As a child, I loved connect-the-dots books or any word game books. There are six years between my brother and I, so it was kind of like being an only child in many ways. Since I grew up during a time when you had to actually get up and turn the knob on the tv to change the channels and it actually shut off after the late-night news, technology was not something that I was entertained by. We lived in the country and so my imagination, books and word games were my best friends. To this day, I love to play games, do word search puzzles, and read. I must confess that while I am pathetic at sports, I will fight fiercely to win any word scramble game at any and every bridal and baby shower I attend; thus I have won some great gifts over time. I will promptly take a picture of my latest win and text it to my daughter because while she knows I am quirky that way, she loves me and understands.
For me there is just something thrilling about putting the letters together in a word game or the pieces together in a puzzle. I like the challenge of it. You may not think there is much challenge there, but I guess it depends on how you look at it. I can look at a puzzle or word game and nonchalantly put the pieces together and just relax as I do it. Or I can look for a pattern in the puzzle and see how it might go together or challenge myself to do it faster or more creatively. Both ways are fine and cause me to use my brain cells, which is also good.
So, you may wonder - what's the big deal about puzzles and connecting the dots and word games? Nothing. Except that today God used the analogy between connecting-the-dots activities and His Word to teach me something in a practical way.
One of my scripture memory verses in the last year or so has been 1 John 3:21-22 (NIV) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
I have prayed this back to God and have held onto it tightly as a promise from my Savior. However, I have never felt like I truly understood it or had fully captured the power intended in it. Something was missing for me. And today, I was able to connect-the-dots.
I am currently reading "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" by Jim Cymbala again for the second or third time. In his book, he referenced Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
And there it was - the missing part of the puzzle so to speak. Do what pleases him - what pleases him is having faith. Okay, part of the verse dots are now connected. Now what about obeying his commands. I have a book titled "Devotional Classics" which is a compilation of devotions and writings from people like C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, Martin Luther, etc. One of the exercises in it references Matthew 28:16-20 where Jesus tells his followers to "obey everything that I have commanded" and then you are instructed to go through the Gospel of Matthew and list all the things Jesus commanded. Upon doing this, you are told that your list will be "a mosaic of what the basic Christian life should like according to Jesus." That's the other part I needed to know for the scripture in 1 John. Exactly what has God commanded me to do?
The Word of God is a lot like connecting-the-dots sometimes. Each scripture, each word, each passage is a part of a bigger picture. When we are able to, through God's grace, start putting the pieces together and connecting the scriptures to each other, we will find a more intimate and powerful picture of what life in Christ is to look like.
So that is what I am going to do next. Make the list of the commands in Matthew. It will be in an odd sense like a word search game. You know it is there, you just need to study it and search until you find it. I love the way God works!