Tuesday, January 24, 2017

You Are What You Read

     When I was a senior in high school, I remember looking forward to graduation when I could escape all the papers I had to write along with all the books I had to read.  I thought life would slow down just a little.  Then, I started college in the Fall.  What a surprise I had when each class assigned three to five chapters plus some research questions to complete by the next class period in two days.  That would not have been so overwhelming if I only had one or two classes but when you have five classes to keep up with, it becomes a monumental chore.  Needless to say, I worked very hard to complete all the reading and papers that were due.
 Once again, I thought that after college I would be able to relax and slow down in my schedule.  However, we never stop learning as there are always new skills with the jobs we take.  Then, in my case, we decided to homeschool our children which turned out to be a 21 year adventure.  Along with our children, I had to refresh my memory and do some research in order to teach them what they needed to know.  This was a labor of love, but I also had to be a student along with them in order to be prepared to do a good job. Most jobs encourage continued training, and this goes along with God's Word concerning our spiritual growth.
     2 Timothy 2:15 is a well-known passage written by the Apostle Paul to the young pastor Timothy. His words touch us today and should encourage us in light of other Scriptures.  The verse reads:  "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  When we apply ourselves to the study of God's Word, we learn who He is and who we are.  Likewise, we can better  discern the truth from lies when we have a solid biblical foundation.  We become like the material we read and meditate on.
     In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote these words of exhortation in 12:2:  "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  We know from this passage that we are to renew our minds, and the best book to feed us is the Bible.  Here we learn the character of God, His plan for our lives, and His guidance in difficult times.  As we read, pray and think on these things, our mind does begin to change.  The more we hide His Word in our hearts the more treasures we store up for ourselves as we walk in this world.
     While the Bible is our chief source for life and godliness, there are other excellent sources of wisdom that can open our understanding of God's Word to a greater depth.  One such book is "The Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin.  I remember my husband's brother in law commenting to me at one point that he felt that many may never have read this book including pastors.  Yet, it is full of wisdom and serious theological understanding.  I thought about that for some time and this year, I decided to add it to my reading list also using a book by David B. Calhoun entitled "Knowing God and Ourselves:  Reading Calvin's Institutes Devotionally".  This second book is meant to be a help and deepen comprehension.
      There are many good books out on the market, but we do need to use caution.  Some are merely practical advice without solid foundation on the Word of God.  Other books deal with trends in our culture but do not take into account that there is really "nothing new under the sun".  When we invest our time in serious study of God's Word and utilize good commentaries to assist our understanding, our minds will be renewed.  The things of this world will have less glitter and allure for us as the beauty of the Lord becomes more clear.  We really do become what we read and spend time with.
     Let us strive to become lifelong learners and spend our time wisely before the face of God in the pages of His Word.  Remember what Hebrews 4:12 tells us:  "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  What we read does effect our thinking and outlook.  Make certain it is founded on the foundation of the Bible.  Selah!

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