Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Rearview Mirror

We see things differently in the rearview mirror of life than over the steering wheel. Last week I finished my final module at Faith Bible Seminary before completing their MABC program (Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling). In looking backward, I am blessed by the thread of God's Word from early childhood to the present and the curiosity to learn more. God provided many people and organizations to impart the power, truth, grace and glory of His Word, the Bible. (Children are not too young to memorize God's Word--and none of us is too old.)

Before I could read, my mom signed me up for a Bible memory program. Each letter of the alphabet was associated with a Scripture verse. On Sunday evenings we went to church early so I could recite that weeks' verse(s) to an adult in a downstairs classroom. I remember clearly sitting on a wooden chair painted in primary colors as Barb Battershell leaned over to hear beyond my hesitation.

In 2nd grade our Sunday school teacher, Adeline Dalke, awarded a Bible to every student who recited Psalm 100 from memory.

At church camp as a Jr. Girl (4th-6th grade), we were allowed unlimited memory work for team points. We spurred each other on: 30 verses, 50, 75, over 100. With a young sponge brain and exposure to regular sermons and kid's classes, the repetition of familiar verses became part of my mind and heart.

As a Jr. High student our Sunday school teachers, Dave and Glo Reetz, introduced the Navigators discipleship program (now known as the 2:7 Series). I learned and relearned Scripture along with daily Bible reading, observation and application. That gift has reproduced itself and is probably the most powerful element of my personal spiritual growth.

Life came went, and with it college Bible studies, Bible Study Fellowship, AWANA, Vacation Bible School, and, later, a return to the Navigators and an opportunity to teach systematic theology.

All that to say that until we digest the Bible and becomes part of our mental, emotional and spiritual anatomy, it serves little purpose. "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies" (1 Cor. 8:1). James says, "in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).

The Bible communicates reality--regardless of our circumstances or geography. It introduces us to our Source, our Creator, our original design. In the Bible we discover our purpose. It is a lamp to our feet (showing us where we are) and a light to our path (revealing where to go). Most importantly, the Bible introduces us to Christ, the One who paid to free us from the slave market of sin.

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some ideas for making God's Word part of your heart and life--digesting it and breaking it down. Until we engage with and intentionally allow it to mess with our way of seeing, thinking and doing, we cannot truly know the God it represents.

- Pray. The Word of God is foolishness in our way of thinking. We must have His help.
Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. Psalm 119:18

- Read Scripture. Devotionals, articles, sermons, and Christian radio don't count. They aren't necessarily bad, but they're filtered through human thought and reasoning. Make time for God's Word in its purist form.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; Teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.  I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.  I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:9-16)

- Read the Bible the way it was given. Each book of the Bible represents a message in its entirety. Paul wrote letters, not chapters and verses. Moses recorded narrative history, not random vignettes. Challenge yourself to read a book of the Bible in one setting or multiple settings, but as a continuous book. Look for the purpose of each book and read it in that context. For instance, the book of John was "written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." John 20:31

- Engage your brain. Ask questions: Why did this come next? What came before? Why this word? How does it fit together? 
"A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Prov. 1:5-7)

- Evaluate Scripture in the context of Jesus. He is the living Word. He is God in the flesh. So how does what you read apply to who Jesus is, what He's done, what He's doing?

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:17-18)

"And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

- Read the Bible with purpose.
  • Write out a book of the Bible by hand, word for word, and make personal observations and notes in the margin (teacher hint: the more senses you use, the better you retain information).
  • As you read your Bible, mark specific ideas: who God is, what God does, what He has called us to, how God works, etc.
  • Choose a theme and read the entire Bible with that theme in mind, then choose a different one.
  • Do a word study: choose a word or idea and write out all the verses that explain it, then prayerfully apply it to specific areas of your life.
- Determine a time, place, and plan for reading Scripture. Make an appointment with yourself (and God). Keep it. Don't be distracted by to-do's and brain squabbles--keep a pad of paper to write down random thoughts or things to remember.

God wants to be known. He will reveal Himself. He promised.

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 16:24-31)

I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

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