The headline of today’s text has been stuck in my head for almost a month now. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write but this January has been so vibrant with experience and divine moments! So while it’s still the first month of the year, I’ll quickly put my thoughts on paper. What I’m about to share may seem simple but it has helped me tremendously over the last decade. Today’s text is about vision, perspective and how to successfully manoeuvre through the (almost) freshly started year. Curious? Let’s go!
I love how wikipedia describes the plain facts about my most cherished book of all times: “The Bible has been a massive influence on literature and history, especially in the Western world, where the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed using movable type. According to the March 2007 edition of Time, the Bible “has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating.” With estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, it is widely considered to be the most influential and best-selling book of all time. As of the 2000s, it sells approximately 100 million copies annually.”
And this is only a facts and figures list. I can’t even begin to describe my passion and love for the written Word of God. It is one of the pillars of my life. It forms the foundation of my faith and has sustained me in every season I’ve been in. No exceptions.
Religion or Relationship?
Growing up, for so many years my faith was just mere religion. I was trying to make sense of what I read in this book. I was trying to live out what was preached on Sundays. It didn’t work. I got more and more frustrated. In my teenage years I started paying close attention to what people preached on Sundays and what they did during the rest of the week. Well, to say it in a polite way: It didn’t convince me.
Then I attended one of the “The Call” (nowadays it’s called “The Send”) events. It was kind of like a wake up call for young believers. A call to repent and to say Yes to Jesus (again). For the first time in my life I saw people with a passion for Jesus I had never seen. I wanted that Jesus! I wanted this passionate, surrendered life. Coming back from that event I was sure I was gonna pack my stuff and move to China. I wanted to smuggle bibles or whatever it took to keep this flame alive. I wanted to burn for Jesus. But it didn’t happen. I never moved to China at 16. Instead, I finished grammar school and this little light of mine didn’t shine too much anymore.
Hole in my heart
There was so much knowledge, so much insight. And still, it all seemed to be stuck in my head. Not much had gotten into my heart. It was only years later that I grasped the truth of actually having a relationship with Jesus.
However, instead of running to Jesus, I started to walk away. Subtly and quietly I let all that “christian stuff” fade out of my life. Most of what I knew of church and christians was legalism, rules and routines. To this day I believe that our pastor back then tried his best to shepherd his flock. And I’m still thankful for all the bible knowledge I was able to acquire during those years. But where was my heart in all this? Where was Jesus in all of this? I turned to what the bible calls “the world”. There was a hole in my heart and it screamed at me. I tried to fill it with all kinds of things and people. Nothing was quite a match, though.
I’ve got this!
In my early twenties I thought “I’ve got this!”. On the outside it surely looked like it. After school, I had spent a year in the U.S. and loved it. I came back to Germany and was accepted at exactly the university I had wished for. I got into the program where hundreds had applied and only 50 were allowed. So far so good.
The other side of the coin was this: I was bound by addictions of all kinds. Cigarettes, alcohol, parties, drugs. On top of that I had bulimia, one of the crutches that got me through my teenage years. Not so fancy, right?
It wasn’t until I met my husband back in 2000 that things started to change. He wasn’t a follower of Christ back then. Neither was I. But we ended up speaking about Jesus and faith more and more often. And the more time we spent together walking and talking, night after night, the more I started to see things differently. The more we discussed and disputed, the more I started to crave Jesus again. Not the Sunday routine one, but the One I had encountered a while back.
Step by step
It wasn’t one of those “I had a dream and then Jesus stood at my bed” or “I heard Jesus speak in an audible voice” major moments that caused my turnaround. I love listening to these stories of Ben Fitzgerald or Todd White. I love their passion for Christ and the way that God healed them.
For me, it was baby step after baby step. Sometimes it was two steps forwards, one step back. Little by little my hunger grew. This time, though, it would have to be the real deal. I could and still can smell religion from afar off. And it makes me run. But back in 2001, I also got to know people that really loved Jesus. People that were broken and in need of mercy every day. Just like me.
The moment I got back to church community and sat with people that simply loved Jesus day in and day out I got hungry! The bible says:
“The days are coming, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land. Not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”Amos 8:11 NIV
I was hungry for the living word of God. And in the process, the more I got filled with His Word and His unconditional love, the less I needed my old crutches and stopgaps. Jesus set me free from bulimia. I was on my way. With Jesus. Hand in hand.
A scripture a day
Just like an apple a day should be part of our physical diet, reading the scriptures and meditating on it should be part of our spiritual diet. If I don’t feed on the word, it’ll be like that “one degree off course” picture I shared here. I’ll start to drift. Other thoughts will start to invade my mind.
It is for a reason that Paul writes these words:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.Romans 12:2 NIV
How do you renew your mind? What is going on in your mind? The thinking! And whatever you allow yourself to think about will be what comes out of your mouth. It’s all connected.
If you come to our apartment you’ll see bible verses everywhere. The other day, my dear husband lovingly mocked me by commenting on the “density of paper on the walls” in our bathroom. And he’s right. Our bathroom is full of scripture printed out and stuck on the wall. And it’s not (only) to hide the 35 year old design of the tiles our landlord once chose!
This brings me to the reason I wrote this blog post. Ask Jesus for a new passion for the bible, will you? One word can change your life! His Word is not just letters in writing. His Word comes alive in you. Trust me on this one! I can’t explain it and I don’t have to fully understand it. But I cling to the promise that God made:
What’s your word for 2020?
Every year on January 1, my husband and I take time to sit down and listen. We ask God for a word for the year. Sometimes it’s a scripture, sometimes it’s literally one word. In 2019 it was “endurance”. I didn’t exactly shout for joy the moment I received it. But it was just what I needed for that year. Because God knows! He’s got your future covered. And He also knows what you need for 2020. And since it’s still January let me ask you: Do you have a word from God for your year? If yes – awesome! Meditate on it, research its meaning. Learn it by heart. Print it and stick it to the fridge.
If you haven’t asked God for a word, how about you do that now? It’s really simple. Just sit down, put the phone away and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about what’s on God’s heart for you. I can promise you this: It’ll be amazing and it’ll be just what you need for the journey ahead.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
I’d love to hear from you! And I’ll be praying for your year to be full of divine encounters and His Presence.