By Ellen Di Giosia
Like many Baptist children of my era, I was devoted to Bible Drill. While living in Mississippi, I studied each week and reveled in the opportunity to show my stuff. “Attention!” (Standing straight, Bible by my left side.) “Present swords!” (Bring Bible front and center, flat in my left hand, right hand on top of the Bible.) “Find — the Good Samaritan. Begin.” (Fingers scrambling, flipping to the New Testament – Matthew? No, Luke – page found, finger pointing to chapter 10, verse 25, stepping forward. Was I first? Yes!)
The competitive nature of Bible Drill (called “Sword Drill” in an earlier era) fit perfectly with my goody-two-shoes, perfectionist persona. (And yes, I did win the church drill, pass through the district drill, and compete at the state level.) Psalm 119:11 was one of the first verses we memorized: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This, of course, was the real reason for Bible Drill. The competitions were just motivation to memorize the words of scripture, so that we could remember them as we grew and matured, as we faced new challenges and made hard decisions. Hiding God’s word in our hearts meant that in times of trouble, we could recall wisdom and act accordingly.
This was a beautiful beginning, but only that. For it would be many more years before I could say that “I delight in the way of [God’s] decrees as much as in all riches.” To be honest, on many days I still don’t feel delighted by the call of God on my life. Humbled, committed, passionate – but delighted? It can be hard to feel that way when I’m in the trenches. But maybe this psalm is not a command, but a promise. Because I have hidden God’s word in my heart, the delight will be an outgrowth of that early discipline. Like any practice, early hard work leads to freedom to enjoy later. I will claim Psalm 119:9-16 for my life this Lent. Maybe you can, too.
By Lance Mayes
If you grew up going to church, you probably memorized several Bible verses or passages. I know several people who have memorized the book of James. It seems we’ve lost this discipline in most churches. I wonder why? Scripture that is memorized is a precious treasure that does not remain hidden away, but makes itself known at just the right time.
It is good to have Scripture treasured in your heart. It is always there waiting for the right time to appear. It is always there ready for meditation and application.
God brings a couple of verses to my mind fairly often. One is James 5:17-18. Elijah was just like us; sometimes I forget that. The people in the Bible are just like us; they were not superheros. They had flaws. They sinned. They succeeded. They prayed. They loved God and people. Just like us.
Another verse I think on often is Hebrews 4:16. It helps me remember that God is ready to give me his mercy and grace when I need it most. This truth brings incredible peace and hope to my heart.
Take a moment and think about a few verses or passages you have memorized. The Lord’s Prayer? Psalm 23? John 3:16? Others?
Are you satisfied about your recall of Scripture? Frustrated by how little you remember?
Why don’t we all brush up on a few verses. Need some help? Use these to get started: Isaiah 40:28, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 8:38-39, Lamentations 3:22-23, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Psalm 19:14, Philippians 4:6,7, Hebrews 4:16, Micah 6:8, Isaiah 53, Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13, John 15, Psalm 139.
By Bob Flynn
When my parents asked what I wanted for my 9th birthday, I said I wanted a Bible. My mother said I would have a Bible someday but she thought I was too young to be reading the Bible by myself. My father believed too much Bible-reading made people crazy. I don’t know that boy either. But I was there and I still have the Bible. I began with Genesis and read it all the way through. And I proved that my father’s opinion was correct. My Bible-reading drove him crazy. Why can’t snakes still talk? Is that why their tongues are split? What does begat mean? Why did a rabbi cut his concubine into 12 pieces? Head and two shoulders are three. Upper legs and lower legs make seven. How did he cut her into 12 pieces?
When I was 13 or 14, I took a free Bible class by mail. I bought a Scofield Reference Bible as a resource. Every week I received a new lesson and a test over the last lesson. I made an A on each lesson, even the dispensations. I knew more about the Bible but I didn’t believe it could be reduced to numbers and equations. One year in high school the Bible was taught as an elective. The first semester was taught by my Baptist pastor and I loved it. The second semester was taught by the Church of Christ pastor who was still tangled up in Ham, who saw his father Noah naked. Noah pronounced a curse on Canaan, Ham’s son, that he and his children would be servants. Noah’s curse still applied to black people anywhere in the world, but especially in Chillicothe. That seemed unfair then and it does now.
I majored in Religion at Baylor and minored in Greek. We translated the Gospel of John. I learned a lot about the Bible at Baylor, less so in the seminary where I studied Old Testament history while translating Ephesians. But the best teacher I had for reading and understanding the Bible is the writing process.
Writing allowed me to see a bit of the insight, the intent, the methods of those whose writing is in the Biblical canon. The first thing writing taught me was the shortcomings of language. There are not enough words.
Recently there was a story about scientists who had discovered an object in space that they couldn’t describe because they didn’t have anything to compare it with. “These warm, red planets are unlike any other known object in our universe. All four planets have different spectra, and all four are peculiar. The theorists have a lot of work to do now.” I liked the story because it reminded me of the task of the Gospel writers. If you can’t describe a strange object in space, how do you describe God?
By Edgar Twedt
In “The Book of Eli” Denzel portrays a wanderer in a dark, post-apocalyptic world. He is protecting a book which he carries as he walks westward toward the ocean. It’s a complicated and violent film to which Roger Ebert gives a sort of yes and no review. There are many interesting (if unbelievable) turns in the movie, but in the end Eli (if that is truly his name) winds up in Alcatraz. The book winds up in his enemy’s hands, who finds that it is written entirely in braille, and he has no one to translate it. The book turns out to be the Bible in the King James Version, and Denzel Washington has memorized it verbatim and ends his life dictating it to someone in Alcatraz.
While the film has many interesting twists and turns and tells us something about violence and the depths to which humans can stoop, I think the most poignant scene is one toward the end of the movie where Denzel Washington says, “Maybe I shouldn’t have been so concerned about protecting this book, but should have been more concerned about living it.” WOW!!! Maybe this line turns out to be a message to all of us who name the name of Christ. This Book needs no protection from us. Turns out it’s a road map if you will, a guide book, or a book of instructions in living the Kingdom life. And so it is meant to be lived, because it is in living it that we truly tell its message to others.