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Saturday, July 26, 2008

MY BIBLE


My Bible is black. Leather bound, fairly large font, cross references in the margins. I have had it for 6 years. The leather is cracked along the spine and the edges, and there is little evidence of the gilt that made the edges of the pages gleam when it was new. I have used several versions in the past, but this one is NASB. I like it, and have grown used to it.

Before I became a Christian, I was exposed to other Bibles. At my house, when I was growing up, we had a large, lavishly illustrated Catholic Bible. You know, the big “Family” Bible that listed births, deaths, marriages etc. I don’t remember reading it much. But I did spend time looking at the pictures. They were rich in color and I enjoyed studying the details of the settings, and the characters' appearance, including their clothing. They seemed to have draped lengths of richly colored material around and over themselves, and somehow managed to stay covered without the help of buttons, zippers or other fasteners. I often wondered how they went about the day without losing half their garments, having them trail behind them as they trod dusty roads in bare feet, or in skimpy little sandals.

Next I was given a little red New Testament at school. I don’t know that I read it as a child, but I did after I was saved. I eventually gave it away, in hopes that the recipient would read it and discover the way of eternal life.

My sister came to faith before I did, and would come to my house, her Bible in hand. I thought she was crazy back then. She would lie outside on my back deck, reading it and marking it with a highlighter. As she read portions out loud to me, I would nod, as if in agreement, to be polite. But truthfully, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Then God saved me, and a whole new world was opened up in the pages of the New Testament and Psalms that my sister had given to me. I couldn’t stop reading it. I found my little red New Testament, and took it to work with me,reading it whenever I could find a moment. I came into possession of other Bibles, and tried different translations. I would lie on my bed, poring over page after page, amazed at the beauty of the truths that were there. The scales were gone from my eyes, and God’s word truly was a light to my path.

I would send letters and cards, to believers and non-believers alike, and write out scripture after scripture in them. It was suddenly all so plain to me, and I wanted others to see it too. I quickly learned to navigate through the different books, as I sat, listening intently, at Sunday meeting or Bible Study. My Bible quickly became marked up with highlighting and notes, its pages worn, even tear stained, as I read and prayed and poured out my heart to God.

There is something that happens, I think, when you have a Bible for a certain length of time. I own others, and occasionally will pull them off the shelf to compare translations. But the one I am using now seems to have developed a personality of its own. I find myself connected to it, so that I want to use it, and not the others. I bought a Parallel Bible, with NASB and Amplified versions side by side. But it just isn’t the same.

This one has become a friend. As I have poured over its pages, marking passages and jotting down notes here and there, I have become comfortable with it. I know where to look on the page for those often sought out passages. When I read the familiar words in that familiar font, it is like hearing the voice of a dear friend again. I recognize it. And funny thing, sometimes words will leap off the page at me, words I have read over and over before without taking hardly any notice. It’s as though my Bible “raises its voice” to get my attention.

Sometimes I like to just hold it close to my heart, thanking God for it, because I have begun to have an appreciation of the life and power that it reveals and communicates to me. I have started to look at it as a gift from the Father. Because He speaks to me out of it by His Spirit. There are things in there that He wants me to know and understand. I can’t take it for granted, and I shudder to think what life would be like without God’s Word. It is how I began to know Him, and He still reveals Himself to me there.

So many believers in the world don’t have the blessing of owning a Bible. Some may own a page, and it becomes their most treasured possession. Hearing these types of stories has caused me to consider the privilege, and the responsibility that I have in owning so many of these precious books.

Sometimes a day will go by that I don’t read from it. Or maybe more than a day. Then the next time I sit down with it, I am struck at the rich treasures contained on its pages, and wonder, again, how I could let those days go by without feasting upon God’s word. He has instructed me to do just that. He says that we don’t live simply by eating physical food, but we also need the spiritual nourishment that comes from His Word:

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4b NASB.)

Referring to the Law of Moses, the Lord says to Joshua:

“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:7,8 NASB)

Psalm 119 is filled with requests such as this one that God would teach, and lead, and instruct the writer in the Word, or Law, of God. Indeed, it is the primary way that we seek Him with all our heart:

“With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You….I will meditate on your precepts, and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word” (Psalm 119:10,11,15,16 NASB.)

In exploring Relational Christianity, I have noticed a lot of people commenting that they don’t read their Bible much any more, or don’t feel the need to, in their new, closer relationship with the Father. I have to say that this is very troubling to me. Nowhere in scripture do I find anything that says we will reach a point in our walk with God when we can “slack off” in terms of ingesting the Word of God.

Though God can, and does, speak to us through other means, we must always test what we believe He is saying against His Word, as written in the Bible. That is our measuring stick, our plumb line for discerning truth. If we leave off making it an integral part of our relationship with Him, we can fall prey to all sorts of deception. Left to our feelings, our own thoughts, and other people’s experience or opinions, we can quickly drift off into error.

I want to have a closer, deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father. But I don’t expect to have it apart from His word. God’s Word cannot be separated from Himself. Jesus is the Living Word:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God….And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we say His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth….No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:1,2,14,18 NASB.)

We are a blessed people, to have the written Word of God to reveal Him to us. We have the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, whose life and teaching is documented in the written word. We have the Holy Spirit, who reveals truth to us through the written Word, the truth that leads to saving faith:

“But what does it say? ‘THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart’-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…How then will they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?.. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:8,9,14,17 NASB)

It is good to remind each other, and exhort one another to value what God has left for us. It is easy to take many things for granted in this life, but let us not think lightly of this dear book. Rather let us cherish it for what it is, the voice of God our Saviour, a light to our path, spiritual nourishment that we cannot do without, and a comfort to our souls.

6 comments:

Bino M. said...

As she read portions out loud to me, I would nod, as if in agreement, to be polite. But truthfully, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
I chuckled as I read it. I know what you mean! I have done the same.
It requires the veil to be removed from our eyes to see the truth for what it really is.

Your post was a good reminder of the significance of sticking to the Scriptures. There are a lot people who are going away from it, following their heart. Yes, we do have a new heart, a heart of flesh, but we can be so easily deceived by our emotions/feelings.

I agree with you I can't emphasize enough the role of Bible in a believer's life.

Melanie said...

Absolutely! Where would we be without it?

Thanks for commenting Bino.

William said...
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William said...
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William said...

The Enlightenment was a period in which orthodoxy in theology was deeply challenged. Orthodoxy is, of course, accepting real or perceived truth at face value and then acting, as well as exploring, the greater depths of those real or perceived truths.

During the Enlightenment, men - especially philosophers and intellectuals - put forth reason as the sole legitimate source of truth. This proposition did not exclude religious thought as invalid, but it did exclude the application of any religious teaching to the affairs of man, which teaching could not be proved by reason.

While the Enlightenment is over, and certain men have tried to regain the ground lost to reason in the realm of theology, we can easily find that Enlightenment thinking is alive and well even within the so-called "church" today. Take, for example, divorce or abortion. The bible argues against divorce except in the case of marital unfaithfulness. Christ said that such teaching was hard for many men to accept - men find the biblical teaching on divorce "unreasonable". It is also not hard to argue from reason that abortion is a viable alternative. Bible-believers can only fall back on scriptural references to life beginning at conception as they oppose abortion. Abortion advocates state that the biblical arguments are "unreasonable".

Two philosophers, Kant and Hegel, managed to prove that "pure reason" was not essential to religious understanding or for the application of religious truths, but they were not able to unravel the Enlightenment altogether. Then came Friedrich Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher, the father of liberal theology, took a different track. He denied the value of the orthodox approach to religion, which values revelation from God as the source of truth, and rejected pure reason. His new road insisted on the reasonable of Gefuhl, the supposed awareness all men have for the existence of a supernatural god-being. Schleiermacher sought to establish that piety was as reasonable as science (derived from reason) and morality (derived from conscience). Most importantly, he argued that theology is not the study of revealed truth (scripture) but instead is the study of man's experience with God.

Now, just as we typically grow in our relationship with others, Schleiermacher argued that our understanding of God will evolve; growing out of our experience of him. Consequently, for Schleiermacher, scripture is static and not of great use. It stifles creativity and freedom of thought, attributes thought to be key to the unlocking of various wonders in the natural sciences during the Renaissance and Enlightenment period.

Now, as you wrote in this post, many in Relational Christianity seem to think that "experience" of God trumps revelation from God. I will go the further and suppose that many of those same people would be quick to suggest that Relational Christianity would not have been, and is not, possible without emphasis on experience of God over revelation from him.

These liberal "experiential" Christian think they have a head-lock on the true faith and I intend to disillusion them.

Melanie said...

William thank you for your very informative post. It shows the progress of error over the centuries regarding God's word. Man always has, and always will, try to make himself center and supreme when it comes to living his life. It is our natural tendency to want to shove God off of the throne, or to fashion Him into a God that we are more comfortable with. Even as believers, we can all find ourselves doing this to some degree, when we don't want to give certain areas of our lives over to the rule of Christ.

Thankfully, believers have the Holy Spirit, Who has been promised to lead us into Truth, if we are truly seeking it. I am greatly encouraged by this.

When we deny the authority of Scripture, we deny the Lordship of Christ. But I am also greatly encouraged by God's promise to, in the end, be recognized as the Supreme Authority that He is.

"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10.)

"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).

Let's pray for one another, that we will all grow in the grace, and the knowledge (from scripture AND experience) of our Lord Jesus Christ.