Monday, May 16, 2022

What Happens When We Remove God from the Equation?

As a student in high school, I did reasonably well in math until I ran smack into trigonometry, when it became abundantly clear that my career course needed to be somewhere that didn’t involve an emphasis on mathematics. Up until then, I had enjoyed algebra and geometry, especially the formulas and equations. 

 

I remember glancing at the back of the book where you could find answers to problems in each chapter, marveling at how complex equations could be worked out to arrive at simple answers. The theorems and corollaries we had to memorize were intriguing, along with formulas to discover such things as the area of a circle or a triangle. Frankly, I haven’t had much use for those kinds of calculations, but they were fun to solve at the time
 

An interesting thing to consider is what it could mean to leave out one key element of an equation. For instance, I learned the formula for the area of a circle is A = π r². What if we left out pi? Well, for one thing, that might mean missing out on dessert. (Lemon meringue pi was always my favorite.) We definitely would not have the correct calculation of a circle’s total area.

 

Let’s take this thinking into another realm: Imagine what might happen if we sought to remove God from our schools and educational institutions, from government offices, corporate board rooms, entertainment studios, the news media, even from many churches. Oh, wait! This has already happened. We don’t have to use our imagination.

 

For decades, our society has systematically and deliberately determined to eliminate considerations of God from public discourse. We’re told matters of “church and state” should be kept exclusive from each other, kind of like the “east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet” mantra. 

 

In many colleges and universities, students are instructed that a Christian worldview approach to their studies is not welcome – and may result is harsh penalties. The “theory of evolution,” for example, is treated as an established fact, while reflections on the existence of God are dismissed as “fiction” and “fantasy.” Education at such institutions, sadly, seems to have turned into more of indoctrination – and their graduates leave to become major influencers in their fields of endeavor.

 

Public schools, where decades ago the major problems were chewing gum, running in hallways and throwing spitballs, now are infested with drugs, violence and virtual anarchy in many classrooms.

 

The political sphere, perhaps more than ever, can accurately be characterized by scheming, chicanery, deception, and all manner of unethical and illegal behavior. Even though “In God We Trust” remains emblazoned on our currency, and “under God” has been a part of our Pledge of Allegiance since the 1950s, mention of the Almighty in terms of how legislation is crafted and enacted often is met with scoffing and skepticism.

 

Is it any surprise that major corporations, led by graduates of agnostic universities and business schools, frequently engage in scandalous behavior and practices? The same can be said for much of the film, TV, and music industries. And let’s not even get started about the content of much of what lurks on the Internet.

 

One particular verse in the Bible sums up the scenario above very well. Proverbs 29:18 declares, “Where there is no [prophetic] revelation, the people cast off restraint.” The New American Standard translation of this verse states, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,” and the King James Version perhaps says it best: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

 

There’s a second part to this verse, however, we should consider as well. It asserts, “but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The New King James says, “But happy is he who keeps the law.” Contrary to what our society seems to be insisting, the Bible tells us happiness and “the good life” are not found in defiance and rebellion against the laws and statutes God established, but in abiding by them.

 

Reading the Old Testament narratives, we see this repeatedly. The people of Israel would vow to keep God’s commands and find themselves enjoying generally quiet, comfortable and safe lives. However, before long they would grow discontented and decide to try out the ungodly practices of the peoples surrounding them. As a result, they would lose battles, suffer famines, and even wind up in exile. 

 

In Exodus 32:25, for example, we read, “Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them run wild and become a laughingstock to their enemies.” In the United States, we’re obviously not the people of Israel, but I sometimes wonder whether something similar is happening here in the 21st century, thousands of years later.

What’s the remedy? It may seem simplistic, but it’s straightforward, right from the Scriptures: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). A simple prescription, really. And yet, it might be just the cure for what ails us – as a society, and as individuals. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

A New Day: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Did you know you’ve received a gift today? No, I haven’t been spying on what might be on your front porch. “Then what gift is that?” you ask. It’s a gift of a new day; the gift of life. Another opportunity to use your God-given talents, abilities, experiences and passions in an endless variety of ways, not only for your own enjoyment and satisfaction, but also for the benefit of others.

 

It’s easy to overlook this “gift.” We go to bed each night, often with a full slate of activities planned for the following day. We make plans for the next week, next month, even months or years in advance. All with the assumption that tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that will automatically come rolling along without interruption.

And yet, we know down deep that the next minute is not guaranteed, much less the next hour, day, week or month. I’m not intending to seem morbid or fatalistic, but simply to encourage a great appreciation of each moment that we have. Because the fact is, once a moment passes, there’s no way of retrieving it.

 

Having had several significant health episodes in my life, I’ve gained a much greater understanding of what a gift each new day is. I still remember the many visits I made as a cardiac volunteer, stopping at the rooms of patients who had just undergone open-heart surgery, as I had years earlier. Many of them also had a new or renewed grasp of the value of each day, agreeing that it indeed was a gift of great worth. Especially after you’ve practically been at death’s doorstep.

 

I’m often reminded of Ephesians 5:16, which talks about “redeeming the time” or “making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” This is not to say that time itself is bad or evil, but that it passes quickly, and there’s no “lost and found” for missed opportunities. As the verses that precede and follow observe, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise…. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

 

Like many people, I wrestle with the temptation to squander time, to act nonchalantly about my use of it, as if I’ve got all the time in the world. Sometimes I succumb to that temptation, watching too much TV or surfing the Internet, or failing to recognize how a seemingly random personal encounter could be a divine appointment. 

 

While I know there’s no point in putting myself on a perpetual guilt trip for not maximizing every single minute, I try to be more aware of circumstances so I can truly “make the most of the opportunity.”

 

In terms of serving as representatives of Jesus Christ in a world that seems to have little interest in Him, another passage – also written by the apostle Paul – conveys similar sentiments: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

 

There’s a lot packed into these two verses. We’re to use wisdom whenever we interact with people outside the faith. We should recognize opportunities for what they are. Rather than being argumentative or dogmatic, we should be gracious in conversing with them. And as we pray about what to say, our words should be “salty” in the sense that they might create a spiritual thirst and at the same time, not leave our hearers with a bad taste in their mouth.

Regardless of whether you’re reading this early in the morning, at midday or toward the conclusion of the day, it would be good to recognize the gift of today, and also the Giver. As Psalm 118:24 reminds us, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Belated Appreciation for Moms Everywhere

Since I write my blog posts at least a couple of weeks in advance, I usually try to consult my calendar for significant holidays or remembrances coming up that I should acknowledge. Well, I must admit this practice lapsed recently – I failed to take note that Mother’s Day was coming up.

 

So first of all, I want to wish a belated happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. In the nation’s capital we have a memorial to the “unknown soldier,” but if there were a statue for unsung heroes, mothers would have to featured prominently.

As a father and grandfather, I have some understanding of kids. But like all other men, I can’t fully comprehend what it means to be a mom. Not only the pregnancy part, the nine months of carrying a little life in the womb until it’s ready to present itself to the outside world – even though that’s very significant in its own right. 

 

I’m thinking of the unique bond mothers have with their children, being there when little Jimmy or Jeannie falls and suffers an “owie.” Running to the rescue when a child awakens from a nightmare. Transforming into a nurse when the little one gets sick. Going the extra mile to provide for whatever the child needs, whether it’s help with homework, washing clothes, or even teaching how to tie shoes. (Some kids still do have shoes that tie, don’t they? Ones without Velcro?)

 

Yes, fathers can do many of these things, too. Hopefully I’ll address that in June. But there’s something about a mom that a dad can’t replicate. When there’s a single-parent home, the majority of the time that parent is called Mom, Mommy or Mama. I can’t even imagine the sacrifice many mothers make, not only to be present to tend to their children’s needs, but also to work more than one job to make ends meet.

 

My mom passed away more than 45 years ago to heart disease. Many wonderful experiences with her are hidden deep in my memory bank, but I can still recall some of the ways she tried to encourage me. 

 

She, not my dad, was the one to first play catch with me so I could at least become a mediocre Little League ballplayer. When I was ill and stayed home from school, I could count on her to run out and buy comic books for me. I still remember the LPs she would play of old religious songs by the likes of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Perry Como and others. (I know some of you are probably thinking, “Who?”) I suspect some of the first seeds of my spiritual journey were sown as I heard those melodies.

 

If I have a regret in my relationship with my mother, it’s that once I started college, I became fiercely independent from her, determined to “cut the apron strings.” I’m sure she would have liked for me to call much more than I did, leaving her wondering – and worrying – about what was going on in my life. Yes, it was in the days before cellphones and there was actually a charge for every phone call; but I still could have done better. Sadly, it’s too late to say I’m sorry for having been so self-absorbed.

 

Ephesians 6:1-3 makes a stunning declaration about how we should relate to both our moms and dads. It says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’” I wonder how many sons and daughters, failing to observe this command, are not realizing the fulfillment of this promise?

 

Today our nation is facing a great conflict which, at its heart, concerns the privileges – and pressures – of motherhood. The U.S. Supreme Court is reportedly on the verge of announcing a critical decision regarding abortion and the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Some will simplify this issue as “a woman’s right to her own body” or “women’s reproductive rights.” However, even though I’m not a mom, I think it’s fair to state it is much more than that.

 

Psalm 139:13-14 declares, “For you [God] created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb; I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” God, according to His sovereign will, chose to have women serve as the holy instruments in which He would take a sperm and egg and fashion them into a special, uniquely gifted human being. Some see this as a terrible burden, but to the Lord, it’s intended as a blessing beyond description.

 

This idea is not confined to a single psalm. Speaking to Jacob and His people Israel, and extending this assurance to people even in the 21st century, God said, “Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant…. I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants…’” (Isaiah 44:1-8).

If you’re a mom, Mother’s Day may have passed, but the incredible and awesome calling God has placed on your life remains. He has entrusted you will the care of a child – or children – for whom He has a very special plan. Thank you for the unique, wondrous role that only you can play in their lives! 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Faith: Like the Credit Card, Don’t Leave Home Without It

From time to time, someone is described as “a man (or woman) of faith.” That sounds nice, but occasionally I’m inclined to wonder, “Faith in what?” Because the world around us gives us so many options. For instance, there are numerous religions – the big, name-brand ones, as well as obscure ones seemingly invented by somebody that had nothing else to do. And even a cursory look at them shows they advocate very different precepts and dogmas.

 

Some people have faith in government, although I suspect their numbers are steadily declining for a variety of reasons. We can have faith in ourselves, but honestly, we know we’re not always as reliable or trustworthy – even for ourselves – as we’d like to think we are.

 

Having faith in family members and friends can present a similar dilemma. Since they’re imperfect human beings as we are, inevitably they’ll fail to keep commitments or live up to our expectations. That might not be their intent, but that’s reality.

 

Then there’s the all-inclusive, “You just have to have faith!” Sounds encouraging, but again, the question arises: faith in what, exactly? The cosmos? Good fortune? Perfect timing – being at the right place at the right time? Serendipity? Kismet? They’ve actually made movies about the last two – if you don’t believe me, just take it on faith, okay?
 

Even atheists act upon a kind of faith multiple times every day. Driving down a two-lane road, we all must believe the oncoming car won’t suddenly veer into our path. If we didn’t trust other drivers to stay in their own lanes – with the awareness that on occasion some have not – we’d never leave the garage. 

 

Boarding an airplane is an act of faith, trusting in the competence, skills and experience of the pilot and crew, the integrity of the aircraft’s design, and myriad other factors necessary for achieving a successful flight. Belief is looking at a commercial jet and saying, “Yes, I believe that if I got on, it could take me to New York City.” Faith requires acting upon that belief – by actually boarding the plane, sitting down, getting buckled in and fully expecting to arrive in the Big Apple on schedule. 

 

I’m not discounting or disparaging faith. It’s important, and like the old American Express commercial used to say, we shouldn’t leave home without it. But as our pastor commented recently in starting a series of messages on genuine faith, it’s not about blind optimism or wishful thinking.

 

Christianity, of course, is rooted in faith. The Scriptures clearly assert, again and again, what – or rather, who – is the basis of our faith. The Bible’s declarations about faith begin in the book of Genesis and continue through its concluding book of Revelation. One entire New Testament chapter is focused exclusively on the subject of faith.

 

Hebrews 11 opens with the declaration, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Chew on that for a moment. I like the New King James translation of it even better: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Because in the physical world, things that we hope for lack substance until we’ve obtained then, and evidence that’s not seen wouldn’t hold up well in a court of law. But that’s exactly how the Scriptures describe genuine, life-transforming faith.

 

The remainder of Hebrew 11 is a parade of examples of people through the Scriptures who lived out their faith in extraordinary ways. The list starts with Abel, the son of Adam and Eve who was killed by his brother, Cain. Of Abel it says, “by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (verse 4).

 

Verse 6 tells us how important faith is to the Lord: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Everyday life gives us numerous opportunities to exercise our faith, realizing that despite our best efforts, much of what is transpiring around us is beyond our control.

 

Hebrews 11’s “hall of faith” cites numerous other individuals, including Enoch, who did not experience death; Noah, who labored many years to build an ark at God’s command, saving his family from the global flood; Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and even a prostitute named Rahab. 

 

Abraham is a classic example of faith, of whom it says, “when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). It says he was rewarded for his obedience, being blessed with a son – Isaac – by his wife, Sarah, after they were well-advanced in years: “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as murderous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (verse 12). 

 

The existence of the nation of Israel today and the presence of Jews all around the world stand as proof that this promise to Abraham continues to be fulfilled.

 

This incredible chapter closes with the acknowledgement that the objects of faith are often long in coming, sometimes not even realized during one’s earthly life: “These were commended by the faith, yet none of them received what they had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

At the same time, as we study the Scriptures, we find hundreds of instances when deep, unwavering faith in God was indeed rewarded. And these should serve as encouragement and inspiration for us all. As God declares in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” That sounds wonderful to me. How about you? 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Have You Ever Stopped and Turned Around?

People who know me are aware of my “traveling disability” – I’m directionally challenged. Whenever I go to a new place, I either need clear directions or must rely on my good friend, Gladys Penelope Snodgrass (GPS). In fact, I can somewhere 10 times and, if the route is complicated in any way, will probably need directions again. 

 

I admire people who can travel to a new location and from that first visit will have the directions down pat, even years later. That doesn’t describe me. A common stereotype about men is that they never stop for directions, insistent on finding the way on their own. However, acknowledging my directional deficiencies, I’m usually quick to stop to ask someone – or consult GPS – for guidance.

 

One time I did attempt the “find it yourself” approach, but after a while realized the farther that I drove, the more distant I was getting from my destination. I’d rather humble myself and admit I’m lost – or suspect I might be – than keep following the wrong route. 
 

I marvel at the account in Exodus of how the ancient Israelites, after being freed from bondage in Egypt, wandered in the desert for 40 years before God guided them to the Promised Land. In that culture, women were expected to submit to the authority of men. And the men of Israel probably were too proud to ask for directions.

 

There’s a spiritual parallel here, but it’s not limited to the male species. Many of us have spent considerable time wandering through life, often in a tremendous hurry, but we seem to be going in circles. We’re going nowhere, but at least we’re making great time. Or as a friend used to describe people trying to live without Jesus Christ, “They’re lost, but they don’t know they’re lost.”

 

Recently I heard a story about C.S. Lewis, a one-time atheist who became a stalwart theologian and apologist for Christianity. Although raised in a Christian home, he rejected the faith at an early age and for a time thought he was doing just fine, on the right path, right on schedule. Then, as recounted in The Most Reluctant Convert, a biography of Lewis by David Downing, came an “aha” moment.

 

Lewis was enrolled to attend the esteemed Oxford University College, but when he exited the train in Oxford, he mistakenly began walking down the street in the wrong direction. He had never been to the town before, so Lewis grew disappointed at the nondescript houses and shops he saw along the way. He continued for a while until he reasoned that perhaps he was going the wrong way.

 

Not long after turning around, Lewis began to see the beautiful towers and spires for which the college is noted. Recalling this experience in his own book, Surprised by Joy, Lewis states, “This little adventure was an allegory of my whole life.” This became an important step in his journey of returning to the wonder of a life of faith, realizing the futility of following the path that had absorbed him into “the mundane inanities of modern life.”

 

Only when he turned around did Lewis find his way to the college, and this “turning” served as an important moment in realizing his need to turn back to the God he had encountered as a child. And what a turning it was – he became the author of many books about the Christian faith, including Mere Christianity, A Grief Observed, and the Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series.

 

Tragically, countless men and women are traveling in the absolute wrong direction, thoroughly convinced it eventually will get them to where they want to go. They have no idea that unless they turn around and proceed in the opposite direction, which the Bible calls “repentance,” they will never arrive at their desired destination. As Acts 3:19 declares, Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

 

The many religions of this world suggest there are many ways of finding the peace, joy, sense of purpose and fulfillment we all long for. But Jesus Christ boldly declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

 

This opportunity is available for anyone who will call out to God, acknowledge their need for Him and the fact that they have been headed in the wrong direction for much too long. If we do so, we’re told, “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8).

 

Is it time that you – or someone that you know and love – admitted going the wrong way and decided it was time to consult a new GPS: God’s Positioning System? 

There was a time in my life that I was far off-course spiritually, knowing nothing about a real, transforming relationship with the Lord. But I finally “saw the light,” no longer directionally challenged spiritually. Ever since then, following Jesus has become an incredible adventure I could never have imagined. When God said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call on me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know,” He wasn’t kidding. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Life’s Inevitable and Unexpected Twists and Turns

Probably no one who's lived for any length of time can say life has turned out exactly as they expected, at least to this point. Even the best-planned life will encounter unforeseen twists and turns along the way. 

 

Sometimes they’re merely brief detours. Like taking a highway exit to get gas or buy some fast food, then quickly getting back on the highway. Other times, however, life’s course goes in completely unexpected directions. Kind of like leaving New York to go to Florida, and suddenly discovering you’re rerouted to Colorado. 

 

Try mentally transporting yourself back in time 10 years, 20 years, even 30 years. Can you remember what you were anticipating about your life? Your dreams? Your plans? Your aspirations? Now consider how those goals, hopes and expectations compare with how your life has unfolded to date.

 

If you could have done so then, would you have chosen the life you have now? Some of us might have, but for probably the majority of us, our lives look very different from what we had envisioned. 

 

In my case, when I enrolled in college, I had no idea my educational and career paths would take me from New Jersey to Texas to Ohio to Pennsylvania, back to Ohio and Texas, and now, to Tennessee. It’s almost as if God were saying, “I know where I want you to be, but you can’t get there from here. You have to go somewhere else first.” Actually, lots of “somewhere elses.”
 

Over the course of one’s life, we experience joys and tragedies, successes and setbacks, delights and discouragements we could not have imagined. In some cases, we wish we could have a do-over, a “mulligan.” Other times we think, “Wow! I never would have thought of that!” The question is, how do we deal with our disappointments and sorrows, as well as surprising opportunities and challenges?

 

For those of us who trust in and follow Jesus Christ, it helps to believe that He is in control, even when life seems spiraling out of it. As the Lord says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

 

Whenever we’re tempted to wallow in self-pity or despair, this offers the assurance that bumps in the road, the obstacles we face, are part of God’s plan for taking us to where He ultimately wants us to be.

 

As I started my journalism career, I envisioned a long career in the newspaper business. I did enjoy the opportunity to work on suburban newspapers for 10 years, but the Lord had other plans for me and my career. In fact, over the decade I spent as a newspaper editor, God was also using the path He took me on for working in my life in other ways. Who I am today, not only professionally but also personally and spiritually, is a result of how He guided me and my family from place to place, job to job.

 

This is one reason that more than 40 years ago, I adopted Proverbs 3:5-6 as my “life verse.” It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

 

There have been many times along the way that my paths seemed more crooked than straight, but in retrospect I can see God knew exactly what He was doing, every step along the way. I love the promise He gave to the ancient Israelites – one we can also claim as believers today: 

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

 

Perhaps you’re at a point in life when you feel like you’re “in exile.” You might be wondering, “God, what is going on? Are You there? How did I get here? Are You aware of what’s happening?” If so, the Scripture passages above assure us that He is there – and knows quite well, better than we do, what’s going on. 

Sometimes He wants us to move into action, to step through doors He opens. Other times, however, the Lord asks us simply to slow down and trust Him. As He says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Not All There Is to Know, But All We Need to Know

How many books have you read more than once? It may seem bold to ask this question, since reading books is becoming a thing of the past for many people. What with all the channels on cable TV, the Internet, video games, text messaging and other distractions, who has time to read, right?

 

But for those who still enjoy the feel of a tangible book, the rustle of pages turning, the smell of paper and ink, and the adventure of discovering what the author has packed inside the book, I ask again: How many books have you read more than once? (Comic books don’t count.)

 

Personally, I’ve enjoyed reading a few classic novels a second or even third time. I’ve re-read George Orwell’s 1984 several times because his cautionary, dystopian tale appears to be unfolding right before our eyes, in real time. There are several books by Christian authors I’ve revisited, seeking to draw from their wells of wisdom again. 

 

There’s one book, however, that I have read cover to cover well over a dozen times. Perhaps you can guess what it is: the Bible. If I were to begin using adjectives to describe what the Bible – the Word of God – has meant for me over the years, I’d have to consult a thesaurus to cover all the bases. Words like amazing, incredible, and life-changing can’t begin to capture the impact of the Scriptures.
 

Why have I read it so much? Not because I expect any divine pats on the back or “extra credit.” It’s just that as I’ve read through the Bible year after year, I’ve found it kind of like peeling an onion – remove one layer and discover there’s another layer right below it, then another, and another. I’m convinced that an entire lifetime of reading through the Scriptures could barely begin to capture its vast treasures.

 

There are many reasons for this. Its length is one. One Bible I regularly use for reference has nearly 1,550 pages of purely biblical text – no footnotes, and not including the compilers’ introduction, table of contents, foreword, and index. Since it consists of 39 Old Testament books and 27 in the New Testament, written by dozens of different authors, there’s a lot to read from a variety of perspectives.

 

In the Bible we find narratives, history, poetry, letters, personal accounts, and other forms of writing, all pointing to one central theme: Jesus Christ and God’s plan for the redemption of His creation, most notably, humankind. That’s a lot to absorb.

 

But there’s another reason why the Scriptures are so compelling, so intriguing that they can be read again and again and again without ever seeming stale. The secret, I believe, is found in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judged the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

 

The best novel, or a classic book that has endured centuries, might be fun to read again, but it will always say the same things. The Bible, however, has the uncanny capacity to speak to us differently each time we read it. That is, God through His Word can speak to us differently every time. This is because as we continue in our journey through life, we encounter the Scriptures in new ways, depending on what we’re experiencing and how we’ve changed.

 

An old friend, an agnostic, once told me that he regarded the Bible as “a primer, something you read once, and then you move on to something more sophisticated.” No offense intended, but I think that might be one of the most ridiculous things anyone has ever said. Because nothing is more comprehensive, profound, penetrating, and timeless as the Word of God. Its principles, principles and truths have transcended the ages and will continue doing so until Christ’s promised return. 

 

At the same time, I have no problem acknowledging the Bible doesn’t tell us all there is to know about God. How could it? But it does tell us all we need to know about God.

 

I like how 2 Peter 1:3-4 expresses it: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.”

 

Back in 1966, a movie came out called “Alfie,” starring Michael Caine. Its theme song asked, “What’s it all about?” This is a question that resonates with millions of people to this day. We ask things such as, “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What’s my purpose in life?” “Where do I find meaning?” The Scriptures, I can say without any reservation, answer each of these questions – and many more – if we’re only willing to give them an honest, open-minded look.

 

In the longest of the Psalms, the writer asks and then answers, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).

 

We live in a world that seems spinning out of control. I believe it’s primarily because we’ve turned our backs on our Creator, the One who has laid out for us in His Word how we should live. As the King James Version puts it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Another translation says it a bit differently – “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” But then the verse ends, “but happy is he who keeps [God’s] law.”

As wondrous as the Bible is, the divinely inspired Word of God, it’s barely the tip of the proverbial iceberg about all that is possible to know about Him. But it definitely tells us all we need to know about Him.