I loved my Dad (Ernest II) very, very much.
When we were together, we barely talked.
How do these two statements fit together?
Can't tell you, but I know they're both true.
Dad served in the Navy in WWII on a Destroyer called the U.S.S. Walke. He started in the Pacific, fighting Imperialist Japan, and ended in the Atlantic, opposing Nazi Germany.
In one deadly battle, the Walke was attacked by three kamikaze (Japanese suicide) planes. Gunners shot the first out of the sky, and it crashed harmlessly into the ocean.
They got the second one, too, but it managed to graze my dad's ship as it went down.
The third hit dead on. Nineteen sailors were killed and another 13 injured as the Walke nearly split in two. My dad's skipper was killed, as well. Chaos ensued on deck as the ship very nearly sank. Talk about Post Traumatic Stress!
We kids knew about this one incident, but, like many battle veterans, Dad rarely talked about the war. It wasn't until after he died in February, 2008, that we discovered the journal he had kept of his time at sea.
You can imagine our surprise and wonder when my sisters and I read his uncharacteristically lengthy entries for the days immediately following the attack, as the Walke limped back to port for necessary repairs! He described the battle a bit, but spent more ink on the reactions of his fellow crewmen as they continued on after the hellish trauma they had lived through. My Dad, himself, seemed remarkably unscathed as he described his shipmates "falling apart" in the wake of the tragedy. He observed soberly how several of the men cowered and cringed every time they heard the noise of any aircraft overhead, friendly or non, for days afterwards.
Now here's the thing.
Do you think I was interested in preserving and reading that old journal? You bet I was! I made two photocopies of every page for my two living sisters. I read those pages with GREAT interest, and laid the original in an aluminum box for safekeeping after carefully, gingerly wrapping the browned and mildewed pages in plastic bags for protection.
Why? Because I loved the author!
That journal is sacred to me, because it holds the very words my dad chose to share his innermost thoughts and feelings regarding one of the most significant and deeply personal experiences of his life. Those words are an EXTENSION of my dad; they represent a piece of him I can hang on to and treasure now that he is gone to Heaven (Ernie Sr. trusted Christ as his Savior about six months before he died. We believe 10-year-old Levi played a significant role in that). Those words give me a greater, more intimate understanding of the man who was my father.
It's for those reasons I savor the words of that book.
In the same way, Jesus's words are an extension of Himself; the very best way I can know Him and savor HIM, though He is not physically present in a visible, tangible way.
Jesus, Himself, said, "If a man love me, he will keep MY WORDS" (John 14:23).
When the Jews asked Him outright, "Who ARE you?" He answered, "Even the same THAT I SAID to you from the beginning" (John 8:26).
Philip Mauro explains this amazing statement:
"The Lord declares of Himself that He is exactly and altogether WHAT HIS WORDS REPRESENT HIM TO BE. His utterances correspond exactly to what He is. What His words represent, such He IS absolutely."
In other words, when asked to say just Who He is, plain and simple, the Lord responded: "What I speak, THAT I AM; MY WORDS reveal My Person."
If we genuinely want to know the Lord Jesus, we ought to have our noses CONSTANTLY in these pages, SATURATING ourselves with the words which HE said are the accurate expression of WHO HE IS!
I didn't fall in love with the Word of God immediately after coming to know Christ as my Savior (1982). It was more of an "acquired taste."
But now that I have cultivated a love for the sacred scriptures over these past three decades, it never ceases to amaze and alarm me when I hear fellow Christians deprecate Bible study, theology and doctrine (pretty disturbing when you’ve heard fellow Bible teachers and even a Bible school president jump on that bandwagon) as if knowing and loving these things automatically defines you as a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, or a spiritually lifeless "religionist."
It seems to me we've got some very wrong thinking going on.
What is "doctrine," but simply "the teaching of God's Word on any subject" (Pastor Chester McCalley)? And what is God's Word but "the deep things" of God, "not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches" (I Corinthians 2:11-13)? And what are these words but a LIVING (Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63) EXTENSION of our precious Lord Jesus, Himself?
I know a lot of peeps say such things without really thinking them through. But, dear, dear folks -- if you really ARE "anti-doctrine," YOU ARE ANTI-BIBLE.
And if you are anti-Bible, can you really claim to be passionately in love with Jesus, Who identified His Words with Himself in the closest, most personal way and said, "If a man LOVE ME, he will keep (guard, protect, treasure) MY WORDS"?
He said He would leave us for a while, but He would not leave us orphans. We have His Spirit.
And we have His Book. The Book He loved as life, itself. The Book He virtually breathed in and out all the days of His earthly life.
The Book of which He, Himself, is the one preeminent and central theme (John 5:39, 46; Revelation 19:10).
"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32).