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Friday, May 27, 2016
"A Spiritual Famine"
Note: Due to having a friend over till late Wednesday evening and then an early and long chaplain visitation day yesterday a message was not posted. However, today's message is a bit longer and includes some quizzes!
Message Summary: "With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:104,105).
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"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). “'The days are coming,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD'" (Amos 8:11).
Many of us have Bible-based names. My Mom named me after the Stephen in the Bible. Popular Bible names for men are names like John, Mark, James and so forth. For women Mary, Rachel, Rebekah, Ruth and many others are still popular, although probably fewer and fewer realize that it's a Bible-based name.
But at one place where we visit as chaplains there are three men with lesser used Bible names. The other day I saw two of them coming out of an engineering meeting and greeted Malachi and Amos commenting as I greeted them, "Two good Bible prophets!" Later that morning I visited with Isaiah at the same company. The photo above shows left to right, Isaiah, Amos and Malachi. Today let us consider two Scripture verses from the Old Testament prophets, one from Amos and the other from Hosea.
How many of you remember the 80's game "Trivial Pursuit"? Perhaps it's still played but in the 80's it was very popular. Now some of the categories could reflect meaningful knowlege such as geography and history but others reflected one's knowledge of passing fads such as popular entertainers, musicians and so forth. Regardless of the game's popularity there are many who pursue worthless trivia day after day.
Just consider the increasing dearth of Bible knowledge in our age. There is indeed a spiritual famine when it comes to hearing and learning the words of the Lord! Many years ago we heard a sermon from Woodrow Kroll, who at the time was the main teacher on a radio program called "Back to the Bible." He shared a powerful message from the Book of Hosea regarding seven signs that a nation is in trouble. One of the signs is a lack of knowledge concerning God's Word, using the text I have selected for today's devotional. He went on to illustrate the dearth of Bible knowledge in our age.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). Our first daily verse is from the prophet Hosea who served God from about 755-725 BC. His message was largely rejected, but he remained faithful and obedient to God in spite of some rather unusual commands.
The problem was not a lack of available knowledge but a rejection of truth (note the context).
Even the apostate Northern Kingdom under the very wicked Jeroboam 2 had a witness for truth and the knowledge of God through prophets like Hosea. But they rejected it. In our day a witness for God and His truth continues to be proclaimed, but by and large this vitally important knowledge and truth is being rejected. There are in fact growing attempts to silence it. Thus we are seeing and will continue to see the consequences of this rejection.
There are those who are ignorant because of a lack of access to knowledge of the truth. They have not yet heard God's message of salvation. That remains the great mission of the church.
Then there are those who are ignorant because they have access but they choose to ignore or reject the knowledge of the truth that is available to them. That is the case with so many here in America and in other places. Psalm 53:1 tells us that the fool has reasoned within himself that there is no God.
As Brooksyne and I discuss this we realize most of our knowledge of the Bible has been gleaned from many years of exposure to its truths through personal reading, study, devotionals, sermons, etc. Although we are both very thankful for the "formal" education we received (as well as being the place we met), most of what we know was acquired incrementally all through life through being exposed to God's Word. It began as children in Sunday School and VBS. (Neither of us recall programs when we grew up like "Children's church", weekly midweek groups, Bible quiz and so forth.) We didn't have videos or any other aids used to teach children these days. All though our adult lives we have purposefully sought to grow in our knowledge of the Word of God, mostly in small incremental ways.
We desire that these daily encouragement messages be one of these small incremental sources that God is using in your life to increase your knowledge of His Word.
We call this the exposure principle. Let us illustrate: Ester will watch the same movie or listen to the same song over and over and over (and over and over). After a while she can complete the lines to a script or song. Now she never purposefully memorized them but through constant exposure she learned them.
This exposure principle is expressed in Hebrews 5:12-14, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." The words "constant practice" in this verse illustrate the exposure principle.
This exposure principle also applies to the hymnal. Now there are very few hymns we have ever set out to intentionally memorize, but because we have regularly sung them through the years we have learned the words to many of them. We wonder how many of you may even recall the page number of a favorite hymn from many years ago?
The same is true of God's Word. Although we have purposefully sought to memorize many verses through the years, much of what we know is through habitual exposure (constant practice in Hebrews 5:14). Let us daily fill our lives with regular exposure to God's Word followed by application of its truths as we also receive assurance from its promises! Then we can proclaim with the Psalmist, "With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:104,105).
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path. I don't want to be destroyed for lack of knowledge nor do I want to be caught up in sin due to my disobedience to Your commands. As I read the words of Scripture and hear them expounded upon by faithful expositors I am feasting daily on the spiritual manna (food) provided by You. Where there is spiritual famine, even among those who believe, we pray for revival where men and women, boys and girls begin to hunger for that which is of eternal worth. Stir us all into action as we are spurred on by Your directives in Scripture, and Your Spirit that is at work in us. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Here's a little quiz regarding the power of exposure to God's Word for longtime Bible students. Some of these verses you have purposefully memorized but in many cases you will know them because you have read and heard them quoted regularly. See how many of these verses you can complete and extra credit if you know the reference!
"For God so loved..."
"In the beginning God..."
"In the beginning was..."
"For I know the plans..."
"For we know that God..."
"The Lord is my shepherd..."
"I am the way..."
"But you shall receive power..."
"My God shall supply..."
"For by grace..."
"Enter into His gates..."
"Behold I stand at the door..."
"I can do all things..."
"Behold what manner..."
"For all have sinned..."
"The wages of sin..."
"Thou art worthy..."
"Thou shalt have no..."
"Thou shalt not..."
"I will never leave thee..."
"The Lord Thy God in the midst...
"Do not fear for I am..."
"Be anxious for nothing"
Admittedly, since we share these verses by memory there is a version mix of NIV'84 & KJV
Now consider the following hymns and many of you will see that you can finish at least the line, if not the verse or even the entire hymn (with a few prompts) because you have sung it since childhood. Most certainly you can sing the chorus since it is repeated between each verse helping you to memorize it even more than the verses.
"Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, …"
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, …"
"Great is Thy faithfulness, …"
"Then sings my soul, …"
"Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him, ..."
"What a friend we have in Jesus...."
"O for a thousand.."
"On Christ the solid..."
"It is well..."
"Joyful, joyful we adore Thee..."
"On a hill far away..."
"I am Thine O Lord..."
"All to Jesus I surrender..."
"Rock of ages..."
This is my Father's world..."
"Wonderful grace of Jesus..."
Wednesday evening Rick Masciantonio, a long-time friend we've enjoyed from the church we served in New England, stopped in for a visit. We sat on our front porch and watched the planting work across the road. Rick is down this way for a "Banner of Truth" conference. He is a very thoughtful student of God's Word and a fine preacher. Here is the conference theme: "Kingdom Life in a Hostile World"
Rick gave us a book he picked up at the conference that we have begun to read titled "A Sad Departure" : "Why we could not stay in the Church of Scotland" by David J. Randall: Here's a brief thought provoking excerpt from the foreword written by Sinclair B. Ferguson, September 2015:
"The key question cannot be reduced to: 'What should we do now?' It must include 'What of the future?' Those who have left may seem small in congregational size, few in number, in some instances without permanent buildings of their own, and much despised. But the issue raised by A Sad Departure is in part this: Is it not better to be all that and free now to teach and apply God's Word and build for the future than to undergo a slow but progressive deterioration through the kind of famine of hearing the words of the Lord that Amos described (Amos 8:11-12)? For at the end of the day unless God's Word can be applied as well as taught the church withers. Famines of hearing the words of the Lord tend to come progressively not suddenly, often because although taught the Word of God [it] has not been digested and applied. Where limits are placed on the application of God's Word, people become accustomed to meagre diets and begin to regard them as normal; they do not realize they are starving until it it too late. And then the day comes when they realize they need food but no longer know where it can be found."
We finally had enough dry weather for the farmers to plant the corn across the road from our house. The Oak tree in the foreground is where many of Mollie's frisbees get stuck in the branches. We fish them out depending on how insistent she is or the wind will eventually knock them down.
Our neighbor Janden drove by on a tractor first owned by his great-grandfather and I took it for a spin up our road. Somehow when I see a tractor like this I think of "Green Acres".
Yesterday we passed this Lancaster County farmhouse near Smoketown. As you can see the green is outstanding!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"The BIBLE, that's the book for me" Video This is really old! Lowell Lundstrom was the evangelist that preached the night I got saved at a service in Kansas City, Missouri in 1971.
Wednesday's message on God's creation of male and female prompted several interesting responses: "In 1962 I spent 6 weeks at L'Abri - Francis Schafer's teaching home in the Swiss mountains. An amazing experience! All new students were introduced first of all to Romans. As a musician, the last church I had to retire from because of moral disagreements on Scriptural teachings, the pastor said she wondered whether or not God had made a 3rd gender! I asked if she had looked at Romans chapter 1 recently, and she said, 'no'."
It seems like practically daily some new outrageous news about this. After posting the message I saw this report on a news feed.
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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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