When I was a kid, we'd often go visit my great grandmother out in Arizona, a few miles outside of Truxton, Arizona off of Route 66. She lived in a trailer house, but somehow all 5 of us, and she would manage. Often, we'd go see sites, using granny's house as a base camp, of sorts, and on our down time, we'd watch what TV her antenna would grasp (which, I remember, was only PBS). Most often, the show we'd watch at her house (it was the show she'd ask me if I watched well until my teens) was Reading Rainbow, a show about books, as well as interesting things that were in the theme of the books for the day (for example, order of operations, cause and effect, etc.). I remember granny asking me on a speaker phone conversation when I was 13, in front of everyone at my cousin's house (it was a big gathering for Thanksgiving) if I still watched "my rainbow." I also remember Levar Burton's Tag line "you don't have to take my word for it," which would usually break in to a segment of kids describing books they had read.
I know it's a long monologue to get to that point, but I share this memory with you for a purpose: how often are we tourists in other people's lives, listening to their stories, or, rather, watching them on TV and the Internet, or reading about them in articles? How often do we take someone else's word for things, as opposed to searching for ourselves? In the same vein, how often do we listen to a preacher or speaker's interpretation of the word of God, but do not seek it for ourselves? I know, I'm a preacher, and yes, I know that I am taking a risk by telling my audience not to take my word for what I say behind the pulpit, and in writing. However, I would love it if people would open their Bibles, ask questions, seek Christ, and let the Holy Spirit act in His capacity: Counselor and Interpreter! I'm less interested in what I have to say, and more interested in you increasing your faith by exploring God's word, drawing near to God, so He will draw near to you! An intimate knowledge of the Word of God is more valuable to you than any of my sermons combined!
So, I'm begging you: don't take my word for it. Explore God's word, grab a notebook and pen, ask questions and take notes, and seek God daily through the Bible. Read, reread, notate until the pages are worn from care. Yes, gather together as a church, yes, hear the word of God spoken, but don't take my word for it: use it as a springboard of exploration in to the heart and mind of God through His word. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear [and obey], O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
2 Timothy 3:10-17
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.