As our family sat around the dinner table one night, my husband asked our son to look up Proverbs 6:2,3. For several months we'd been reading a proverb a night to pick up some wisdom. We thought it would be good for our children.
But that night, as my second-grader read the verses, I was the one squirming in my seat.
"If you have been...ensnared by the words of your mouth," Billy read, "then do this to free yourself,...go and humble yourself (New International Version)."
As I heard this proverb, God spoke to me clearly.
A few days earlier, I'd enthusiastically told my Sunday-school class how a friend had prayed and given her life to Christ. I'd also told my classmates about the sinful lifestyle my friend lived. Immediately I felt convicted of betraying her confidence.
Now I knew that God was telling me to confess my lack of discretion to the class. The next Sunday found me standing uncomfortably before them, asking their forgiveness.
Our God speaks to us through His Word. It's one of the great benefits of the Bible -- perhaps the greatest.
He shows us who we are, who He is and where we need to change to become like Him. Sometimes we squirm, other times we're comforted, always we know He's talking about our particular circumstances.
And when God speaks, He actually likes talking to us. That knowledge alone keeps us coming back for more.
"I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth," wrote A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God. "[We think that] a silent God suddenly began to speak in a book, and when the book was finished, lapsed back into silence again forever.
"Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak."
But if God is speaking to us in the Bible, are we listening?
According to a survey of religious behavior and beliefs taken last year by the Barna Research Group, 69 percent of adult Americans consider themselves religious, but only 38 percent read the Bible in a typical week.
It's as if we want to know God, but we're not interested in what He says. We glance at the Bible with a "been there, done that" attitude.
Yet God and His Word are interwoven.
"No one ever graduates from Bible study," said Everett Harris, "until he meets its Author face to face." When we meet Him, we realize our need to change.
Several years ago, just after returning from a missionary assignment, my husband and I were invited to a Christmas banquet. I knew it was going to be formal so I chose an exquisite dress from my closet.
Walking into the building I felt perfectly dressed, but when I stepped into the banquet room I wanted to disappear. My blue pastel dress stuck out from the sea of dark velvets like a poinsettia in a bridal bouquet.
After 11 years in a culture where seasonal wardrobes were unimportant, I'd forgotten a crucial detail. I wanted to run home and change clothes, but that was impossible.
Of course, God is much more concerned with how we look on the inside than on the outside. But so often we walk into His presence feeling adequately dressed, then when He holds up His Word, we see ourselves reflected and realize we're dressed all wrong.
"A mirror reveals the personal appearance of the one who looks into it," wrote Ruth Paxson in Life on the Highest Plane. "The Bible is just such a revelation of man. In it we see the human heart mirrored exactly as it is in the sight of God."
The flaws that we hide from others cannot be hidden from God. He sees the sinful motives, the wrong attitudes and faulty beliefs. Then He cares enough to point them out and nudge us to wholeness.
We should be concerned if spending time in the Bible doesn't change us.
"Why is it that Christians spend years in the study of God's Word and remain unchanged where it counts, even hardened?" asks Larry Crabb in Inside Out. "Surely, the problem is not with the Bible. But something is wrong when a sharp 2-edged sword glances off our skin without even drawing blood...
"The mood of the Bible is relational, personal. Study it, yes. Read commentaries. Take notes during sermons. But do it all for the purpose of better knowing God, yourself and others so you become more loving. Our time in the Bible should reach deeply into our heart where the core problems lie."
If we approach the Bible expecting God to speak to us, He will reach in deeper than we ever could have imagined. For the Word of God "pierces as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow" (Hebrews 4:12).
And if God is delving that deep, He's certainly going to show us who we are, who He is and how we can change to become like Him.
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