There’s a bit in Thessalonians that warmed the cockles of my heart this morning – you may not even have noticed it. If you had a loving father, or if you are a loving father, it may have been too obvious for you to even think about, but it gave me new insight. Is this what a father does? Jesus taught us to call God our father, so is that who God is? No, I mean, not metaphorically, but really? Really?
‘For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.’
Is it normal for a dad to be encouraging and comforting? Cor. That’s amazing. Dead good. Some dads don’t do that. My dad didn’t. Not never, he didnae. A dad for me is someone you fear and revere and then you keep your distance. Wary.
As I thought about Paul and his gentle, loving attitude to the Thessalonians, I heard ( I listen to David Suchet reading the Bible as I walk) Paul calling the church ‘our glory and joy.’ and I wondered if my little church is our Pastor’s glory and joy. I leave that question hanging, not sure I want to hear the answer. But it made me smile, and I wondered if Paul and our leadership team will meet one day in heaven and have such a lot to say to each other, anecdotes and laughter….. shared experiences, rueful memories.
But I was a child in a sweetie shop on the beach today so I didn’t stop there. After hearing Thessalonians (it’s short) three times, I then nipped off into Isaiah for chapters 40 to 43, which must surely be the MOST exciting, amazing, revealing, awesome, beautiful, heartening, terrifying chapters in all of mankind’s history….. and then as I thanked God for His Word, alive and personal and speaking to us every day of our lives, I remembered the verse that grabbed me yesterday “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
Once again, I was hornswaggled by the richness and vibrancy of the Bible, bewildered by its vast array of goodies and gifts and blessings. Some read the Bible in a year but I don’t know how they do that – I can get stuck on one verse for a week, revisiting the same chapter, pulled back into Isaiah over and over again, breathless with the excitement of Acts, left grateful and marvelling at the passion of Christ, tickled pink by this revelation or that question. It’s amazing, my little dumplings! The Bible is amazing. It prompts questions, and keeps me there thinking about them, sometimes for days (in Isaiah’s case for years) until – as yesterday – I get a “eureka!” moment.
I love hearing testimonies about what God is doing in the world, and I’m a sucker for good teaching, prayer and (sometimes) fellowship, but I don’t go in for books about Christianity. I don’t. It’s not because I lack interest in them, or I know it all, but I’m aware that at 70 my time on this earth is limited and I’ve wasted most of my life reading and writing tripe, so now I don’t want to get distracted from what I know is absolutely the best (the Bible). There are just so many devotional, do-it-this-way, five-easy-steps-to-a-better-life books! And they devour so many hours, when I could be receiving insight not from some author but from God. Why would I do that? Of course, there’s a bit of me, the horrid ‘stand apart’ side of me, that just doesn’t want to read bad writing, or lazy writing, and there’s a deal of it about.
I often choose wine by the label – I’m a marketer’s dream. But a book can have the most intriguing title, a striking cover, a terrific write-up on the back page, and I will be unmoved. When I read anything other than the Bible and commentaries, it’s either because I know of and trust the author, or because someone discerning has recommended it and although I rarely pass these recommendations on, I do recommend (very highly) ‘Shaped By The Word’ by M.Robert Mulholland Jnr. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s brought me a new awareness of how to read the Word of God in a constructive and life-changing way. It’s thought provoking and intelligent, and although the writing is dense at times and a bit pre-war (Crimean War, sorry), it’s a fab read. It’s changed my approach to the Bible.
I can point to four life changing events in my past;
1) Coming to faith 2) Walking into a little red church 3) Hearing a sermon on ‘Submit to one another’ and now 4) Reading ‘Shaped By The Word’. Each of these events demanded and explored submission. The book I’m recommending could be summed up in one sentence ‘Submit to the Word and it will shape you’.
Submission is an adventure in trust. It’s a journey into humility and a discovery of strength. I am so very grateful for the Word of God and for good teaching. I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve this overwhelming of joy. Nothing.
I’m simply a child in a sweetie shop and God’s gifts to me, His words, are piled high on the shelves, ready to be taken down, weighed out, handed over. Delicious, mouth watering, life-giving, energising gifts. For me. I can’t wait to shove them all into my hungry mouth, cramming them in, clambering up to reach the ones on the top shelf, shouting “Oooh! Try this one! This one’s amazing!”
I think I can hear my God saying ‘One at a time, Luce. One at a time.’
The Bible. So very very exciting. But you have to be hungry. The more I cram into my bulging hamster cheeks, the hungrier I am. Thessalonians and Isaiah today and a quick sideways glance at Jeremiah. Does it sound a lot? It isn’t. The reading takes only a few minutes, but the brain work, the submission to the teaching, that’s ongoing, all-day. Your brain never stops working, so why waste a second of it? You can think about all sorts of things as you buy bread and clean the loo and walk the dogs, and blog… so why not think about the God who loves you and gives you life? Do all those things with Him. It’s possible. It’s wonderful. It’s giddying.
If you don’t read the Bible, why not give it a go? What have you got to lose? I promise it will rot neither your teeth nor your brain.