Memorizing the Word

Here’s a question: if the Son of God deemed it necessary to memorize the Scripture to defend himself against temptation, why would we think we’re exempt?

Memorize Phrase by Phrase

The Scripture provides the method for memorizing its rich truth. Isaiah recorded, “To whom will he teach knowledge . . . For it is precept upon precept . . . line upon line . . . here a little, there a little.”  The best way I have found to retain biblical passages is to learn a phrase, repeat it until I’ve mastered it, then move on to the next phrase. Once I have the phrases mastered, I begin to link them together. Sometimes I will alter my emphasis on certain words in the phrase; other times I will alter the location where I’m memorizing (my office, the car, my home), but always I am working the phrases and adding the subsequent phrase. As the Scripture says, line upon line, here a little, there a little.

Memorize Day by Day

When it comes to memorizing, I have found it to be more effective to spend a few minutes several times a day, as opposed to a lot of time one day during the week. Simply put, for your mind to permanently retain a truth, you will need to learn it more than once. For me the pattern works like this: Learn it once. Forget it. Relearn it. Forget it again. Relearn it again. Forget less. Relearn it again. Retain it.

While it may sound odd, forgetting is actually a significant part of memory retention. Remembering my need to forget keeps me from growing discouraged. Scripture memory is more of a process than a single event. Having worked on a verse for several days doesn’t mean I will remember it tomorrow morning. I now see the process of forgetting as an essential part of learning the verse.

 Taken from Just Like Jesus: biblical strategies for growing well byPhil Moser, pages 35-36. Available though

The secret of Jesus’ spirit of submission

Imagine, the perfect man submitting to imperfect authorities. Jesus purposed to do this because of his strong confidence in the sovereignty of his Father. This confidence is best revealed in the most preposterous of all trials. On the eve of his crucifixion Jesus will undergo six trials—three of them Jewish, and three of them Roman. As he stood before Pontius Pilate, the appointed governor in Jerusalem, Jesus kept silent in the face of the accusations that were brought against him. Into that context Pilate asks Jesus a question.

So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”  From then on Pilate sought to release him. . . (John 19:10-12).

This is a remarkable look into the mind of our Lord. He specifically states that Pilate’s authority is God derived. To the appointed governor who assumed his power was received from the Roman government this must have been an unnerving reminder. It should not come as a surprise that from that point on Pilate does all he can do to release Jesus.

When Pilate’s temporary resolve to do the right thing buckles under the Sanhedrin’s pressure, Jesus’ confidence in his Father’s will does not. This is a good reminder of the importance of submitting to our imperfect human authorities even when their interests are so self-serving.

In God’s plan he uses Pilate’s weakness and the religious leader’s jealousy to declare Jesus innocence while still insisting upon his crucifixion. Both of these elements were necessary in the plan of God in order that everyone might know that an innocent man had died in the place of the guilty (2 Cor. 5:21). Nine times in the gospel record Pilate will declare Jesus without guilt prior to his pronouncement of the death sentence (Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4, 14, 15, 22; John 19:4, 6, 12).

Pilate’s weak leadership, without him even being aware of it, is actually used by God to accomplish God’s sovereign will in the life of Jesus. While the outcome of the trials is preposterous—how could one declare a man’s innocence nine times and then call for his execution? The function of the trials is not—they declare a man innocent of his own crimes in order that his punishment may be put to a guilty party’s account. This is exactly what Isaiah prophesied 700 years prior to Jesus crucifixion,

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

As Jesus submitted to his imperfect human authorities he developed a deeper confidence in his Father’s sovereign will. Therefore, he comes to the most pivotal moment of choice in the Garden of Gethsemane and submits to his Father’s will with joy (Heb. 12:2).

Note the progression: (1) as a young boy, Jesus submitted to his parents, who, while imperfect had his best interest in view, (2) as a grown man Jesus submitted to the governing authorities, who were indifferent to his plight or condition, finally (3) Jesus submitted to those leaders who were opposed to his ministry and would be responsible for taking his life even though their intentions were self-serving and fueled by jealousy (John 11:47-50; 19:11).

Jesus grew in his ability to submit to imperfect human authorities by taking his eyes off of their imperfections, and placing them on his heavenly Father’s perfections. It was His Father’s will Jesus wanted to do whatever the cost.  You and I will only go so far in our understanding of submission unless we grasp the truth that Jesus did: there is a hand we cannot see guiding the hands of those we can.

Because Jesus spent a life time practicing this truth he was prepared to answer Pilot’s weak but abusive authority on the day of his crucifixion (John 19:10-11).

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above… (John 19:11).

 Jesus got it. In his humility, he understood that God was able to use imperfect authorities to accomplish his will in one’s life. He not only submitted, but he did so with a humble spirit and a right attitude (Phil. 2:5, NASV).

Think about the authorities God has placed over you. How are you responding to them? When others around you complain about their leaders, what do you say? Do you join in or show a sweet spirit of submission. Is your attitude one of respect even when those in authority might be disrespectful? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you submit even when you disagree?

3 Keys to getting the most out of your Bible reading

Most Christians would never do to their physical bodies what they do to their souls. Come to church for one square meal a week from the Word, and snack a little on Christian radio Monday through Friday. If we are to feed our soul regularly from the Word, it means that we will have to prepare our own meals. We will have to spend time studying the Word for ourselves. Here are three ways to get started.

 (1) Start by Consistently Reading the Bible

One of the important steps in reading the Bible is to do it daily. While not a large book (most Bibles are less than 1000 pages), reading it daily gives the opportunity for meditating and applying that particular portion of the Scripture on a regular basis.

There are numerous ways to read through the Bible. Here are a few:

  • Read through one book of the Bible for 30 days.  While it is true there are 66 books in the Bible investing your effort in one book for one month will reap rich dividends. Starting the first of the month, pick a book, read it and reread it until the end of the month,
  • Reading a key chapter of the Bible each day. While using this approach will not allow you to read every verse in the Bible in the course of the year, you will move  through the high points without getting lost in the “lists of names” or Old Testament prophecies that often require greater cultural study for understanding. You can find a key chapter reading schedule here.
  • Reading the Bible through chronologically will open up some insights you otherwise might miss. Typically when we read a book we expect the events to be communicated  in chronological order.  However, the Bible groups its various books by genre or style of writing (i.e. histories, poetry, prophecies, etc.). You can find a chronological reading schedule by visiting here.

(2) Don’t be Afraid to Mark Up Your Bible

As you read the Bible daily don’t be afraid to underline or circle key words, phrases or verses. To improve your comprehension of the Scriptures, Dr. Howard Hendricks recommends you look for the following things when reading. Look for: (1) Things that are emphasized, (2) Things that are repeated, (3) Things that are related, (4) Things that are alike, (5) Things that are unalike, (6) Things that are true to life.1

(3) Journal Along Side Your Bible

As you study jot down what you’re learning. Here are a few questions to get you started:
· What is the most obvious Bible truth I’ve learned?
· What have I learned about the character of God?
· Are there words or ideas that are repeated in the passage? If so, what are they?
· Are there words that I don’t understand? What do they mean?
· Are there other verses or passages in the Bible that help me understand this passage?

Years ago I memorized a brief poem that I often return to when seeking meaning from a Biblical text. I encourage you to answer the applicable question from the poem to improve your understanding of the Biblical passage.

I had six faithful friends, They taught me all I knew,
Their names were how, and what, and why,
when, and where, and who.

5 key words applied to the Bible

Five words are essential to understand how the Word came into being, and how we are to study and apply it to our daily lives.
Revelation refers to the message (2 Pet. 1:4; John 1:18).
In The Moody Handbook of Theology Dr. Paul Enns writes, 
Revelation is…that act of God whereby he discloses himself or communicates truth to the mind. . . that could not be known in any other way.
Simply put, we weren’t going to figure it out on our own. We needed God to communicate the message, and he did through his Word and through his son.
Inspiration refers to the method (2 Pet. 1:20-21)
The apostle Peter captured it this way:
knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21)
God moved the writers of Scripture. Like a gentle breeze moves a sailboat, God took them where he wanted to take them to go. Benjamin Warfield described inspiration in this way,
. . . a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine trustworthiness. 
Preservation refers to maintaining (Matt. 5:18)
God promised that no portion of the Word of God would slip away until it all had been fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). Such a promise was God’s committment to maintain the message through the years. While the Bible is a work of antiquity, the Spirit of God has maintained it with the highest level of integrity. Discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls verify for us that the message is indeed intact, and has been handed down with integrity. There was nothing lost in translation through the years.
Consider the following:
•Tacitus, the historian of Rome wrote Annals of Imperial Rome in 116 AD, there is 1 manuscript dated to 850 AD. A gap of 700 years.
•Josephus, the Jewish Historian wrote in the first century, there are 9 manuscripts dated to the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. A gap of 1000 years.
•Homer’s Iliad was written in 800 BC, there are 650 manuscripts that date to 2nd and 3rd century AD. A gap of 1000 years.
•The Bible’s New Testament was written in Greek in the 1st century, there are over 5000 manuscripts; several of them date to the second century. A gap of 50 to 70 years.
Up against such evidence Dr. Bruce Metzger comments,

The quantity of New Testament material is almost embarrassing in comparison to other works of antiquity.

 Interpretation refers to meaning (2 Tim. 2:15)

Paul challenged Timothy to divide it rightly (2 Tim. 2:15). Peter told his readers that if you weren’t careful you could misunderstand Paul’s writing (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Sometimes we get all excited about our discovery in the Word. We would do well to ask, “Is this what God meant by what he said?” We should be after God’s intended meaning, not our own.

My pastor for a number of years, John MacArthur, was fond of saying,

More important than what the Scriptures means to me, is what the Scripture means.

Application refers to making changes (Jam. 1:22; 2 Tim. 3:16)

James challenged us that we should be doers of the Word, not hearers only. If we claim to have learned a truth from the Word, but can’t live it out we are deceived. As we complete our study of God’s Word we ought to look for places in our own lives where application is appropriate.

D L Moody said,

The Scriptures were not given for our information but for our transformation.

In what ways is the Word of God transforming you today?

Jonah’s one right thought…

The story of Jonah is one of those that we learn young. Show a child a picture of a man in a whale, and if he doesn’t guess Pinocchio he’ll probably say its Jonah.

Yet it was only in the belly of the creature from the deep that Jonah actually thinks God’s thoughts (Jonah 2:1-10). It’s only from within a stomach lining that Jonah begins to grasp his need for grace. Unfortunately he never fully desires for his enemies to have that grace (Jonah 4:2-3).

Tucked in Jonah’s submarine prayer is one of my wife’s favorite verses. The NIV captures it this way,

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs (Jonah 2:8)

You might want to reread that verse. Read it slowly. It is life changing, but it doesn’t have to be. You see it was life changing for the Ninevites — they heard Jonah’s preaching and repented from their idol worship and turned to the living God (Jonah 3:8). It was life changing for the sailors bound for Tarshish. Having thrown Jonah into the Sea, the storm stopped, and they worshipped the Lord and got committed (Jonah 1:16).

But it wasn’t life changing for Jonah; its effects on his attitude were only temporary. Jonah’s idol was his bitterness and bigotry. Certainly the  Ninevites had done cruel acts to the surrounding nations. The pleasure they took in their violence and torture of others was renowned. But Jonah did not deem them as worth saving. He knew if he preached to them, they just might repent. And he knew if they repented, God in his grace would forgive. That’s why he got on the west-bound ship, when he should have been going east. He chose to cling to his worthless idol.

What root of bitterness consumes you? A wrong committed against you in the past? Something that happened to you as a child? The unfaithfulness of a spouse? The deceit of a friend?

Be careful of clinging to the pain of another’s wrongdoing, you might discover that you’re forfeiting the grace that could be yours.

Finding hope in despair…

During difficult times we all need hope. The Psalmist captured it this way:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation (Psalm 42:5).

 I can’t remember who said it, but the words were wise:

If I am in despair my hope must be in the wrong place.

A simple search on the phrase hope in brought about the following results. Read them slowly and soak them in.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 33:18).

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you (Psalm 33:22).

Though he slay me, I will hope in him (Job 13:15).

… So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (Psalm 78:7)

Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word (Psalm 119:74).

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word (Psalm 119:114).

. . . Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption (Psalm 130:7)

. . . But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:11).

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

And here are some others passages on hope:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

. . . so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:18-19).

So if you find you’re in despair, perhaps it’s time to refocus your hope. What are you hoping in…?

Joshua and the fear of falling

Even though it happened over thirty-five years ago I can still remember the feeling of panic.  Looking down the ladder, realizing my brother was no longer steadying it at the base, and then feeling the ladder begin to slide away from the tree.  My 30 foot descent wasn’t rapid enough to break any bones, but it really knocked the wind out of me.

Although I’ve since forgiven my brother (who was ten years old at the time), that moment still marks my life every time I begin to ascend a ladder.

That feeling of looking down, not seeing my brother there, and feeling my world begin to give way all at the same time.

Perhaps you have been there. As your world started to give way beneath you, you realized you were alone.  The person you were counting on to bring stability to your life was nowhere to be found. I think it was that way for the Old Testament leader Joshua (His story is told in the book of Joshua, and his fears are expressed in chapter 1). All his life he had leaned on Moses, but now Moses was dead, and he felt alone. It was in that moment that God spoke to him, and brought these words of encouragement: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). It was a promise and it came at the right time.

It is a promise that still brings comfort to us today.  No matter how wildly life seems to spin out of control, God will not forsake those who have placed their trust in Him.

Maybe you are there today. The bottom just went out of your life, and when you looked around you found no support from the people you trusted the most.

Can I encourage you? The One who really matters is still there.  And He’s still in the business of gently lowering you to the ground when the bottom falls out of your world.

When it appears that God is silent…

Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone. We serve a God who is not seen with  human eyes, so during troubling times our faith is prone to waver (John 1:18; Hebrews 11:1). This was the situation for the Israelites when they were in slavery down in Egypt. As their lives grew increasingly difficult they cried out to God. From their perspective heaven’s answer to their pain and difficulty was nothing but silence. But two verses pulls back the curtain, and let us peek into heaven for greater understanding.

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel—and God knew (Exodus 2:24-25).

God heard
       God remembered.
               God saw
                      God knew.

Four words that give us great hope when times are hard.

God hears the cries of your heart. He knows when you’re groaning in fear or pain. You may think you’re alone in a dark place, but God hears.

God remembered his promise to Abraham, and God remembers his promise to you. When he said he would never leave you nor forsake you, he meant it (Hebrews 13:5). When he promised he’d be faithful to complete the work he began in you, he won’t forget it (Phiippians 1:6). God remembers his promises.

God saw the injustice. He was aware that the nation of Israel was being treated poorly, and he was moving to make it right. While the Israelites couldn’t see him moving, he could see them suffering. God saw, and he was about to do something about it.

God knew. This is the word that brings the greatest comfort. The text simply says, God knew. God knew everything that needed to be done: the beginning, the in-between, and the end. When I am confused, I find hope in this truth.  God knows my challenge, God knows the best way to bring me through it, and God knows what to do.

Encouragement when you feel anxious or hopeless: God heard, God remembered, God saw, and God knew.

And he still does.

Daniel and right decisions

The Biblical book of Daniel is known for lions’ dens, fiery furnaces, and a host of prophecies. But it also tells the story of a man, and his commitment to God. That story begins in chapter one, years before the lions show up. Daniel’s people are taken captive, and he, with the best of the Israelites is transported back to Babylon, where he would be trained to work for the Babylonian government. He was a young man then, and had much growing to do, but in spite of living in that pagan culture, His commitment to God was definite and unshaken.

So much so, that when they brought forth the best of their food, Daniel asks permission not to eat it. The Bible never communicates that he was a finicky eater, but that the menu in that pagan culture violated the laws of God for the Jewish people. There were three other men with him when he made this decision. You might recognize their names from the story of the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. All four men took a stand, and it’s found in verse 8 of the 1st chapter. But Daniel purposed in His heart that he would not defile himself. That commitment put into motion a whole host of supernatural events.

The Bible records that “God brought Daniel into favor and good will” of the one in charge (1:9). And a little later” “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom” (1:17).

Remarkably, 4 men purposed in their hearts to remain committed to God, and God gave them favor and abilities that they had not previously had. You see the commitment to spend a night in a lion’s den for your faith, or a few hours in the hottest of furnaces, always begins with a “purposing in your heart” to do the will of God in the smaller areas as well. And then as the story reveals: God gave. He not only gave favor, abilities, and knowledge, but he gave a providential protection that would keep the mouths of the lions shut (Dan. 6), and keep the flames of the fire from burning flesh (Dan. 3).  Have you purposed in your heart that you’ll do whatever He askes?  God stands ready to give.

A new look at the upper room

When most people think of the upper room they think of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting.  A long narrow table, with high-backed chairs, and twelve Europeans at the table. But Da Vinci was about 1600 years late to the event. What was the upper room really like? Why were the disciples arguing? How could they could they not know Judas was the betrayer? The following video will give these answers and more through 3D teaching.

This note: If you receive this blog via email you will need to go to this location to watch the video.

Running time approximately 15 minutes. For additional study, after watching the video, reread John 13. As you read pay special attention to the interaction between Jesus and the disciples.