Monday, March 5, 2012

Expose yourself to the Word

“Adam!” the Voice cried out, “Where are you?”

Since the beginning, since Paradise, God has been calling us, seeking us, and yet we hide ourselves from Him. “I was naked,” we say when we finally come out of hiding, “and so I hid myself.” And we hear that fearful question, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Why am I always harping on this single topic, “Read your Bible”? Why do I think this is so important? Who is it I am trying to convince? Well, brethren, it is myself that I am trying to convince, not you. It is myself that I have to keep reminding. It’s just that I don’t want to be the only one who must be reminded, and so I pass on to you what it is I am hearing. I hope that you are past reminder; I know I am not. It’s just that I feel safer as part of a crowd, even when I’m hiding from God.

“My sheep know My voice.”

How can we know the voice of Jesus, if we don’t hear it every day? How can we recognize His voice speaking to us in the world amidst so many other voices clamoring for our attention? First, we have to go where His voice is the only voice, and then stay as long as possible, listening to Him. The more we hear His voice as it is recorded in scripture, the more we will hear it in the world outside. In the Bible, it’s true, He is talking to others, to His disciples, to the curious, and to those who hated Him, and many say, “Well, what He said was for them, but not for us!”

Right, and… wrong. Jesus in the Gospels does speak to specific people, and we cannot put ourselves forcibly into the narrative and by our own will decide to be this or that bible character, following exactly what Jesus told him or her to do. Yet, His words are spoken to us even now, sometimes the same as the bible records, sometimes different. It is by knowing His voice in the scriptures, that we recognize it when He speaks to us today. How can He speak to us today? I cannot tell you how, only that He does, and when you do hear His voice, you are given the same opportunity to follow His call as His first disciples were.

“Follow Me.”

How can we follow Jesus if we believe in Him only as some character in the pages of the bible? Yes, we say we believe He is the Son of God, and that He saves us from death and hell, and even that He is risen, truly risen. “But where is He then, so that we can follow Him? Isn’t He in heaven at the right hand of the Father?”

Again, I point to the scriptures. Just as we read His words in the Gospels and through hearing them every day come to know His voice, so also we see Him working in the Gospels and through watching what He does there every day, we come to see Him working here in the world of today. That has to be true. How else can we say “Just follow Jesus,” or “Keep your eyes on Jesus” if it weren’t true? This is the proof of His resurrection and victory over death, that He is here among us. It is by seeing Him every day in the scriptures that we can see Him every day in the world. He says to us, “My Father goes on working, and so do I,” and seeing Him at work in the world, and hearing His voice, we can follow Him.

It is very common to have a book of scriptures that is small and portable, containing just the New Testament and the Psalms. The bible has been reduced for everyday use by everyone in every place, so no one can say, “Where should I start? The bible is so vast; I don’t know where to begin.”

The Psalms are there to teach us not only to pray, but to recognize the voice of God speaking personally to us. Just as we recognize the voice of Jesus in the world by hearing it in the Gospels, so we also recognize the voice of the Holy Triad—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—when He speaks to us in daily life.

The Psalms are like a revolving door to Paradise. By reading and praying the Psalms every day, we make our petitions known to God, and He responds to us both in the words that we read, and also in the world. Again, we are doing no more than learning God’s language, coming to recognize His voice, learning to distinguish His ways from those of the world. “Thus is your servant formed by them; observance brings great reward” (Psalm 19, Jerusalem Bible).

So listen, my soul. Expose yourself by day and by night to the Word of God, that you may hear His voice calling your name in every place, every time, that after this earthly pilgrimage, you will recognize that same voice saying, “Come, faithful servant, into that Paradise prepared for you before the foundation of this world.”

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