Delicious.

I have this friend (yes, just a friend … seriously) who absolutely delights me. Tonight we talked on the phone (which I hate) for nearly two hours as he told me some stories from his week. Maybe it’s because he’s a man and they communicate differently, but when he talks, I feel like I can never get quite enough details to satisfy me. I press him with question after question, aiming to understand the nuances.

“I realize I want to process this before I tell you,” he said, “because I want to make it sound nice first so I can ‘sell’ it to you.” He paused. “How gross is that?!”

“You don’t have to sell me on anything. You don’t have to impress me,” I said. “In fact, you have the freedom to completely screw up, and you won’t lose any ground with me. I’m bought in on this friendship already. Will you just tell me your story? Please?”

Out of a desire to truly know my friend, I pushed for more information, even the parts that may be ugly or devoid of beautiful articulation.

Do you have a friend like that? Someone you want to come to a masterful knowledge of? Or maybe for you it’s a book series you can’t stop re-reading, or a true crime show you obsess over in an effort to solve it (Making a Murderer, anyone?), or a set of Housewives you feel emotionally connected to because of how much you’ve observed their lives?

Whatever intrigues us taps into our deeper efforts. It beckons our time and attention. We rearrange our schedules, stay up late, and drive out of our way to gain more of a thing we love. We’ll even experience it over and over again with no variation, just because we love it. 

oh-please-tell-me-more
Sure, he’s being sarcastic. But I’m not. 🙂

“No verse of Scripture yields its meaning to lazy people.” – Arthur W. Pink

This Arthur W. Pink quote reminds me that the effort spent in knowing my friend should pale in comparison to the effort spent knowing my God. As the mornings find me laid out with His pages – even if they happen to be the ones I’ve read most in my life and feel like I know well – I always ask Him:

“Please teach me something new about You today. I want to know more about You, because there is always more to know and everything I find helps me see more of how beautiful You are.”

I press Him for more information. I may be full, but I’m still eating out of sheer delight! Because He is, for lack of a better word, delicious

He is a depth I cannot plumb, a height I cannot ascend to, a spectrum my peripheral vision can’t reach the edges of. AND YET … I can know more: I can go deeper, reach higher, see further.

Day by day, little by little, I’m mining for gold in His Word, and I never come up empty. I’m amassing a fortune, you guys. And it’s worth far more than it cost me in time and effort.

  • Do you lack the desire to read His Word? We’ve all been there. I may even be there again tomorrow. I have no guarantees. But I do know this: He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known, and you will find no greater joy than knowing Him. If you don’t have that desire, will you ask Him for it? He gives it. Will you ask Him to change your heart? He can. He changes hearts all day long.
  • Do you feel too busy to make time for Him? Ask Him to carve out time in your schedule for Himself, then yield where He presses.
  • Do you doubt your ability to understand what He says? Keep reading. Ask Him for ears to hear and eyes to see.
  • Do you feel guilty when you do read the Word? Covered in shame? Don’t look for yourself in the story; you will despair if you look for yourself. Look for Him. What does He love? What does He hate? What motivates Him to do what He does?

This is the drum I will beat until the day I die: devour the Word of God like it is the most valuable thing on earth (because it is). Let your eyes fall on every word, every comma, every space. You can read it cover to cover in a year, in just 12 minutes a day. And there’s no better time to start than now! In fact, here’s a link to my favorite reading plan.*

What are you waiting for? IT’S WHERE THE JOY IS!**

* Bonus: If you want people to walk through the Bible with you, join us in D-Group

* Fair Warning: As you come to know Him more through reading His Word, you cannot help but want to become like Him. You’ll find yourself changing, feeling strange convictions about things that never bothered you about yourself before. You cannot behold Him and remain the same. But if you’re anything like me, that’s probably encouraging. 

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The Luxury of Hopelessness

“I don’t want to talk about this with you. I’ve had this conversation with too many people, too many times before,” she said, “And it doesn’t change anything. Everything is the same as it’s always been.”

I tried to put myself in her shoes — the repeated disappointment she’d faced in her lifetime, watching blatant and insidious racism tear at her heart. But instead, I felt frustrated, robbed of the opportunity to hear her story or make any step toward dismantling the wall of division our worlds had built between us.

A tragic and wicked history made her want to dismiss me, and her dismissal of me made me want to reciprocate.

But the Gospel does not afford us the luxury of hopelessness. “That’s just the way he is…” or “she’s always been that way” or “things will never change…”These words are devoid of the Gospel, the very antithesis of His promise to make all things new, and they have no place in the heart or mouth of a Christ-follower. 

Christ met Saul on the road to Damascus, while the latter was en route to drag believers from their homes and arrest or murder them in the street. The least likely candidate for the life-altering affection of Christ, Saul had earned the admiration of the godless through his brutal attacks on Christ’s followers. But God…

st-paul-conversion
The Conversion of St. Paul by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie (1767)

Writing off a situation or – even worse – another human, based on their past or present, their intelligence or ignorance, their melanin or musical preferences – it smacks of self-righteousness. It screams, “I have this figured out, but that person never will, because they aren’t as smart or disciplined or godly as I am.” How arrogant am I to forget where I was when the Father rescued me? Were we not all hell-deserving, black-hearted, self-seeking fools? Aren’t even our best deeds “filthy rags”? How dare I think I’ve risen above needing Christ not just for eternal salvation but for daily obedience?

If we live by the Scriptures, we’re never granted permission to write someone off eternally. Even when Paul hands someone over to Satan, he does it in the ultimate hope that their “flesh will be destroyed” and that repentance will follow (1 Cor 5:5). Some people take years to change, and other never do. But since I don’t know what God has planned for a person, I aim to believe better things:

  • The Gospel means we always have hope in what Christ does for sinners like us. (e.g. “People have hurt me before, and others may hurt me in the future, but God…”)
  • The Gospel means I’m set free to dwell in joyful expectation that He is doing and will do good things, even if they look different than what I wanted. (e.g. “Hope is heavy, but God…”)
  • The Gospel means He shoulders the burden of our deepest aches and longings. (e.g. “I can’t change hearts or minds or histories, but God…”)
  • The Gospel means I serve a God who is in the business of turning His enemies into His friends. (e.g. “No matter how far this is from perfect, God gave His love for us while we were still mired in sin. This person may be far from Him, but God…”)
“He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” – Luke 6:35

The Gospel means there are no lost causes, no hopeless cases. Do something radically hopeful:

  • pray for ISIS members to become servants of Christ
  • pray for yourself, that you’d be kind to that coworker you can’t stand
  • pray for that impossible healing
  • pray for reconciliation with the family member who hasn’t asked for forgiveness

Who knows but that the God of All Hope might deem it best to say, “yes” to your prayers. And even if He says no, our Hope is in HIM, not in the “yes.”

My friend and I finished our talk that night, and we’ve had a few more talks since then. Maybe we’re not solving anything, unless friendship itself is a solvent. But I’ve come to believe it is.