Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Limitless Power of God's Word

~Psalm 33:4-9~
“For the word of the Lord is right,

And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,

And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;

Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.”

God’s Word is so powerful!  The very word that spoke the world into existence continues to speak into our lives through the Scriptures.  And the power of that Word is limitless!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hard--But Not Impossible

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” ~Joshua 1:18

“I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” ~Psalm 119:15

Wow, what a lofty goal.  How can we continually meditate on God’s Word, so that they do not depart from our mouths?  Is that even possible?

Then, as if out of habit, in response to these questions our mind quotes Jesus: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

But, do we really believe it, especially when it comes to something like meditating on the Word of God all day?

And what happens when we try...and fail?  What happens when we can’t meditate on Scripture for an entire 15 minutes, let alone the entire day?  Does our faith waiver then?

I know mine has a million times.  And I doubt the promises and the possibility of these commands.  I think there are two wrong things happening in our mind and heart at this moment.

1.  We’re relying on our own strength.  I love the comparison in Jeremiah 17:5-8:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Which plant describes your life?  If it is the former, you are relying on your own strength.  I have often been in that same place in my life—even in the past week, I have relied too heavily on my own strength and simply burnt out.  We must run to God with our concerns and dump them at His feet.  Before He can work through us though, we must “give up.”  We must acknowledge our complete dependence on Him.  And we must choose to abide in Him.  “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).  We must choose to dwell in Him and with Him, and as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.  I am still on this journey as well and am learning, right along with you what it means to completely rely on God.

2.  We expect the change to happen in an instant.  I know that this is a trap I have fallen into many times.  I expect that when I rely on God’s strength, I will simply be able to meditate on God’s Word 24/7 the first day I try.  But that’s not the way God works. If God offered solutions instantaneously, think about it...  We would be perfect from the start, and would stop relying on Him.  We are on a journey. We don’t reach our destination in a moment, but slowly work our way up to it.  So it will be as we seek to meditate on the Scriptures.

God is working in your life.  Pause and think about where you have come from.  How much did you meditate on the Scriptures last year?  If you have been genuinely seeking the face of the Lord, you will have improved in your meditation over the past year.  God is at work!  Never forget that.  Learn to rely on His promises whenever the lies of the enemy haunt your mind.  Here are a few to get you started:

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Jude 24-25 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.

P.S.  Even though I have specifically discussed meditation in this post, the concepts discussed here apply to any spiritual discipline. Continue to rely on God and realize this is a process and, through Him, you will improve.  He is working in your life.  Mmm....how amazing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Testimony of Answered Prayer

Over this past week, I went on a missions trip to a place called World Missionary Press, a place that produces Scripture booklets in 343 different languages to ship out for free across the globe. It’s really an amazing ministry and I would encourage you all to check it out here: http://www.wmpress.org/index.shtml 

One thing that I have found in my three trips volunteering there is what a great emphasis they place on prayer. Everything they do there is saturated with prayer. It’s absolutely amazing. And so, while our team (there were 16 of us) served there this past week, I found that we too often met with the Lord in prayer.

And as a result, I found that the Lord answered so many prayers—in ways beyond my wildest dreams or imaginations. I would like to bear witness to the greatness of my God by sharing these answers with you. Truly, how great is our God!
  • Before we even left for the trip, we prayed for a safe arrival to our destination.  And God granted that.  So often, we take for granted that we can travel safely to and from our destinations, yet, when we really think about it, it is completely the Lord's mercy!  In the US, over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year and an additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel.  Safety is nothing to take for granted.
  • We asked the Lord for spiritual unity as we worked together as a group.  During the whole duration of the trips (4 days of close confinement with one another) I heard not one single argument--even between siblings!  Truly it was an answer to prayer.
  • One of the machines that we were working with kept breaking down. We knew this was from the devil and lifted the machine up to the Lord in prayer.  Jesus kept our hands busy (if it wasn't on the machine, it was on a different project nearby) and gave each of us cheerful attitudes. We were able to see that the Lord's plan would be accomplished--not ours.  We could tell a spiritual battle was being fought in the heavenlies and knew that the Lord would win--even if we printed less Scripture booklets than usual.  I believe that the Lord will multiply the effectiveness of the booklets, so that Satan may not gain the victory.
  • We prayed especially that we might be able to encourage the missionaries who work here each week.  We were able to have some great discussions with a few of the missionaries who all mentioned how encouraged they were.  Others stopped us and thanked us for coming.  We led a chapel service (they hold 20-minute "chapel services" each morning and we were blessed enough to be able to lead one) and afterward some of the missionaries mentioned how encouraging it was.  This was definitely an answer to prayer that could not have been accomplished without the Lord's help.
  • The Lord gave us, especially me, a great spiritual awareness and a intimacy with Him throughout the week--something that I prayed for but was powerless to accomplish on my own.  I remember one time in specific that my friend and I were both feeling a little--shall we say--dry.  Almost as if our fire for the Lord had died down.  So we both went to the Lord together, asking Him to fill us with His presence and ignite our spiritual fire.  Then we had to leave each other for about 15 minutes, and when we came back, we both shared with radiate smiles how the Lord had answered our prayers.
  • Once, I had a couple minutes of free time when we were on break, and I wondered what the Lord would want me to do with my time.  I asked Him to reveal His will to me--whether I should memorize Scripture or join the others in a game outside.  There were pros and cons to each, so I asked the Lord which He would have me do.  I didn't really feel a clear answer from the Lord, so I waited upon Him.  Then, the others announced the game of choice--kickball.  Since I don't enjoy the sport, I decided that I should memorize Scripture instead.  In this way, the Lord revealed His will to me, as He had promised.
  • I also petitioned the Lord to grant me opportunities to inspire and encourage the others on our trip.  So when we got there, I asked the girls if they wanted to join me in a study of John 1-6 for that week.  We each read some of the passage in our private Bible times and then came together and discussed what we have learned.  It was really a beautiful time.  One of the young ladies seemed particularly hungry for God's Word, so I pulled her aside and we were able to go over a passage of John together.  It was a beautiful time.  The Lord prompted my heart in each of these ways.  He also exhorted me to turn the conversation toward God and Scripture. At mealtimes, when we were all together, I asked those around me what they had learned about God from their time serving at World Missionary Press.  I also asked them a Scripture comprehension question which allowed us to discuss a concept in Scripture. It was a blessed time.  The Lord answered my prayers above my greatest imaginings!
These are only a handful of the prayers the Lord answered during our time there. I could go into so much more detail!  But, suffice it to say that we serve a God that delights to answer the prayers of His people.  He is a God of the impossible.  And He loves to show Himself strong.

I can not take any credit for the things that happened to me and through me this past week at World Missionary Press.  I didn't do anything extraordinary. Instead, it was all the Lord's work.  He revealed Himself in amazing ways and answered my every prayer according to His will.  I learned two great lessons this week:

1. Pray always.  God answers prayer.  Pray without ceasing, my friends. Pray for the impossible, for God is the God of the impossible.  Just try it!
2. God's will is always best.  When I lived in the center of His will--turning conversations to Scripture and spent time before Him--I experienced a joy and fulfillment that can't be explained, only experienced.  When we choose to do the things that please God instead of the things that please ourselves, we will find ourselves in the midst of such eternal pleasure that can't be explained.  This is not something I can make you all do--nor can I fully explain it. I can only say, if you are fervent in prayer and in doing the will of the Lord, He will never fail to reward you.

And that, my beloved friends, is the great God we serve--the God who answers prayer.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"I Will Meditate on His Precepts"

Spurgeon offers wise words on the subject of meditation.

"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 (to consider or examine attentively or deliberately by becoming absorbed in thought; especially turning something over in one's mind meditatively) upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them.

Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted.

So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation there from. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life.

Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it.

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, and be this our resolve this morning,
“I will meditate in Thy precepts.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Memorization Tips From Others

In a final post in our series of practical tips on Scripture memorization, I wanted to share some of the suggestions from other memorizers that might assist and inspire you in your own memorization journey.

Bethany points out a cool idea: “Memorize at night! If I am struggling with a verse but review it before bed, I can often recite it perfectly the next morning. Also, if you can sleep with music or audio, listen to the verses/passage you're memorizing! Your brain actually hears it throughout the night, even if your ears don't hear it. I've memorized quite a few things in bed. :)”

Audrey suggests, “Definitely memorize out loud. And make sure you're not distracted. I can repeat a phrase twenty times and completely not know what I'm saying and never remember it because I'm thinking about something else. The key to memorization is DISCIPLINE and FOCUS. If you can really focus your mind for a short time, you'll get way more done than if you worked distractedly for a large chunk of time. (That goes for anything; if you can train yourself to focus in memorization, it will improve your mind in all other areas of life!) As soon as you've memorized the passage, speak it as a whole several times, but MAKE SURE that you are saying it correctly. Continually check yourself to make sure that you didn't make a mistake. Better yet, quote the passage to someone else several times after you've memorized it. Have them correct you as soon as you make a mistake, not when you're finished with the passage. Say the passage at least once a day until it is really firm in your mind. Then, continue to review it regularly.”

Aberdeen recommended that you “use facial expressions or act out certain things. Such as when Paul says in Ephesians, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people ...", I would shake my head to indicate "no longer" and put on expression of awe at "fellow citizens". Exaggerated expressions are a good idea. Getting your whole body involved can help a lot. Also, think of each passage as telling a story. It's easier to remember things when you think, "Okay, if Paul was talking about this first, it makes sense that he'd go on to talk about this." Think about the logical progression of topics — why the author talks about this subject after that one. If you understand the argument or story, it's easier to remember.”

Sheila offers some great tips:
“1) Don't give up!
2) Start small and increase as you are able. Our minds really do strengthen with use.
3) Include regular review of your memorized verses; otherwise, they will start to fade over time.
4) If you can find a Scripture memory partner, that will make it even more fun and profitable. Share what you each are learning, check each other on your memorized passages, etc. (I've "accidentally" memorized quite a few verses this way, too!)
5) Use the same Bible every time if you can. You will start to be able to "see" the verse on the page in your mind.
6) Never underestimate the power of Scripture songs!”

Finally, Kimberly shares wise words: “When first learning to memorize verses, don't tell yourself that you MUST memorize a certain number of verses in a certain number of days. When you fall behind (which is likely to happen), you'll give up. Start with just one or two verses that flow easily (not tongue twisters), and give yourself a reasonable goal time (maybe five days, or a week, depending on how motivated and ambitious you are). Never give up learning God's Word! You'll only become a more efficient memorizer with dedication, practice, and effort.”

May God bless your memorization efforts!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Memorizing by Studying

An idea that I’ve repeated in previous posts is how, when memorizing, we must think about the passage we are memorizing. If it’s just empty words, than it won’t stick in our minds.  So, in order to really memorize and understand a passage, we must study it.

Believe it or not, studying it is a great assistance to help aid you as you memorize.  Recently, I’ve been memorizing John 1-6.  As I study the passage and it becomes more familiar, I have found that it’s easier to memorize.  Try it for yourself!  Here’s some suggestions to get you started:

Roadmap your verse or passage.  What does it say?  What is the logical sequence of the passage.  Ask questions.  What does the passage teach you about God?  What does it teach you about the fallen state of man, or God’s role in mankind?  What does it teach you about how you might live.

Write down what you learn.  Take notes.   Note the main themes and observe the flow of the argument.  How do the author’s word choices add to his message?

Know the “why” of the passage.  It’s easier to be motivated if you know why you’re learning. When I memorize a book of the Bible, I know I’ll remember the passages I have a reason for learning, so I assign a meaning to each paragraph as I come to it. Will it help me not to worry? Will it teach me a new truth about God?  If you are only memorizing a verse or two, have a mission statement: why are you memorizing this?

Also consider reading a commentary or listening to a sermon on the passage.  When you better understand the passage, you will be able to better memorize it.  Not only that, but the passage will gain so much more meaning to you when you understand more of what it means.

As you study, mark it up. Highlight key words.  Mark the use of God’s name, any locations mentioned, and other key words.  Study the meaning behind each.

When you thoroughly study a passage,  you will find that not only to you understand it better, but you are more familiar with the passage and it is easy to finish the memorizing from there.  And, in so doing, you have gained so many precious treasures from a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.  May God bless your studying!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Memorizing by Hearing

How has your memorizing been coming?  Over these past few days, I’ve been memorizing John 1 and 2.  It’s so very rewarding!  I have already learned so much just from memorizing these amazing passages.

With that said, let’s move on to our next memorization tip.  When memorizing Scripture, we can hear it.

Try reading the verse out-loud emphasizing different words. To illustrate, Deuteronomy 11:18a says, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine.”  You could say, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine,” and then, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine,” etc.  When combining this with some of the other methods I have mentioned, you will have the verse down in no time.

Another fun idea (especially with children), is to say the verse in a funny voice, or to put different accents on different words to really make this memorization process fun.  It’s enjoyable, and the best part is, this stuff really helps the passage stick in your brain.

In addition to reading the verse out-loud, you can listen to the verse put into song.  There are countless Scripture CDs out there which have verses put into songs.  You could get one of those and listen to the verse over and over.  Steve Green’s “Hide ‘em in your Heart” is a good starting point, especially for younger children.  There are also some free websites that offer Scriptures put to song.  Do a little research, and  you’re sure to be rewarded.   Here’s a resource that might be helpful: Freebiblemusic.com

If there is no already made songs for the verse or passage (or version) you are memorizing, make something up!  You can make up a tune if you’re musically inclined, or, if you’re like me, you can just use an already existing one.  Often the common tunes will really help the songs stick in your head.

Another idea is to record yourself reading the verses, and then listen to that recording when you would normally listen to music.

Whatever you choose to listen to, listen to it AOAP (as often as possible).  While cleaning your room.  Doing the dishes.  Getting dressed.   Writing a blog post.  :)  I’m listening to John right now.  Just listen to it in the background while you’re doing anything and everything, and soon you’ll find that you are really familiar with the verse!

Before you know it, you will find that you can sing or recite the verse without assistance.  And you weren’t even trying!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Memorizing by Writing

As the third in our series of practical tips to memorizing Scripture, let’s look at a fun one.  When memorizing a passage of Scripture, it is often helpful to write it.

If I am stuck on a certain passage, I will often begin to write it out two or three times.  Writing (especially if you mouth the words aloud while your write) engages more senses than just reading.  It gets more of your body active in this memorization process. The more you can do that, the easier it will be to memorize.

Remember that you need to think about what you’re writing.  If you don’t think about it, you’re simply wasting your time.

A fun idea to make the memory process into something more like a game, is to write the verse out on a whiteboard or chalkboard, and then erase one word at a time, while repeating the other words in your head.  As an illustration, in Colossians 3:16, you could write the phrase, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Read this several times, and then erase “Let” so you say “let” and then read “the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  Go on to erase “the” and say “Let the” and read “word of Christ dwell in your richly.” Do this until all the verse has been erased and you’re repeating it entirely from memory.

If you want to have a little fun with the verse, you can write a comic strip about it, or draw pictures to help you remember some of the words.  It’s also helpful to highlight, underline, and draw pictures around your verse. This helps you remember the concepts and ideas talked about more easily.

Writing is also a good way to review your verse once you’ve memorized it.  Write out the verse on every piece of paper that lands in your lap.  Note taking, cards, letters, scrap pieces of paper, sticky notes; everywhere! Not only are you reviewing your verse, you are also planting seeds.  Remember that God’s Word can never return void.

Additionally, you can write out only the first letter of each word in the verse.  Especially if your passage is longer, I would recommend only writing out the first letter of the word, so you don’t spend two hours on it.  :)

If you are looking to use this same idea when reading the verse, This website will actually convert it for you.  After you have become fairly familiar with the verse, by using some of the other tips I have mentioned, try reading it using only the first letter of each word to spark your memory.

You’re welcome to use a combination of all of the methods that I have talked about.  You can start by reading it a couple of times, then move on to visualizing it for a bit. Finally, you can write it out a few times to really solidify it in your mind.  Then you’re done!