(If I had a dollar for every sentence I began, both written and spoken, with the phrase “When I started going to church again…” At some point in my life, I will have been attending church regularly for so long that it’s just a thing of the past. But I hope I never forget the joy — and the fear — that came with attending church again for the first time. In Luke 22:32, Jesus is talking with Peter before He is arrested and He tells Peter “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” I have walked away from Jesus but like Peter… I returned. He knew I would. He spoke those words to Peter. When you have returned… It’s like He spoke these words for me, too, thousands of years ago. And so, for the lost and the wandering and for those who have run away, I tell you a story that begins like this…)
When I started going to church again, I owned two Bibles. I had a slim NIV I was given as a gift from my old church when I graduated from high school and a few months later, I received a big NIV study Bible from a family who drove me to church most Sundays. It was the only translation I’d ever read, but the new church I attended read from the NKJV. It was too hard for me to read the NIV while the pastor read from his NKJV Bible, so instead of borrowing one of the church’s Bibles that they had for things like that, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the exact same Bible the church had, only with a blue cover. It was a good investment and it’s now full of pink, green, orange, and yellow highlights, not to mention lots of chicken-scratch notes scrawled in its paltry margins.
Since this summer, I have been on a kick to find a NKJV Bible with wide margins. It’s so hard to take notes in my Bible because I’m limited on space, and while I take lots of notes at the Bible studies I attend, School of Ministry, and church on Sundays, I can’t carry around those notes with me everywhere I go. Recently I found an ESV Bible that had wide margins but… it’s ESV. Not that there is anything wrong with the ESV translation. I often read it, along with many others, while I am reading the Bible on my phone. But I’d like for my primary Bible to be one that is the same translation that my church uses.
So after lots of hunting, I found a used-but-like-new NJJV “Take Note” Bible on Amazon. I ordered it on Saturday and it arrived yesterday and I’ve spent several hours over the last two days copying my highlights from my $6 “when I started going to church again” Bible. It’s painstaking and I’m only halfway through Proverbs, but it’s coming along. I was talking to my roommate about it earlier and she was teasing me about how academic and studious I am. It’s true. I like my precise notes to be where I want them. I’ll take then ten hours I need to copy them over. And then she asked me what I’d do with the old Bible once I finished the copying process.
“Put it on the shelf in my room,” I answered. And that’s exactly what I’ll do. I won’t ever get rid of it. It’s too important to my own life and story to do anything else with it.
But the thought struck me then, right after I’d answered: do you know how many Bibles you have on that shelf?
A fancy, slim Bible.
A thick, fat study Bible.
A parallel Bible with both the NKJV and The Message.
And now I’ve got this Bible.
Four of them, all in my translation of choice. Plus I’m embarrassed to admit that in my boxes in storage, I still have the two NIV Bibles I mentioned about plus a paperback women’s daily devotional Bible.
You guys. That’s SEVEN Bibles that I can access easily at any time. Not to mention the two Bible apps on my phone with pretty much any version I want, or websites that I can access with — again — every version of the Bible ever. Several paragraphs ago I wrote that I wanted my primary Bible to be NKJV.
Who the heck has a primary Bible and secondary Bibles? Apparently I do. What in the world…
We’ve been talking about missions for the last three weeks in School of Ministry. I don’t feel like God is calling me to missions in my life, at least not full-time missions overseas. But I know where His heart is. He told us “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20a). He wants to the world to know Him. He might not be calling me, but He is calling others to serve those who don’t know Him — yet.
I have seven Bibles and one that I consider my primary Bible while there are 2,000+ people groups in the world that don’t have any verses, let alone the New OR Old Testament in their language.
It totally blows my mind because I can’t even imagine not having access to a Bible. I take it for granted. I mean, even though it was difficult to find a NKJV Bible with wide margins, it didn’t take me more than a few clicks to have one arrive at my doorstep. And I was impatient and mad that I couldn’t just walk into a store to buy it.
So. Stinking. Selfish.
I’m not writing this to berate myself, or you if you have seven Bibles, too. That won’t do us any good. But I want to remember the realization that I have ample time and resources to spend in the Word and with my God. I’m not persecuted. I’m not living in fear. I don’t have to hide the Word and I don’t have to hunt it down, either. I can attend any one of the hundreds of churches that surround me. No matter how hard I have it, I have this life so easy.
I want to be challenged. I want to share God’s Word, whether it’s in my home or in my community or in my world. I want to live with passion and purpose and to honor the God whose word fills seven volumes on my bookshelf and the app on my phone. I don’t want to take it for granted and let it be meaningless to me.
I want to be like the team of bloggers with Compassion who are in Peru right now, who are pouring their hearts out to families whose lives at being changed because of Jesus. I sponsor two kids, one in Haiti and Honduras, through different organizations. Guess what?
I sponsor one in Peru now, too. I met her tonight through Compassion.
Her name is Ysabel Mego Davila. She is eight years old. I can’t wait to find out more about her: her family, her favorite foods, the kinds of book she likes to read, what color she prefers over everything else. I can’t wait to see Jesus transform her sweet life.
Her birthday, to the year, is one day after Charisse’s. Just like Charisse is my sister, Ysabel is loved. She is someone’s sister and someone’s daughter and even though she is far away from my Bible-filled home in Southern California, even though money is tight for me, she still deserves to have a Bible of her own to and to know the Savior who knew that I would write the words, countless times with a heart so thankful, “when I started going to church again.” I would never want my beautiful sister-girl to need or want, and I cannot stand to see a little girl exactly the same age suffer if I have the power in my to stop it.
Tonight I am taking a stand.
Angie Smith shared on her blog last night an amazing post called “Love Moves.” Please read it and consider sponsoring a child if you can. For all that we think we don’t have, we really have so much more.
Angie wrote about her nine-year-old twin daughters “Make their eyes blind to anything but love, and make them brave enough to act on it.” I pray the same thing for me and for you. Oh Lord. Make me and my words transparent and make me and them blind to anything but the love you have.
We learned in School of Ministry that God’s compassion in us leads to action. Please, please… may you find yourself being moved to action tonight. So many sweet lives need you.