This morning I drank coffee that could have tasted better. A lot better. Though I drink this brand a lot and make it the exact same way each time, today I left a little something out: a spoonful of sugar. You might not think a spoonful sugar is a lot to leave out. To put it into perspective for you, I once posted to Facebook a picture of a pallet of giant sugar bags at a warehouse store with the caption, “Now I can drink my coffee.” Friends who have seen me make a cup of coffee couldn’t help but laugh.
Why cut back on the sugar? Like many people, I’m trying to eat better. I gained some winter weight that I could really do without. So one step is to gradually cut back the spoonfuls of sugar I put in my coffee. When I tasted my coffee this morning and it begged me to put in another scoop of sugar, I resisted.
While some folks can take a cup of coffee black and strong, most of us doctor it up a little. I make fun of my wife because of the amount of flavored cream she puts in hers. A ministry friend of mine once joked that people who use more than two teaspoons of sugar don’t like coffee, only the idea of coffee. I didn’t tell him what my regular sugar amount was.
Just like Mary Poppins told us, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” It helps with coffee, too. But when it comes to God and His Word, we have to be careful. We might be adding some of our own stuff to it to make it palatable. A lot of trouble can result from that.
The Word of God should have a center place in our lives. It is far more important to read it than drinking your first cup of coffee in the morning, no matter how cranky you think you would be. In a time when the Bible is accessible anywhere you go, any time of the day, we should be glad to read it. Too many, though, are only familiar with small portions of the Scriptures, and sometimes even that limited knowledge is twisted.
Cut and Paste
I’m a huge fan of history and its people, and the Founding Fathers of the United States are some of my favorites. Many are known for their prayers and inputting God into the DNA of the nation. But that doesn’t mean they always got it right when it comes to God.
Thomas Jefferson is known for putting together a special edition of the Bible. As a great thinker, self-taught in many subjects, and huge fan of reason, Jefferson is a respected picture of an early American philosopher. However, Jefferson’s need to understand and explain caused a problem with the Word of God. There is so much in its pages that cannot be explained with reason or science.
So Jefferson sought to add some sugar to his Bible. He didn’t have Microsoft Office, so I imagine his version of copy and paste was a little different than mine. But he took the Bible and removed those things that cannot be explained. Jesus is there, along with His teachings. His miracles are gone, including those of the virgin birth, and most importantly, of His resurrection from the dead. Pastor and author, Mark Batterson, explains the trouble with Jefferson’s approach to Scripture:
When you subtract the miracles like Thomas Jefferson did, you’re left with a very wise yet weak Jesus. I’m afraid this is the Jesus many people follow. He’s kind and compassionate, but the raw power is missing in action. So we follow His teachings but never experience His miracles. (The Grave Robber, Baker Books, 2007)
Destroying the Foundation
Batterson’s statement is a partial explanation for the lack of miracles in our lives. But making the Bible palatable really destroys the foundation of our faith in and relationship with God Almighty.
For thousands of years, the Old and New Testaments have been preserved for God’s followers. It was written by men inspired to record and share the happenings of God’s people and God’s direct word to them. Not everything written was included in the “canon” of Scripture, unable to hold up under the scrutiny and criteria of those who put the Book together. It should be more important to our day than a cup of coffee is in the morning.
But the Word of God isn’t all fun and games. Mixed in with encouragement and praises are stories of failure and judgment. There are promises to bless the faithful, but also curses for the disobedient. So we cut and paste. We read some books regularly while skipping others entirely. If only we understood what this does to the very foundation of our faith.
To build a house you need a foundation. That foundation must be strong, immovable, and able to hold the weight of all that will be built upon it. We imagine building glorious lives of faith and miracles, but what condition is our foundation in? If we have chosen to remove or sugar-coat portions of the Scripture, we have jack-hammered the rock of our foundation. Instead of looking like an immovable mountain, it looks like wobbly Swiss cheese.
Only a weak faith can stand on a battered foundation. We should strengthen the foundation so we can build a greater faith. But we do the complete opposite. We blow more holes in the foundation, thinking it will make it easier for the weak to stand upon it. In the end, no foundation will be left, and the life that stands above will fall and find it difficult to rebuild.
Can You Feel It?
Do you remember when every vitamin tasted like chalk? Cough medicine didn’t come in grape, cherry, or bubble gum flavors. You knew it was really good when it tasted really bad. It forced us to recognize something was wrong. No we take gummy vitamins and throw back our fast-acting, gel-coated pills. Take it quick and get on with your day.
God’s Word was never meant to work like that. When we encounter the Word of God we are meant to feel it.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrew 4:12 NIV)
If Scripture touches our lives and we do not feel it, we should take note. We need to feel the truth enough that we are convicted of sin and allow godly sorrow to lead to repentance. When we read how Jesus called His Disciples to leave all and follow Him, we have to feel the same call, even it hurts to let go of all we have gathered up for ourselves.
When you finish reading a short and easy book of the Bible, don’t jump over the longer one that follows. Don’t assume the hard words of Scripture were for a different people and time, but check your heart in light of their truth. When the red words that mark what Jesus had to say disappear, keep reading. There are a lot more words in there. They are all God’s Word to you.