Noël and I celebrated our 37th anniversary this week. Part of what we do on these annual getaways is pick an extended passage of Scripture, read through it out loud together, taking turns from paragraph to paragraph, and pausing at the main section breaks in order to turn what we just read into prayer. We each pray back and forth for as long as it seems there is any more to pray about on that passage. It is a simple way for a couple to spend significant time in prayer and in the word. The only preparation it requires is choosing a portion of Scripture. I commend it to all married or about-to-be married couples.
This morning we read John 14 and 15. We broke it into four sections and had four seasons of prayer. We were at a bed and breakfast in Stillwater so the atmosphere was totally relaxed and unhurried. I love these moments with my wife. As we pray, we take our children and their families, our church, our future, and the nations to God. We thank him profusely for countless kindnesses. We praise him for his faithfulness. We plead with him for the year to come, that it would be the most fruitful year of our lives for the glory of Christ.
There is something very special about reading John 14-15 with Noël. These chapters are entirely the words of Jesus himself while he was on the earth. I gave thanks at one point with a sense of pointed awareness that this was as if Jesus had knocked on the door of our room and asked for a few minutes with us, and then spoke to us directly. I marveled that we have this precious book, the Bible. Here is the word of the living God, and some of it is the very words of the incarnate Son of God. Astonishing! If you believed that you could read the very words of the Creator of the universe and the words of the one in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, what would you do?
To read the words of Christ and then speak to Christ in prayer with the most precious person in your life is a sweet and deep experience. Surely this is one of the reasons Christ chose to bring these things to the remembrance of his apostles (John 14:26). He meant for us to sit and listen at his feet the way Mary did (Luke 10:42). Is it not the best marriage enrichment experience possible to have Jesus come visit while you and your spouse sit and listen to him and talk to him?
I am writing this to encourage you all—married and single—to make 2006 the best year of fellowship with Christ you have ever had. Another old fashioned word for this fellowship is “communion” with Christ. It means listening to him speak to you through his written word (not through dreams and impressions—those happen, but they do not make for sustained and solid fellowship and communion), and then speaking back to him on the basis of what you have heard.
Linger over his word. When Jesus says to you, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), savor every word. Linger over the truth that he is the way—The way where? How is he the way? Is there any other way? How valuable is the way? How valuable is it that you know this? Linger over the words that he is the truth—How is a Person the truth? How does the Truth that he is relate to the truth that 2+2=4? Or E=mc2? How does his being the Truth relate to me being a truth lover and a truth teller? Linger over the words that he is the life. Does this relate to “I am the vine, you are the branches”? Does it affect the meaning of death? Does it shape the meaning of what we call the good life?
There are a hundred issues in the world I would like to write about. There are a hundred causes I wish Bethlehem were engaged in even more than we are. Why write about reading our Bibles and communing with Christ? Because no one survives for the glory of Christ in any cause of justice or mercy or truth without daily communion with Christ through his word. Communion with the living Christ through his word is the soil in which Christ-honoring commitments to mercy and justice grow.
I pray it will be so. Set your face like flint in 2006 to face Christ every day and listen.
I will be there with you,