Acts, #71. Acts 19.
What calls your name? Is it Pralines n Creme ice cream from your freezer? The NFL game on television? Great waves? The Sunday crossword puzzle? People magazine? Weeds in the front yard? That pile of laundry that needs to be folded? The Netflix show you have been binge watching? Instagram? I would submit to you that if you really knew its value to your heart and mind, it would be your beautiful Bible.
People often feel funny taking their Bible out in public--not really sure why… I guess they worry what someone might think. I say ‘bring it on’. If nothing else, bringing your Bible with you in public places draws attention, invites questions and connections, even good conversation--like the one I wrote about the other day when I was at the gym and met Big Dave and Caleb who were reading their Bibles on the stationery bikes next to me. (still makes me smile).
Then there was that early morning in Israel. [It was my first trip to the land of Jesus and I had flown from California which made jet lag dreadful.] By 6 am in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, I was dressed in a tie-dye pink dress, looking for a local coffee establishment. I found one the was clearly frequented by the same cast of characters each morning as the coffee maker knew just how each took his coffee. I sat down at a table, opened my laptop and my Bible and set to work.
Now not only was I the only female on the street that morning, but the only one in the coffee shop. All around me, the men were chatting amicably in Hebrew and though I drew many a sideways glance, no one said a word for some time. And then someone took a risk and approached the shiksa1 in their midst…. he cocked his head, leaned in a little and said, “Trump… you like Trump?” It was the morning after the November 2016 election and well, these men loved Trump because President Trump stood with Israel and even promised to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, (a little over a hundred miles from the lakeside town). Here’s the point--I was an anomaly in their day - and well, a Bible in their coffee shop…what in the world?
I love my Bibles; I have several in different translations, colors and sizes. I write in the margins, noting the dates, sometimes places and points made about a verse or passage…I underline verses that are meaningful and pertinent. The Bible breathes life to me--sometimes I write out a particular verse on a post it note and carry it with me to reread or memorize. Truth transforms our thinking.
In the last couple months, in addition to studying the book of Acts, I have read one psalm each morning. The psalms are quite beautiful: very real--with every human emotion expressed in them--joy, guilt, sorrow, fear, anger, gratefulness, injustice, etc. I often pray the words of David back to God--for instance “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.”2
So as we walk the dusty roads with Paul, (right now in Acts chapter 19), we get a glimpse of all the things Ephesus--people coming to know Jesus, miracles, gods and goddesses, demons, riots and more. We learn about the goodness of God, more about the tenacity of Paul . . . and that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to human behavior.
We also get a look at history which anchors the pages of the Bible in real places with real people. We see the move of God in a people who are passionate about him, and then we see it all go away as people get distracted by life. The town of Ephesus - with its ‘Sedona like’ spirituality is a great picture of this very thing happening in our own lives. It stands as a model and a warning too, I believe.
Think of it - Paul the apostle spends more than two years in the town - teaching powerfully and persuasively, doing miraculous things among the people; many understand that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. They recognize their sins and shortcomings, seek the forgiveness of God and to grow in knowledge of him and live righteously before him. A few years later when Paul writes a letter to the church there in Ephesus, he commends them for their faith; but not long after that, when John writes Revelation, the church in Ephesus has grown cold.
The only way that the words of God do not grow cold, the only way they do not grow old . . . is if we stay attuned to God, talking with him daily and rightly applying the truths that we learn from the words he divinely gave us. And while many things vie for your attention throughout the day... calling your name, as it were ~ I pray that it is the Bible who turns your head and wins your heart.
Great song - Word of Life, Jeremy Camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrX2tGgADu0
May your beautiful Bible call your name today!
1 - shiksa is a Hebrew/Yiddish term for a Gentile woman
2 - Psalm 8.1