I balked when Erin Davis (LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com blog manager) asked me to write a post about why I read the Bible. Sounds simple enough, right? But my mind went blank. Utterly empty.
I knew why I used to read the Bible:
All good Christians I knew read the Bible.
I was told I should.
I thought God would be happy with me if I did.
I felt closer to God when I did something “spiritual” (reading my Bible being at the top of the list).
It was tradition.
But now I understand that Christianity isn’t about what I do but about what Christ has done on my behalf. So why do I read the Bible now? I wasn’t sure.
I thought about it for a few weeks, and slowly I began to realize why I read the Bible.
How can I become conformed to an image that I never behold?
I read the Bible to catch a glimpse of God’s beauty, because that’s where God has revealed Himself. Then, as I get to know God, I try to imitate Him, and He begins to make me beautiful like Him.
Here’s how this looked this past week.
Someone close to me hurt me. I knew in my head that their sin wasn’t a personal attack against me, but it sure felt that way. I wanted to lash out at them with hurtful words, but instead, I grabbed my Bible, journal, and pen. The Lord quickly showed me Himself in John 8:3–7,
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Am I without sin? (No!)
I saw how the religious leaders insisted that others keep the law perfectly, but Jesus (who kept the law perfectly on our behalf!) extended grace to this woman. It reminded me of John 1:17,
The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
If Jesus extends grace, and if I am full of Jesus (Col. 2:10), than how can I be anything but gracious?
So now I know. This is why I read the Bible: to gaze on God’s beauty, and to become beautiful like Him.
Why do you read the Bible?
PS: I have to thank Jen Wilkin for helping me see this more clearly. Here’s just a snippet from her excellent book Women of the Word. You should read it!
Someone asked me recently if I was a God-worshipper or a Bible worshipper. . . . My answer was simple: I want to be conformed to the image of God. How can I become conformed to an image that I never behold?
I am not a Bible-worshipper, but I cannot truly be a God-worshipper without loving the Bible deeply and reverently. Otherwise, I worship an unknown god. A Bible-worshipper loves an object. A God-worshipper loves a person.
“We come from the stars. . . . How amazing is that?” These were Oprah’s opening words at The Life You Want Weekend 2014 Tour.
Undercover at Oprah’s Tour
I know, because I was there. Oprah Winfrey’s The Life You Want Weekend Tour is drawing women like crazy, and I wanted to see what women are feasting on. What is Oprah feeding them? I figured I’d return to the office with fresh passion for why I do what I do.
I got that . . . and more.
As I slipped into my seat just minutes before the tour started with my pen and notebook, I asked God for compassion, wisdom, and discernment.
Those prayers quickly turned toward marriages and families as Elizabeth Gilbert encouraged women to go on a quest (even if it meant divorcing their husbands, as she did, in order to “find themselves”).
I prayed for Rob Bell, who, according to TIME magazine, “is at the forefront of a rethinking of Christianity in America.” I prayed big, that Rob would share the Gospel without even being able to help himself, but . . . alas. There was not one mention of sin or of our need for a Savior.
I prayed for speakers Oprah and Mark Nepo and Iyanla Vanzant. You might assume I left discouraged, disheartened, and thoroughly defeated, but just the opposite is true.
I left praying prayers of thankfulness.
Praying Prayers of Thankfulness
I left praying prayers of thankfulness that I know the name of the “unnamed spirit” Mark Nepo addressed in his group meditation:
“Oh endless Creator, Force of Life, Seat of the Unconscious, Dharma, Otman, Rah, Kal, Dahr, Center of our Love, Christ-light, Yaweh, Allah, Mother of the Universe . . . Oh nameless spirit that is not done with us . . .”
I left praying prayers of thankfulness that I don’t have to figure out why I’m here by catching the “whispers” the Universe sends my way—I already know why I’m here through the reliable, unchanging Word of God.
Now I’m praying that Oprah Tour attendees will rub shoulders with Spirit-filled Christians and breathe in deep the fragrance of Jesus Christ, slain for sinners, raised to defeat sin and death and secure for His children everlasting life with Him.
You may not have attended one of Oprah’s The Life You WantWeekend Tours, but in your own life—as you see what the world has to offer—what prayers of thanksgiving can you offer as you consider all that is yours in Christ?
Oh, I still read it nearly every day. I even make sure it’s on top of my stack of books, out of reverence for it (or is it just habit now?).
But my hunger and reverence for it has waned. There are a myriad of reasons for that, but here’s a big one.
As you probably know, Christians disagree about how we hear from God today. I have Gospel-believing friends on both sides of the fence—some who claim to be led by God’s Spirit as they listen to Him throughout their day, and other Gospel-believing friends who claim that the Word of God is the only way God speaks to His people today.
As a communicator, I’ve had to learn how to carefully nuance how I talk about hearing from God. That, for a girl who’s naturally more of a feeler than a thinker, and more gray than black and white, has felt stifling and rigid at times.
It has been confusing, too. Which is it? Is it the Spirit who leads us . . . or is it the Word?
This past Sunday, my pastor preached on the Word of God. This stood out,
The further I move from the written Word of God, the less confidence I can have that I’ve heard a word from God.
After his sermon, I went back over my notes and looked up all the Scriptures (one of my favorite Sunday “rhythms”), and I stumbled on 2 Peter 1:21 where we’re told how the Book was written,
No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Oh, yea! I was reminded that the Word IS the Spirit’s personally-breathed-out words. Oh to treasure and revere it more.
Then this morning, my ears perked up when Nancy Guthrie unpacked Nehemiah 8:1,
All the people [50,000 of them] gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.
Picture Times Square on New Years Eve, except this crowd was gathered to hear a book read rather than to watch a ball drop. We don’t know for sure, but maybe one piped up, “Bring out the Book!” And another and then another pitched in until the whole crowd cried, “Bring out the Book! Bring out the Book!”
Oh, that God might raise up women in our day who are hungry for the book,” Nancy said.
Yes, Lord. I want to return to the Book. I want to be a woman of the Book. Not a rigid, puffed up woman, but a God-knowing, God-fearing, God-hearing woman.
I still don’t have all the answers, but this I do know. The Spirit still speaks today through His personal, living words in that Book.
Last week we asked the question, Why does God want your money? We made the important clarification that it’s not your money but God’s money. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the original question:
Why does God want your (er, His!) money?
Here are just two reasons from Matthew 6:19–21:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (emphasis added).
When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
God wants your money because He wants you to have treasures that’ll last. As in, forever.
My sweet neighbor has let me watch two of her births. Elijah came out clutching a flat-screen TV, and Mercy came out with a sparkling pair of twenty-four-carat diamond earrings. (Kidding!) They both came out naked and empty-handed. No surprise, right? Paul says it like this in 1 Timothy 6:7:
We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (emphasis added).
Have you ever asked your mom what you brought into this world the day you were born? Probably not, because you already know the answer. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that when you leave this world (whether it’s through death or through Jesus’ soon return for you), you will bring nothing with you? Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
I like how John Piper says it:
There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.
In Matthew 6:19, Jesus isn’t saying it’s wrong to store up treasures; He just doesn’t want us to be stupid about it. We can’t take our favorite possessions or clothes with us (sorry to disappoint!). When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
Randy Alcorn says it like this, “You can’t take it with you—but you can send it on ahead.” He continues in his fantastic little book The Treasure Principle:
Jesus has a treasure mentality. He wants us to store up treasures! He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong place and start storing them in the right place!
God wants you to have treasures that’ll actually last—as in forever.
God wants your money because above all, He wants your heart.
There’s another reason God wants your (ahem, His!) money.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
What if God is really after your heart? And what if the way to your heart is through . . . your wallet?
As I read The Treasure Principle, I learned that 15 percent of everything Jesus says in the Bible relates to money—more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined!
Why does He care so much about money? It’s ’cause He knows that wherever our money goes, our heart goes.
More than your money, He’s after your heart (Matt. 15:7–9). He wants you to share a relationship with Him that’s closer than any other relationship you have on this entire planet. (And yes, when that happens, He’ll also have your money.)
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t payback. God didn’t sacrifice His life for you so you could pay Him back (as if you could!). Your salvation was a free, lavish gift. Don’t pull out your wallet to pay Him back. Give out of joy and gratefulness for how He gave to you, and watch your love for Him skyrocket as you do. Because where your money goes, there your heart goes.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
I’m pretty big about communicating winsomely. But would you mind terribly if I ranted . . . just a tad? (Pretty please?)
There’s a “truth” I hear tossed around Christian circles that makes my stomach churn. It goes something like this:
Marriage is the ultimate reward for living a life of purity right now.
Come again? Marriage is a great gift, but it is not the ultimate reward!
It can be hard to believe, but God really is the ultimate reward; not a guy, not a relationship, not marriage.
Then there’s the line that:
The ultimate reward of oneness in marriage will be worth every moment of loneliness.
Yikes, that’s a looong time for tween and teen girls to wait for their reward—especially in a culture of instant gratification where the average marrying age for females is 27–30.
God really is the ultimate reward; not a guy, not a relationship, not marriage.
So a girl’s to pine away in loneliness for three long decades? And then, suddenly, it’ll all be worth it? I don’t see how that’s good news.
But this, on the other hand, is: You and I don’t have to wait until marriage to experience the happiness we’re looking for today! It is ours for the having—right now.
Single or married, sixteen or senior citizen, joy is found in God’s presence, which can be experienced anywhere, anytime:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Our hope for the “good life” isn’t tied to marriage; it’s tied to the One to whom marriage faintly points.
At least, that’s what I thought . . . until I was corrected by Matthew 5:8. You know, the verse that says:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall snag a great husband.
(Oh, whoops, I grabbed the wrong translation!) Let me try that again:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
There. That’s right. Seeing God is purity’s reward. God-gazing is the greatest reward that exists.
David got that. In Psalm 27:4 he asked for just one thing,
“One thing have I asked of the Lord . . .”
What one thing would you ask God for? For most of my life, a husband would’ve been at the tip-top of my list. But when we read the context of Psalm 27, we learn that as David writes this wish, he has an enemy army encircling him. You’d expect him to ask God for weapons or a divine rescue, right? But instead, He asks to be able to gaze on God’s beauty,
“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”
Let’s make sure we’re not misleading our girls. God is their reward; not a guy, not a relationship, not marriage.
And you, if you’re single, or you, if you’re in a miserable marriage, you, too, can experience the happiness you long for. Today! It’s found in His presence.
Whether you caught The Hunger Games opening weekend (and contributed to making it the biggest November opening ever!), or whether you have no idea who Peeta and Katniss are, I’m guessing you can relate to this girl’s bottom-line question:
I finished The Hunger Games series, and I am so envying Katniss. I mean, I know they are just fictional characters, but seriously! Peeta loves her so much and so unconditionally. This guy is SO perfect. I know I have God and all, but is there gonna be a guy that really loves me THAT much??
Will I ever be loved like that? Even if I’ve never asked that question out loud, it’s been the silent question behind the tears filling my eyes after dropping yet another novel into the library dropbox or watching the credits roll by after yet another chick flick. Could that ever happen to me?
But as the books and movies have been released and the tears have fallen and the years have passed, I’ve come to believe that even if . . .
Even if Peeta actually existed in real life . . .
And even if I were his “Katniss,” the woman he lived and breathed for . . .
It wouldn’t be enough. Not for long.
That’s because the hole in my heart—and the hole in your heart—isn’t Peeta-shaped. Or Gale-shaped (Katniss’ other love interest).
A God so big the waters of the earth fit into the palm of His hand. A God of nearly 500 billion galaxies. A God who has no weaknesses, who never trips or falls or needs you to rescue Him (like Peeta). A God who not only talks about dying for you (like Peeta), but a God who actually sacrificed His life for you.
So you—a poor nobody from the dark, outer district—could enter into the closest relationship you have ever known with the kindest, most powerful King who has always been. So there could be no distance or discord or disconnectedness between you and Him.
How do I know?
Because God thought up marriage—the most committed love relationship we can experience as humans—to give us just a taste, a tiny taste, of the oneness we can and will know with Him, through faith in Jesus Christ:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. . . . This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it [marriage] refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:25–32).
You are loved. So much more and so much better than Peeta loves Katniss. You are loved by this God who makes Peeta look . . . well, puny.
Renee felt like her relationship with God was “golden.” That is, until she met Clay. She shared her story with me over email.
It was my prayer when I first started this job that I could be God’s light at my new workplace. Then I met Clay. He was the site technician at work, and I thought he was cute. He was older than me so I made sure to check for a wedding ring, and there was none.
At first I ran toward God and kept praying over and over, “Please don’t let me be attracted to Clay if it’s not Your will for us to be together.” I intentionally didn’t make any moves or advances toward him, because I told God if this was right, I wanted to be pursued.
Well, sure enough, Clay kept chatting with me whenever he got the chance, and eventually we exchanged numbers so we could chat more. Right after that he confessed he had a fifteen-month-old daughter and was married.
I was shocked, but under the pretense of not being judgmental I accepted it and decided to be a good friend to him. We both couldn’t deny the mutual attraction though, and he eventually invited me over to his house and we hung out. Alone. Bad things happened, and I was left reeling. I knew this didn’t feel right, but at the same time everything seemed to work out. He pursued me. We were a great personality match.
We had this faux relationship for a little while where I poured out my heart to him and almost decided to get rid of my faith altogether so I could be with him guilt-free. Eventually I went back to God and confessed things were messed up and the fling ended, but I was left in loneliness, despair, confusion, and felt broken beyond repair.
Renee continued, “I’m having trouble trusting God will protect me from another situation like this because even though I asked Him to, He didn’t.”
Protection in a Suit?
Can you relate? My heart aches for Renee, and I want you to be protected from the same mistake. But girls, throwing up a quick prayer for God to protect you just won’t cut it.
I don’t know if Renee thought Clay was a Christian (I doubt it), but I do know at the very least, Renee should have run the other direction as soon as Clay told her he was married to another woman. And she certainly never should have agreed to go to his house alone. These weren’t wise decisions, and God isn’t to blame for her choices.
Fact is, God has already provided for Renee’s protection and yours by giving you a whole suit of armor. No, you can’t purchase it at your nearest Christian bookstore—but the armor of God is an analogy for six very real ways to protect yourself from your enemies. Just before the armor is showcased, we’re told this:
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Eph. 6:10–13).
How Unprotected Are You?
Let’s break this down a bit:
You’ve probably heard the story of young David taking on the fearsome warrior-giant Goliath. Goliath was decked out in a hard-core suit of armor, but he left one place unprotected—his forehead—and that’s how David destroyed him. Unlike Goliath, we need to put on the whole armor of God and not leave a single place unprotected.
Our fight is described as a wrestling match. This isn’t long-distance shooting but up-close-and-personal struggling. The devil has schemes or strategies that play on your weaknesses.
In Renee’s story, Clay isn’t the enemy. Ephesians 6 tells us our fight isn’t against flesh and blood, or humans—it’s against rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil. Renee’s enemies—and yours and mine—are unseen.
Over and over in Ephesians 6 we’re told to stand against Satan. In any battle, those who are standing still have a shot at winning. Are you down on the ground? Are you lounging on the couch? Stand and fight. I love how Matthew Henry says it:
Satan is the wicked one, and his kingdom is the kingdom of sin: to stand against Satan is to strive against sin (emphasis added).
It sounds more exciting to take on Satan than to beat down sin, but in choosing not to sin, you’re really conquering Satan! While Satan, the world, and self are all separate, they usually work together to cause us to fall. We’re usually not taking on one at a time but all three.
If you’re not up for that kind of fight (I know I’m not!), Ephesians 6:10 holds great news. Our strength doesn’t come from ourselves—God offers us His strength. So come back next week to pick up each piece of God’s armor, dust it off, and put it on with me.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear . . . what have you been trusting in to protect you from evil?
I get how Liam, Niall, Harry, Zayn, and Louis melt your heart. I do. They’re sexy, they’re funny, and they’ve been coached by the very best to know just how to tug at your heartstrings.
They’re your life. You feel like they complete you. Like they’re perfect. Like they love you even though they’ve never met you.
I don’t know how to break this to you gently, but . . . it’s all one beautifully packaged lie.
The truth is, they don’t know you. They probably don’t even care about you—other than to be grateful in a vague sense that as one of their millions of fans you give them the attention and acceptance they crave.
See, ultimately, they’re no different than you. They, too, have an emptiness—a wild, restless craving to be loved and accepted.
So they get up on stage after stage to sing songs someone else wrote that play to your insecurities and send your emotions soaring and your tears falling. And then they walk off the stage and probably never think about you twice . . . or at least not in a way that’s in your best interest.
It’s not that I take pleasure in deflating your world. It’s just that I know One Direction won’t always be there for you. Like every other band in history, they will be replaced. Like every other human in history, they will die.
That’s what I want for you. That you’ll turn from your idol and worship and serve your Creator rather than One Direction—so you can experience true joy. That you will personalize His promises the way you’ve personalized One Directions’ lyrics. Promises no boy band could ever fulfill like:
Call me crazy, but I don’t believe in pursuing guys. (Was that a gasp I heard?) Yes, you might want to sit down for this. Today, I’m sharing seven reasons I’ve given God control of my love life. Are you ready? 1. I’m not actually waiting on a guy to pursue me, I’m waiting on God.
Whenever you’re frustrated over how long it’s taking a guy to notice you, remember that God is in control of everything:
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it wherever he pleases (Prov. 21:1).
If the Lord can move the heart of the most powerful man in the land, He can turn any guy’s heart. Wait for His perfect timing.
2. I want a man to prove through his pursuit that he is a godly man who will lead and love me well after marriage.
Let’s just imagine that you do capture that special guy’s attention. You begin dating, and then he pops the question. Before long, you’re a wife! Now what?
Well, Ephesians 5:22–33 says that as a wife, you are to submit to your husband as to the Lord. The question is, have you modeled and practiced a different pattern in the months or years leading up to your marriage? Did this man lead and pursue you, or did you pursue him? Don’t wait until marriage to hand over the reins of leadership. It won’t work well. Start now, and wait for him to step it up and pursue (or not).
3. I am already loved completely and unconditionally.
I no longer have to fight for attention or find my worth in a boyfriend. Neither do you. Listen to how deeply—and how long—the King has loved you:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jer. 31:3).
4. I don’t know what is best for me, but God does.
Have you ever set your sights on a guy only to realize later that he is totally wrong for you? I’ve done that more times than I care to count. That’s because:
Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way (Prov. 19:2).
God, unlike us, knows everything. Including the hearts of all guys (1 Kings 8:39b). You can trust Him to lead and protect you, His daughter, even when you don’t realize you need protecting.
5. God has nothing but good in store for those who wait on Him.
You can rest easy. Psalm 25:3 says:
None who wait for you shall be put to shame.
That’s a fact you can count on from Your God who makes promises and keeps them. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want when we want it. God tells us that in this world we will have trouble. But ultimately, in the end, He will work everything together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
6. Marriage won’t secure my happiness.
I am often reminded of this as I spend time with married friends. Marriage just presents new opportunities to continue to trust and submit to God. In fact, God has made it clear that marriage isn’t about you or me (sorry to burst any romantic bubbles!). We were created as women to help men (Gen. 2:18). And in a greater sense, we’re created for God, whether married or single. If married, it’s to give others a tangible picture of Christ’s amazing love for the church, and the church’s grateful submission to Him.
“I want you to be free from anxieties . . . the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32–35).
7. I need this time of waiting in order for my faith and trust in God to grow.
Waiting isn’t easy. But, life will never be easy, and I will always find myself waiting for . . . something. I have a feeling this is training ground for even greater ways I’ll need to trust Him in the future.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:25–33, emphasis added).
Having said all this, I feel like I should say . . .
1. Trusting God with your love life doesn’t mean everything will work out beautifully, or that you’ll get what you want. This isn’t about some sort of way to manipulate God.
2. The fact that you and I aren’t pursuing guys doesn’t mean we can’t be friendly to them!
3. There are no formulas. This is about growing in your relationship with God. Be sensitive to His Spirit’s leading.
Now that that’s clear, I’d love to learn from you. Which point means the most to you personally? Do you have any additional reasons or verse to add to my list?