Maybe I'm weird, but I often think about a hypothetical scenario in which I am locked up in solitary confinement for 10 years and lose 99% of my vocabulary and comprehension. If my deteriorated, unstimulated brain could only remember one thing, what would it be? I usually come to the same conclusion of what I think my answer would be:
"His Word is life."
I feel that God has ingrained this truth into my heart and mind even more deeply this past week as I felt the absence of my husband Peter while he was in Haiti.
We both predicted that this week apart would be difficult (we've never spent more than one day away from each other), so we both wrote letters for the other person to read each day during the week, then we sealed them in dated envelopes. (And neither of us knew the other person was doing it!)
Partly because written words are my love language and partly because I just love hearing from my husband, these letters were an unspeakable treasure to me.
Communication with Peter while he was overseas was very scarce, so these pre-written letters really were the main way that he communicated with me last week. One night I stayed at my parents' house and forgot to bring the letters with me, so it was miserable to know that I had words from my husband waiting for me in an envelope to which I didn't have access.
It's not that the letters said anything new or even that they were particularly mushy; there weren't any big announcements or flowery poems. Each letter was just another way of Peter telling me he loves me. I have really needed to be reminded of that every day. One day I was having a hard time, and remembering something he said in a prior day's letter served as great comfort to me. (And he told me my letters had the same effect on him.)
I say all this because I see such a beautiful parallel between my longings and needs for Peter's letters and my longings---or at least my needs---for God's Word. Indeed, every day God has prepared for me (though not hand-written in a labeled envelope) words to remind me of His love for me. He wants me to remember them, and He wants me to be comforted by them. (And, unlike what Peter can do, God has given me the Holy Spirit to live in me to teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that Jesus has said [John 14:26.])
I don't need any "new revelations" (When someone says things like "I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more", we should probably be concerned, since that's strikingly similar to how cults like Mormonism get started...)
Look at 2 Peter 1. Simon Peter was talking about the transfiguration---which he himself witnessed---but says in vs 19, "And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."
Discovering God's love, character, and purposes more deeply is what will fill my soul and mobilize me more than anything. And that is exactly what God provides in the gift of His Word.
From this truth that God's Word is life, I would like to remind you, dear reader, that God's Word is sweet and God's Word is necessary.
God's Word is Sweet
Any Christian who does not loooooove God's Word simply hasn't been reading it. As illustrated by the letters from my husband, if you are in a healthy relationship with someone it would be quite unnatural for you to not loooooove the words of your beloved, especially when those words are concerning his or her love for you.
You've probably heard a quote along the lines of "Every page is dripping with the blood of Jesus."
This is not just a statement to counter man-centered teaching.
It should be great comfort to your soul that God made a plan for salvation even before anyone needed to be saved...even before anyone existed. Ephesians 1 tells us "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." He spent 39 books telling us about that plan, one way or another, before the Hero was even born.
Reading about that every day is what is going to tell me about His love. What a gift!
Studying God's Word takes more digging than page-flipping and misinterpreting mushy words does, but it's so worth the treasure of knowing God.
Studying all of God's Word enables me to point to more than John 3:16 when my heart starts to wonder if God really loves me.
God's Word is Necessary
I love how Deuteronomy 32:47 describes the words of God: "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life."
Psalm 119:50 (NASB) says "This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me."
Time and time again, even in my short 21 years of life and even shorter years of being a Christian, I have seen this to be true.
Jesus prays in John 17:17, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth."
The Bible is not just true; it is the truth to which all other true things must conform.
Psalm 119:160 says "The sum of Your Word is truth." If you take a head count of everything in scripture, the number you come up with will be "truth."
This is extremely comforting to me because I go crazy, like, all the time.
I need a solid rock to hold onto when my mind is swimming.
Just to let you know, friends, when I go through hard times, it will do nothing for my heart to hear things like "You are strong! You can do this!" or "It'll all be okay soon" because I simply can't trust myself to be strong, and sometimes deep suffering doesn't end "soon."
I don't need you to come over and bring me a movie to watch so I'm distracted from the matter at hand. The biggest help to me will not be to "talk it out."
I need to be immersed in reality; I need my loved ones to cover me in Scripture. I don't want the pain to be numbed; it's worth it to feel the pain so I can feel the healing, so I can grow in perseverance and have deeply rooted hope (see Romans 5.)
I've noticed that many atheists/agnostics I know who claim to have the firmest and most enlightened grasp on truth spend most of their days in fiction-world, consuming entertainment media with reckless, zombielike abandon.
I have no reason to even entertain the validity of someone's worldview if that person spends so little time in reality.
And why do I believe the Bible? I love how Voddie Baucham says it:
"I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin."
I really believe that whether you believe 100% of the Bible or not is the most important decision you can make. So if you're on the fence, I beg that you figure out what you believe about it and---objectively---why you believe it.
So please, dear Christian, enjoy the feast that God has already prepared for you in His Word.
Yep, steak is harder to chew than mashed potatoes. But keep on chewing, for the delight and stability of your soul.
Here is another post from my series about the Bible:
The Real Reason We Don't Read Our Bibles
When you read the title of this post you are likely to think either:
1) Hope doesn't think you need to go to church? There's something I agree with her about! Jesus and I have our own thing goin' and church is just a formality anyway.
2) Hope doesn't think you need to go to church? Has she gone off the deep end!? Every Christian needs to go to church!
I mean neither of those things. Please let me explain myself.
In the past year, I've been thinking a lot about the Church. A lot a lot. As a result, in recent months I've tried to eliminate the phrase "going to church" from my vocabulary.
It's probably not a big deal and I'm not judgmental of people who use that terminology (I still do sometimes!), but for me it's been so good for my mind to reorient its way of thinking (by Scripture, of course) to describe what happens on Sunday mornings.
Before I begin, I'd like to mention that I'll be talking about the visible, local body of Christ more than the invisible, universal, elect of God (which includes believers who have already died or who have not yet been born).
So here are some reasons it has been helpful for me to think of the church as a body to join more than a building to frequent.
1) I get excited about Sunday mornings.
I'm talking thrilled out of my mind.
I always keep a countdown in my noggin of how long it will be until I get to "gather with Covenant Life" (instead of "go to Covenant Life"). I am also always excited about gathering with Covenant Life people on Tuesdays in Missional Community and throughout the week when possible in smaller hangouts, but it is so exciting to be able to celebrate Jesus intentionally with the whole group on Sundays and hear the Word preached faithfully.
It is seriously painful to miss a week, not because I'm super spiritual but because getting to worship with the church is super satisfying!
2) My motives for "going" are exposed.
When I'm getting ready in the morning and Stephen is whining and tugging at my leg, lately I've been trying to tell him something like "Stephen, I'm getting ready to worship with Covenant Life! I want to be awake and prepared!"
I'm not driving 30 minutes away on a Sunday morning to spend two hours sitting in an old chapel so that I can fulfill my Christian duty or get noticed by others. I want to guard my heart against dressing up a little so that I can impress the people "at church" or garner attention when I "enter the church's doors."
When I train my mind to remember the purpose of why I'm about to leave my home, I begin to truly prepare my heart for worshipping Jesus with others...and that includes putting a little effort into cleaning out my crusty eyes and brushing my rat's nest of hair so I'm ready to be more attentive.
3) I begin to see other Christians as Jesus sees them.
I think my main struggle---aside from pride in general---is loving Christians. Verses like "Outdo one another in showing honor" or "Consider others more significant than yourselves" are totally convicting to me.
Shamefully, when it comes to church gatherings, I'm very tempted to think things like "Ugh, I hope I don't see ______ at church today because I get annoyed with her every time we talk."
So it really helps my heart to remind myself "I'm meeting with the Beloved of God. I'm worshipping with fellow heirs of Christ. I'm celebrating the resurrection with those who also share in Jesus's resurrection!" I'm so glad Jesus doesn't identify me the way that I am tempted to identify others.
4) I begin to see non-Christians as Jesus sees them.
I totally believe that the main purpose of the weekly gatherings is for people who already know and are known by Jesus primarily, and for those who do not yet know Jesus secondarily.
That being said, I am excited to show non-Christians what it is like when Christians meet together.
I know a woman who has been faithfully meeting with Covenant Life for many months (and to my knowledge is not yet a believer), but English is not her first language. She told me with great delight that one time she understood 80% of the sermon because she had already been familiar with the topic's vocabulary.
I asked her why she keeps coming, and she said the peace she sees is unlike anything she's experienced anywhere else. She is very interested in this Jesus because the people who come together to sing to Him, learn about Him, and talk about Him have something she hasn't seen before.
God is making His appeal to non-believers through us (2 Corinthians 5), and the large-scale weekly opportunity to display community is an incredible way to make such an appeal.
5) My children are exposed from the beginning to a biblical understanding of what the church is.
I have an incredible children's book called What is the Church? created by Sojourn Kids that describes it well on the very first page:
"Let's say you ask me, 'What's the church?'
I'd say, 'Not what, but WHO!'
The church is made of people just
Like me and just like you.
The church is not a place we go
To meet on special days.
It's us---it's he and she and we---
Called out to bring Christ praise."
I want it to be considered common knowledge to my kids that God has created the universe to worship Him, that all mankind has fallen short and worships self instead, but that God in His mercy has made a way (namely, Jesus) for people to have a restored relationship with their Creator and do what they were initially made to do: enjoy Him forever.
I want my kids to know that these people, no matter where they fall on the timeline or what they had/have in their bank accounts, are the most privileged people on earth (see 1 Peter 2:9,10!), and they're scattered all throughout the world.
It would delight my heart to hear my children nonchalantly reiterate to me that Mommy and Daddy have made a covenant with some of these privileged people---we call this smaller group of nearby people our local church---and we get to see them regularly and encourage each other and worship God together.
Isn't this all so freeing and exciting? When we begin to take this gift of the church more seriously (see my post Bronies, La Leche League, and the Church for more about why the church is such a gift), we understand and appreciate the Gospel more deeply, and are mobilized more passionately and effectively to bring this good news to those who haven't heard it and/or don't believe it.
I'll close with the kind of church building Ephesians 2:19-22 describes:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today