A cold night in February 1982. Snow was falling thick and fast, blowing across my windshield.
Not far ahead, a bookstore.
Later, when I told my friends where I was headed, they didn’t believe me. “At that hour? In that weather?”
Minutes earlier in a warm office, I’d confessed my sins (well, some of them) to the pastor of a church I’d started attending. Told him enough hairy details to get the point across.
When I finished, the pastor said gently, “So, you’ve lived a worldly life.”
I was confused. “No, I did all that stuff in America.”
After a short prayer, I’d bolted out of his office, intent on buying a Bible. Immediately.
Yes, a Bible. A big one.
I’d written down the kind my friends owned. Ryrie Study Bible. NASB. I had no idea what those initials stood for, but they sounded very official.
I soon learned what the letters meant. If you’re thinking New American Standard Bible, that’s one answer. But I think they also mean Not A Safe Book.
There is nothing safe about God’s Word. Read it, and pride is done for. Some verses cut like a knife, even through the thickest skin. Convincing. Convicting.
Listen to this: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).
Jesus said that? Yes, he did.
Tombs. Dead. Unclean. We get the picture.
The Bible also comforts, offering words that soothe and heal. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Jesus said that too.
Dear, dear Jesus. To think of being yoked with you, walking close by your side, matching our footsteps to yours. Gentle. Humble. Rest-giving.
We know the Bible contains Truth because it has the power to change us. I’ve read many books that inspired me, that moved me, that touched me at some deep level, but only one book turned my life right-side up.
The Bible is more than words on a page. It’s God’s very heart in our hands.
In the beginning… John 1:1
Wait. We’ve heard these words before and know them well. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Eugene Peterson must have smiled when he wrote, “First this:” (MSG). Yes.
But that’s only the beginning of the world, the beginning of time. It is not at all the beginning of God, “the Rock eternal (Isaiah 26:4).
John boldly echoes those words at the start of his gospel, reminding us Who was there before the beginning.
…was the Word… John 1:1
Indeed, “Before the world began, the Word was there” (ERV). Not a printed book; an eternal Being. “In the beginning is the one who is called the Word” (CEV).
We know him best by the proper name his Father chose for him. Jesus.
…and the Word was with God… John 1:1
Father and Son, together throughout eternity, bound with the Holy Spirit. All are One, yet different. If plain water can be liquid, vapor, and ice, surely the God of the universe can also be three in One.
…and the Word was God. John 1:1
Equal. Divine. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:19). Dangerous words for a man to speak, unless he is the Son.
Philosophers and theologians have spent centuries parsing this single verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That’s how powerful words can be, and this Word above all.
When it is spoken aloud, when the Word goes forth, things happen.
In October 1857. Charles Spurgeon preached at the Crystal Palace in London. A vast space, it held more than 23,000 people. Microphones were a thing of the future. Spurgeon had only the power of his voice and the conviction of his beliefs to make Christ known in that place.
He wrote, “A day or two before preaching at the Crystal Palace, I went to decide where the platform should be fixed; and, in order to test the acoustic properties of the building, cried in a loud voice, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’”
A single verse, John 1:29. The words of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus drawing near.
Up in one of the galleries of the Crystal Palace. a workman, unaware of Spurgeon’s presence, heard the spoken Word, which “came like a message from heaven to his soul.” He put down his tools, went home, and was reconciled with Christ.
One verse pierced his heart. One verse altered his life forever.
He was with God in the beginning. John 1:2
Hmm. Didn’t John already cover this? He did.
God breathed this particular portion of his Word through the heart of a poet, who wasn’t afraid to state things twice, for our benefit. “The Word was God, in readiness from day one” (MSG).
Ready for what? Ready for you, beloved. Waiting patiently for you to read this truth, to hear this truth, to respond to this truth.
There are Bibles all over the world, all over our houses, waiting to be opened. On shelves and under beds, on top of coffee tables and inside dresser drawers. Waiting, waiting
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3
Creation is all about Jesus. He is the life force of the universe, and the glue that holds it together. Paul restates this truth: “Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him” (Colossians 1:17 MSG).
I’m all for random acts of kindness, but not for random acts of creation. It’s comforting to know that everything has a purpose. Not one of us is a mistake.
Oh, Lord, thank you for that. Just…thank you.
In him was life,… John 1:4
He is the “bread of Life” (John 6:35), the “author of life” (Acts 3:15), the “Word of life” (1 John 1:1). If people don’t yet know or acknowledge that they owe their lives to Jesus, it doesn’t change the reality of it. “Life began by Him” (NLV), and he “gave life to everything that was created” (NLT).
When we introduce someone to Jesus, we are saying, “Come meet the One who knit you in your mother’s womb, the One who loved you from before you were born, the One who died that you might have life.”
…and that life was the light of men. John 1:4
Some of us grew up surrounded by artificial light. We went to church now and again, convinced we were Christians, yet not truly knowing God.
A day comes when candles are lit, lights blink on, curtains are thrown open, and darkness is banished. This Light, this Life, this Word makes everything new.
Suddenly, things inside us fall into place. Our hearts begin to heal from years of shoddy treatment. We have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a place where we can serve, a body of people we can love.
We’ve found the “Light to live by” (MSG), and so cup our hands around the flame, grateful for its warmth.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:5
The forces of darkness have not “overpowered” (AMP). “suppressed” (CJB), “defeated” (ERV), or “mastered” (NET) the Light of the World, because it cannot be done.
Light, after all, is an energy source. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. It has no power, no substance, no life of its own.
Darkness can make us nervous, though.
Last spring my daughter-in-law and I toured a cave aboard a small boat. When we reached the deepest point in the cave, the guide turned out all the lights.
I blinked, hoping my eyes would adjust to the absolute darkness. But there was no escaping it. Not a pin prick of light shone anywhere. I clasped her hand, silently counting the minutes until our boat carried us back into the light of day. I wouldn’t say we were scared exactly. More like terrified.
When we turn away from the light of Christ, even for a brief season, it’s unsettling how quickly darkness clouds our minds. We begin to doubt, to question, to fear.
What if God isn’t real? What if believing in him is pointless?
That’s when we run to the Word. Drink in the truth. Let the words refresh our faith and bring new life to our souls. Jesus is our only hope. And our best hope.
Now, it’s your turn:
Just before I posted this week’s study, I read through your comments once more and prayed over the concerns you shared. I know this will sound corny, but I’m going to say it anyway: I love you.
I love your honesty, sincerity, and compassion. I love that you handle God’s Word with care and each other with tenderness. I love that you make time for our weekly study, and are patient with me when I’m late posting, like this week (sorry).
Here are this week’s questions from Embrace Grace:
- What place does God’s Word hold in your heart? in your home? in your day-to-day life?
I believe God calls some of us to teach because he knows that will keep us in his Word! You are a wonderful reason for me to keep studying, keep learning. It’s like God took my people-pleasing nature and turned it on its head. Isn’t he good?
- Read aloud a verse of Scripture from this chapter that has challenged you, changed you, or comforted you. Why are those words especially meaningful to you?
In this week’s chapter I explain why Romans 8:38-39 is so dear to me. I hope you’ll share your favorite verse in the Comment section.
- If it’s time to take the next step in your spiritual journey, how might God’s Word help you move forward?
This year I’m trying to memorize three chapters of Romans. (Who suggested that?! Oh, right. Ann Voskamp. I’m still in, sister.) How about you? Got any plans for you and God’s Word in 2013?
Please take a moment to leave a Comment. Meanwhile, I’m bracing myself for next week’s chapter, “Embrace Sin.” Oh baby…