On Book Learning

I love reading. Few days go by that I don’t pick up one book or another for at least a few minutes of reading pleasure.

A few months ago, I wrote a post titled The Bibliophile specifically about my family’s love for books.  I have learned many things through reading books, and books are a big part of who I am.

So, when I decided to start pursuing horsemanship, I turned to books. I discovered and read several books by several different authors.  All were good and I learned from all of them.  I also discovered a treasure trove of YouTube videos on the topic of horsemanship, which were also very helpful.

But you know what? Books and videos can only carry a would-be horseman so far.  At some point, one must go out and spend time working with horses.

Many of the best horsemen refer to themselves as a student of the horse.  In using this phrase they don’t just mean they study horses.  Rather, they mean the horse is their instructor.  If one would learn of horses, one needs to be instructed by a horse.

Ray Hunt is one of my favorite horsemanship authors. I’ve read his book, Think Harmony with Horses, five or six times across a two-year span, and with each reading I gain new insights.

In this book, Ray stated,

To digest [horsemanship] goals in the capsule form a person need only know ‘feel, timing, and balance.’

Clearly, in Ray’s estimation, this was an extremely important concept. However, he went on to say:

But the truth of the matter is that just those three small terms take a lifetime of chewing before they begin to digest. Though I will use them often, I will not attempt to provide the reader with a concrete description of any of them, for to me they are as abstract and elusive as the candle in the tunnel. What “feel” can be to a 4-H child today, with more chewing, each day it will be different. The same is true of a more advanced rider. As the rider grows in awareness and insight, so will the definition of these terms. Each person, in the final analysis, will write his or her own definition day by day. Although I cannot give you “feel,” I hope to fix it up to help the reader, or rider, find his own definition.

Basically, within his book written for the purpose of teaching horsemanship, Ray Hunt confessed the most fundamental part cannot be learned from a book. It must be learned experientially from a horse.

Accordingly, after reading Ray’s book, I spent time working with my horse. Then I came back and read the book again…and learned it made more sense than in the first reading.  The same has been true of each subsequent reading.

Although I can learn a lot about horses by reading books, I can only come to know a horse by spending time with a horse.  I have to learn to listen to my horse.

I can learn a lot about horses by reading books. I can only come to know a horse by spending time with a horse. Click To Tweet

The same is true of most things in life. We can learn a lot from other people’s experiences shared in books, videos, or verbal communication.  Such book learning can start us on the right path and continue to guide us as we work thru real-life issues.  Ultimately, though, we only truly learn by doing.

Book learning can only take one so far. To really learn, one must do.

Book learning can only take one so far. To really learn, one must do. Click To Tweet

This is not a difficult concept, and I think most people would readily agree.

So, why do so many people seem to expect something different of the Bible?

Like most Christians, I have a deep reverence for the Bible as God’s word…God’s revelation of Himself, written by men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I am sometimes surprised, however, at how many Christians seem to believe the Bible is the end of God’s revealing of Himself and His will to us. These Christians seem to live with no expectation of God ever communicating with us as individuals.  They seem to expect prayer to be strictly a monologue and are suspicious of anyone saying God spoke to them about anything.

More concerning, these Christians seem to have no confidence whatsoever in the power of the Holy Spirit to give discernment and wisdom to God’s individual children in regard to specific situations in their personal lives. They seem to live their lives as though Christ’s admonition, “My sheep hear my voice” was not relevant to us, today.

As a result, they tend to turn to the Bible in search of definitive direction for every life circumstance. They tend to build legalistic doctrines filled with intricate rules and exception clauses (falsely) believed appropriate for application to all of life’s circumstances.

These folks tend to be very dogmatic in stating their beliefs…very closed to other people’s perceptions…very insistent that their view is the only legitimate view and anyone with a differing view is in error. They have a tendency to pluck support for their doctrines out of context…expecting to find answers to questions that are not addressed in their referenced passages.

These folks treat the Bible as though it were an owner’s manual for how to live life, rather than a revelation intended to lead us into intimate relationship with our Creator. They attempt to use the Bible as though it were a series of flow-charts with clear predefined decision-making logic intended to cover every circumstance in the human experience, rather than a book of revelation leading us to wrestle with heart-rending decisions in sometimes horrific circumstances while clinging tenaciously to faith in the goodness and faithfulness of an invisible God.

Why? Why do the beliefs and expectations of these fellow believers differ so drastically from my own?

They put their faith in book learning. I put my faith in the One who inspired the book.

I don’t expect the Bible to be a guide in all of life’s circumstances. I expect the Bible to guide me into intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit who leads me in all of life’s circumstances.

Just as in horsemanship, the most fundamental part cannot be learned from a book. It must be learned experientially from the Holy Spirit.

I can learn a lot about God by reading the Bible.  I can only come to know God by spending time with Him…by talking with Him and listening to Him…by learning to trust Him and follow Him.

I can learn a lot about God by reading the Bible. I can only come to know God by spending time with Him Click To Tweet

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

Scripture is only life-giving to the extent that it leads us to the Giver of Life.

Scripture is only life-giving to the extent that it leads us to the Giver of Life. Click To Tweet

Your thoughts?


13 thoughts on “On Book Learning

    • ” God is definitely meant to be lived, not just learned.”

      Yes! The One who calls Himself “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” cannot be contained to letters on a page sandwiched between the covers of a book. He must be lived!

      Thank you, Lisa! Have a blessed New Year, my friend!
      joe recently posted…On Book LearningMy Profile

  1. You just put into words my thoughts and beliefs concerning God and the Holy Spirit. I was raised in a church that believed the Bible was the guide for every circumstance. A very dogmatic and with no tolerance for anyone else’s perception. I honestly have a difficult time attending church where the pastor “preaches” using verses from the Bible to support his beliefs on others.
    Today, I have a strong spiritual connection with my God and yes, I do talk to him. Thank you so much for validating something I’ve struggled to explain for so long.

    • Several of the churches I attended as a child were as you describe. And I still encounter similar views from many people today, both on-line and in our community.

      I love good Bible teaching! I love studying God’s word to really draw out what a passage says and how it speaks to us, today.

      But this pulling verses out of context to proof-text one’s view…or treating a specific circumstance addressed to a specific New Testament church as though it were a rigid rule to be applied to all believers in all cultures in all circumstances for all time…that gets old quick.

      God sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us. We need to trust Him to do His job. 🙂

      And we need to learn to listen… 😉

      Thank you, Cheryl!
      joe recently posted…On Book LearningMy Profile

  2. This worries me. I have not heard God talking to me. At least I don’t recall such. A few times when in the midst of great harm, trauma, and abuse, a bird would land out on this deck, a mere few feet from me and just chill there. Nothing enticing about the deck. No bird feeders. Nothing appealing. Didn’t happen at any other time in the years and years of being there. But I felt like God was telling me, ‘hello, keep breathing, don’t die from the abuse, you’re loved, I care about you….” Perhaps my feeling was right. I don’t know.

    That’s all I know aside from reading and searching the Bible as though it was THE Book of all books, to be sought in all life’s problems, etc.

    • I didn’t mean to add to your worry!

      I would say that bird landing on the deck is exactly as you took it…God speaking to you, reminding you of His love and care.

      Most of the time, God speaks to me through the Bible, and I certainly don’t mean to detract from the importance of scripture. I read the Bible daily as part of my daily prayer and quiet time.

      However, whether thru scripture passages or thru other means, listening to God is largely a matter of being open to hearing Him.

      Here is a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago where I talk more about listening to God: http://josephjpote.com/2017/12/listen/

      Also, within that post are several back-links (highlighted in blue) to posts with various examples of how God has spoken to me in different ways at different times.

      My main point of this specific post, “On Book Learning,” is that scripture, although very important, was never intended to be a step-by-step guide on exactly what to do in every life circumstance.

      For example, how does an abused spouse know when it is time to leave the marriage and divorce? There is no definitive answer for this in scripture. How could there be? Human relations are extremely complex, individual humans are each unique, and no two marital situations are the same.

      There are clear biblical principles that God defends the downtrodden and condemns abuse.

      There are clear biblical principles that God provided divorce as a means of escape from a hard-hearted abusive spouse.

      There are also clear biblical principles on the importance of honoring vows, of loving sacrificially, of loving others as Christ loves us.

      So, how does one know, in their specific situation, when enough is enough and it is time to leave?

      Through prayer, discernment, and listening to the Holy Spirit.

      Through finding friends willing to help, protect and give godly advice (friends who say divorce is never godly don’t count…they’re either not friends or friends with no helpful knowledge in the situation).

      Through asking the Holy Spirit to search our own heart and to lead us in wisdom and discernment.

      Through asking our Healer for healing…asking our Defender for defense…asking our Redeemer for redemption from bondage…asking our Deliverer for deliverance from slavery…

      Maybe, even by reading books and blogs by authors who have experienced abuse…

      And by actively listening for His answer. He is faithful! If we’re listening, He will speak.

      Blessings to you, Anonymous. I’m praying for you, this morning, that our God of all comfort will comfort your heart and lead you in His wisdom and discernment.

      joe recently posted…On Book LearningMy Profile

      • I absolutely agree with what my brother Joe said & want to add some thoughts and information in case you need it. I’m a counselor but work specifically with women who are or have been experiencing trauma & violence.

        When someone is experiencing trauma, especially if it is ongoing, their brain is in a heightened state that is necessary for survival. At the same time the mind also goes into survival mode. These two factors make it very difficult to “hear the Holy Spirit” or even to really connect with yourself, as in your needs, desires, dreams that go any deeper than survival and basic safety. When women come into our program at the Dorcas House (a ministry of the Union Rescue Mission http://www.urmissionlr.org) it usually takes several months for them to get still, safe, fed, adequate sleep, etc. enough for them to be able to move deeper in their thinking than survival.

        My heart is moved by the glimpse into your life. I am grateful that God sent the bird as tangible evidence of His care for you. (Luke 12:24). If I can be of any help to you my email address is dvangilst@urmissionlr.org.

        • Thank you Dorcas, for your words and kindness. I have been thinking of how to craft a more lovely reply to your most helpful post but all I can say is ‘thanks’.

          The ‘survival brain’ information was most reassuring to read. This has been my world. It makes sense.

          “These two factors make it very difficult to “hear the Holy Spirit” or even to really connect with yourself, as in your needs, desires, dreams that go any deeper than survival and basic safety.”

          Your Scripture reference was great. God parted the Red Sea, He can send me a wild bird to suddenly land and chill a few feet from me. I am precious to Him.

          Thanks, Dorcas, for being so lovely and saying what you did. May God richly bless you and your brother both! 🙂

      • Your reply was so lovely. Thank-you. You didn’t add to my worry it just comes with the territory. I wish I had a more lovely reply for such a substantial response but I can only say ‘thanks’ and I see what you mean. Your other posts were neat and reading them as a whole I have come to see your posting on ‘Book Learning’ for what you intended.

        I really think those who blog are doing something great because so many women are SO isolated and SO controlled and SO ashamed and embarrassed. Yet the internet is there for all (assuming you are allowed/have internet access) and websearching for answers can lead a person to others whose words and points help.

        Good on you!. 🙂

        • Lift up your head, Daughter of the King!

          Your Redeemer lives! 🙂

          He has come to deliver you from abusive bondage.

          And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

          “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
          Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
          He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
          And recovery of sight to the blind,
          To set free those who are oppressed,
          To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

          And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)

          joe recently posted…On Book LearningMy Profile

  3. I agree with what you say here, Joe, for the most part. I guess, I feel as if we diverge in that I do believe that I must anchor every situation I am facing in my understanding of Scripture. I know there are situations that the Bible just isn’t clear about or addresses. And that is when I combine my time in God’s word with prayer, godly counsel, accountability, and even considering my circumstances. But I never feel like I can discern God’s will completely separate from His word. That may not be what you are saying here. But that’s kind of how it feels to me.

    I value and appreciate your biblical insight–because I know you have given yourself to the study of the Scriptures–and I know that you also have godly wisdom that comes not just from your times in God’s word but by walking with Him in the day-to-day. So I always appreciate the topics you tackle and the thoughts you discuss here. I just feel like I’m a shade to the right of this–always anchoring first and foremost in Scripture. I hope we can agree to disagree on this incremental difference. Very thought-provoking post, my friend!
    Beth recently posted…Comment on Giving Grace When it’s Hard and Goes Unnoticed by JosephPoteMy Profile

    • I completely agree that the Bible serves as the plumb line. And many times how God speaks to me in a specific situation is through bringing a specific scripture to mind.

      We must test against scripture…including our understanding of scripture. Otherwise, we could be led astray.

      So, we’re probably pretty close in our perspective on this topic.

      I’ve been amazed though, recently, by some folks who adamantly refuse to believe God speaks to us as individuals other than thru the Bible. And those same folks seem to feel compelled to tell others what they are and are not allowed to do based on their understanding of scripture…on topics for which scripture does not provide any clear direction.

      I appreciate you, my friend! 🙂
      joe recently posted…On Book LearningMy Profile

    • For example…I recently wound up on a thread where some folks were calling Beth Moore a false teacher. So I followed their posts back to find out why they believed this about Beth Moore.

      What I found was they basically disagreed with Beth on two primary topics (and several plain nit-picky topics). First, Beth often says things about God giving her direction in things to do or change in her daily life. They claimed this made Beth a false prophet because she was claiming extra-biblical revelations from God. Second, they didn’t believe Beth should be teaching in public because she is a woman.

      From there, they attacked her informal style of teaching, her lack of providing notes beforehand, her seeking direction from the Holy Spirit before each teaching event, her style of prayer, etc., etc.

      This is just one example, but I have run into this sort of thinking several times, lately. From my perspective it is truly strange…and very legalistic…
      joe recently posted…On Book LearningMy Profile

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