Ann Arbor, Michigan is perhaps the most interesting place I’ve lived, though Lusaka, Zambia or London, England may take the cake if I had been old enough to enjoy them. More than just intriguing, Ann Arbor became a place of transformation, pain, and hope. In Ann Arbor I received an engineering degree, watched football in the biggest stadium in the country, made a few life-long friends, became a Christian, grew to love hooded sweathshirts and Diesal shoes, and was painfully purged by God of serious sin.
During my sophomore year I ate breakfast every Tuesday at Frank’s Diner on Maynard St. My first time there was fairly memorable. I walked in to this historic diner and joined a priest and two businessmen at the bar. Conversation was buzzing as Mabel, the sole waitress, smiled and poured coffee. Pete, the cook, who I mistakenly took to be Frank for weeks, was busy flipping bacon strips and chatting with the businessmen. I ordered and silently ate my food as I eavesdropped on the conversation. One thing was clear: everyone knew each other on Tuesday mornings at Frank’s Diner. Another gentleman rolled in and casually asked Mabel for “his usual.” Really? I wanted my usual too. So I ordered the same breakfast for months at Frank’s. With time I got to know Mabel, the friendly Indonesian whose home overseas was burned because of her Christian faith, Pete, the witty Greek cook, and the priest and the businessmen, whose names I can’t remember. I enjoyed many conversations with these new friends.
I often brought my Bible with me. The Diner became a place where I loved to commune with God through prayer and scripture reading. Occasionally I’d also stuff Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in my backpack. Grudem is not only a biblical scholar, but an extraordinarily clear communicator. He has a penchant for applying lofty truths. At the Diner, God used Grudem to teach me about the Trinity, prayer, angels and demons, the gifts of the Holy Spirit etc. Perhaps the most significant thing I learned from Grudem was the Doctrine of the Bible. What can we say about the Bible? Why should I trust it? What motivation do I have to read it everyday and to obey its teachings? Grudem gave me five attributes that have shaped how I approach the Bible today…
1. The Bible is Authoritative. “All the words in scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
2. The Bible is Inerrant. “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything contrary to fact.”
3. The Bible is Clear. “The Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.”
4. The Bible is Necessary. “The Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.”
5. The Bible is Sufficient. “Scripture contained all the words of God He intended His people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.”
When I open up the Bible, God speaks. I am not listening to some dead, hyper-religious men. What I read in the Bible are true ideas about God, this universe, and myself. As I peer into the scriptures, I come to recognize Jesus as God’s Son and the only provision for my sin and mess. These truths are more understandable and helpful when I am humble and eager to hear God speak. And as I humbly listen and trust His words, I find the resources to obey God, love people, and maintain an other-worldly joy.
I am thankful for all the interactions I had at Frank’s Diner – with Mabel, Pete, Grudem, and others. But I’m especially thankful that God spoke to me at Frank’s. He is the One I needed to hear from the most, especially during those formative and tumultuous years. Then and now, God’s words encourage, confront, and exhort us – whether we are privately reading at a coffee shop, doing devotions with our families, or hearing the preached Word on Sunday morning.
May we long for the Book that gives life.