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It is a hot, hazy, humid day in Ontario, one that would make you think that it is the middle of July. In fact, it is the last week of summer. I know that summer officially ends on September 23, but we are just beginning the last holiday weekend of the summer before school starts on Tuesday. Some people, both parents and kids, are happy about that and looking forward to getting back into routine or seeing all their friends again. Other people are not so happy; they don’t want summer to end just yet.

Nonetheless, in honour of school starting up again next week, I thought I would devote today’s blog post to learning, understanding and wisdom. Proverbs 16:16 tells us that wisdom is better than gold; understanding is better than silver. In Solomon’s case, by seeking wisdom, he achieved the silver and gold as well. Let’s look at the story in I Kings 3:5-14. God appeared to Solomon in a dream (which was a common way for God to speak to people before we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit through Christ). In that dream, God asked Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon recognized the extent of God’s power as he had seen it displayed in his own and in his father’s life. Solomon also recognized that he was in a position--to rule the people of Israel--that he did not feel prepared for. He was young and inexperienced. Israel had a reputation for being stubborn and rebellious. It was customary for the ruler of Israel to also be the judge of disputes. Solomon may have been inexperienced, but he was wise enough to know that he needed wisdom, so that is what he asked for. God was pleased with Solomon’s request, and so He gave him so much more than he asked for. (I Kings 3:10-13) This is a promise that He gives to us as well. If we seek the ways of the Lord first, if that is the most important thing to us, then God will provide everything else that we need. (Matthew 6:33)

It is important to distinguish, however, that being wise and knowing the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, does not mean that we will make the appropriate choice between right and wrong. In I Kings 3:14, God says, “If you follow my instructions by obeying my rules and regulations, just as your father David did, then I will grant you long life.” Solomon made a lot of wise decisions and his wisdom in many subject areas—plants, animals, birds, insects and fish (I Kings 4:33); judicial decisions (I Kings 3:16-28), the writing of proverbs and songs (I Kings 4:32, Proverbs 1:1)—was world renowned, but he also made bad choices which led to idolatry and the eventual division of the kingdom. (I Kings 11:9-13) Solomon had gained wisdom, but he lacked the willingness to be obedient.

If God asked you the question that he asked Solomon, what would your answer be? If He granted your request, what would you do with the gift? What kind of person do you think that you would become?

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Recently we have been talking about having discernment, being led by the Holy Spirit, and the results of following our own sinful desires. Now let’s look at what happens when you allow the Holy Spirit to be the influence over your decisions and actions. It is outlined in Galatians 5:22-23.

Take note that this passage says that “the fruit of the Spirit is”. There are two important points here. First, the term fruit is singular. All of these characteristics are one fruit; they are all given in equal abundance when we allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us. Secondly, it is not the fruit of our works or striving; it is the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot achieve these things on our own. When I was younger, I used to think that I had to work at exhibiting these qualities in my life. I would try to be loving and joyful and all of the other things listed here, and thereby gain more of the Holy Spirit, which I thought was a noble goal. The problem was that I had it all backward. What a relief to find out that it wasn’t up to me to become good and kind and gentle. Especially gentle.

We become these things by having more of the Holy Spirit. That part is up to us. We need to choose, and it is a daily, perhaps hourly, choice to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is done through reading and studying the Bible and through prayer. This is how we get to know God better, and the better we know Him, and the more we allow Him to lead our lives, the more the Holy Spirit will work through us. The word fruit is an apt description. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. (John 15:5) We are not the source of all that goodness, but it is our choice to remain in the vine and allow the fruit to be produced through us.

Over the next three weeks I will look at each of the nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit.

Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
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As you examine your life, can you think of any lessons you wish you had learned earlier than you did? I'm really glad I learned this lesson very early in my career as a Christian communicator. It's made a world of difference. God has graciously sent me presenting Christ and biblical truth on six continents before university students and professors, on mainstream TV and radio talk shows, with executives, diplomats and professional athletes. He's put me speaking in university classrooms and auditoriums, in embassies, boardrooms, and locker rooms. He's had me writing for mainstream newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet about controversial subjects like sex, abortion, the afterlife, and reasons for faith. As you might imagine, I've encountered many skeptics and objections to faith. I've learned much from my critics, the unpaid guardians of my soul. But if I hadn't learned this crucial lesson at the outset, would all those outreach doors have opened?

The Lesson

I learned it on an island in a river in Seoul, Korea. Over a million believers were gathered for Explo 74. One speaker that day was a prominent church leader from India who discussed how to best communicate the message of Jesus to the types of Buddhists in India. Here's my paraphrase of his advice. We could use two methods, he said. One was to begin by stressing the differences between Buddhism and Christianity. But that often gets people mad and turns them off. A second way involved agreeing with the Buddhist where we could. We could say something like this: "I know that you as a Buddhist believe in Four Noble Truths." (This is foundational to many strains of Buddhism.) "First you believe suffering is universal. As a follower of Jesus, I also believe suffering is everywhere. It needs a solution. Second, you believe that suffering is caused by evil desire or craving. I believe something very similar; I call this evil desire sin." Third, you believe that the way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate craving. I feel selfishness needs to be eliminated, too. And fourth, you feel we eliminate craving by following the Eightfold Path: right understanding, right aspiration, right behavior, etc. Here's where I would suggest an alternative. For many years I, too, tried to eliminate my selfishness by seeking to think and do the right thing. But you know what happened? I became very frustrated because I lacked the power to do it. I realized that if I relied on God, He could give me the inner power I needed." Do you see the contrast between those two methods of approaching someone who differs with you? The first emphasizes differences and has the emotional effect of holding up your hands as if to say "Stop!" or "Go away!" The second begins by agreeing where you can. Your emotional hands are extended as if to welcome your listeners. If you were the listener, which approach would you prefer?

Start by Agreeing where You Can

In communicating with skeptics, start by agreeing where you can. You'll get many more to listen. I call this approach Advocacy Apologetics. You're approaching the person as an advocate rather than an adversary. You believe in some of the same things they do. Expressing agreement can penetrate emotional barriers and communicate that you are for that person rather than against them. It can make them more willing to consider areas of disagreement. Don't compromise biblical truth; but agree at the start where you can. Paul used this approach. He wrote (1 Corinthians. 9:19-23):

I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can.  

Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News. (New Living Translation, emphasis mine)

Here's an experiment: The next time you encounter someone who differs with you, take a deep breath. Pray. Ask God to help you identify three areas of agreement. Can't find three? How about one? Discuss that first. Become an advocate for them. Maybe you'll oil some stuck emotional and intellectual gears and nudge someone in His direction.

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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

Today's post was written by Ron Edmondson. Some of the points he makes are reasons why I started this blog. You can read more from Ron here: RonEdmondson.com
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7 Ways to Make Bible Reading Fun

A young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book. Well…no! This is THE BOOK! There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.

I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.

I told this girl she could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3, but I don’t think that’s the complete solution. I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a Believer is to fall in love with the Bible.

Here are 7 suggestions which may help:

Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.

Version – Pick a version easiest for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest NIV or NLT for a literal but readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and fun reading.

Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Sharing your reading with your small group, a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work helps energize you for the passage. The key here is that when you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 1:6 for an example of this.)

Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm for more.

Taking your time – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start, because they are filled with great stories of Jesus.

Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful.

Relationship - The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author. Fall more in love with God and you’ll find reading the Bible much easier. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!

Today's post is written by Rusty Wright and Linda Raney Wright. It is a little different from my regular posts in that it doesn't look at one specific passage, but it is an excellent look at the documented evidence of the authenticity of the New Testament.
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The New Testament: Can I Trust It?

"How can any well-educated person believe the New Testament? It was written so long after the events it records that we can't possibly trust it as historically reliable." This is a common question on the university campus and deserves an honest answer.

How does one determine the authenticity of an ancient book? C. Sanders, a military historian, outlines three basic tests used by historians and literary critics.{1} These are the internal, external and bibliographic tests. Let's consider briefly how the New Testament stands up to each one.

1. The Internal Test

Here our question concerns the trustworthiness of the writers as revealed by the text itself. One of the chief issues is whether or not we have eyewitness testimony. The New Testament accounts of the life of Christ were written by eyewitnesses or by people relating the accounts of the eyewitnesses of the actual events. John wrote, "what we have seen and heard [concerning Christ], we proclaim to you also."{2} Peter stated that he and his associates were "eyewitnesses of His majesty."{3} Luke claimed that his gospel was based on accounts compiled from eyewitnesses.{4} In a court of law, eyewitness testimony is the most reliable kind.

Another issue in the internal test is the consistency of the reports. If two writers present testimony that is contradictory, doubt is cast on the integrity of one or both records.

Many have charged that the New Testament contains contradictions. To deal with such charges, it is important to understand that "contrary" is defined by Webster as "a proposition so related to another that, though both may be false, they cannot both be true." Thus, the statement, "Joe and Bill are in this room" contradicts the statement, "Only Joe is in this room." It does not, however, contradict the statement, "Joe is in this room." Omission does not necessarily constitute contradiction.

With this in mind, consider several alleged New Testament contradictions. Some observe that Luke writes of two angels at the tomb of Jesus after the resurrection{5} while Matthew mentions "an angel."{6} The observation of the statements is accurate, but the interpretation of them as contraries is not. If Matthew explicitly stated that only one angel was present at that time, the two accounts would be dissonant. As it is, they are harmonious.

Others note an apparent discrepancy in the accounts of the birth of Jesus. Hans Conzelmann, a German theologian, writing of Matthew's and Luke's accounts of the nativity, states that "in every detail they disagree."{7} He focuses on apparent geographical inconsistencies.

Simple observation shows that the two accounts do differ. Luke tells of Joseph and Mary starting in Nazareth and traveling to Bethlehem (for the census and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem). He then records the family's return to Nazareth.{8} Matthew's account begins with the couple in Bethlehem (and Jesus' birth there) and records their flight into Egypt to escape King Herod's wrath, and relates their travel to Nazareth after Herod's death.{9}

Conzelmann regards these details as contradictory, but are they? The Gospels never claim to be exhaustive records of the life of Christ. Any biographer must of necessity be selective. Could not Matthew have chosen to omit the census journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and Luke the flight into Egypt? As such, the accounts are complementary, rather than contradictory.{10}

Often such critics seem unable to carefully discern the content of biblical texts because of their own negative presuppositions and lofty speculations. One is inclined to agree with C. S. Lewis' criticism of these skeptics when he writes, "These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence (that they cannot) is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves."{11} Consider a final (and more difficult) example of alleged inconsistency. Many have noted a difference between the synoptic accounts (those in Matthew, Mark and Luke) and John's account of the dating of the death of Jesus. Specifically, the issue concerns the chronological relationship of the crucifixion to the celebration of the Passover meal by the Jews. Mark refers to some Jews observing the Passover the evening before the crucifixion.{12} John seems to indicate a Passover celebration after the crucifixion.{13} In a recent definitive article, Dr. Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary solves the puzzle.{14} Citing evidence from the Mishnah and the scholars Strock-Billerbock, Hoehner shows that the Pharisees and Sadducees (two contemporary religious parties) disagreed about the day of the week on which the Passover should fall. The result was that the Pharisees celebrated the Passover one day before the Sadducees did. This makes it entirely plausible that the synoptics use the reckoning of the Pharisees, while John presents that of the Sadducees, thus accounting for the difference.

2. External Test

This test asks whether other historical and archaeological materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves. Several authors of antiquity wrote of Jesus as a person of history. Among them were Tacitus, Josephus, Seutonius, and Pliny the Younger.{15} Sir William Ramsey, an eminent archaeologist, once held that Luke's writings were not historically sound. His own subsequent investigation of near-eastern archaeology forced him to reverse his position and conclude that "Luke is a historian of the first rank."{16}

Nelson Glueck, former president of Jewish Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, one of the greatest archaeologists, and a Jew, wrote: "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference."{17}

Consider a few examples of archaeological confirmation of the New Testament. In I Corinthians, Paul refers to the meat market in Corinth.{18} An inscription from ancient Corinth has been discovered which refers to the "meat market."{19} Luke refers to the temple of Artemis in Ephesus and speaks of a riot that occurred in a theater in the same city.{20} The temple was excavated in 1803 and measured 100 by 340 feet.{21} Twentieth-century Austrian archaeologists unearthed the theater and found it could hold nearly 25,000 people.{22}

Mark writes of Jesus healing a blind man as He left Jericho.{23} Luke, apparently writing of the same event, says it happened while Jesus was approaching Jericho.{24}

Excavations in 1907-09 by Ernest Sellin, of the German Oriental Society, showed that there were "twin cities" of Jericho in Jesus' time--an old Jewish city and a Roman city separated by about a mile.{25} Apparently Mark referred to one and Luke referred to the other, and the incident occurred as Jesus traveled between the two.

William F. Albright, one of the world's leading biblical archaeologists, adds a helpful comment: "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date of between A.D. 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today."{26} This statement is crucial because it means that some of Christ's opponents, who were living when He was on earth, were undoubtedly still around when the New Testament books were penned. Their presence would have prompted the New Testament writers to give careful attention to the veracity of the statements. And we can be certain that if any errors were made in their accounts the opponents of Christ (of which there were many) would have been quick to expose them.

3. Bibliographic Test

This final test is necessary because we do not possess the original manuscripts of most ancient documents. The question that must be asked, then, is: "How many early copies do we have and how close in time are they to the original?" A. T. Robertson, author of one of the most comprehensive grammars of New Testament Greek, wrote, "...we have 13,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament."{27} Many of these copies are dated only a short time (80-400 years) after the original.

When the New Testament documents are compared with other writings of antiquity for the numbers of early copies and the chronological proximity of the copies to the original, the New Testament is far superior. (For instance, we have only 10 good copies of Gallic Wars and they are 1,000 years after the original; seven copies of Plato's Tetrologies, 1,200 years after the original. Similar results hold for the writings of Thucydides, Herodotus and a host of others.){28}

The late Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, was one of the leading authorities on the reliability of ancient manuscripts. He drew this conclusion:

"The interval then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."{29}

If one concludes that the New Testament documents are historically reliable, it stands to reason that he should seriously consider the message they present. In the Old Testament and the New, the message of the Bible is the message of Jesus Christ. And He offers an abundant and eternal life to anyone who will consider and respond to His claims: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life...and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."{30}

Notes

1. Sanders, C. Introduction to Research in English Literary History (New York: MacMillan, 1952), pp. 143ff; quoted in Montgomery, John. "History and Christianity," His Magazine reprint, Chicago, December 1964-March 1965, pp. 6-9.
2. I John 1:3.
3. 11 Peter 1:16.
4. Luke 1:1-3.
5. Luke 24:1-4.
6. Matthew 28:1-8.
7. Conzelmann, Hans. Jesus. The classic article from the RGG expanded and updated (Philadelphia: Fortress Press), pp. 26-27.
8. Luke 1:26, 2:40.
9. Matthew 2:1-23.
10. Cheney, Johnston. The Life of Christ in Stereo. (Portland, OR: Western Seminary Press, 1971), pp. 6-14, 243.
11. Hooper, Walter (ed.). Christian Reflections (William B. Eerdmans) quoted in McDowell, Josh. More Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., 1975), p. 342.
12. Mark 14:12ff.
13. John 18:28.
14. Hoehner, Harold W. "Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Part IV" Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, July, 1974), pp. 241-264.
15. Bruce, F. F. Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), pp.19-41.
16. Ramsay, W.M. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. (1915), p. 222; quoted in Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents - Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968), p. 91.
17. Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert History of Negev. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969); quoted in McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands A Verdict. (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., 1972), p. 68.
18. 1 Corinthians 10:25.
19. Bruce, Christian Origins. p 200.
20. Acts 19:27-29.
21. Free, Joseph P. Archaeology and Bible History. (Wheaton: Scripture Press,1951), p.324.
22. Ibid.
23. Mark 10:46-52.
24. Luke 18:35 43.
25. Free, op cit, p. 295; the old Jewish Jericho may have been a "ghost town" or merely a mound in Jesus' day.
26. Albright, William. Recent Discoveries in Biblical Lands. (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1955), p. 136; quoted in McDowell, op. cit., p. 65.
27. Robertson, A T., Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1925), p. 70; quoted in Montgomery, op. cit., p. 6.
28. McDowell, op. cit., pp. 46-56: Montgomery, op. cit., p. 6: Bruce, op. cit., pp. 10-20.
29. Kenyon, F. G. The Bible and Archaeology. (New York and London: Harper, 1940), pp. 288, 89; quoted in Montgomery, op. cit., p. 6.
30. John 8:12, 32.

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Linda Raney Wright is an award-winning author, writer and speaker. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (AB, rhetoric), she has written for major magazines and has appeared on television talk shows as she has lectured in universities and cities around the world.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

The more I think about and read about Harold Camping’s prediction of the end of the world, the more I realize how much harm it has done. Not only for those who followed him wholeheartedly, and spent every cent they had before the expected end, but most especially for those who now mock the Christian faith. Rest assured, Judgement Day will come; we just don’t know when.

In Deuteronomy 4:1-2 Moses instructs the Israelites to obey the Word of God, but to not add anything to it or subtract anything from it. This is a commandment that is repeated in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Revelation 22:18-19, and it is exactly what Harold Camping did. He manipulated facts about dates such that he came up with a convoluted mathematical proof that the rapture would occur at a specific time on a specific day. Not only was this adding to the scripture, it was also contradicting the scriptures that say that no one knows the day or the hour. (Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:50, Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7) If we add to scripture, we are putting ourselves in the place of God, thinking that we know more than God has made known to us.

God provided us with His word to teach us and to bless us, so that we could know and worship the one true God. Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says that by keeping His commandments and teaching them to our children and grandchildren, we would receive blessing and prolong our days. Matthew 4:4 tells us that we need God's Word to live on, that living by bread is not enough. We can, like Jesus, use it to guard our hearts against the devil’s schemes. The Psalms indicate that the word of God is like a light to our path (Psalm 119:105) and useful for maintaining a pure life. (Psalm 119:9, March 9, 2011) Mark 4:20 promises that those who follow the Word will bear much fruit.

Nowhere does the Bible indicate that there are secret codes to figure out so that we can learn what the Bible says is not for us to know. The human race was warned from the very beginning not to try to become equal to God by knowing everything that He knows. In the Garden of Eden, even though God commanded against it, the serpent told Eve that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would open her eyes so that she would be like the divine beings—she would know what God knows. (Genesis 3:4-5) Secret things belong to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 29:29) He has, however, given us plenty of other information to think about, study and put into practice. We need to take the things that He did reveal to us, and use them to obey His statutes and give glory to Him.

It’s Friday the 13th. Do you believe that that means you will have bad luck today? Do you avoid going out in public or trying anything new because of the date? Now, I don’t want to criticize you if you just joke about things like that, but there are people who seriously believe that Friday the 13th means bad luck, just as it is bad luck to let a black cat cross your path, or to walk under a ladder. To be honest, it is probably good advice not to walk under a ladder, but not because it will bring bad luck, just because it is safer that way.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, (I Timothy 4:1-7) he warns Timothy to be aware of false teaching, and instructs him to focus on the truth. These days truth is seen as a relative thing—what is the truth for me might not be the truth for you—but this is not the way God sees it. Paul encouraged Timothy to focus on God’s truth, and to reject anything that did not agree with it, including “myths fit only for the godless and the gullible”. (I Timothy 4:7) In the New International Version, this verse reads, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly."

When Paul wrote to Timothy he discussed the issues of marriage and of restricting oneself from eating certain foods because those were the issues that were current and relevant to the people that Timothy was teaching. But Paul’s words apply to everything. All things created by God are good (Genesis 1), and we are to receive them all with thankfulness. God created the days by separating light from darkness, (Genesis 1:4-5) and in that way today is just like any other--neither good nor bad in and of itself.

A friend of mine got married on a Friday the 13th several years ago. Many of her friends and acquaintances asked her why she would want to get married on that date; wouldn’t it be better to get married on a date that wouldn’t bring bad luck? My friend decided that it was even more important to get married on that date (besides that the timing was good for her and her husband-to-be) because it was a chance to tell people about her beliefs. She believes in a God who is in control of the universe, and although there might be bad things that happen in the world, it is not because of luck, but because we live in a world where good battles evil. Don’t give in to the evil; focus on God’s truth. Enjoy this day and all the blessings that God has for you in it.

The question asked in Psalm 119:9 is asked about a young person, but the answer would certainly apply to anyone at any age. The sooner you start the better, but it's never too late.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It is divided into 22 sections, each with eight verses. Each of the sections is represented by a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each of the verses begins with the letter of that section. Psalm 119:9-16 is the second section and answers the question, “How can a young person maintain a pure life?” The answer is by following God's Word.

God gave us His Word as a gift. In this psalm, as elsewhere in the Bible, God’s word is sometimes also referred to as “law”, “testimonies”, “ways”, “precepts”, “statutes”, “commandments”, “judgements” and “ordinances”, but He did not give it to us to make our lives harder. He gave it to us so that things would go well with us, our days may be prolonged and that we may be blessed. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

Its mere existence is not enough however; we must have a part in making it useful in our lives. The psalmist sought the Lord with all his heart, prayed for the Lord’s help to keep His commands (Psalm 119:10), stored up His word (Psalm 119:11), praised the Lord (Psalm 119:12), proclaimed (Psalm 119:13), rejoiced in (Psalm 119:14), meditated on (Psalm 119:15) and delighted in (Psalm 119:16) His word. We need to do more than have a Bible sitting on our bookshelf. We need to read it, meditate on it and apply it to our lives.

Some people get a little confused about meditation because its meaning varies according to context. To meditate on the Word of God is to think about it, mull it over, keep it in our minds. It is a very good practice to memorize it. Then you will have it with you whether you have a Bible with you or not. Jesus didn’t have a scroll with Him when He was tempted in the desert, but He answered the devil by quoting scripture. (Luke 4:1-13) No matter what situation you are in, if you have God’s word in your heart, you will have a source of encouragement, hope and guidance. (Psalm 130:5, Psalm 119:11)

Tips for Memorizing Scripture
(This is my paraphrase of tips given by Robert J. Morgan, author of 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart.)

Choose your verse, decide how long until you want it memorized--a week, three days, whatever--then memorize one word at a time. The first word will be pretty easy. For example, John 3:16, the first word is "For". It won't take you long to memorize that! Then add the second word, the third, etc. Repeat each for however much time you've allowed yourself depending on your goal for completion and keeping in mind that successive words will need more time. The first word might only need a minute. By the time you get to "For this is the way God loved the world", you might need several hours. Keep repeating each section until you have it; then add the next to what you already know. Anyone can memorize anything if they do it one word at a time.

I would like to invite you to join me on a journey.  This year I am going to look at the Bible in a new way.  Rather than seeing the Bible as a book or a collection of letters, I am going to choose single verses or short passages and look at them as if they are memos from God.  What can I learn from these passages that will make my life better or make me a better person?  The Bible says in II Timothy 3:16,17 that all scripture comes directly from God.  If we believe that God is perfect and all-powerful, then it is easy to believe that His Word is true.  But even if we don’t, there are still valuable principles that can be learned from it.  Those verses go on to say that from scripture we can learn what we should believe, what we should not believe, what we should not do and what we should do.  We are told that a person dedicated to God will be equipped for every good work.  If we get the right teaching and apply it to our lives, it will lead to doing the right things.  That sounds like a good goal to me, and I think it’s worth a try.  I would love to have you join me.  If there are topics or verses that you want to know more about, feel free to make suggestions.  I make no guarantee that I will be able to provide you with the answers you need, but I promise to consider your suggestions and welcome your feedback.  Perhaps we can help each other to make 2011 the best year ever.  Happy New Year!