I did it again. I utter words which I swore I would never utter again, words which go against who I am and what I believe. These words flow freely from my lips like beer at a frat party. The problem is, these words are a part of the old me…the me I once was but am no longer. They have been a part of my life, the way I interacted with others for so long. Another problem is that these words are accepted and in fact prized in many of the circles I travel. More times than not, my words are not met with the disdain they deserve but rather the words are encouraged, applauded and even admired. It is I who cringes at my inappropriate words, it is I who rebukes myself yet again for unleashing words which can do harm to another. The Bible is so right when it speaks of the power of the tongue and our, or at least my inability to control such a little thing.
There are six words which I struggle with…two of the six are of the four letter variety. Over time I have crafted these six words into a single sentence. I am not proud of this fact but it is the truth. There was a time in my life when I would use this 6 word sentence in virtually every conversation I had with people. So here I am today still struggling with six lousy words. In my defense and as a witness to the faithfulness and power of God, I have improved immensely. It is now a rare occurrence for me to utter those six words. Thank God, but sadly it does still happen.
I want to share these words with you. My desire is not to shock you (though you may be shocked) or to belittle myself. Rather I hope to educate you to the danger of these words, words which as I mentioned earlier are often esteemed and applauded by others instead of being met with disdain. The six words which I have strung together as a concise and horrid sentence are as follows: “Did you read your Bible today?” Please do not think less of me for this, just hear me out.
I do not write this in jest, I am serious. I would hope not to utter this sentence ever again, for there is so much which is not right in it…so much that conveys falsehood about the nature of God’s word and its role in our life.
You see, this sentence speaks of Bible reading as a task and implies that if you have read your Bible then all is well with the world. I do not believe that. In fact I encourage people not to read the Bible. It makes my skin crawl when I hear of someone planning to read the entire Bible in a year. I do not believe the Bible should be “read”. So you can see why I would be upset when these six words escape from my mouth.
I believe the Bible is not something we master through study (though study is very important) or that Bible reading is just a task to be completed. I believe our primary responsibility when it comes to the Bible is to listen…to allow the Bible to be the dynamic words of a living God to us in this moment. When we read, we are in control but when we listen, the speaker is in control…we are receptive responders to the speaker. We are seeking to hear not only the words but the tone, the passion, the emotions, the nuances of those words for us, for our life.
The Bible is the place where God connects with us and we with God. The Bible is not a mere historical record (though it is this in part). The Bible is a love letter to each of us communicating the heart of our lover (God) to us. One does not “read” a love letter, one savors the words and hears the voice of the one who penned the words. One listens beyond the words to the heart and soul of the writer, the lover, God. No, one does not merely read a love letter but one enters into the letter employing spirit, heart, mind and soul, listening to that which is said and not said. It is not a labor or duty but a delight. It is not an encounter with words on a page but with the lover who wrote the words.
God deliver me from those six words which depreciate your word and deceive people into thinking of your love letter as merely words on a page to be read out of duty. Help me to communicate the richness and passion contained in your words. Help me to help others to see your words as a place of dynamic encounter with you…a place to be with you, to hear from you, to experience and know you in an intimate and unique way. God, help me to see your word in that way as well.
Please God give me a question which can communicate to others what I believe to be true about you and your word and invites them to encounter you in your word.
What has been your experience of God as you have been in the word?
How has God grabbed hold of you as you have been in God’s word?
As you have been in the word, what has surprised delighted or thrilled you?
As you have listened to God’s word what have you learned about God, about yourself?
What have you discovered about the heart of God as you listened to God’s words?
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