Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Words, words, and more words.  Society bombards us with thousands of words each and every day.  In a capitalistic country, many of the words attempt to sell us products.  When we drive along the highway, we're confronted with multiple billboards.  When we watch television, we're forced to endure countless commercials.  When we surf the web, we're faced with pop-up ads on our internet browser or spam in our email inboxes.  Even when we read this newspaper, we find ourselves negotiating a maze of printed advertisements in order to discover an article like this one.  So many words exist for the primary purpose of persuading us to spend our hard-earned money.  Well I don't know about you but I'm pushed away from all the words and pulled toward the Word.  The Holy Spirit leads me away from the plurality of the many words to the unity of the one Word.   In the midst of the complexity of the many marketing words, the Spirit whispers a gentle call to discovery the simplicity of the Word of God.

The Apostle Paul informs us that the Word of God is certainly not a commodity to be bought or sold.  After Paul left the city of Corinth to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to other places, the small house church in the massive city was invaded by false prophets who puffed themselves up with pride, claiming to be super apostles.  In response, Paul penned a second letter to the Corinthian believers, encouraging them to reject false teachings and embrace grace.  Paul boldly spills ink on the page: "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God." (2nd Corinthians 2:17, NIV)

Sent from God, we enter the prison in Newton to speak the Word of God with sincerity.  In doing so we steer clear of peddling the word as if it were yet another commercial product in the marketplace.  Instead we provide the Word of God not as something to be achieved but as God's gift to be received.  Numerous resources are available at no cost to the men in prison.  For example, various Bibles are available for free, including outreach Bibles, Spanish Bibles, large print Bibles, the One Year Bible and pocket-size New Testaments.  In addition, devotional booklets such as Today and Our Daily Bread are always available in the prison chapel.  Lately we've been blessed with boxes of books like Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young and Doing His Time: Meditations and Prayers for Men and Women in Prison by James Vogelzang.  Last week, however, I found out that all these resources can present a problem of overwhelming the diligent ones with even more words.  One of the men at the prison shared with me his lengthy list of daily readings.  It looked less like grace and more like a burden.  I wondered out loud with him if there are times when more isn't always better.  Perhaps there could be some way to focus on quality instead of quantity.

This week we'll restore our focus on the Word of God by providing a class on the ancient spiritual practice of Lectio Divina, which means "divine reading."  Avoiding excessive quantities of Scripture,  Lectio Divina slows you down so you can hear a message from God's Word.  The class in our prison Bible study will present the four step process of reflective reading, patient meditation, conversational prayer, and restful contemplation.  You may already be aware of Lectio as a valuable spiritual practice that allows you to practice the presence of God.  May the New Year give you numerous opportunities to prayerfully read the Bible.  May you flee from the many words of the marketplace to a place where only God's Word of grace remains.