Living Word

The WordWe give words life when we utter, whisper, or shout them out. Some say there is no such thing as an original thought, and I understand what they mean. Words and thoughts may be the same, but each of us has our own unique way of expressing words and thoughts. God’s Word is an expression of His love, which comes alive as nothing else can when read with an open heart. John explains beautifully at the beginning of his gospel.

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (NASB John 1:1-5)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (NASB John 1:14)

God’s Word literally became human, and it comes alive each time I turn to it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can hear and experience God’s love. Just as David wondered how God could think about a mere mortal like me, I wonder even more how He could speak to me. Without the Holy Spirit, God’s Word turns into a battleground or a fairy tale. With His help, it becomes a wellspring of living water that connects me to the Source of all love.

There are folks who say the Bible is not a very loving book. That’s true if I pick passages out of context and use them to promote my agenda or prove my point. When I see the Word and Christ as one in the same, I approach it with respect and familiarity. Christ fulfilled the scriptures and gave access to God’s unfailing love. When I absorb that truth, the Word of God becomes more than a battering ram. It becomes part of me as I read it and let it sink deeply into my being.

Christ was the Word before the world came into existence, and He will be the Word long after this world is gone. He was, is, and always will be the Light that dispels darkness. I choose whether to embrace His Light or turn it off. If I open His Word with an open heart, His Holy Spirit will help me find the love that has been, is, and will always be waiting for me.

Working God’s Word Into My Heart

Luke 6:48-49  is a beautiful scripture that explains why some folks either don’t like to read the Bible or read it without joy while others can’t get enough of it.

“If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” (The Message)

Studying the Bible is like self-examination. It’s wonderful when the Word works its way into my heart, but it’s terrible when over analyzed. The Word of God is the only literature that is literally alive. I have books I’ve read ten times or more, but there’s no comparing them to the Bible. As I began my study of Mark this week, I was reminded of how much I love his Gospel. I said the very same thing a few months ago when I went through the Gospel of John.

Every time I read Jeremiah, I am awed by the way the prophet’s poetry touches my heart. David’s psalms reach into my soul, break my heart, or lift my spirit depending upon where my heart is at the time of my reading. Revisiting a book of the Bible is like meeting an old friend. My love for them bubbles to the surface, and I cannot contain the emotion they stir up in my soul. Last Sunday, Pastor Jeff challenged us to read the Bible together this year. He asked that we not look at the challenge as a chore but rather as a way of getting closer to God. I had to grin because I’ve been there and knew just what he meant. I appreciate God’s Word more than ever before in my life and lose track of time when I’m in it.

To me, the Bible is a beautiful love letter read over and over until the pages grow soft and the ink fades. There is tragedy, pain, and hurt in the pages, but that’s what makes it real. Love isn’t about getting what I want; it’s about sharing the hurt and the joy with someone who hears my heart. God’s Word does that beautifully as it points to Christ’s precious love, a love so amazing and real that it takes my breath away. I marvel each time it works its way into my heart.

A friend told me today that the ladies in her Bible study discussed the fact that we might live to experience a time when our Bibles are taken away from us. I told her that isn’t a problem if the Word is in our hearts. It can’t be taken from my heart from anyone other than me. It isn’t the printed book I cling to but rather the healing Word that lives in my heart. The Holy Spirit gives the Word life. I have a relationship with God’s Word just as I have a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God.

Arguing over what a passage means is the best way to keep God’s Word from taking root in my heart. I love the book “The Blue Parakeet” by Scott McKnight. In it, he discusses the ways in which the Bible has been picked apart by those who would use its precious words to promote their agendas. It’s like taking a love letter and breaking down the syntax or picking out grammar and spelling mistakes. That ruins everything. Jesus fulfilled the law and became the Word. He knows the Word intimately. He is my model when it comes to God’s Word. Satan knows God’s Word well, but he hasn’t allowed it to be worked into his heart. It’s all in his head, and that’s obvious in his encounters with Christ. He is the perfect example of using God’s Word to promote his personal agenda. God forbid that we ever follow his example!

Next time you read God’s Word, let it wash over you like a stream of living water. It sometimes cuts deeply into my heart, but it opens up a beautiful space each time it does. God’s Word isn’t always just what I want to hear, but it is always just what I need just when I need it.

I love that about it!

Working God's Word Into My Heart

Easy to Swallow But Hard to Digest

The word of God is easier to swallow than to digest. Revelation 10:9 says, “So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” NASB

I can speak the words of the Bible with eloquence and say I love God with all my heart without letting His Word become part of who I am. It truly does make my stomach bitter if I allow it to go deeply into my heart and soul. It’s the same premise as talking the talk but not walking the walk.

Speaking and reading are important when it comes to getting a taste of God’s Word, but like the food I eat to nourish my body, it must be digested if I am to get the nourishment God has in mind for me. My will often counteracts His, and that’s where the bitterness comes in to play. Food must be absorbed before it can be used by my body. The same is true for God’s Word.

I can take the scriptures and pick out the verses that please me, and I can even take them and use them to prove my point and justify my will. No one knows the scriptures better than Satan, and he helps me find what I need and use it to suit my purposes if I yield to the easier path and keep God’s words in my mouth. God asks that I take His Word as a whole meal which isn’t meant to satisfy my needs but to grow me into the disciple He wants me to be.

I love the scriptures, and they do sound sweet on my lips, but I prefer to swallow and let them settle deeply in my heart. There is nothing better for healing the body than bitter herbs which stimulate everything from my liver to my mind. The same is true for God’s Word. Bitter isn’t bad when it comes to healing; it’s necessary. The sweet taste in the mouth is important too. I have to swallow God’s Word and those bitter herbs before they can begin to heal what ails me.

I love God’s Word, but it goes deeply and tastes bitter when my heart and soul are ailing. There is no greater medicine, and Christ’s precious love sweetens it enough for me to get it past my lips and into my heart. The Holy Spirit helps me digest and discern it in a way that heals and prepares my heart for God’s will. It’s an amazing process that heals as no other medicine in this world.

Photo from The Emmanuel Fellowship Church Weblog
Photo from The Emmanuel Fellowship Church Weblog

Obeying, Not Just Saying

God’s Word in our greatest defense against the forces of evil in this world. And when it comes to that defense, it has to be obeying, not just saying His Word. The scriptures this week take us to the wilderness where Jesus comes face to face with those temptations. A forty-day fast left him famished, so the first temptation, as is often the same for me after an hour or so, is to eat! Jesus teaches me a beautiful lesson as He was filled with the Holy Spirit, followed His lead, and obeyed His Father’s Words. Hear the Word of God.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’and, On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. NASB

I need to be mindful as I travel in the dangerous territory of the wilderness that Satan knows God’s Word better than I do. He uses God’s Word to his advantage, but the big beautiful difference between Jesus and Satan when it comes to God’s Word is that Satan is just saying, and Christ is obeying. It isn’t enough to memorize and quote scriptures to others along the way, and knowing His Word does not ensure safety along the path.

Obedience is our only defense against temptation. The Word of God is the only offensive weapon mentioned in that set of armor in Ephesians, and it must be wielded as Christ wielded it. Gently in obedience. I tried to do battle on my own yesterday as Satan convinced me to run. He had me believing it was best for me and for those I love dearly. I was worn and torn by the time I got home from morning worship because I had been doing God’s job instead of my own. Winning the battle is what Jesus did on the cross, so I don’t have to fight that battle each time I’m tempted. Thanks be to God!

I do have to hide God’s Word in my heart and let it be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105-112 reminds me of the importance of obedience. I often don’t go past 105, but I should. Hear again the Word of God.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it,
 That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted;
 Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word. O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
 And teach me Your ordinances. My life is continually in my hand,
 Yet I do not forget Your law The wicked have laid a snare for me,
 Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
 For they are the joy of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end. NASB

Remembering that God’s precepts are indeed the joy of my heart puts obedience in its proper light. I obey to get to joy not out of obligation. I hide His Words in my heart, not in rote memorization like a concealed weapon, but in order to protect me from my own sin which opens the door to Satan. I obey God’s Word because in that obedience, I find His joy and sweet peace. I slept like a baby last night after a twenty-four hour bout with the tempter. God reminded me when I was face down on the mat in tears that I don’t have to fight His battles for Him. He also reminded me that He wasn’t going to force me to obey. Obedience, like love, has to be a choice. Both lead me to a beautiful place of peace that opens the path to the praying life a little wider and makes this journey a walk in His kingdom:)

Turn A Phrase?

Turning a phrase is a wonderful thing which causes others to admire and remember you. When it comes to God’s Word, I’m afraid phrases and words are twisted and turned in ways that aren’t so wonderful. As I’ve studied the scriptures more intensely over the past three years, I’ve been surprised by all that has been written about the scriptures. I love to read commentaries and think highly of those who spend a lifetime delving into God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit, but I much prefer to simply read a scripture and let the Spirit open my heart so I can listen to God.

The Holy Spirit turns scripture and makes the words of Christ come alive in a way that never ceases to amaze me. I’ve read many books, poems, stories, articles, and songs in my life. I even read the Bible through many times before I began looking at it as a living, breathing entity. I fell in love with it, and can’t imagine life without it.

Loving God’s Word changes our selfish desire to hold on to it or the pompous need to be wise or right.  A sweet intimacy occurs with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Eugene Peterson calls it the Trinitarian Dance. That is just what it feels like when He sweeps me off my feet, lifts me up, and spins me around His Word.

I feel sorry for those who focus upon a translation or pick out and peck at passages until they become what they want them to be. I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to allowing passages to bury me in despair or become a badge of courage to which I cling. I’ve been lost many times as I’ve searched His Word to find my answer rather than His. The Blue Parakeet by Scott McKnight is a wonderful book that helped me see the terrible effects of picking passages and using them to promote an agenda. Twisting God’s Word breaks His heart and destroys His work.

Picking apart the Bible makes as much sense as tearing apart a person. Unfortunately, both occur too frequently. The Bible is a beautiful love letter that serves as a source of great joy, inspiration, guidance, and love. When I let the Spirit help me hear His heart, I am filled to the brim. When I use it to prove I’m right, I end up empty-hearted and miserable.

I envy those who can read Greek and Hebrew and would love nothing more than to sit with Christ and listen to Him read God’s Word. I often wonder what it must have been like that day in the temple when He read from the scroll:

 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. 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. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21

I wonder if I would have been one who scoffed and said, “That’s just Joseph’s son.” Anytime I worry or doubt God, I am guilty of forgetting that He is God. Then, I’m no different than those in the temple who refused to believe He is Who He says He is. His Word is a wonderful reminder of Who He is and always will be. He fulfilled the Scripture that day in the temple, and He fulfills it in my heart each time I read it with the Holy Spirit. Like a child’s favorite book, I love to hear it over and over again:)

This message on Mark 6:1-13 blessed me, and I believe it will bless you.

It’s Just Jesus