The Pastor’s Page January

Tolle lege. I know to many of you that may look like gibberish, but those words tolle lege (pronounced toll-ay, lay-gay) changed the world. There was a man in ancient times named Augustine. He is considered an early Church Father. His thinking changed the Church in its early stages. Later, his thought inspired Martin Luther in his quest to reform the church. Augustine is one of those rare people who have impacted the faith throughout the ages.

Yet, without those two words, tolle lege, there might never have been the writings of Augustine. He tells the story of his conversion to Christ in his book Confessions. Augustine had been wild in his youth. His mother was Christian, but he was anything but. He was not baptized until he was 32 years of age. In his youth, he had an affair and produced an illegitimate son, Adeodatus (“Gift of God”).

Still, his mother Monica prayed for son and encouraged his conversion. The mother of Augustine’s son—her name has been lost to history—eventually converted to Christianity, with great pain gave Adeodatus into the sole custody of Augustine, and dedicated herself to service in a monastery.

Augustine desired holiness, but he also desired the pleasures of this world. He fell into another illicit relationship. Struggling with his faith, he went into a garden to read. He was torn between loving the Lord, and loving the things of this world. As Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24, no one can serve two masters and Augustine, probably without being aware, was feeling the weight of that teaching.

He took a break from his reading in the garden when he heard words coming over the wall. Some hidden child on the other side kept chanting in sing-song fashion as children do, “Tolle lege. Tolle lege.” Those words mean, “Take up and read.” Never hearing a small child sing such a song, Augustine took it as a sign.

He went back to reading. His eyes fell on these words from Romans 13:13: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” God spoke directly to his heart. Augustine knew it was time to leave behind the things of this world and to dedicate himself fully to the service of God. Two words from an unknown source and one verse of scripture and Augustine’s life was changed. His conversion in turn has impacted countless lives through the ages that followed.

In that moment of Augustine’s conversion, he received peace upon peace. In fact, reading a bit farther a little later, Augustine heard the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 14:1a: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him…” Augustine knew his place in God’s kingdom was assured. All his grappling with faith, his fallen ways, and his sins were washed away and settled in a moment soaked with grace.

That is the power of the Word. That is why every year in January I encourage people to read the Word. “Tolle lege! Tolle lege!” “Take up and read! Take up and read!” It’s the best gift I can give you. In fact, it’s the only gift I can give you. No matter how eloquent or intelligent I may try to make my messages, I know that I cannot improve on the Word of God. In the Christmas season, we remember that the Word (Christ) became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

So once again, I encourage to make a commitment to read through the Bible this year.

A reading plan is included in this newsletter. There are several others that you can discover online or through other sources. There are even Bibles that can be purchased that are set up to help you accomplish this goal.

Even if you cannot commit to reading through the whole Bible, start with the New Testament or the Psalms. If you don’t want to read for a whole year, commit to reading the book of Proverbs—there’s 31 chapters so one for each day in the month of January! You can always start with reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 or the book of Galatians.

It’s not about how much you read or how quickly or the number of pages. The goal is simply to get the Word of God into your heart. It needs to begin somewhere, and it needs to be a part of your daily walk with God.

As Hebrews 4:12 reminds us: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word is a sword not to dissect or eviscerate us. Rather, it is more like a surgeon’s scalpel. It cuts but in order to save. The Word cuts away what is infected, malformed, or injured. The Word rearranges our innards for our health and eternal well-being.

In Christ’s powerful name,
Pastor Randall