Friday, December 26, 2014

The Necessity of a Devotional Life

"The young believer must understand that he has no power of his own to maintain his spiritual life.   No, he needs each day to receive new grace from heaven through fellowship with the Lord Jesus.  This cannot be obtained by a hasty prayer, or a superficial reading of a few verses from God's Word.  He must take time quietly and deliberately to come into God's presence, to feel his weakness and his need, and to wait upon God through His Holy Spirit to renew the heavenly light and life in his heart. Then he may rightly expect to be kept by the power of Christ throughout all the day and all its temptations."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Keys to Application

Application, really and truly applying what we have learned through Bible reading and memorization is the hardest part of this whole process. Impossible in fact. That's why the Holy Spirit is so imperative in our life. John 14:26 says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." He is our Helper. He will teach us the things we need to be working on. And He will remind us of these things in the time of temptation. It is only by His strength. Only through His power.

And oftentimes, I have fallen into the pit of believing that this should happen all at once. That I should be able to apply all these amazing truths to my life right now, perfectly. I mean, with the power of the Holy Spirit, I should be completely transformed in a day, right? As much as I wish that were true, it is not. Application never ends! His Spirit guides us little by little. Think of it. If we were working on applying everything that we need to be like Christ, we would be so completely overwhelmed! For that reason, God reveals little by little, one step at a time, drawing us closer to Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, how can we apply these amazing truths? A couple suggestions:

1. Pray -- This is your number one solution to your dilemma. And this doesn’t mean a half-hearted whisper to the Lord in the morning. Persist in prayer. As my pastor pointed out, the people during Jesus' time who wanted healing went to extreme measures to get it. Drilling holes in roofs.  Daring to touch Him. Traveling for days just to get to Him. Disregarding the words of naysayers. This is what we must to do in our prayer lives too. Persist. Persevere. The answer will come, but we mustn't stop praying.

2. Meditate -- As these thoughts continually dwell in our mind, the Holy Spirit can easily use them to prompt us to action. Be thinking about the things that you need to apply.

3. Watch -- Be attentive. This process of application is not passive. You must be consciously aware of your actions, and looking for ways to apply God's Words.  Is there anyway right now you could be serving your neighbor or lending a helping hand, according to biblical truths?  Be watchful at all times.  Chances to apply His Word lie all around you; you must only open your eyes.

4. Read God's Word -- The more you read, the more His thoughts fill your mind, the more you will want to follow Him. You will be daily inspired to persevere in the walk of faith. You will be filled with renewed vigilance. And you will find, subtly, that His character rubs off on you. The more you read, the more you study, the easy this application process is.

I hope these ideas were helpful and inspiring to you in your own application walk!  May God alone be glorified in your life my dear!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Power of the Spoken Word

“With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth.” ~Psalm 119:13

It is important to memorize and meditate on God’s Word.  It is important to read and study His precepts.  But that is not all.  We must also take this knowledge and declare it with our mouths. His Words should flow from our lips like honey.    I like what the Pulpit Commentary had to say about this verse:

’Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ The ‘word’ hid in the psalmist's heart (ver. 11) could not but rise to his lips on fit occasion, and be set forth before the people for their edification - more especially as there was an express command binding upon all Israelites to teach the Law to their children and dependents (see particularly Deuteronomy 6:7).”

So why should we speak the Word aloud? Why should we declare His judgments?

1. Declaring God’s Word verbally brings glory to God.  What is the focus of the Scriptures?  God Himself!  So, when we declare the Word, we declare God’s character.  We sing His praises.  We declare the wonders of His mouth.  That is honoring and glorifying to the King.

2. Speaking the Word helps us better comprehend it.  I have found this to be true in my own life, as I read the Bible aloud.  As we engage our eyes, ears, and mouth, instead of merely our eyes, the mind is able to better understand the Scriptures spoken.  Additionally, as we teach the Word of God to others, it becomes clearer in our own mind.

3. As you engage all three senses, the mind can remember it more easily.  This is true in memorization as well as simply reading it.  The more we read aloud, the easier it is to remember and recall it.  Similarly, as we share the spoken Word with others, we will remember it better.  The more we teach, the more we remember.

4.  Declaring God’s ordinances to others as you converse encourages them.  Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  The Word of Christ should dwell in us and be used to teach and admonish one another.  I can recount many a story where a verse that a friend spoke into my life encouraged and uplifted me.  You can do that too for others.  Richard Greenham once in The Treasury of David, said, “Above all, be careful to talk of that to others which you do daily learn yourself, and out of the abundance of your heart speak of good things unto men.”  Let us use our words to edify, by declaring the statutes of the Lord.

5. Since God’s Word has such power, merely quoting it can have a life-changing impact on a believer or non-believer.  As Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  Since God breathed the Word so that “the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” God’s children will be impact by the spoken Word (2 Timothy 3:17).  God’s Word also has the power to save:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Do not underestimate the power of God’s Word. Especially quoting it aloud.

6. Speaking God’s Word scares away the devil.  The sword, the offensive weapon we have been given in this spiritual battle is the Word of God.  However, Satan cannot read our minds. One of the most powerful ways to cast out Satan and his evil spirits is by speaking the Word of God alone.  Declare the Scriptures. Stand on His promises.  You will be victorious.

7. When conversing with others, Scripture turns the conversation back to God.  We are called to live for God in everything, including our conversations with others.  What better than Scripture to fit the call of Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  A life that is truly surrendered to God will want to talk about the Scriptures and exalt the name of the Almighty Lord.

We can read the Word aloud during our Bible study time.  We can share it with others.  We can declare it to combat the lies of the devil.

Proverbs 18:20-21 reminds us that “From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Remember that the tongue is powerful.  We can use it to restore or to kill both ourselves and others.  May we use it wisely, remembering that there is power in speaking the Word of God aloud.  Let us do it often, to the praise of Christ.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Key to a Transformed Life

[Below is an article I wrote for English class.  I hope you enjoy it!]

Despite Stephen’s situation, falsely accused of blasphemy against his God, Christ’s last words, “And lo, I am with you always,” flooded his mind and gave him serene strength (Matthew 28:20).

“Are these charges true?” The question erupted into his peaceful thoughts. Pausing but for a moment to recall the stories he had studied, Stephan began to recount the Jews’ history, focusing on God’s greatness. During the last moments of his life, not only did God’s Word penetrate Stephen’s mind, but he quoted Scripture directly eleven times. For years before this, he had prepared himself by diligently memorizing Scripture. As a result, God’s Word provided him the supernatural strength he needed to persevere through his overwhelming trail and also furnished a deep knowledge of the Word (Acts 6:11-7:60). In a similar manner, Scripture memory completely transforms the hearts, minds, and bodies of Christians even today.

Amazingly, merely memorizing Scripture can change people into the likeness of Christ. Removing all doubts, Paul explains, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding...the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image...” (2 Corinthians 3:18). To imitate God in everything, believers must passionately pursue His face and let it transform them into His likeness. Although simply reading gives believers a glimpse of the glory of the Lord, those who memorize freely behold His majesty, as His words flow incessantly through their mind. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 asserts, “All Scripture is given...that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” By memorizing these life-changing Scriptures, Christians place His image within themselves and He completes them. Only by diligent Scripture memory can a child of God sincerely imitate Him.

Astonishingly, God’s Word provides the strength and hope needed to valiantly persevere through trails. Memorizing Scriptures unlocks the vat to this power. As spoken by one who endured severe trails: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92). David’s declaration perfectly depicts a woman imprisoned by the Japanese in a concentration camp. While there, she somehow managed to acquire a copy of John, which she began to memorize. Later, coming to interview the detainees, a reporter scrutinized their dejected faces and zombie-like appearances, surprised to find among them the same woman’s brightly shining countenance. “I wonder if they succeeded in brainwashing her?” someone asked. “No,” replied the reporter, smiling, “God washed her brain” (Graham 44-45). Similarly, Scripture committed to memory upholds and strengthens Christians in times of trouble.

Psalm 119:11 as paraphrased by The Message reveals David’s disciplined actions in order to conquer temptation: “I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.” David stored the invaluable treasures of the Word in his heart and gave himself the most powerful antidote against sin. Even in the very first temptation, Satan attacked the validity of God’s Word with the question: “Did God really say this?” If Eve had hidden Scripture in her heart, she would have instantaneously quoted that Word, and walked away free from the forbidden fruit. As Christians fill their minds with truth through memorization, the enemy’s deceit will not imprison them. Clearly, Scripture memory gives a person freedom from sin’s power over his life.

Memorization takes a believer deeper in his knowledge of and love for God’s Word. Often when I memorize a passage, I learn more through the process of memorization than merely reading it. I distinctly remember perusing over Colossians this summer, and not understanding its full meaning. However, as I memorized it, the blur dissipated. Had I not memorized Colossians, I would have missed many breath-taking truths. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, “To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers.” Similarly, as a man familiarizes himself with the Scriptures, “they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches” (Chrysostom). By digging deep into Scripture through memorization, God’s children gain invaluable treasures through the knowledge of God’s Word.

Over and over, in history and Scripture itself, we see the power of Bible memory. Ten times in Psalm 119 David expresses his delight in God’s Word, as prompted by diligent study and memorization. He has understood the words of his Lord and encountered their immeasurable benefits. Similarly, if God’s children today will diligently hide His Word in their hearts, He will bless and transform them beyond their greatest dreams. I see this in my own memorization journey, as Scripture completely transforms me. This daily discipline has instilled within me a fervent passion for memorizing Scripture. As a result I have researched and begun writing a book on the value of memorization. Bible memory transformed countless lives, and I pray it will continue to change people even today, for the glory of Christ.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Word Worth a Million Dollars

So often, we lose sight of the preciousness of God’s Word. We have access to so many copies that we tend to take it for granted. I personally have about nine Bibles sitting on my bookshelf. Because they are so readily available, we forget how precious and treasured these words really are.

I like what John Wesley says: “I am a creature of a day. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book.” Don’t you realize? This Book has the key to eternal life! It tells the secrets of heaven. It provides meaning to life! Pause for a moment. Think about that truth. How great is the Word of God!

Imagine that a package came for you in the mail today. On the envelope, it announced the cure for all evil in the world. Curiously, you open it. Inside is a simple book. You wonder how in the world a book could hold the secrets of good and evil inside its pages, but you begin to read. With amazement, you find that not only does it give the answer for your problems, but it gives you meaning and purpose. It provides a means to gain supernatural strength. It gives you the key to living forever. How would you treat such a book? Wouldn’t you guard it with your life?

I know that I personally would pay millions for a book that gave illuminated my purpose in life and gave me a source of help and comfort in every trail. I would sell everything I have if only to own this book. If it contains the secrets of life, I will go anywhere; do anything, simply to know the secrets therein.

And, this is exactly what the Word of God does. It offers to us the meaning of life. It gives us answers to the source of our existence. It offers wisdom. It provides strength. It imparts the secrets for everlasting life. It guides us on the most amazing journey ever. Yet how few of us treat it as if it were worth a million dollars!

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible sums it up so well: “The word of God, the doctrines contained in it; which, coming out of the mouth of God, and spoken by him, carries in it weight and authority, commands reverence and respect; and ought to be considered as indeed the word of God and not of man; and so of more value than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. The truths and doctrines of the word of God are not only comparable to gold and silver for their intrinsic worth and value; but are preferable to them, and to be received before them: David had his thousands of gold and silver, but he esteemed the word of God above them all; and willingly suffered afflictions, that he might understand it better.”

Listen to how Psalm 19 describes the Word: 

“…perfect, converting the soul;
…sure, making wise the simple;
…right, rejoicing the heart;
…pure, enlightening the eyes;
…clean, enduring forever;
…true and righteous altogether”
(Ps 19:7-9).

Wow, wouldn’t you like to lay your hands on a book like that? And yet you have one, right there on your bedside table!

Right after these verses in Psalm 19, David offers the conclusion that we all should come to: “More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” We hold in our hands the most amazing book in the world. Let us treat it as precious, and value it as worth more than much gold. Let us seek it as we would a great treasure, for it certainly is the most valuable pearl to be found.  Let us learn to love His commands “more than gold, more than pure gold” (Psalm 119:127). Let us treat this book as if it were worth a million dollars. Because it is.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Nourishment of Meditating on God's Word

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? 

Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .” ~Charles H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

God's Word Gives Peace and Protection from Sin

Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.” ~Psalm 119:165

This same word “love” here is used elsewhere in the Bible to mean the sort of love a husband and wife and a mother and her son show for each other. This is not just “I love carrots” sort of love, this is an “I love my wife” sort of love. It is passionate and intimate. This sort of love causes a lover to want to spend time with the thing (or person) he loves. This is how we are to love the Scriptures.

In this process of spending time in the Word of God and memorizing it, out of our love and desire for it, we will experience great peace and our steps will be established, as the verse says.

As Isaiah 26:3 adds, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”  When we choose to meditate on the Scriptures, as we fix our minds on the covenant and promises of our God, we experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). When his Word is the delight of our soul, when we love His Word, that love will cause us to keep our minds focused on Him, giving us, in the words of Matthew Henry, “perfect peace, inward peace, outward peace, peace with God, peace of conscience, peace at all times, in all events.”

Oftentimes, I believe we stumble because we lack peace. We lack a complete trust in God. We are discontent with the world around us. We think that we can do it on our own strength. We lack peace. But when we pursue the Word with our whole heart, spending every spare moment in its pages, whether meditating on its truths or reading its word, sin will no longer cause us to stumble. Albeit, we may begin to fall, but as the Word of God settles and begins to grow in our hearts, then we will never fully stumble. And even if we do (by not fulfilling the command to memorize, or blocking out the Bible), the Word of God through Jesus Christ is right there to help us back on our feet.

Think of it this way: If you were headed to the palace of the king, to dine with him upon the most scrumptious delicacies the world can imagine, would you stop by a Big Boy on the way there, knowing if you did you would be unable to eat at the king's table? Of course not! We have no desire for a mere hamburger, when something so much greater awaits us. It is the same with sin and God's Word. As we realize in far greater depths though memorization and meditation the promises that lie in store for those who believe, we will come to disregard the pleasures of the sins of this world. We have something so much better in store for us.

To put that in spiritual terms, as Psalm 37:31 says, when “the law of his God is in his heart; None of his steps shall slide.” Memorizing God’s Word protects us from the sin that causes our steps to become unstable, our work unprofitable, and our spirit unspiritual. When His law (referring to the whole Bible) is in our heart and on our mind, strengthening and establishing us, our steps shall not falter or fail. We see our reward. We know our destination. And we press toward it, leaving those things which are earthly in the dust. If we choose to place God's truths upon our heart and mind the Lord will use them in mighty ways to keep us from the sin that so easily ensnares us. Our job is simple. Memorize God’s Word.