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How I Spent 20 Years in Ministry Without the Bible

I called others to spiritual growth, but I remained unchanged.
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Through Jesus Christ—the Word made flesh—God calls each of us to intentional, deliberate availability and vulnerability to him and his Word. Spiritual transformation happens no other way. Though it wasn’t easy, I chose to move the Bible from my to-do list into my daily routine, allowing God to truly change me.

Change isn’t easy, though. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Who openly welcomes the deep cuts of a double-edged sword? To guard our hearts, we often hold up shields of guilt, legalism, or excuses. I need a seminary degree to understand the Bible, we think. I don’t need the Bible to experience God. Most of the Bible isn’t all that relevant to me or the people I’m leading.

Yet the work of spiritual transformation demands we lay down our shields and come to the Bible, having faith that God will meet us. We must be open to the words of our wounded lover who deeply desires a relationship with us, the one who woos us with words that comfort and heal.

To open myself to spiritual transformation, I now stop twice a day to be silent before the Lord and read Scripture. Peter Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day, calls this habit the daily office. The daily office is “not so much a turning to God to get something; it is about being with God—about communion with him,” Scazerro writes in the introduction. We must approach this time knowing that our silence and Scripture reading happen before the Lord himself.

Some days, my office is short—perhaps five minutes. Other days, I spend 10 minutes in silence before opening my Bible. Coming out of the silence, I read aloud the words of David, Paul, Peter, the disciples, and the Old Testament prophets—but I now read their words as written by people who were transformed through their encounter with the living God.

Yes, Paul wrote about how to live together as people who had found the Way. But he wrote those letters when he was weary, in prison, and aware of the limits his pedigree and history had brought to his ministry. He wrote them in the crucible of a deep ongoing spiritual transformation that started on the road to Damascus and continued through shipwrecks, floggings, betrayals, and imprisonment. Read Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, and Colossians as personal letters about one man’s willingness to be available and vulnerable to God, and you’ll never again read them as jargon-riddled rules and regulations about Christian living.

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