and beauty of the classic spiritual practice of Scripture reading and reflection. For me, so many approaches to Bible reading I’ve heard over the years are either so boring or too complex to be an ongoing, meaningful practice. I’ve found what works best for me is always the simplest and most natural things.
That’s why I like the simple approach to Scripture reading that my friend and mentor, John Mark Hicks put me on to. He writes about it in his blog: http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/reading-the-gospel-of-mark/ Here’s the approach he suggests, taken from Stu Cameron, using the acronym S-O-A-P:
S-Scripture: prayerfully read and reflect on a section of scripture, with the expectation of one who wants to know God’s heart. You might even write out the text word for word in a journal, as a way of focusing your attention.
O-Observe: note any significant words, phrases, ideas, or images that connect with you. I like the questions Paul Watson gives here: what does this passage reveal about God and about humanity? I also like how he will write out a simple summary of the message in his own words, as if he’s sharing it with a friend over coffee.
A-Apply: ask God to reveal how this passage needs to impact our lives. What needs to change, what needs to begin, what needs to stop—what would it look like to live this truth?
P-Pray: simply respond to what God has revealed in his Word; it is a conversation after all. It could be thanks for a promise or grace given, a confession for falling short, a request for strength to endure or to change, or any number of things.
You can see Stu’s full explanation of this at stucameron.typepad.com/what_matters/2008/02/soap.html I really like this approach. It’s refreshingly simple. I tried journaling using this model today in my reading of 2 Samuel 7:22-24, as I’m reading through the David story.
Scripture: “How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself…”
Observations: God’s uniqueness is one thing that makes him so astounding. Unlike all of the imposters in my life that contend for my devotion, this God is real. He actually delivers on the promises he makes (fulfillment, power, enduring joy). He offers so much more than the emptiness and shame that follows the momentary thrill of the idols of our age. His uniqueness also restores our own sense of worth. God has chosen to show up at the Cross, the Red Sea, and throughout history. When he does, it’s always to rescue and to relate to real, everyday people. And this gives people like you and me infinite worth.
Application & Prayer: I ask you, my God and King, to direct my full attention and devotion to you alone. By your grace, I will seek to practice this devotion by putting “my treasure” of time, focus, energy, and money where you want my heart to go. I also ask you to help me consciously define my worth by what you have already done, not by my performance at work or in any other superficial value system. Also, please enable me to see and treat others with this vision of worth as well, as they are priceless in your eyes.