Week 41 Love and Discernment

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)

Week 41

Scripture Readings: Psalm 119

Key Scripture Verse: Psalm 119:125 (NIV, Life Application Bible)

“I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.”

Psalm 119 is a very long psalm and the commentary in my Bible says that it is a psalm that was written as an acrostic with the letters of the different sections starting with a different letter of the Hebrew Language and that within each of those sections the verses begin with the letter of the section. It is repetitive and speaks of God’s word as something to memorize, to know intimately, to live by, and how the writer loves it and how it directs his life. It is a psalm praising God and the scriptures. Because people did not have the opportunity to have copies of scripture for personal study, the people would memorize the scriptures and via oral tradition would spread the information amongst themselves, so a psalm written in acrostic and with repetitive information was likely written in this manner to help readers remember the content.

I picked this verse out of the many because the word discernment is a key word for me when I read and study God’s word. I believe that scriptures can easily be taken out of context and misunderstood when we do not prayerfully consider the meaning with God’s assistance.

Sometimes even those who are well-versed in the Bible may take a verse and “proof-text” to use the scripture to prove a point without meaning to take it out of context—all who read it should be careful of this. It’s easy to recall a memorized verse and to take it out of context.

Just like statistics can be used to prove whatever a researcher’s bias is, we should be careful to use the scriptures in context of the whole Bible, making sure that what we decide in our understanding is congruent with God’s teaching. It’s not always an easy task.

And yet, I believe that even people with little education can learn and discern great truth and wisdom, and sometimes profound understanding of the scriptures. Because of prayer and God’s revealing the meaning to us, we can use the scripture to grow in faith.

Discernment is the key to application of the scriptures. When the Pharisees were legalistic about the scripture in challenging Jesus, they were trying to prove him wrong or to see everything in a “black and white” way, but Jesus was trying to show them that love was more important than rules. The rules were designed to be guidelines for behavior, but love was the reason for their existence to begin with.

Remember that Jesus healed a person on the Sabbath and that he taught that when a sheep was lost, even though it was the Sabbath, one should leave the flock and go look for the lost sheep and recover it to keep it safe and that that was more important than not working because it was a day of rest. It was about careful discernment.

One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Corinthians 16:14: “Do everything in love”—it reminds us of the most important principle of all. In our discernment, we should ask ourselves if we are acting in a loving manner, remembering the summation of the ten commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”(Matthew 22:37-39, NIV, Life Application Bible).

In all things, we should pray that God will reveal the answer to us of how we should conduct ourselves and when we believe we have the answer, we can ask ourselves whether it is congruent with the love that Jesus taught us.

May we all read and study God’s word and love it as much as the psalmist. May we live by our faith, pray for discernment, and love one another in all that we do.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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