It's no secret that I love the Bible. I love to read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it, and I especially love to apply it. One of my greatest joys in life is to communicate it.

Near the top of my list of reasons for loving it so is that it's a Book of hope. As you get to know the people of the Bible and see how God worked in their lives, you know there is always a tomorrow. Beyond the tangled trials of yesterday and the sinfulness of whatever present mess we're in, we can find hope by claiming what God offers tomorrow. Hope always carries us on!

This month, our focus is "Growing closer to God through Your Devotions and Bible Study." One of the best ways to develop intimacy with God is to spend meaningful time in His Word -- thinking about it, studying it, and making it your own. Over the years, you and I have relied on wonderful, trustworthy Bible teachers -- but real personal growth has only taken place when we are in the Word on our own. Teachers provide the path; we must take the steps.

In keeping with that model, let me suggest three ways for you to grow closer to God through your personal time in His Word:

Study it with heart. Approach Scripture with enthusiasm! The Psalmist describes the anticipation of learning God's precepts; "How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)

Take it to heart. I have lived long enough to realize that I desperately need truth in my life. By now, I've gotten just enough intelligence to be dangerous. I've gotten just enough of man's wisdom to know it isn't trustworthy. I need His yes and no, His light to expose my darkness, His precepts to steel my convictions. His Word provides all that.

Learn it by heart. Tradition tells us that the Jewish mothers of the first century taught their children to pray, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit" (Psalm 31:5). During Jesus' last hour on the cross, He repeated that same Scripture, most likely having memorized it as a child at Mary's knee. I don't know of any discipline that will transform thoughts better than memorizing the Word. How urgently we need truth riveted to our hearts.

If I could have one wish granted for all God's people, it would be that we return to the Word of God. The Bible is the final resting place for our hopes, our sorrows, and our surprises. God uses life to teach me about the meaning of His Word to teach me about the meaning of life. If it weren't for this book, I wouldn't know that Jesus loves me, and neither would you. That is our most profound hope, and that is the truth.

We thank You, Father, for Your Book, the treasure of inspired truth which lives and abides forever. Thank You for giving it to us and for the painstaking process of preserving it, even though men and women have attempted to deny it, blaspheme it, burn it, ignore it, criticize it, and explain it away. It has survived. It is with us. We revere it. We worship You.

May our lives be shaped according to its principles. May we be different people because we have taken Your Word to heart. May we live it and obey it, not simply study it and memorize it. May it change our appetites, our attitudes, and our actions. And may those changes bring great glory to Your name, dear Lord. I ask this, sincerely, through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Adapted from the message, "God's Book-God's Voice," Growing Deep in the Christian Life cassette series. (Anaheim, Calif.: Insight for Living, 1987).