I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Two of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”
Even though my childhood and adolescence provided a strong foundation for faith, it wasn’t really until I got to college that my own love for the Word of God, the Bible, really started to take off.
In my freshman year at Bowling Green State University, I joined a group of peers for a weekly Bible study in Conklin Hall. And to prepare for one week’s discussion, I still remember reading the Book of Romans in my room (#224), and I was like: “How did I never notice how immediately- and personally-applicable this stuff is?!?!”
I was blown away by the beauty of Scripture. I started to fill up with the beauty of the Bible to the point that I couldn’t stop talking about it — kind of like that song that you just can’t get out of your head, or that movie that somehow finds its way into every conversation with your friends over lunch or waiting for class to start. Like what the Apostle John described in first four verses of his first letter to the churches of the ancient Middle East.
I learned that the Bible is the “Word of Life” pointing us to Jesus as the truest and fullest “Word of Life.” John was a student of the Word (in both senses of the term). He helped to capture the truth and power in written form, so we could share in that joy. And it’s just so beautiful and overwhelming that the joy just bubbles up among those who are looking and listening and reading.
I remember one friend from BG who had spent so much time reading his Bible, using his Bible, handling his Bible, that he had to duct tape the cover together — and I got so excited when my own Bible got its first tear in the cover, so I couldn’t apply my own strip of duct tape!
My friend Jason was in the middle of a similar awakening, regarding the beauty and power of the Word of God, and we decided that we wanted to challenge each other to start memorizing the Bible. Not just individual verses, but whole chapters and groups of chapters. We started with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters five, six, and seven — from the New International Version. After we finished Matthew 5-7, we memorized Hebrews 11.
Around that same time, I also remember “writing a song” (with just three chords banged out on a piano in a practice room of the Music Building) to the words of Psalm 1.
These passages that I memorized in college are still deeply embedded within my heart, soul, and mind. I don’t know if I could still spit them out word-for-word, without mistakes. But I have a grasp on these passages that I cannot claim for every section of the Bible.
My college years became a time of learning to love the Word — and the words of the Word.
Eventually, Jason and I decided that we wanted to start learning Koine Greek, so we could study the New Testament of the Bible in its original language. So, do you know who I consulted for resources on how to learn Koine Greek? My Dad! He helped Jason and me to find some newer resources and workbooks, but he also offered to teach me from one of his old textbooks: Gresham Machen’s New Testament Greek for Beginners. And he gave me a copy of the Greek New Testament, too.
Neither Jason nor I were serious students of the Greek, in our early-20s. We never really got past learning the alphabet and writing what amounted to coded notes to each other, using Greek letters to make phonetic renderings of English phrases. But my appreciation for God’s Word kept growing and growing, even if my Greek language skills did not… Especially when I moved to Amsterdam in my mid-20s to join a team of people starting a new church in the center of the city…
[to be continued]