April, 2024 – The B-I-B-L-E

April, 2024 – The B-I-B-L-E

Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871) was a member of the Church of England. In later years, when she was not able to attend public worship, she wrote, “My Bible is my church. It is always open, and there is my High Priest ever waiting to receive me. There, I have my confessional, my thanksgiving, my psalm of praise, and a congregation of whom the world is not worthy – prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors; in short, all I can want I find there.”  She wrote 112 hymns, but is most noted for the well know hymn, ‘Just As I Am’, and another hymn, ‘Thy Will Be Done’.  ‘Just As I Am’ was translated into several languages with tens of thousands of people committing their lives to Christ during the playing of it.  In my years as church pianist, I know I played the beautiful hymn, without exaggeration, a thousand times – even making arrangements of it.  There are plenty of invitational hymns and now, worship songs for one to contemplate their stance in Christ, but I have to admit, none ever pulled at my heart like Elliott’s ‘Just As I Am’.

Elliot was noted for many things, including writing, editing, and publishing books.  She was highly educated – never married – and was an invalid in her later life.  However, I most want to return to her  significant opinion of the greatest Book ever written:  “My Bible is my church. It is always open, and there is my High Priest ever waiting to receive me. There, I have my confessional, my thanksgiving, my psalm of praise, and a congregation of whom the world is not worthy – prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors; in short, all I can want I find there.”  What an incredible view of the No.1 best-seller in the world.  A couple of opinions of the Book found online: “The ‘Holy Bible’ holds the title for the most-read book in the world”.  According to the Guinness World Records, “Research conducted by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 2021 suggests that the total number probably lies between 5 and 7 billion copies.””

From Text and Canon Institute –  “The first printed German Bible had appeared in 1466, fifty-five years before Luther’s work.  Seventeen total versions appeared before 1522.  So there was not simply a pent-up demand for the Bible in German into which Luther tapped.  Rather, it was Luther’s theology and notoriety, combined with a readable translation style and a physical and visual format designed to help the reader understand the text – at least the text as Luther wanted the reader to understand it that made this Bible become a bestseller.”  So may it be safe to say that the Bible penned by approximately 40 authors over a period of 1500 years – men from diverse walks of life – has been the best seller for all those years.  And, II Timothy 3.16 tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness”. It is no ordinary book!

Over the years, I thank God for putting many atheists, agnostics, and discouraged Christians in my path.  For each of these, I would steer the conversation to what their opinion was of the Bible.  I find the latter group the most challenging.  I am working with a younger woman at this time who was at one time a pastor’s wife.  But through some circumstances, their lives became disastrous.  I pray for the husband (a former pastor).  I know well that I can not change anyone, but he is prime example of ‘there is no hope (for him) outside of Jesus’!  I carry him to the Throne for our Lord to do whatever it takes to create a miracle out of this life.  He has no use for the Bible anymore, I am told.  But, I am really more concerned about my friend whose life has been turned upside-down – whose children’s lives have been forever changed.  I have mentioned to her several times about spending time in the Word.  Her answer to me was always, “I just can’t”.  Recently, I asked her if we could alternate choosing just one verse and then sharing it with each other to see how the Holy Spirit has ministered to each of us through that verse.  She agreed.

As Charlotte Elliot stated, the Bible is our everything!!  It has been amazing to watch my friend get really engrossed in a verse or two.  We pray/talk with the Lord – and we should.  But, the Bible is the Holy Spirit speaking to us – leading and directing us – growing us – the answer to all of our problems.  A problem, itself, may not change, but the Lord will use His inspired Word to perhaps change us or our outlook on what has tried to destroy our faith in Christ.  Another story for another time, but in a particularly devastating time of my life, I truly had no desire to go on.  However, I realized the Lord was not taking me Home because He had more for me to do.  At one time I, also, couldn’t read the Word.  After wallowing in my misery and (screaming) and crying, I knew my only hope was burying myself in the Word.  I chose the book of Philippians not even realizing in my deep grief that this book is also known as the Book of Joy.  I shut myself off from everyone, opened my Bible, and angrily told the Lord that if He still wanted me to go on (live), then I was going to sit at this table and read until ‘I felt better’ if it took until my bones and flesh rotted right in that chair.  About my fourth time through Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, I felt a bit of lightness in my chest.  I had not told the Lord that I would sit in that chair until I was perfectly healed – just until I felt better.  And after a couple of hours, I was not healed (emotionally), but I ‘felt better’ – enough to let me know that the Lord had heard me and answered my demand of Him.

Well, I thought I would be sitting in that chair for days, but in a couple of hours, God began to restore my broken spirit.  For me and for the ones I have counseled, the Bible IS the answer!  I couldn’t say that if I hadn’t experienced it.  From the time some of us were children, we sang, ‘The B-I-B-L-E – yes that’s the Book for me’.  With such child-like innocence, we believed that with all our hearts.  When do we get so sophisticated that that no longer holds true in our lives?  For me, I replaced the innocence of the words to that little chorus and decided to ‘adult’ and become disciplined in my belief in the inspired Holy Word of God.  With my friend, we are doing just baby-steps until she is ready to get as excited about perhaps two verses, or a passage, or a whole chapter? A book??

I would encourage you to spend time in the Word daily.  I never forgot what a pastor in my teenage years said about ‘being in the Word’.  He stood before the congregation and said, “In the morning, no food goes in here (pointing to his mouth) until ‘food’ goes in here (pointing to his heart).  I never forgot that.  Stuart Briscoe said, “Never put your head on the pillow at night unless your nose has been in the Book during the day”. Amazing wisdom – from two very wise and godly men.  It’s all about the B-I-B-L-E . . . !