Growing up, I remember hearing stories of missionaries smuggling Bibles into such countries as China, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union: protected and guided by angels; often risking detection, arrest, and possible imprisonment. Stories by Brother Andrew in his book God’s Smuggler were deeply engraved in my memory. I would often imagine what it must have been like to risk capture and possible imprisonment to carry God’s Word into godless countries.
In 2002 the church administrator for the trans-Mediterranean territory invited me to travel to a North African country. I met up with three other colleagues to pray with and encourage local church leaders and members. The invitation included a request to carry a box of Bibles and other devotional materials in Arabic to be shared with our church members. This was my first time traveling to this country, and so I was unfamiliar with religious materials’ restrictions. And I was not briefed.
After arriving at the airport and collecting my suitcase and box of “books,” I proceeded to the customs clearance area, where I was abruptly asked in French to open the box. Suddenly my French got very rusty, even though I had spent four years in France. I spent the next three hours responding to intense questioning in my “broken” French. The questions flooded: “Who are you? Who are these books for? Where did you get them? Who are you meeting? Why are you visiting our country?” Two supervisors were summoned and joined the questioning. During this time, I silently prayed for God’s protection, and for Him to send those same angels that protected Brother Andrew. I feared deportation.
But after the authorities verified my documents and my confirmed travel plans, they released me. God had answered my prayers.
The Bible is foundational to our Christian experience. It is key to our understanding of salvation’s plan, the battle between good and evil, and why God loves us so much. The Bible is the operations manual and guidebook to knowing and understanding our purpose, and what is next in this chapter of life. Yet billions of people are deprived of its blessings.
The Bible is my rock, my guiding light in teaching me about God’s love and how He came from heaven to die for undeserving me. I gained a passion for the Bible early on in the form of memorization. One of my earliest memories of Scripture is “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11, KJV). I came to learn that I needed to fill my heart with God’s Word. Imagine hiding God’s words so deeply into my heart that I might sin less frequently. That is quite something.
Among the Bible texts that have deep and personal meaning for me is “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5, KJV). Knowing that God is with me every step of the way brought me peace and encouragement when, in 2002, my father died suddenly in an automobile accident, and when, in 2015, my mother passed away from cancer.
Just as He called the prophets of old, God invites each of us to make disciples of all nations. He invites us to collaborate with Him in sharing His precious words of truth—the Bible. It is a privilege to respond to the call and remain encouraged that He is with us through trials and struggles, and that He does not abandon us.
Greg Scott is associate director of Adventist Review Ministries.
I grew up around the Bible from birth. When we played Egypt to Canaan or that old Review and Herald Bible card game at our house, I knew most of the answers. My parents did a middling job of the Sabbath School lesson through my childhood, but I was in Sabbath School every week of my life. We bought that new translation of the Bible that came out in the 1970s with the stick-figure Bible characters. I went to Adventist school (and Bible class) from age 5 to age 22. Call me Bible-saturated.
My wife grew up in a tough family situation, a split home that caused her to go to public school from the third grade on. She learned the little songs and memory verses of childhood Sabbath School. Church (baptism, too) was expected until her mid-teens, when her parents essentially disappeared and she was on her own. As a married adult, she met God and joined Bible studies in Sabbath School with an Adventist pastor and at a nondenominational church.
As we talked about her journey, I realized something we had in common. Both of us had been convicted, as far back as we could remember and without consciously deciding it, that the Bible is God’s truth, and that it stands above all other sources that claim to be truth. Where we got that conviction from at such a young age, I’m not sure. It must have been the Spirit of God at work.
Something else we have in common in spite of our very different childhoods: we learned Bible information as children; then as adults we met God, and the Bible information became our reality, our lived experience. The Bible became meaningful.
I’m thankful that neither of us brought a negative view of the Bible from childhood.
My wife remembers life in a small church being a bit traumatic for an earliteen. It took some years (and having a son) to find her own place. But when she entered God’s way, she began reading around topics in the Bible, roaming far beyond the designated verses in a Bible study. She still appreciates the instructional value of the Bible above all.
For several decades I’ve found great solace and joy in the Bible. It is a trove of beautiful literature; it is an inspired revelation of the Father and the Son and the Spirit. It’s all the hope we need, encapsulated. God has delivered up foundational ideas in it that we thrive on. One of the earliest that He taught me was “Everything good comes from God.” Besides John 3, I can get through the day on Proverbs 3:5, 6 and Matthew 6.
If there’s an unspoken question for which we’ve received a full answer, it would be: How does this work? We needed to know the extent of God’s love and His nature, and how we can best respond to Him. We revel in the salvation that we read about for ourselves and understood as unchallengeable truth. We rely on the Holy Spirit to work in us, and we rely on the Word of God to fill in the picture of the way to go. Praise God for speaking clearly to us.
Tim Lale, a freelance writer, editor, works part-time for Adventist Review Ministries and lives in Burtonsville, Maryland.
The awe of hearing God speak
As a young child I remember being afraid of thunderstorms. During a particularly wild storm, I was having trouble settling down to sleep. Knowing her child was unsettled, my mother came into the room to offer comfort. Concerning the crashes of thunder, she told me that I did not need to worry or fear, because we were in no danger. In fact, far from being dangerous, the frightful sounds were to be understood as the sound of joy. She told me to imagine that this was merely the sound of heavenly angels bowling.
Suddenly, with each deafening crack, instead of fear I envisioned angels happily gathered around a bowling lane and laughing in congratulations as yet another strike was bowled. My mother had brought heaven within hearing distance, and I was comforted by its thunderous sound.
That image has never left me. It made heaven alive and tangible. That tangibility is something I am determined to cling to.
The Bible speaks of God’s voice as thunderous (Ps. 29:3). Yet the sound of thunder has not always afforded the reassurance from heaven that it did when I was a child. I have often longed for that same sense of dire
ct heavenly communication as one hears spoken of in hearing God’s voice. I desperately want to know what it sounds like, and to hear His words of direction and comfort.
The Bible has been my answer. As I’ve spent time reading Scripture, particularly over the past few years, my desire to know His voice better has been fulfilled. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible, the Word of God is God-breathed from His lips. To many this may seem obvious—something understood throughout their spiritual walk. But for me, what “God-breathed” meant for my journey didn’t become clear until a couple years ago—that not only is the Bible inspired by God but that the truths on every single page are His messages to me. His voice! When I wish to hear from Him, Scripture is how He speaks.
I hear His voice in the conviction and need of correction I feel when I open the Bible and read of His unblemished character; in the peace that washes over me when I pore through His promises; in the comfort provided when a Bible story is brought to mind and illustrates the answer; and in my heart breaking when I learn of His unrequited love for me.
Every time a passage or promise is brought to mind during a time of worry or distress, I am elated, humbled, and overwhelmed, knowing that my Father in heaven is looking down as a loving parent, intimately aware of my every thought as He quietly speaks the exact words I need to hear. The Bible has made it real to me. The Bible has brought heaven once again within hearing distance.
Sierra Bruneau is financial director for an innovation consulting company. She and her husband, Daniel, a contractor for Adventist Review Ministries, and their daughter, Adelaide, live near Atlanta, Georgia.
What the Bible does for our family
An informal poll of two generations of family members uncovered the differences between our experiences with the same book. Candid conversation with each person detailed the impact and importance of the Bible from their personal perspective. Understanding that a diversity in interpretation would be present, it was interesting to note the themes that emerged from our discourse.
“I read the Bible because that’s how I get to know all about God.” When asked why the Bible was important, this was the simple yet profound answer of Kryselle’s 4-year-old son. His response provided quick insight to a reality she hadn’t previously considered: The Bible has left a distinct impact on all who dare to peek inside.
People look to God’s Word to guide them through tough times and provide them with “hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). For many, the Bible is a soft landing place for the heart.
“It has made me understand the depths of God’s love for me.”
“It’s given me hope when my life was at its worst.”
“It gives me a basic framework to understand the message of love.”
Some of us need guideposts, some indication that we truly know what we think we know. The Bible reassures us that there is a standard by which we can measure our choices, even the seemingly basic choice to believe. Order and affirmation can be helpful when we seek to make sense of our world. Children look for safety in what they read, see, and hear.* Adults look for reliability and trustworthiness. God’s Word offers security for those who believe in it.
“It gives me a blueprint to live . . . even if I don’t follow it to the letter, at least I know what the letter is.”
“It’s important to God because it has good stuff. It teaches us how to be good.”
“It helps us know more about God and Jesus. It shows us how God heals people and lets us know He can do it for us.”
Cognitive dissonance commonly occurs when our beliefs do not align with our practices. We are all guilty of disappointing someone. We experience a similar sting when others fail to meet our expectations. Life never arrives on our doorstep neatly packaged and perfect. Wresting with our uneasiness regarding Scripture at times doesn’t make us heathen, it makes us human. Internal conflict has infinite potential to lead us toward invaluable introspection and honesty.
“The Bible causes me to be more analytical of the world and what is said and done.”
“It has made me realize that people have been sordid since the Fall.”
Clearly, God’s Word is able to interrupt our regularly scheduled program of self-sufficiency. We must acknowledge that considering more than our own thoughts can profoundly change what we believe about the lives we live.
What impact has the Bible made on you?
*To hear what one 4-year-old does on his own to remember his Bible verses, visit: https://vimeo.com/488689099 and https://vimeo.com/488689588.
Marvene Thorpe Baptiste, editorial assessment coordinator for Adventist Review Ministries, lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.