I enjoy the rain as it sweeps across the lawn and garden. During Raleigh’s sweltering summers that late afternoon storm whips up a cooling breeze, and the plants dance with anticipation as the drops tumble to earth. I can distribute water with the hose for hours and not have the impact that storm wallops in a few minutes. Not all of the rain that falls is absorbed in the garden. Much of the water, especially during a heavy storm, overflows as runoff.
I’ve installed barrels in the back of the house with hoses connected to the overflow ports to direct water into natural areas when the barrels fill up. I hope to slow the runoff and preserve as much water as possible for the garden.
As I watched the water gush from the downspout beside the porch swing I determined to move forward with a project that has been on the idea list for a while. I installed a drain pipe and pop-up emitter to channel that downspout into the center of my butterfly garden where the porous soil might absorb more water before the excess overflows. Interested readers can find detail of the project here: John’s Popup Emitter.
While I’m working on garden projects I’m often thinking about spiritual applications. I believe God’s preparation of Eden and Adam’s placement in that garden were purposeful. Adam learned as he worked to cultivate and keep the garden (Genesis 2:15). The lessons gained from working with the plants spilled over to Adam’s relationship with Eve and to his role as a father. Both of those assignments also required that the man know something about cultivating and keeping.
During a storm the water from my downspout fills the low spots between the houses, trickles over the curb, and disappears into the storm drain. I achieve little value from that lost water. It follows the downhill slope and bypasses the garden. Perhaps my new emitter and drain pipe will channel that flow and slow its escape.
Overflow. It seems possible in evangelical Christian circles for a believer to drown in Bible studies. We have streaming sermons, shelves of books by well-known Christian authors, and a host of para-church organizations sponsoring studies. Mix in the average church’s weekly menu of opportunities and before we know it we’re neck-deep.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’ve invested much of my life in Bible study and teaching. Our learning and shaping and equipping from that Book should never end.
The evangelical church faces a major challenge as we’ve become a gaggle of overcommitted people who desire 5 step programs to instant maturity and 3 step programs for solutions to any problems we encounter. We’ve lost our love for God’s Word in the hectic torrents that constitute church today. We’ve become lazy, unwilling to do the heavy lifting of self-study, and we settle for someone else’s pre-chewed insights. We’ve forgotten that God speaks to each believer through His Word, usually when we are quiet, undistracted, and willing to pay the price in seeking Him.
How do I as a believer in Jesus Christ approach Bible study? Am I immersed to the point that the overflow washes over me with little effect?
Perhaps I operate like Betty Butterfly who flutters from one Bible study to the next, one author to the next, and one nationally known teacher to the next. Betty has books filled with notes and penciled insights. Along the way she’s picked up a spiritual snippet here and pithy line there but for the most part Betty remains a dabbler. The studies increase her head knowledge and offer a sense of satisfaction that she’s doing Bible study, but Betty’s heart is not changing.
Or might I be another Robbie Robo-Christian who signs up for the Bible study because it seems to be the right thing? His attendance record has every box checked but he’s only going through the motions. His busy schedule prevents him from completing the reading and homework in preparation for class. Outside class Robbie rarely opens his Bible.
And then there’s Sammy Sponge who sucks up every piece of Bible knowledge he can uncover. Bible study for him has become a hobby, a pastime. His purpose seems to be learning for learning’s sake. He can recall the Hebrew names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and knows how many stones David carried into the battle with Goliath. Sammy’s Bible study is a trivial pursuit of facts.
Why did God give us His Word? What did He intend? Paul explained to Timothy the importance of the Bible. Please take note of the words that point to change.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
Rather than try to swim in a torrent perhaps we might invest time meditating on a smaller portion of the Bible perhaps even a verse or two. Write the lines on a card and carry it. Pull the card often and read the words. Pray. Ask God to explain His purpose in writing. Listen. Allow Him to speak. And when He speaks, be sure to act on the message.
Bible study without meditation and application becomes overflow that disappears without leaving a trace.
I want my garden to absorb more of the rain to foster plant growth, so I must slow the flow to allow the water to soak deep into the soil. Perhaps that same desire in Bible study will help me become intentional about allowing God’s Word to change me.
Overflow is not always a good thing.