Accept no Substitutes

P1150968High above a rocky stream bed, father and son step precariously along a fallen tree trunk, crossing steadily, balancing.  We mothers look on holding our breaths, silencing our cautions (and anxious disapprovals) so they can concentrate  and arrive safely at the other side

Balance.  It’s crucial.

Walking this narrow walk of faith that culminates in a Kingdom beyond the tragedies and triumphs of this temporal world requires balance.

Meanwhile an endless stream of advice is arrayed around us urging us to look to the left and the right, to look up here or over there or to watch for the devil at our feet.

Just leafing through a Christian book catalog this morning I was reminded of all the good teaching we have at our fingertips, of the teachers God has placed in the body to strengthen and instruct us in our crossing. But more than that I was struck by how prone we are to collect to ourselves favorite teachers and preachers to follow, and when they err, to follow them.

We are followers by nature, some of us anyway.  And we no sooner find someone whose teaching dovetails with our ideas of what is right, then we pop them up on a pedestal.  These become the Bestselling authors.  Their books are the ones everybody is reading (with the assumption that you will too if you hope to be spiritually healthy).   Rarely is there just one book; one bestseller must lead to another. Publishers fuel this.  Audiences demand it.   And what may have started as a God-idea gets lost in successive attempts to retain an audience.

In the church, just as in the world, there is an endless pull of personalities and trends.  We all have our favorite authors, teachers, preachers and conference speakers.  And we’re quick to latch onto the latest idea. If you’re as old as I you’ll remember the self-esteem movement and the idea of affirmations. Then spiritual warfare explained everything and we just needed to know our identity in Christ.  Even that valid notion has now been hijacked to divert us to thinking about how great we are.

There are as many formulas for living the Christian life as there are books, or so it seems. What’s more we now have blogs, FB walls, and tweets—an endless array of possibilities.  You can be successful in every facet of life. Just find the right book, or get down some spiritual disciplines or pray more, or differently or… well, you get the idea.   Every book blurb promises this will be the one to change your life.  Or is it your marriage that needs a fix?  There’s a seminar to deliver you a break-through.  I saw the promo video this week.

The Christian media world seems to run parallel to the secular one. We are consumed consumers, besieged with sales pitches, promotional videos, and ads for the latest and best ways to improve our lives be good Christians.  Even testimonies can turn into sales pitches. How do we keep our balance as we navigate all the hype and consumerism to follow Christ across the log that is this life? 

It’s not that all these things are bad or misguided.  God has gifted the church with teachers and preachers.  Books are one avenue for them to serve the Body, as are seminars and conferences, and yes, blogs.  But in our zeal to follow we can be led right off the balance beam.  When we hang onto the words of any book or teaching as though it were ‘gospel-truth’ we begin to lose our balance.  How many times have I discovered a writer I love and become a devotee of their books only to be disappointed sooner or later at some position they hold or some teaching they espouse that diverges from what I see in Scripture.  Do I then throw out all the good with the bad?  I’m tempted to.  Usually I come to my senses first and realize that no one is perfect.  No one has a perfect grasp of truth.  (Not even me?!)  We all have blind spots.

And at these moments I’m reminded again of the importance of the Word of God and how it has to be my staple diet.  It alone supplies all the nutrients I need for this walk through life. It restores balance. It restores my soul! Am I as devoted to it as I am to reading another’s ‘take’ on it?  Am I reading it for myself or merely reading digested forms? Do I spend at least as much time with the Words of God as I do the words of man?  Do I turn to it first or last when I need good counsel?

God may use a teacher, a blogger, a conference speaker or a preacher to guide my steps.  But my dependence must be first and foremost on His Word unseasoned by any human thought. It is like steak as compared to hotdogs.  They contain meat (hopefully), but The Bible is meat, without additives.  Accept no substitutes.

A couple practical ideas for infusing more of God’s Word into your days…

  • Print out a chapter you want to meditate on and tack it above you sink. I use Blue Letter Bible for this. Just pull up your chapter and press the print icon!  (Or you could photocopy a page from your Bible! Or write it out by hand…)
    Chew on a random verse while you do supper dishes, or start at the top and learn it by heart.

If you don’t do dishes…tack your verses someplace you’ll see them regularly…how ‘bout the bathroom mirror?!

  • Use an audio bible version you like and listen to a chapter while you do some mindless chore.  Smartphones are SOOO handy for this! My favorite site for the simplicity of it is ESV.org

Just click on the Bible icon.  Choose your chapter. And hit the play button!image

  • Copy a set of verses onto index cards to carry with you when you walk.  Or fashion them into into a little pocket book. Copy, clip and paste into an existing notepad or make your own…Walk and repeat bits till you know them by heart. [You don’t walk? Maybe it’s time to tuck a 20 minute walk into your daily routine for sanity and  health.]
  • When you sit down to read or watch TV or check out cyberspace, take time to read the Word first.  Have a plan so you’re not left wondering where to start.

It’s easy to slip into an unbalanced diet.  And it may take some intentionality to get out of old ruts.  But it’s so worth it!

May God give us all a hunger for His Word,  the manna He’s customized to grow us strong, and may we find His Spirit there to walk us through its pages.

–LS

‘…the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ II Tim.3:15-17

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. Ps.119:105

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. I Pet.2:2

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P.S.  This year I started reading the Bible differently than I ever had before.  I’m still at it and still very much enthusiastic about it.  You can read the details at my Bible Reading Plans page on the pop-out side menu.

I love this new way of reading!

It’s simple—no check-off charts or calendars to keep up with

It’s comprehensive—you’ll get through the whole Bible, but not predictably!

It’s full of variety—every day features reading from all the different genres of Scripture

It’s ready-to-go—no need to buy a new Bible or wait for the right day to begin

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