When I met him, I was trying so hard to be friendly. I just wanted so badly to meet him. So I walked up to him before the conference started Friday night. I smiled and extended my hand and said, "Mr. VanderLaan, I'm Amy Bacon.
He smiled kindly as he shook my hand. "Just call me RVL," he replied.
Then I said the words I wish I could pull back into my mouth and swallow. "I just want to welcome you to my church."
Your church?" he asked.
"Um, no, God's church, you know, the Lord's church," I stammered. Great job, Amy! Now who looked pompous!? I am so thankful I was given a chance to redeem myself with other conversations - when I didn't act like such a star-struck idiot.
RVL spent months (maybe even years) living in the Holy Land studying under a rabbi in order to learn Jesus' disciples' context of receiving His teaching. There is a huge difference in the Eastern way of thinking and processing Scripture and in the Western (my/our) way of thinking and processing Scripture. RVL discovered that the Jews in Israel knew and understood the teachings of our Rabbi Jesus too, sometimes better than he did. One of the things that most struck me was that his fellow disciples or classmates judged his Rabbi Jesus by him. That is the Eastern way - a rabbi is judged according to his disciples. RVL was horrified to realize that they had all memorized the Torah, and some had memorized the entire Old Testament. The Gospels would be our equivalent to their Torah. He had not memorized them, and I daresay most Christians have not.
"I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11
God placed "rabbis" in my life to require Scripture memorization of me, and I am so very thankful. Mrs. Mabel Dancy, my 2nd grade teacher at Jackson Christian, had us memorize as a class Luke 2:8-15, Psalm 100, and Psalm 23 - all in the King James Version. While at Harding University, Dr. Jimmy Allen required our class to memorize a few chapters of Romans. (I'm sorry, Dr. Allen. I do not remember which ones we learned, but I do remember most of the words.) Other teachers along the way required Bible memorization. Although I'm sure I did not appreciated it at the time, I am thankful for that forced gift.
If my devotion to my Rabbi were measured in how much of His teaching I have hidden in my heart, I am embarrassed to say that I am not nearly as devoted as an Israeli Jew. Furthermore, if my Rabbi is judged according to His disciples, I feel saddened that I may have shamed Him more than once with my lack of devotion. I have several verses hidden in my heart - thanks to many Bible class teachers who required it. However, I can tell you I would not have done that on my own.
BUT…this weekend the embers of my soul were stirred!
There is a fire burning in my soul to discover some of those truths that RVL revealed that were just sitting in Scripture waiting to be found. I just wasn't looking with my Western mind, because I thought I already had the main parts all figured out. I have always believed that God put everything in the Bible for a reason. Now I know that is true.
What an amazing adventure awaits me! A treasure hunt of God's love lies within that leather-bound cover, just begging to be more fully understood and embraced. Every understood metaphor feels like a solved riddle or an unlocked treasure God has hidden inside His Book of Love just for me.
Yet this adventure isn't just for me. We are all invited to come on God's treasure hunt of love and redemption. There are so many secrets waiting to be understood and treasured. Will you join me on this quest?
"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:7-9
"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:2-3
(To learn more about RVL's research, click on his name.)