A month ago I was serving as the pastor of a summer church camp. During one of our worship services I asked the question: “Who wants to have a deeper relationship with God?” Every hand in the amphitheater shot skyward. The following week I addressed the same question to our congregation’s two worship services: “Who wants to have a deeper relationship with God?” Like a collection of compressed springs, every palm extended again. Of course, both occurrences were encouraging. Watsontown UMC’s vision is to “Know Jesus Christ, Grow in Jesus Christ, and Go be like Jesus Christ.” Motivation to attend church camp or a Sunday praise service ought to revolve around ‘drawing close to God,’ as James 4:8 puts it. God has made Godself clearly visible for all to see (Romans 1:20), and what more fulfilling connection could there be than knowing and being known personally by the gracious creator of the universe?
This ethereal inward longing aside, many of us are acutely aware that God neither feels continually present, nor do we always feel well-informed of the best means to foster our relationship with God. If I had a dime for every conversation I’ve had where someone said they hadn’t experienced God for a long time, I’d have a sizable collection. Someone I met in seminary used to talk fondly of a retreat center she went to as a teenager, then would lament how it had sometimes become difficult to experience God anywhere else. In our hearts there exists this deep longing for the living God in Jesus Christ (Ecclesiastes 3:11), yet when that longing is unfulfilled, we can be at a loss for a remedy.
More and more I grow convinced that Bible Study and regular attention to Scripture is part of the solution! The internal witness of Scripture is clear: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). As a school student, I had a voracious propensity to read books; my parents frequently had to check my room light late night to be sure I wasn’t still awake at the wee hours devouring another novel. It was in this reading that I could enter the experiences of characters who were not even real (I was a sci-fi junkie). How much more so can the many books of the Bible, who draw from the testimonies and experiences of people who knew God face-to-face, engage us in a living connection with Jesus Christ? For those who know the feeling of divine disconnection, the Bible stands read to offer us words of hope, encouragement, moral correction, wisdom and sustenance for the journey alongside Jesus Christ.
The gospels record an interaction between Jesus and a young man who wants to know how to experience eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus’ reply is sometimes considered a brush-off: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments,” almost as if Jesus did not think the young man was being sincere. But what if Jesus’ response actually is well-meaning? This guy asks him “how do I find eternal life; how to I know God,” and Jesus’ automatic answer is “go to the commandments.” In other words, remember the Scriptures! Jesus is the true Word of God (John 1:14), yet the Bible is a socket we can plug into in order to illuminate God’s grace and reality in our hearts.
So take advantage of that Bible laying on your end table! Read a couple (or a collection!) of words today. Or better yet, take advantage of the many Bible Study and Sunday School opportunities we have here at Watsontown UMC. If the word of God is what we live by (Matthew 4:4), then leaving the Bible where it lies is simply bad nutrition!