I have often found that people who claim the bible to be a collection of fables, a series of tall stories, or historical references that have little relevance today are generally those who have never read it.
When the call of the Lord on my life became such that I could no long ignore it back in 1979, the first thing I did was look for a bible I had been given a couple of years previously. I needed to find out about this God, who drew me with such insistence. I began reading, as advised by the good Samaritan who gave it to me on the flyleaf, the gospel of John, the book which contains more uplifting promises than any other. But as I read John, and then Luke, and some psalms, I found myself being drawn more and more to the old testament. I needed to know where Moses began and Noah ended. I needed to know about Abraham, I remembered who Isaac was but Jacob was a bit of a blur.
I am a voracious reader, able to read before I went to school and years of ingesting books have made me a speedy reader. I devour books. So was it such an impossible feat to read the bible as most people suggested? Certainly the nuns who had trained me at school seemed to think so. I’ve read novels thicker than this without any problems.
So I decided that if I was to understand how and where I fitted in this business of Christianity I would have to read The Book. All of it. My dearest second cousin, Margaret Leach, who had much to do with my conversion, had recommended a bible commentary: What the Bible is All About by What the Bible is All AboutHenrietta Mears. It is still available – I saw it in Cum books a few months back. So armed with Henrietta and my Good News Bible, I read both from cover to cover. It took me about six months. Since then I have re-read the bible twice in its entirety, once in the New International Version and once in the New King James Version.
The ‘begats’ are a challenge, but without plodding through them how would that great student of the Word, Bruce Wilkinson have stumbled upon The Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10, and taught such invaluable lessons from one tiny verse, and then followed that with teachings on the Fruit of the Vine, A Life Worth Living and more besides. Ah, Swaziland, one day you will answer for chasing this man of God and his vision away!
Where those ne’ersayers are possibly right is that it is impossible to take in all that is in this tome in one sitting, probably even in ten. The truths, the stories, the poetry, the ups and downs of the amazing love affair that God has with the pinnacle of His creation, Man, cannot be ingested in one, two or three read-throughs. It has to be a lifelong study, little bites each day, refreshing revisions of certain stories, or simple enjoyment of the poetry of love and of prophecy.
I recently read a book about a widow mourning the loss of her husband. It was achingly yearning in its description of her pain. Throughout I wondered when she might turn to a higher power for comfort. She didn’t, and grieves still. I sorrow for her, and for all who spurn God, determined to find their own way in this morass we call life. At least my grieving widow did not blame God for the loss of her spouse, as many do when catastrophe strikes.
That is another frequent debate generally preceded by the question: how can you believe in a loving God when you look at all the suffering in the world? How can He allow it?
I believe that He hates what happens to His children, I have no doubt that the broad carpenter strengthened shoulders of Jesus are frequently wracked with sobs as He watches His children mauled as forces of evil struggle for supremacy.
For I firmly believe in a spirit world, where good and evil are in constant opposition. That mighty man of wisdom and wealth, King Solomon, writes:
He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
The Bible tells us that God is Spirit, and He is truth. John 4:24. It also tells us that when the great confrontation took place in the heavenlies between the Father and Satan, He gave Satan dominion over the earth. For a limited time. A time I, and others like me, believe is close to its end. The signs are all there, politically, metaphysically, humanly.
Then God gave us free will – the choice to believe what we will. Being a sinless Deity He is unable to controvert or go back on his word. His protection can only cover us as far as we are willing to walk within its parameters. If we refuse His invitation, He will do nothing other than continue to reach out to us in the hope that one day we will accept His hand.
The cry of the Saviour when He walked this earth was, and still is: “Come to Me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Mathew 11:28. And Again: “….I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
This God is so moved by the plight of man that He made a way of escape for us. That way is Jesus Christ. John 3:
“16.For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten on, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”
That is the power of Christ, He took the fall, endured the beating, the shame of the cross, so that we could walk freely into eternity. That this love is unconditional is told in Romans 5:8:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Onto verse 10
“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Wow! I don’t know of any other religion where the deity worshipped reaches out to bring his followers to redemption, into communion with Himself. The opposite. The onus is on the follower to prove their worthiness, through diligent self-effort, with dire consequences should they fail. Or the questionable promise of a virgin or two should you blow yourself and a few others to smithereens.
My God is a God of comfort, whose heart contracts in pain each time one of His children is wounded, abused, or killed, and His constant call is: “Come, come now, come!”
One of my favourite scriptures is found in Romans 8. Paul ends this amazing chapter by saying:
“38: For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, no angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39: nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The words of the Psalmist, that Royal David, echo as strongly today as when they were written millennia ago:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the Wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me, though they saw My work.”
The love of the Father, of His Son Jesus, and of the Holy Counsellor, the Spirit who searches the hearts of men, is boundless. He invites you to come, just as you are. There are no conditions, no works, no words. Just come to Him, He will show you the next step.