Friday, January 4, 2008

Putting pebbles in your pocket!

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! Let me ask you a simple question. "Do you believe in the POWER of God's Word? Do you believe that in His Word there is LIFE and HEALTH as the Bible teaches? Do you truly believe that the TRUTH will set you free? Do you want to avoid INSANITY in 2008 (insanity being-doing the same things you have always done but expecting different results)?" After you answer those questions, let me ask you one more… "We are on day four of 2008, are you reading God's Word daily?" If not, why don't you start RIGHT NOW.

A Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he'd ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran. The believer responded, "No, I haven't, but I'm sure it would be interesting. Why don't we read both together, once a week, alternating books?" The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he became a believer in Jesus. One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and shouted at the longtime believer, "You deceived me!" "What are you talking about?" the believer asked.

The new believer opened his Bible and said, "I've been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!" He grinned. "You knew all along that the Bible contained God's power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!" "And now you'll hate me for life?" queried the believer. "No," he answered, "but it was an unfair contest."

This Christian university student and soon the converted friend discovered that the Bible "was written in the past to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

It is surprising how many Christians don't understand this reality. Many in the church know that the Bible is the guidebook of the faith but they view it similar to the constitution of an organization or even the Constitution of our country. They know it is there, but have little idea what is in it. Pollsters report that the state of Biblical illiteracy in the church is staggering.

A man was out walking in the desert when a voice said to him, "Pick up some pebbles and put them in your pocket, and tomorrow you will be both sorry and glad." The man obeyed. He stooped down and picked up a handful of pebbles and put them in his pocket. The next morning he reached into his pocket and found diamonds and rubies and emeralds. And he was both glad and sorry. Glad that he had taken some -- sorry that he hadn't taken more. This is the way it is with God's Word. When you make the effort to read and study His Word you discover that those words become the source of life. Your only regret is that you didn't take in more.

This morning I want to remind you of what you hopefully already know: the Bible is a book that is filled with life and relevance. My desire is that we all slow down and take the time to "Put some pebbles in our pockets…DAILY"


It is the Word of God
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter is obviously talking about the Old Testament (since there was no "New Testament yet) however, later in this same letter Peter refers to Paul's letters as being like the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:16) This indicates that Peter already recognized that Paul's words were inspired.

This text is important because it tells us that the Bible is not a made-up book. It is not like the novel, the DaVinci Code, which is a made up story that sounds accurate but is historically off base. The Bible is factually accurate and is from God himself.

It is Instructive

Paul told Timothy,
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16,17)

The word translated God-breathed is translated "inspired" in some versions. When people hear the word "inspired" they think of someone who is filled with passion and think of "inspiring" as in an "inspiring story". That is not what Paul is saying. Paul means to say that the Scriptures have come from God. For that reason, "God-breathed" is a better translation.


Paul said, "that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." There is some question here as to what these words mean. One view says that Paul is saying, "the Bible was written to teach us and if we endure in reading it we will find encouragement and hope." The other view (the one that I prefer) says, "the Bible was written to teach us and we find hope through the endurance and encouragement that comes from the Bible."

The Bible Helps us to Endure in Hard Times The Bible equips us to endure first by teaching us about the character of God. The Bible points us to a God who is holy, wise, good and loving. He is a God who will vindicate the righteous and punish the wicked. He is a God who finishes what He started and will not desert those who belong to Him.

When times are hard and times are confusing and we don't understand we are given the strength to hang on because we can be confident of whom we are hanging on to. By pointing to the character, strength, and reliability of God we find that we have the strength to hang on.

It helps, if you are going up in a plane, to know that you are were piloted by an experienced pilot. It is nice to know that a Surgeon has performed the operation you are about to have successfully many times. And it is comforting in confusing times to know that the One who created the universe, and who knows the end from the beginning is caring for you.

The Bible gives us examples of Other People. The Bible is filled with stories about people as they encountered God. Some of the stories show us positive encounters. We read about Joseph who endured though he was falsely accused and imprisoned. We read about Daniel and his friends who remained faithful even in the face of death. We read about Jeremiah who continued to proclaim the truth though no one seemed to listen. We read the story of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, Job and many more.

We also learn lessons from negative examples. We find that we are not alone in the struggle. The Bible is a balanced book. It records not only the successes but the failures of others. From these examples we can learn what NOT to do. We can also learn that even those who make the worst choices can be forgiven and renewed.

We read about David's adultery, Abraham's compromises, Moses' reluctance and frustration. We read about the frustration of Habakkuk, the deception of Ananias and Saphirra, the doubt of Thomas, the betrayal of Peter, the fierceness of Paul's persecutions before his conversion. The Bible tells the honest truth and we can learn from these mistakes.

The Bible teaches us to hope rather than despair The word for encouragement is the word "paraklesis". It is the same word that Jesus used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Counselor or Advocate. The literal meaning of the word is "to come alongside another person to help him or her."

The Bible is the chief means the Holy Spirit uses to instruct us and guide us. God's Spirit inspired the writers and continues to use the Word of God to convict of sin, assure us of forgiveness, and point us toward the future.

Paul says the Bible encourages us in the hope. In this world so filled with despair, the Bible helps us to hope. There are no easy answers or sure-fire formulas for how to get through the tough times of life. What the Bible does do is point us in the right direction. It points us toward Jesus.

The Bible Gives us hope through the Promises of God. As we read the Bible we come across the great promises of Scripture. We see the promises

  • He is with us always (Mt. 28:20)
  • He will bring justice (2 Thess. 1:6)
  • He will never stop loving us (Romans 835ff)
  • He has prepared a place for us (John 14:1)
  • He will provide for our needs (Philippians 4:19)
  • He will give us the strength for hard times. (Philippians 4:13)
  • Those who believe will live even though they die (John 11:26)

The logical conclusion from this is that we should be devoted students of the scriptures and should read our Bible as a treasure that unlocks the secret of life.

If you've ever been to Yellowstone National Park, you were probably given a piece of paper by a ranger at the park entrance. On it in big letters was the warning "Do Not Feed the Bears." You no sooner drive into the heart of the park, however, than you see people feeding the bears. If you ask a ranger about this they will say sadly, "you have only a small part of the picture." He will describe how the park service personnel in the fall and winter have to carry away the bodies of dead bears -- bears who have lost their ability to fend for food.

That's what's happening to us! We are so used to people telling us what the Bible means that we are losing the ability to read the Bible on our own.

Simple Suggestions for Getting Started

  1. Begin a regular Bible reading program and stick with it. There is a Bible reading program in the Daily Bread, there are programs in some of the study Bibles, there are even Bible reading programs online. If you go out walking or running or spend a great deal of time traveling you might pick up an audio version of the Bible. Until you find a program start with the Gospel of John and read a section each day. Ask yourself, "What is it that God wants me to learn from this passage?" make these lessons the focus of your prayer before the Lord.
  2. Interact with the text. Underline key words. Jot thoughts and questions in the margin. Discipline yourself to ask not only, "What did this text mean to those who received it? Ask, "What does God want me to learn from this text?
  3. Get a study Bible in a version that you can understand that has understandable notes. You will spend $20 for a DVD, so spend the $40.00 on a good study Bible. Be cautioned however; put your focus on the text and not the notes but use the notes to get your meditation going.
  4. Memorize the verses from the Bible. Psalm 119:11 tells us that we should "hide His Word in our hearts so we won't sin against God." Set a goal of memorizing one verse a week and review all the verses each day.
  5. Get involved in a Bible Study Group and follow along in your Bible during worship.
  6. Take advantage of Bible Study resources on the web. If you have a passage you don't understand, type that reference into a search engine and you will be surprised the resources that will come up. I will list some links at the bottom of this page for you to consider. PLEASE check them out!
  7. Don't be intimidated by what you don't understand . . . determine to practice what you do understand.

The story is told of a man who was reading the Bible at a local park. A seminarian came up to the man and said, "What are you reading?" The man said, "The Book of Revelation". The seminarian asked, "Do you understand it?" The man said, "Yep." "What is it saying?" The man answered, "Jesus wins!"

This man was not troubled by the details he didn't understand at this point. He heard the message, and drew comfort, strength and encouragement from it. This is our task . . . rather than being intimidated by the fact that there are many things you don't understand, read, celebrate and apply what you do understand.

The Bible was written and preserved so that we might benefit. The truths and principles are timeless. The lessons can guide us away from trouble and to the source of joyful living. However, the Bible can't do anything in your life until you pick it up and actually read it. You'll read the TV Guide, the newspaper and your favorite magazine . . . why not invest some time in reading God's instruction for successful living?

Bible Study Tools online: (This has different versions of the Bible for you to read from, as well as Audio Bible for you to listen to) (Different Devotionals. Some you can have sent to your email daily) (Great study sight) (My favorite. You can download Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries to your computer. I use this daily) (International Bible Society. Different translation of Bibles for you to read from) (My wife's online Bible Study) (Daily Bible reading, prayer request, etc. Laurie Adams (Associate Pastor Wife) developed and maintains)

This weekend's "Through the Bible as a Family in 2008" Bible reading schedule:

January 4th Genesis 9:1-11:32

January 5th Genesis 12:1-14:24

January 6th Genesis 15:1-17:27


All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16,17)

These are just a few tools that I wanted to make you aware of. I hope you check them out. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty


Churchchipmunk said...

Pastor...Awesome! You know...reading, praying, witnessing...working for the Lord isn't the difficult part. It's the discipline it takes to do it. You touched on this Sunday in your Sermon. But I wonder if people give thought to the total picture...not just the pomises or the blessings...but the conditions? His Word is full of "IF" you will..."THEN" I will. We cannot go to the Lord with just the expectation that God will move just because He's God. God is God and He will move according to His Will and His Purposes...but there are times (many, many times) that He requires much from His people. 2 Tim. 2:15 says we must "Show ourselves approved". I'm a King James reader (Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.), but choose to study various versions in order to be prepared for conversation with others that do not share my love for the KJV. I love what the Message says, too (Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God's people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they're not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples, throwing believers off stride and missing the truth by a mile by saying the resurrection is over and done with.) Too often we hear a sermon or hear the Word in passing and just accept it. Never taking that Word and studying it for ourselves...this is too robotic and not what God intended for His people. In studying...this should always spark a deeper desire to know not only Him...but His Word. For studying 2 Tim. 2:15...I am prompted by the Spirit to go to Matthew 5:37 (**Message**And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.) In the says for us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. So powerful are His Words of instruction...but yet, we have become LAZY and do not take to heart what His Word says, therefore do not follow His instruction and we find ourselves picking out of the Word only what we want to apply in our lives. Oh...but He warns us about that, too...Deu. 4:2 (**KJV***Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.)/ Rev. 22:18-19 (**Message**I give fair warning to all who hear the words of the prophecy of this book: If you add to the words of this prophecy, God will add to your life the disasters written in this book; if you subtract from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will subtract your part from the Tree of Life and the Holy City that are written in this book.) To be the example that Christ called us to be...we have to allow the Potter to break us and remold us in His fasion. That breaking can sometimes be very painful. Moving from the comfort zone and stepping out in faith like Abraham is so foreign anymore. You mentioned Revival...where does Revival start? It starts with us...individually seeking in desperate hunger for Him and Him alone. Developing a desire for (as Darlene Zschech would say)Extravagant Worship just because we love Him. That passion is contagious, Pastor...and it spreads like a Wildfire. But we have to find that Passion again...and it begins as you coming back to Our First Love.

I started not long after I gave my heart to the Lord determining within myself to read the bible through each year. What has helped me is utilizing the Bible in a year. It give you an OT and NT a Psalm and Proverb each day. I have various versions and they are a wonderful tool. They always spark me to break out my other study resources to go deeper. On Feb. 14, 2008 I will celebrate my 7th Birthday with Christ. I have successfully read the Word in completion 6 times. Should the Lord tarry, I hope to read through it again this year and every year after. People like the woman you mentioned Sunday who read the Word through like 40 times...WOW...such a Love for the Lord and His Word...that's a tremendous inspiration...just to know Him more. This should be all of our desires.

Blessings to All!
Alive and Refreshed in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Good Stuff! I am more determined than ever before to read more and memorize more of God's Word!