But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. – James 1:22-25
The SNL Star Wars toy video cracks me up… mainly because it’s true. The things that, as a kid, we used to push through the dirt when we were playing are now collectors’ items. And some people have them still in the box? How on earth did someone buy a toy in 1983 that they managed not to take out of the box? I ripped those boxes open in the car outside the store.
Luke Skywalker kept mint in the box is missing the point of a toy. Toys were made to be played with. They weren’t made to be collected. They were meant to be used by children.
What is being done with Star Wars toys is also being done with scripture and biting truth. I don’t know what’s caused it. Maybe it’s because so much information is available to us, we can’t possibly internalize all of it. The outcome is simple, though: we hear things which could potentially change our lives, but we don’t take it to heart. We hear it and we think it’s great. We nod out heads and acknowledge the deep truth. Then it sets in our ears and ruminates in our minds, but never simmers over into our hearts.
Extra, extra, read all about it
Obviously we can’t internalize everything. We receive the equivalent of 174 newspapers a day. We have to have filters to pick and choose the things that are useful. Wading through all that data, though, there are a lot of great things getting washed away.
Picking one or two things to dwell on, things which could bring practical enrichment, may be a good solution. I recently started a practice that I don’t remember the last instance of in my life: memorization.
It’s easy to lump Bible study in with the general incoming flow of information, just to get it out of the way. I want to throw an alternate idea out there, though: if you’re doing Bible study, maybe don’t feel like you have to read an entire book of the Bible. Find something that sticks, and stick with it for a little bit. Right now, I’ve had to delay my reading plan on YouVersion because I found a verse in James that just won’t leave me alone. It’s sunk into my mind. It’s infiltrated my heart. It’s in my pores. I think it’s important to allow things like that– things which God shows us and hit us right between the eyes — to stay with us for a while. Don’t move on. Don’t keep running for the sake of study. Hold on to a piece of truth and chew on it for a few days.
Take it out of the box
Familiar verses like John 3:16 can lose their impact because they’re so common. Don’t see the verse like you usually do. Stop allowing your mind to see it as a plaque on a wall, start seeing it as a tattoo that’s become a part of you.
Yeah, yeah. God so loved the world that he gave his son, we believe, we have eternal life. Even atheists know that verse. But pretend like you’ve never seen it before. Pretend like you haven’t relegated the cross to a movie scene. Imagine for a moment you are a father, and you are giving up your child for a group of people that hate you and hate him. They never did anything for you, in fact they are your enemies. They are headed for death, but you send your perfect, precious boy in their place to die. Not because the deserve it, but because you are so filled with love that you would not even hold back that which is most precious to you. Then you let them, these people who still don’t love you the same way you love them, move into your house. You call them family. Sometimes they betray you. Sometimes they love you. But that’s not the point: your love is the point.
That’s John 3:16 unpacked. That’s the version for users instead of collectors. It takes more time, but it’s worth asking God what his point of view is.