I’m sure that I have told of some of my first experiences with the Bible. My young spunky girlfriend gave me my first New Testament after we had been dating for only a short period of time. It was a paperback Good News translation. I would assume that she got it from her church as Bibles just like it could be found all over the Fellowship Hall and in the youth and children’s classrooms as well.!
I can remember sitting down at different times and thumbing through the book with great reverence and awe… and not understanding very much of it! That’s where my girlfriend… and in another five years, my wife… really shined! She would joyfully and patiently answer all my questions, no matter how dumb or bizarre they may have seemed! And even more importantly to my growing faith, would simply LIVE her Christian beliefs in front of me in everything she said and did. And you know… It’s funny now as I look back on it… that is something that has never changed in our soon to be 48-year relationship!
So, that gray paperback hand-sized book was my go-to Bible for the next three years as we completed High School and attended Santa Rosa Junior College. Then as we began a new chapter in our lives and moved into the on-campus dorms at Chico State University in the fall of 1973, Piper presented me with a beautifully wrapped box topped with a bright colored bow. Her eyes glowed as I tried to imagine what could be in the box in reference to that gleam radiating from her face.
I took my time in opening the box, taking small deliberate steps to draw out the anticipation written all over my girl’s face. When I finally lifted off the top of the box, I was rewarded with a brand new orangish/brown (a popular color tone in the ‘70’s) hard bound leather New American Standard Bible. The book must have been about three inches thick and seemed a little cumbersome to carry around, but it became my constant companion that year as we attended Inter-Varsity Club meetings and church services and special events.
I used my new Bible so much during that first year and a half that the cover began to wear out, so on my 22nd birthday Piper presented me with a handmade Bible cover that she had designed and sewn out of a pair of old jeans complete with a pocket on the front and back! Well, that Bible was kept close to my side until around 1983 when I splurged and purchased a Ryrie Study Bible in the NASB format. But the older Bible didn’t go on a bookshelf to be forgotten but spent a few years opened up on the top of my dresser for quick reference when I was in the bedroom. Then it ended up in our restroom opened up to favorite scripture so that I could read small doses of the Word whenever I Piper or I went in there.
And you know… it still resides in our master bath to this day… although it is now very well worn with torn and taped pages, swollen in size from all the showers... and with lots of notes in the margins. For the last few years I have kept it open to the Psalms to use as a quick pick-me-up in the midst of the stressful days that we have had.
Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I glanced over at the Bible and read the beginning verses of Psalm 98 where the Psalmist declared:
Psalm 98:1 “Sing a new song to the LORD because he has done miraculous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gained victory for him.
Psalm 98:2 The LORD has made his salvation known. He has uncovered his righteousness for the nations to see.
Psalm 98:3 He has not forgotten to be merciful and faithful to Israel's descendants. All the ends of the earth have seen how our God saves them.
Psalm 98:4 Shout happily to the LORD, all the earth. Break out into joyful singing, and make music.”
It had been a busy day as I took care of Piper’s daily needs, did house chores, cooked meals and mowed and trimmed the front lawn in the 105-degree weather. By the time I went into the bathroom after helping my wife get in bed, I was pretty zonked! But once my eyes caught a glimpse of that old Bible opened up on the shelf and I began to take in the Words of God’s grace and worship, I felt lifted up! The tiredness in my bones seemed to melt away and I was infused with a new sense of encouragement and faith.
That’s one thing that I always enjoy when I come to the Word of God to fellowship with Him! I come expecting to be lifted up and I always am brought into a new and better place with Him at my side. Sometimes I have to press in to find that new place but my persistence is always rewarded with a fresh experience in His peace, restoration and glory!
I like that word “NEW” in the scriptures above. Just like in Psalm 40:3 and other verses in the Psalms, it literally means to have a “fresh” awakening, to experience something “recently made,” or something “uncommon” (especially to the path you may have been walking down with your emotions). As I kept stating those verses over and over again while standing in the shower and then later in bed, things in me changed. I definitely had a fresh awakening and found my attitude and physical and emotional well-being changed into something new and uncommon opposite to the way I should have been feeling with the pressures of the day I just had had.
That is something that I have come to depend on over the last 45 years since that spunky, petite, freckled faced, full-of-life young lady gave me that special NASB back in 1973! And even though that particular book may be old and more than just a little worn out, it still contains FRESH words of encouragement, and joy, and strength that is guaranteed to pick me up in any circumstances, when I approach His written word with the expectation of finding out what special, NEW thing that Papa God has for me that day!
So, check it out! Grab your own special book and enter in to His World of encouragement, joy and grace… and EXPECT a new thing… just the THING that you need!
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… What NEW THING am I expecting to receive when I fellowship with Him in His Word today?”