Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is good to be home again. Thanks for your prayer for my ministry in Philippines. The Word of God was preached and some responded positively to His prompting. Many felt that the sermons directed to the issues they encountered in church. This church is the most missional one among all Chinese churches. The Mission budget is 75% of their general fund. They supported missionaries all over the world. 38 missionaries came back to attend the 45th Mission Conference of their mother church. God is doing great things through this congregation both locally and globally. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to see how He uses this church for His glory. I was humbled by how the Holy Spirit used me to challenge this congregation to grow even more. My experience ties in well with what Eugene Peterson shared about in his devotion.
We are mistaken when we look at the Bible as a spiritual toolbox. We can’t take things out of the Bible and make them work for us. The whole process of the spiritual life is to come before the God who is alive, who becomes present to us in his Word, and who by means of that Word creates and redeems. We don’t use Scripture; God uses Scripture to work his will in us.
Jesus said, “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you II find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want” (John 5:39-40).
It is a great blessing to have God’s Word written so that we can read it at any time, but that the Word is written also involves us in difficulties not attended to often enough. These difficulties are at the very center of the spiritual life. The difficulties radiate out of a position of ownership—supposing that we own the Word, rather than letting the Word possess us. The simple act of buying a Bible has subtle side effects we need to counter. It is easy to suppose that since we bought it, we own it, and therefore can use it the way we wish.
This danger was not as acute when most Christians were illiterate, for they never read Scripture; they heard it. The words of the Bible were first spoken and listened to. Most of it was in oral form before it was written down. Even the Epistles, which originated as writings, were read aloud and listened to in the churches to which they were written.
Hearing a word is different from reading a word. When we hear, we are poised for response; something is happening. A listener doesn’t take a word or a phrase, then walk off and analyze it—that would be to miss the message. A speaking person presents a whole message to us, and we respond as whole persons. But the moment the message is written down, we can stop listening if we are so minded.
Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken! (Mark 12:26b-27)
I agreed with Peterson that our attitude toward Bible tends to be like reading a regular book that we possess. So we take it out to enjoy it if our mood is right. But if it does not give us what we want, we simply put it away back to our bookshelf and ignore it. We dictate and choose what we want from the Bible. Not unless we submit ourselves to the Bible just as we submit under God, we will not give Holy Spirit the freedom to speak to us through the Bible in whatever way He wants. The written word of God invites different analysis and interpretation, which creates division in church. The word of God is meant to call for our obedience to His Word instead of critical analysis of it. Have mercy on us O Lord. Help us to discern our attitude as we submit ourselves to your Word.
With Love through His Word,