Tag Archives: The Bible

Better than Dove Chocolate and a whole bunch of money

chocolateThe commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them  there is great reward.  Psalm 19:8b-11

David is revelling in God’s Word.  Are you starting to get the idea that the Bible is a big deal?

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  Commands and precepts are similar.  They aren’t God’s suggestions, they are “must do’s.”  We can’t take them or leave them or explain them away.  The commands of God are pure, or radiant, and they give us light.  David wrote in Psalm 119:105 that God’s word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  In other words, as we stake our lives on the Bible and obey what is written in it, we will receive guidance from God.  He will direct our steps.

Take the opposite side for a minute.  If you don’t have any regard for God’s commands, your eyes will be dark.  Have you had ‘dark eyes’?  Do you someone else like that?  They are troubled and evil minded.  And, your path will be muddy and jumbled.  You won’t get to where you try to get to.  Something will always get in the way.  That’s because you’re not doing things God’s way.  Things won’t work out then.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.  In Proverbs 1:7 we find that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (or wisdom).”  If we fear God that means that we take His Word seriously and have an intent to obey, knowing that God always gets His way.  God’s word is clean, pure, and perfect.  And God’s Word endures forever.

There aren’t many things that endure forever.  Our stuff doesn’t.  Our hobbies don’t.  Our souls do, what God says (His Word, or the Bible) does, and things we do that have eternal value last forever.  Matthew 6:19 tells us to store up treasures in Heaven.  One way to do that is spend time on spiritual things, like prayer and Bible study.

The rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  Other words for rules are judgments, laws or ordinances.  God’s judgments are just and righteous.  Psalm 119:160 summarizes this well by saying, “The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever.”  If you pick a fight with God, you’re bound to lose.  So surrender to the rightness of His ways and you will find peace.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  God’s words are more precious than a big bank account.  And they are sweeter than Dove chocolate.  Can you say this?

By them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  God’s commands give us warnings for those who violate them and rewards  for those who keep them.  The rewards are usually not monetary, though it can involve having a blessed life.  That blessed life extends from this life into a guaranteed eternal life in Heaven.

May you have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to obey God’s commands and to experience God’s rewards.

 


Having an appearance of Godliness, but no power

2 Timothy 3:5 ” (In the last days there will be times of difficulty, with people) having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid such people.”

There is this joke about the guy who goes into a hardware store and tells the clerk he wants a good chainsaw because he has a bunch of trees to cut down.  Money is no object.  So the clerk takes him to his favorite brand and says “Oh yea, this will be the ticket.  You can’t get a better chainsaw.”  They complete the transaction.  A week later, the guy comes back and says “I’ve been using this thing all week and have only got two trees down.  There’s got to be a better saw.”  The store clerk takes a hold of the chainsaw, and says “let’s give it a listen” as he pulls the chain to start it up.  The other guy says “Hey, what’s that noise?”

We can be like this guy who tries to cut down trees without pulling the cord and using its real power.  How?  By denying the power tools that God gives us: The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and prayer.  There are probably more power tools, but I’ll start with those.  We might believe that they’re all good things, but if we don’t access them, we’re nice looking on the outside but powerless and ineffective.  People are sincere but quick to explain away and excuse the very tools that God provides to have power, effectiveness and victory.

My experience in the church these days is that if you get too serious about the Word, that’s a bad thing.  It’s easier to have small groups  with lots of fellowship than Bible studies, seeker sensitive themes, more singing than sermons and changing the subject when it comes to talking about being in the Word daily and putting into practice what it says.  It doesn’t need to be banging people over the head, but sincerely seeking to study and know the Bible, and then to have it change our lives.

And then there’s the Holy Spirit.  It’s too easy to treat Him as the weird second cousin than a part of God Himself that is active today, and how God works and communicates in and through our lives.  People are too afraid of being flaky, but miss the part in John 10 where Jesus tells us that we’ll hear His voice because He’s the good shepherd and that we’ll know the difference between Him and a fake.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus’ last words on earth were about giving us power to fulfill the Great Commission.  If we go out without power, we won’t cut down many trees and we’ll be exhausted.

Finally, it’s about prayer.  In Ephesians 6, at the end of Paul’s description of the armor of God, he admonishes us to pray at all times with all sorts of prayers.  One kind of those prayers has to do with our own personal communion with God.  Another is the corporate prayer, which is sadly neglected all too often.  Jim Cymbala, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a large church in New York City, has a video called “House of Prayer.”  In it he tells of how he purposed to never let any program in their church out number the prayer meeting.  They have a large and famous choir, but there are always more out for Tuesday night prayer than for Wednesday night choir practice.  And God shows up, pulling lives out of the pit of destruction and bringing them into His kingdom, using this church.

2 Timothy 3 tells us to avoid the people that have a form of godliness but deny its power.  I don’t have to go out of my way to avoid them because I am just not drawn to them.  And they avoid me as well because oil and water do not mix.  In Galatians 5 :17 it says that the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other, waging a tug of war.

May I pull the cord on the chain saw as I seek to live out my life.chainsaw


There is No Easy Street–Or is There?

easy street
Do you ever dream of winning the lottery and what you would do with the money, even though you never buy a ticket?  I’m getting to the age where I can begin to dream of retiring, living a simpler life with less demands.  Many days when I’m fighting to get out of bed and get going, I run money numbers in my head until finally my self talk kicks in and yells “get up!”  It hit me this morning that I’m looking for Easy Street, perhaps a quest that I am not alone in.

Then my next thought was “There is no easy street.”  Jesus said that the road is hard and  the way is narrow that leads to eternal life and few find it, in Matthew 7.  In John 16:33 He said “In the world  you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  In Philippians 3 Paul talks about sharing in the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, not just His good times.  We live in a sin soaked world that includes paying bills, wood ticks and drudgery.  We have bosses and things that we don’t want to do.  The first line in M. Scott Peck’s book, A Road Less Travelled is ‘life is difficult.’  Amen brother.

But then in the middle of pondering how it won’t be until Heaven that things finally get easier by design, I was hit with the verses of Matthew 11:28-30.    Jesus said, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…My yoke is EASY and My burden is light.”  Ponder that for a minute…

In Jesus there is an easy street.  How do we get there?  Well, in Matthew 6 He tells us not to worry or be anxious, but to seek His kingdom first and the rest is just details.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to cast our cares on Jesus and in Ps. 68:19-20 we find: “Thanks be to God who daily bears our burdens, for our God is a God who saves.”  Finally, in Philippians 4 we are told to be anxious for nothing, to pray for everything and the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.  Those aren’t just words to fill up a page, they are real promises to cling to and to live out.

 


The Bible Stands

There is a hymn written in 1917 by Haldor Lillenas called “The Bible Stands.”  Here are some of its lyrics:

The Bible stands like a rock undaunted ’Mid the raging storms of time; Its pages burn with the truth eternal, and they glow with a light sublime.

The Bible stands though the hills may tumble, It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble; I will plant my feet on its firm foundation, for the Bible stands.

The Bible stands like a mountain towering far above the works of men; Its truth by none ever was refuted, and destroy it they never can.

The Bible stands every test we give it, for its Author is divine; By grace alone I expect to live it, and to prove and to make it mine.

This is a hymn I learned as a child in VBS and its words continue to ring in my heart today.  The next topic that Charles Colson addresses, working like a lawyer  through a line of logical reasoning, is the absolute necessity and authority of the Word of God.  On page 75 he summarizes the relevance of his argument with the words “Your word is truth,” Jesus said (John 17:17).  Nothing less than knowledge of that truth is demanded of Christ’s disciples.  That knowledge comes only from fervent study of truth, that is, the study of His word.  This is indispensable to genuine discipleship.  It is indispensable to loving God.

The Holy Spirit drew Augustine to God through a piping, lingering voice “take up and read,” causing him to leave his life of pursuing lust and passion to a transformed life of obediently taking up and reading and studying Scripture. On pg. 47 Colson states that Augustine said “Not only am I reading the Word, I have been wearing it out.”    On page 55 Colson continues with Augustine’s example, “This man of great intellect and compelling personality was utterly transformed by the Word of God.  What power those Scriptures hold!”

Do you know that?  Do you know it in your head but have not deeply experienced it in your heart?  Do you rest solely on the authority of Scripture and the ability of Scripture to radically transform your heart and life and the hearts and lives of others?  If so, how do you live that out?

Think about how Christian book stores have changed over the years.  They used to be filled with Bibles, books about the Bible, study books, commentaries and things like Greek Lexicons.  Now you have to search hard to find the above mentioned items because trinkets, posters, cups and bracelets with quaint sayings, and books with watered down devotional thoughts have taken over. Not that those things are wrong in and of themselves, but it shows a shift from the very words of God being at the core of what changes us and others to something much less than that.

Why is that so?  I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons, but I’ll put down a few thoughts of my own, for what they’re worth.

1.  On page 76, Charles writes: “Scripture calls us to die to self and to follow Christ.  It demands that we recognize the sin in our lives and that we acknowledge and repent of that sin.”  The Bible is intrusive and demanding.  If my doctor demands that I go on a diet and I don’t want to or am not following that diet very well, I am going to find ways to keep from going to the doctor.  I don’t want to be reminded of my short comings.  The same is so with the living and active word of God, which cuts through our excuses to the thoughts and intentions of our heart.  It’s easier to run away from that than it is to run to it.  That’s the wrestle or the fight of the Christian life.  Our flesh cries out against God, the world draws us away and Satan baits us.  That’s why we need God’s empowering help, the encouragement of the body, and a self control that moves away from the flesh and toward God.

2.  Our church culture has gotten away from Biblical content to a numbers driven pragmatic Gospel.  Pragmatic means that you do it because it works, or produces results.  The results that God produces runs contrary to the ones that our flesh seeks.  God says the way is narrow that leads to eternal life and few there be that find it.  Jesus had demanding words for those who wanted to follow Him and many turned away from those.  Jesus didn’t lower the bar to pull them back in, He just kept and keeps asking for more.  Sometimes we think if we share just the Scripture that people won’t show up, or that it’s just not for today’s culture to be that way.

When I’m fishing and I haven’t gotten bites for awhile, I reel the line back in and sure enough–the worm has fallen off.  Ministering without relying on the power of the Word is like fishing without worms.  I get to enjoy the sun, look busy and expend energy.  But I won’t get fish.  If I want to be a fisher of people, the worm is the Word of God.  It must be on my hook.

3.  We get fooled into thinking that the authority comes from us, or from a pastor’s charismatic or persuasive words, rather than it being solely from God.  God’s Word is authoritative, my words or someone else’s are not.  Everything that was written in Scripture, by 40 different men, are as though God Himself wrote them.  We can’t discard them by saying things like “they aren’t in red (Jesus’ words) so they aren’t as important,” or “that was just Paul.”  God chose the men to write what He wanted written.  He used their personalities and backgrounds specifically to deliver the message to the people of that time, and also to the people of all times.  2 Peter 1:20-21 states “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

4.  Another thing that detracts from the authority of Scripture is a culturally or historically relevant view of Scripture.  This would maintain that things written were only for that time and for that culture.  However, God’s Word, the Bible is written for all time for all peoples.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be mature, fully equipped for every good work.”  This includes the Old Testament and even all of its lists and genealogies.  They are there for a specific purpose that maybe only God knows and He will reveal in time.

5.  Perhaps we haven’t experienced the radicalizing, transforming work of the Bible because we haven’t been in it enough and we haven’t shared it enough to see if do its work in others’ lives.  Simply put, we’re not reading and studying and devouring the Word enough.  Other things call for our time and attention.  Some of those are important, some aren’t.  We read others’ thoughts about the Bible, devotional thoughts lifted out of context to bless our hearts, we read novels and biographies that are inspiring, but we just don’t read the Bible enough to have it dwell richly in our hearts and lives, as Paul puts it in Colossians 3:16.

Five is enough to chew on for now.  Perhaps you differ with some of those.  If so, pray about it, check out the verses here or the ones that Colson includes in his book and see why that might be so.

In the study guide on page 274, the writers urge us to pray to “ask God to give you a greater hunger for His Word and for the increased diligence in spending time reading and studying it daily.”  May that be your prayer today.