The Ben Dimension
by Pastor George Van Alstine
It’s good to have Ben Zobrist home from his three-month mission among drug addicts in Hong Kong. He’s full of stories, love and enthusiasm, all part of his nature, but now magnified by his time overseas.
At the Zobrists’ “Welcome Home” open house, Ben shared about one quiet discipline he engaged in during his time in Hong Kong: He determined to read through the entire Bible for the first time. This is quite an undertaking, as any of us who have done it will tell you. The New Testament is familiar and interesting, so that goes well. The Psalms and the Proverbs are a pleasure, as are most of the Prophets. But there are also lengthy accounts of the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites after the Exodus; those forty years of repeated failure and punishment seem like an eternity. The Book of Leviticus, with its endless lists of legal taboos, can be a real drag, and after David and Solomon, the lives of Israel’s kings offer little to inspire a modern American youth. Ecclesiastes and Lamentations are total downers, not offering much of an encouraging word for a devotional reader.
Ben knew all this before he started his project. So early on he prayed that God would give him JOY in plodding through all the hardest parts. And his testimony to us at the open house was that God answered his prayer! He began with a fresh Bible and freely underlined passages that stood out to him, using various colored pencils. He completed his reading shortly before the end of his stay, and thanked God for the enrichment of the experience. In fact, when he asked a young man he’d been able to help spiritually, “How can I bless you as I leave?” the man said, “Bless me with your Bible.” He did, making a gift of his read-from-cover-to-cover Bible to this new believer.
Ben told this story with typical open-eyed enthusiasm, making me (almost) want to read the entire Bible through again.
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Have you entered into some discipline as a devotional preparation for this year’s Holy Week; “given up something for Lent”? This probably involves some personal sacrifice, a degree of self-denial. I hope you’re following through on whatever promise you made to God. If not, why not revive the effort? This time, add The Ben Dimension—ask the Lord to give you JOY in your acts of self-discipline. This may be the magic element that will make the exercise a positive experience for you, as well as a blessing you can share with others.