Psalm 119      Word Power

Rev. David Holwick  J                                   50-Day Adventure

First Baptist Church                                         Week 5

Ledgewood, New Jersey    

March 25, 2001

Psalm 119:9-15


  I. How the Bible has changed societies.

      A. An Okinawan village.

         Clarence Hall was a war correspondent during World War II.

         In 1945 he was on Okinawa, where one of the worst battles was

            fought in the Pacific.

         It was in this period he first came upon Shimabuku, the

            strangest and most inspiring community he ever saw.

         Huddled beneath its groves of banyan and twisted pine trees,

            this remote village of some 1000 souls was in the path of

               the American advance and so received a severe shelling.

         But when an advance patrol swept up to the village compound,

            the GI's stopped dead in their tracks.

         Barring their way were two little old men; they bowed low and

            began to speak.

         The battle-hardened sergeant, wary of tricks, held up his hand

            and summoned an interpreter.

         The interpreter shook his head.  "I don't get it.

            Seems we're being welcomed as fellow Christians.

         One says he's the mayor of the village, the other's the


         That's a Bible the older one has in his hand..."

         Guided by the two old men - Nakamura the mayor and Kina the

            schoolmaster - the Americans cautiously toured the compound.

         They had seen other Okinawan villages, mostly poor and full of


         By contrast, this one shone like a diamond in a dung heap.

            Everywhere they were greeted by smiles and dignified bows.

         Proudly the two old men showed them their spotless homes, their

            terraced fields, fertile and neat, their storehouses and

               granaries, their prized sugar mill.

         Gravely the old men talked on, and the interpreter said,

            "They've met only one American before, long ago.

         Because he was a Christian they assume we are, too - though

            they can't quite understand why we came in shooting."

         Piecemeal, the incredible story came out.

         Thirty years before, an American missionary on his way to Japan

            had paused at Shimabuku.

         He'd stayed only long enough to make a pair of converts (these

            same two men).

         He taught them a couple of hymns, left them a Japanese

            translation of the Bible and exhorted them to live by it.

         They'd had no contact with any Christian since.

         Yet during those 30 years, guided by the Bible, they had managed

            to create a Christian democracy at its purest.

         How had it happened?

         Picking their way through the Bible, the two converts had found

            not only an inspiring "Person" on whom to pattern a life,

               but sound principles on which to base their society.

         They'd adopted the Ten Commandments as Shimabuku's legal code;

            the Sermon on the Mount as their guide to social conduct.

         In Kina's school the Bible was the chief literature; it was read

            daily by all students, and major passages were memorized.

         Nurtured on this Book, a whole generation of Shimabukans had

            drawn from it their ideas of human dignity and of the rights

               and responsibilities of citizenship.

         The result was plain to see.

         Shimabuku for years had had no jail, no brothel, no drunkenness,

             no divorce; there was a high level of health and happiness.

         Next day, the tide of battle swept the Americans on.

         But a few days later, during a lull, Clarence requisitioned a

            jeep went back to Shimabuku.

         There was a sound of singing.

         He followed it and came to the mayor's house, where a curious

            religious service was under way.

         Having no knowledge of churchly forms or ritual, the people

            had developed their own.

         There was much Bible reading, repeated in singsong fashion by

            the worshipers.

         After singing and many prayers, voiced spontaneously by people

            in the crowd, there was a discussion of community problems.

         With each question, Kina turned quickly to some Bible passage

            to find the answer.

         The service over, Clarence waited as the crowd moved out, and

            his driver whispered hoarsely,

         "So this is what comes out of only a Bible and a couple of old

            guys who wanted to live like Jesus!'

         He glanced at a shell-hole and murmured, "Maybe we're using the

            wrong kind of weapons."

         Time had dimmed the Shimabukans' memory of the missionary;

            neither Kina nor Nakamura could recall his name.

         They did remember his parting statement.

         As expressed by Nakamura, it was:

            "Study this Book well.

                It will give you strong faith.

             And when faith is strong, everything is strong."


      B. Ezra's revival.                                       Nehemiah 8

          1) Sometimes a society knows the Bible, but forgets it.

          2) 500 years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people were

                returning to Israel from exile in Babylon.

              a) Their homes were destroyed.

              b) Their temple was a pile of stones.

          3) They began to rebuild.

              a) Not just the city, but their faith.

              b) Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor began reading

                    the Bible to them; they explained it.

              c) The people began to weep at God's word.          Neh 8:9

                  1> Dramatic changes began happening in Israel.

                  2> Could these changes happen in America?

II. We no longer know the Bible.

      A. There is a general rejection of divine revelation, the idea

            that God would write down words for us to live by.

          1) Yet many people, even non-church-attenders, say they

                believe the Bible.

      B. Maybe it is laziness more than rejection.

               They lie on the table side by side,

               The Holy Bible and the TV Guide.

               One is well worn and cherished with pride,

               Not the Bible . . . but the TV Guide.

               One is used daily to help folks decide,

               No, not the Bible . . . but the TV Guide.

               As the pages are turned, what shall they see,

               Oh, what does it matter, turn on the TV.

               The Word of God is seldom read,

               Maybe a verse as they fall into bed.

               Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be,

               Not from reading the Bible . . . from watching TV.


III. The Bible is different.

      A. It is not like other books.

          1) It claims a divine origin.

              a) (not that it dropped from sky, but through Spirit in

                    humans lives, God composed it)

          2) It claims to be valid for all time.

      B. Much of the Bible can be supported with evidence.

          1) Continuous discoveries in archeology.

          2) On a more personal level, when read the Bible we will fall

                under conviction.

              a) God will start to deal with us.

              b) One soldier's story:

         Last year I heard Loran Bulla's testimony.

            Loran hated God when he was young.

               In high school he was a hard-headed atheist.

         He once ran into a lady in a church parking lot and taunted her,

            "How do you believe in a God you can't see?

                You must be nuts!"

         In 1971 he enlisted in the Army and joined the Airborne.

         The morale in the Army was very low at that time and his own

             life reflected it.

         He was a smart aleck and got into some serious trouble.

            He could see himself going down a path of destruction.

         In this time of personal upheaval he came across the album

            "Jesus Christ Superstar."

         He bought it.

         Although many Christians found it controversial, Loran found

            it depicted a Jesus that was different than the wimpy

               religious leader he had thought he was.

         He sheepishly asked a chaplain's assistant (whom he detested)

            for a Bible and received a soldier's Gideon New Testament.

         A month later Loran decided he had to talk to God.

         It was a starry night he walked through the woods to a


         Loran fell to his knees and talked to God.

            "God, I've been reading about your son.

                I've been wrong.

             God, I don't want to be apart from you anymore."

         He knew in his heart he had been heard and he sensed God's

            presence and peace.

         His life began changing dramatically and today he himself

            is a chaplain in the Army.

         He credits the Bible for his conversion.


IV. We need to learn how to read the Bible again.

      A. It is like a 50-Day Adventure - you must come to it prepared.

          1) Otherwise, it is like reading any other book.

          2) We have to come to the Bible expecting Jesus to use it

                to speak to us.

              a) The Bereans were eager to study Bible, compared it

                    to what Paul said.

              b) They concluded that his words were God's words.

      B. Read for understanding.

          1) After you read it, try to put it in your own words.

          2) Paraphrase it to get the gist.

      C. Consider the spiritual significance.

          1) Share with Christ how you think this passage relates to you.

          2) How should you change your life according to the truths

                in this passage?

          3) This is where meditation comes in.  Think deeply about it.

      D. Apply it to your life.

          1) Understanding the spiritual truths, you must then decide

                how you are going to respond.

          2) Understanding is not enough.  You have to do it.

              a) Celeste and co-worker's T-shirt: "Be doers of the word."

  V. The Bible wants more than our respect.

      A. It is a practical book.

          1) Sue Shay and game on the Psalms for our adult fellowship time.

          2) Few correct answers because we found many psalms dealing

                with depression, provision and security.

          3) 50-Day Adventure wants us to focus on reversing

                self-destructive patterns.

      B. To get the most out of it, come to love it.

          1) Read it.

          2) Meditate on it, and you won't sin against God.


Although this sermon was part of a "50-Day Adventure," this sermon did

  not follow the ones in that series.


# 5227  "The Village That Lives By the Bible," by Clarence W. Hall, Fair

          Dinkum Magazine,;

          originally in "Together" magazine, October 1960.

#16608  "Two Books Side By Side," author unknown, submitted by Sgt. Ross

          Corbett on August 7, 2000.

#16844  "The Conversion of a Paratrooper," by Major Loran Bulla,

          testimony given at Gideon Banquet by Chaplain Bulla in Wayne,

          New Jersey, on October 24, 2000.

These and 17,000 others are part of a database that can be downloaded,

absolutely free, at


Copyright 2017 by Rev. David Holwick

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