September 11, 2012

A nourished soul

Sunday’s guest preacher offered instruction in how to feed our souls. Before doing that, he gave statistics about biblical illiteracy. Of people polled, nearly two-thirds do not read their Bible because they are “too busy.” Nearly 85% gave “don’t understand it” as another reason. 

He asked, “When you are in pain or really tired, what do you reach for?” Is it the refrigerator? Pills? Alcohol? The TV remote? He said that the Word of God gives us life, and as our daily bread, it sustains us.
(Jesus) answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
To feed my soul, he offered six things to remember and do. Yesterday and today, I opened my Bible and followed his instruction. Some of these I’ve always done, but now am more deliberate about it.

First, REVERENCE. Before reading, prepare my heart with worship. Think about the written Word of God and the power it has. Think about how God has used it to change my thinking and my life. Think too of the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and the fact of His continuing presence with me. As I do this, I enter a holy place.

Then READ it, carefully, intentionally and with questions. The passage from today’s devotional reading is a favorite…
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)
What is God’s kind of love? How does that transform me and put me into His family? If the world does not know those who are God’s children, is there anything about my life that they do recognize as being like they are perhaps, and that I should not be that way? Even though I’m a child of God now, what is going to change when I see Jesus? If seeing Jesus will fully transforms me then, how important is it to seek His face now? Is this hope governing my life as it should? What impurities are still here that need to go?

The next step is to RUMINATE. As a former farm girl, I know how that word applies to cattle. They regurgitate partially digested food and chew it again. When applied to people, it means to think carefully and at length about something. As I ponder those definitions, I can see the value in them for me. I tend to quickly grasp the meaning of God’s Word, stuff it in and move on. I need to think about it, let it address issues in my life, give it time to do its transforming work. Not only does this apply to this passage but also to so much truth that I’ve read but only partly digested. 

Meditation is tied to the next step also: REFLECT what I’m thinking back to God in prayer. The preacher said that prayer is not a one-way conversation. I know that. When I talk to God, I’m also to listen. He will speak if I stop dumping my ‘list of I-wants’ long enough to hear Him. He may even answer many of my questions. 

For instance, as I think about the above passage, He speaks to me about His love being not mere affection. Instead, His love sacrificed Himself so that my sin is forgiven and my life is transformed. His love took me out of the darkness of sin and into His light, adopting me into His family and making me His child! Darkness cannot comprehend light, so those who are still in darkness cannot fully understand what Christians are all about. We do not make sense to them. 

The next step is REST. When I read the last part of this passage, my heart breathed “Ahhh!” God knows my flaws and failures, my struggles to be like Jesus — and how often I fall short. BUT one day, when I see Him as He is, I will be like Him. This is a tremendous hope. 

A friend told us of his lousy golf game last week, but he had one drive of 290 yards. Hitting the mark that one time encourages him to go back and try again. This is a small example of the hope that God gives. Even a small glimpse of Jesus makes a change in me. I cannot imagine what a full view is going to do, but I want that! As I think of this, my eager and often frustrated heart settles into a peaceful, hopeful rest. 

The last step of the preacher’s admonition is to RESPOND. He said that if I do these steps, the Word of God will change my thinking and renew my mind.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
This is the power that is God’s through His written and living Word. He changes the way we think. I am reading a book called, “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain” and marvel that God wired us this way. We do not have to be stuck in old patterns. Those who say, “This is the way I am” are missing out on what God can do.

But I have to respond. If I only read about it, even reflect on it, but don’t do anything differently, then I will fall back into old habits. This passage gives a clear direction for response. It says I am to purify myself, even as Jesus is pure. 

I could fiddle around with word meanings and commentaries about this verse, but I know what it means. Jesus is the mirror I’m to gaze in and when I see Him, that crystal clarity sheds light on all things in me that are not as they should be. This is humbling and even painful, but so important if I want my soul to be nourished. Actually, from my own reluctance to really look at myself through His eyes, I wonder if this is not the actual reason that many people are not reading the Bible. For that, I would add one more step to this list: REPENT, for when we do, You forgive and cleanse!

Oh God, thank You for Your Word, for giving me this wonderful daily bread. May it feed and transform my soul always, just as You intend that it should.

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