The Bible is the living voice of God to my soul and I hope to yours as well.
No other tool has shaped my worldview, my moral development, my wholeness as it has.
The Psalms, the Gospels, the words of John and Paul have been like water on a parched soil, giving life, direction, correction, understanding.
While all of scripture is profitable for spiritual and moral growth and each section will have its profound impact at different times and during different circumstances, some passages stay with us longer, at least they have for me.
These sections of scripture somehow target a deep need, psychological deficiency, address a contextual variable or provide unique support that is specifically designed for us to grow. It is as if God personalized instruction to our own need..
I don’t want to over-dramatize this or make it more mystically than it is. But it is true that God speaks living ideas through His Old Book to us and these spark our moral development. In the physical world, God knows his creatures and he gives light, water, and nourishment that uniquely matures us. His Word speaks is a living power (Hebrews 4).
What passages of scripture has stayed your journey with God? Why do you think it speaks so profoundly to your soul? What moral vision has it created in your life that has kept you righteous and holy?
I know a leader that for decades framed her life, leadership, and work with Psalms 139. The specialized truth that each of us were “created unique,” “woven in the womb,” “given a special purpose,” “formed for special work.” That passage sustained her in her own journey to see her unique contribution and her campaign against “one size fits all” education. Hearing her talk about this passage confirmed the truth for me that God often gives us special passages or insights that sustain us in the life he has called us to. As she has shared God’s specialized message to her, those around her have been nurtured in deep ways and have come to be encouraged as if scripture was amplified for her and then reverberated to us. Thus the specialized nature of God’s word becomes a blessing to others. It is a unique process of God’s spirit: specializing which leads to a generalized experience. A deep mystery indeed. (For example, I am a twin and whenever she tells about this passage I am reassured that both my brother and I are unique in Christ, with genuine autonomy and specialized purpose, despite the fact we sound and look alike.)
Another administrator I know especially finds in Psalms deep encouragement. She has lived much of David’s experience and when she hears one simple verse in Psalm a cascade of meaning and truth comes to her soul. She is enlivened for her work and the courage she experience spills over to the rest of us. Thus specialized truth become generalized through each of us.
I know a pastor who has all his live been saved through the powerful words of Romans, finding in it the convincing truth of the gospel and his passion has kept him through much legalism and extremism, and his living of that passage has also kept the rest of us from legalism and saved our souls because he has so profoundly heard the voice of God in Romans.
For me, John and Isaiah are the two authors that most amplify and personalize God’s voice to my soul. The tenderness and power mix to keep me loved and corrected.
While John’s writings have become the more lived passage of scripture to me in the last five years, it has been John’s counterpart in the Old Testament, Isaiah, that has been the book and author that has most profoundly spoke to my soul.
As a 14 or 15 year old, while sitting at my desk, Isaiah 43 jumped out at me one day and I felt God saying, this passage is for and about you, Duane.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.”
So strongly did I believe God was speaking to me in that passage that several times since I felt transported to the very thrown of God, to hear directly from him this commission to my soul. And when it seemed God needed to work even stronger to get this message to me, God seemed transported to my side (which is the more theological truthful direction of his ministry).
While slouched in a bean-bag paging through bible correspondence courses wondering if I could learn His bible, He spoke to my soul, “This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” (48:7). (see also Isaiah 54:13).
Today, I woke thinking about the provocative words of Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind. It is one of the most profound books on morality I have ever read. Oddly, I think he is mostly right about much of what he said, but build his whole argument on sand, shifting and erroneous and wrong headed sand (see my book review in the book review section).
He traces his panoramic view of morality through the story of evolution—the story line that he says can even explain religion. He rejects the negating argument of the New Atheists against religion but still finds the story line in the evolutionary argument. It is profound, provocative, odd, and interesting all at the same time.
But its deep flaw is that it does not have God as creator. I have experienced a long battle with those in the secular academy about God has creator, so I was not shocked by Haidt’s basic arguments.
With that issue and several personal issues on my plate, I woke overwhelmed by the realities of deception and evil in my world—my academic discipline, my church, my work.
So today, in prayer, and with the deep discouragement of evil world systems pressing on my thinking, I turned to Isaiah.
Fear not was the loud message speaking to my soul.
You are my witness. I am with you. All systems and machinery of evil can not destroy the truth of WHO I am—the creator, the moral leader, the one who has created you, Duane, in my image, that you might know me and testify of who I am. Reading Isaiah 40-45 was like hearing a direct word from God to my soul dried up by secular evolutionist and choked by religions distortions.
God created us and His word still can speak life into us. That is the belief that most generates the frames and reference points for my own moral development. God created this world and our morality can grow from that relationships, but it gets distorted—in our own minds—by the decadency and self-righteousness that Haidt so clearly identifies. The only hope is that God acts into that world and gives us a knowledge of His character, His law, His creation of our lives and in that revelation an understanding of the deep distortion Satan has perpetrated on us by his deceptions.
Isaiah 43: 10-15
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
“See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
and reduce the hills to chaff.