A Bible, An Atlas, and Some Textbooks
1988 Commencement Address
Pillar of Fire Schools
"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalm 119:11)
You will notice that I have with me what my title suggests: A Bible, an atlas, and a number of lovely textbooks. Why?
Recently I was reading about the reflections made by the graduate of a prestigious college here in Colorado. Twenty-five years earlier he had received his diploma. All his earthly possessions, as he said, were that new diploma, a library composed of all his textbooks, and a beautiful Bible he had been given during his freshman year.
Now that twenty-five years had passed, his textbook library had dwindled to just four volumes, and he had not looked at any of them for years: they were out of date. He had read his Bible hundreds of times, and, said he, "I read from this Bible this morning, and it fairly pulsated with life, inspiration and spiritual meaning."
Perhaps I have a little more regard and affection for a lovely textbook than does our friend, and I must admit to having enjoyed many a page, as student and teacher, reading some tale in English, or one of the other languages, or working mathematical problems, or learning something of the mysteries of chemistry or physics. Yet, I do not too often turn to one of these textbooks.
Now an atlas is a different thing. This one has traveled with me from coast to coast and beyond our borders. Not long ago I was privileged to fly, compliments of Delta Airlines, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where the winter Olympics were held this past season. From there I drove to the village of Three Hills, Alberta, some eighty miles out in the open spaces of Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north, where Prairie Bible Institute is situated.
Not having been there before, I was happy to turn to my trusty atlas from time to time to see if I was on the right track. I was, and I arrived at my destination, safe and sound, without making any detours or false turns. That was a blessing, for a wonderful missionary conference was in session, with people from various parts of the world, and those who had served as missionaries in many countries.
Suppose I bequeathed this trusty atlas to a grandson or granddaughter, and twenty-five years from now he or she decided to take a trip across the country. How satisfactory do you think this atlas would be? There would likely be new highways, even new towns or cities, and the atlas could be hopelessly out of date.
Not so with the Bible. If you read yours today, and I trust that you did, and that you will make it a firm habit to study it every day, you too will find that it is more up to date than yesterday's newspaper. But don't take my word for. Test it out for yourself.
General Douglas MacArthur was considered by many as one of the most brilliant military commanders of our generation. Son of an outstanding general, he graduated at the very head of his class at West Point Military Academy, and served with distinction in many theaters of war. What did he have to say about the Bible? "Never a night goes by, be I ever so tired, but I read the Word of God before I go to bed." Might I make a suggestion? Why not start the day, when your mind is fresh and clear, with a time of Bible study and prayer? Then, if you have a few extra moments at the end of the day, turn to a brief Psalm of David, or some inspiring passage from the New Testament, before you retire for the night.
We are all thinking about who our leaders will be during the months and years ahead, and what will be the result of the forthcoming local and national elections. Are you comfortable with the idea of voting for someone who does not have a profound love for the Scriptures? George Washington was not. He said that "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." What would some of the secular humanists say if they heard those words, that George Washington did not know what he was talking about?
Abraham Lincoln was also a lover of the Bible, and frequently turned to it in times of stress and strain when the very existence of the nation was threatened. Here is what Lincoln said: "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book."
William Evarts Gladstone was a man of towering intellect, and served as Prime Minister of England for many years under Queen Victoria. He was privileged to come in contact with many of the great people of his time from all over the world. Said Gladstone: "I have known ninety-five of the world's great men in my time, and of these eighty-seven were followers of the Bible. The Bible is stamped with a specialty of origin, and an immeasurable distance separates it from all competitors."
Yes, my trusty atlas is a worthy friend and guide, and I expect to take it with me, or some newer version, for many a mile, but this earthly journey is a very brief one, and I am more concerned about eternal values, and commend them to you.
Someone has phrased it this way: "The Bible is a safe guide. The Written Word tells of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, has a message" for you who are graduating, and for each one of us. It is found in Matthew 7:24- 25:
Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not: for it was founded upon a Rock."I pray and trust that your house is founded upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, that you are trusting Him as your personal Saviour. If not, come to Him now and let Him turn your life around. Nothing is more important than this.