Holy Desires (Part Three)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

God urges us to delight in his counsel. The happy person delights in God’s law. What is meant by the law of the Lord? Perhaps the word law would be better translated as “instruction”. Here the psalmist intends the Scriptures; that is, God’s written revelation. They are law in the sense of binding instruction for us, since God’s instruction is not optional, but the word means more than precepts and regulations. In God’s law you find commands, narrative examples and testimony to God’s nature, plans and actions. God teaches us who he is, what his plan for his glory is in history, how to know him and draw near to him, and how to fellowship with him.

To delight is to feel great pleasure. Joy and satisfaction combine in an intense, heart-felt experience. “Wow! I like this! I can’t stop myself from wanting more.” This is what many religious people are missing. They may worship because they feel they must, but it is the wrong kind of “must”, flowing from fear or obligation and not from joy and love. Suppose I asked my wife in a melancholy or reluctant way, “Must I kiss you?” She’d probably say, “No!” But what if I said to her with desire in my voice, “I must kiss you!” That’s a far different matter!

Delight develops from experience. Delight does not happen from a legalistic prescription. It does not come from forcing yourself to read three or four chapters a day. Approaching the Bible with that attitude is more likely to produce pride in your heart than delight in God’s law. Delight occurs as the Spirit uses God’s word with his grace and causes you to sense its value and sweetness. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold… How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth (Psalm 119:72, 103)! Like coming to know God, we taste it and by grace find out how good it is (cf. Psalm 34:8).

The delight in God’s law leads the happy person to meditate on it. The word translated in verse two as “meditate” is the same word translated as “plot” in Psalm 2:1b. To meditate is to have deep reflective thought on the ideas of God’s word and to plan how those ideas can transform our character, ideas, attitudes, words, and actions. Yes, we need to apply God’s instruction to every facet of who we are and what we do. This requires a more active reading of God’s word than most Christians are accustomed to. We need to read carefully, understand fully, think intently, and then apply wisely. All of us will profit more from the Bible, if we make longer investments of time and concentration when we read it.

In other words, meditation is for people who are active, like Joshua. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8 NIV). People who want to accomplish tasks for the glory of God need to meditate on the Scriptures. “How can God’s ideas change my world?”

Let us look intently at ourselves. In what ways are we thinking about how God’s message can transform our lives, our family, our churches, our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world? As we read the Bible this week, let’s look for ideas that will change our lives and think about how to put those ideas to work.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Holy Desires (Part Two)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

Since the Lord desires our joy, he urges us to turn from every path that would ruin us. The Lord tells us that the happy person does not delight in close companionship with people that he describes as wickedsinnersmockers. People so described do not manifest love for God or godly people in their attitudes, words, and actions. They must be avoided as close friends, because close friends become our “counselors”. They advise us not only by their words, but also by their way of life that they want us to share with them.

The psalmist sings of the importance of the mind. The struggle for our lives begins with our minds. Let’s think a little about how our minds get “tied” up in things. Our minds meditate on various thoughts of differing degrees of truth and value. A running back for the Eagles needs to know the offensive playbook thoroughly; it would be a waste of time for me to learn it, if I could. No one needs to know how to tell a lie, because we all are supposed to tell the truth. However, everyone should know how to be right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. From our thoughts, we form ideas—about God, ourselves, morals, etc., which control our viewpoints on life. Out of our ideas come our feelings or emotions, whether love, fear, joy, hope, etc. Our ideas and emotions join to determine the decisions we make

Everyone is giving and taking advice from others through various channels, such as friendship, books, movies, magazines, TV and radio talk shows, web pages, blogs, social media, schools, churches, and so on. Have you ever mistakenly said to someone, “I’d like to lose a few pounds.” What do you instantly hear—a ton of advice about diets and exercise, especially if that person has actually been successful about losing some weight! Giving advice is okay. Christians are called to be counselors. I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). However, be sure that the advice you give is true and workable.

The Lord warns us about evil counsel. Sinful advice will affect your life in three ways. First, it will provide you wrong ideas to think about (“counsel of the ungodly”). Second, it will shape your behavior (“the way of sinners”). And third, it will change whom you feel you belong to (“seat of mockers”). Your attitude toward people will change. Where you drop your anchor is where your boat is going to end up.

To consider this a slightly different way, the psalmist paints of a picture of what happens to a person. If you listen to ungodly advice, you will shift to an ungodly lifestyle, which will result in attitudes that are far from God. A mocker is a person farthest from the point of having a change of mind (repentance). Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Holy Desires (Part One)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

As I write, we are in the second week of preseason football. In our locality, that means the Philadelphia Eagles, and I’m sure that every Eagle’s fan has a great desire to see them win. There is certainly nothing wrong in becoming a little enthusiastic about a sporting event, provided that you don’t let that control your life! Hopefully, the Eagles will have a successful season, although they face determined opponents; if they do, we will celebrate their victory.

God has given us many desires. The desire for victory is just one of them. God has made us to enjoy many things—food, water, beauty, rest, and so on. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV). Our problem is not that we want to enjoy what God has given us for our enjoyment, but it is that we have too narrow an interest in what we want to enjoy, and far too often, we want to enjoy forbidden pleasures—things and activities that distract from God’s glory and ruin us—what the Bible calls sin. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

In a few articles, I want to direct our attention to holy desires. I call them holy desires, not to give the impression that some good things and actions are sacred and others secular, but because this psalm presents a desire for what is good in contrast to what is wicked. The First Psalm provides a series of contrasts between those who follow the Lord by faith and those who reject him and live according to human wisdom. What we want to focus on is the contrast between the godly and the ungodly regarding counsel or advice.

God wants us to live happy lives. We need to give an important clarification. When I say that the Lord God wants us to live happy lives, I am far from suggesting that the worthiness of a thought, word, action, or thing is determined by whether or not it makes you and me happy. Worthiness and holiness is always determined by God’s holiness and glory, whether we happen to like something or not. We know what God’s glory and holiness is from the Bible, God’s message. I am sure that the apostles totally disliked the experience of being flogged, but they came to know a greater joy in suffering for the glory of Jesus Christ. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41 NIV).

The correct nature of this statement is revealed through the many times that God in the Scriptures marks out for us what a happy life is.

  • Many statements in the Psalms – 1:2; 2:12; 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 41:1-2; 65:4; 84:4-5, 12; 89:15; 94:12; 106:3; 112:1; 119:1-2; 128:1
  • The teaching of Jesus – Mt 5:3-12; 16:17; Lk 6:20-23; 11:28

Do we have a correct understanding of God? He really wants what is for our good. God knows where human happiness can be found, since he knows everything, he designed us to rejoice in God’s glory, and he tells us how we can have happy lives. Will we believe God?

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

The Attributes of God (Part Fifteen)

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 CSB).

To be loved by the Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, is truly awesome. For this reason, we ought to know as much about it as possible. Next, let’s consider the characteristics of God’s love.

  • God’s love is uninfluenced or uncaused by motives apart from God himself. God’s love is spontaneous, flowing out from his loving nature. God traces his love for his creatures, not to their goodness, but to his (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Anything that he does proceeds from his purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9). The expression of God’s love toward his people came from his decision to make the riches of his glory known to them (Romans 9:23-24). In fact, our love for God comes from his love for us (1 John 4:19).
  • God’s love is eternal. God did not develop love when he created. No, God has always enjoyed love within the Persons of the Trinity (John 17:24). But what is even more amazing is that God from eternity set his love upon his people (Jeremiah 31:3) and predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6).
  • God’s love is infinite. It is not measured by our puny ability to calculate or imagine its true glory. Instead, it is as great as God himself (Ephesians 3:18-19). It is a love of such power that it can overcome the greatest obstacles (Ephesians 2:4-5) and move God to give the greatest gift, his one and only Son (John 3:16).
  • God’s love is immutable (Romans 8:35-39). As it springs forth from eternity, so nothing can stop God’s love. It keeps a strong hold on all those on whom God sets his heart (John 10:27-29). This ought to produce great confidence in Christ’s followers, even during the darkest hours and in the face of the worst evil. At all times, we are “brothers loved by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). Since God’s love comes from his loving nature, it cannot be changed by our failure to love or trust or obey God.
  • God’s love is sovereign. We have yet to consider God’s sovereignty, but we must know that God loves whom he will. He is under no obligation to love any. All that any human deserves is justice. If we receive mercy instead of condemnation, it is not something that we can control or force God to extend. It is completely a gift of free grace, proceeding from God’s good pleasure (Luke 10:21). A clear example of this is God’s declaration about Jacob and Esau (Romans 9:10-13). “There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so” (Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 93] “God set his love upon Jacob purely as an act of his sovereign will… To most people this is an unpopular teaching, but it is the only way things can be if God is truly to be God. Assume the opposite: God’s love is regulated by something other than his sovereignty. In that case God would be regulated by this other thing (whatever it is) and would thus be brought under its power. That is impossible if he is still to be God. In Scripture no cause for God’s love other than his electing is ever given” (Boice, God the Redeemer, p. 217]

Someone once thought about John 3:16 and the greatness of God’s love and wrote about “Christ—the Greatest Gift”. I have modified a few words to present the idea more accurately.

God: the greatest Lover
so loved: the greatest degree
the world: the greatest wonder
that he gave: the greatest act
his one and only Son: the greatest gift
that whoever: the greatest offer
believes: the greatest simplicity
in him: the greatest attraction
shall not perish: the greatest promise
but: the greatest difference
have: the greatest certainty
eternal life: the greatest possession

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-seven)

Acts 10:37-38

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (NIV).

In recent articles about the Holy Spirit, we have considered how the Spirit of God anointed Jesus to carry out the work the Father gave him to do. After Christ’s baptism, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to overcome the evil one in the temptations hurled against him. He succeeded where both Adam and Israel failed. Next, we see that Jesus did his mighty works by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit filled Jesus with power to carry out his ministry. We rightly believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He could easily have done all his miraculous signs through his personal power. But that was not the course the Father had designed for the glory of God. Jesus’ life was one of humble submission to the Father. Listen to the words of Philippians two. Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV). This course required him to do his mighty works by the power of the Spirit, as he himself said. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV).

The Spirit of God empowered Jesus to do good works (Acts 10:38). This was to undo the chaos of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:8b). Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom of God could set up a new way of life, one free from the ruin of sin. His actions also would bring glory to God (cf. Matthew 5:16; 9:8). Think for a moment. Has the Lord Jesus touched you in your soul with his healing power? Perhaps you need the Healer to heal you spiritually. I have good news for anyone reading who remains spiritually blind. Cheer up, hear his voice, he’s calling you (cf. Mark 10:46-52)!

Jesus received power to set up the new age the new age of the Spirit. The saving reign of God had arrived. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15 NIV) The year of the Lord’s favor, the new year of Jubilee, had come (cf. Lk 4:14-21).

Are you in the new creation? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) You may have new life in Christ today! It comes as the Lord Jesus acts by his saving grace when you have a change of mind and trust in him for salvation. Call on him by faith.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Blessing and Encouragement (Part Two)

Genesis 48:8-22

Next, we see Jacob’s prophetic action: the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh (48:12-20). This was more than a godly grandfather’s concern for his grandchildren. Jacob communicated a message from the Lord. And so, he blessed them in the name of the God who had blessed him. Two aspects of this blessing:

  • Jacob blessed them by the Lord of providence. God had blessed him by caring for his physical needs. When we are old, we will do well to express our thanks to God for his provision for us before others that they might be encouraged.
  • Jacob blessed them by the Lord of redemption. The Angel mentioned is not a mere created angel but the Angel of the Lord. See Genesis 16:7; 31:11; 32:24. Jacob confessed his need for deliverance. Our Redeemer—the Lord Almighty is his name—is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 47:4 NIV).

Jacob blessed them according to the covenant of promise. He included them with those already blessed by God, Abraham and Isaac. This renewed the promise of being part of God’s great nation through Abraham’s seed. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2 NIV).

Jacob blessed them contrary to human expectations, for the younger was blessed before the older. Since every blessing is unmerited, the Lord is free to give to whom he pleases. To one he gives more, to another he gives less. God is free and sovereign in the exercise of his grace. What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:14-16 NIV). God often gives to the least likely (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Jacob’s prophetic has been fulfilled, because many years later the northern kingdom of Israel came to be called Ephraim. But let us notice this: Joseph was not very happy about this reversal of human expectations (48:17), though he himself had advanced higher than his older brothers. In this he was inconsistent. Let us not criticize God’s sovereign grace when we have benefited by it. One of the many exercises of faith is calmly to trust the holy and wise God to do what is best for his glory in our lives. This is not easy, especially when the Lord’s actions are contrary our comfort, our plans, and our preferences. Trust in God. He knows what is best for his dearly loved children.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

The Attributes of God (Part Fourteen)

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 CSB).

God has revealed his glory as God in all his attributes. The living God wants us to know the whole truth about who he is, and not merely a part of the truth. When we think of the truth that God is love, we ought to realize that many people tend to misuse this one truth to construct a false idea of the true God. When done in ignorance, this causes people to fail to give God the honor that is due him for all that he is. And it leads people into various theological and practical problems, such as, “If God is love and he loves me, why am I suffering?” When done deliberately, it is actually the worship of a false god created by a person’s sinful imagination. An example of this would be, “Since God is love, he would never condemn a person and send him or her to hell.” Therefore, we need to approach this subject with humility and a teachable spirit.

In our time, professing Christians have only a surface acquaintance with the Bible. It is not unusual for a pastor to see blank stares when he refers to most of the main teachings of the Bible that are beyond the simplest gospel references or verses misused by prosperity teachers, for example, Jeremiah 29:11. “There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him” (Pink, The Attributes of God, pp. 90-91).

Part of the problem that people have is a misuse of the texts that say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Clearly both texts are teaching that God is love; that is, he not only loves, but love is an essential part of his being that he expresses even toward unworthy, guilty sinners! The error that many people fall into is assuming that John is teaching that love is God’s basic attribute, because he says, “God is love.” However, that assumption fails to notice that John also says, “God is light (1 John 1:5) previously in the letter, and that he records the statement of Jesus that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). There is no reason to deduce from any of these texts the priority of one or the other of these three statements to the other. As we have already discussed in the section on God’s holiness, there is much more reason to say that holiness is God’s basic attribute. Perhaps we should remember at this point what love is according to the Bible. Love is setting one’s heart on seeking the good of the one loved, to the point of self-sacrificial giving for the one loved. Therefore, the teaching that “God is love” is tremendously encouraging to human hearts! The Maker and Preserver of all things, the God who is unlimited spirit with unmatchable holiness and justice is also love. He sets his heart on what he created to seek its good (Psalm 145:13,17). But the question asked by inquiring minds is this. If God is love, as the Bible says, then why is there suffering in creation and why do some suffer eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46)? This question deserves to be answered, and more importantly answering it will lead us to a deeper appreciation of the glory of God. We will invest some articles on the love of God. First, we will think about the characteristics of God’s love, then of his love in a general sense, and then his love in saving his people from their sins. Finally, we will consider how the truth of God’s love ought to affect us and the way we live.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Blessing and Encouragement (Part One)

Genesis 48:8-22

It is remarkable that at the end of his life, Jacob became a prophet. He still had important work to do for the Lord. The latter days of God’s servants can be their best. Moses served the Lord constantly in the last third of his life. Don’t moan your way to glory. Trust God for grace and strength to glorify and to serve him until your last day.

In our text, we first see some common matters of life. When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (Genesis 48:8-11 NIV).

Jacob was blind because of his age. It is a weakness of our fallen race (Ecclesiastes 12:3). Everyone who lives by sight rather than by faith will eventually lose their guide. Old age has burdens along with its blessings. You can’t have one without the other. But you can rejoice in what the Lord does in your weakness (cf. Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17). The eye of faith may be clear when the eye of the flesh is very cloudy. You can see the kingdom of God when you can’t see the kingdoms of this world. By faith like Abraham, look for the city that has foundations (Hebrews 11:10). This we ought to do, rather than groan about the weakness of our failing bodies.

Jacob was affectionate toward his grandsons. He thought he would never see Joseph again, but he had the joy of seeing Joseph’s sons. Older people often have a special affection for their grandchildren, perhaps even more than they had toward their children. Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6 ESV). In his providence, God often blesses his people beyond what they might expect. Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 CSB). “God is much better to us than our fears; yea, far better than our hopes” (Spurgeon).

Jacob and Joseph acknowledged God’s providence in their lives. Joseph praised God for the children he gave him. Jacob rejoiced that he could see Joseph and his sons after years of thinking Joseph was dead and sons had never been born to him. Every good thing we enjoy is sweetened when we see that all comes from the hand of a loving Father. Here is the way for the godly to talk. Neither father nor son praised the false goddess Luck, but the true GOD. For what five blessings are you thankful to God right now?

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-six)

Acts 10:37-38

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (NIV).

We have seen how the Lord Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God for the work that the Father gave him to so. After his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into conflict with Satan. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1; cf. Luke 4:1). Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and by God’s will this happened through close combat. The Spirit leads us to overcome the evil one the same way. We engage in struggles with the spiritual forces of evil. We can expect to be attacked! The walk of faith is not a pleasant walk in the park.

Here are two observations about the temptation of Jesus:

  • This was not the only time Jesus was tempted (cf. Luke 4:11; Mathew 16:23). It was the start of an ongoing conflict as the light of the new creation began to push back the darkness of the old, fallen creation.
  • The temptation of Jesus has a two-level significance. Usually Christians consider it as a moral example. Jesus shows us how to face temptation (cf. 1 Peter 2:21; cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). But it also is significant in redemptive history. Jesus, the Last Adam, entered into conflict with the evil one in a far worse place than did the First Adam. Christ faced the same kind of tests (hunger, ambition, authority), but he defeated the enemy. Jesus was the “first wave” of God’s invasion force. King Jesus stepped out of “the landing craft” first and made a beachhead. We follow in his path.

Consider the Spirit’s leadership of Jesus in this conflict. Notice that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1 NIV). In other words, Jesus was enabled by the Holy Spirit to go out and declare God’s message boldly. The Spirit led Jesus to defeat the enemy through the Scriptures. Jesus, the new Israel, went into the desert for forty days (a symbolic reflection of Israel’s forty years of wandering) and while there he was attacked by the evil one (in contrast to old covenant Israel, who willingly followed the idols of demons in the wilderness, Acts 7:41-43; 1 Corinthians 10:20). Jesus replied to Satan’s temptations by using the Biblical instruction (Torah or law) given to Israel and he submitted to God’s instruction. As Jesus trusted God and obeyed, he received the fulfillment of God’s promise that Satan had misused (cf. Mark 1:13)

How must you and I face attacks from the spiritual forces of evil? As Spirit-filled people (Ephesians 5:18; 6:10), we must use the full armor of God. Note especially Ephesians 6:17-18! Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (NIV). Yes, the Bible does “tie together”, being the work of one Master Author, the Holy Spirit. Knowing this is one matter; it is quite another to pray and to be led by the Holy Spirit. It is active dependence on our Almighty leader. Get up, then, and be ready to use the full armor of God!

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

VBS and Bible Memorization

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters (Psalm 24:1-2 NIV).

I am in the process of trying out a Bible app on my cellphone. So far, I like it. From the title, you can see that is not my subject. After a month, I have read Genesis and most of Exodus, along with a daily reading from the Psalms. The other day, it was Psalm 24.

As I read this great psalm, I remembered the first time that I can recall hearing that psalm. My cousin Kevin lived in the house next door. Someone invited us to attend Vacation Bible School (VBS) and offered to give us a ride there and back. At this point, you must understand that my family attended a Regular Baptist Church and my cousin’s family attended an Assembly of God. Almost everyone else in our neighborhood was Roman Catholic, and before Vatican II, they weren’t allowed to attend other churches. This VBS was at a Mennonite Church in the next town. Our parents agreed, and we were set for a great adventure.

On a Monday morning, Mr. Miller arrived to pick us up for VBS. When they built a new elementary school up our road a couple years later, he became its principal. “Oh no! I’m riding to school with a teacher!” One day at school, he had to apply “the board of education” to my “seat of learning”. I’m not sure if I confessed my transgression to my parents, because my dad had warned me that any spankings in school would merit a repeat performance at home. But I digress. Anyway, in Mr. Miller’s car, my boisterous cousin and I were prepared for a “cross-cultural religious experience”, because even young boys understood that Mennonites were neither Pentecostal nor Baptist.

At VBS, we did the usual stuff, including a sign-in with cheerful greeters. Here I met my first cross-cultural experience. The women were wearing doilies on their heads! This was definitely not a Baptist church! But I survived the culture shock, and went in for the opening program, which probably involved several children’s songs. But I don’t remember that. I don’t remember the Bible story or even if they had a missionary story, which was a standard part of a Baptist VBS! I don’t even remember the cookies and juice that have been the normal snack in VBSs everywhere since the beginning of time.

I remember two things. One was playing some version of “King of the Mountain” on a small hill outside the church building. I can assure you that Kevin and I enjoyed that, because we loved to wrestle and wreak havoc. I do remember a lady with a doily urging us to memorize Psalm 24, which was the Bible passage for the week. “You need to memorize God’s word.” How many times I was told that as a child! How many times I didn’t listen to that counsel, I can’t count. But somehow, at that country church for a week in the summer, I learned most of Psalm 24.

I still remember it, though I’ve used different Bible translations since the early seventies. The early learning of God’s word stays with you over the years. The Holy Spirit uses the Holy Scriptures to change us, and the memorized word becomes an always near resource. My advice is to memorize Bible verses and passages when you are young. When you’re old, it’s hard to recall where you put your keys, to say nothing of memorizing verses. I’ve been telling our seven-month-old granddaughter verses already. One of them is 1 Corinthians 13:4a; it’s a verse available for all to see as soon as they enter our apartment. Love is patient, love is kind (NIV). Hide God’s word as a treasure in your heart. Think about what Paul wrote to Timothy: And how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15 NIV). Try to hide a verse of God’s word in your heart this weekend.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email