The Energizing Impact of Scripture

Bible Book: Psalms  1 : 1-9
Subject: The Bible; The Word of God; Scripture

Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 – But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. 3 – He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. 9 – Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Back in my youth ministry days, from time to time I wrote Sunday School curriculum for LIFEWAY - and the process was always the same. My editor would call and offer me a writing job. I’d check my schedule to see if I could accept. Once I did, she would send me my contract. Then I’d do research on my assignment for several months, after which I’d join the other writers who were working on that quarter’s material for a week-long writers conference that was usually held in Nashville.

I use the word “conference” loosely because it was not one of those kinds of conferences where you can decide to skip a session and hit the book store. No - this conference was made up of several days of work…days filled with long sessions that you absolutely could not skip. Our editor would group the writers for each unit together around a big table. There would usually be about six to eight of us. Some were contracted to write the commentary and others to do the actual teaching plan and student materials. Then, she’d lead us through every one of the twelve sessions. We’d spend several hours on each session - even those we weren’t assigned to write. We would review the text together. We’d also brainstorm ways to teach that particular text to teens suggesting resources and layout ideas. This would go on from about 8AM until 7PM with just a brief break for lunch. By the way, this was before the invention of STARBUCKS so we were forced to drink mediocre “LIFEWAY COFFEE.” And - I don’t know how it would be for you - but for me all these hours of brain-STORMING was “brain-EXHAUSTING” work. I’d head back to my hotel room each night with a mind that felt literally numb.

Now - to help fortify us for all this brain-draining labor my editor would have piles of candy on the tables in front of us every morning…hard candy, bite-sized candy-bars, Hershey’s KISSES…things like that. She’d tell us that all that candy was “BRAIN FOOD”  - in that it was designed to keep us alert. And - I’m not sure how nutritious it was - but it did INDEED keep us going. Whenever I’d begin to get groggy, I’d pop a Hershey’s Kiss in my mouth and my alertness would return enough that I could begin to work again. I ate a lot of “brain food” candy at those conferences. In fact, I still use that principle to this day. I have this bubble-gum dispenser in my office…and when sermon prep makes me feel sleepy, I pop a few gum balls in my mouth and the chewing action makes me focused enough to go on another hour or so.

Well - as I was “chewing over” the content of this message, I got to thinking - what exactly do you FEED a brain - really? I know there’s got to be something more “mentally nutritious” than candy so what is it? What kind of food does a brain need? What kind of vitamins does our mind require? Last week we touched on this subject when we talked about the fact that to grow spiritually we must renew our minds. Well, what kind of “food” does a MIND need to renew itself? What do you feed the brain of a Christ-follower to enable that brain to produce flourishing thoughts?

In the Bible - this “owner’s Manual for life” that God has given us - we find the answer to these questions because it repeatedly refers to SCRIPTURE - GOD’S WRITTEN WORD - as “brain food.” For example in 1st Peter 2:2-3 compares Scripture as milk when it says,

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

In Hebrews 5:12 we see the same comparison. It says, “You need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need [this] milk.”

I think this principle of nutrition is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

The truth is if we are going to grow into the people God wants us to become our minds need - WE need - the “mental nutrition” that is only found in the Bible. Ortberg writes, “We are to feed our minds from every good source, but there is no source like the Bible. It is a written revelation of Who God is and what God’s purposes are for humanity. No book comes close to it in influence or significance.” Eugene Peterson puts it this way, “Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love.”

I agree with these men. In fact, I think Scripture is sort of an anti-oxidant enriched brain food in that it cleanses our minds of damaging false beliefs and attitudes and misguided plans. Scripture rids our thinking of those things that make us feel afraid or overwhelmed. So, if we are to flourish - if we are to grow as Christ-followers - we must do as we say every Sunday here at Redland. We must, “…let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.” (Colossians 3:16)

With that in mind I want to suggest several tips for Bible study and they are based on Ortberg’s writings…both The Me I Want to Be and The Life You’ve Always Wanted.

I. Ask God to Meet You in Bible Study

First, in order for your mind to benefit from reading the Bible, ask God to MEET YOU in your study.

Before you begin reading, take a moment to pray and ask God to speak to you. Then as you read expect Him to answer that prayer. Begin your time of meditation on Scripture by echoing the words of the Psalmist who prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Law.”(Psalm 119:18) Remember, in John 16:13 Jesus promised that His Holy Spirit would, “…guide us into all truth” so always begin your “meal of meditation” by claiming that promise.

Ask God to meet you and speak to you as you study His Word.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images, and concerns that it may take a long time before God’s Word has swept all else aside and come through. This is the very reason we begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send His Holy Spirit to us through His Word and reveal His Word to us and enlighten us.” Bonhoeffer is right because God WILL answer this prayer. As you read the Bible in this way He may point out certain things that you need to hear to grow - things you would miss otherwise. Remember, as Hebrews 4:12 says, the Bible is different from any other book in that it is a “living” Word. And because it is - one place we meet our living God is within its pages.

Floyd Schneider tells of a Christian university student that shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation often turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible. He said, “No,” and he 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?” His young friend accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term the young Muslim 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 presence and power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!”

“And now you’ll hate me for life?” asked the believer. “No,” he answered, “…but it was an unfair contest.”

And I guess it was, because our living God will indeed speak to us through this living book. I’ve experienced this in my life time and time again. As I read the Bible it’s truth almost literally leapt off the page to address some situation I was going through. It is indeed a LIVING book…so whenever you read it, begin by asking God to meet you…guide you in your study.

II. Read the Bible with a Repentant Spirit

A second principle is to read the Bible with a REPENTANT SPIRIT. Read its pages with a vulnerable heart, not as much to be INFORMED as to be TRANSFORMED. Ask God to use His Word to show you your short-comings and how you need to change in order to grow to be more like Jesus. Pray with the Psalmist and say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) Remember as 2nd Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

So, resolve before you read that you will be OBEDIENT to the Scriptures’ correction. Commit to change your life such that it lines up with the Bible’s teachings.

Do you remember God’s instruction to Joshua when he took over for Moses? God told Joshua, “Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7) Mind-renewing Bible study involves reading with this understanding that you may need to change your life, you may need to make a right or a left turn to stay on the straight and narrow road.

In a Peanuts cartoon strip, Linus shared with Charlie Brown his dreams for the future. “When I get big,” Linus says, “I’m going to be a real fanatic.” Charlie responded, “What are you going to be fanatical about?” With an uncertain look on his face, Linus replied, “Oh, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. I’ll be sort of a wishy-washy fanatic.” Well, the sad truth is many believers are wishy-washy when it comes to the teachings of God’s Word. They follow it only when it is convenient to do so. Meditation - when done with the right attitude - helps us to correct this flawed way of thinking…and line ourselves up such that we stay in the flow of God’s Spirit.

III. Meditate on a Brief Passage

A third tip is to study or meditate on a fairly BRIEF passage or narrative. Now, it is indeed important for us to be familiar with ALL of the Bible but to read the Bible in a way that helps us to flourish, we need to go SLOWLY. We need to savor each passage. Madame Guyon wrote, “If you read it quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.”

So, to get the full “nutritious” value of the Bible take a short passage - perhaps a few verses every day - and immerse yourself in it. Read it slowly, over and over again, the way you would a letter you received from your wife or husband while one of you is stationed thousands of miles away from home, in a place so remote there was no phone or e-mail. Try to absorb each word of the verse, wringing every ounce of spiritual nourishment from it. This leads to the fourth tip.

IV. Take One Verse with you Through the Day

Take ONE VERSE with you through the day. Remember Psalm 1 says that our lives begin to yield Spiritual fruit when we meditate on the Bible, “day and night”  -  in other words, all day long. Do this because meditation is never a quick thing. I mean, there’s no such thing as an Evelyn Wood speed meditation course. No, effective Bible study is a slow as the process by which a tree’s roots draw moisture from a flowing river. It’s allowing the message of the Bible to truly sink in so it can begin to affect the way we think and act. Remember, the goal is not to get through the Scriptures but rather to get the Scriptures through us. So, read it slowly. Don’t hurry through it. Success in Bible study is not measured by the number of pages you read. It’s found in the understanding that we don’t read the Bible daily just to check that spiritual chore off our “to do” list.

No - read as long as it takes for you to get a handle on what you’ve read. And then take it a step further and pick one of the verses and think about it all day! I mean, hurrying through Bible reading just to say we did it, well it’s is like taking a bite of your favorite food and swallowing it without chewing, thereby missing most of the taste.

Whenever I have a headache I take a couple Tylenol and I lie down for a while to let it kick in. I do this because I know it takes time for the pain reliever to enter my bloodstream and get to the place where it hurts. Well, the same principle is found in effective Scripture reading. We need to give it time to sink in. We need to give our spirit time to absorb its truth.

I’ve seen this same principle in my sermon prep in that I’ve found I can’t rush things. I can put in about two hours straight - max. And then I need to stop and think about what I’ve studied. When I get to that point, I go for a run or a walk or something, but I give my brain time to let the content of my message sink in. If I do, I begin to see new insights and applications - and it’s the same in any form of Bible study.

Part of this aspect of drawing nutrition from the Scriptures involves taking one or two verses with us all day to dwell on them…and by the way, one of the best ways to do that is to say them OUR LOUD to yourself. In fact, the Old Testament word for meditation meant to “read aloud.”

God told Joshua to do this. Remember? In Joshua 1:8 God said that Joshua was not to let the Words of Scripture depart from his mouth which I think meant God intended Joshua to say these verses over and over again.

Reading the Bible out loud like this is good because it gives the reader focused, sustained attention. It is built around the principle that says, “What the mind repeats, it retains.” Warren Weirsbe puts it this way. He says, “If you don’t talk to your Bible your Bible isn’t likely to talk to you.” I’ve found this to be true in my own life. Several times when I’ve been afraid I’ve said Joshua 1:9 out loud to myself. It’s where God said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” In fact, there have been days when I carried that verse on a 3 by 5 card in my pocket and repeated it over and over and over again until I actually believed it and acted like I believed it!

V. Memorize Scripture

A fifth aspect of mind-nourishing Bible study is allowing Scripture to become part of your MEMORY. Now - I know that memorization gets a bad wrap. It scares us. We think we can’t do it but we can. We memorize advertizing slogans all the time. Plus - last week I spoke with some of you after the service who had memorized entire portions of dialogue from that old Star Trek episode I mentioned. And it aired in the 1960’s! Memorization is something ANYONE can do and it can have a wonderfully healthy impact on our mind’s growth and development. Ortberg writes, “When we have stored wonderful words in our memory, we will have a much richer inner life than someone who does not. We will have the joy of being able to savor great words and wonderful ideas without aid.”

Eva Hermann spent two years in a Nazi prison camp. She wrote how a young cell mate from a Catholic orphanage one day happened to recite the prayer of St. Teresa that goes like this: “Let naught trouble thee; let naught frighten thee; all things pass. God alone changeth not. Whoever has God has everything God alone sufficith.”When Eva saw how much this helped the girl, she began to repeat the prayer at the end of every day. Eva later told how her time in prison was transformed by the words she had memorized. She wrote, “We should not imagine that a litany is thoughtless mumbling; real strength can come from it.” Eva testified that through memorization she met God in that Nazi prison camp in a way she had never met Him anywhere else. She learned that the words we carry in our minds are available to transform any moment - and this is especially true of Scripture. In fact, memorizing Scripture is one of the most powerful means of transforming our minds. This is what Psalm 119 means when it says, “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I may not sin against You.” As we memorize it, the Bible’s principles and precepts become part of us, part of our perspective on life, part of our thinking and reasoning and acting. I mean, the more Scripture we “put up here” the more we become like its Author.

My computer has all kinds of programs that help it to function. It can do word processing and data base management. It can send and receive e-mail. It can protect itself against viruses. It even has a program that will shut the computer down after it has been left unused for a certain amount of time. It automatically re-sets itself for daylight savings time. It has a screen saver to keep the monitor from burning out. It has all kinds of programs and they all combine to make my computer run better. Well, Scripture memory does the same for us. It changes our mental programming; it makes our MINDS “run better.” It changes the way we respond to life’s fears and stresses by changing the way we perceive and think. For example, if PRIDE is a problem, we can “download” Philippians 2:3 by memorizing it’s guidance to “ nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others better than yourselves.”If LUST is a problem, we can download verses like Colossians 3:5 where it says, “Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” If you’re a Christian and you are afraid of DEATH you can deal with your fear by memorizing - internalizing - the words of Jesus in John 5:24 where He said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him Who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

As Ortberg points out in The Me I Want To Be our brain actually grows synapses according to the things we set our minds on. Now think about that! God has built our minds such that we can literally change them physically - change them such that we begin look at things through the perspective of Scriptural truth. Memorization is the way we take advantage of this wonderful blessing of creation.

VI. Don’t Just Read – DO!

Here’s one final tip when it comes to reading the Bible. Don’t just read … DO! As James 1:2 says, “Be DOERS of the Word and not merely HEARERS.” A businessman known for his ruthlessness, arrogance, and religiosity once told Mark Twain he intended to visit the Holy Land before he died, in order to climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud. Twain said, “I have a better idea. You could stay in Boston and keep them.” So often we are like this businessman when it comes to the Bible. We’d rather read it than obey it.

Well, one of the best ways to FLOURISH is to actually apply the teachings of the Bible to our own lives. This is another way we can “…taste and see that the Lord is good.” As we obey His written law…we see that it is true. We see that it is indeed THE Good book - given to us by our Good God. So…as you read the Bible…commit to DO the Bible. Ortberg says, “Practice loving a difficult person or try forgiving someone. Give away some money. Tell someone thank you. Encourage a friend. Bless an enemy. Say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Worship God. You already know more than you need to know. Don’t debate minutiae. Just go practice.”

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these Words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.” In my mind, that word picture - someone who has built their house on the rock - in my mind that’s a great word picture to describe someone of CONVICTION. You see a person of CONVICTION is someone who sincerely believes something - and you see their sincerity in the fact that they live their lives according to their beliefs. They base their behavior on their beliefs.

I grew up in Dover, Delaware and there is a large Amish population there. Back then the Amish children attended public school with us so we interacted with them every day. Well - as I got to know them and talk to them about their strange dress I became impressed by their CONVICTION that the old ways were best .and I was impressed because they didn’t just SAY they believed all this - they actually lived their belief. Their “SAY” and their “DO” matched - if you get my drift. For example, they said they believed it was wrong to drive automobiles and they stood by their conviction because they rode in horse drawn buggies all over town - even in the dead of winter. They said they believed it was wrong to dress according to the world’s ever changing clothing styles and they stood by that - because every day they the boys wore the same black pants with suspenders and the girls the same plain one-color dresses with bonnets.

Well, flourishing Christians are people who firmly hold convictions as well - SCRIPTURALLY-BASED convictions. Maturing Christ-followers pattern their lives after the Bible’s teachings - even if that means resisting the world’s influence so that we stand out. And, in a sense, we are like the Amish because as James 1:27 says, we must “…keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.”


In the 2nd century, Trajan, the Roman Emperor wanted to dishonor Christianity and stop its rapid growth so he appointed Pliny to examine the Christians and bring a report back to him. After a thorough investigation Pliny gave this report, “They bound themselves by an oath, not for any criminal end, but to avoid theft or robbery or adultery, never to break their word, or repudiate a deposit when called on to refund it.” In other words, unlike the world around them, the Christians Pliny observed held to their convictions and lived such righteous lives that not even their critics could find fault with them.

Well, a flourishing Christian will be known for this depth of conviction - because following Jesus doesn’t just mean we BELIEVE but that we BEHAVE…Authentic Christian faith relates not only to THEOLOGY but also to MORALITY. As James 1:20 says, if we truly follow Jesus we will have the conviction to live, “…the righteous life that God desires.”

And - as we do this - as we LIVE OUT the Bible’s teachings - the people around us begin to recognize us as Christ-followers. In Eternity magazine Olga Wetzel tells of a time she was riding a bus from Flagstaff, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico. They stopped at a small wayside station in the middle of nowhere and a young Indian boy got on and took the seat next to her. It was a bitterly cold night and in the warmth of the bus the little boy soon fell asleep. After about an hour he woke up and walked to the front and asked the driver if they were near his destination.

The driver angrily snapped back, “No. We passed that a long time ago. Why didn’t you get off?” The little boy said, “Well, stop the bus and I’ll walk back.” The driver said, “No. It’s too cold. You’d freeze to death. You’ll have to go into Albuquerque and then get a ticket to ride the bus back.” When he came back to his seat disappointment showed on his little face. He told Olga that his sister was waiting for him back at the stop and that he was afraid about finding the right bus back and didn’t think he had enough money for the ticket. She said, “Don’t worry. You stay with me and I’ll help you get on the right bus.” Then she went up to the driver and asked him to make sure the return driver would not charge the boy. The driver reluctantly agreed.

Then she put her arm around the little boy and said, “Everything will be alright. You don’t need to worry about anything.” They rode on for a few minutes and then he tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “Lady, are you a Christian?” Has anyone ever asked you that question? What a compliment that little boy paid Olga Wetzel that night! What a healthy mind she had! I mean, she was someone who didn’t just READ the BIBLE…SHE DID the Bible.

This morning as we come to our time of decision I would like to challenge you all to join me in practicing what I’ve preached. We’ve prepared a special book mark with twelve Scripture verses on it. I want to challenge you to use those verses as a way to try out the principles of this message. I want you to study these verses but don’t do so quickly….just one per week. Every day I want you to begin your day by thinking of that week’s verse. Ask God to meet you in your meditation. Study it with a repentant spirit. Be teachable in your study. Say it out loud several times throughout the day. MEMORIZE it. And commit to LIVE it out…commit to make it’s truth part of the way you live. If you pledge to join me in this take your book marks and hold them up high! Thank you.