Twenty Notebooks Later
By: Patty Joyce
January 3, 2021 was a special day for me, as it was the first Sunday of the New Year, and I knew Christians all over the world were attending their respective churches. I’m sure thousands and thousands of prayers reached the throne asking for this year to be a healthier year than its predecessor.
Something new was also happening with me. My brand-new lined notebook with its crisp white pages sat comfortably next to my Bible as I waited for Pastor to begin her first sermon of 2021. My notebook lineage began some forty-plus years ago. Being a new believer, I wanted to capture every word of every Sunday message. My notebooks date from 1984 through 2020 and number twenty in all.
In addition, I have several other study books, but my Sunday sermon notebooks are very special to me. My full attention is on the pulpit in anticipation of what the Lord has for me that day. Many of my Christian sisters like to journal. I love hearing about their past journal entries that have again become “fresh bread” and still inspire years later. For me, this is my form of journaling.
It’s not the notebook that counts, but the inspirational, convicting, joyful, and sometimes sorrowful words on the white to yellowed pages that say, ‘this is for me.’ While looking through my notebooks to pick out a few gold nuggets to share with you, I see where my penmanship has gone from looking neater and more youthful to larger and sometimes cramped. That certainly has changed! The date, pastor’s name, sermon title, and Scripture reference always appear on the first two lines of the page. Seeing their names brings back a picture of them, their voice, how they walked across the platform, and each heralding their unique God-given gift of blessing me with the Scripture. As their words resonated with me, I wrote them down as fast as I could, and still do, so as not to miss the next nugget.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17 NIV
Each of us have our own way of preserving the words of life we have received. Whether it be memorization, a notebook, a journal, or any other form of communiqué, it is ours, illuminated by Holy Spirit. The question is, What do we do with them? As I scanned through my notebooks, I was given cause to stop at the pages that whispered, Has your life changed in some way because of these words? I must admit the obvious has changed, however, a heart check needs a daily examination. Bible commentator Matthew S. Harmon said it well with his short and simple description of the Bible: “God has given us the Bible to tell us who He is, what He has done for us, and how we should live. He uses the Bible to change us so that our lives demonstrate that we bear His image.” (Italics mine)
The writings of man may be able to amuse, educate, or even enlighten in some ways, but the Word of God actually has the ability to change lives forever. The Bible presents the words emanated from the mind and heart of the Creator. These words carry a power that is unparalleled by any other written work, in that, it is indeed the Word of God to man.
In closing, I have included a few excerpts from my notebooks that I felt are moments as described above.
May 1987, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, Die to Live – “We are a new creation in Christ.” The only way to recognize we have died with Him and risen with Him is to descend (die) in order to ascend (rise). We carry around the death of Jesus in our body so the life of Jesus is also revealed through our body. Spiritual growth will always lie in the direction of my weakness.
Identify my struggles. What are the defects in my virtues and how do I fix them?
August 1991, 2 Samuel 7:1-29, Failure Isn’t Final – God tells Nathan to tell David that David is not to build the Temple. How did David handle this? He prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”
How do I react when God tells me no? Do I seek or sulk? Do I react like David? He never asked God why or questioned His judgment, instead he praised Him for His presence, for His promises, for His power, and for His protection.
May 1999, Genesis 3:9, 13, God Asks Questions – “Where are you?” In the Garden of Eden, God came looking for man; not man looking for God. We think we are hiding from God and He doesn’t see us. Where will I be when God looks for me? Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
If sin abounds, grace will abound even more. Confess from the beginning because God wants to heal us.
July 18, 2004, 2 Timothy 1:12, Where Is My Confidence? – “I know whom I have believed, and I am confident that he is able to guard what I entrusted to him for that day.” The basis for my confidence is the ever-abiding presence of God. Proverbs 3:25-26 tells me the Lord is my confidence. Hebrews 4:12 tells me the Word of God is living and active. He is always faithful to his Word.
Speak the Word over the circumstances I need to commit to God.
March 18, 2018, John 12:23-26, How Is My Garden Growing? – Jesus replied “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But, if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Seeds are placed in deep, dark soil where they appear to be dead. However, with water and the proper care, they will live. Roots go deep (we are rooted in Christ), shoots go up (we grow in His image), and leaves go out (we share Him with the world). The Church contains the DNA of Christ. We are the recipient of that seed, and we can bear much fruit.
St. Paul’s vivid words in Hebrews 4:12 leave nothing to the imagination: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Perhaps it’s time to revisit the old and let it influence the new. As we look back to the where, what, and how of our changed lives, let us also look forward to our continual growth into the image of Christ.