You might not know this, but I am a record holder. To my knowledge, this record has stood the test of time for almost three decades. I’d say that’s pretty good! What is this record you might ask? I have made more Sunday School teachers quit after teaching me on Sunday mornings from Plymouth Wesleyan Church (the church my family and I attended while growing up). Most pastors probably wouldn’t be proud of this, but I am if I’m honest.
I’m sure there were many reasons as to why those amazing volunteers, who sacrificially and generously gave of their time and energy to teach me the basics of the Bible, decided to quit. One particular teacher told me that I asked too many questions about the Bible, especially when I discovered the books of Songs of Solomon and Ezekiel. Those are some pretty graphic books. I would read those newly discovered passages loudly and proudly wondering why the author of Songs of Solomon talked about a ladies breasts being like the fawns of a gazelle. I’d ask the teacher what fawns of a gazelle look like and if they really compared to breasts.
All joking aside, no one really ever explained to me, in a way I could understand, WHY and HOW I should read the Bible so that it would add value to my life. I simply started reading the Bible when I got bored in church.
Years went by. I kept reading my Bible in church when I was bored. I’d ask questions sometimes. Sometimes I would receive an answer and others, I didn’t. I didn’t really know why I was reading the Bible other than to occupy my mind
When I was a teenager a volunteer leader in our church named Ed, started hanging out with me. We would go to Burger King every Wednesday and talk about my week. One week he mentioned to me about reading my Bible in church. He informed me that he knew of my reputation for Sunday School mishaps. We both laughed about my standing up proudly and reading Songs of Solomon in front of the whole class.
Ed asked a question about how I applied what I was reading to my everyday life and how the scripture added value to my life. I didn’t know what he meant. He opened his old Bible to the book of Mark. We started reading all the way to chapter 5. I thought I was big stuff for reading five whole chapters of the Bible at once. I thought for sure I was going to get a gold star from God that day.
Ed asked me what I noticed or what I observed while reading. One of the things I noticed, among several others, was that people were possessed by evil spirits. Ed and I had a great discussion about that while I ate my Whopper with cheese. I noticed that in chapter one and in chapter five Jesus encountered people who were possessed by these evil spirits. The strange thing to me was that these evil spirits recognized Jesus. They knew who Jesus’ real identity was. The Holy One of God. While religious leaders were confused about who Jesus was. This was odd to me. Ed and I continued to talk about all the other things we noticed and observed in these five chapters.
Ed then asked me one of the most important questions of my life, “Marc, how can you apply that to your life?”. I stared for a long time, took at least three bites of my Whopper, ate my french fries and looked him and said, “Uh, I don’t know.” He asked the same question again and I still responded the same way.
After a few attempts, Ed started blurting things out to help me apply my observations. He said, “The evil spirits knew exactly who Jesus was right?” “Were they right with God?” “Was God happy with them?” I looked at him with french fries hanging out of my mouth like they were fangs realizing for the first time in my life that I was on the verge of maturing. I didn’t know how I felt about ‘maturing’! Ed patiently waited for me to defang my french fries and waited for my answer.
I looked at him and simply replied, “No, God wasn’t happy with evil spirits.” “But they knew who Jesus was, right?” Ed replied. “The Bible says they did,” I said. Ed pointed out that knowing Jesus and knowing who He is doesn’t mean that a person is right with God. It’s only part of the equation.
Over the next several minutes, Ed and I talked knowing Jesus. I honestly assumed that I just needed to know the right answers, like my faith was basically a standardized test like the SAT or something. Realizing that knowledge wasn’t enough rattled me. Ed and I had several conversations sitting in a booth at that Burger King and this was one of the most impactful conversations of my life. It’s probably why I remember it 20 years later.
Ed helped me to not just read the Bible but to understand what I was reading in ways that would actually apply to my life. By reading the Bible and applying what I read, it helped me mature in my new relationship with Jesus.
He explained the S.O.A.P. method to me.
S. Stands for Scripture. The part of the Bible I was reading. (Mark 1-5) I don’t recommend reading that much on a typical day, but it worked for Ed and me.
O. Stands for Observations. Things I noticed. For example, I noticed that the evil spirits were in church and they recognized Jesus.
Stands for Application. How would I apply what I read to my life? What next right step should I take to put into action that application? After my conversation with Ed and reading Mark 1-5, I realized that knowledge wasn’t enough to be right with God. I discovered that it took a personal relationship with Jesus to be made right with God.
P. Stands for Prayer. Praying that Jesus would help me apply what I read.
I strongly believe that the amount of the Bible a person reads is not important. I think the amount a person applies to his or her life is the crucial part. I have kept a S.O.A.P. journal for several years now. I think this is one of the most helpful tools as I read the Bible and mature in my relationship with Jesus.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
WHy a blog?
RE.THINK Church values being a church that is casual. Casual Church goes far beyond the way we dress, it's more about we expect people to take this journey at their own pace. We are here to journey with everyone. So we've created a blog so people can check us out before they show up for a service.