“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” Psalm 119:9-16
I unwrapped my little piece of dark chocolate . . . careful, as always, not to tear the foil wrapper so I could read what it said inside. You know the ones to which I’m referring? Those little bite size Dove chocolates with a fortune cookie saying on the inside of the foil. I always read it. Sometimes it gives me pause. Other times, like yesterday, I thought, “Well that’s kind of silly and unhelpful,” as I threw it away and went on with my day.
But as was heading on to the next task, on what often seems to be the never ending merry-go-round of Things to Be Done to Keep Life Running Smoothly, it occurred to me, or more likely the Holy Spirit whispered to me, this how a lot of us try to survive . . . on fortune cookie faith . . . snatches of scriptures and wise words here and there . . . sometimes they give us pause . . . other times they seem silly and unhelpful . . . not because they truly are, but because they’re only snatches.
We’re trying to live off the sermon we heard a month ago . . . the Instagram post we read last week . . . that one scripture our friend shared ten days past . . . but we’re not seeking God, both His will and His truth, for ourselves. We’re looking for God’s word and instruction to fit into our lives rather than molding ourselves around it. We manipulate the meanings . . . grab it out of context . . . try to make it work the way we want it to, and then we take it or leave it . . . depending on our mood or our circumstances . . . before we’re off to the next task to be completed.
And we’re frustrated, and defeated, and don’t understand why growth and transformation aren’t happening. There are days when I survive on snatches of scripture and prayers tossed hastily heavenward. When I’m doing good to just read the scripture of the day on my YouVersion App. But I’ll be honest, those aren’t the greatest days. They’re, at best, like surviving on a diet of fast food. It’ll do, but not for long. And if I don’t take the time to really dive into the word and prayer, I’m not only not going to experience healthy growth and development, there are going to be both damage and deficiencies. I’m going to become sluggish and lazy and unhealthy. I’m going to start misusing, misinterpreting, and flat out not learning from God’s word and His instruction. As we used to say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt,” and I’d like to think I’ve learned that I cannot glean from what I’m not consuming.
Fortune cookies and Dove Chocolates are fun and funny . . . those silly little witty sayings that are perfectly fine to look at, laugh, never take too seriously, and move on. But God’s word . . . His divinely inspired scriptures . . . absolutely is not a fortune cookie. My bible is far more than a bunch wise sayings with a few good laughs thrown in. It is not something to be read and left. It is life and breath, and as a Christian, it is literally my nutrition, my sustenance, and my survival. It’s not optional. And the same truth applies to anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3
The last thing I’ll add, because it occurred to me as I was writing this, is that I never want to take for granted the amazing gift I have in being able to get up each morning, grab my coffee and my bible (or pull up an App on my phone), and dive into what God has for me. I am not blind to how blessed I am to be able to do that as a Christian in America. Likewise, I’m not ignorant to the fact that there are many places around the world where the scriptures are passed only by word of mouth and to be found in possession of a physical bible can mean imprisonment and even death. I am well aware of how little persecution we truly suffer here. The privilege of that is not lost on me, and I know I’ve often failed to appreciate how deeply blessed we are.
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