Saturday, September 12, 2009

Front Page Comments Post Part II...a bit long but what is on my mind.

Twenty odd years ago, a friend of mine would joke he spent 8 hours a day in the Word. When the statement drew response or perhaps someone was suckered-in to momentary belief, Tim would answer with a gleeful grin that he named his bed, "The Word." The sign hung over his bed, if we wanted to come see.

craig v. said...
"I believe I would give more legitimacy to regular (daily) Bible reading. I agree that there are abuses and misunderstandings. Perhaps an analogy would help clarify my view. I'm married and have a relationship with my wife. We are together much of the day, but that doesn't mean I'm really listening to her. I suffer from the male ability to look and sound like I'm with her even when I'm not. If our communication begins to decay, it would make sense for us to agree to a regular time together where we focus on one another. Sadly, I might still hear her words and not really listen, but that doesn't mean the discipline of a regular meeting is a bad idea. It only means I can use it poorly. Given how easily distracted we are, it's not a huge stretch for me to see (at least of myself) that even though God is in me through Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I'm still quite capable of not listening. A daily time in His Word, where He speaks and I focus on listening, makes sense to me."

craig v., (conversing not challenging) I certainly understand both your discipline and the rationale for it. By "legitimacy" I wonder if you are making a personal statement or if you intend an application across the board for believers. Could I not make a similar statement to support what I have described for myself? I would need to state as you do, "I agree that there are abuses and misunderstandings." But with that qualifier, I uphold a traditional view that I have adopted as my own.

Of course, in my case I am actually upholding a variant view from the traditional. Or am I? Consider the early Christians largely did not read and the letters, which would later be canonized, were circulated by slow travel overland and often not in the hands of the ones who could read. (At least early on and the Torah excepted.) As a result, a majority of believers would describe a daily guiding from the Holy Spirit as their spiritual sustenance and account hearing the written Word as a secondary experience. In this situation the tables would be reversed, and I would hold the "traditional' or common view and you would be seeking to establish the legitimacy of the variant view. Despite their lack of daily reading, their faith stunned the population around them, extant writings from non-believers of the day giving such testimony.

I recognize the counter-point is I have the Bible and do read, so I have a responsibility to utilize both. Let's mush through this a bit. I have three thoughts. First, I have been very careful to NOT suggest someone would waste their efforts in daily Bible reading. It is a very valuable practice, clearly and certainly. Especially when, as you describe in the analogy, someone is in the active maintenance of the most valuable relationship and practicing daily reading to listen attentively to the One speaking through the Word.

My second thought--thinking about responsibility in maintenance of our relationship with God. Consider in comparison the following two experiences:

A. A modern American Christian (Mac for short) with a blue or white collar job rises with enough time carved out each morning to spend twenty minutes in a quiet time: reading the Bible for ten and praying for ten. Within the fellowship in which Mac participates, this has been presented as the needed minimum for daily devotionals regardless of the time of day it is practiced. The stated goal from his pastor's point of view is thirty minutes or more. Mac being a relatively young but devoted believer is seeking to establish the minimum in his life. He has determined it must be a morning routine to ensure it occurs, as having skipped a time or two, his busy days made later times impossible; and at the end of the day, he was frustrated with himself for failing to meet with God that day. So! Mornings are a must.

MAC is growing in his excitement for God. He is involved in a weekly meeting with three accountability partners, signed up for a men's retreat next month and currently studying much of the Bible through the workbook of Experiencing God by Blackaby. Some mornings he actually spends thirty minutes in his study and follows with prayer while commuting. He feels his relationship with his wife is improving, and he is growing spiritually. Through the workday God comes to mind occasionally, but Mac experiences blocks in the day, hours even, where his focus and thoughts are on the job before him. Mac wants to think about God more often, even pray throughout the day. His experience to this point in his walk is that work grabs his thinking and doesn't let go. He wonders if praying without ceasing is possible in the modern world, knowing he fails that maxim miserably. Mac will end his day reading a scripture with his wife, then they have a prayer together and a bit of reflection shared about God. Mac on his pillow now, quietly speaks to God about his day before sleep comes. Does this man "walk" with God? Who could tell him he does not or that his daily Bible reading is not legitimate?

Total time in a day when Mac "listens" (assuming Mac is not playing the male game of pretending to listen) to God, as you set up in the analogy of dedicated time with the wife? Counting his study, prayer while commuting, sporadic times of acknowledging God through the hours of work and his ending exchanges with his wife and with God in the solace before sleep equals... does it matter? Rather, is he at peace in his knowing God and satisfied he has fulfilled his responsibility before God?

B. Mac's brother, rises daily and spends an unmeasured amount of time meditating on God, usually 15 minutes. Some mornings, the meditation leads to a Bible inquiry or the readings from Christian authors who are reflecting over the scriptures and represent the Christian walk across centuries. The reading of the Bible (or in the context of a Christian author) is just a verse, but it turns into a check on the Greek meaning of a word. Throughout the day, Mac's brother considers the Greek usage and analyzes the meaning in the context of several different circumstances in his life. While commuting or walking to the water cooler at the office but in all time not devoted to focused work, this man continues his reflection on the meaning and is waiting on God for illumination or inspiration over the word/verse in question. Throughout the day, as well, in almost every exchange with a co-worker, this man is in quiet prayer over the conversation, over the question/ professional problem involved, or the spiritual state of the other human. After he's home and the day's duties ebb such that he feels his time is his own, the man's interest is stirred and he spends thirty minutes more with a lexicon and Bible comparing with other verses where the same word is used and records notes.

Or more often during the morning meditation a memorized scripture comes to mind. Mac's brother reflects on the scripture several minutes without needing to open the Bible, the Bible is open in his heart, and he feels no complusion to open the material Bible. His day, however follows a pattern similar to that described above of waiting on God for illumination/inspiration and holding many moments spent with others before the Presence of God in his heart, a talk/prayer. Regardless of whether or not the literal earthly Bible is opened for reading in the morning, Mac's brother devotes an almost continuing exchange with God on a daily basis, sometimes listening, sometimes talking, sometimes worshiping with singing running through his head or joyfully out loud in the privacy of the car, but always, always in awareness and dependence on God's Presence. A week may go by before the literal Bible is opened once again, however, the fellowship with God is daily and nearly unending.

I know the comparison is artificial. However, within the confines of the stated construct, is Mac or his brother in need of correction in his approach to walking with God? I think it must be left to an individual how the responsibility acknowledged as his or hers before God is lived out in seeking Him. Is time spent in daily reading really the issue? Does remembering a scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit and being stimulated by it less legitimate than opening and viewing the printed word? I think most would agree it is not.

It seems to me your concern, and that of most others, is the issue of maintenance of the relationship.

With that in mind, my final thought: Turn the spending time with the wife analogy around just a bit. The husband decides that his wife needs to know where he stands without doubt on a few things. The primary understanding he desires his wife always remember is he loves her unconditionally, that she might be confident in returning love to him and have that love bring order to her feelings toward others. These thoughts he writes to her that she may always know and return to the letters whenever she may choose for assurance or clarity. He writes repeatedly until he has a collection of letters, which he one day gives her as a gift. She is thrilled. Only now, every day when they join for dinner and he expects to talk, she instead pulls out the letters. She is concerned that she dutifully maintain her commitment to his stated love and constantly rereads the letters before him and makes comments to him about the contents. She is consumed with maintenance of the relationship in this manner but never ever again searches him out with real time conversation or even her eyes to connect with him as a person. For her, reading the letters in front of him is the source and practice of all communication with him.


craig v. said...

Great thoughts ded, thanks for thinking about this so deeply. I can't respond to everything in one comment, but it may be helpful to start by underlining some important points on which we agree. Then we can let the discussion sharpen our understanding. I agree that reading the Bible doesn't magically make one more spiritual. Also, when I mentioned abuses, I had in mind some of the things you point to. There is a temptation to focus on the externals of reading (time, number of chapters and even medium) rather than on listening to the Lord. The 'daily' and the time of the day aren't the important things. It's also easy to mistake study, as valuable as it is, for listening. We study so that we can hear past all the noise of cultural differences between us and the text. Any other kind of study just puffs up.

As far as the early church, it's a little difficult for me to tell how much they read the Bible since we only have records of those who could write. As you point out, this would have been a minority. From my little bit of study, however, it seems that that minority spent a lot of time reading the Old Testament since their writings include so many references and allusions to Scripture. Also, it seems clear that the teaching ministry was stressed. This was, according to Acts, a primary duty of an apostle. So I think we could make a case that the challenges of illiteracy were as much overcome by teaching as they were by personal relationship with the Lord. I agree that it makes little difference whether we listen to the Scripture we have in us or the Scripture on the page. The former might even be more important since we know it more intimately. The question I would ask is how did that Scripture get into our minds in the first place? Though God could implant Scripture directly into our minds, he doesn't seem to do this normally. The normal way that Scripture enters is by reading or hearing.

Your closing analogy is well done and I'll need to give it some thought. It is true that it seems odd to read a letter in the presence of the one who wrote it. On the other hand this may simply mean that the analogy breaks down here. The reality is that God has given us a Bible and I do think it is central to listening to him.

Josiah said...

I do not live up to my ideals of discipline in almost every area of life - excercise, food, work, creative, prayer, and Bible reading. Yet I am far better for the goals I set as I continue to reach upward. I think this reality is common to man and there are two common dangers associated with this reality which relate. These are self condemnation on the one hand and laziness on the other. Your example A) shows us the self condemnation side as contrasted with B) integration and balance. There is also C) Mac does not read at all because we are all sinners and the Bible has been translated, is written by the hands of men, and is too hard to understand anyway. We just need to know God is love, right? When this view is contrasted with the same B) the new backdrop of C) gives us a different emphasis. The inegrated and balanced approach can be described by the beauty of the discipline of the Word in its manifold wisdom emphasized by the person who prayerfully meditates on its import throughout the day. The commonality of B)whether contrasted with A or C is the Bible is held in sincere prayer and loving meditation by one seeking to humbly obey. This attitude holds true whether God is teaching one to rest in His grace or move forward into greater time in the Word
Since the giving of Law and the Prophets the written Word of God found a place in humanity. Whether illiterate hearing occasional letters or involved in proving Christ through the Law and the Prophets in a synagogue- early Christians were seeking to integrate prayerfully God's Word into their life B)

ded said...

craig v.,

I so enjoy and readily admit my need of interaction with Christians such as yourself.

I think we are most likely in total agreement in our regard for the Bible as a source of spiritual instruction and inspiration.

All of these thoughts on the subject of what knowledge is seek to establish that spiritual knowledge is a spiritual state of the heart.

Spirituality uses the intellect, but is an end beyond the intellect, in my view. With these in mind, I have sought to articulate that the Bible is not an end. It is a step ladder. It lifts one to a high rung, from which the sight of the heart gains instruction and support. One need not look down to know the ladder is what not only brought you up but remains where one is standing.

Life in the Spirit is the same as life in the Living Word and life in Christ is the goal. It is inextricably tied to the Bible and I will continue to read the Bible. I think you understand that I am not advocating a Christian does not need the Bible.

ded said...
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ded said...


I think you may be describing the state where one allows the cares of this life to grow up and choke the life of God out of the heart.

Knowing what to do with laziness or anything else that works in the believer's life against the spirit of God is part of the spiritual knowledge we seek to develop. For this, we not only need the Bible and its spirit revelation, but we also need one another.

Thanks again for participating over here in the Wildwood. You are a blessing to me!

Terry said...

While listening to a Podcast by Bill Johnson called, "Anticipating the Glory" I was intrigued by his story about Mary and Martha. The juxtaposition was between Mary spending time in His presence and Martha making a meal that He might never eat. Presence vs. Christian activities. It seems like you have hit the nail on the head—we must allow for relationship to take its many forms and then help one another on our individual and collective journeys.

ded said...


The challenge becomes to have our faith open us to what we see in the Word. May you and I have our hearts filled by that journey together.

ded said...
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ded said...

I have thought over my response to you and realize what I used as the mark of our agreement, is in fact where we find ourselves discussing two sides of the coin.

For you, the Bible is the source of inspiration, where I have called it a source.

I do it consider it "the" source in the sense it is where what I am attempting to describe as the inspiration and leading of the in-dwelling Spirit begins, and it is also the place where the knowledge is found which creates the construct intellectually for the spirit-lead life to be safely practiced. However, with testimonies from Muslims who live without the written Bible but have found Jesus through a spiritual encounter, it must at least be allowed that God is not limited to using His written word when it comes to redemption. The heart that seeks Him, will be rewarded whether a mind has the written word or not.

Having the Bible, one should never neglect it contents. In that, I am with you 100%.