Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
- Deuteronomy 11:18-21
“Some Christians have learned little of a daily devotional life. Some time ago a policeman asked me what the secret of victorious living was. I told him that there is no magic formula that can be pronounced. If any word could describe it, I would say surrender. The second word I would say would be devotion. Nothing can take place of a daily devotional life with Christ. Your quiet time, your prayer time, the time you spend in the Word, is absolutely essential for a happy Christian life. You cannot possibly be a happy, dynamic, and powerful Christian apart from a daily walk with Christ. Christ is calling Christians today to cleansing, to dedication, to consecration, and to full surrender. It will make the difference between success and failure in your spiritual life. It will make the difference between being helped and helping others. It will make a difference in your habits, in your Bible reading, in your giving, in your testimony, and in your church membership. This is the Christian hour of decision.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (devotion for January 2)
I mentioned this a bit in the writings from a couple of days ago. Someone who thought God was giving them a direct message had no idea how many plagues afflicted Egypt before Pharoah let the people go. You cannot discern God’s voice unless you know God’s voice. The number of plagues may be trivial, but with that little knowledge of God’s Word, how can you know God’s voice.
We must know Jesus. We must know God the Father. The Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, is not correct. He felt God, in being a spirit, was unknowable, at least not knowing His attributes. In studying God’s Word, we can know the attributes of God. We may not fully know, but we must make an effort.
But as far as absolutes are concerned? Yes, you can love without knowing. I have cut way back on my “game” playing, but I do a few problem-solving puzzles, daily challenges, like sudoku, nonogram, etc. I will be subjected to various advertisements since I refuse to pay for the privilege of advertisement-free play. One of these ads that is running recently is for Special Olympics. They interview the mother, and she says that when her baby girl was born, she loved her unconditionally, but then they found she had Down Syndrome. As the commercial voice takes over, there are video clips of the wonderful little girl doing athletic things. Other ads in the series show grown special athletes who say that the program builds confidence in getting and keeping a job.
But back to that mother. For nine months, that mother had gotten to know someone that they did not know and could not know fully until they were born, but the mother loved her daughter unconditionally. Then they found out how hard life was about to get, yet they still loved that daughter unconditionally.
I read the book, Seven Words You Never Want to Hear, by Denise Wilson earlier this year. If you are curious, the seven words are, and maybe not in this order, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.” The words are spoken by God to all those who say “Lord, Lord” but do not have God in their hearts. And as an enlightenment regarding these seven words, Ms. Wilson says that she hesitates in her evangelism in rushing to the “salvation prayer”, or whatever phrase she uses. She pushes that if what she has said makes sense, go to a good church, read the Scriptures, learn who Jesus is. Then you can make that commitment.
Whether we make a snap decision to become a Christian or a deliberate process that leads to an informed decision, we need to know Jesus, and the best way is in reading and studying God’s word. And there is a difference.
For many years, I felt it necessary to read the Bible in a year. I have a pastor friend who claims to read the Bible through every three months, thus four different translations all within a year. None of this Bible study is necessary for salvation, but doing this, on occasion, provides that devotion that Billy Graham is talking about, that doggedness that nothing will keep me from getting this done. Then again, if you are like me, you will finish the Bible, reading it to your children, by late November around USA’s celebration of Thanksgiving, but the children will not be so thankful. They’ll ask why Dad was so doggedly devoted when we have another month left. Now, can we go to bed!?!?!
I saw a video many years ago about a variety of methods in creating quiet time with God. I modified the Lectio Divina method. I would read a few verses each day, adjusting to a full chapter or even two chapters depending on the topic and the style of writing, in several different translations, no fewer than three. It took several years to get through the Bible, but I learned a great deal more than Bible in a Year provides. I studied as opposed to reading. I gained nuance, deeper meaning, especially when the translations differed a little, which required pulling out a commentary or two to resolve the difference. Usually learning how both were correct in some way or another or it depended on how you defined a particular word. Sometimes, finding that one word was much more preferable than the other.
I will have to admit that my Bible reading, devotional reading, and such need a bit of repair. My selected devotionals for this year have not kept me focused and between household management, transporting my wife with tender loving care (TLC) added, and the writing schedule, my systematic Bible reading has suffered on the “daily” level. But I am praying a great deal on how I can refocus those efforts.
Why? Don’t I already know enough?
All I need to know for salvation is that God loves me and Jesus died for me and Jesus rose again and will take care of me as long as I trust Him. That means that I am saved, but Jesus wants a relationship.
I have someone with whom I have had a relationship for nearly fifty years, my wife. I will not count our first meeting. My landlady at the apartment complex felt like a mother hen when it came to all the young engineers in the complex. She noticed that I never dated. All the young ladies at the church were spoken for. The only young lady at work that was single and unattached had no interest. And I was not one to go clubbing, Texas line dancing, etc. She set me up on a blind date to play tennis, mixed doubles with her and her husband. The landlady’s husband worked with the woman who would become my wife. But playing tennis and then having a Jack-in-the-Box hamburger after midnight was not really a date, and we hardly talked at all.
The following weekend, I took her to a hotel restaurant, where one of her younger sisters bussed tables. I gave a big tip. We then walked along the river walk, the intercoastal canal, but at that point, the Neches River. And then she asked if I had ever been to Galveston, Texas. The next thing I know, we are driving down the beach road to the Bolivar peninsula and across on the ferry to Galveston Island and playing mini golf at about two in the morning. She was home well past her curfew, but before the sun came up.
If that was all that happened, we may have never had another date, but for about ten hours, we talked and talked and talked. I let her know things about me that I doubt if I had ever told another person. She answered all my questions about herself. We got to know each other quite well that night. At least I knew more about her than any other girl I had ever dated, and all on our first date.
And then the phone calls and subsequent dates led to learning even more. We have maintained those lines of communication for nearly fifty years.
Sometimes, I learn something about the changes in her life before she realizes them herself. For example, have you ever gone into a room with a television and the volume setting is always about 15? And then a couple of years later, your spouse complains that the television is not loud enough, and you check the volume, and it reads 22? She had bumped up the number because “they were speaking with British accents” or “they were whispering.” No, her hearing was starting to be a problem. I am a man of numbers, and 22 for a normal volume and it is not high enough versus an adequate volume of 15? I knew her hearing was failing before she would admit it.
Yet, when we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, some never read the Bible. Others state that they read the Bible through with their parents at a young age and they know all the stories. Really? All the stories? But what of the meaning of those stories, and what of the Scripture that is in poetry form or in lecture form, about how to live a better life? There is more than just “stories.” And each time I read those stories I learn something in at least a couple of them that I missed before. I am getting to know more about Jesus and thus that story means something more than it used to mean.
Of course, some people will draw the hard line in the sand and say that the other person’s conversion does not reflect that of a dedicated Christian and thus was a false conversion – one of those “Lord, Lord” people that never enters into Heaven. Although I fear that on occasion, especially when someone is vehement about not studying God’s Word, but I am unwilling to dig my toes into the sand and hold to that concept dogmatically. There may be some trauma that needs to be addressed. There may be some fears involved.
I know of someone who did not want to know more about Jesus, refused to open the Bible, because those “holy rollers” are attacked more by Satan, and they were barely holding on by a thread, and they did not want to face such trials.
Ummm. That person would never want to hear this, but they faced one of those trials, and they flunked miserably. Satan made them impotent with a single, easily thrown blow. Satan suggested that harder trials were ahead, so they caved in and gave up. Their “hanging by a thread” was because they had not learned enough about Jesus to know that we all have trials, but those, who rely on Jesus whom they know intimately, will have the power to not just survive but to thrive. Not getting by while hanging by a thread, but VICTORY in Jesus.
We can love superficially with only knowing superficially, but to love with power requires knowledge of that power.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.