I spent a number of years in seminary back in the first decade of this century. Janet and I felt compelled that I should go to school and, as many of you know, I attended a small conservative seminary where I studied the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, as well as many areas of theology and the various books of the Bible. It was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, times of my life and I miss those days with my friends and the relationships that I developed with peers and professors alike.
I attended seminary because I wanted to enter into a deeper relationship with the One who created me – God… As youngsters, both Janet and I attended church – the same church, in fact – and while we learned Bible stories and had a good foundation, we were never really devoted to learning about God at deeper levels and certainly were never taught how to enter into a “relationship” with Jesus. I guess I never knew how important developing that relationship was until I found myself deeply imbedded at seminary.
Some of the books of the Bible are deeply theological, while others deal with historical narrative, still others with prophecy (things of the future), the wisdom books and, finally, the poetry of the Bible. Most of the work I did was in the theological areas interspersed with prophecy and history. I learned a great deal about God… said another way, I increased my knowledge of God.
And while I read the psalms, I never really studied them in depth, with the exception of the psalms that most of us know and love, such as the 23rd Psalm. Yet, the psalms are the place in the Bible where human emotion takes root – worship, lament, encouragement, praise, endurance, commitment. Every known emotion can be found in the pages of the psalms – even to the point of psalmists getting angry with God. And that’s alright… when we have an authentic relationship with God, we are expected to be genuine.
This summer, our Bible study group has decided that they want to tackle the psalms. Initially, I had some concern about this, as I’m not really well versed in biblical poetry but once I got back in the habit of intense study, I really enjoyed it! In fact, it brings back great memories of the papers I had to write and the presentations I made as I learned a more about the Godhead and the way the Bible is put together.
I also remember my professors warning us that one of the pitfalls about attending seminary is that we learn so much about God that we can forget about growing our relationship with God. While I don’t think this necessarily happened to me, it’s important for me to remember that it’s about the relationship we develop with Jesus and not just the knowledge of Him. And there is no substitute for spending time with God. If you think about it, we have an eternity to get to know Him better but we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to start!
The psalms are really one of the gateways to find out about how people in the Bible approach God and speak to Him. It gives us insight into the human condition and lets us know that throughout time, people have been frustrated with perceived unanswered prayer, loneliness, fear, anger and a host of other emotions. Likewise, we can celebrate with them and learn that it’s okay to be authentic with the Father and His Son.
When it comes to basics, when you know Jesus, you also know the Father. In fact, that is our verse for tonight – from the apostle John in his Gospel. John tells us, in John 14:9, “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? That’s because Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity – three in one.
My encouragement this evening is that we are encouraged to be authentic with God and grow our relationship with Him. It’s great to know about God – the book learning and study are great – but it is my prayer that each of us will develop an awesome relationship as well! And that relationship can only grow by spending time in communion with God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…