CAN'T TOUCH IT
Breakfast will forever hold a special place in my heart. I don’t always have time to sit down and eat a hearty meal, but oh the thoughts of what could be... eggs and bacon, pancakes and syrup, sausage and hash browns. A cold slice of pizza or some leftover Chinese food. I don’t care. It’s all delicious! Top any of it off with a cup of black coffee and that’s the start of a good day. Breakfast is one of those things that should always be kept simple (at least in my opinion), but lately, I’ve noticed how the hip/health conscious seemingly wish to complicate things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in full support of being healthy and adventurous, but I can’t wrap my head around the iconic rise of avocado toast. Do protein shakes (which are healthy enough already) always require flaxseed, chia, kombucha and kale? Should we really be soiling good coffee with nut milk and matcha powder? You'll have to arrive at your own conclusion; I’m still on the fence myself. I recognize that “relevant” is not an evil word, but some things in existence are best left untouched. Yes, breakfast is one of them, but this lighthearted introduction serves to point us to a topic of much greater importance- something precious and incomparable; the unalterable, infallible foundation that is God’s holy Word.
Like many of you, I’m a Christian- an identifier that’s growing increasingly difficult (even dangerous) to wear in the face of our world’s adversity and division. Discuss your faith with just about anyone and you’re bound to be overwhelmed by a vast array of opinions mounted around the Bible- this seemingly innocent book that can stir so much passion in one heart and so much anger in another. As a man who truly loves and leans upon the scriptures, my heart hurts to see how few “believers” these days seem fully confident in taking the Word at its word. The longer we blend into a broken world, the more it can color and distort our perspective. Now (more than ever), we’re being bombarded with opinions that can taint our understanding of scripture, causing us to adopt a "subjective truth" rather than embrace God’s perfection. Unsure of what's at our core, outside influence can yank us into the popular trend of defining the Bible as a collection of stories and life lessons rather the Lord’s historic and authentic principles.
So, what’s your posture? When did you last ponder the place of God’s Word in your life (beyond what’s read from the pulpit on Sunday morning or displayed on the art you purchased from Hobby Lobby)? The average Christian will typically respond with something like, “The Bible is everything to me!” If that’s true, then God will surely bless you for it! But, far too many of us step in the footprints of the world (using the Bible to loosely influence our plans) when we’re called to live as citizens of heaven.
I wish I could speak from a pedestal of wisdom or spiritual mastery, but just like Paul, I can’t boast in anything apart from the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6: 14). I read scripture one passage at a time, with the same impartial confidence as most. I’ve carried loads of doubt on my walk, but by the power of the cross, I can cling to faith; strengthened by what the Lord has revealed to me that reaffirms His Word to be true. Still, we wonder how can we can possibly be "sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11: 1). Because, friends, God’s Word is the supernatural constant- the standalone truth that transcends senses and understanding to speak directly to the heart. It bridges the impossible, but for it to be most effective, the Word of God (like breakfast) is best left untouched. It doesn’t need our help to be relevant! It doesn’t need to be watered down or boosted up to be compelling! The words within its pages have been transforming, rescuing and reviving souls since they were first spoken into existence.
So, what do we do when the realities of life shake our foundation and the voice of God's Word seems drowned out in the noise? What are we to think when the scriptures don't jump off the pages and apply to our circumstances? Should we bite our tongues, throw up our hands and just assume that He missed something? Do we carelessly or indiscriminately pretend that faith is still leading us even though our hearts are plagued with doubt? By no means! True faith is taking God at His Word, while grappling with uncertainty. It’s trusting that there are, in fact, answers, even if they aren’t shared with us. It’s bowing to Biblical truth in the face of turmoil, rather than bending to a scattered worldview that permits us to each find our own special, unique, personal form of “truth.”
Beware the quiet attacks of the enemy. The serpent still slithers in our garden today (Genesis 3: 4-5). The prowling lion still looks to devour (1 Peter 5: 8). Wolves will still seek to scatter God’s faithful, disguised as one of the fold (Matthew 7: 15). Not every verse should be opened to interpretation. Yes, everyone IS entitled to their own opinion (granted in the form of free will), and many scriptures require study and discussion, but there are still clear lines in the sand; drawn to separate truth from fiction. “...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Eph 4: 14
Face it, we’re imperfect (and often a bit misguided), so misinterpretation and false teaching are very much a part of the devil’s scheme to draw us away from the light of God’s promise. The deterioration of our faith is not caused by our questioning. Instead, it begins with lingering too long in the questions- when we become skeptics of God’s motives, arguing His commandments and dodging the specificities of His Law. God’s Word cannot be redefined by our selfish opinions and still be considered God’s Word.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3: 16-17
Our reception of the Lord’s truth begins with knowing that WE occupy a place in HIS plan. We can only be complete when we honor His position at the highest seat in heaven. The Author and Finisher of our faith breathed His Word into existence. It has the power to fill dead hearts with life, and yet, possesses the tangible nature to be useful in our daily lives. The Bible is a weapon; the sword of the spirit (our ammunition in an unseen battle), but we (who have unlimited access to it) often dabble with it’s words and phrases like it's a dull kitchen knife that occasionally suits our needs. Do you trust in the precision of the gospel? Has it truly pierced your heart or just been added to your toolbox?
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4: 12
My heart goes out to the doubter. I've often stood in those shoes. Still, doubt can lead to questions and questions DO have answers. There is hope! My heart goes out to the non-believer. I can't imagine the solitude without the Savior, but no soul is lost while it still draws breath. This is not the end! My heart hurts most for the Christian wanderer- the one who hears the Word of God, but seeks to redefine it- resisting the truths they cannot stomach to create something more palpable. It’s the heart that's convinced it knows (or knows better than) the mind of God. It’s the tongue that begins to sound a bit too much like the serpent… “If God was truly loving… If God was truly perfect… If God was truly powerful…” Woe to the prideful... a fall is coming! Bowing in humility to God’s Word may seem foolish, weak, or even blind sometimes, but a crown does await the faithful, regardless of whether we believe in it or not. Truth is truth, even if we choose to turn away from it!
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Rom 1: 33-34
“For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Cor 2: 11
It has almost become passe to fully adhere to scripture without making a few tweaks along the way. Christians in the developed world have largely grown soft to the sureness of God's Word; likely in part to our desire for instant gratification. The odds will seemingly stack against "absolute truth" when Biblical “seeking, knocking and asking” don’t yield results as fast as our discoveries and devices can. If God doesn’t respond or help (in our preferred time and way), it’s easy to consider Him a liar. Then, when we do read His Word, we wave it off as irrelevant or ineffective, rejecting the evidence and calling of Christ (the Word) who was with God in the beginning.
Robert Velarde (Focus on the Family) states… “Liberal theologians sometimes point out that our view of the Bible doesn't really matter. So long as we gain strength and insights from it, they say, that is enough. Following this line of reasoning, they remove many miracles of the Bible or simply treat them as myths. This is a mistake, particularly when it comes to the Resurrection of Christ. Our view of the Bible matters immensely, especially if what it claims is indeed true. If it is, as we have argued, then our eternal destiny hinges on how we will respond to Christ and His calling. Will we reject Him or accept Him?”
We must know God’s Word to know Him. The Lord does in fact reveal Himself when we pursue Him with pure and humble motives, but sometimes we have to find peace in the waiting. We are much closer to God’s promises than we may think, so tailoring His words (reading between, outside or over the lines) isn’t going to help us know Him any better. God welcomes our need to wrestle with Him for a blessing, but in doing so, we shouldn’t be surprised by the struggle. If the Bible is absolute truth, then it can stand a tussle with the likes of us. Similar to Jacob, we can survive the scrap, but the experience must serve to draw us closer to God, not numb us to His presence. Every hero of the faith is prone to questioning. We feel crushed today when an influencer of the faith (pastor, author, worship leader) reveals doubt about what they’ve believed or preached, but the reality of their struggle can encourage and remind us that while all fall short of God’s glory, all who know and believe in the truth of His Word are ushered into it.
God welcomes the questions, but still expects our devotion. The Lord reigns and we must bow. The Lord knows all and we must revel at His mysteries. His will is perfect and we should learn how to merge into its flow. Things tend to work better when He leads. Does your faith reflect a devoted servant or a reluctant (backseat) driver? All of us are apt to treat the Christian faith like a blind ambition. Yes, even you! It happens when God’s Word seems untrue. We’ve all picked apart scripture to insert our “feelings.” Plenty of believers struggle to practice faith because their stance is based on worldly logic. Too many of us are skeptics in the shallows when the Lord dwells in the deep end. How can we possibly gain wisdom or insight when we refuse to get our feet wet? Be honest, have you ever thought (in the quiet of your mind) that this “faith” thing might just be a fool’s endeavor? It would be illogical to pray to the sky if no one is listening or worship an entity that’s distant or even nonexistent… that is, until you consider the true validity and impact of God’s Word. Faith (our certainty, co-mingled with hope) is actually quite logical when you consider that we are spiritual beings. However, faith also surpasses logic and we must understand that some things (out of God’s love and protection for us) remain in His area of expertise. He can handle anything that we throw at Him, but there’s a comfort and peace in learning to bow to what’s beyond us.
God’s Word is eternal, but we think in the temporal. It’s astounding how often we dig our feet in on things that don’t really matter. Stubborn and unwavering, we take a “stance” on social issues, politics and popular trends, while forgetting that none of it will mean a thing in glory. We're called to live like Christ (firm in the word), but we so easily bend on the things with eternal implications. The directions for ministry are laid out in scripture, but we bicker over preferences and personal opinions. We know God's greatest commands, but adjust our adherence to them based on comfort levels and commitments. Our vision is so limited, fixated on the temporal, but God’s Word has the power to transform and renew (in mind and spirit). It will either change you into salt and light (the image of Christ), or fall behind trivial, momentary priorities that shape you in the image of the world. Let the Spirit do it's work.
”For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, 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, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1: 16-21
For a moment, look beyond yourself to the vast reaches of this world. The Bible gives life in every corner! In remote and divergent cultures it remains a priceless gift and an irreplaceable treasure. What is it to you? Infallible truth? Debatable doctrine? Just another book on the coffee table or the handbook for your survival? The discovery is yours to make, but the truth of the Word will speak for itself. May it speak to you today!