Prayer and Fasting – March
The Word of God
Scripture focus: I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding. (Psalm 119:32, NRSV)
We have begun 2022 with two understandings about Scripture. It’s God’s path and God’s breath. This month I want to offer a third understanding about Scripture. It’s God’s Word. I realize describing Scripture as the Word of God can make some of us uncomfortable because in certain contexts it can sound narrow and limiting. We’re uncomfortable because we assume that Scripture is meant to be constraining. Sadly, that’s a mistaken assumption that can often result in our missing the transformative experiences God desires for our lives.
Scripture was never meant to be constraining. It was meant to be life-giving. God has chosen to communicate with us for our benefit. That means that Scripture has the power to expand our perspective and move us beyond our current ideological mindsets. That’s what the Psalmist realizes in our Scripture focus for this month. When we make God’s Word part of our daily lives, our understanding increases.
God’s Word is a life-enlarging word, a word that moves us beyond the limits of our own point of view. Saying the Bible confines us is like saying that God’s Word is smaller than our word. Such a statement is a prime example of human pride and arrogance. Ashleigh Brilliant, a humorist of the 1970’s wrote, “all I ask of life is a constant and exaggerated sense of my own importance.” That idea is at the heart of viewing God’s word as limiting – an exaggerated sense of our own importance. How can it be that a human word, a human perception, could be larger than God’s word, the very word that when uttered brought all of creation into being? I can imagine God’s response to us when we assert such an overconfident idea. It would probably be like the one Job received:
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? … But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced! (Job 38:4-7, 21, NLT)
That our word could be more expansive than God’s Word sounds strange because it’s a misunderstanding. It is our word that is narrow and limiting. Bringing ourselves into alignment with God’s Word opens our perspective and widens our understanding. That was my experience viewing the painting Shore Talk and then reading Luke 5 that I described last month. Recognizing the Holy Spirit flowing through Scripture enabled me to be receptive to God’s movement in my life in a new and different way, even as the Bible itself and the story in it remained unchanged.
Understanding the Bible as God’s powerful Word reinforces that receptivity. When we dispel an exaggerated sense of our own importance and become conscious of the limits of our own word, the narrowness of our own perspective, capabilities, and discernment, that’s when we’re able to approach Scripture with a sense of awe and wonder. That’s when we become keenly aware of the expansiveness of God’s Word and its ability to open us to new and deeper levels of faith and understanding.
Scripture is God’s path; it’s God’s breath, and now we see it’s God’ word. We are beginning the year with this focus because it is important to see the intimate relationship between God’s self-communication and our following the Jesus way. Our God is not some abstract notion. Our God is not a disinterested observer, a deity who created but then stepped back simply to watch as the drama unfolded. Our God is a God who is intensely connected to all creation. A God who chose to reveal God’s self through the divine drama of human history, culminating in God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. And our God is a God who continues to reveal God’s self through Scripture, the dynamic, interactive, God-breathed Word of God through which each of us can find our path.
Earlier this year, Dave Smith appeared on the WME podcast, Real Faith ~ Real World. Dave is a wonderful bible teacher who understands the power of the God-breathed Word of God. In the podcast episode The Bible: Source of the Transformed Life he gave us a wonderful reminder, “The early church actually believed that if you were around baptized believers that preached the Word, read the Scriptures and obeyed them, and prayed, you would be around God himself.”
Then Dave asked a great question for us, especially as we dedicate ourselves to prayer and fasting. What would happen if we actually began to apply Scripture to our lives and live like little Jesus’s all over the place? I agree with Dave – I think we would see a movement of God like we haven’t seen in a long time.
This month, I pray that we will all be open to God’s continued self-communication through Scripture. That we would recognize it as the God-breathed Word of God and apply it to our lives to find our path. And through our obedience, a movement of God would be released like we have never seen before.