Stealing a Bible?

I am ashamed to admit a few months ago I found myself tempted, for the first time in my life, to steal a Bible (it’s important for you to know I did no ACT on said temptation. It’s also important for you to know that the first confession of said temptation was to the person whose Bible I wanted to take). I’m sure you are needing some more details, so let me explain. 

A friend of mine from college serves in Central Africa as a Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible Translators. He visited our church recently to give a presentation in one of our small groups of their work overseas. When he left, he mistakenly forgot his Bible and messaged me later to hold onto it for him. 

The moment I found it, I immediately recognized its quality and beauty. As my friend and I messaged back and forth when I let him know I found it, I complimented the excellent craftsmanship of his Bible, jokingly admitting that, for the first time in my life, I was tempted to steal his Bible. He “lol”-ed (that’s laughing out loud via text message) and proceeded to send me a link to the design page for his Bible, Crossway’s Single Column, Heirloom, goatskin leather, hand-bound ESV. 

I thumbed through it, admiring the quality, attention to detail, and durability of its design. After getting the Bible back to him (see, I told you I didn’t steal it), I chuckled when I recounted this story to others, including my wife, about the Bible I wanted to steal.  

Fast forward nearly two months. As a combined wedding anniversary present and birthday gift, my generous and thoughtful wife bought me the same Bible my friend had. Let me just say, it’s nice. The pages are exquisite. The binding is superb. The goatskin cover is supple but noticeably strong. I’ve enjoyed holding my new Bible, admiring it, and showing it off since I received it. I am grateful for such a wonderful and undeserved gift. But my story of wanting such a Bible and receiving it has laid piercingly on my own heart as well. In the book of James, the Bible says,

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. – James 1:22-25

As I reflected on those words, and thought about my new Bible, these truths hit me. How short-sided of me if I love the Bible for its cover but not its conviction. How flawed of me if I value the quality of the pages of this Bible but do not let these same pages pierce my selfishness and sinfulness. How inconsistent of me if I look upon the beautiful craftsmanship of this Bible, but I do not let the Master Craftsman of the very Words of God look back upon me as a mirror to make me a doer of His Word. 

Regardless of whether we read the Bible from and old paperback, a quality leather bound version, or a digital copy on our mobile devices, God’s word means to read us too. He beckons us to dig deeper than simply admiring its surface beauty for a few seconds, then turning away to something else. He pleads with us to take it, ponder it, and most importantly do it. And that’s a truth none of us never need steal. 

Freedom!

In Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, few movie lines capture emotional resilience, independence, and courage as well as William Wallace’s one word cry at his death, “Freedom!”  Only that’s not how it happened. Sometimes, real history makes for poor drama, but you already knew that (a cool fact of real history: the American colonies and William Wallace both fought against English tyranny a few hundred years apart). 

For Christians, celebrating Independence Day tempts us to mix fact and fiction similarly to a movie like Braveheart. As all Americans, Christians can and should celebrate the founding principles of our nation on religious freedom. We can and should reflect on the great cost many have given to gain and maintain that freedom. We can and should rejoice in the prosperity we have been graciously granted with food, fun, and fireworks. But as Christians, we can and should also remember that our nation’s heritage has been pockmarked with black eyes such as driving Native Americans from their homelands and enslaving countless millions for centuries to make money off the backs of their hard labor.  

One tyranny replaces another replaces another. And all tyrannies reveal the deep-seated rule of sin in our hearts. Britain’s unjust rule over the colonies, the enslavement of an entire race based on skin color, and immigration injustices today stand alongside the destructive addictions of pornography or opiates, the unimaginable travesty of abortion, and the wasteful patterns of materialism as cruel taskmasters over sinful, chained human hearts. These failures of our forefathers, alongside multitudes of other far-too-easy-to-see flaws, mismanagements, and governmental policies we continue to witness today turns the bold shout of “Freedom!” into the doubtful, questioning whisper, “Freedom?” 

But we have the Answer to just such a whispered question.  We have the Key unlocking the binding chains of every taskmaster.  We have the Heir of the Kingdom who turns slaves, immigrants, and castaways into citizens. His name is Jesus. The freedom He offers never expires. 

 For freedom Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1

The freedom He grants us to be released from sin is incomparable to the miniscule and fading freedoms of this world.  His freedom can never be taken away. Brothers and sisters in Christ in parts of the world with no religious freedom still revel in the joy of having been released from sin’s chains past, present and future. 

So if you find yourself singing patriotic songs on July 2 as a part of worship, take a moment to thank God for your independence, nationally and spiritually.  When you celebrate around the grill with family and friends, take a moment to rejoice in a heavenly feast awaiting you for eternity. As you watch fireworks exploding light in the night sky, reflect on the One who pierced the darkness permanently over two thousand years ago on the cross.  That’s freedom we can always shout about!

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