Dear Friend in Christ:
Recently, I had breakfast with my good friends Ronnie Head and Pastor Terry Ragsdale (Grand Bay Community Church, Grand Bay, Alabama). Ron is the founder of Head’s Heating and Air Conditioning and is considered a “guru” of heating and air in our part of the world. We have a favorite old country breakfast joint called “Time to Eat” we often visit down in Theodore, Alabama; the folks there know how to wake you up in the morning.
Over plates of fried eggs, creamy grits, savory Conecuh sausage, and steaming cups of hot coffee, Ron told the story of a self-employed friend of his in Georgia who was an expert in repairing diesel engines. This man knew engines inside and out; he could build them and could fix any problem. In fact, a world-leading diesel engine manufacturer often brought this man in to solve especially challenging problems with their own equipment.
When asked why this company consulted him instead of their own repair specialists, he said, “Most of these guys are so good, they think they know everything, but when they run into a problem, they are too proud to go back and look at the repair manual. When I run into a problem like that, I’m not ashamed to go back to the book and find the answers.”
After Ron told me that story, I said, “There’s a sermon in that.” So, here we go!
CHECKING THE MANUAL
What would happen if the Church lost the Bible? What if the institution carried on without having the Word of God present or known? You could still be a professional regarding certain rules and rituals. You could dress in fine robes, enjoy fine orators, and exciting musical performers. You could have an amazing sound system and light show, comfortable pews, and convenient parking. But, without the Word of God, would it really be Church, or just a religious form?
Do you think such an institution might depart from its original purpose or vision? If one is building a house, and decides to part ways with the blueprints, do you think the house will stand when tested by storms?
Scripture and history sadly reveal the answer to that question. The Bible, a love letter from the Creator to His creation, is also a manual for faithful living. It is a trustworthy compass that keeps us on track and calls us back when we go astray. Those who forget it, and neglect to be grateful, ultimately find themselves stuck in a quagmire, slowly being pulled down into a murky abyss.
The writer of Psalm 119 understood the life-giving, life-saving, life-changing power of God’s Word.
“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore, I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:97-105).
In Jesus, we have the Living Word. Jesus came, not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill the Word (see Matthew 5:17; John 1). He completes and displays the full meaning of it, empowers us by the Holy Spirit to walk in it, and shows mercy when we miss the mark. In His love, He convicts us of sin, calls us to repentance, and puts us back on the right path. We washes us, renews us in His Spirit, and opens our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to what He is saying.
Again, Psalm 119 gives us this vital life key: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). No matter how old we may be, or how many times we have read His Word, it is vital for us to continually stay in His Word; reading it, meditating on it, praying over it, singing it, memorizing it, and asking the Author to inscribe it upon our hearts and minds. I’ve heard it said that when we read the Bible, we are communing with the Author. What a blessing! At any time, He welcomes me to ask Him the meaning or significance of His Word.
In fact, the Bible itself is a big part of God’s washing and renewing process. The Apostle Paul told the Church in Ephesus that Christ loves and gives Himself to the Church “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26).
LOSING THE WORD
I remember my Grandpa Simpson, who was a missionary and pastor for more than 60 years, often saying that when we read the Bible, it is reading us. He also used to say we are our neighbor’s Bible; even if they do not pick up the book, they are always reading us. God help me to accurately portray and live out what is in His Word.
In 2 Kings 22, we read an amazing story of a young King named Josiah. He became king at only eight years old after his wicked father, King Amon, was murdered by his own servants. Then the people of the land killed all the conspirators. Amon’s father, King Manasseh, had also been wicked and idolatrous. These are not ideal circumstances for an eight-year-old to become king!
Here’s how bad things had become: the very Word of the Lord, the cornerstone of the nation, had been lost and forgotten. But Josiah, even at a young age, looked to the Lord with a tender heart, and walked in the ways of his ancestor King David. One day, Josiah, now aged 26, sent funds to the High Priest so that the House of the Lord might be repaired. During the restoration process, the workers made a startling discovery; they found the Book of the Law. It was there in the House of the Lord the whole time! But it had been lost.
Imagine that! God’s Word was neglected and misplaced within God’s House. Wow, it’s a good thing nothing like that can happen in our time, am I right? Back to the story … King Josiah listened intently as the words of the Book were read to him. Look at his response:
“Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found;for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us’” (2 Kings 22:11-13).
Josiah tore his clothes, a sign of intense grief, as he realized how far the nation had strayed from the will and ways of God. It was the Word that revealed their sin and provoked a spirit of reverence and repentance before God. Josiah understood that actions must be taken immediately to correct decades of wicked behavior. And so, his advisors sought out Huldah the prophetess. She confirmed the gravity of the sin, the coming judgement, but also salvation for King Josiah:
“‘Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,’ says the Lord. ‘Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place’” (2 Kings 22:19-20).
King Josiah restored true worship in Judah for the rest of his life, but he sadly died in battle; his son, Jehoahaz, became the next king. Jehoahaz did not walk in the ways of the Lord or Josiah and ruled wickedly, as did the next king, his brother, Jehoiakim. Calamity came upon Judah, just as Huldah had prophesied.
Rejection of God’s Word brings terrible consequences; sowing the seed of His Word produces a harvest of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Where are your eyes focused today? Where are you investing your time and resources? What has your heart?
Some of us may need to get back to the Word. We may need a good washing. Recent years have been difficult, painful, and confusing for many. Our eyes may have, at times, strayed from the Word and from Jesus. Perhaps our hopes have been misplaced. Many are disappointed and disillusioned, having put their trust in false prophets and vapors. Loss of hope is devastating; without hope, we cannot start the next day.
The Good News is that even if we take our eyes off of the Lord, He never takes His eyes off of us. Even when our hearts go astray, He never leaves nor forsakes us. He calls us back to the Word and ways that lead to life instead of death; hope, instead of despair; vision, instead of blindness; clarity, instead of confusion; strength, instead of weakness; joy, instead of sorrow; healing, instead of shattering.
So, get into the Word and let it get into you. Re-commit yourself to memorizing Scripture, Pray the prayers in Scripture. Sing the Scripture. Declare the truth of Scripture. Allow the Scripture and the Holy Spirit to train you in discernment and wisdom. Invite the Lord to fill you with His Word and Spirit; and if you are not yet hungry for that, ask the Lord to increase your hunger. Finally, don’t just hear the Word, but do it (see James 1:22-27).
May I ask you to please pray for CSM this month, and throughout the remainder of 2023? We need God’s wisdom and provision. We want to be faithful, not only in our lives, but in passing the faith on to the next generations. We want to see our children, natural and spiritual, walking in God’s Word, Spirit, and ways … and to equip them in turn to reach others until Jesus returns.
We continue to expand our online content at csmpublishing.org as well as our CSMPublishing YouTube Channel. Of course, you can follow us via our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Page or X (Twitter) @CSMinPublishing. When you follow and share, you help us expand the reach of the Word to younger generations and to previously unreached people groups around the world.
As the Lord leads, would you also prayerfully consider a special financial gift to support the work of this ministry? We will continue to work hard to steward our resources and expand our opportunities. Thank you for your friendship and support! We are praying for you.
About the Author:
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.