Tag  |  bible

Words That Matter

Early in my days of working as an editor for Our Daily Bread, I selected the cover verse for each month’s devotional. After a while, I began to wonder if this duty made a difference.

Not long after that, a reader wrote and described how she had prayed for her son for more than twenty years, yet he wanted nothing to do with Jesus. Then one day he stopped by to visit her, and he read the verse on the cover of the booklet that sat on her table. The Spirit used those words to convict him, and he gave his life to Jesus at that very moment.

I don’t recall the verse or the woman’s name. But I’ll never forget the clarity of God’s message to me that day. He had chosen to answer a woman’s prayers through a verse selected nearly a year earlier. From a place beyond time, He brought the wonder of His presence to my work and His words.

John the disciple called Jesus “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). He wanted everyone to know what that meant. “We proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us,” he wrote of Jesus (v. 2). “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us” (v. 3).

There is nothing magical in putting words on a page. But there is life-changing power in the words of Scripture because they point us to the Word of life—Jesus.

Remembering . . .

One difficult part of growing older is the fear of dementia and the loss of short-term memory. But Dr. Benjamin Mast, an expert on the topic of Alzheimer’s disease, offers some encouragement. He says that patients’ brains are often so “well worn” and “habitual” that they can hear an old hymn and sing along to every word. He suggests that spiritual disciplines such as reading Scripture, praying, and singing hymns cause truth to become “embedded” in our brains, ready to be accessed when prompted. In Psalm 119:11, we read how the power of hiding God’s words in our heart can keep us from sinning. It can strengthen us, teach us obedience, and direct our footsteps (vv. 28, 67, 133). This in turn gives us hope and understanding (vv. 49, 130). Even when we begin to notice memory slips in ourselves or in the life of a loved one, God’s Word, memorized years earlier, is still there, “stored up” or “treasured” in the heart (v. 11 esv, nasb). Even as our minds lose the keen edge of youth, we know that God’s words, hidden in our hearts, will continue to speak to us. Nothing—not even failing memories—can separate us from His love and care. We have His word on it.

God Talk

Recently, my son-in-law was explaining to my granddaughter Maggie that we can talk with God and that He communicates with us. When Ewing told Maggie that God sometimes speaks to us through the Bible, she responded without hesitation: “Well, He’s never said anything to me. I’ve never heard God talk to me.”

            Most of us would probably agree with Maggie, if hearing an audible voice telling us, “Sell your house, and go take care of orphans in a faraway land,” is what we mean by God communicating with us. But when we talk about hearing God “speak,” we usually mean something quite different.

            We “hear” God through reading Scripture. The Bible tells us about Jesus and says that God “has spoken to us by his Son” who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Heb. 1:2-3). Scripture tells us how to find salvation in Jesus and how to live in ways that please Him (2 Tim. 3:14-17). In addition to Scripture itself, we have the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 2:12 says that we are given the Spirit “so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

            Has it been a while since you’ve heard from God? Talk to Him and listen to the Spirit, who reveals Jesus to us through His Word. Tune in to the wonderful things God has to say to you.

Something I Should Know?

During a concert, singer-songwriter David Wilcox responded to a question from the audience about how he composes songs. He said there are three aspects to his process: a quiet room, an empty page, and the question, “Is there something I should know?” It struck me as a wonderful approach for followers of Jesus as we seek the Lord’s plan for our lives each day.

            Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, He took time to be alone in prayer. After feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, He sent His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee by boat while He dismissed the crowd (Matt. 14:22). “After [Jesus] had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night he was there alone” (v. 23).

            If the Lord Jesus saw the need to be alone with His Father, how much more we need a daily time of solitude to pour out our hearts to God, ponder His Word, and prepare to follow His directions. 

            A quiet room—anywhere we can focus on the Lord without distractions.

            An empty page—a receptive mind, a blank sheet of paper, a willingness to listen.

            Is there something I should know? “Lord, speak to me by Your Spirit, Your written Word, and the assurance of Your direction.”

            From that quiet hillside, Jesus descended into a violent storm, knowing exactly what His Father wanted Him to do (vv. 24-27).

Important Reminders

Anthropologist Anthony Graesch says that the outside of a refrigerator reveals what’s important to people. During a research study of families in Los Angeles, Graesch and his colleagues noted an average of 52 items posted on the fridge—including school schedules, family photos, children’s drawings and magnets. Graesch calls the refrigerator “a repository of family memory.”

The Lord may use a tangible item like a photo, keepsake, or Scripture verse to remind us of His faithfulness and the call to obey His Word. When Moses addressed the Israelites just before they entered the land of Canaan, he urged them to keep all the commands God had given them.  “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road . . . write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates”  (Deut. 6:7, 9). 

Giving God’s word a visible place of honor in their homes and lives was a powerful daily reminder to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you . . . out of the land of slavery.” (v. 12).

Today the Lord encourages us to remember that as we obey His Word, we can depend on His faithful care for all that lies ahead. 

Great Literature

Recently I came across an article describing what constitutes great literature. The author suggested that great literature “changes you. When you are done reading, you’re a different person.”

In that light, the Word of God will always be classified as great literature. Reading the Bible challenges us to be better. Stories of biblical heroes inspire us to be courageous and persevering. The wisdom and prophetic books warn of the danger of living by our fallen instincts. God spoke through various writers to pen life-changing psalms for our benefit. The teachings of Jesus shape our character to become more like Him. The writings of Paul orient our minds and lives to holy living. As the Holy Spirit brings these Scriptures to our minds, they become powerful agents for change in our lives.

The writer of Psalm 119 loved God’s Word for its transforming influence in his life. He recognized that the ancient Scriptures handed down from Moses made him wise and more understanding than his teachers (v. 99). It kept him from evil (v. 101). No wonder he exclaimed, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long,” and “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (vv. 97, 103).

Welcome to the joy of loving great literature, especially the life-changing power of God’s Word! 

Meant to Be Understood

I enjoy visiting museums such as the National Gallery in London and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. While most of the art is breathtaking, some of it confuses me. I look at seemingly random splashes of color on canvas and realize I have no idea what I am seeing—even though the artist is a master at his craft.

Sometimes we can feel the same way about the Scriptures. We wonder, Is it even possible to understand them? Where do I start? Perhaps Paul’s words can give us some help: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

God has given us the Scriptures for our instruction and encouragement. He has also given us His Spirit to help us to know His mind. Jesus said that He was sending the Spirit to “guide [us] into all the truth” (John 16:13). Paul affirms this in 1 Corinthians 2:12, saying, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

With the help of the Spirit, we can approach the Bible with confidence, knowing that through its pages God wants us to know Him and His ways.

God’s Enduring Word

At the beginning of World War II, aerial bombings flattened much of Warsaw, Poland. Cement blocks, ruptured plumbing, and shards of glass lay strewn across the great city. In the downtown area, however, most of one damaged building still stubbornly stood. It was the Polish headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Society. Still legible on a surviving wall were these words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

Jesus made that statement to encourage His disciples when they asked Him about the “end of the age” (v. 3). But His words also give us courage in the midst of our embattled situation today. Standing in the rubble of our shattered dreams, we can still find confidence in God’s indestructible character, sovereignty, and promises.

The psalmist wrote: “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89). But it is more than the word of the Lord; it is His very character. That is why the psalmist could also say, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations” (v. 90).

As we face devastating experiences, we can define them either in terms of despair or of hope. Because God will not abandon us to our circumstances, we can confidently choose hope. His enduring Word assures us of His unfailing love.

God of My Strength

No one could have mistaken the ancient Babylonian soldiers for gentlemen. They were ruthless, resilient, and vicious, and they attacked other nations the way an eagle overtakes its prey. Not only were they powerful, they were prideful as well. They practically worshiped their own combat abilities. In fact, the Bible says that their “strength [was] their god” (Hab. 1:11).

God did not want this kind of self-reliance to infect Israel’s forces as they prepared to battle the Midianites. So He told Gideon, Israel’s army commander, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me’ ” (Judg. 7:2). As a result, Gideon discharged anyone who was fearful. Twenty-two thousand men hightailed it home, while 10,000 fighters stayed. God continued to downsize the army until only 300 men remained (vv. 3-7).

Having fewer troops meant that Israel was dramatically outnumbered—their enemies, who populated a nearby valley, were as “thick as locusts” (v. 12). Despite this, God gave Gideon’s forces victory.

At times, God may allow our resources to dwindle so that we rely on His strength to keep going. Our needs showcase His power, but He is the One who says, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).

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