Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Take a Little Scripture, Put It In Your Pocket...Save It For a Rainy Day

There is certainly nothing wrong with that. The right verse at the right time has been a great encouragement to many. But I've been pondering the problem with a pattern of feeding on the word this way. It's like spiritually starving yourself on a few peanuts you carry around in your pocket. After a while your malnourishment catches up with you.

I also apply this analogy to when scripture is "carried" around and quoted for use by the person needing that one biblical quote that makes valid their point in conversation. It can just be thrown out there as emphasis but rarely is it studied for context or meaning. Many times I have been swayed into an idea by someone I respected doing this to me. I did not know the word enough myself to discern their proper usage of it.

As I'm in this new and different mode in my life right now that I spoke of before, I feel the need to purge my impressions and influences down to (1) what God's word itself says and (2) who God wants me as the individual he made, to be. Therefore I'm growing weary and shockingly considering ridding myself of books related to conduct rather than concept study.

For instance, I have long been a fan of Elizabeth George books ("A Woman after God's own Heart" books). Many of the things she has to say are good but they are all on the definitions of conduct for a godly woman. I use to go more to these to find out what I was supposed to be. They have some great example to offer but they really are just another version of looking to others to see what defines a godly woman instead of intimately seeking the Lord through study of His word, for Him to show me the conduct of THIS godly woman (or aspiring one anyway:). I remember one example in particular where Elizabeth George mentions that a woman ought to keep the house so well, and wipe the surfaces of everything before heading out the door each time in order for herself and her family to always come home to a clean house. It sounded great and godly at the time, but really? Is that really what defines godliness? Or is it just the expressed preference of one christian lady writer and a reflection of her own personality. Is the woman who is not so tidy not as godly of a woman and not a "woman after God's own heart?". Hmmm.

Please don't think I'm nitpicking...there are many good things to be gleaned out there in the world of Christian women's books. I'm just feeling the need to get right to the source more. I have found that my understanding is not as great when a women's book tells me "now turn to this scripture here, and that one there" after trying to back up a concept on womanly conduct that she has presented. THIS IS NOT BAD, and I'm not saying it is. I'm looking for better. I'm looking for 100% pure, with no flavors added.

So, I have greatly enjoyed the inductive study method through the tools of Kay Arthur's Precept Study Guides. (You can find out more about this at the Precept Ministries Site) These along and many times buddied up with the wonderful teaching of our Pastor, who goes through large sections, usually books, of scripture at a time, have changed my understanding and comprehension of scripture so much more. For instance my Pastor is in the book of Acts right now so I am using the Precept Study Guide for Acts. God is always faithful to fine tune my understanding of the conduct of my life every time I go straight to his word. It's just starting to feel like getting to the point instead of beating around the bush and having to filter out how one person prefers to do certain things and label them "godly" or "ungodly".

What I do appreciate in Christian writing more and more are books that are conceptual. Those concepts or topics on understanding aspects of scripture or God himself. John Piper, Jerry Bridges, Randy Alcorn, and John MacArthur are just some of the tip top favorite examples. These men have been pouring themselves over God's word in the inductive study methods for sure, for many years. God has opened their hearts with passions for different topics and enlightened their understanding and desire to share. Those are the books I feel I'm not wasting my time on.

So the bottom line is that as I'm asking myself "Lord, who do you want me to be?" it is only one of many questions my heart asks. The others are "Lord, who are you?" or "Lord what does it mean to suffer in life when we know you? or "Lord, what exactly is your plan for humanity?"...and many others. The first question I'm finding is better answered going right to God's word and letting him intimately show me. Who he wants me to be cannot be found in the hundreds of women's books on what a woman should be. Yes, I could read them all and I could probably put together a picture that's true but that would be after I spent hours sifting out what was NOT me and what was or what was scripture and what was preference or personality. Scripture is living and breathing and equip for all teaching and conduct. Why not go right to the source?

Scripture is more than a verse in my pocket when I need it or more than a tool for one person to validate their way of doing things. It is an intimate understanding and connection to God who desires to show us personally where and how and why we should walk. To do that I need to learn in a conceptional and inductive way. Once I've done that, then I can carry that verse in my pocket knowing from whence it came and what it means in context to the whole. It's the bigger picture that will gain my understanding, convict my heart, and light the path for my next step ahead.

It's quite a relief that God all ready knows who I'm supposed to be in him and just waiting for me to come to Him so that he may show me. I don't have to try on a bunch of other personalities for size only to find them uncomfortable and stifling.


tricia said...

I am doing my first percept study on 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude. I have learned so much about the Bible and have a better understanding of how to study the Bible. I look forward to finishing this one and starting another.

I think it is important to memorize scripture, but I think you need to understand all the verses around it. Not just pick a verse that reinforces your position. It not about proving your point. It is about growing in your faith and understanding what God is saying.

Joy said...

God has given you some good insight here in this post and I wholeheartedly agree. There are a lot of personal opinions out there and they can even viewed as legalistic in some ways. Trust me I grew up among them. Thank God I've been set free from that.
When I started reading your post I'm thinking she needs to do Precepts...then I got to the paragraph that you were. I thought that was funny I was thinking that.
I am on my last week of the Isaiah Precept Study. This is the first time I've done one of Kay Arthurs Precepts studies and now I'm hooked. I love how she lets scripture interpret scripture.
I can't wait to see what we'll do in the fall. I've learned so much.
Do Isaiah if you get an opportunity.


Alicia said...

I'm with you on memorization and I think out of the precepts is a great way to do it. Complete the study and memorize key verses of point. That way, they remind you of what you have understood in more deapth.
How funny...and refreshing to hear that others and enjoying these meathods. They make going back to little topical studies so less invigorating.
Trust me, I'm very excited to eventually get to each of her books! Trish is all ready saving her 1 and 2nd Peter for me!:)