Early in morning, first cup of coffee, words hard. Focus hard. Slowly I waken as the caffeine enters my system and helps me to make sense of the world around me. I soon become fully caffeinated and am raring to go for the day. As I dove deep into the Hebrew for the message for this Sunday yesterday, I began to ponder what it meant to study God’s word. Now, I got me my fancy learning and even have a diploma on my wall that says so. I spent hours in seminary studying Greek and Hebrew and Reformed theology. I took courses going deep into the different books of the Bible (took on class on Zechariah, that books a trip. Took another on Exodus, dude, amazing). During those years I read the Bible, I studied it. And I knew it.
But Scripture came alive when I lived it. Years ago (can’t believe that ’94 was years ago), I was working at a gas station one Sunday morning. I had to miss church and so was reading my Bible. At that time, I didn’t know you were supposed to just read it bit by bit, chapter by chapter. I was reading through the Gospel of Mark, reading it like I read my sci-fi books and comic books, like a story. And then I got to a hard part (*spoiler alert*)–Peter betrayed Jesus. Now, I had never read through Mark before. I screamed out loud “You idiot!” Just then a customer walked into the gas station and stared at me. I looked up and said “Peter just betrayed Jesus!” It was new to me. It was alive to me. It was real to me.
To this day, I take the same approach to reading through Scripture. I’ve learned that it gives focus. When you read through the Bible, you’re not just reading through words on the page, you’re reading words that are real, that are a live, that happen in real time (kinda like the Neverending Story but the horse doesn’t die). The Bible is alive. And when you approach it as the living word, you become focused.
Now, yes, I’ve studied Hebrew. It’s been 9 years since my last class in it but I still keep up with it. As I was translating the passage for this Sunday’s message, I started to see the nuances of the language. I started to see how the verbal and non-verbal clauses worked to the overall richness of the passage. It gave me focus on how to read God’s word. And now I need to wrestle with the words, lean on the Holy Spirit, and bring God’s word to His people on Sunday.
To do that, I need focus, spiritual focus. To tell the truth, my fancy-shmancy degree on my wall doesn’t mean I’m spiritually there. Each day I pray for focus. Each day I approach God’s living word. Each day I pray the words that I read. Sometimes it’s hard to pray the words, they convict me, they trouble me, they make me ask how can I pray these words. Ezekiel has some messed up scenes that really make you think hard. (“She lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of a donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses” [Ezekiel 23:20]. How do you have that influence your prayers? And yes, that’s actually in the Bible). While 1 John has great words to help you pray, along with many of the Psalms. They give you focus.
So, I sit here at my desk, my first 16 oz travel coffee mug finished about to start on my second. I’ve spent time this morning reading and praying. As I think about the passage for this coming Sunday (Zechariah 7:9-10, looking at justice, mercy, and compassion–that’s for another blog post, maybe using Dr. Who) I try to focus myself, leaning on the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual focus is needed. You don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek. You don’t really need coffee (gasp!). But you do need to seek the words found in the Bible. The living words that are there, alive, moving, happening now. When we come to the living word of God, we begin to experience something, we begin to experience focus. Spiritual focus. And when we do, we can walk through the day, focus on God, in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit and make it through the day, trusting in Him in what we do, focused on what is important, not on the trivial things of the day.
How can you be spiritually focused today? Where do you need to meet the living word today?