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Monday, March 05, 2007

How Big Is The Bible In Your Heart?

The Bible's we carry are approximately the same size.

But how big is the Bible you carry with you in the deep recesses of your heart and mind?

You might wish it were bigger in an emergency.

More importantly, as we minister to people... are we grounding them in the Bible or our own ideas?

From Stories From [Biblical] Storytellers

What Size Is the Bible in Your Heart?

When Howard Rutledge's plane was shot down over Vietnam, he parachuted into a little village and was immediately attacked, stripped naked, and imprisoned. For the next seven years he endured brutal treatment. His food was little more than a bowl of rotting soup with a glob of pig fat­skin, hair, and all. Rats the size of cats and spiders as big as fists scurried around him. He was frequently cold, alone, and tortured. He was sometimes shackled in excruciating positions and left for days in his own waste with carnivorous insects boring through his oozing sores. How did he keep his sanity?

In his book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, Rutledge gives a powerful testimony as to the importance of Scripture memory. Some excerpts follow:

"Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to know about that part of me that will never die. Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak solitary confinement there was no pastor, no Sunday-school teacher, no Bible, no hymnbook, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God, and so I had to go back in my memory to those Sunday-school days in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If I couldn't have a Bible and hymnbook, I would try to rebuild them in my mind.

"I tried desperately to recall snatches of Scripture, sermons, gospel choruses from childhood, and hymns we sang in church. The first three dozen songs were relatively easy. Every day I'd try to recall another verse or a new song. One night there was a huge thunderstorm­it was the season of the monsoon rains­and a bolt of lightning knocked out the lights and plunged the entire prison into darkness. I had been going over hymn tunes in my mind and stopped to lie down and sleep when the rains began to fall. The darkened prison echoed with wave after wave of water. Suddenly, I was humming my thirty-seventh song, one I had entirely forgotten since childhood.

Showers of blessings,
Showers of blessings we need!
Mercy drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead

"I no sooner had recalled those words than another song popped into my mind, the theme song of a radio program my mother listened to when I was just a kid.

Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine
Flooding my soul with glory divine.
Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine,
Hallelujah! Jesus is mine!

"Most of my fellow prisoners were struggling like me to rediscover faith, to reconstruct workable value systems. Harry Jenkins lived in a cell nearby during much of my captivity. Often we would use those priceless seconds of communication in a day to help one another recall Scripture verses and stories.

"One day I heard him whistle. When the cell block was clear, I waited for his communication, thinking it to be some important news. 'I got a new one,'he said. 'I don't know where it comes from or why I remember it, but it's a story about Ruth and Naomi.' He then went on to tell that ancient story of Ruth following Naomi into a hostile new land and finding God's presence and protection there. Harry's urgent news was 2,000 years old. It may not seem important to prison life, but we lived off that story for days, rebuilding it, thinking about what it meant, and applying God's ancient words to our predicament.

"Everyone knew the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm, but the camp favorite verse that everyone recalled first and quoted most often is found in the Gospel of John, third chapter, sixteenth verse.…With Harry's help, I even reconstructed the seventeenth and eighteenth verses.

"How I struggled to recall those Scriptures and hymns! I had spent my first eighteen years in a Southern Baptist Sunday school, and I was amazed at how much I could recall. Regrettably, I had not seen then the importance of memorizing verses from the Bible, or learning gospel songs. Now, when I needed them, it was too late. I never dreamed that I would spend almost seven years (five of them in solitary confinement) in a prison in North Vietnam or that thinking about one memorized verse could have made the whole day bearable.

"One portion of a verse I did remember was, 'Thy word have I hid in my heart.' How often I wished I had really worked to hide God's Word in my heart. I put my mind to work. Every day I planned to accomplish certain tasks. I woke early, did my physical exercises, cleaned up as best I could, then began a period of devotional prayer and meditation. I would pray, hum hymns silently, quote Scripture, and think about what the verse meant to me.

"Remember, we weren't playing games. The enemy knew that the best way to break a man's resistance was to crush his spirit in a lonely cell. In other words, some of our POWs after solitary confinement lay down in a fetal position and died. All this talk of Scripture and hymns may seem boring to some, but it was the way we conquered our enemy and overcame the power of death around us." (from Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes; Thomas Nelson Publishers).

"Stories from Storytellers" is published weekly.
These are REAL stories by REAL people.

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