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For the word of God is alive and powerful. - Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)
When I was 15, a well-dressed man approached me on the sidewalk after school and asked if he could give me a gift. Before I could respond he handed me a small New Testament imprinted with the word, Gideons. “This book changed my life,” he said, “maybe it will change yours.” He smiled and walked away. I really wasn’t interested in the gift, but for some reason I kept it and put it away when I got home.
A year later my parents split up, I was in a bad auto accident, and my girlfriend ditched me. Everything seemed to be coming unglued, including me! I was angry and frustrated and not interested in getting over it. One night I was lying in bed and the thought occurred to me, “What ever happened to the Bible that business guy handed me?” I felt compelled to find it and I did, right where I’d left it twelve months earlier. I randomly opened it to Acts twenty-six, and began to read the first twenty verses. I stopped at verse sixteen and felt as if God were speaking directly to me: “...Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.”
A strange peace fell over me, the depth of which I had never known before. It was as if God were saying, “Tonight I’m calling you to the ministry.” Not long after that I started going to church and for the first time in my life I fell in love... with Jesus and the Bible. I’ve since learned that it’s virtually impossible to love one without loving the other. We’re going to talk about that this week. Stay tuned!
But the word of the Lord endures forever… - 1 Peter 1:25 (NIV)
Over the past week, we’ve all said or heard the words, “Happy New Year!” I suppose we call it “new” because it’s not yet “used”; that’s the nature of time. Every second, minute, and hour is always new.
I like newness! It conjures up thoughts of freshness, excitement, opportunities, and possibilities! Yesterday I told you about a stranger who once gave me the gift of a new Bible, which eventually (and radically) changed my life. But alas, new things eventually age—clothes, furniture, puppies, bodies, faces, even the planet we live on. But here’s something that doesn’t age: Truth! If something’s really true, it’s always true (think 2+2=4). Time can’t diminish truth, and that’s why I love the Bible.
But why doesn’t everyone love the Bible? Maybe it’s because they’ve never really read it with an open mind… or perhaps it’s because they simply don’t like its truth. In our day, that second reason is perhaps the most common. Here’s a question worth pondering: How can we learn something new if we decide in advance to reject it? And how can we love someone if we won’t allow them to tell us the truth?
I find it a bit irrational that we expect God to change because we’re unwilling to. That approach doesn’t work in other important relationships in life, why should it work with one’s spiritual journey? When we sincerely love someone we’ll surrender our obstinance and allow ourselves to participate in the wonderful exchange of truth, even if it’s unpleasant. When we take that approach with God, we discover that the Bible can suddenly and seriously come alive in our hearts... and friend, we’ll receive infinitely more than we lay down. I promise.
For the word of God is... sharper than any two-edged sword... - Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
Yesterday we talked about putting aside preconditions for reading the Bible. Here’s a story about a famous man who did that. Augustine was raised in the faith by his mother, Monica, but like many of us, he drifted away. He became involved in an illicit relationship, had a child out of wedlock, and even once joined a cult.
He moved to Carthage (Egypt) where he met St. Ambrose and was taken aback by the seriousness of his messages. Augustine believed the facts of Christianity but simply didn’t want to make a commitment.
As the story goes, he went out to a garden one day to think. While there, he heard a child’s voice singing, “Take up and read! Take up and read!” When he went inside, he opened his Bible and read the first chapter that met his eyes: Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living… Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 13:13-14)
In a subsequent conversation with Ambrose, he surrendered his life completely to Jesus. “The rest,” as they say, “is history.” His faith and devotion changed the world. He became a renowned theologian and prolific author, as well as a skilled preacher and teacher. He was one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and is recognized as a “Doctor of the Church” in Catholicism. Outside of the Apostle Paul and Jesus, St. Augustine is perhaps the most significant Christian thinker of all time. His book, Confessions, continues to impact the world today.
His secret? He was undone by the word of God, then reassembled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not a bad trade-off by any estimation.
Has the Bible changed you? If so, how? I’d love to learn more. Share your story with me!Share Tweet
I hate those with divided loyalties, but I love your word. - Psalms 119:113 (NLT)
We live in a world filled with spin. Cable new channels, politicians… pick your poison; it’s difficult sometimes to know the truth. But it’s not just politicians, all of us struggle with it. We hide our weaknesses and maximize our strengths. We craft conversations so that our words seem wise and insightful. Yep, we’re all pretty adept at spin. Thankfully, the Bible will have none of it. It tells us that we are sinners, not “mistakers.” It cuts deep and exposes the truth, then it offers us grace for healing and change.
Can I ask you a question? If you had a choice between letting a doctor examine you ASAP, uncomfortable as it may be, or waiting until he can do a post-mortem on you after it’s too late, wouldn’t you submit to the examination now? People say to me, “Someday I’ll study the Bible… when the kids are grown, when I have more time, when I’m not so busy or stressed." No, friend, we need the exam today, not tomorrow or next year or someday… and the Bible is the best “doctor” we’ll ever have.
You may know that Emmitt Smith holds the NFL rushing record. There were 11 seasons where he rushed over 1,000 yards. Are you aware that when he was a high school freshman he was constantly fumbling the ball? Finally, his coach took him aside, got in his face and said, “Smith, if you don’t hold on to the ball, you’re off the team.” Emmit Smith remembers that as the best day of his life. He says, “I decided then and there to never let go of the ball.” Many men and women throughout history have become great because they held onto something passionately. For the Christian, may it always be God’s Word.
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. - John 15:11 (NLT)
The spoken word has power, as does the written word. People like MLK, Billy Graham, William Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis teach us that. So does the best-selling book in human history, the Bible. No book has transformed more lives. Maybe you’re proof of that. If so, join the club!
You know something else the Bible does for us? It brings joy. I’ve learned in my own life that true joy doesn’t come from experiencing goals, but from experiencing God. The Bible connects us to Him. For fifty years I’ve been hiding scripture in my heart. When I need hope, I go to Romans 15:13. When I need courage, I go to Psalm 34:4-8. When I need strength to endure difficulties, I go to 2 Corinthians 4:7-17. And when I need joy, I go to 1 Peter 1:8-9 or Psalm 94:18-19. The Psalmist was right, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).
Joy also comes from learning to let go rather than holding on, from loving Jesus more than religion, from savoring contentment more than achievement, from yielding instead of controlling, and from passionately following the Star of the Bible—Jesus Christ.
What's your source of joy? If you’re lacking it, consider surrendering yourself to the word and the will of God. Pray this prayer: "Lord, I’ll accept whatever you have for me. I’ll listen to anything you say to me. I’ll do everything you ask of me. I now repent of self-will and yield my life unreservedly to You.” Guess what? You’ll find admonitions like those all over the Bible, and by the way, they work!