How Y’all doing today?,
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing posts each Wednesday about a subject that is very close to my heart, this series is titled “Book Club or Bible Study”. These are my thoughts on a very delicate subject. In Psalm 119:1 of the NIV reads, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
The years that I spent on the streets taught me one key thing when it came to my physical health. Make sure I carried as little weight as possible on my person. Which meant that one book (the Bible) was far lighter and took up less space than two (the Bible and something else). Now granted as you get to know me you will see my biggest pet peeve about staying in a shelter is that most, but not all insist you hear a person get up in front of everyone and force feed the religion just to get a meal. Jesus didn’t do it so why should we. The most devoted people to Jesus in a homeless shelter or in a homeless community will read Scripture and share what they learn as much as they can. In my five year homeless, yes sixty months, in two dozen different cities across three different states, I never once saw anyone carrying more than just their Bible to study. If we chose to share Jesus, and it was by his leading that we did it, not because we were taught by someone other than the Holy Spirit.
Those that live on the streets still relish a short few minutes studying the Word verses talking about politics whether they are Christian, Jew, or Atheist. Yes, you are seeing that right I did put Atheist in that list, as well as Jew. And let me not forget Muslims or even Pagans. The Christian Bible is first and foremost a book of wisdom. And that can be seen by anyone that is willing to pick it up and read a few words. The Bible is filled with wisdom.
I was “schooled” as it were by the most devoted Atheist on humility with the only reference he had was Scripture. He knew that the Bible was my trusted source of information so he used that “book of wisdom” as he called it to teach me humility and I in turn, I shall like to think showed him humility as he taught. The Word did not return void back to the sender. My first week on the street was the hardest for many reasons. The foremost reason being I was outside my comfort zone, I was dumped out of my box and confronted with people that didn’t believe the same things I believed. I no longer even had a Bible as my own it had been taken from me and thrown in the trash. I had a duffel bag of clothes, a book of fiction by Charles Sheldon called “In His Steps” (a book about 1 Peter 2:21 “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”), and two pair of shoes, plus the clothes on my back. I was broken and Darryl knew it, the only two things I proudly displayed was my knowledge of Scripture and my pride. And he opened our discussion each evening with hard questions, the first being “who do you say that I am?” From that point on for the next ten days he taught me many things about humility and pride. No Bible in my hand I headed to the library each day to read the one they had on the shelf, just so I could respond to what he had asked me the night before. So much for the knowledge I thought “I” had. That night Darryl would ask me a new question, not letting me answer the previous night’s question. He knew I was going to the library to read, heck he encouraged it. He concluded our ten days of humility with, “how is your pride different from God’s pride?” And with that I didn’t see Darryl again for the next two months, until I was able to buy a Bible of my own.
Now over the last few months, really the last twenty months, I have been bombarded with people all over my community, inviting me to do a Bible study. I joyfully and eagerly accept such a gracious invitation. Hoping in my heart of hearts that it will be a “Bible” study, and not a “book” club. Now I enjoy a good Christian book just as much as the next person. Studying from one is not how I am wired. I understand some people are and that is fine. However, do not call a book club that follows book that is peppered with scripture here and there a Bible study.
When I first received Salvation I was on fire for the Lord. I was pulled aside by a leader in the local church body and was told to contain myself. My Lord gave me a voice and over the years I have lost more and more of it until I came to the point that my thoughts are generally not my own. I remember like it was yesterday, I had been practicing my lines for a local play. I had been sharing my testimony with those I worked with. I openly prayed for them during rush hour everyday. I could not contain the joy and the passion I felt inside. James 1:2-3 comes to mind of the way my life was, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” It wasn’t the bartender, the restaurant owner, his wife, or his girlfriend, or even the bar patrons that told me to contain myself but those that were the Elders, Deacons, and even the Pastor of my local church that told me to stop.
They each in turn told me that what I was doing was wrong by the way I was going about it. Yet, I was so busy at work, at the grocery store, at the daycare my wife work at, I rarely had time to read anything other than my evening Bible studies. The next thing I was informed with was, “you need to take this class we are offering to learn how to share your beliefs before you can expect to do anything for Jesus”. Wow, I was blown over; 1) take a class, 2) they offered, 3) to learn how to share, 4) my beliefs, 5) before I can expect to do anything for Jesus. And then they handed me a book. A book written twenty years prior, “How to Share Your Faith and Win People” or something to that effect. It blew me away that I had been doing it all wrong. The prayers, the Bible studies, the witnessing, everything I was doing was wrong and a twenty year old book was going to teach me how.
The fire I had inside of me screamed to get out and all they wanted me to do was conform to their way of doing things. The interesting thing is I have not once ever found a passage in the Scriptures; not before I came to a personal relationship with Jesus nor after, that says to read something other than the Word of God. I know I have done quite a lot of chest beating in this post and I will make sure that does not happen as much in the next one. Just please remember when you come across an instructional book about the Scriptures that it still is just a book about something else, it is NOT the Scriptures themselves.
My final thoughts today go to James 1:4-6, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” If the very Scriptures are telling us to come to God, then why are we looking to others to tell us what to do?
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Yours faithfully, Elroy