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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vermont countryside (Photo by Jim Hain)
Scenic view in Vermont
Photo taken by our friend Jim Hain

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"Treasuring God's Word"

"Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11).

Sherry Hoffman's BibleIn the course of our ministry at Longwood Manor we enjoy visiting with 90+ year old Warren who gets around using a walker with a tray mounted in front to carry his items, among which are Christian literature and his Bible. Then I picture my visits with Quintin, now retired, who was the president of a large corporation based here in Lancaster County. He had a Bible prominently placed on his desk as an expression of his faith. I can also envision a young man who carries a New Testament in his front shirt pocket in the same place many carry a pack of cigarettes.

This last weekend we had a visit from Sherry Hoffman, who served for several years as the secretary in a church I pastored in northern Pennsylvania. We gave her the parting gift of a Bible before we left in 1993 which she still has. She has a practice of saving notes, devotional booklets and other supplementary scriptural writings in her Bible and it is now 4 or 5 times thicker than the original. I am amazed that the binding holds up! Sherry certainly treasures her Bible!

Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and is focused on the value and power of God's Word. In fact each of the 176 verses has some reference to the Word using various synonyms such as commands, precepts, laws, decrees, promises, and so forth.

Psalm 119:11

Today let us examine just the first phrase in Psalm 119:11. "Your Word I have treasured in my heart."  The spiritual discipline of treasuring God's Word is an element greatly lacking among so many today. The Word is the sacred Scriptures and although we use our minds to read and absorb, we need to treasure it deep within our hearts. When we face temptation or discouragement; when we experience loss or need direction; when we want Biblical role models we can call to mind pertinent Scriptures, many which we have stored up in our hearts.

Old hands on old Bible1) Treasuring God's Word begins with regular reading of the sacred text. Of preeminent importance is the text itself. This is a lifelong practice, for God's Word is an inexhaustible treasure of spiritual wisdom. Paul indicated this when he wrote to Timothy, "How from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15). In the very next chapter in his final written words Paul asks Timothy "to bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13). D. Edmond Hiebert writes, "Even as an old man facing certain death, the apostle has not lost his interest for study and mental pursuits. It presents a standing challenge to the minister to be an indefatigable student, especially of the Word of God."

Mine to chide me when I rove;
Mine to show a Savior’s love;
Mine thou art to guide and guard;
Mine to punish or reward.

2) Treasuring God's Word surely includes the study of the sacred text. There are many wonderful supplemental resources that are helpful and a blessing as we study the Bible such as devotional booklets, study guides, notes in study Bibles and so forth. The serious Bible student must be very careful to use these tools only as a supplement, never a replacement. Each morning as Brooksyne and I pray over these daily encouragement messages we pray that the various components would be a blessing; our stories, exposition, photos, personal reflections and music links. But we realize the most important element is the Scripture text itself. Above all else read the Scripture.

I also caution you about glossing over the familiar ones! Reviewing that which is familiar can bring fresh insight or reinforce that which you already know to be true. It may even stir up praise as You've seen how God has implemented its teaching into your life. Peter writes, "So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body... And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things" (I Peter 1:12-15).

Studying Bible3) Treasuring God's Word includes meditating on it after the example of David, who wrote in Psalm 1 concerning the blessed man, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."  In my understanding meditation is taking a single verse or small portion of Scripture and thoughtfully pondering and considering it, turning it around over and over in the mind. Jim Gambini, my former pastor, used the phrase "masticating", which is the technical term meaning "to chew" much like dairy cows and other ruminating animals chew their cud.  Contented dairy cows can chew their cud eight hours a day totaling 30,000 chews daily. Now, if we could turn God's Word over and over in our minds throughout the day I believe we'd have a lot more victory. Joy would replace our complaining and it would certainly spill out to those around us!

Mine to comfort in distress;
Suffering in this wilderness;
Mine to show, by living faith,
Man can triumph over death.

4) Treasuring God's Word should include memorization. That's hard for many and frankly for me it has gotten harder as I grow older. We may have different giftings in this regard but I challenge each reader to at least memorize the Scripture that is your life's verse. Early in my pastoral ministry I memorized many Scripture verses which are deeply hidden in my heart to this day. My life verse and the final challenge in today's message is, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

5) Finally treasuring God's Word is evidenced by a diligent, lifelong pursuit of application and obedience. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount Christ taught of those who hear His words and  "acts on them" (NASV), "does them" (ESV), "puts them into practice" (NIV) would be like a man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24).

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom;
O thou holy Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:
Father, Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You. Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word. Let me live that I may praise You and may Your laws sustain me. My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.  Amen.
(Prayer based on verses from Psalm 119)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Ancient Words"  Video  Michael W. Smith

"Speak, O Lord"  Video  Keith & Kristyn Getty

"How Firm A Foundation"  Video  Chelsea Moon with the Franz Brothers

We were unable to locate a singing version of today's hymn "Holy Bible, Book Divine", which we quoted throughout the message.

Yesterday's photo of a Scripture verse in a store was 1 Peter 2:9

Finally today:

Jesse Dourte and Mike Martin at BD gathering 10/12/14
Our friend Mike Martin shared this photo of him beside 91 year old Jesse Dourte at the small gathering I (Brooksyne) hosted on Sunday for Stephen. Jesse was outfitted like a Kansan since he pastored there many years ago. Brooksyne invited anyone who wished to come in western wear so Jesse decided this might be the only time he'd wear his western gear again. I think he looks purdy good and it took me back to my Oklahoma roots to see him dressed in western wear just like my dad and brother did for so many years.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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