A few days ago I concluded a post with the following observation:
“I think one thing is certain. The choices I make today will prepare me for the choices ahead. The truth that I bury in my heart will form the foundation of what I believe. That foundation will help me face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
It begs the question of what I will choose to bury in my heart to form the foundation of what I believe that then guides my choices. I am (in this case) looking at what I intentionally choose to bury in my heart.
All of us have things that get buried in our heart over time. The list can be endless, but let me try naming a few of them. I easily bury in my heart things that are said about me, over me, and to me from before I can even speak. Since my brain is not fully developed, they (along with my experiences) get randomly tucked away without a determination of whether they are truth, lies, or half-truths. Nonetheless they begin to lay down a foundation of what I believe about myself. Those closest to me often do not pause to think of how powerful and long lasting their words can be.
Those beginning perceptions form beliefs that also begin to form how I view everything and everyone around me. I take them as truth even though they may not be. They become “my” truth and I start to make choices (or not make choices) based on them without much consideration as to whether or not they are actually true. As a result, they subtly, but powerfully influence our preferences, biases, thoughts, dreams, hopes, and more.
When I get introduced to formal education in any form, I start to have a grid or base from which to test out “my” truth to determine if objective facts (truth?) match up to “my” subjective truth. Information from teachers (formal and informal) and a variety of books, magazines, news reports, peers, and social media get thrown into the smorgasbord I take in. What I do not realize at the outset is these added things shaping my foundational beliefs may not be true either even though I often might have strong, passionate feelings about them.
If I am going to consider what I intentionally bury in my heart as a foundation for my choices, I need to be much more deliberate. It will require me to research and look more carefully at the sources and the people behind the sources and what “their” truth has been to determine if it is “the” truth. With all the current means of research that technology has blessed me with, it actually can make it harder. Too much comes at me from all sources, all persuasions, all over the world and often it is extraordinarily difficult to discover whether I have been taking in misinformation disseminated deliberately or through ignorance. That definitely does not help me in determining whether I will make the easy choice or the right choice in most cases.
That is especially true because the information often comes at me without a moral framework more common a hundred years ago.
Determining truth can be difficult. Pilate made that clear as he examined Jesus as written in John 18:38 when he said, “What is truth?” He was clearly having a hard time deciding between what was easy and what was right.
Perhaps the most relevant thing I need to bury in my heart is found in Psalm 119:11:
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” ESV
The key to burying His Word in my heart is influenced by many things. Those early pieces of “my” truth will be one of the influences. The knowledge, skill, and truthfulness of the teachers, preachers, and books I take in will have a great impact as well. I think that makes it essential that I discipline myself to researching out who God is by looking at His own words spoken through the men and women He chose that appear in the Bible. Only then can I do what a former pastor routinely admonished his congregation to do at the end of his Sunday sermons: “Don’t take my word for it. Go home and read the Word yourself and check on what I say to be certain it is true.”
As a believer I can be too quick to casually approach God’s Word and pick what I like or prefer to hear and see, a bit like sorting through fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. I can attest that God can speak through that many times, but it reveals a truth I might overlook that Bible study leader and writer, Bron Short, put succinctly: “People think they themselves are located at the center of interest in the text; they need to find God there instead.”
The incredible news is that God really does want us to know who He really is and what He is really about so we bury “His” truth in our hearts as a foundation for our choices. That comes only when I don’t simply randomly pick out something to read that may be quite good, but doesn’t given me a complete picture of Him. If that is all I do, then when life throws me a curve ball (Don’t I wish that were not so common!!), I will be more likely to make the easy choice versus the right choice.
Kathleen Buswell Nielson points out pivotal truths about the Word in her exceptional little book entitled Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word:
- The Bible is God speaking.
- The Bible is powerful.
- The Bible is understandable.
- The Bible is a literary work.
- The Bible is one story.
We are all blessed with many wonderful Bible studies to choose from. Some are on a book of the Bible, some are topical, and some are a combination of a number of things. They are a great source of encouragement and teaching, but I would encourage you to look a bit more at the incredible feast the Word offers when we come to know it as one story and see the context of the passages we sometimes seize upon without knowing fully their meaning.
“…how amazing…to be privileged to hear from the Lord our Maker. How far away from sterile intellectual analysis is the process of deeply studying God’s Word. As we lean together over a biblical text to study it, we are in effect leaning in closer to the breath of God.” Kathleen Buswell Nielson