Have you ever read a book or engaged in a conversation that was flat? The cover or title of a book, or its recommendation, may have gotten us curious and started. But, a little way into it, we realize it isn't for us. It's superficial and not at all engaging. A conversation may begin with someone you thought would have something interesting to say. But, it was immediately bland and struggling to cover anything meaningful.
Sometimes, however, usually on rare occasions, we force our way through a book or conversation and it ends up touching us in a way we could not have imagined. The story may have started slow with seemingly needless details of the environment, that were not very exciting, only to blossom later into profound insight that gave us chills. The conversation partner, initially dancing on the edge of nervousness, suddenly becomes vulnerable and shares from the heart a deep and personal struggle that brings us to tears.
Other translations of Hebrews 4:12 use phrases like "quick and powerful (KJV)," or "alive and active (NIV)," and at the end, "it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (NIV)." In all these translations, the idea is clear; we are talking "rare occasion" here. It's for anyone, whoever, but not everyone will stick with it. May I encourage you to do so?
If you push through this book, the Word of God, with a humble heart, it will blossom into such profound spiritual insights as you could not have imagined. It has the power to bring you to your knees in recognition of His splendor, majesty, and wisdom in one moment, to your feet in praise and thanksgiving the next, and ultimately to such an intimate relationship with the Father that you and He are thinking alike, motivated by a deep love, both of which are beyond anything the world has to offer.
If you listen to your conversation partner, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth (as He is called in John 16), you will hear Him speak gently and vulnerably from the heart of God, found in Scripture, of His intention all along, with your glory in mind, since before the ages began (1 Cor 2:6-7). But, this will take time, effort, and humility.
The key word is, "push." The "intentions of [your] heart" will determine if your conversation partner feels safe enough to be vulnerable. He will never force you to listen. Sometimes, it takes a while for Him to open up, depending on your capacity to assimilate new information, or for you to actively listen, due to countless distractions in the world. Keep showing up. Ask the Holy Spirit for clarity and guidance. That's His job and He loves when you let Him do it cheerfully!
It may seem like you're trekking through irrelevant and/or overly-complex details at times, but hang in there. Be consistent in showing up, focused as can be. Past experience, traditions, or what you were told to believe may cloud your path. But keep walking. Pace yourself. Let Him be the light unto your path.
There is profound wealth to revealed, which isn't shown to just anyone. God rewards those who diligently seek Him. It may seem like the story is utterly beautiful in some places, and then disjointed and/or self-conflicting in others, but hang in there. There is material to be shared from the heart of God that remains hidden until sought out, diligently. And all the riches of the world pale in comparison to the value of knowing Him.
So, if the Word of God does not seem "quick and powerful" to you yet, or it is not quite what you would call "living and active" at this time, be assured it is not an empty claim. Rather, it is more glorious treasure than you could ask, intended for you, that you haven't discovered yet. It has the power to transform your life. Keep digging! And keep a humble heart!
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Resources: For easy lookup of Scripture, verses, and translations, I sometimes use www.BibleGateway.com. Since I mostly use the ESV and NIV (e-Sword and hard copy), this makes it easy for me to get the same verses I'm studying in the King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New American Standard Bible, (NASB), and several others.
I tend to stay away from, but will sometimes compare, more liberal translations (those further from the original languages used to write the Bible) that are intended to stir the heart, such as New Living Translation (NLT) or The Message (MSG). I find the deep things of God tend to be watered down in these versions.
On a regular basis for personal study, I use the free download from www.e-Sword.net on my Windows 8.1 laptop. Some Bible translations, dictionaries, commentaries, etc. are free, but others require purchase. This application makes it very easy for me to keep notes on what I'm studying, look up Greek (NT) definitions in Strong and Thayer, and compare my studies to popular commentaries.
E-Sword is also available on mobile devices, but I was already using YouVersion by LifeChurch.tv. The search feature seems weak on my iPhone, but I love to listen to Max McLean read the ESV translation. YouVersion has an online version which looks good, but I haven't used it at all yet.
For good old-fashioned hard copy print, I primarily use the English Standard Version (ESV) New Classic Reference Edition by Crossway publishing, and the Classics Devotional New International Version (NIV) by Zondervan publishing. Less frequently,
I also use an ESV Study Bible, an NIV Study Bible, et al, but they tend to lean heavily toward certain theologies based on human denominations, experience, or emphasis. I'm careful to glean the thoughts of God into a comprehensive, cohesive and logical whole, and I not try to fit the Scripture into a predefined structure based on human study, no matter how many centuries old or wonderful sounding. Of Scripture, I will always ask how, when, what, and especially why until I get an understandable yet profound answer that fits neatly into the big puzzle of God's purposes for us here, and His ultimate and eternal plan for the church.
I enjoyed reading this devotional. When I read through the verse, the word that caught me the most was "piercing". To me, it meant that He knows me and my heart. Regardless of what I may be keeping from Him in our conversations, He knows and the message I receive reflects that.
Thank you so much for your keen observation and making that application from just one word, Christina. No doubt He knows our hearts intimately, and He knows how to be a Father to that heart.
I believe the words around 'piercing' help to make it even more profound, such as 'dividing'. How much distance is there between the soul and the spirit? I'm sure none that mere man can distinguish. Joints and marrow? How do you tell where one ends and the other begins? Yet, God's word is precise. Makes me want to break into a doxology. I think I will...
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)
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