Tag  |  bible

Direct Instructions

My second child was eager to sleep in a “big-girl bed” in her sister’s room. Each night I tucked Britta under the covers, issuing strict instructions to stay in bed, warning her I’d return her to the crib if she didn’t. Night after night, I found her in the hallway and had to escort my discouraged darling back to her crib. Years later I learned her customarily-sweet older sister wasn’t excited about having a roommate and repeatedly told Britta that she’d heard me calling for her. Britta heeded her sister’s words, went to look for me, and thus landed herself back in the crib.

Listening to the wrong voice can have consequences for us all. When God sent a man to Bethel to speak on His behalf, He gave explicit instructions for him to not eat or drink while there, nor return home by the same route (1 Kings 13:9). When King Jeroboam invited him to share a meal, the prophet declined, following God’s command. When an older prophet extended an invitation to dine, the man initially declined, but relented and ate when his elder deceived him, saying an angel told him it was okay. Just as I wanted Britta to enjoy her “big-girl bed”, I imagine God was saddened the man didn’t heed His instructions.

We can trust God completely. His words are our path to life; we are wise to listen and obey.

Listening to His Voice

I’m hard of hearing—“deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other,” as my father used to say. So I wear a set of hearing aids.

Most of the time the devices work well, except in environments where there’s a lot of surrounding noise. In those settings, my hearing aids pick up every voice in the room and I cannot hear the person in front of me.

So it is with our culture: a cacophony of sounds can drown out God’s quiet voice. “Where shall the Word be found, where will the Word resound?” poet T.S. Eliot asks. “Not here, there is not enough silence.”

Fortunately, my hearing aids have a setting that cuts out the surrounding sounds and enables me to hear only the voices I want to hear. In the same way, despite the voices around us, if we quiet our souls and listen, we will hear God’s “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:11–12 nkjv).

He speaks to us every day, summoning us in our restlessness and our longing. He calls to us in our deepest sorrow and in the incompleteness and dissatisfaction of our greatest joys.

But primarily God speaks to us in His Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13). As you pick up His book and read it, you too will hear His voice. He loves you more than you can ever know, and He wants you to hear what He has to say.

Unraveling the Mysteries

I have always enjoyed the wit and insight of Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz. One of my favorite cartoons drawn by him appeared in a book about young people in the church. It shows a young man holding a Bible as he tells a friend on the phone, “I think I’ve made one of the first steps toward unraveling the mysteries of the Old Testament . . . I’m starting to read it!” (Teen-Ager Is Not a Disease).

 Psalm 119 overflows with the writer’s hunger to understand and experience the power of God’s Word each day. “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97). This eager pursuit leads to growing wisdom, understanding, and obedience to the Lord (vv. 98–100).

The Bible doesn’t contain a magic formula for “unraveling the mysteries” in its pages. The process is more than mental and requires a response to what we read. While some passages may remain puzzling to us, we can embrace those truths we clearly understand, and say to the Lord, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth. I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path (vv. 103–104).

 A wonderful journey of discovery awaits us in God’s Word.

Stay Awhile

During a discussion of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, a teenager said he prefers his stories in books rather than movies. When asked why, the young man replied, “With a book, I can stay there as long as I want.” There is something to be said for the power of lingering in a book, especially the Bible, and “inhabiting” the stories there.

Hebrews 11, often called “the faith chapter” of the Bible, mentions nineteen people by name. Each one traveled a road of difficulty and doubt, yet chose to obey God. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (v. 13).

How easy it is to rush through our Bible reading without pondering the people and events in the text. Our self-imposed time schedule robs us of going deeper into God’s truth and His plan for our lives. Yet, when we are willing to stay awhile, we find ourselves caught up in the real-life dramas of people like us who chose to stake their lives on God’s faithfulness.

When we open God’s Word, it’s good to recall that we can stay as long as we want. 

The Snake and the Tricycle

For years, I had retold a story from a time in Ghana when my brother and I were toddlers. As I recalled it, he had parked our old iron tricycle on a small cobra. The trike was too heavy for the snake, which remained trapped under the front wheel. 

But after my aunt and my mother had both passed away, we discovered a long-lost letter from Mom recounting the incident. In reality, I had parked the tricycle on the snake, and my brother had run to tell Mom. Her eyewitness account, written close to the actual event, revealed the reality.

The historian Luke understood the importance of accurate records. He explained how the story of Jesus was “handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2). “I too decided to write an orderly account for you,” he wrote to Theophilus, “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (vv. 3–4). The result was the gospel of Luke. Then, in his introduction to the book of Acts, Luke said of Jesus, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3).

Our faith is not based on hearsay or wishful thinking. It is rooted in the well-documented life of Jesus, who came to give us peace with God. His Story stands.

Kossi’s Courage

As he awaited his baptism in Togo’s Mono River, Kossi stooped to pick up a worn wooden carving. His family had worshiped the object for generations. Now they watched as he tossed the grotesque figure into a fire prepared for the occasion. No longer would their choicest chickens be sacrificed to this god.

In the West, most Christians think of idols as metaphors for what they put in place of God. In Togo, West Africa, idols represent literal gods that must be appeased with sacrifice. Idol burning and baptism make a courageous statement about a new believer’s allegiance to the one true God.

As an eight-year-old, King Josiah came to power in an idol-worshiping, sex-obsessed culture. His father and grandfather had been two of the worst kings in all of Judah’s sordid history. Then the high priest discovered the book of the law. When the young king heard its words, he took them to heart (2 Kings 22:8–13). Josiah destroyed the pagan altars, burned the vile items dedicated to the goddess Asherah, and stopped the ritual prostitution (ch. 23). In place of these practices, he celebrated the Passover (23:21–23).

Whenever we look for answers apart from God—consciously or subconsciously—we pursue a false god. We do well to ask ourselves: What idols, literal or figurative, do we need to throw on the fire?

Pay Close Attention

As I sat in the auditorium, I faced the pastor with my eyes fixed on him. My posture suggested I was absorbing everything he was saying. Suddenly I heard everybody laughing and clapping. Surprised, I looked about. The preacher had apparently said something humorous, but I had no clue what it might have been. From all appearances I had been listening carefully, but in reality my mind was far away.

It’s possible to hear what is being said but not listen, to watch but not see, to be present and yet absent. In such a condition, we may miss important messages meant for us.

As Ezra read God’s instructions to the people of Judah, “All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” (Neh. 8:3). Their attention to the explanation produced understanding (v. 8), which resulted in their repentance and revival. In another situation in Samaria, Philip, after persecution of the believers broke out in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), reached out to the Samaritan people. The crowd not only observed the miraculous signs he did, but they also “paid close attention to what he said” (v. 6). “So there was great joy in that city” (v. 8). 

The mind can be like a wandering adventurer that misses a lot of excitement close by. Nothing deserves more attention than words that help us discover the joy and wonder of our Father in heaven.

The Drinkable Book

Because it is so difficult in parts of the world to find clean drinking water, an organization called Water Is Life developed a wonderful resource called “The Drinkable Book.” The paper in the book is coated in silver nanoparticles that filter out almost 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria! Each tear-out page can be used and reused to filter up to 100 liters of water at the cost of only four pennies per page.

The Bible is also an unusually “drinkable” Book. In John 4, we read of a particular kind of thirst and a special kind of water. The woman at the well needed much more than a clean, clear liquid to quench her physical thirst. She was desperate to know the source of “living water.” She needed the grace and forgiveness that comes from God alone.

God’s Word is the ultimate “drinkable” Book that points to God’s Son as the sole source of “living water.” And those who accept the water that Jesus gives will experience “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). 

Words That Matter

Early in my days of working as an editor for Our Daily Bread, I selected the cover verse for each month’s devotional. After a while, I began to wonder if this duty made a difference.

Not long after that, a reader wrote and described how she had prayed for her son for more than twenty years, yet he wanted nothing to do with Jesus. Then one day he stopped by to visit her, and he read the verse on the cover of the booklet that sat on her table. The Spirit used those words to convict him, and he gave his life to Jesus at that very moment.

I don’t recall the verse or the woman’s name. But I’ll never forget the clarity of God’s message to me that day. He had chosen to answer a woman’s prayers through a verse selected nearly a year earlier. From a place beyond time, He brought the wonder of His presence to my work and His words.

John the disciple called Jesus “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). He wanted everyone to know what that meant. “We proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us,” he wrote of Jesus (v. 2). “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us” (v. 3).

There is nothing magical in putting words on a page. But there is life-changing power in the words of Scripture because they point us to the Word of life—Jesus.