Remember the Words

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 ESV

When our boys were small, my wife, would often say to them, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!” She did that because she knew that the difference between them hearing and really listening. Just like millions of other boys before them, our sons were hoping she would just finish what she was saying so that they could get back to what they were doing. But Nancy, bless her heart, was way ahead of them because she knew something they didn’t. She had been a kid once and had tried the same thing! She knew that until they looked her in the eyes, that their minds were too busy to pay attention.

In that same way, when Paul was giving his final instructions to the leaders of the church he wants them to listen and focus on the words of Jesus. Note that Paul does not say, remember me, nor does he tell them to travel to holy places or keep special artifacts. He knew that the only thing that would carry them through difficult times and give life to the growing church was the words of Jesus Christ. But what is it about those words of Jesus that makes them so powerful?

If we go back to the book Psalms, King David tells us that He loves God’s words because they are the sweetest thing in life. They are not dry and tasteless like fast food. They are the gourmet delights of heaven! How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

Secondly, the words of Jesus are important because they are different than the billions of words that have been spoken, printed or recorded in the memories of computers. The words of Jesus are more than just ink on a page or a digital fingerprint on hard drive because they have spiritual meaning and life giving power -the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63. We will only understand them if as my wife told our sons, we look Jesus in the eyes as He is talking to us.

Last of all the words of Jesus are eternal and unchanging. We can count on them every day of our lives. That same persistence that Nancy used when she made the boys look at her as she was talking, she also put into practice when she checked if they had done what she had told them. “Mom can we go out and play?” they would ask. Her answer was always the same, “Did you clean your room like I said?’ One day Jesus is coming back and He will not ask us how many times we have been to church or how much we gave to the poor. What Jesus will ask is if we have kept the words that He gave us

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21:33

The words of Jesus are sweeter than honey. The words of Jesus give us power and life. The words of Jesus Christ will remain standing when heaven and earth will pass away. What better reason could we have than that to remember his words today?

Spiritual Bug Squashing

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. James 1:23-24 ESV

A few weeks ago I shared how on the farm I needed a flashlight to find my way out to the barn and how that is like God’s word being a lamp for our path. But sometimes God’s word also shows us some things on the inside of us that really aren’t so great. That reminds me of a recent incident coming into the bathroom in the morning and switching on the light. Suddenly I saw perched on the lip of our brand new sink, the biggest ugliest palmetto bug ever! It didn’t take more than a few seconds for me to usher our uninvited guest into eternity and thankfully though I looked high and low he hadn’t brought along any friends or relatives! Now you would think it pretty strange if I had simply switched off the light and gone back to bed. You would probably say, “That’s disgusting! You’ve got to kill that critter!” But I could reply. “Yeah but it’s so much easier to just go back to sleep.”

Now that’s a funny story and even if I thought going back to bed was an option, my wife would never let me get away with it. So let’s ask ourselves today, how often do we wake up in the morning, read our Bible and decide that flicking off the light seems easier than dealing with the issues it reveals? Now I admit that, the spiritual solutions to straightening out relationships, telling someone we’re sorry or paying back an overdue loan from a friend are all much more painful than getting rid of a palmetto bug. But James encourages us in the following verse that if we take action, God has a special blessing in store. Jesus doesn’t just leave us on our own to do all the spiritual bug squashing . Instead He comes along side with his Holy Spirit to show us what to do next. We must never forget to be thankful for the blood of Jesus that forgives our past sins. But we must also remember that God wants to shine His word in our hearts, so that as we walk up His pathway we can live a life for Him with the light on, both on the inside and out!

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:25

Poetry and The Love of God

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 11:18-20 ESV

I have been writing verse since my early teens, and though I wince when I read some of those overly melodramatic lines, occasionally people were willing to pay for a poem. Maybe my fascination was connected to my parents’ idea that learning poetry was an important part of an education. I recall being compelled to learn, the Charge of the Light Brigade and Tennyson’s words “Half a league half league half a league onward” still stick in my memory along side of Bible passages learned for catechism class and the lyrics to my favorite Beatles’ songs. What all of these pretty diverse sources had in common is that I remembered them.

Now this simple post is hardly an adequate place for answering the question “What exactly is the purpose of poetry” But this morning we could simply ask “What is God’s purpose for poetry?” Interestingly the Bible verse today talks about a parents’ job of teaching God’s words to their children. Poetry is one of God’s ways of passing along the story of His love so that they will remember. Think of the scene from the Last Supper as Jesus was breaking the bread and blessing the cup. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” and then they sang a hymn (A poem from the book of Psalms.) God often uses the poetic form so that we will not only hear Him but then also remember what He has said for the rest of our lives. Of course the Old Testament book of Psalms is well known as poetry but even the gospels are filled with poetry like, The Beatitudes, The Lord’s Prayer and the song of Mary.

So since we believe that God has called us to write a bit of verse it will helps us immensely to begin with His purpose and that is that He wants people to hear and remember Him! We need to keep things plain, simple and yet attractive. Just consider how all the obscure and sometimes strange modern forms of poetry pale in comparison to one simple childhood poem in terms of impact.

 Twinkle twinkle little star How I wonder what you are
 Up above the world so high like a diamond in the sky 

This anonymous work which is hardly even considered “Real Poetry” tells us about the wonder of childhood in just two lines. Simplicity married to meaning makes a great poem even if no other poets like it. Poetry isn’t meant just for poets, it is meant for everyone. So if we want to pass along to the children of the next generation the great wonder of the love of Jesus let’s keep it simple. In the most ordinary of things there is beauty and a song in even the smallest puff of wind.

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass
He speaks to me everywhere

Have a blessed day! Pass along the love of God to at least one person if not with words then with the poetry of your day lived for Him.