I ran into a preacher man at the end of June, at the end of a long haul, and he was limping hard but I asked him anyways:
“What’s the greatest challenge facing the church & people of faith right now?”
And he didn’t even blink: “Biblical literacy.”
It is kind of an absurd thing, when you think of it: Every minute more than one half of all us, 4,166,667 people on this planet, every minute on this spinning blue marble — are liking a Facebook post.
We all have our own priorities, our own way of shaping our personal golden calves to feed our craving, aching emptiness. Idols are always about feed gaping wounds that are really hungry for Him. And He is the hound of heaven who relentlessly comes to devour the cravings and win free hearts and there is a tender grace that meets what we crave for and gives us what we are in need of.
Only our own lack of love can keep us from His love letter.
Only being captivated by other words can keep us from His Word.
* * * *
When the Farmer planted a million fold seeds back in early May, he had prayed for forgiving rains.
I’d say, he told me that at least a half dozen times. Standing there, watching the sky on the side porch off the kitchen.
“For us to have any kind of crop to speak of this year — we will need Him to send a few forgiving rains.”
The soil had hardened after the planting, crusted and baked, and the corn seeds couldn’t push up through the earth but were at risk of being trapped under one thickened crust of earth.
We’d need the softness of a few rains to forgive how weather conditions had made for a less than an ideal seed bed.
A few rains to forgive how the dirt had hardened, how the soil had compacted, how the field had grown an unforgiving, unrelenting skin that would not yield to the seed, so there would be any harvest yield.
I hadn’t told him how you can sometimes feel your heart grow a hardened, thickened skin of its own, a rind of protection, an unforgiving crust of cynicism and apathy, that refused to let love break through the membrane of things, so there could be meaningful life yield. But maybe he already knew all of that? Maybe he had felt all of that in his own way too?
I hadn’t known it then in May, at least in the hidden, deeper places and layers:
Sometimes you need His Word to fall like your own forgiving rain.
* * * * *
And, I mean, really, I thought of if after that praying, limping-brave pastor and I had nodded goodbye and gone our own separate ways —- how there may be a struggle with Biblical literacy, His Word, but we’re actually inundated with words, “with the equivalent amount of 34 gigabytes of information, a sufficient quantity to overload a laptop within a week.”
During our average 12 waking hours — 23 words every single second grab for our attention.
How many of them are His Words?
There are days you can feel the wearying of it: Our minds process 105, 000 words a day — the equivalent of 2 complete books. Every single waking day — we process the equivalent of 2 complete books — about 550 pages of words — but how many pages of His Word do we read, digest, meditate on, sit with, incarnate?
And how is a heart hardening, scaling over, everyday, in this world of hard knocks and hard roads?
They say when you lose your language — when you lose how to speak the lilting tones of Dutch, the intonations of Chinese, the rhythms of the romance languages — that when you become illiterate in your mother tongue — you become ignorant to your culture, your ways of thinking like your people, of processing the world through the lens of where you came from in the world.
If we all lose our mother tongue that speaks our Father’s Word — don’t we lose what it means to be human?
And this is a bit of glory that you get to decide to miss or never miss: Our God talks. God unveils His Spirit through sentences — and who picks up pages to pick up bits of God, to carry the holy that heals?
God’s Words alone never fall to the ground and evaporate (1 Sam. 3:19). God’s Word always literally, concretely, take up space in space — the only question is: do we make space for His Word in us?
All other words evaporate, don’t take up space, don’t hold weight — but God’s Words hold more weight than heaven and earth, because they made heaven and earth and hold the weight of Glory and can rest in your hands, lodge in your heart, and resuscitate your heart.God’s Word is the only thing that never falls apart — and holds us when we are falling apart.
God’s Word never goes away, passes away or falls away —- but is always given to show us The Way.
When God speaks— He does not speak hot air, or heated opinions, or highfalutin commentary.
When God speaks — He breathes actions. When God says “Let there be light” — the words act, the words create reality.
God’s Words are the only words that create reality, shape reality, remake reality — all other words risk being fake realities.
Jesus turns to a broken world and offers: “… the Scripture cannot be broken …” (John 10:35). The Words of God always do their work. All other words may be distractions, abstractions, or detractions, but God’s Word is always effective action. “Is not my Word a fire or a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
His Word cannot be broken — but His Word breaks idols, breaks darkness, breaks brokenness. His Word cannot be broken — it’s for you, to break the brokenness of you.
And if you do not let His Word break your brokenness — someday it will break the way that takes you away from Him.
Scripture cannot be broken — and ultimately, there is no breaking away from the Word of God.
So let the hip and cool laugh and the cynics and sophisticated balk and let heaven and earth and all things popular pass away.
The opinion pages of the papers may roll their eyes and the trendy streams of social media may laugh, but if you stand on the Word of God, you’ll still be standing when no one understands why everything else is falling.It may be easy to want to get on the latest bandwagon passing by — but the wise stand on the Word that will never pass away.
C.S. Lewis says, “All that is not eternal, is eternally out of date.”
And there are things that are hard to even skirt up against, to even choke out: If anyone says they’re too modern to believe parts of the Word of God, are they making parts of God into their own golden calf — so they can make up whatever they believe?
Because a personal God is like your personal friends and will personally contradict you, challenge you, confront you — and ask you to live cruciform.It’s only when you have an infallible Bible that you have an in real life God.
You can wonder it lying in bed late at night, keeping the night watches with these raw honest prayers:
If your God only affirms your opinions — then perhaps He’s actually just an echo of your feelings.
* * * * *
When the forgiving rains came in late spring, the Farmer he and I, we stand and watch it come across from the west, across the way of the lake, low heavy clouds settling, lingering, over the waiting, willing fields planted with a million seeds of corn.
The rain falls warm and steady on the crusted earth, softening its hardened rind, liquid hope soaking slow into soil. And the Farmer stands on the back step and grins grateful to the heavens, nods like a man who lives into the beauty of a metaphor.
And it too comes down, His Word, like grace on places in me, in the world, that need the kindness of a softening storm:
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.
For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Isaiah 55
Just as rain comes from the sky to break forth new life, so His word does not come back empty, but breaks us free from emptiness.
There are 23 words every actual waking second yanking on our attention spans, and 4 billion people every minute on this planet of 7 billion are clicking and liking words on Facebook, and there are words falling on us, failing us, failing to soften the soil of our being so abundant life can break forth.
When there is an illiteracy of His Word, there’s a warped reading of everything.
When there is a daily reading of God — we can read all the crazy of life.
Read God — and you can read life.
And, then over hardened hearts, it can keep coming, with a daily opening of His pages, with an open wanting of growth and hope and yield, just line upon line, softening all my embedded, hardened mistakes.
That is how it is and the Farmer turns and smiles.
God’s Word falls like rain.
Falls like forgiving rains.
Pick up our story of The Broken Way and how to love a brokenhearted world. This one’s for all of us who have felt our hearts break a bit…
This one’s for the brave and the busted and the real and dreamers and the sufferers and the believers.