Holy Desires (Part Eight)

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us (CSB).

Every day our hearts are drawn between many competing desires. Some of these are easy, totally up to our preference, and it really doesn’t matter what choice we make. But others concern the eternal destiny of other people, and God wants us to have a holy desire when we are faced with matters of this magnitude. The question before us is: “Do I share God’s holy desire about other people?” Let’s focus our attention on his desire and then evaluate ourselves about whether or not we share God’s holy desire. God desires that sinful people be reconciled to him. By nature, we are separated from God because of sin. Our first parents rebelled against God and we persist in rebelling against the Lord. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isaiah 59:2 ESV).

Consequently, a state of war exists between God and sinners. We were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10a NIV). God must uphold what is holy and good (loving God and loving others), and sinful people oppose God’s desire for what is holy and good (Romans 3:9-20). People by nature are separated or alienated from the living God. Suppose a husband gives his wife a necklace with a one-carat diamond hanging from it. Now suppose that another woman coveted that necklace and began to reject the woman with the necklace because of her jealousy. That coveting and jealousy would be evil and would cause evil. Now suppose that you find yourself thinking, “Why did God allow billionaires to have so much money? Why didn’t he give it to me?” Now that would also be evil. Rebellion against God and his precepts fills our world. The Holy God must act against rebels who would ruin what God has made.

God has made a way of reconciliation, the way to restore the relationship between him and people who are alienated from him. The basis of God’s plan is the saving work of Christ. God meets and matches human rebellion by his love to us in Jesus Christ. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10 NIV)

  • Since we couldn’t do anything to remove the alienation and since we didn’t want to anyway, God provided the way for God and sinners to get back together. In order to bring two parties together, one must have a way to negotiate a settlement. Those who follow professional sports see this happen all the time. The management of the team and the athlete must bring offers and counteroffers to the table.
  • At the cross God counteracted the penalty that rebellious people had earned (Romans 3:24-26; 6:23). In the crucifixion of Christ, God demonstrates his justice and is able to declare us right with him because justice has been upheld.

The result is that God doesn’t have to count people’s sins against them, because Christ paid the penalty for sinners. Are you reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you desire to see others reconciled to God?

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Seven)

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (NIV).

The Lord directs us to grow up our desires among the fellowship of his followers. Notice the words along with those. We must eliminate the “lone ranger” approach to growth in grace. When Christ saved us, the Spirit put us into the Father’s family and Christ’s spiritual body. God wants us to walk the walk of faith with other followers of Jesus. Consider the many “one another” commands and exhortations in the New Testament Scriptures. (See a previous post on that subject.) Certainly, we need to walk with God personally, but that walk must include our spiritual partnership with other believers. Fellowship with other believers will helps us mature, because of what believers are by God’s powerful grace.

Observe how believers are described here. We are focused on the Lord; we are those who call upon the Lord. We are people known for prayer. A Christian prays. Two aspects of prayer to consider:

  • We worship God; we recognize his worthiness. God uses our words of praise and of confession of the benefits of walking in his ways and teaching about God’s significance to stir each other to live in conformity with his reality. There is something encouraging and convicting about hearing another Christian say in a small group, “The other day I experienced this in my walk with God.” We spur each other on when we share how the living God is presently at work among us.
  • We seek help from God; we make bold requests to our Father in heaven (cf. Luke 18:7). God uses the heart cries of others to draw our hearts together to him. In this day when local church prayer meetings have disappeared, we ought to join together in prayer in every small group meeting.

Believers are a pure people; we call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Our hearts were purified by faith in Christ and his saving work. See how the following verses make that plain.

  • He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9 NIV)
  • Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14 NIV)
  • How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14 NIV)

We strive to maintain purity, because moral filthiness is disgusting to us, who form the pure bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27). This begins with a continuing reliance on Christ and his finished work. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9 CSB). The reality of Christ and his work in the gospel provide practical motivation to keep a pure heart. Consider Paul’s example: I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people (Acts 24:16 NLT). Are we maintaining pure hearts together?

Grace and peace, David

Discover What Unites Us

Philippians 2:1-2a

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete… (NIV).

Philippians is a very rich letter to a local church that had been longtime partners with the apostle Paul in his ministry. If the apostle needed help, they did all they could to provide it quickly. We might almost want to think of them as the ideal gathering of believers, except for the stern reality that ideal churches do not exist in this world. A close reading of the book reveals that they needed transformation in various areas. One of them was their unity.

Paul spoke to their need, first, in sort of in a “back door” manner. He did not bluntly tell them to be like-minded, to share the same love, to be one in spirit, of one mind, and to get rid of selfish ambition, which was the root of their disunity. Instead, he first asked them to make his joy complete. They needed to think of someone else’s joy first. Then, he presented some areas in which they needed change. We all can learn from his tactfulness. He built a better way of life through better relationships.

Christians have been too task-oriented, trying to achieve perfection in themselves and others by beating people with a code of conduct or steps to change. While repeating the cliché, “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship,” to the unsaved, we quickly forget this as we pursue perfection to have a better life.

How did Paul motivate his friends to make his joy complete? He wrote about what they possessed through their relationship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. He emphasized spiritual relationships.

  • He reminded them of their encouragement from being united with Christ. Observe that they knew about their union with Christ. It was the relational core of their Christian experience. We ought to wake up thinking about the truth of being united to Jesus the Messiah. This is intended to affect how we think of ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we confront the events of our lives. I have just received word of the “homegoing” of a dear sister in Christ. Praise God for the eternal encouragement that we have because of the gospel.
  • He pointed to the comfort from his love that all in Christ share. We are people that are loved by the Lord; in fact, we are his dearly loved children. Wherever we go and whatever we encounter, we live as his sons and daughters.
  • He recalled their common sharing in the Spirit. We have fellowship with the Spirit of God. He leads us in ways of godliness. He strengthens us in the inner person of the heart. He intercedes for us, because our prayers seldom make sense. He helps us endure, making God’s peace real in our souls.
  • He recollected the tenderness and compassion they had experienced. Paul wrote in part to prepare them for the suffering for Christ that was coming to them. They were in the Lord’s plan together, and they needed to be ready to help one another when the journey to glory would become harder. It makes no sense for Christians to quarrel with one another, when there is a real enemy who delights in our suffering.

Let us remind ourselves of what we share in Christ. The believer that you suppose is a problem is someone who can build you up, or rather, someone whom you ought to bless, strengthen, and comfort. It’s a matter of spiritual relationship in the Lord.

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Six)

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (NIV).

At an event, I once had dinner with Bobby Knight, the well-known former Indiana Basketball coach. He was the speaker that night and shared numerous stories about coaching. His theme went something like, “To win, you must eliminate what causes you to lose.” It was the typical motivational speech that coaches and athletes love to bring at events.

I mention this because, sadly, this is the impression many Christian teachers give when speaking about the believer’s way of life. It seems they’re saying, “To be sanctified, you must keep the moral law,” meaning in their view, the Ten Commandments. As we said in the last article on Holy Desires, this promotes a wrong view of sin. It also gives the idea that “holiness” is basically about not doing things.

However, a godly way of life is much more than forsaking prohibited behaviors. It requires faith, hope, and love for God and people, as well as the practice of positive Christ-like living. So then, we see in this verse that the Lord wants us to replace youthful desires with holy desires.

In Colossians three, we can learn the larger view of the New Testament pattern for the Christian way of life into which 2 Timothy 2:22 fits.

  • Since we are new in Christ, have Christ-focused, heavenly attitudes and aspirations (Colossians 3:1-4). Everything begins with our union with Jesus Christ and seeing our identity in him.
  • Since we are new in Christ, put off the ways of your former sinful way of life. Occasionally this is stated forcefully: “put to death” (Colossians 3:5-11). Yes, it is necessary to get rid of ruinous behavior.
  • Since we are new in Christ, put on ways of life that are consistent with our new life in Jesus Christ: “clothe yourselves with…” (Colossians 3:12-17). This is what is too often neglected. We must replace destructive attitudes, words, and actions with godly ones.

To say this graphically, God expects his people to wear “new clothes”. Don’t walk around spiritually naked! Dress like the children of God ought to dress. A suggestion is to memorize (or try to memorize) this “dress for success passage” (Colossians 3:12-17).

The four godly qualities set forth in our text counteract and are intended to replace youthful desires in God’s people.

  • Righteousness – conform to God’s instruction with a desire to see righteous behavior established (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11)
  • Faith – trust in God or faithfulness to God – in either case we will reject human self-sufficiency and continually confess our need of the Lord. Faith is necessary for every step in the Christian walk.
  • Love – replaces selfishness with the desire to seek the honor of God and the good of other people. This turn from oneself to God and others must occur. We are nothing without love.
  • Peace – the striving for harmonious relationships among people, which God intends as one of our chief activities (Matthew 5:9; Ephesians 4:3; James 3:17-18)

So then, the Holy Spirit presents the overview of a truly Christian way of life, and specific matters to change, eliminating the old and developing the new. In our text, Paul directed his friend Timothy to replace the evil desires of youth with four specific ways of godliness. Which one ought to be a priority in your life?

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Five)

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (NIV).

This verse gives wise counsel. However, we must understand wise counsel wisely. Good and godly teaching can be misunderstood and misapplied. We see that every follower of Jesus Christ is to avoid the evil desires of youth. Here is the necessity of an ongoing repentance. If you think that you are going to make an “once for all turn” in this matter, you are deeply mistaken. Sin must be put to death continually. Occasionally, we hear testimonies of people who were involved in outward, socially unacceptable, life-dominating sins. After coming to Christ, they profess that they have never fallen into that sin again. All right, we know that such conversions happen. But we need to make a few clarifications.

  • They are not delivered from all sins. Listen to the apostle John. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10 CSB). Being freed from one or a couple life-dominating sins is not the same as escaping from the influence of every sin. Spiritual warfare is not against one sin but all sins.
  • Failure to realize how extensive are the effects of sin in us can produce pride that can devastate a person spiritually. Supposing themselves free from a few sins can blind them to the seductions of many others. Free people in Christ must offer themselves to God as servants to righteousness (cf. Romans 6:14-22).
  • Part of the problem is that many have a “short check list” view of sins. This develops through an overemphasis and misunderstanding of the Ten Commandments, which are exalted over many other parts of the Bible. They are not the ethical summary of the Bible, but the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 4:13; etc.) This wrong view also develops the consequent wrong assumption that sin is mainly a breaking of a few prohibitions.
  • There is no “instant godliness”, though we all wish that it was that easy. We must seek help from the Lord on a daily basis (Matthew 26:41). The life of faith involves a daily reception of grace from the Lord (John 15:1-8).

Part of the growth process involves self-control. By the Spirit, we must shun youthful desires. For example, there are countless internet sites and phone apps, but there are many that we should never go to. Taking the apps off the phone and unsubscribing from certain YouTube channels is part of self-control. Some places simply fuel wrong desires, and I do mean only wrong sexual desires. Shopping apps can fuel greed in anyone’s heart.

Another important matter is how we view ourselves. While we realize how easily sin can entangle any follower of Jesus Christ, God’s people should not view themselves as “sinners”. We are in Christ, and we ought to find our identity in him. (Read Ephesians about ten times!) We flee the evil desires of youth, not as “sinners” but as “saints”, as those already set apart for the enjoyment of God and his glory. We are new in Christ. How can we get involved in the evil desires of youth?

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Four)

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (NIV).

Every adult ought to take children into toy stores and candy stores. After hearing that statement you’re probably thinking that Pastor David is out of his mind! But having helped raise three children, I’ve thought it through, and I still think it’s a good idea, if the parents are self-controlled and in control of their children. Why? I think we can learn a lot about ourselves by watching children in toy and candy stores. We ought to learn something about our hearts when we hear them say, “I want this and this and this,” which is basically everything in the store!

God has given us the good gift of desires, but since the human heart has been twisted by sin, human desires do not naturally seek what is holy and good. This is true even of those who follow Christ. Those who have been saved by grace feel two competing sets of desires. For example, consider the words of a song written by Eric Grover. In the first verse he writes:

In my heart there is a stirring
One that did not start with me
A love to worship my Creator
To show His love for all to see

But in the second he brings out what is also in our hearts:

In my heart there is a treason
One that poisons all my love
Take my heart and consecrate it
Wash it in Your cleansing blood

While we are on this earth, our hearts will struggle with the pull between these two desires—one to glorify God and the other to walk away from God and live like he doesn’t exist.

In previous articles, we considered the desire that we should have for the law of the Lord, the Holy Scriptures. Now, let’s think of another holy desire—the desire for a godly way of life.

In the words from 2 Timothy, the Lord urges us to flee from the evil desires of youth. What is meant by these words?

This is the only time that this word occurs in the New Testament Scriptures, so we cannot determine its meaning by seeing its usage in other passages. However, since the word is used in a negative sense, we can safely conclude that there are various spiritually immature attitudes and cravings to avoid. We can learn what they are by examining other passages where spiritual immaturity is presented (1 Corinthians 1-3; Ephesians 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:11-14; 2 Peter 1:4-9). To summarize:

  • A spiritually immature person evaluates things based on worldly standards—eloquence, strength, influence, human wisdom and selfish ambition.
  • A spiritually immature person is easily moved from one set of ideas to another; he or she likes to hear something new (cf. Acts 17:21).
  • A spiritually immature person has trouble distinguishing good from evil. This comes from a lack of experience with God and his ways.
  • A spiritually immature person is not spiritually productive.

What areas of spiritual immaturity do you see in your life? We all have some. All of us need to ask the Lord for grace to examine ourselves according to the Scriptures. Perhaps you are struggling with a delight in human wisdom or selfish ambition (pride and jealousy). Ask God to show you.

Grace and peace, David

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

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

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

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