Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Read on to life!

My first post in a long while. God bless all who read this!

I'm now located in Gibraltar with my new wife (our first anniversary is coming up a the end of this month) and we're enjoying settling into our first little place of our own, as we work and help to minister in the Cityline Church here.

One of the things we've started as a church is a daily Bible reading plan, two chapters a day, moving chronologically through the Bible, and doing related group studies weekly. (It should take us about a year and a half to finish).

It's a wonderful, though sometimes challenging, experience to be part of a very small but tight-knit group of believers. Having begun this process of Bible reading one lesson that must quickly be learned is that if we do not encourage one another and visit with one another (even telephonically - is that a word?) there is no Christian and no group that will not suffer. As such, I wrote this encouragement as I sent out the second, bi-monthly reading plan. If anyone wants to join in you're more than welcome, but whatever you're reading, I want to encourage you to keep on at it no matter what. Even right at the beginning of the Church, the apostles had to exhort the churches to be in the word and faithful to it. We have all learned from life that whenever we are physically tired or drained everything else gets so much harder, even emotionally and mentally. So too, if we do not nourish ourselves and exercise ourselves in the word, we get spiritually drained and then sin comes so much easier to us. Christ is always there to pick us up, but oh the frustration and discouragement we go through! Repeated failure has to be one of the most common and most powerful of spiritual discouragements and sources of depression. Many times, however, repeated failure comes from a lack of adherence to a discipline or correction we already know or have just learned. It's like being brought by the elevator of life to the top of a cliff and finding that the next step is a jump to a new cliff. Unable to move back and afraid or unwilling to move forward we fall down. Getting up again we are soon returned to the same point but, whether for the same reason or a different one, we fall again. We will continue falling until we either make the leap to new ground.

Move on Christian! Further on, further up! (To steal a phrase from CS Lewis). What does it matter if a man loses the whole world but gains his soul? Cut off whatever sins hold you back, throw away whatever hides in your pocket close to your heart, leave behind the burden, and leap forward. Choose Christ, obey, and grow in discipline and holiness and faith. As it says in His word, "For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do." (Hebrews 6:10)

Engage His word, fill yourself up with it. Reject whatever thing consumes your time with Him and offer your time to Him once again as a holy gift, preserved and heartfelt.

And now let me remind you of the sweet taste of the divine waters of the word, and its life giving, youth-restoring power!

Psalm 19 gives us some of the benefits experienced by those who diligently read God's word:
"7 The law of the LORD is perfect,

refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 119 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path."
Then again it says, " 111I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
112I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end."

The rewards of studying the words and teachings of the perfect, loving God, the Creator and Father are many. There is much reward to be found in seeking Him through them.
Jesus gave this parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Matt 13:44
What would any man do after buying that field? Would he not return to it and work hard to dig out out the treasure and then put it somewhere safe, and treasure it always? Now compare that verse with this, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." Prov. 25:2

God has called us kings and princes, and indeed, as co-heirs with Christ we are exactly that. Noble princes and princesses of God, sons and daughter, made noble by God. Now the Kingdom of Heaven is more than just the Bible, but the Bible - the words and teachings of God - are a part of God's Kingdom. As such, the task of digging into it, and also selling what we have that we may buy it, are a part of our relationship with God through His word.

It costs us to read. All of us. He set it up that way for a reason. The word of God is a great treasure, with more to be discovered than the greatest minds can perceive and yet with simple beauty that the simplest of us can enjoy and benefit from.

Yet, despite all of the great benefits which we receive from devoting ourselves to regular reading and study of God's word, the greatest treasure of pursued Bible reading and study is this:

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)

The first and most important worth of Scripture, (and without this everything else is worthless) is to introduce us to, and help us to know, God. What we will find is that all of the things we have found beautiful and loved were crafted in His hands and that He is the source of all life and love and beauty. At the end of it all, we will find that the greatest treasure of all is Him.
It is a mystery, a beautiful, wonderful mystery, and one upon which we embark every time we enter His word.

Will you choose to buy Him through His word and with our time, and with our pursuit of Him and obedience to His instruction?

I pray God's blessings on you as you continue to enter His word, and that He would reveal Himself, and deep truth, to you as continue deeper into it. It is an adventure many have taken before, and many are taking with you now, in these days. It begins now and it never ends, with Him.

Remember, in the mid-1800's a great man named JC Ryle wrote this, "There is more Bible buying, Bible selling, Bible printing and Bible distributing than ever before in our nation. We see Bibles in every bookstore; Bibles of every size, price and style. There are Bibles in almost every house in the land. But all this time I fear we are in danger of forgetting that to HAVE the Bible is one thing, and to READ it quite another." ( Practical Religion, JC Ryle) The 1800's! The challenges we face in our lives now, today, in reading the Bible, in praying, and living the true Christian life, are exactly the same as those faced by those who have gone before us. Never believe the lie you are alone. You are not. You are one more, of many Christians, running the hard fought race, and earning the crown that will never be destroyed.

Fight on Christian soldiers! Fight on my brother! Live on! Love on! Believe on! Pray on! Persevere! The finish line is nearer than you think! And Christ, who gave and suffered all to have us and be with us, will not now fail to draw near to bear us forward. Only trust Him, lean upon Him, when weak or without sight or understanding, trust on! And He will bear you to the victory line just as sure as we are weak and heavy, He is strong, and He cannot deny Himself, for He has committed Himself to us and is faithful and true!

So press on through everything and persevere, and let His word enrich you and fill you fully - heart and mind and spiritual stomach. It is the nourishment we need to run the race. Read on! Fight on! Love on! Forgive on! And know that He is with you and preparing a place for you! For this is no our home. And without the Word, we might occasionally feel that it is not, but we would never know that one awaits us. Read on! Seek on! And I will see you there!

"Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, O God of Jacob."