Love Letters, Part 2

(Here’s Part 2 to last week’s post on Love Letters.  I first wrote it a couple years back–I hope you enjoy it)

I’m skipping my Bible reading to write this blog post.  Kind of ironic, isn’t it?  Well, I’m not skipping it in its entirety—I read a couple chapters this morning.  But, I just wasn’t fully ‘into’ it.  My mind was on other things, and my heart couldn’t seem to engage the Scriptures.  What to do?

Love Letter2

It’s funny how controversial Bible reading is.  Some people claim it as one of the essential ‘spiritual disciplines’.  Others largely dismiss it as ‘just one of many ways to get to know God’, which carries the implication that it isn’t one of ‘my’ ways to get to know God.  Some treat it as a necessary evil, as evidenced by their need of ‘accountability’ to get it done.  Still others claim, “I’m just not a reader”, and move on to other things.

I wonder if we have a focus problem.

I wonder if we expect the wrong things.

It seems like wrong expectations of the Bible can have cataclysmic results.  Like, missing the heart of God.  Or, missing our Savior.  At least, that’s what Jesus says in John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” 

Did you catch that?  Many in this audience would have had Genesis through Deuteronomy memorized.  Some would have labored to be able to recite the entire Old Testament.  And yet somehow, amidst all of that, they had missed the main character, because they expected the wrong things.  When you read the Bible, what do you expect?

Might it be that we find what we look for?  Do we ‘mine for gold’—looking for tidbits and tokens?  Maybe we search for data—looking for interesting facts and doctrinal proof texts.  Or, we might anticipate being proven right—looking for those verses that reinforce our preconceived ideas . . . .  When you read the Bible, what do you expect?

Or, better said, When you read the Bible, who do you expect?

Did you notice the solution Jesus offered?  “It is these that testify about Me.”  Dr. John Mitchell used to say, “When you read the Bible, look for Jesus.”  It’s almost as if we’re supposed to read the Bible like it’s transparent, like it’s a set of fantastic optics made to bring the living God into focus—up close and personal.  It’s almost as if we’re supposed to read the Bible for the sake of the author, not just the sake of the information in the text.  It’s almost as if we’re supposed to read the Bible to gain the heart of God, not just the right application.  It’s almost as if we’re supposed to meet the Living Word through the written Word.  Maybe . . .

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for studying God’s Word for meaning—I do that every time I teach.  I’m all for outlining books—I’m working on Titus right now.  And, I don’t expect to have an out-of-body experience every time I read the Bible.  Some mornings, I’m too distracted, or too tired, or too ‘whatever’ to read effectively.  I just can’t seem to expect the right thing—or the right person.  And I read anyway. 

But when all is said and done, I want to be a person who knows my Savior well.  I want my heart to beat with His heart.  I want to laugh at what He laughs at, and cry at what makes Him cry.  I want to smile when He smiles, and sigh when He sighs.  I want to ‘hang out’ with my Savior, so that He ‘rubs off on me’, and I become like Him.  Not just in actions, but in affections and attitudes.  When you love someone, you spend time with him.  Him.

So, how does someone read the Bible relationally?  How does someone open the Word, expecting to meet the Living Word?  Here’s a few thoughts to get us started:

  • Invite the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit who makes the Word of God “living and active.”  We need to invite Him to show us God’s heart in God’s Word.
  • Try ‘just’ reading.  Sometimes we spend so much time ‘dissecting’ Scripture that we lose the heart.  Reading it aggressively keeps us moving, and allows God to ‘underline’ His heart on our heart.  It’s part of the “washing of water with the word” that Paul talks about.
  • Read it conversationally.  Ask questions of God/Christ, debate, argue, disagree—respectfully of course . . .
  • Read it personally.  Put yourself in the story, in the text, be one of the disciples, watch what Christ does, be Paul, “mediating” between Christ and the congregation . . .
  • Set the stage for ‘a date’.  We don’t try to do good communication with people with the TV blaring while we try to pay the bills (or, at least, we shouldn’t!).  We have to make room for God in our day.  A bit of quietness and calmness helps the conversation.
  • Recognize the privilege.  The living God has pursued us with a love letter.  God is a communicating God.  He’s a pursuing God.  We simply get to respond to His pursuit.  Wow!  Millions of God-followers who have gone before us call us ‘blessed’, because we get to have a Bible on our shelf.  It’s a privilege.
  • Expect to meet with Jesus—and ask Him to meet with you.  Let’s open our hearts for surgery, expecting to be cleansed.  Let’s open our minds for renewal.  Let’s put our lives and character before the King, ready for transformation.  But most of all, let’s expect to meet with our Savior.  He loves us!  He loves to meet with us!  He yearns to share His heart with us!  What a privilege to be a friend of the Savior!

So, what do we do about our ‘Bible reading problems’ that we mentioned earlier?  I’m sure there is no magic bullet.  But, I will say this—some of the most captivated Bible readers that I know hate to pick up any other book.  They wouldn’t read a novel if someone paid them.  But they read their Bibles, and they experience the life change, because they expect to meet with Jesus—and they do!  It’s not a ‘spiritual discipline’—it’s a date with Jesus.  How about you?  When you read the Bible, who do you expect?

Better go finish my quiet time . . .

  • Jon

    Andrew Murray said in his book Abide in Christ, “Study much to know the written word; but study even more to know the living Word, in whom you are of God.”
    I often tell my students that if we are not reading the written word to come into contact with the living Word, we are waisting our time. It’s actually harmful if our motivation is something else. Like the checkbox mentality, my obedience earns me some reward.

    I appreciate the idea of God’s Word as a love letter.

    • Ahh, yes, so well said! Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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