I know I put the joke about the hugging thing on Facebook the other day, but it is a really weird feeling for me not to hug people. It feels very strange not to embrace all the people I love (and some un-expecting strangers). Last Sunday, I was leaving Oil City and it felt like the twilight zone or something. I love all the people out there so much, and it was hard not to give them a squeeze while I walked by. Even more weird was when I was going out the door. Each Sunday, after the service is over, Paul (the preacher) stands back by the door to see us all off. When it’s my turn to go out, I always give him a hug and a peck on the cheek, and tell him that I love him. He tells me the same and when I walk out the door, I can feel the Spirit between us and I know he is praying for me while I leave. I cherish this little moment between us. This Sunday, I was the last one in line to leave. When I got to the door, Paul and I just kind of looked at each other like deer in headlights. I told him that this is really awkward for me. We stood there for a minute, and then he reached out and gave me a hug. He told me that it will be alright, then he laughed and told me not to tell anyone about the hugging thing. (Thank goodness Paul doesn’t have Facebook because clearly, I can’t keep a secret.) I gave him a smile and told him that I loved him, then I went out the door.
I woke up thinking about my dear friend Paul this morning. I was thinking about the pressure he must be under. I know he sincerely loves the Father, and each week he puts his whole heart into the message he is trying to deliver. What a tremendous task that must be! He only has about 30 minutes, at the most, to try and teach us about the Father and His wonderful ways. He knows that for some of us, this 30 minutes is the only time we will spend in the Word all week. I thought about how that must feel and how that must be a burden at times. I want you to think about your own teachers or preachers of the Word for a second. While we are all in the pews or classrooms looking on at them, they in turn are looking out at all of us. What do they see? Think about how their hearts must be so full and they want to share the joy they see in the Word, but sometimes when they look out at us, they see that we are not listening. Oh, how disheartening that must feel. It would be like if you had painted the most wonderful picture for a loved one. You spent all week putting the finishing touches on it. When you finally finish it, you are so excited to give it to them that you are about to explode with joy. Then, after much anticipation, it’s time to show your loved one what you have worked so hard on for them. You pull out the picture and give it to them. You are expecting them to be as excited as you are, but instead they say, “oh, that’s nice,” with little interest, then turn and go on their way. This makes my heart just sink! I know this must happen more times than we think it does, and I know that they love us and will continue to reach out to us, no matter if we want to receive their gift or not, but this is just the scenario plays out in our ordinary every week. Think about the pressure that is on our leaders now that they aren’t going to get that measly 30 minutes we allow them to share with us. I imagine they have genuine concern for all of us. But where did all this burden of learning the Word of God fall solely on them? Don’t we have a responsibility to read the Bible for ourselves? Don’t we have the responsibility to grow in our knowledge of the truth on our own?
I know what you are thinking right now, “but I just don’t understand the Bible and what it says. I can’t understand without someone else telling me.” Let me tell you right now, this is a false thought, and like Paul says in 2 Corintians 10, we should take every thought captive to test it. I will explain with a couple of verses how I know that those thoughts are untrue. First of all, Psalm 2:6 reads, “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Second, Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” If we ask for the knowledge that only comes from the Father, He is always going to be faithful to give it! Now, I am not just trying to verse pluck here, and I hope that you all take the time to study each chapter and book in context on your own. When you study your Bible for yourself, the Father will reveal all sorts of beautiful Truths to you. Not only do we grow in the knowledge of Yah’s ways, but in several of the books in the Bible like Timothy’s letters, etc. we find that self-study will give you discernment so you won’t be led astray by false teachers as well. My prayer is that while we are all given this opportunity to sit still for a moment, that we will realize the need to study the Word for ourselves. In doing so, we will most definitely have a glorious painting to present to our own loved ones when we can gather back together.