The Narrow Way by Andrew Sternke

Welcome Wednesday: The Living Word

By Andrew Sternke

Have you ever tried to entertain a child by telling them a fairytale story? To hold their interest, you have to get into the story, use boisterous voices, exaggerate your facial expressions and hand gestures – you need to make it exciting. The essence of the story is usually the fantastic, the impossible, the grandeur. Growing up, this is how the Bible was presented to me. It was held as a collection of stories of the fantastic, the impossible, the grandeur.  

I was raised in a Christian home. My testimony isn’t exciting. I was told Bible stories routinely – in Sunday School and at home. I could repeat them but didn’t really know what to do beyond that. Even at a young age, I had a working knowledge of the Bible and never really got into terrible mischief.  As a child, we do as we are told.  We learn routines: set out our clothes for school the night before, brush our teeth, comb our hair, do homework before playing, etc.

I was taught I was a sinner, a slave to sin, and I would have to answer for my sins. I knew since I was young that I had a choice to make: which master will I serve? Beyond knowing that this is what the Bible taught, I never internalized it. I flirted with the mantra that the Bible was written long ago and doesn’t really apply to today – to the world we live in with all our technology and advancements. Sure, the Bible had great stories, and some good virtues, but beyond that, it was behind the times. 

I’m thankful this isn’t where I stopped. Sadly, so many people end their search at this juncture

You know, as a boy I enjoyed building things. I had Legos, constructs, erector sets, etc. It was fun to build things as I grew, but it was completely different when I learned to create things based on the instruction booklet. There were reasons certain pieces needed to be in specific spots. Without the instructions, what I built wasn’t reinforced, and would often break easily. Even with the instructions, I remember once when a couple pages stuck together, causing me to miss those vital last steps. I was baffled why built pieces weren’t fitting together. In my frustration, I asked for help, and we discovered the missing steps once the pages were ‘unstuck’.

Life is quite similar. We can build our lives in infinite ways. However, without the instruction book, the Bible, it isn’t reinforced. It’s easily broken without our instruction book, the Bible. Even with it, if we just focus on the stories from our youth, if we rely on books written by authors calling themselves Christian, and are not daily reading God’s Word, we may miss vital messages and wonder why – even as a Christian – it feels like things aren’t fitting together.

I discovered there is so much more in the Bible than the stories we learn as children. And then I learned I could apply things I was reading to my life experiences.

One of my first romantic relationships enabled me to truly begin to understand this. 

After having a fight with my significant other, I was brooding over the words she spoke and justifying the words I spewed at her. Through this thought ‘exercise’, I realized the words I said to her were harsh.  I could hear the truth she was saying and the meanness of the words I retaliated with. Though I left the fight feeling she was in the wrong, I was struck with guilt and shame over the entire encounter. 

I read passages in the Bible shortly after about the power of the tongue (James 3:1-12) and felt renewed guilt over the fight. I search the Bible more and read verses about fools and their tongues and what wisdom looked like (Proverbs 12:18-19, 15:1-2,28, 17:27-28, 18: 1-8). I read about righting relationships when you hold something against another person(Matthew 5:23-24).

Needless to say, I apologized for my actions. However, an epiphany was born. God was speaking to me. Not verbally, but through His word. It was something I had experienced only sporadically before, but I now had vigor to find out more, to read more.

This is one of the influences behind the devotional I wrote. I wanted to show others that, if you are truly seeking a relationship with Jesus, you will be in His Word. This requires an action: picking up the Bible and reading, not to check a box, but to learn. As you read, you will find Him challenge you in what you’re doing in life. This requires another action: reflecting on your actions and measuring them against what you’ve read. Read James 1:19-26

Life progress

That initial epiphany created in me a longing to do more as a Christian, but I didn’t know what that looked like. I believe God places mentors in our lives – even if we are unaware we’re being mentored. I was encouraged to join a small group and to start serving in a role at church. That was 11 years ago. God had a work for me to do that required me to be in a different place spiritually – He needed me to be mature. Looking back, I see this. At the time, I felt I was merely checking the box.  1) In a small group – check. 2) Serve at church – check.

Out of this experience grew a Love for our group members and a desire to serve. It wasn’t a check box anymore, but a desire. I was asked to join committees, to lead a small group. I felt unqualified then, and in many ways, still do now. I have always felt inferior when it comes to leading, but God was asking me to mature some more. 

I have twin boys who were born 6 weeks premature. It’s proving to be an uphill battle to get them to eat, and then to eat the amounts the doctors require them to eat. They, of course, ‘eat’ milk. Their intake is based on their weight. The more they weigh, the more they are required to eat. When our twins didn’t eat the minimum required by the doctors, they had a feeding tube inserted through their nose. The doctors then injected the remainder of what they didn’t eat to help stretch their stomachs. This will continue until they are able to drink the minimum.  Soon, the twins will ask for more than this minimum amount and grow on their own, without assistance.

As Christians, we’re similar to premature babies. We drink milk as immature believers, learning the basics (I Corinthians 3:1-2). But God requires more from us. He has plans to grow and stretch us beyond what we may want.

And so it was for me.

As we follow God’s will, we begin to see the fruits of His labor. For me, I continued to grow in different roles as a volunteer. Our small group morphed our studies to include service projects. Instead of just taking in God’s Word and internalizing it for our lives, we now seek ways to serve others in our community. I lead about 100 serving members at our church. As a way to better disciple them, I began writing a devotional each week. 

I’m not an author by trade but heeded the calling God placed on me at this time. Out of this obedience, I read one of my devotionals to our small group, as it fit with our weekly study. My wife hadn’t realized I was writing a weekly devotional, and encouraged me, after hearing a few of them, to write a book. Again, I felt inferior in this task – who would read it?  I am not a pastor, nor scholared in writing, nor do I have any training in divinity other than my own studies.

After a few months, I felt God leading me to do this. In fact, I soon felt an urgency to accomplish the task. So, I did. I wrote a devotional that allows the reader to marinate on a single topic all week. It’s designed for the reader to journal in the devotional throughout the week. This gives each person time to reflect on self, reflect on God’s Word, and dive deeper as they progress. Throughout the devotional, you are challenged to do more than internalize things – but to act. And all this is centered around the fact that God’s Word is alive and relevant and applicable to our daily living.

God asks each of us to do things to accomplish His will. They may be easy to do or may require years of growth and stretching. The question is: are you willing to do more than consume God’s Word? Are you willing to place your “Yes” on the table and see where God takes you? Are you ready to move beyond the stories, and seek ways to apply God’s word to your life?

May this be a stretching point for you.  God Bless!

***Note from Heart-Soul-Mind.org: At the time of this posting, one of Andrew’s twins has been discharged from the NICU while the other is expected to remain there for quite some time. In addition to this hardship, they are also dealing with the tragic deaths of two close friends. Please pray for Andrew and his family during this difficult time.

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