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Bible Engagement Blog


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Twenty Quotes From the Bible Engagement Blog

Anything I’ve written that may be deemed insightful or informative is solely due to the insight and understanding that comes from God. In fact when my writing seems to be flowing well, those are the times when I’m most conscious of being empowered by God. Conversely, when being a word-smith is a strain, that’s when I’m usually striving in the flesh.

So with thanks to God for the gift of writing, here are my favourite twenty quotes from the Bible Engagement Blog:

Bible engagement is first and foremost about letting the Bible have its way with us.

To know God and be godly, we must know God’s Word intimately. To know God’s Word intimately, we must grow in intimacy with God’s Word.

The Scriptures are best digested if we “eat them” slowly. Take your time. Masticate on each word. Listen for what God is saying. Enjoy the moment. Open your heart. Pause to pray.

We should read the Word with thought given to prayer and pray with thought given to the Word.

God wants us to be doers of the Word. The ultimate goal of Bible reading and reflection isn’t to learn the history of the Bible, to understand doctrine, to enjoy the stories, get our theology straight, or know everything there is to know. Bible engagement must include application. God gave us His Word to give us life and to change lives!

Always remember that God’s Word is far more important than anything we can ever say about it. The primary aim of all preaching and teaching should be to equip others to actively indwell, engage and get caught up in receiving and reenacting the Word.

The message should master the messenger. Christians should be living epistles!

To embrace a relationship with Christ that matters deeply requires a deep commitment to the Scriptures.

Belief matters! When people love Christ, they will love His Word.

The Bible desires to be known, dares us to chase after it, invites us to connect with it, and challenges us to be immersed in it.

We don’t need a Bible reading revival, we need a Jesus revival! For when people start falling in love with Christ, they can’t help themselves from falling in love with His Word.

If we read the Bible to know the Word of God, yet don’t read it to know the God of the Word, we miss the mark!

What’s ultimately important isn’t the Bible study method; it’s whether or not we’re engaging, internalising and incarnating the Word of God.

When the Bible is reduced to a handbook for church dogma, a moral rule book, a depository of propositional truth, or a collection of wise sayings to guide people through life; it is easy to take it or leave it. But when the Bible is shared, in the power of the Spirit, as the Story which runs deeper than the world’s stories, it invites us to enter into a different world and see ourselves in a different light, that is, to share God’s view of the world.

So what is the best English version of the Bible? The one that gets read!

In what Leonard Sweet describes as “the Age of Participation” it is unlikely that non-Bible readers will read the Bible if we do not cultivate ways for them to interact with it. People need to be helped to connect with the Story in relationally interdependent frameworks where there is a participatory flow of imaginative reason and metaphor.

Let the Bible read you. The Bible is more than a book – it’s alive and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Given permission, the Bible will weigh and measure you, and then, finding you wanting, will proceed to fill your heart with faith, hope and love.

As Bible engagement goes, so goes the nation. When our Bibles start falling apart, society will stop falling apart! If we want to see renewal and revival we must read the Word for all it’s worth and live it out for all to see.

God’s Word must lodge inside us and burst out through us! It should whisper in our spirit and trumpet through everything we say and do. It should be in our hearts, but also in our hands. In our minds, but also on our lips. In the privacy of our homes, but also in the public square.

So read the Bible, but not as an end in itself. Read it as a means to an end. Read it to find life and fullness of life in Christ (cf. John 10:10). Read it to see and know the Person behind the text. And read it to be like-minded, have the same love, to be one in spirit and of one mind with Christ (cf. Philippians 2:1-4).

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Ten Bible Engagement One-Liners

Many years ago I was handing out Scripture leaflets at a downtown side-walk sale where our church had a face-painting booth. Most people politely took the leaflets. Many said, “Thanks.” Some stopped to chat. But one man, much to my surprise, leapt away from me. You’d have thought I’d pulled a gun. Surprised by his reaction I said, “It’s a leaflet with Scriptures from the Bible …” Before I could say anything else he beetled off. Over his shoulder he said, “I know what it is!” For reasons unknown to me, I felt compelled to go after him. Drawing alongside, I said, “It’s about how you can have fullness of life in Christ.” He started running! I did too. “This could change your life for the better” I said, as I offered it to him for the second time. And breaking into a sprint he cried, “I don’t want that ☠@✴# thing!”

Maybe I did the wrong thing, or maybe there was a deeper spiritual dynamic at work. I don’t know. It was the first and only time I’ve chased after someone in order to try and share the Scriptures with them.

Advocating for Bible engagement isn’t always easy. And I’m not just talking about inviting non-Christians to read the Scriptures. It can be tough going with so called Christians too! Maybe it’s because we’ve done a poor PR job. In a consumer driven society people need to hear about the benefits before they’ll buy something, use it, or tell others about it. It’s no different with the Bible. People generally won’t engage with it unless they know what’s in it for them. Simply telling someone they should read, memorize, study or live by the Bible, is not enough.

So with Bible advocacy in mind here are ten Bible engagement one-liners that can be shared on Facebook, used to spice up sermons, be included in church bulletins, added to Sunday PowerPoint announcements, or woven into everyday discussions:

  • Do you want to hear from God? Open your Bible!
  • Spiritually hungry? Feed on the Word.
  • Only one book helps you succeed in life and triumph over death – the Bible!
  • Read the Bible and it will read you!
  • Life’s GPS – the Bible!
  • Looking for fullness of life? Get into God’s Word.
  • Right thinking leads to right action – read the Bible.
  • You’ll get your act together when your Bible’s falling apart!
  • Breathe God’s Word to feel His love.
  • Prime your prayers with Scripture.

Inviting Bible Engagement. Hopefully you’re not going to run away! Feel free to use these one-liners to promote connections with the Bible.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Twenty Texts From The Bible About The Bible

What we may say about the Bible may have some value, but what the Bible says about itself is inestimably valuable.

So here are twenty texts from the Bible about the Bible:

It is God-breathed

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

It is eternal

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalm 119:160

It stands firm

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

It is flawless

Every word of God is flawless Proverbs 30:5

It is truth

… your word is truth. John 17:17

It is alive

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

It is a light

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

It is like fire

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29

It is more precious than gold

The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. Psalm 19:9-10

It is wonderful

Your statutes are wonderful Psalm 119:129

It gives understanding

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

It gives joy

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8

It combats sin

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

It is refreshing

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. Psalm 19:7

It is for your hearts and minds

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 11:18

It should be on your lips

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

It should be obeyed

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

It leads to blessing

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:25

It should have nothing added or taken away from it

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32

It endures forever

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:8

It will never pass away

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

Scripture Quotations: New International Version, 2011, Biblica

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Twenty Thought-Provoking Comments On Bible Engagement

In no particular order, here are twenty thought-provoking comments on Bible engagement:

– “For most Christians in the First World the Bible remains a closed book, a Pandora’s Box of isolated and unrelated proof texts, or what is worse – an individualistic invitation to hang out with a cool dude called Jesus. There have to be better reasons for reading, performing and reciting the Scriptures than these.” Colin Greene & Martin Robinson, Metavista: Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination

– “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.” Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

– “We read Scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.” N.T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today

– “One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to inquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reading the Bible

– “We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service.” Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

– “God did not give the Bible so we could master him or it; God gave the Bible so we could live it, so we could be mastered by it. The moment we think we’ve mastered it, we have failed to be readers of the Bible.” Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible

– “The Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature, its meaning grows with them.” Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

– “The Bible is the greatest of all books; to study it is the noblest of all pursuits; to understand it, the highest of all goals.” Charles C. Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible

– “I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it – His Word.” R.C. Sproul, The Prayer of the Lord

– “The soul can do without everything except the word of God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for.” Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty

– “When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.” Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

– “Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!” J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading

– “Too many of God’s people don’t know God’s Word, don’t really believe God’s Word or don’t do God’s Word.” Rick Warren, 40 Days in the Word

– “And so the test of whether or not we have really gotten the point of the Bible would then be the quality of love that we show.” Richard J. Foster, Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation

– “To our shame, we have hungered to be masters of the Word much more than we have hungered to be mastered by it.” D.A. Carson, Collected Writings on Scripture

– “Reading God’s Word and meditating on its truth will have a purifying effect upon your mind and heart, and will be demonstrated in your life. Let nothing take the place of this daily privilege.” Billy Graham, The Heaven Answer Book

– “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.” C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis

– “The Bible is the Word of God because in it Jesus, the Word incarnate, comes to us. Any who read the Bible and somehow do not find Jesus in it, have not encountered the Word of God.” Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity

– “It would be a pity if, in a desire (rightly) to treat the Bible as more than a book, we ended up treating it as less than a book by not permitting it the range and use of language, order, and figures of speech that are (or ought to be) familiar to us from our ordinary experience of conversation and reading.” John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science 

– “The truly wise man is he who believes the Bible against the opinion of any man. If the Bible says one thing, and any body of men says another, the wise man will decide, ‘This book is the Word of Him who cannot lie’.” R.A. Torrey, Ten Reasons I Believe the Bible is the Word of God

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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J.I. Packer on Bible Engagement

J.I. Packer, the British-born Canadian theologian, is considered one of the most influential Evangelicals in North America. His most popular book, Knowing God, has been read by more than a million people and was listed 5th by Christianity Today on their list of “The Top Fifty Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals.” Here are ten Bible engagement statements from Knowing God:

God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.

We must seek, in studying God, to be led by God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it.

Knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself.

Do we apply the authority of the Bible, and live by the Bible, whatever men may say against it, recognising that God’s Word cannot but be true, and that what God has said He certainly means, and will stand to? If not, we dishonour the Holy Spirit, who gave us the Bible.

The word which God addresses directly to us is an instrument, not only of government, but also of fellowship.

God sends His word to us in the character of both information and invitation. It comes to woo us as well as to instruct us; it not merely puts us in the picture of what God has done and is doing, but also calls us into personal communion with the loving Lord Himself.

The claim of the word of God upon us is absolute: the word is to be received, trusted, and obeyed, because it is the word of God the king … We are to believe and obey it, not only because He tells us to, but also, and primarily, because it is a true word.

What is a Christian? … He is a man who acknowledges and lives under the word of God … believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. His eyes are to the God of the Bible as his Father, and the Christ of the Bible as his Saviour. He will tell you … that the word of God has both convinced him of sin and assured him of forgiveness. His conscience … is captive to the word of God, and he aspires … to have his whole life brought into line with it.

The wise man reads the Bible as a book of life … as the book of the church … and as God’s personal letter to each of his spiritual children.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 1973.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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More Than Words

According to Hebrews 4:12, God’s Word is “alive and active”. So what does that mean?

Quite simply, it means the Bible is fundamentally different to any other book. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the Bible desires to be known, dares us to chase after it, invites us to connect with it, and challenges us to be immersed in it. Like a person, the Bible is complex, mysterious, dynamic and difficult to comprehend. It is not a book we can fully fathom or dissect. In fact it takes decades, if not a lifetime, to get to know. Which is why we need to view the Bible relationally – as a ‘friend’. And as with all friends, we must recognize that the Bible has emotions, layers, nuances, diversity, personality.

The Bible is much more than words on a page! It’s a friend who speaks to us – directing, challenging, comforting, coming alongside. One committed to our wellbeing – deserving of our time. A friend to be respected, trusted, known. A friend to be pursued, listened to and loved.

So don’t use the Bible for your own ends. Don’t manipulate its words, label, objectify, view it as an inanimate object or reduce it to something to be studied. Don’t dismiss it, ignore it, spurn it, disrespect it, trivialize it or do anything that would treat the friendship lightly. Why? Because the Bible is God Himself speaking to us . . .

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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In Love With the Author

International Evangelist, Ken Terhoven, my late father-in-law, used to tell this story:

There was a young woman who bought a novel, read several pages, decided it was boring, threw it in a box and forgot all about it.

A year later she met a guy and fell madly in love. Some months into the relationship it was obvious they would get married.  It was just a matter of time. She was waiting for him to pop the question. He was looking for a ring.

She was constantly wondering when he’d do it. Would he get down on one knee? Where would they be? Would he do it privately or publicly? She was looking for clues, gearing herself for the big event. So on the night they were enjoying a wood oven pizza at their favourite Italian restaurant she gave him her full attention when he announced, “There’s something I want to tell you . . . I’m a published author.”

His announcement, though not what she expected, was a surprise. Why hadn’t he mentioned it before? This was important. Her mind was buzzing with questions: What genre of literature did he write? How many books? Who was the publisher? Where could she buy his book?

“I’m not much of an author”, he said sheepishly. “I’ve only written one book. A novel. It didn’t sell many copies.”

She sensed his pain, immediately understood why he hadn’t talked about it before. He’d obviously hoped for more – maybe dreamt about the book being the launch of a successful writing career.

“What’s it called?” she asked gently.

“Justice Spurned”, he replied.

She was gob-smacked! That was the title of the boring novel she’d thrown in a box. What should she do? Should she say something? She decided not to say anything . . .

Intrigued, she was eager to get home to resurrect the book. She found it in the box behind the shoes in her closet. Pulling on her nightdress she climbed into bed, turned on the bedside light and began to read. The first paragraph captivated her. After a few pages she was spellbound. Every word was devoured, every page sent shivers up her spine. Enthralled, she read right through the night. Finally, with the first rays of sunshine poking through the chink in the curtains, she finished the book, placing it on the side-table with a contented sigh. It was the best book she’d ever read!

So what changed? Why was the book boring the first time around but riveting on the rebound? It was the same book – the same words.

Of course we know what made the difference – know what changed. She was head over heels in love with the author.

Similarly, when we’re head over heels in love with Jesus, we’ll want to read His Word for all it’s worth!

© Scripture Union Canada 2014

 

 


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Why Christians Don’t Read the Bible

Yes, you read the title correctly. Research indicates that most Christians don’t read the Bible regularly. Here are their reasons:

  • I don’t understand it. It’s intimidating. This is usually tied to difficulties comprehending the language the Bible is written in. The language problem is often associated with the use of older translations like the King James Version. The use of a contemporary English version goes a long way toward addressing this problem.
  • It’s boring. Some folk begin reading the Bible with the best of intentions then hit Numbers and their days are numbered! Admittedly there are portions of the Bible that a first time reader may find tiresome or uninteresting. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Bible, in large chunks, is anything but boring. If it was, it’s unlikely that it would have informed and undergirded the major themes and stories that define culture and life today.
  • I don’t need to. The thinking behind this reason is that the pastor/priest is better equipped to read and explain the Bible, so why not just let them do it. This line of thinking is sometimes tied to the struggles that people experience in interpreting the Bible and the recognition that we need theological help. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for us to use Bible reading guides, commentaries, or other helpful resources.
  • I don’t know if I can trust it. Was the world really created in six 24 hour periods? Doesn’t science prove that some of the things in the Bible aren’t true? Why are there so many conflicting interpretations? These and many other questions raise doubts or skepticism. Not understanding the different genres of the Bible and attempts to read all of it literally may also cultivate confusion that leads to distrust.
  • I don’t have time. This reason tops the list. I personally think it’s a smokescreen for the real reasons why Christians don’t read the Bible. After all, we’re rarely too busy to surf the internet, watch television or go to the coffee shop. The fact is we think we have better things to do and choose to prioritize our time for what’s most important to us.

And the unspoken reasons that Christians don’t admit to:

  • It should serve my needs. In a culture of consumerized Christianity many people think the Bible should primarily provide guidance on how to behave or what to do in life. Outside of some favourite texts and passages the Bible doesn’t do much of this. It is not a user-friendly owners manual for successful living. So when it doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, we don’t read it.
  • It doesn’t really matter. In their heart of hearts many Christians secretly wonder if reading the Bible makes a difference. They look around and see nice people who aren’t Christians and Christians who aren’t nice people. So they say to themselves, “Why should I read the Bible?”
  • I’m fine thank you very much! Ultimately we may shy away from reading the Bible because we try to sustain our lives in our own strength. Our independent spirits don’t want to confess the need to be dependent on God. Pride, lack of obedience, an unwillingness to submit, and a skewed view of God; in short, sin, results in a Bible reading disconnect.
  • It’s work. “Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull or boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” R. C. Sproul.

There you go. Can you confirm or refute the reasons? Would you add or subtract anything from the list? Have your say . . .

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Pondering His Precepts

Here’s a tried and tested daily Bible reading methodology that I’ve successfully used for three decades. Or for those of you who go back a few years, here’s how to have a daily “Quiet Time” with God:

Prepare:

  • Thank God for the opportunity to meet with Him
  • Ask forgiveness for sins of omission or commission

Perimeter:

  • Look at the passage in context, i.e. study what comes before and after the text you’re reading
  • Avoid reading anything into the passage that may distort the intended meaning

Paraphrase:

  • Write out the passage using words that would enable a child to understand it

Pulverise:

  • Ponder on every phrase and sentence
  • Find the main point
  • Look at opening and closing statements
  • Identify unique words
  • Locate points of emphasis
  • Pay attention to historical, cultural, social, political, or economic factors

Personalise:

  • Apply the passage to yourself
  • Beware of the paralysis of analysis (sometimes we become critical analysts of God’s Word rather than open hearted recipients)
  • Ask, “What does God want me to learn?” and “How does God want me to respond?”

Praise:

  • Give God the honour and glory that are His due

Prayer:

  • Pray using the passage as the point of departure
  • Repeat the Word back to God
  • Ask God to help you be obedient to His Word

Practice:

  • Put into practice what you learnt from God today
  • Share biblical insights with friends in your community of faith

[Based on “How to Have a Quiet Time”, Seize the Day: Meditations for the Year, 2002 by Lawson Murray]

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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“All Ear”

A missionary working on Bible translation in Africa had difficulty finding a word in the local dialect for “obedience”. One day as the missionary was walking through a village his dog wandered off. When the missionary noticed the dog’s absence he whistled for it to come to him and, hearing the whistle, the dog rushed to his side. An elderly local who was sitting by the roadside was impressed by the dog’s obedience and exclaimed, “Mui adem delegau ge!” which literally translated means, “Dog yours, ear is only”. In other words, “Your dog is all ear”. This gave the translator the word he needed for obedience, i.e. “To be all ear”.

Some folk believe if they hear a good sermon or attend a Bible study it’s all they need to grow in maturity and please God. Wrong! It’s not enough to receive the Word – we must act on the Word! Any response to the Word other than unqualified obedience is inadequate. Hearing is not the same as doing. The bottom line: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV).

Strictly speaking, Bible reading is not Bible engagement. While Bible reading is a necessary first step in Bible engagement, true Bible engagement hasn’t occurred until there is evidence of the Word being practically applied. The psalmist says, “Blessed are they . . . who walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1 NIV) and Jesus states that we are only his disciples if we keep on obeying His teachings (cf. John 8:31 and Luke 8:21).

Here’s an enigma: There are people who say they’ve made a profession of faith in Christ Jesus yet they don’t hunger and thirst for His Word. Are they Christians? The distinctive trait of the real Christian is someone who is daily living his/her life according to the Word. As the apostle says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” 1 John 2:3-6 (NIV).

To be all ear . . . We may hear the Word, read the Word or say we’ve placed our faith in the One who is the Word, but if we’re not authentically and consistently living the Word, we haven’t engaged the Word. Engagement and obedience go together. As Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 7:21 (NIV).

[Based on “To Be All Ear”, Seize the Day: Meditations for the Year, 2002 by Lawson Murray]

© Scripture Union Canada 2013