They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
Jonah 2:8 (KJV)
As a small child I was made to read the Bible. Not in a forceful way but rather corporately, in a communal fashion. My grandfather, being one of the church founders, was very serious with his faith. My earliest memory was of arising to prayer, scripture reading, and the singing of a devotional hymn… every morning… all year long. I thought it was the norm. I could not conceive that this was not done by everyone everywhere. Of course, as my young life progressed, that bubble found its pin very quickly. My grandfather passed away and I left the Mississippi farm to return to my parents in Chicago. It was the beginning of a marked change in my understanding and view of the world. Mom and Dad certainly weren’t adherents of my grandparents practices, and I soon found out that most of the people in my immediate world were not prescribers either. As I reflect back on that early time of my life I thank God for His grace in providing me with such solid initial foundation.
Any of you who have become familiar with me through my writing know that I try to shape my views through the Will of God – as outlined through scripture. The reading of the Bible began early for me and has stuck as a practice that I not only continue but encourage others to take up as well. As I said, initially, I was made to read scripture… later I did it as a matter of habit, and then I found myself compelled to do so. It had become a part of me.
At first the Bible described the world and the people found in it. It spoke to situations and addressed issues that we all face sooner or later. Many of us see these situations and allow on some level for the Bible to guide us. it makes no difference where we stand in our faith. We don’t necessarily have to even be believers. Scripture stands as a reference point. Hopefully, it gives advice and direction to those of faith. For the non-believer, it becomes a stick in the mud to be avoided, causing a quest for an alternate source of answers. In any case it marks a line and calls for a responsive choice of action.
There is funny thing when it comes to act of making a choice. In addition to making a choice, good or bad, right or wrong… there is that instance where the ability to make a choice seems to not exist. Sometimes we find ourselves unable or unwilling to make any choice at all. Procrastination, indifference, and ignorance of the situation all fall into this category. Recently, here in Chicago we had an election, yet many neglected to vote. As we look on the 50th anniversary of Selma and the struggle for the right to vote, the battles fought, and the lives sacrificed; I wonder how it sits in the minds of all those in the African American Community who didn’t bother to vote and continue to tell themselves that it makes no difference? I ask myself how long will we continue to hear accounts in the news and other media of excessive violence, senseless killings, and seeming indifferent law enforcement officials who abuse authority and make an attempt to justify their behavior? How long will the cry go up that somebody ought to do something about this, as the people legislated to act continue to placate the situation and operate with ignorance? Just how long can we sit with blinders on waiting in hopes of a better day while making no attempt… no choice… and no effort to muster a change?
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:20 (KJV)
I started this essay discussing the merits of reading scripture, something I’ve done all my life, even when I wasn’t effectively applying it. As I said, at first it spoke to situations and occurrences that take place around our lives.
However, for me…
When we view the Bible and the message contained within it as instruction for dealing with the world, we use the Bible as a tool. As the task involved in the job changes… we change the tool. Therein lies the error. How can we set aside the Word of God… and what then will take its place?
It took me the better part of my life, reading and studying the scripture on an ongoing basis… but eventually everything changed. Or at least my understanding of it did. I realized that the Word of God was in fact the Voice of God, and that He wasn’t just speaking to, and of, the world in general… but He was speaking directly to me. It’s not in the quaking of the earth or the rush of the wind… the still small voice comes from within. It comes from diligently hiding His Word deep within you… writing it in your heart. His voice is always calling all of us… but only a few choose to listen. Of those who do hear, how many are still straddling the fence – unable or unwilling to act in obedience with a willing choice?
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
John 10:26-28 (KJV)
The Word of God is not our tool. When understood correctly, we become tools of The Word, listening to the Voice of God that employs us to change according to His Will. Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam and he became a living soul, His Word is His breath that breathes life into our being. No longer are we held in bondage by the situations of this dark world, but now we are empowered with His Divine Light and the power to bring it into submission. In the world – but not of it. Favor may not be fair but it is promised to God’s elect.