Three Reasons to Memorize Scripture

Over the last year or so, I have given much effort to Bible memorization. In this post, I want to give you three reasons that you should also memorize scripture.

“I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11

A major benefit of memorizing scripture is to create resources and safeguards in the battle against sin. The psalmist writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Memorizing scripture is helpful to this end because it both informs and reminds. While many of us have a fairly clear understanding of what is sin and what is not sin (at least we think we do), that is likely the result of being raised in a culture that has been based on a Christian or biblical ethic. The reality is that those days are quickly fading as secularism strengthens culturally.

Having God’s word stored up in our hearts provides guidance in real time. How helpful would it be to have instant access to the list that Paul calls the “works of the flesh”? In other words, an immediate and fresh list of actions/activities in which the Christian should not engage. For example, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatian 5:19-21, ESV). Likewise, how valuable do you think it would be to have a list of the fruit of the Spirit as a reminder in any situation how godly people respond? Here’s that list: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Another reason to memorize scripture is to know God better. God has revealed himself through the Bible, thus it makes sense that if we want to know God better we should know his word better. Memorization is a great way to get to know God’s character and heart better. Following are some good options for memorization:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,

 and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

 who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

 who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:2-5 ESV

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7 ESV

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27 ESV

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Finally, Paul mentions renewing the mind as one of the critical steps of sanctification for the Christian (Ephesians 4:23). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul provides some details of the things upon which we should give our thoughts: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8 ESV).

Memorizing scripture is a wonderful way to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds,” to know God better, and to guard our hearts against sin.

In a separate post, I will recommend a helpful tool for memorization.

The System is Broke, Ya’ll!

Congress just passed the Covid-19 “stimulus” package. Without digging deep, a fair observer can say there are several things wrong with this measure AND the way it was produced. In fact, it seems to me that a thinking person would be disgusted by the whole episode, particularly the way this legislation is filled with pork. “Wait!,” you say, “the Covid-19 Stimilus portion doesn’t have pork, it’s the other part that is stapled to the Coronavirus Stimulus that has the pork.” Attaching a relief bill to the annual funding bill automatically tells the thinking person that something is wrong! Now to be fair, the pork isn’t unusual, especially in such OMNI-bills, but given the current circumstances (Covid and all the related problems) the American public should run congress out of town with pitchforks!

“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.”

President Trump commenting on the Covid-19 stimulus

Remember, this stimulus money comes from you, the American taxpayers. Though many of our esteemed members of congress act as if they are the benevolent ones, in reality they are playing each of us for fools. They demand we give them money in the form of taxes (some are even demanding an increase in taxes!), then act as if we are supposed to be excited and thankful and indebted to them because they are so generous to give us some of our money back. Less the handling fees, of course! Remember, government doesn’t actually create money, the only money government has is what they take from us, borrow from other governments, or fraudulently print on the treasury’s printing presses, which devalues our currency via inflation.

If this this bill is emergency relief for the American people, then a few questions come to mind.

  1. Why was “relief” held up as a political weapon against the president? Even Democrats, like Bernie Sanders, have said that Nancy Pelosi held the “relief” up. This is akin to the fire department sitting outside your burning house waiting for you to commit to voting out the mayor who will not sign off on an increase in budget for their department. And then expecting the homeowner to cheer them as they walk away from the burning embers that were once your house. Unconscionable!

    Did congress miss any paychecks while many Americans were out of work and waiting for relief in the form of such a stimulus or allowing the economy to reopen where possible? NO, they didn’t miss a paycheck! If you did, you should be looking for a pitchfork!

  2. Why is this not a clean, single item bill, that provides relief for the American people? President Trump asked for that, saying he was ready to sign a clean bill that provided $1200 rather than the $600 provided in this catastrophe. At first glance, I’m not objecting to extending unemployment benefits or assistance to small businesses. Actual Covid-related relief. What I’m thinking of are things like the attachment that came with it, making the bill more than 5,000 pages and over $2 TRILLION! Do you realize that the additional, non-Covid related spending, was more than the Covid relief portion of the bill?

    In other words, our esteemed political betters borrowed over $2 TRILLION to, in turn, give the American taxpayer less than half of that money in relief. Unconscionable! Don’t worry, our kids, grand kids, and great grand kids will get the bill. That is assuming the republic doesn’t collapse, and simply dissolve, under the weight of this type of spending.

Want to hear another crazy detail? The almost 5,600 page bill was delivered at 2PM with the message that members should be ready to vote in 2 hours. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, evaluated the process by saying, “This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking.” In a similar vein, Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, Tweeted, “It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read.” The system is broke, ya’ll!

I’m anxious to hear my two senators, Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, explain to their constituents why they voted for this package. Unfortunately only 6 senators had enough sense and courage to say no to the boondoggle. It’s time for the American people to get their pitchforks and get a refresh on our representatives. If it’s not already too late, there is precious little time remaining.

To My Students: A Gentle Reminder

The typical hubris of a college student may not be more evident than when completing course evaluations. An example of this is a criticism that says something like, “I don’t like [a specific assignment] and it is a waste of time that could be better spent doing [a type of assignment I prefer].” Because course evaluations are anonymous, professors have no way of interacting with the student to better understand their issue(s), or to help the student better understand the teacher’s process in the classroom.

A few questions, might help my students understand my process.

A. Do you have any idea of the purpose of that assignment you think is a waste of time? Likely, you don’t because you never asked for an appointment to discuss the pros/cons of such an assignment. Understanding the purpose of an unpleasant task may give it a measure of meaning, and thus make it more tolerable. For my part, perhaps I can help by explaining better the purpose of each of the assignments in future classes.

B. Have you considered that a variety of assignment types are offered to connect with a variety of learning styles/preferences? I often note things that I don’t particularly enjoy without giving consideration of how that thing affects others. Are you like me?

C. Have you considered that the professor may know just a bit more about the process, and that practicing patience may reveal a positive value from the assignment? I’ve noticed in both my kids and my students an immediate negative reaction to assignments/tasks they don’t like for whatever reason. I’ve also noticed that very often the immediate negative reaction prevents them 1) from recognizing that I know more about the process, and 2) from realizing the value of the process.

All of this reminds me of Peter’s interaction with Jesus at the last supper and the subsequent walk to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 13-17). I can see Peter evaluating this event as follows: “It was a waste of time for Jesus to wash our feet. Quite frankly, that time could have been better spent in fellowship.”

Jesus had an outcome in mind. To whit: that the disciples would learn demonstrate love for one another through humble service. To move them toward this outcome, Jesus chose to demonstrate humility and be an example that they should follow, which he explained in John 13:15. Peter didn’t know Jesus’ intention, but thought he knew better. In fact, even after Jesus explained to Peter that he would understand later (vs 7), Peter categorically told Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet” (vs 8). Peter had already made up his mind on this one.

Here’s a closing question to my students: Are you too much like Peter when you walk into the classroom? In other words, do you quickly evaluate the value of an assignment (whether that be related to the content or the type of assignment) without understanding the big picture? If the answer is yes, then you are not getting the most value you can get from your investment in an education.

Based on seeing this type of scenario many times, my suggestion is to slow down. Before becoming critical about this or that type of assignment, go through the process. The outcome or results will likely be better than you anticipated.

When the Bible Meets Life

As I was reading Proverbs 28 this morning, two verses stood out.

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
    but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.

Proverbs 28:12 ESV

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
    is a wicked ruler over a poor people.

Proverbs 28:15 ESV

When I read these verses my mind could not avoid the connection to this weekend’s news of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “… when the wicked rise, people hide themselves,” is a perfect description of the conditions within the areas overtaken by ISIS. In an effort to survive under the rule of ISIS, thousands of people submitted and did their best to simply keep out of sight. Through the years of ISIS domination of the area reports would leak, describing the underground market for cigarettes, which were forbidden by ISIS. There were also reports of an underground communication network that was used to warn of the location of ISIS monitors moving about looking for those who might not be living according to ISIS standards. The people truly hid themselves to survive.

A roaring lion and charging bear are images of power and force. In verse 15, these images describe what it is like when a wicked person rules over a poor people. The rule of Abu Bakr Al-Badhdadi and ISIS could not be described more clearly than power and force. Whether that be demonstrated by the piles of severed heads of their victims put on display or the punishment of sinners in the public square. This was done as if to say, “this could happen to you.” Don’t forget the infamous execution videos of their victims dressed in orange jumpsuits published by ISIS propaganda forces. Or, the brutal treatment of women, including kidnapping, rape, and murder, by ISIS soldiers from the lowest rank all the way to the top.

The Bible should not be regarded as an old book for a past generation. It’s a living book as relevant as today’s news. More relevant, actually.

It’s Thursday, but Sunday’s Coming

The title of this post is a spin-off of S. M. Lockridge’s sermon “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” In that sermon, Pastor Lockridge is encouraging those who are discouraged by the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion to look forward to Sunday. Because on Sunday, everything is different. In this post, I also want to challenge you to look toward Sunday, but for a different reason. But, before looking forward, let’s look backward.

How was church yesterday? is a common Monday morning question among Christian friends who attend different churches. Typically, what is meant by this question relates to how much that particular individual enjoyed his or her morning at church. It may solicit an evaluation of the sermon, the music, the crowd size, the fellowship, or even the temperature in the building.

I want to look at the question from a different angle. How was church yesterday (or last Sunday) for the visitor who didn’t know anybody there? The new person in town who was invited by the highway billboard that promised “A welcoming and friendly atmosphere.” The lonely person who responded to the 30-second television advertisement with b-roll clips of people happily engaged with others as the soothing voice described the warm fellowship that happens at your church. The one who found your church on a Google search. A Google search done not so much out of interest, but desperation because his/her life is caving in?

Regarding the experience of visitors many church consultants think in terms of convenience. Here’s a list of focus points provided by Jayson D. Bradley (sponsored by Pushpay):

  1. Signage
  2. Presentation software
  3. Giving software
  4. Service planning software
  5. A plan for capturing visitor’s contact information.

All of those certainly have value. However, that list has a glaring deficiency. What is missing? The personal touch from real people. And here, I don’t mean the happy people dressed in logo shirts standing next to the entrance. I mean regular members … the people who show up week after week, but aren’t on the Impressions Team. The regular people.

Let’s go back to that visitor’s experience at your church. Did that person feel the warmth that others describe as the normal experience at church? Did anyone express a genuine interest in that person? Or, did you pass them in the hallway as you raced to see your friends? This scene is all too common in churches today. Friends huddled together, fellowshipping with each other as visitors try to find their way in this new environment. Sometimes those visitors are committed Christians who are seeking a new church and basically know the lay of the land. In other cases, the new person may be uninitiated in all things church and are simply looking for God. If that person wanders into your church, what will they experience? Will they walk away saying, “No one was interested in me.”

It’s Thursday, but Sunday’s coming. Looking toward Sunday: How can you help visitors experience what the advertisements say they will find at church? People – even “uninteresting” people – are interesting … if you slow down and talk with them. Everybody has a story. Who – that you didn’t already know – did you initiate a meaningful conversation with in the last month?

This Sunday, will you commit to finding someone you don’t know and start a conversation with them? I don’t mean the “Hi! My name is Craig, it’s nice to have you today” then spin on my heels and walk-away conversation. I mean the conversation that attempts to know them in some meaningful way. The conversation that recognizes them as people, not as a cog in the evangelical church wheel.

You can’t have a conversation about Jesus unless … you have a conversation. #TalkToSomeoneThisSunday

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