[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #272 ---- 2/24/03

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From: "The Reynolds (FBC La Grange)" <prov2525@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2003 21:18:44 -0600
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As We
Fight the Good Fight of Faith

A personal letter of encouragement to you, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #272 ---- 2/24/03

Title:  "Continuing In The Word ---- Practical Thoughts on Prospering"



My Dear Friend and Partner in Kingdom Adventures:

Today Jo Ann and I are in Pathos, Cyprus attending the annual missionary meeting of the Russian speaking countries of eastern Europe.  I know, I know . . . . you may be thinking, "Cyprus!  Wow!  Such is the life of a missionary!"  So, just to set your mind at ease, let me say that the weather isn't all that good (mid 40's and partly cloudy weather . . . . so ocean swimming is out), and the eight day schedule provides us with only two half-day slots for sight seeing.  Yet, it is good to renew fellowship with missionaries we've known in the past, to meet new ones, and especially to link up with those who are also pastoring international churches like we are.  We return to Kiev on Saturday, hopefully with some encouraging thoughts to share with you again.

In the meantime, . . . .



CONTINUING IN THE WORD:

I've been preaching recently from the platform of Acts 2:42 where Luke tells us that the newly birthed church quickly established a pattern of "diligent discipline" in four basic areas . . . . things I like to call the pillars of successful church life.  I think I've written about these in the past.  They are Doctrine (or teaching), Fellowship, Breaking of Bread (worship via Lord's supper, Love feast, etc.), and Prayer.  Following my initial sermon, I felt prompted to further develop each of those four areas, so, for the past three Sundays prior to yesterday when I was out of the pulpit I did just that.

In the process, the Lord prompted me of some very simple and fundamental disciplines as regarding "Continuing In The Word".  For some strange reason, I feel I need to share these seven simple disciplines with you.  I don't know, . . . . maybe it's so you can pass them on to someone else, or maybe you need to be encouraged in them yourself.  I do know that, if you take serious and unrushed note of them, you'll probably find at least one which you need to develop and practice further.  I know I did, even after 59 years of following Christ and 47 years of vocational ministry.  (You'd think I'd have it down "pat" by now, but apparently I don't.)

So, . . . .  How about these simple and practical disciplines to aid us in our continuing "walk with the Lord in the light of His word"?

1.  Read it.  Well!  How basic!  And yet how neglected.  Everybody, even an unbeliever!, knows that.

Since we do, then let's make a little more practical.  Knowing we should (and we must if we intend to be of much use to the Lord), then let's ask, "How long?"  Or, "How much?"  Or, "What part?"

Well, that depends.  It depends on whether or not you want to read the Bible through in its entirety or just pick and choose like you're at a cafeteria.  It also depends on your understanding of how a simple reading of the Bible benefits you.  If you examine scriptures you find examples of reading scripture through in large chunks (such as with Ezra, Solomon, and others), and you also see it used in smaller portions (such as when Jesus announced His public ministry in the synagogue).

As you may recall, one of my father's favorite statements is, "what food is to the body, the Bible is to the soul."  He then goes on to explain the necessity of eating the spinach and peas as well as the steak, potatoes, and ice cream.  Most of us head for Psalms, Ephesians, or maybe John or Romans, but avoid Leviticus or some of the "begat" sections of genealogies.

Dad points out, however, that some of the most nutritional foods are the most distasteful . . . . or tasteless.  It may be the same with the Bible.

So, "what" to read is simple to answer . . . . All of it.

Your answer to "how long" or "how much" depends on the level to which you want to immerse yourself in God's Word.  If you just want to dip your toe in it, it won't take long.  If you want to wade around a bit, probably ten to fifteen minutes a day of concentrated reading.  But, if you want to immerse yourself in it and soak up everything you can, then you're looking at substantially more time.

The point is, however, that the first step to growing through the Word is simple . . . . you've got to read it.

2.  Meditate on it.  This is a great word that takes you a step further into reading it alone.  It comes from a couple of Hebrew and Greek words that essentially mean to ruminate God's Word.  Moses instructed Israel to do so in Deuteronomy.  Joshua made it clear to meditate on God's Word day and night (1:8).  The Psalmist describes the person who mediates on the law of the Lord will be blessed (1:2).  The word appears at least four times in Psalm 119.  In verse 97 it is linked inseparably to the acquisition of wisdom.

What does it mean to "ruminate" God's Word?  I suppose words like "ponder", "consider", "think about", "concentrate on" come as close as any in the English language.  However, a picture from my childhood on the farm helps me understand it a little more thoroughly I believe.  After cattle had eaten the grass or hay, they would contentedly lie down and "chew the cud".  What I didn't know at the time is that they were "meditating" or "ruminating".  They had initially eaten (read), but they were going a step further . . . . they were bring it up again from one of their stomachs and re-eating it.

To us that sounds repulsive, but it is essential to the life and health of a cow.  So is meditating on the Word of God to the believer.  And when we don't do that, we become spiritually "ill" from incomplete digestion and inadequate nutrition.  Just as rumination to cattle is a part of good health, so is meditation to the Christian.  It takes more than one reading at one sitting to absorb all God is wanting to say.  Just as rumination is actually a part of the digestive process to cattle, so is meditation to the Christian.  We need time to digest, think about it, ponder it, bring it up again and think about it some more, contemplate what God said, . . . . and . . . . what He's saying to us at that moment.

3.  Memorize it.  I am a terrible memorizer.  My survival Russian classes have proven that beyond a doubt.  It helps to read it and meditate on this complicated language as well.  So it is with God's Word.  The next logical step to being fed from God's Word is to follow up the reading and meditating with memorizing.  Doing so does at least three very important things . . .  probably more.

First, it keeps you from sin.  The Psalmist declared in 119:111 that he had kept in his heart (memorized) God's Word in order that he might not sin against God.  My Dad wrote in all his Bibles, "Sin will keep you from this book; this book will keep you from sin."

Secondly, it guarantees weaponry in times of spiritual battle.  The writer of Hebrews made it clear that the Word of God is a weapon sharper than any sword man has ever made.  Paul identifies it clearly as a weapon for battle in Ephesians 6.  Some theologs believe that John's reverence in Revelation 12:11 refers not to the word of their own testimony but rather the word of God that was imbedded in their testimony.  An interesting thought.

Third, it provides you with the resource of God's Word when you are called on to give an account of the faith that is in you.  Scripture assures us that the Holy Spirit will call all things to our remembrance as we need them.  In order to remember, you must first know . . . . it must be in your mind.  So, . . .  memorize scripture; you'll be glad you did.

4.  Study it.  Acts 17 tells us that the Bereans were more noble minded than the Thessalonians because "they searched the scriptures daily to see if these things be true."  There is a time and place to delve deeply into the Word of Truth.  Paul urged young pastor Timothy to "Study to show yourself a worthy and approved workman that will not be ashamed because you have the insight to divide and explain the truth accurately."  (My transliteration, of course.)

I love to do word studies as they pertain to lengthy passages of scripture.  I also love to teach and preach expositorily through books of the Bible.  I cannot tell you how studying books such as Ephesians, Romans, Joshua, Mark, John, I John, Philippians, Colossians, and others has enriched my life and given me understanding.  I also love to do topical preaching that comes out of studying a particular subject and searching God's Word to find out everything it says about that subject.  

I cannot imagine either preaching or simply living without extensive amounts of time poring over, searching, examining, and comparing the Word of God to itself.  That's when you discover the diamonds and the veins of gold.  It's one thing to pick them up along the streams among the rocks; it's quite another to get out your pick and shovel and start digging.  Digging is harder work, but the rewards are greater.  The question is not how hard do you want to work, but how rich do you want to be.  The more you crave, the more you'll slave.

5.  Obey it.  The late Ron Dunn once said, "you only believe the part of the Bible you obey."  He may well be true.  Our level of obedience to the Word betrays our level of love for the Lord and for His Word.  Jesus said, "if you love Me, you'll keep My commandments."  It holds true today.  Moses told the people of God more than once that obedience to God's Law was a prerequisite to receiving His blessing and being successful in that to which He had called them.  One example is Deut 4:1-2 ---- "Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you.  Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. . . . keep the commands of the Lord you God that I give you."

I cannot even begin to reference all the times the word "do", "obey", "keep", "observe" and others are used just in that book alone.  Imagine how many times they are used through the Bible.  Moses said again in Deuteronomy 6:3, ". . . be careful to obey . . ."  Joshua declared in 1:8,  that the primary reason for meditating on God's Word was so that " . . . you may be careful to do everything written in it."

6.  Speak it.  Joshua also  said, "Do not let the word of this law depart from your Mouth . . ."  It becomes clear we are to vocally use God's Word.  That's one of the reasons for memorizing and for studying it.  In Dueteronomy 6:7 Moses told Israel to ". . . talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

I've wondered why we seem to relegate this commandment only to the preaching, teaching, and evangelizing aspect when it is obvious we're to do it in virtually every other setting.  When we have a meal together as families, how much of our conversation includes quoting scripture?  We talk about everything else except God's Word.  Are we afraid?  Do we think it isn't relevant?  Why this neglect?

7.  Write it.  Moses commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 6:9 to "write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."  I loved to see scripture verses on the entry ways of homes we'd visit in America.  As long as I can remember there was at least one scripture plaque in each room of our house when I was growing up.  That's a form of "writing" it.  One of my great blessings comes from receiving letters and e-mails from friends and family who have had an impression from the Lord to drop a note with a specific passage of scripture included.  Some people have checks with scripture on them.  I've seen many letters and cards come our way with scripture labels attached.  One of my favorite things has been to see giant billboards along streets and highways with scripture quotes on them.

Yet, the simple act of writing passages of scripture in a notebook or personal journal seems to have a specific impact on one's life.  I can't explain it, but I now that when I take time to write scripture out for the eye to see (even like this with a computer), it does something to my spirit.  Since the eyes are the window to the soul, it may be that simply seeing it in your own handwriting has some mystical impact on your spiritual life.  All I know is that it blesses you when you do it.

8.  Teach it.  Again, Moses instructed Israel to teach it (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:7; etc.) . . . . especially to the children.  In fact, he said it more than once, even though once was enough.

One of the great losses in most western countries is the blessing of oral history and oral instruction.  Some of my fondest memories come from my paternal grandparents telling me stories of our past; some of my greatest disappointments come from my maternal grandparents who never told me anything about our past simply because they didn't know much of it themselves, and what little they did know they apparently didn't think was significant.

When we teach the Word of God to our children, we are helping to create a legacy.  I praise God for my parents who diligently taught me God's Word.  Some of my earliest recollections are of my Mother helping me memorize scripture when I was just three years old, and of the three of us sitting on the couch in Granite City, Illinois, as they taught me to read from two sources . . . . Dick and Jane books, . . . . and the Bible, which I could read with ease at age four.  What I read or memorized was always accompanied by an instructive explanation.

Of course teaching it is also a part of the Great Commission, which tells us that those who come to Christ, we are to ". . . . teach them to observe to do all things . . . ." that we have been commanded.



WONDERFUL BENEFITS:

Well . . . . did you find any of those things where you need some improvement?  I certainly did.  Now it behooves me to put my money where my mouth is and become a "doer" of the Word.

There are two distinct promises connected to how we treat and utilize God's Word.  They are found in Joshua 1:8 and in Deuteronomy 6:1-7.  Let me list them quickly.

1.  A deep sense of awe and respect for God (Deut 6:2b).  It's obvious the connection between our relationship to God's Word and to God Himself.  His Word is His revelation of Himself, His Description of His Plan, and His Instruction for Our Living.  We'll never obey a God for Whom we have little or no respect and awe.  That's why so many so-called believers live like the Devil . . . . they listen more to him and fill their minds more with his stuff than they do God's Word.

2.  An extension of life on this earth (Deut 6:2c).  I don't know how it is, but there is a definite correlation between one's attitude toward God's Word and longevity.  In fact, many scientific studies have been conducted about the relationship of spiritual things to health and life.  Without exception the studies reveal what the Bible explained centuries ago . . . . spiritual ingredients such as faith, prayer, reading the Bible, church attendance, giving, etc. all seem to improve health and attitude, and also add years to one's life expectancy.  And just the reverse is true as well . . . . the less spiritual influence, the greater the risk of illness and disease, and the sorter the life span.

3.  Life's Experiences will be better (Deut 6:3a).  Isn't it amazing how spending time in God's Word seems to make life in general go better.  Remember the old Coca Cola add . . . . "Things go better with Coke"?  Wrong!  Things go better with God's Word.  At least that what His Word says, and I think He knows better than Coca Cola's advertising agency.

4.  Increase of family Deut 6:3b).  Now there's a novel idea.  I wonder if this helps explain why research shows that deeply religious people seem to have larger families?  It was years before I saw that statement.  Apparently God has promised us that, whether in literal physical childbirth or in some other way, when we devote ourselves to His Word, we will see increase.  Maybe in family size, maybe in what we endeavor to do, maybe in material possessions, maybe in ministry growth, . . . . I don't know.  But the promise is clearly there, and we can expect "increase" when we devote ourselves to God's Word both in reading, learning, and obeying.

5.  Success in everything (Josh 1:7b).  God has promised success, and apparently proportionate to our obedience of His Word.  Obviously that doesn't mean we simply arbitrarily pick a passage and decide we're going to obey that so we can be successful.  Rather, it appears that success is an assumed and expected byproduct of a heart devoted to obedience.  And, it doesn't seem to make any difference where we may be.  So that means that both you and I can enjoy success even though we may live many time zones apart.

I do know this is true in the area of giving; I've seen it work over and over again.  It's truly amazing.  And, if it works in giving, then it should work in every other aspect of life.

6.  Prosperity (Josh 1:8b).  Now don't get fidgety!  I'm not advocating financial wealth.  I am, however, adamantly saying that when God's Word is central in our lives in these practical ways, we will have, in every area of time, talent, and treasure, all that we need for ourselves and then some left over with which to bless others.  That's what my definition is of prosperity . . . . "having enough to meet your needs and then some left over for blessing others through obedience to God".

7.  God's abiding presence (Josh 1:9b).  God has promised to be with us in special and practical ways through His Holy Spirit.  What a thrill to imagine that when I'm riding the Metro with all the smells and sounds I described in earlier letters, God's abiding presence is with me.  What an encouragement to remember that God showed up at language school, and He created the language I'm trying to learn (PTL we have only three days left of school after our return from Cyrpus!).

In the darkest night or the brightest day, God is there.  In fact, you can read that in His own words as transcribed by David in Psalm 139.



FINALLY:

I hope these thoughts have encouraged you, my friend, to be a person of the Word.  It's one thing to say we believe God's Word; it's quite another to give practical application on a day by day basis, and to do it in very simple but consequential ways.  If you don't particularly need these suggestions, please pass them on to someone you may know who does.

Have a great week.  Pray for us as we face five full days of meetings with the 150 or so other missionaries who are ministering in Russian and Ukrainian speaking countries.

In His Bond and For His Kingdom,

Bob Tolliver -- Rom 1:11-12
Copyright January, 2003
Life Unlimited Ministries
lifeunlimited@...

 
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U. S. World Prayer Center at
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City Reaching/City Impact Roundtable
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"Life Action Outreach" at
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"Bulletin On Revival" by Francois Carr in South Africa at
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"Youth Interceding For America" at
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"Mission America" at 
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Bob Tolliver
IBC - Hope4Kyiv
lifeunlimited@...
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