Module 1: Why we Dwell:

Module 1: Why we Dwell:



Why Dwell in the Word of God?

    Through the uncompromising work of the Holy Spirit, in the spring of 1970 I was drafted into the life of Christ while hearing the Word preached on the sands of Daytona Beach. While that was a clear and decisive first conversion – a genuine crossing over the threshold into the house of the Lord – it would not be my last. My next conversion came in the summer of 1978 while attending a two-act
performance of the Gospel of Mark, masterfully done by a British actor. Using only a table, a chair, a loaf of bread, a cup, and a wooden staff, he led us through the life of Jesus. The props were minimal, but the Word of God was not. What remains clear in my memory is the way that the Word stilled my soul as I listened to the stunning recital of the doing, dying, and rising of Jesus of Nazareth.

    If kneeling on Daytona Beach I had become committed to the Word of God incarnate, that night at the theater I became committed to the Word of God written. It dawned on me then and has stayed with me since – if an actor can memorize and recite the gospel for five dollars a head, then surely a pastor can do it to feed and encourage a congregation. I committed to memorizing scripture and offering it back to the people of God as a grace gift. Everything about my preaching life, to say nothing of my own personal life in Christ, changed that night.

    In this brief essay I would like to bear witness to the necessity of dwelling in the Word of God. I have five compelling reasons to do so.

1. It is commanded of us.

    When Israel entered the Promised Land, the banner under which they marched was the Shema Israel:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your might.
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at
home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you
Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your
forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on
your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.” 

    Isn't that interesting? The primary repository for the scriptures was neither a book nor a museum but the human heart. I believe if God commands us to keep the Word in our hearts, then God also equips us to do so.

2. It gives us a sure defense against temptation.

    The Bible gives us words to say when temptation comes. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he stood against him with the words of scripture. Three times the devil tried, and three times Jesus rebuked him by quoting scripture.

    Jesus knew the scriptures by heart. He didn't unroll a scroll to find the right words to speak to the enemy; he simply leaned into an ancient spiritual discipline. Christians hide the Word in their hearts so that when they are under the heat of attack they will know exactly what to say.

3. It gives us wonderful words to pray with.

    For centuries Christians have learned to pray the borrowed words of the Bible. The human heart – as important as it is for falling in love, writing a poem, or admiring a sunset – is too narrow, too shallow and too fickle a thing on which to build a life of prayer. We need to pray deep, wide, persistent prayers, but our hearts are not capable. The Bible gives us words to do that very thing.

    Have your words ever given out when it was time to pray? The words of scripture are the answer to that dilemma. Most of the prayers that I pray, either privately or publicly, begin with scripture. It is wonderfully freeing to simply begin a prayer by saying, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, blessed be the name of the Lord”or “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name.”
Pray borrowed words!

4. It sharpens our witness to the truth of the gospel.

    Having the Word hidden deeply within will sharpen our witness to the truth of the gospel to unbelievers and also make our efforts of discipleship more credible. The Apostle Peter tells us that it is our responsibility to be transparent about what we believe: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (I Peter 3:15,16)

    When Peter tells us to always be ready, he is imagining that opportunities to speak about the truth of the gospel could happen at any time; in an office, on the commute home, around the table with our children or grandchildren, over the hedge that divides your lot from your neighbors, or even while you are giving your order to a server at a local restaurant. We have to always be ready, because opportunities spring up as quickly as a summer storm. But the fact that we must always be ready raises the question, “How do we get ready?” What materials do we have available? The answer, in the largest measure, is the Bible itself.

5. It produces hope in our hearts.

    Have you ever wondered why the Scriptures were written? The Apostle Paul’s answer might surprise you. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by the steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) The scriptures have a mysterious capacity to engender hope in the hearts of believers. Anybody need a little hope? I sure do.

    One of our three children has struggled deeply with depression. There are few things more heart-wrenching to a parent then standing helplessly by a child who feels hopeless. Every encouraging word you speak falls on deaf ears, and the more you say the worse it gets. In our case a lot of prayer, good medication, and thoughtful counselors were the ways that God used to help us and our daughter.
    When our daughter graduated from college, she took a teaching position four hours from home. “Lord, couldn't you have given her a job a little closer to home so that we could be there for her?” We spent a weekend helping her move, all the while knowing at the end of the weekend we would have to drive away. One of those nights we decided to go to a Harrison Ford movie. All of his movies are good,right? Wrong! This movie was dark, sinister and disturbing. We should have walked out, but we sat through the whole morbid thing and returned to her new apartment with heavy hearts.

    We sat in silence in her sparsely decorated apartment feeling terrible. Then the Lord gave one of us a novel idea. I know it had to be from the Lord, because it wasn't the sort of thing you think of doing on a Friday night. We decided to recite Scripture passages to each other and see how long we could go before one of us couldn't think of another one. It was so moving! “For God so loved the world” followed by “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” followed by “Praise the Lord, praise O servants of the Lord” followed by “Behold, I make all things new!” Like avid fans in a sports stadium doing the wave, a joy and energy swept over us one verse at time. I don’t remember how long we were able to continue or which one of us finally threw in the towel, I only know before we were done the Scriptures had blown despair away. We were dwelling in the Word!

I urge you to do the same.

Dr. Timothy L. Brown
President and Henry Bast Professor of Preaching
Western Theological Seminary
Fall 2014

YouTube Video

YouTube Video


Consider the questions below - ponder them in your mind, in your heart and, if you find it helpful, put some of those thoughts on paper.  We will have an opportunity to dig deeper, both individually and corporately, during our time together in November and any thoughts/questions/ideas you bring with you will benefit our goal of learning together in community.

As you read, how do you...

...find yourself resonating with the ideas offered in the essay?
...find yourself experiencing resistance?
...imagine that indwelling the scriptures could impact the preaching task for you


Identify a beloved passage of scripture you would like to commit to memory.  Have this passage in mind (not yet in memory) when you come to the festival.