Studies on Psalm 119 VI: (Psalm 119:121-144)

| Saturday, November 26, 2011

26/27 Nov 2011 – Pr Chris Kam
Studies on Psalm 119 VI: (Psalm 119:121-144)
The Four Marks of a Man of the Word
(Pardon some grammatical and structural mistakes. It is unedited and written in a conversational style.)

Interestingly, in the Quran, Jews and Christians are called People of the Book. For the Jews, it’s their Torah, our OT and for the Christians, it’s both the NT and the OT.

It is hard to read the Word of God without being confronted with who we are.
“Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.” Charles Dickens.

The Bible will reveal the depravity of our human hearts and at the same time show us something about the dignity of a human life in the way God sees us. We will be amazed to learn that God made us in His image and He declared us and everything He had made as very good(Turn to one another and affirm it)

My own journey with God – I was introduced at the age of 15 to this incredible book and I still remember the Good News Bible that I read for the very first time. I attended an Anglican mission primary school and attended my very first Sunday School when I was in Standard one. I still remember the fun and presents. There was a long pause until I was invited to join the youth fellowship of this church when I was 15. I bought a Bible for myself and I remember vividly lying on my bed reading with fascination the book of Revelation. You must remember that this is in the 70's and I was fascinated by the 666 sign on the right hand or the forehead. How was it possible that one cannot buy or trade without this sign and with today's technology of course, we know we can embed this sign under our skin with a computer chip. I was fascinated with stories of the past, the relevance for the present and the hope of the future. This book changed my life as a teenager to who I am today.

The Psalmist is deeply impacted by the Word of God. From this passage, and other passages from Psalms, we can see clearly Four Marks of a Man of the Word. (or woman, generic)

1.      Deeply Devoted to the Word of God and the God of the Word

What does the Psalmist says about the Word (Law, Testimonies, Judgement, Precepts, Statues, Commandments, Ordinance, Promises and Word)?
127 Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, 
128 and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path. 
129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. 
131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. 
137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. 
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. 
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them. 
142 Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. 

a.      From the language of the writer, you can feel the consuming love for the Word.

I am a man of one Book. John Wesley.

It is said that when the famous missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, started his trek across Africa he had 73 books in 3 packs, weighing 180 pounds (81 kg). After the party had gone 300 miles (500 km), Livingstone was obliged to throw away some of the books because of the fatigue of those carrying his baggage. As he continued on his journey his library grew less and less, until he had but one book left--his Bible. It was the living Word of God, which he could not do without. He believed it and found it to be true. It was his most treasured possession.

Best seller single volume of all time (Not including the Bible):
A Tale of Two Cities by  Charles Dickens, published in 1859,  200 million copies.

December 2007 issue of Time: China’s New Bestseller: The Bible
China had officially printed 50 million bibles and it is still not enough.

"No one really knows how many copies of the Bible have been printed, sold, or distributed. The Bible Society’s attempt to calculate the number printed between 1816 and 1975 produced the figure of 2,458,000,000. A more recent survey, for the years up to 1992, put it closer to 6,000,000,000 in more than 2,400 languages and dialects. 200-300 millions are distributed each year. Whatever the precise figure, the Bible is by far the bestselling book of all time."

My wife and I just returned from a 3-week holiday trip to the States. My wife was there for a 4-day conference and because she could get a buy-one-free-one ticket, I jumped at the offer. This is the first time we were away from our three boys this long. We were more worried for them than they are for us. In fact one of them when asked how they felt about us being away for so long, he said, “Very good, a lot of freedom!”

We realized that whichever hotel that we stayed in the different cities, or at the different airports, or wherever we go, we did one thing which we don’t always do so passionately in the past. The constant question is, “Is there any free wifi connection?” We will be skyping the boys almost everyday. We were passionate about the wifi as a tool because we wanted to connect with the boys. We wanted to communicate with them because we love them.

Very much like love letters for courting couples – waiting in anticipation of communicating with each other. During my days in universities overseas, snail mail was the only option. We write a letter and wait for 2-3 weeks. 1 week for the letter to go, another week for the person to write and a further one week for the reply to arrive. Today of course you have skype.

The Bible is very much like that. It is a love letter, a tool that God used to write to us. By itself, it is only paper and ink. What is important is not the tool, but the Writer. This is a history book, a love story, a biography (written account of and about God), and an autobiography (God writing about Himself). It is also an instruction and rule book. But it is much more than that. It is a book to introduce you to the Author and that this Author is inviting you to His house to live in there and be a part of His family and to have a relationship with Him.

This will very much reveal the reason for our lack of passion for the Bible. The only way we will truly have a passion is to know this God of the Word. If we read this merely as an academic exercise, it will be hard and tedious. But when you have a relationship with this God, you can’t wait but read His letter.

b.      He recognises that God is the One who gives understanding.
a. From the language of the writer, you can feel the consuming love for the Word.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. 
135 Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees. 
144 Your statutes are for ever right; give me understanding that I may live. 

The Bible is for everyone, from the uneducated to the educated. So don't fret if you don't understand it first time. Often God will reveal certain truth at the appropriate time. HS will reveal all truths.

John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
Few tips:
·         Don't try to merely read the Bible without asking God to help you. Pray and invite the Holy Spirit to teach you.
·         Read not just to know more about the book and stories, but know the Writer and His heart.
·         Read the whole Bible to know this God. No one reads a novel by starting in the middle and then reads parts of it as he goes along. Bible without verses.
·         Do it systematically each day and don't do it in chunks - missed 4 days and then crammed in 5 days reading on the fifth day. Follow our Bible Reading Plan and journalling exercises.

BIBLE - Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth

The Bible introduces the Author and we are told how we can have a relationship with Him. There is a big difference therefore between reading the Bible as a rule book and reading it as a love letter from Someone. One is reading it from the head. The other from the heart.

The Bible is like a telescope. If a man looks through his telescope he sees worlds beyond; but if he looks at his telescope, he does not see anything but that. The Bible is a thing to be looked through to see that which is beyond; but most people only look at it and so they see only the dead letter. - Bishop Phillip Brooks.

2.      Recognises the Defiance of his hearts
141 Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. 
36 Turn my heart towards your statutes and not towards selfish gain. 
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. 

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

As we read on and the stories unfold of humankind, we see the depravity of our hearts when we sin and turn away from God. We saw the capacity of the human heart for evil because the very dignity of human free will can be used for evil and not for good. My wife and I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC where it documented the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Humans were treated like animals to be slaughtered. We also visited the 911 memorial in New York. We still see today what the human heart is capable of. The evil that men can do to each other.

One cannot be neutral about the Bible. If we say it is a holy book from God, then we cannot take some parts of it about blessings and reject the rest about the punishment of sin and eternal condemnation of hell. Often people react upon reading the Bible because they like the 'God is love' part but don't like the part that God is also holy and just. We still argue that if God is a God of love, how can He allow people to go to hell? These arguments come from people who read a bit of the Bible but not in its entire context. They do not know the God of the Bible, that we don’t deserve anything but the wrath of God because of our sins and it is through the grace and love of God that we are given a free way out of this condemnation when we accept what Jesus did on the cross for us. (We don’t deserve to be saved.)

We tend to think that the older we grow as a Christian, the easier it becomes. But I find it to the contrary. The older I grow as a Christian, I grow more in recognition that I truly do have a very sinful heart. Given a chance, I will do what is right in my own eyes. Consistent in pattern of all writings of godly saints, they feel the same way about themselves.

Romans 7 (Struggle in his inner self. His conclusion: 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!)

What I have learnt is that there is a greater dependence on the Lord as I grow older to deal with me. The Word exposes us for who we are. That’s why when we don’t spend time with God in His Word, we become more casual and bolder in sin.

Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfil it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him. (Saint Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine.)

This was how Susannah Wesley defined "sin" to her young son, John Wesley: "If you would judge of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of pleasure, then take this simple rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things--that to you is sin."

Romans 3:23 tells us that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
We have much baggages and bondages in our lives:
- Some are trapped in bitterness.
- Some in addiction.
- Some in sinful habits.
- Some in deep personal confusion.

The Word of God helps to be aware of our sinful heart and gives us the way forward to live victoriously.
3.      Accepts the Discipline of the God of the Word 
124 Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decree.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. 
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. 
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. 
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. 

While we love the wonderful promises of God, we must remember that God's primary purpose is not to make us happy, but holy. While there are many blessings in being a Christian, yet God is more interested to mould us into His image and have a Christ-like character.  Many Christians can fall into the trap of treating God like a big departmental store. We go and choose what we like and leave out what we don't like. We allowed consumerism to seep into our Christian life. We do what's convenience rather than what's sacrificial. There is a big disconnect with what is inside from the outside. It’s not the same. While there's no reason why God cannot bless us financially and with good health, we must not forget the other part of volunteer simplicity, of sacrifice. Many have lived out the principle of living simply so that others may simply live. We too have many encouraging e.g. of people who could have spend more time making more money, yet they tithe their energy, effort and money for the Kingdom. Some choose a lesser paying job so that they have more time for what's important. Do not envy those who have big pay check because they struggle more inside.

Often God has to discipline us because we are hard of hearing. A man of the Word will recognize that God will discipline him for his good.

Hebrews 12
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

God is good. God is in control. God will bring things to pass.
Ask not why, but what you can learn from it.

But we have to be careful that we do not look for instant answers:
Perseverance, Condensed from Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back by Charles Swindoll.

Flaw 4: Being exposed to sound Bible teaching automatically solves problems. Bible instruction alone will not result in instant solutions to problems. No matter how reliable the teaching or how gifted the teacher, the declaration of truth does not provide the removal of difficulties.

Think of the Scriptures as an absolutely accurate map. A map tells you how to get to a certain destination. But just looking at a map won't automatically transport you to Arizona or England or Peru. Getting to those places means you have to make the the cost...take the time for travel...stay at it until you arrive. In a word, persevere. So it is in the Christian life. God's map is reliable and available. It is also clear and direct. But there is no hocus-pocus in its pages that automatically sends its reader by way of a magic carpet.

Please don't misunderstand. I love God's Word! I am more convinced than ever in my life that its trustworthy truths are of inestimable value. But although the Bible may be a trustworthy book, it is certainly no magic potion that you rub on yourself three times a day to chase the devil away. Nor is it something you take internally with a pious promise to God, hoping that the next morning you will suddenly know and experience all its truths.

There is no such "instant maturity" available on this earth. God does not offer a formula that produces fully mature Christians overnight. Christian growth comes through hard-core, gutsy perseverance (a forgotten word!) of applying what you hear and obeying it...and thereby learning how to handle those inevitable problems.

4.      Prepared to confront the Disregard of the world
122 Ensure your servant's well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me.
126 It is time for you to act, O Lord;  your law is being broken. 
134 Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.
139 My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.

The world will disregard the standards of God and therefore you will be the subject of ridicule. Better get use to it. You should not be surprise that this is happening. This has already happen to the early Christian. 1 Peter 4: 12-13
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  

We are called aliens and strangers in this world. We are pilgrims and sojourners, temporary passing through to a better place. We are called Living Stones, Royal Priesthood and Holy Nation in 1 Peter 2. We are called to be different from the world, reflecting the image of God to the world.

Aliens and strangers of this world. You have become a misfit when you accept the Lord. You don’t fit in anymore. You don’t belong. Do you feel like that when you become a Christian? I used to do this, but I no longer do. My mouth got cleaned up. What seems perfectly okay before cos everyone is doing it become morally wrong today. Your friends may ask you, “Is there something wrong with you?”

The greatest compliment someone can give you as a Christian is they say to you “You are different now.” I hope in a right way. I remember this lecture mate in Australian, Mike, a bushy hair and beardy, sat down with me during lunch, turned to me and said: “You are different, you know.” “What do you mean?” “I don’t know, just different from anyone else.” I realise that the reason why he said I am different was because he always felt he was an outcast, nobody wants to be his friend, whether by his looks or mannerism, but I was one of the very few who would bother to be his friend.

Because you are different, some will like you, some will not and some will even hate you. Simply because you are a man or woman of the Word. You will be different because the Word of God and the God of the Word will transform you. Don’t be surprise by that.

If you are not any different when you start the New Year in 2012, as compared to 1 Jan 2011, something is wrong somewhere. As we grow in width and breadth of Scripture, we must also grow in depth.

If the Bible is God’s love letter to us, what’s our love letter to God? Our lives. Get to know the God of the Word.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual a act of worship.  2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sincerely Yours by Gary Chapman
(Click on the streampad bar below for the song)
Lord I take my pen to write to You a letter
Knowing even now You know what’s on my mind
But I think perhaps it might make me feel better
If I see myself here written in a line …..

But as I close I see a phrase I took for granted
And it leaps out as I see it written there
And as the truth of it begins
To become planted
These two words have now become
My heartfelt prayer

Sincerely Yours
Lord, I sign my life to You
Sincerely Yours
With a strong and honest wish
To be the best that I can be
At what I am
Without a thought for me
Lord, teach me now to be …..

Sincerely Yours
Without a proud or selfish line
Sincerely Yours
From now until there is no time
Please make my life become a letter
You can keep
And never throw away
I’ll write it till the day that I become
Sincerely Yours
Sincerely Yours
Sincerely Yours
Sincerely Yours

My Sermon 27/28 Mar 2010 - The Disciples & the Storm (Mk. 4:35-41)

| Thursday, March 25, 2010
My opening song:

Living He loved me
Dying He saved me
Buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
O Glorious Day!

Paintings of Mark 4:35-41

                     Ludolf Backhuyse - 
                     Christ in Storm on Sea of Galilee 

                   Rembrant - Christ in the Storm

Here's the interview with Rick Warren:

Summary Version:
One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me.  I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.  

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.  

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.

We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.  

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.  
And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:  
If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is “my problem, my issues, my pain.” But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.  

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better...God didn't put me on earth just to fulfil a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do. That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.

Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD." 

John Wesley’s own experience with the Morovians Christians
John and his brother Charles were sent by the Church of England as missionaries to Georgia, in the American colony. On board ship, while sailing to America, he saw a group of German Moravians who were unafraid of a great storm that nearly destroyed the ship. John himself was terrified by the storm. But those German Christians sang songs and had no fear. This impressed him greatly.

John failed as a missionary in Georgia. During this time he realized that he had never been truly converted. As he left Georgia for a return trip to England he knew he had failed. He wrote in his Journal, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? Who shall deliver me from this heart of unbelief? O, who will deliver me from the fear of death?”

When he got back to London John Wesley met Peter Bohler, a member of the group of German Moravians who had impressed him with their courage during that storm at sea. Peter Bohler instructed him in how to experience conversion. The counselling of Bohler and his readings from Luther’s commentary on Galatians, which emphasized justification by faith in Christ alone, prepared him for true conversion.

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society [Bible study group] in Aldersgate, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while [Luther] was describing the change which God works in the heart though faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and had saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Story of Joseph Scriven

In 1875, Mr Ira Sanskey, Moody’s famous gospel singer, was in the midst of compiling the very first Gospel hymn book, came across a hymn in a pamphlet of Sunday School hymns. The completed manuscript was already in the hands of the publisher but he liked the hymn so much, he added the hymn at the very last minute. The composer of the hymn’s tune was his good friend, Mr Charles Converse and they thought the writer of the lyrics belong to a Scottish minister by the name of Horatius Bonar.

But it was years later that they discovered Pr Bonar was not the author but another person by the name of Joseph Scriven. Joseph was an Irishman born in Dublin in the year 1820 and was educated in Trinity college in his home city. In due time, he was to be engaged to a beautiful lady and on the eve of their wedding, she died in an accidental drowning. As a result of that, he became a Christian in his sorrows. Shortly after at the age of 25, he decided to migrate to Canada where he settled. While there, he was engaged to another lady and just before their wedding, she too became ill with pneumonia and died. Heartbroken he never married and but devoted his life in serving the poor and needy.

When he was 35 in the year 1855, he wrote a poem to comfort his mother in Ireland during a difficult period of her life. It was entitled “Pray without Ceasing.” He never told anyone about it but his mother gave a copy of that poem to someone and it ended up in the Sunday school pamphlet. When he was dying at the age of 66, a neighbour who was visiting him saw this poem on a table by his bed and he asked him “Are you the author of this lovely hymn?” Joseph replied: “The Lord and I did it together.” It was then the author of this famous hymn was eventually discovered and known throughout the world after he died.


What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations!
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.