Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memorizing by Reading

Here’s the second installment in a series of practical methods of memorizing Scripture.  Many of these are more laid back, almost as if you aren’t actually memorizing.  Such is the case with today’s method: read it.

When reading a verse, remember; don’t just mindlessly read over the passage. You have to really think about what you’re saying, or else you’re just wasting your time.

Try reading your verse or passage once a day.  Don’t forget to include the reference before and after your read the actual verse.  This whole process may take a while, but eventually you will notice that you have the verse memorized.  If you’re looking for something a little less time consuming and pressured, this is a good option.

Try writing the words with different colors and styles and then reading it off of that card.  In John 3:16 you could highlight all the references to God in say, blue; all the references to death or blood, red; all the references to mankind, yellow, and so on.  The crazier it is, the better it will stick in your mind.  You can write verses using all kinds of wild fonts, colors, and sizes.  As you read this card over and over again, it will soon become embedded in your mind.

Another reading-based method for memorization is from Dr. John Mitchell. In January 2012 Kenneth Berding from Talbot School of Theology explained the Mitchell method: to read the passage 50 times over, out loud, with great emphasis, while looking at the words.  In this way, he could memorize a verse without really trying to memorize it.   Adding to his ideas, I would suggest that once you’ve read it over 50 times while looking at the words, recite it 25 times without looking at the words, so that you really have it solidified in your mind.  The key principle here, again, is to be thinking about what you’re reading, not just reading it.  I can read something over a hundred times and still not get it, because I was not paying attention to the words.

Also, try writing the verse on sticky notes, or index cards, and pasting them somewhere you’ll see them often.  Here’s my list of suggested places:

  • Washboard
  • Windows
  • Seat in front of you
Water bottle
Above sink
On a box you use frequently, such as a toolbox

You can put it in a,

A book as a bookmark
Pocket (I’ve done this one often)
Lunch box (or any other sort of box)
Phone (as the cover or background)
Computer (put a sticky note on it, or put the Scripture in a background image)

Then, whenever you walk by the verse or see it, you can read it. 

As a final tip, read your verse or passage AOAP, as often as possible.  :)  Eventually you will find, that without really trying, you can recite the verse completely from memory.  God’s blessings be upon your memorization!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorizing by Visualizing

Today, I would like to begin a series on some practical tips for Scripture memorization.  I have stressed many times the importance and value of Scripture memory, now I want to share some practical suggestions as to how we can apply this discipline to our every-day life.  There are many principles that are helpful when memorizing Scripture, but in this series, I want to focus on the specifics of how to memorize Scripture.  So let’s begin.

First of all, in order to memorize Scripture, you can visualize it.  There are several (fun) ways to do this.  Visualizing a verse is especially helpful for younger ones, although I have found it beneficial in my own life as well.

Try drawing pictures for each word or phrase.  If you’re techy, you could use something like Microsoft PowerPoint to aid you.  A word picture, or rebus, is very simple to make, it just take a little creativity.  For example, in John 3:16 you could use the number four to represent the word for.  For God, you could use a picture of God. For so, you could use a picture of someone sewing, and for love, you could use a heart.  You get the idea.  Then as you memorize, use that visualization to help you recall the words.

You can also act out the verse.  Sometimes, I like to act like I’m speaking the verse as if I were the original author. Doing so helps it stick better in your brain.  You could also try acting out what the verse says.  For Genesis 1:1, you could pretend to be making the world.  Again this is a helpful tool for younger children.

A final tip in visualizing a verse is to put hand and body motions to the word.  The more you get your whole body active in this memorization process the better.  For example, Psalm 119:11 says “Your (point to God) Word (do the hand motion for a book) have I hidden (pretend to hide something much like you would hide a candle’s light) in my heart (make a heart with your hands) that I might not (no the hand motion for no) sin against you (point to God).”  Note: the sillier these hand-motions are, the better they will stick in your brain.

Many of the methods I have mentioned are helpful to get you started, and then you can solidify the verse in your mind through the usual methods of memorization—just trying to recall it.

Visualizing a verse will help you and your family, particularly little ones, learn and understand the verse better.

If you have any other suggestions in the area of visualizing a verse, I would love to hear them!  God’s blessings be upon your memorization!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Vault of our Heart

I love The Message’s paraphrase of Psalms 119:11, which says, “I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt."

The government of Norway is now constructing an enormous “doomsday” vault in the Arctic for seeds in the event a global catastrophe wiped out the earth’s vegetation.   The vault is designed to stockpile as many as three million of seeds.  They will be packaged in foil and stored at cold temperatures.  Some researchers claim that the seeds will last hundreds of years.

Our minds are vaults especially designed to stockpile the seeds of God’s Word.  God’s Word is compared to a seed in Luke 8:11: “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.”  Just like Norway has prepared themselves for times of trail by storing up seeds, so we must store up the seeds of God’s Word in our heart and mind.

We never know when we’ll face temptations or trails.  We don’t know when we’ll be bombarded by the lies of the evil one.  We can’t prepare for the persecution we will face.  Much as we like to put the thought aside, we don’t know how much longer the Bible will be allowed freely in this country.  We must use the resources that God has given us in this time of plenty to prepare for the time of drought.

We know that God’s Word is a priceless asset in those times of drought, doubt, and difficulty that we inevitably will face.  The Scriptures are the truth that we need; the encouragement that we can receive nowhere else; and the strength that comes only from God.

Corrie ten Boom memorized many passages as a youth, and these verses sustained her during her time at the concentration camp, when no Scripture was allowed.  Her father once said “Girl, don’t forget that every word you know by heart is a precious tool that [God] can use through you.”

Let us too lay up these seeds of God’s Word in our heart even today, not only to reap fruit in the present, but also in preparation for the future.  I can guarantee that you will never regret it.

What should you memorize?  Here are a few of the chapters I would suggest:

Matthew 5
Matthew 6
Matthew 7
Psalm 23
Romans 6
Romans 8
1 Peter 1

That should be enough to get you started.  :) Remember that even if you don’t seem to be reaping the benefits of these Scriptures in the immediate moment, they will reap benefits in the future. When you are doubting, remind yourself of the countless stories of the power of the Scriptures to sustain in the times of trails.  I remind myself of these truths, as well as you, knowing that the devil will try everything possible to keep us from memorizing Scripture. We must defeat him in his schemes.  Let us bank God’s promises in the vault of our heart.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Sweetness of a Flower

“Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.” 
~ Thomas Brooks

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly" Pt. 2

Here is the second in an instalment about Colossians 3:16--my ministry verse.  Check out part 1 here:

"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." ~Colossians 3:16

In: We should not just read God’s Word, but really cause God’s Word to dwell inside of us, through memorization.

You: This Word is to dwell in us. God calls us to memorize His Word. This command is not reserved for pastors and missionaries. It is not limited to the young. This command stands for everyone. No matter who you are, or what your background looks like, you have been chosen by God and called to memorize Scripture. So many of us tend to make excuses saying, “I’m horrible at memorizing. I could never memorize!” or “I’m too old to memorize. Memorization is for young people.” Let me share a secret with you. Memorization is just like a muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it grows. In our childhood, we use our memory daily as we learn and grow. As we get older, we do not use our memory as much, so the muscle becomes weak. It will take a little effort at first, but memorization most certainly is possible for everyone. Not only that, but it is also commanded by the Most High God.

Richly: Many people can find excuses for memorizing one verse a year, but not with this little word. We find this same word used in 1 Timothy 6:17, “ Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” How would you like it if how richly you memorized Scripture was how richly God gave you enjoyable things? God’s Word is to dwell in us with abundance, not just for a few minutes each day but all the time. Not just a couple verses, but indeed the whole Bible! Webster defines richly as, “Plenteously; abundantly; amply as, to be richly paid for services. The reading of ancient authors will richly reward us for the perusal. Truly; really; abundantly; fully; as a chastisement richly deserved.”

To sum up our study of this verse, I will share this quote from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Colossians 3:16:
To let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, Col. 3:16. The gospel is the word of Christ, which has come to us; but that is not enough, it must dwell in us, or keep house— enoikeō, not as a servant in a family, who is under another’s control, but as a master, who has a right to prescribe to and direct all under his roof. We must take our instructions and directions from it, and our portion of meat and strength, of grace and comfort, in due season, as from the master of the household. It must dwell in us; that is, be always ready and at hand to us in everything, and have its due influence and use. We must be familiarly acquainted with it, and know it for our good, Job 5:27. It must dwell in us richly: not only keep house in our hearts, but keep a good house. Many have the word of Christ dwelling in them, but it dwells in them but poorly; it has no mighty force and influence upon them. Then the soul prospers when the word of God dwells in us richly, when we have abundance of it in us, and are full of the scriptures and of the grace of Christ. And this in all wisdom. The proper office of wisdom is to apply what we know to ourselves, for our own direction. The word of Christ must dwell in us, not in all notion and speculation, to make us doctors, but in all wisdom, to make us good Christians, and enable us to conduct ourselves in everything as becomes Wisdom’s children.

Wow, who knew this little phrase held so many jewels of information about memorization. It tells us who is to memorize, what we are to memorize, and how we are to memorize. It is our foundation for memorization.

And that’s not even the whole verse. “In all wisdom,” shows us that we are to memorize Scripture in order to attain wisdom of spiritual things. We must also use wisdom as we memorize, in order to fully understand what the Lord is teaching us through the verse or passage.

“Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” all point to one thing, the Psalms of David, because at that time, there were no other songs. The Psalms were frequently sung and quoted from, and so it makes sense that this verse refers to the book of Psalms. Memorizing these songs in order to be “teaching and admonishing one another in” these would really be memorizing God’s Word.

“Singing with grace in your heart to the Lord.” What are we to sing? “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” that is, Scripture.

Beautifully, this verse highlights the exhortation to memorize Scripture, and what should happen with the words that we have memorized (“teaching and admonishing one another”). In my mind, it does not get much clearer than that.

Now: May the Word of Christ dwell in you richly my friends!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly"

“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." ~Colossians 3:16

This verse is probably my favorite of the verses that direct us to memorize Scripture. What could be more clear? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” These nine words command us in a simple manner to memorize God’s Word. Let us take a detailed look at each word in this line.

Let: This is our call to action. We cannot just wait around hoping that the word will somehow come to dwell in us, we must get up and do something. We must actively memorize Scripture and dwell on it. This requires time and energy, but the rewards of complete obedience to Christ make it more than worth it.

The Word: This is God’s word. His love letter to us. His map for our life. His plan of salvation. His rulebook for living. His discloser of Himself. Why would we not want to study His speech? His Word is living and active, more powerful than any other book in the universe. His Word is truth. It changes lives, brings joy, and shows us Jesus. It gives us a personal look into the character of our Savior. Additionally, it does not leave haziness as to what our actions should look like, but provides a solid foundation on which to base our deeds and words. In it we learn of our inherent sinfulness, and the way of escape provided by our gracious Savior.

Of Christ: Again, this is not just any word, this is the very word of Christ! The false gods that the Jews grew up around never said anything, never told anyone what they wanted. The people relied on the priests to interpret the nothingness into words. But the One true, living God did not leave us in darkness. He shared His heart with His people, showing us how He desired us to live, what He was like, where we came from, and so much more. This is a love letter from our King, that every Christian should treasure. God wrote it for us! He has revealed Himself to us through His amazing Word, and it is our job to study and memorize what He has seen fit to tell us.

Dwell: For this word, I want us to dive deep into the heart of this verse, looking at the Greek meaning for “dwell.” The Greek word used here, enoikeō, means simple, to dwell in, or to dwell in one and influence him (for good). So when God’s Word comes to dwell in our heart, it should influence us for good. Enoikeō is used six times in the following ways:

³ the "indwelling" of God in believers, 2 Cor 6:16;

³ the "indwelling" of the Holy Spirit, Rom 8:11; 2 Tim 1:14;

³ the "indwelling" of the Word of Christ, Col 3:16;

³ the "indwelling" of faith, 2 Tim 1:5;

³ the "indwelling" of sin in the believer, Rom 7:17.

Just as God and the Holy Spirit dwell in us, so also is God’s Word to dwell in us. Still, you might be asking, “What does it mean to dwell?” Let us dig out a clear English definition for this word as well as Greek. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “dwell” as “To abide as a permanent resident, or to inhabit for a time; to live in a place; to have a habitation for some time or permanence.” The idea of dwelling is used with a little more permanence. You would never say, “to dwell for the night” but “he dwelt there in his humble abode.” Additionally, Webster defines “dwell” as, “To continue; to be fixed in attention; to hang upon with fondness,” such as in the sentence, “I stood in amazement, dwelling on the splendor of the waterfall.” The same word could mean, “To continue long; as, to dwell on a subject, in speaking, debate or writing; to dwell on a note in music.” Synonyms of this word include, “to live, reside, be settled, lodge, and stay.” As you can see, this is a permanent residence. God’s Word is meant to live in a verse lasting way in our minds and hearts. Just like we dwell on a subject in a speech or a paper, so we must dwell on God’s Word in our mind.

I encourage you to dwell (:P) on these truths, and tune in next time as we study the rest of this verse.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Too Busy Not to Pray

Anyone else noticed that things seem to be picking up? I have an endless to-do list and a whole lot of expectations placed on me.  I won’t bore you with the details, but things are pretty busy.  And yet, especially in these times, how important it is to take time in our schedules to pray.  Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”  Having this much on our plate should drive us to our knees, not away from the throne room.  One of my friends has been studying Esther over the past year, and here’s what she learned from Esther’s story. I hope you will find it an inspiration as well.

So this week has been crazy in my family, like certifiably-should be in some kind of an asylum- kind of crazy. Our family trying to move is like no other experience with 7 kids, and many pets, from a house we have been in for 7 years… Sports can't slow down, school is taking it up a notch, and repairs are being done constantly… we are all about to lose our minds xD! But this made me think of what the Jews were feeling like when facing this certain death! I mean, what would you do if you knew you had just a few months to live?! Yet somehow, the Jews took the time to fast (and presumably pray) with Queen Esther. I find this absolutely remarkable because my situation is SO much less dire than the situation of the Jews and I can barely find time to spend with the Lord, however, the Jews could and did find this time and their situation was exponentially more complicated and panic ensuing than mine!!! I see this as a lesson to all of us that no matter what our situation is, we must find time to stop and spend time with the Lord (and I am the one who needs this lesson!!). A great poem once ended with "[…] and I paused before entering my day, I had so much to accomplish, I had to stop and pray."

May we too be drawn to the throne room of grace even in our busyness, for without Him, we can do nothing!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Practice of Early Rising

Beep! Beep!  Beep!  I lay in bed, eyes glued shut.  After a few seconds, I pushed the obnoxious snooze button for the third time that morning and rolled over in bed.

This is a classic example of a habit many of us have formed: slothfulness.  We often sleep in past the time our body needs for rejuvenation.  We are slaves to our bodies, not slaves to the Lord.  A wise woman once said, "How much a person loves the Lord can be judged primarily by the way he chooses between his bed and the Lord. Do you love your bed or the Lord more? If you love your bed more, you sleep a little longer. If you love the Lord more, you rise up a little earlier."

There are many examples in the Bible of early risers:
  1. Abraham—Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3
  2. Jacob—Gen. 28:18
  3. Moses—Exo. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4
  4. Joshua—Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10
  5. Gideon—Judg. 6:38
  6. Hannah—1 Sam. 1:19
  7. Samuel—1 Sam. 15:12
  8. David—1 Sam. 17:20
  9. Job—Job 1:5
  10. Mary—Luke 24:22; Mark 16:9; John 20:1
  11. The apostles—Acts 5:21
These were great men and women of faith, and they all arose early.  Let us take note of their example.  They denied the flesh and as a result, they prospered. They placed Jesus as their highest priority.  They loved Him more than they loved appeasing their body.  So should we.

Arising early has many spiritual and physical (so I am told) benefits.  Watchman Nee highlighted some of the spiritual blessings of spending the early morning hours with the Lord: “Those who rise up early in the morning reap much spiritual benefit. Their prayers at other times of the day cannot be compared with their prayers in the early morning. Their Bible reading at other times of the day cannot be compared with their reading in the early morning. Their fellowship with the Lord at other times cannot be compared with their fellowship in the early morning.”

Here are a few practical tips for rising early to help get you started.

-Don’t set your standard too high.  Don’t start getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning.  You’ll soon wear out.  Pick a time that is 30 minutes to an hour before your usually rise right now.
-Go to bed at a reasonable time.  You don’t need to watch that movie or stay up reading that book.  You can excuse yourself from the table a little early.  You have an important commitment to keep with the King of kings.  It is more than worth going to bed a little early.
-If you find it hard to break the pattern of hitting the snooze button, I suggest putting your alarm clock out of easy reach. Yes, it will be a little inconvenient, but it will work.  Because of the positioning of my room, I have to physically get out of bed in order to turn off the alarm, and once I’m up, it’s easier to stay up.
-Have a plan.  You want to have a game plan for your time with the Lord so that your thoughts do not become distracted.  What do you want to read? What passage of Scripture are you doing to study?  This will help you stay awake and focused.

Time spent with the Lord in the early morning is never wasted. Instead, it reaps great rewards.  It is the guide for the rest of your day.  It puts you in perspective and keeps your eyes fixed on the King of kings.  And most of all, our Savior loves to have us sit with Him in the early morning hours.  He is just waiting for us.  He is longing to see us and to talk with us.  Let us meet Him alone in the morning and grow deeper in our knowledge of the greatness of our God.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Power of God's Word

If we believe that God’s Word does not have power, than what is the purpose of reading God's Word?  We must first establish it's ultimate power.  Hebrews 4:12 says,

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Because Scripture is the breath of God, Who is living, it is a book unlike any other.  It has the power to work mightily.  Admittedly, this whole living-word idea is a little beyond our knowledge, but understand this, the Word of God holds power.  I have read testimony after testimony of how the Word of God changed the life of an individual.  Men who have walked into a hotel room, with suicidal thoughts, have come out eager to share about the transforming power of Jesus Christ.  All this through reading the Bible that a hotel room provides.

Just as God’s Word has the power to save us, according to Romans 1:16 (“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), it also has the power to transform us into the image of His Son, through purging the sin in our lives.

Look at the story of Jonah for example.  All Jonah has to tell the people of Nineveh is, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! and because this was the message given to him by God Himself, the entire nation believes God proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, even before the king commanded them.  No ordinary words would have had the power to change a wicked and rebellious nation the way God’s Words did.  God’s Word, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of people can do anything.

God’s Word, as Hebrews 4:12 shows us, is more powerful than a two-edged sword.  I do not know about you, but I bet I could conquer a bunch of giants with such a weapon by my side.  These giants of sin that have come up in our life are undefeatable on our own, with just our bare hands.  But if we pick up the weapon that is more deadly than a two-edged sword, our enemy sin does not stand a chance.

Jeremiah 23:29 says, “‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the Lord, ‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’”

God’s Word is like a fire.  It can start out small, with only a verse or two, but then it grows and grows, devouring all the sin that is in it’s path.  It burns evil doings like a great wildfire burns a whole forest to nothing but ashes.

God’s Word is like a hammer.  Think of the power that it takes to use a hammer to break a rock.  If God’s Word is the hammer, than God is the Hammerer, and His amazing power, combined with such a tool as His very words, has the power to shatter something as hard as a rock.  On our own strength, we cannot break the sin that fills our hearts and minds.  But if we allow God to pick up His hammer and use it on the wickedness that inhabits us, we can be set free.  You see, God’s Word has unimaginable power.

Isaiah 55:10-11 climaxes the power of the Scriptures:

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
     And do not return there,
But water the earth,
     And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
     And bread to the eater,
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.”

Whatever God wishes, His Word can accomplish.  It will not return void.  If God says that His Word has the power to break the rocks of sin, then it will do that.  God’s Word is powerful!

Think of it.  God’s words created everything you see around you, the grass, trees, sky, everything!  With simply a word, all things came into existence.  If the word of God has that much power, does it not also have the power to transform our lives?

Finally, Acts 20:32 adds, "And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."  What has the power to build us up? What can gain us an inheritance among the sanctified?  God can, working through the Holy Scriptures.

If you continue to doubt that the Word of God has the power to pierce us and change our lives, I challenge you to pick up the Bible right now.  Begin at Genesis and continue through to the book of Revelation.  Until you finish reading through the Bible, watch no TV, visit no Facebook or social media, listen to no music, and read no books.  Devote yourself entirely to the Bible.  And when you are finished, then I will ask you, “Does the Word of God hold the power to change your life?”