Monday, September 17, 2012

"The WORD ..."

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Mark 13:31).

The Bible is a remarkable book ... remarkable because you can read and study it your whole life and continue to discover more of God's truth with the turn of every page.  There are doctrines, teachings, in the Bible that are difficult to grasp.  Even the Apostle Peter wrote, " ... just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction"   (II Peter 3:15-16).  Some have used these words to declare that the Bible is too hard for most people to understand, but that's not what Peter says.  He says, "ignorant and unstable people distort" some of the things Paul writes, "as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."

One of the most beautiful things about the Bible is that while there are always more treasures of truth to mine from it's depths, a little child can grasp gems of truth that will feed and nourish their souls as they grow up into Christ.  The words Paul spoke to his young friend, Timothy, come to mind:  "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"  (II Timothy 3:14-15).  The Scriptures, the "writings," the Bible, the very Word of God is for everybody.  It is for people of all ages, of all "levels" on the scale of spiritual life and growth.  Whether you are just beginning or have studied the Bible all your life, GOD SPEAKS through His Word to those "who have ears to hear!"

Today made me think of all this as I watched children going to what we have traditionally called, "Sunday School."  I remember Sunday School like it was yesterday.  I remember learning Bible verses; in fact, I remember going over them at home so we would know them on Sunday morning.  I remember studying the Bible in our catechism class.  Some years ago as I sat at a meeting of Elders and Deacons in another congregation I was serving at the time, as we had a discussion about how much children and youth should be "required" to memorize.  Quite a few of the men around the table lamented about memories of having to memorize and how they didn't like it.  Now they had children of their own and they were wondering if it was good to "force them" to memorize Bible verses.

As I listened, I prayed for wisdom.  Knowing that I could quote several verses to prove my point that such memorizing was valuable, that it was profitable, that it was pleasing to God, I felt led to go a different direction.  I looked at my brothers who were sitting around the table and made a statement and then asked a question:  "You were 'forced' to memorize God's Word as you grew up.  Some of you even 'had to' memorize questions and answers from the catechism ... and yet, here you are - leaders in Christ's body....  Do you think the things you learned by memorizing verses of Scripture had anything to do with your being here today??"  As you might imagine, it was pretty quiet around the table.  I then asked another question:  "Would you deprive your children of the opportunity to experience spiritual growth through the reading, studying AND memorizing of God's Word?"

I have to confess that in the silence that followed I was tempted to say, "I rest my case," but it wasn't really "my" case, it was GOD's case.   Psalm 119, for all its 176 verses, lays out such a powerful case for the necessity of knowing God's Word that it is easy to find verses in this Psalm to support an ongoing study of this marvelous book.  One of my favorite is verse 9:  "How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word."  And verse 11 follows:  "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."  In case you didn't catch it, hiding God's word in your heart means reading it, understanding it, accepting it as God's Word AND memorizing it so that it is THERE when you need it, pointing you to God for guidance and direction.  Verse 105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."  I encourage you to read through this entire Psalm - even to make it the subject of a week or two of devotional readings.

Are YOU depriving yourself and/or your children the joy, peace and power of God's Word?  When you go to worship, do you carry your Bible with you (or your iPad with a Bible "ap"?).  Personally, I still encourage people to bring their Bible and a pen to jot down notes or underline.  I know you can do that with electronics today, but there is truly something about holding your own Bible and becoming so familiar with it that it is like a close friend.  I have been studying it since I was in grade school, and in earnest for more than forty years.  I still discover new insights into the God I love and His work of establishing His kingdom.  You will not be disappointed as you make this your lifelong study.  Get involved today in "eating" regularly from God's Word, and your soul will never go hungry!

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