Friday, March 26, 2010

"Entertaining" God

Teaching a kindergarten Bible class, I held up Bible with gold lettering on the front: “The New International Version.” To my surprise a five year old sounded out the words. He only missed one of them, as he slowly pronounced, “The...New...Entertaining...Version.”

He was right. Entertaining. Inspirational. Informative. That’s the Bible.

After their coronation, God asked that kings of Israel copy God’s laws onto a personal scroll. A private copy in a king’s penmanship was to be kept near him so it could be read often. That copying process and later reading were teaching tools, designed to shape God-honoring, kingly hearts.

King David must have spent time copying scripture, too. In many of his personal psalms, he mentions adoration and understanding of the law of God, surely an extra benefit of copying the texts.

What other benefits might he have gained? Foremost, he learned about God and the laws set in place to govern men. Imagine copying your favorite book in the Bible—word for word. What sort of impact would that have on your heart, soul, mind, and spirit by the time you were through with the exercise?

A king could more precisely follow God’s laws and issue more godly rulings after inking his way across scrolls. God’s civil laws—perfect in justice—could thoroughly guide kings when they were meted into hearts one word at a time.

Additional outcomes from the copying and reading exercise, was for the king to not “consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the left or to the right” (Deuteronomy 17:20). On the contrary, history’s index is full of infamous heads of states who opposed God and legislated evil, which oppressed their fellow man.

Also, writing the words of God created a bond that could soothe a king’s personal woes. When I think of David’s life, I remember his laments. David had plenty of ills befall him—some foisted upon him, but he suffered other miseries because of his own poor decisions and sins.

Some of David’s suffering: Assassins hounded David. He suffered the deaths of multiple sons. He committed adultery. He placed Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, in a precarious warfront, knowing death would likely claim him. Since David had slept with Bathsheba, David hoped the smoke of the battle field would cover his sins, but only the God’s washing could make him “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

David had a posse of wives and even more children, and some of those neglected children turned out foul. At least one wife hated him. He counted his fighting men, and thereby showed at least momentary distrust of God.

But again and again in David’s writings we see a man who kept bringing his life before God for examination and forgiveness. Author Cecil Murphey uses a phrase that aptly describes David—“committed but flawed.” David laid both his laments and his flaws at his Commander’s feet. And from God’s vantage point—inside David’s spirit—God recognized him as, “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

“Entertain” means to receive thoughts or ideas hospitably. Even when David sinned, he was hospitable to the nudges of God to confess and be forgiven. This weekend many will celebrate Palm Sunday, the day the city of Jerusalem “entertained” Jesus, welcomed him hospitably, but in only a few short days the fickle crowd turned and cried, “Crucify him!” How much like David are we? How much like the crowd are we? I recognize myself in both David and the crowd. But what I long to do is welcome God the Father and his son more, and shout them down less.

When the little boy called the Bible an “entertainment,” a hospitable version, he correctly summed up God’s words. David copied the old commands, as God simultaneously etched his ways into the king’s heart. Make plans to praise and adore the King of kings this Sunday. He’s still look for folk who will welcome him. He longs for another generation who can be called a people after “his own heart.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's in The Bible

Read my review of the new What's in the Bible DVD, by creator Phil Vischer of VeggieTale fame. Watch the

and then leave a comment to win one of two give-away certificate to take to your local Christian bookstore and redeem for your own copy. I'll draw a name on March 31. 

 The Bible’s Resurrection

My grandchildren—two to twelve in age—listened as I told them I had a new DVD called What’s in the Bible.

“Do you want to see it?” I asked.

I heard a chorused “Yes,” and my heart soared.

My spirit lifted higher as I watched along with them and gauged their reactions to this on-their-level, upbeat, dynamic story of how we got the Bible compilation. As we learned the content of Genesis and Exodus a succinct theme is prevalent—“The Bible is a story about God and what he’s done for us.”

VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer presents the Bible saga accompanied by a mix of puppets, animation, catchy tunes and lyrics, and real children. The series includes how we got the Bible and then a journey through each book.

The theme song keeps making rounds in my head, and I’ll not forget the way the words "verifiable," "reliable” and “Bi-a-ble” can rhyme with just a bit of effort.

Fun, facts, and fictional characters tell “what’s in the Bible,” but here’s the clincher of the series for me: as a grandmother I found myself tearing up at times. Why? God and faithful Jesus are revealed to a younger audience—delivered in engaging ways. I observed the power of God’s word on my grandchildren as they watched the story unfold through Phil's delightful characters.

Parents and grandparents, please don’t plop your little ones in front of this DVD by themselves. Watch it with them. Enjoy the show and take joy in watching the Bible come alive for your younger generations. As I watched it with my grandchildren, they thrilled when they already knew a point being made—a subtle affirmation of their budding faith. They asked me questions, beyond the DVD content—opening conversations for me to share my walk with God. And we laughed together, too.

Some of my tears were brought on by seeing the “big picture” of salvation—once again—through the dreams and work of Phil Vischer. Thank you, Phil, for yielding to God’s original calling for you to help launch children’s faith—faith that can live longer than the human condition.

I see this DVD series and future curriculum as a generational-blessing outlasting my years. I couldn’t find the answer to how many DVDs will compose the collection, but I plan to invest in them. The most sold book in the world and the most unread book in the world has found new life—a resurrection in What’s in the Bible.

Tyndale Publishing House provided a review copy.

What's in the Bible?

Trailer to Phil Vischer's What's in the Bible with Buck Denver

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sweet Singer Stirs Souls-March 19

“When I called you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted” (Psalm 138:3).

I wish I could hear the above lyrics accompanied by their original music, and I would really like to know what circumstances inspired David to write about the rugged God-courage he received simply because he asked. Among all the other “hats” David wore—king, warrior, mourner, husband, dancer, father—David wrote songs, too.

What events stirred his soul to write vulnerable words that even today many re-express to God in prayer and praise? His words written thousands of years ago are readily grafted onto our circumstances today—still befitting the human saga because God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In this week’s column, let’s explore David’s songwriting talents, and next week a time of lamenting in his life, and then we’ll wrap up this series about David on Easter weekend. Some psalms explain what caused him to write the psalm, while others hint at behind-the-scenes, and still others leave us guessing as to what was going on in his life.

The emotions of his words vary. Sometimes they are strong and defensive. At other times they are written from weariness, longing, or surrender. I particularly like the ones filled with adoration for God. In one of my bibles when a psalm mentions “rejoice” or “praise,” I annotate the words by drawing tiny stick figures, hands lifted high, and a broad smile on the stick character’s face. David’s lyrics reach into our traumas, victories, and our human condition, helping us during defeat, deep-seated pain, or great joy.

Several of my talented friends and relatives play piano or guitar without any scored music in front of them. They ably entertain a room of people for an hour—from hymns, to boogie-woogie, to classical tunes. Their musical abilities cause reflection for their audiences.

Music played an important role throughout David’s life, too—I can see teenager David listening to Sunny Shepherd Station 103.4. Known as a “skillful musician,” later he was titled “Israel’s singer of songs” (1 Samuel 16:18; 2 Samuel 23:1). Through music, he expressed deep emotions to God that resonated with mankind.

Out of the many stories and characters in the Old Testament, I discovered that David didn’t witness apparent miracles from God. His relationship and knowledge of God arose from miracle changes that took place in his heart, and his psalms reflect the departure of self-worth and the surge of God’s ways. Out of 150 psalms in the biblical collection, about 78 of them are attributed to David.

Sometimes familiarity of a psalm may cause it to be trivialized such as the “23 Psalm for Students,” which states “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not flunk.” Still others have found solace in a psalm when balm could be found nowhere else. Not peace in just the words, but because of who the words are about—“The Lord is my shepherd, I have no other wants.”

While Psalm 118, may or may not have been written by David, portions of it are the most quoted in the New Testament—proof of how ancient words speak to us through the ages. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all quote from this psalm. And Jesus also quotes the prophecy about himself as a cornerstone. These writers mentioned the psalms to give commentary on the truths they shared. Adopt your own petition and praise phrases from David’s psalms and memorize them, so that anytime, anywhere, the sweet singer of Israel can lift your spirit.

“[B]e strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm27:14).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Running into the Foolish

Writer David Brown calls the battle with sin the “war between our ears.” He successfully identified the start of sin—it begins in our minds and hearts.

Last week, biblical David received an “Honorable Mention” award in this column for his good behavior. This week, the gut-honest text in 1 Samuel 25 explores his inward battle. Still residing in the wilderness, David and his band of men kept busy by guarding people’s property. This is the same region where the later Good Samaritan story took place, a place of danger. Thick with wild things—lawbreakers and fierce prowling animals—hard working people and flocks needed protection.

During sheep shearing time, David and his band of men watched over flocks and shearers near Mount Carmel. Afterwards, farmers traditionally held a feast for their hired hands. One recipient was ultra-rich Nabal, who suffered no losses because of David’s grand gesture of protection.

During the festivities, David sent 10 messengers to Nabal to ask for provisions. David’s men must have been in pretty dire need. They didn’t ask for a lot, just whatever the rich man could spare. But sheep-owner Nabal—known for his surly and nasty temperament—refused to help. In fact he hurled insults at the men. One of Nabal’s own servants described him as “such a wicked man that no one can talk with him.”

Matthew Henry says some of the earlier writers describe Nabal as a “dogged man, of a currish disposition, surly and snappish, always snarling.” Confronted by Nabal’s instability, David’s mental battle began. How would he respond? He had revenge in mind as he journeyed toward Nabal’s homestead. He took four hundred men with him, perhaps getting more hot-headed as they journeyed. By the time, they neared Nabal’s ranch, David didn’t want to “leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

Nabal’s wife Abigail—an intelligent and beautiful woman—heard that David approached and secretly gathered two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five bushels of roasted grain and three hundred sweets—cakes of raisin and pressed figs. She went out to meet David, with the fair gift of charity. Upon reaching him, she got off her donkey and bowed with her face to the ground and entreated David to spare her household.

David relented and said, “May you be blessed for your good judgment and from keeping me from bloodshed this day.” David went on to confess that he nearly avenged with his own hand, instead of standing back and allowing God to move in correction of Nabal if he chose to do so.

What happened to David is common among us today. Eugene Peterson said, “Nabal’s vulgarity provoked a like vulgarity in David.” When David lost his temper and marched toward Nabal’s home, he was pulled by grudge-gravity. Ever feel that tug to pay back someone after they’ve offended you? Do we want to get in at least a verbal dig to folk who insult us or tread on our sense of self-worth?

Nabal acted the fool. David responded foolishly. But Abigail reminded David of a higher calling: God had anointed David to be king and his life was “bound securely in the bundle of the living” by the Lord God.

Before we leave this earth, we’ll probably run into a whole pack of fools—unfortunately we meet most of them one at a time. Watch out for those who lack understanding and are thoughtless. A Jewish proverb advises, “Never approach a goat from the front, a horse from the back or a fool from any side.”

When we get wrapped up in ourselves, we sometimes forget how God wants us to respond to wicked behavior. Boom! The war between the ears starts. May God always send a messenger to steer us back to his way. Sometimes they show up as “Abigails.”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Honorable Mention

Book Giveaway--see previous blog posts or newsletter-readers go to

In contests, reward ribbons are blue, red, and white designating first, second, and third places. Sometimes an additional category is designated as “Honorable Mention.” That prize means the entry was on the right track. It needed a bit more spit and polish, but the work merited enough to garner an “honorable mention.”

That’s where we find our biblical hero David this week. He wins “honorable mention” award for his actions and reactions during his wilderness wanderings. The wilderness tests his character. He will have occasion to work underhanded, but he will instead chose a righteous path.

The last chapters of 1 Samuel tell how David runs from harm. King Saul, accompanied by 3,000 men pursued David to kill him, but David ran to a wilderness region, “Crags of the Wild Goats.”

Our wildernesses can be locations or circumstances. David’s was both. He had fled to less-traveled, rough terrain to evade his enemies. His wilderness location could compare to the hills of Afghanistan where even today men evade their pursuers.

David had an entourage of society misfits, who recognized his leadership and pledged their allegiance. They defended and helped protect David. A place of solitude can offer quiet refuge that a city cannot. Without hurried city life, street noise, and crowded markets, David gained clarity. He had time to contemplate his response to the murderous chase initiated by Israel’s first king.

The king, through skewed vision, saw David as an outlaw and a traitor. At least two times, David was within a gnat’s breath of King Saul and had occasion to kill his enemy. But he chose a nobler path.

The first time, David and his men had gone into the recesses of a cave to rest. The cool, darkness proved to be a good choice. David could see the entrance but not be seen. King Saul entered the same cave to relieve himself. In hushed tones, David’s followers suggested he kill the king. He refused and “crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe” (24:4).

“Afterward, David was conscience-stricken,” and berated himself saying, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed…for he is the anointed of the Lord” (5-6). When Saul exited, David called out to him, even using the term “my father,” and bowed prostrated to the ground. He said he wished the king no harm, and then showed him the corner of his robe, proving David’s proximity.

Upon David’s entreaty, the king relented from his hostility and even acknowledged that David would reign instead of himself one day. Saul returned home. However, David remained at a stronghold with his men. Later, a second close encounter with King Saul yields similar results. David—near enough to rid the kingdom of Saul—again said no to the temptation because he knew that the Lord decides about kingdoms and whether they stand or fall. He refused to intrude upon God’s calendar.

This story finds both Saul and David in wildernesses. Saul gave in to the darkness while David chose to turn to God. He will later write, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2).

Lord, may each of us rely on you in the wilderness. Train our consciences in your ways and strike them with your thoughts. O King, we long to please you. Guide us so that our hearts and actions receive honorable mentions in your courts. Amen.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Book Give Away--God's Truth Revealed

Gentle Teaching

I absolutely love the tone of Kathy Howard’s new book God’s Truth Revealed. She is a gentle and humble teacher, reminding me of the Son of God, who is described in the same way. The content of the book is an excellent source. She takes readers on a journey, helping them discover through Bible verses who they are, why they are here, and where they are going—questions every person asks themselves sometime/somewhere in life.

The content is excellent and inviting. Kathy has developed this book from material she has taught to seekers and new believers. Besides pointing her readers to Bible answers in each chapter, Kathy also engages readers in the “Personal Story” sections. There, she connects with readers by sharing the testimonies of people she shared the material with earlier. Some stories of conversions are dramatic such as a nudist becoming a believer. I found other stories heart warming, especially the ones of seekers who had ordinary, day-to-day struggles. Their joy evident, I found myself rejoicing too in their new-found faith.

These sections are further encouragement, and as a veteran Christian, I found many applications for my life: Churchy Words Dictionary; Scripture Memory Tips; Scripture Memory Plans (the basics); General Helps for Leading a Study for New Believers and Seekers; and the Leader’s Guide.

I will put one of these books in my library because I can see myself recommending it for years to come. I have ordered extra copies for friends who are both new Christians and seekers. Where I worship we have many new believers, and I will recommend the use of this book as a classroom and personal guide that handily and successfully reveals the biblical foundations for the Christian faith.

Short Description of book:This twelve-week Bible study presents the basic beliefs of Christianity in a way that is engaging and personal. With the understanding that faith is not illogical, the study provides biblical, historical, and scientific evidence to support creation; the reliability of the Bible; and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Kathy takes participants on a straightforward journey through the Bible to understand the importance of knowing God, not just knowing about Him. Each chapter also includes the real-life story of an individual who became a Christian as an adult.

Want to find out more, visit the God's Truth Revealed Web site. or purchase at Amazon, Christian, or New Hope Publishers.

Here’s the good news. I plan to give away the copy that New Hope Publishers sent for my review. Want to win God’s Truth Revealed? Just leave a comment and I’ll put your name in a drawing to be held on March 20, a Saturday.

Advance notice of an upcoming drawing. Tyndale is releasing a new DVD by VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer called What’s in the Bible that takes children on a fun and informative jaunt through the whole Bible. I’m in the process of viewing it—so far my grandchildren and I find it amazing—I’ll have my review posted early the week of March 21, and I have two complimentary certificates entitling the winners to pick up DVDs at your local bookstores. We’ve even made arrangements for out of country winners.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Tyndale Release Tomorrow: Son of Hamas

Check out this exclusive information before tomorrow's release of Tyndale's Son of Hamas, look for posted times of interviews on CNN, Fox News, The Today Show.