One of my mentors, Pastor A. J. Rowden, of Kansas City, Missouri died last year at the age of 97. I remember talking with him one
day when he was in his late eighties. He had been filled with the Holy Spirit for over 50 years at that time. He said, “You know, every time I read the Bible I see something I’ve never seen before.” I wondered how an old saint who had preached thousands of messages could keep receiving new insight on words he probably had committed to memory years before?
Because the Bible is not like any other book. God Himself inhabits the words. The Bible doesn’t simply contain inspirational thought. It reveals a Person.
My love affair with the Bible started when I was a kid. I usually opened my Bible on Sundays when my mind wandered during the preacher’s message. By the time I was nine years old, I had long since started memorizing scripture in Sunday School classes and in Girls’ Auxiliary in the Baptist church committing long passages to memory.
In 1972 at the age of 21 I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was then that I first became hungry to see beyond the print. I remember studying the Old Testament and being in awe seeing for the first time Jesus in the rituals of Leviticus and the lives of the patriarchs.
As I grow, my relationship with the Bible grows. Spiritual growth for me has been a pathway out of rigid legalism and into grace. When I learned to release other Christians from my expectations, a shell around the scriptures broke away. It was as though I had new glasses and could see God’s grace from the Garden of Eden through Revelation. Reading the Bible became a source of comfort and when I reached for it, I would feel an overwhelming sense of peace.
But for at least seven years before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit began in 1994, I had long since lost interest in reading the Bible. I had become disappointed with God and had lost faith in His desire to help me. I only picked up the Bible to get a message for Sunday morning if it was my turn to preach.
After we came to Toronto in November of 1994, I started receiving “soaking prayer.” Within a few weeks, one day I noticed my Bible on my nightstand and knew that I had a longing to read it. It had come alive to me again. During the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards noticed that to many of his parishioners, “There was no book so precious as the Bible.” People began to see passages as though they had never seen them before.
I learned that the condition of my heart was the sole factor in what I was able to receive from the Bible. It is not possible to draw close to Jesus without hungering to read what He has to say. As I fell more deeply in love with the Lord, I began to “eat” the words. They were like love letters to me from Jesus Himself.
Five months after my first trip to Toronto, one day while I was eating lunch at a retreat, the Holy Spirt shoved me up out of myself into the literal Presence of Jesus. In those moments I remember the scriptures flashing through me faster than I could think them. I was in the Presence of the Living Word of God. I remember thinking, “It is all true. Every word is true. It is all Jesus, and nothing in all this world matters except Him.” I was under a waterfall of His love and since that time, the written word is what I have to recall those moments. There is a new anointing on it for me. I see marvelous and even humorous things there and am able to cast the stories in the Light of a real Person who desperately loves Me. The Word has become flesh and lives in me. This month Spread the Fire focuses on
the theme, “The Bible in Revival.” Rather than replace experience with God, the Bible will become more and more alive as you develop an intimate relationship with Jesus. Gordon Harris writes about how to study the Bible without becoming a legalistic Pharisee, Eric Rose has written about the 17th Century saint, Madame Guyon, and will share with you how you can experience living fire within as you read the Word. John Arnott and Bill Fish writes from a theological background and a life of growing up in the church about overcoming prejudices against the scripture.
You will love the testimonies, the reports and the encouraging letters and our prayer is that you will hunger for more of Jesus and find Him in the Word.
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