I Bought It with Tip Money

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By Chris Travis

I bought the Bible that changed my life while working as a delivery driver for Papa John’s pizza—literally, while working. I stopped at a local bookstore during a shift.

I bought it with tip money. I can’t remember whose generosity financed that pivotal purchase, but it’s fun to imagine how my customers might have felt about it. Would they have been thrilled? Appalled? I doubt they had any idea what God would do with the couple bucks they gave me.

As the door to the bookstore swung shut behind me, a bell jingled against the glass, sounding like Christmas. “Can I help you?” asked the lady in the pink sweater.

“Do you have Bibles?”

She directed me to a section in the back where there were not only Bibles, plural, but different kinds of Bibles. Who knew? Textual criticism wasn’t yet part of my world. I had no idea which Bible to pick, and was too embarrassed to ask for help.

Then I saw it: The King James Version. It was the only version I had ever heard of. I had one of those as a kid, so it must be legitimate. It must be the “right one.”

It turned out to be the right one, for me. I was an English major and loved Shakespeare. The language of the KJV sang to me. So did the Holy Spirit. I found the Bible to be, much to my surprise, interesting. I certainly hadn’t expected that. And the God of the Bible, he was so believable. Not at all how he had been represented to me by media and others. It seemed to me if there really was a God, then he must be like this God.

I also experienced weird moments in the Scripture that must have made God laugh. When the movie The Matrix came out, it messed with me. What if this world isn’t all there is?

Then I read in Exodus 13:12, “That thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix.”

I gasped. Never mind proper exegesis, I was hooked!

Before long a friend gave me a different version of the Bible, and I devoured it. When I read about Jesus . . . there was no one like this man. The things he said and did were so countercultural and otherworldly, I gradually became convinced humans alone could not possibly have cooked up this character. Some kind of supernatural force must have guided the creation of these documents.

That, I think, was God’s foot in the door of my heart. A few months later I prayed for Jesus to save me, went to church for the first time, and was baptized. Life with Jesus is like a never-ending sense of relief.

I suppose it’s possible for someone to understand from the beauty and goodness of creation that God exists and that he is good. I don’t think it ever would’ve happened for me. I needed the God of the Bible. My hard heart needed the penetrating story of the cross: that sin is my problem and Jesus is my only hope.

There is no other god like the God of the Bible. Who else reaches like this? He not only filled the heavens with glittering stars, but also explained what they declare about him, in human words! In our words. Jesus not only became a man, gave his life, and returned to the Father, but God also carefully explained what it all means for us and how we should respond.

It’s not about the Bible; it’s about the God of the Bible. What an incredible gift! His words in the Bible changed my life and change my life still. Our God spoke living words in the Bible—living words that speak still!

Chris Travis is lead pastor with Everyday Christian Church, a new church plant in Manhattan, New York City, and the author of Unnamed: Unsuspecting Heroes Singled Out by God (Standard Publishing, 2010).

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