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Encouragement

Scripture Memory

Last week, I talked about the importance of reading the Bible in 2014. I hope you took to heart my encouragement to get started with a Bible Reading Plan. But as important as it is to read the Bible, it isn’t enough. We must also spend time thinking about what we’re reading. That’s the purpose of memorizing Scripture.

“But I have a bad memory and I can’t memorize things.”

Sure you can! What is your address? What’s your phone number? What’s your social security number? What’s your birth date? What’s your anniversary date? What are the lyrics of your favorite song?

The reason we memorize these things is that we attach a value to remembering them. In other words, we remember those things we deem to be important. At the risk of being blunt, the reason you don’t think you can memorize Scripture is you don’t think it’s important. Ouch!

OK, I’m not talking about memorizing entire chapters or even books of the Bible – though there are many people who have done that! As a matter of fact, the first Bible passage I ever memorized was the 23rd Psalm; we did it in Sunday School when I was eight years old. And I remember it today – all of it. Why? Because our Sunday School teacher told us she would give us a trinket if we would do it; and we valued the trinket. I don’t remember the teacher’s name because it’s been 30-something years since I last saw her. But I do remember the chapter because I often will recall the verses in times of need.

How to Memorize Scripture

Memorizing Scripture is no different than memorizing anything else. Seriously! All you do is find a verse or two that you want to remember such as John 3:16. Read it in several translations and choose one. Begin reading the words slowly. Write the words down on a piece of paper, including the verse reference (think of the chapter and verse numbers as the verse’s “home address”). Write the words and reference on a sticky note or an index card. Post the note on your bathroom mirror where you will see it when you brush and floss your teeth. (You may remember that I compared the importance of dental hygiene and reading the Bible last week). Twice a day, look at the card and read the reference. Then read the verse and read the reference again. Do this the entire time you’re brushing and flossing. If you do this twice a day and include flossing, you will spend about five minutes a day running the verse and reference through your mind. Periodically go back through the verses you have memorized in the past. The result? You will be absolutely amazed at how many verses you can remember over the course of a week, month, year, and a lifetime! Encourage your family and friends to ask you what verse you’re currently memorizing. And ask them the same thing!

So, where are you going to start?

May I suggest a few?
John 3:16-17
Romans 3:23
Romans 6:23
Romans 5:8
Romans 10:9-10

 

Finding Jesus in Tragedy

We experienced two tragedies this week. On Thursday I saw an alert on Facebook that a church in Adell was on fire. The name didn’t sound familiar, but given the size of the community, I only knew of one church: Adell Community Church, pastored by a friend, Mike Wiley. A few minutes later, I received an email from the Weatherford Ministerial Alliance’s president asking for us to pray for Mike and the church. I called him later and he said that their new sanctuary had all but burned to the ground.

The next day was Friday and we heard the news of the second deadliest mass murder in American history: twenty 5- and 6-year olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT had been killed by a sick man. It was an evil act. Of course, Facebook and Twitter were ablaze from both sides of the gun control debate. So many pundits were politicizing the tragedy even before the bodies were removed from the school. One of the wisest things I saw was a Tweet from Glenn Beck:

Our society is broken. Our communities are suffering and it is because of the ever expanding lack of self-control & personal responsibility. It’s not the gun. It is the soul.

A high school friend commented, “I don’t know if God exists. But if he does, I’m not keen on worshipping someone who lets twenty young children die.” In a later comment, she said, “If we have an omnipotent being regarding us all, he’s either doing a [horrible] job or doesn’t love us as advertised.” Her comments typify the response most of us have as we try to wrap our brains around the problem of evil.

As I studied and prayed through Friday and Saturday, I came across an excellent post from Russell Moore, Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. I highly recommend reading his response.

This morning, I responded to these tragedies from the pulpit. My sermon’s thesis statement was that we will find Jesus in tragedy when we confidently trust in God’s absolute sovereignty.

I remember a discussion in our Christian Ethics class in seminary. The professor said that when wrestling with these issues, we are tempted to deny one of three things:

  • God is all-loving
  • God is all-good
  • God is all-powerful

But to take a Biblical approach, we must affirm all three points. We don’t have to understand why God does all that He does. He doesn’t owe us any explanations and He doesn’t have to get our permission. Our task is to trust that He is all-loving, He is all-good, and he is all-powerful. He’ll take care of the rest.

If God were small enough to be understood He would not be big enough to be worshipped. —Evelyn Underhill

 

What do you think about this tragedy? How we should approach this subject from a Christian perspective?

I am interested in hearing your comments below.

 

 

I’ve Never Seen that Before!

I have read through the Bible several times. Normally, when I get to all of the genealogies in 1Chronicles, I tend to wince and trudge my way through all the names. Perhaps it wouldn’t seem so hard to get through them if they had just named their kids normal names like Scott, Terry, Amy, or Sharon!

However, as I began to read today’s verses, I stumbled upon something I don’t remember ever seeing before:

Two sons were born to Eber. One of them was named Peleg because the earth was divided during his lifetime, and the name of his brother was Joktan. (1Chron 1:19 HCSB)

Tucked into all those names is a comment that almost sounds like a parenthetical remark. “Oh, by the way, the continents separated while during this guy’s lifetime.” WHAT???

Modern science tells us that Abraham Ortelius postulated the theory of continental drift in AD 1596. So how could the author of 1Chronicles(Ezra?) have known about continental drift some 1000 years before Ortelius? And then, as I looked into it, I discovered that Moses says the same thing in Genesis 10:25 when he wrote his account about 1000 years before Ezra!

Yet again, we see that God gently guided the authors of the Bible to record historical facts that wouldn’t be discovered until many years later (1Peter 1:21).

 

Application:

Do you believe the Bible is an outdated book? Do you have reservations about taking the Bible at face value? Only a Divine Hand could guide Moses and Ezra to write such profound statements so many years before they were “discovered” by modern science! Take up the Bible and eat! Psalm 34:8.

 

Anger and Prayer

God said something very surprising in today’s Bible reading.

“I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions.” So Samuel became angry and cried out to the Lord [all] night. (1Sam 15:11 HCSB)

God gave very specific instructions to Saul: kill everything and everyone in this battle. Saul told Samuel that he had followed God’s instructions, but Samuel pointed out that he had kept some of the animals alive.

Many application points can be seen in this passage. Here are a few.
1. When we hear a specific word from God, He intends us to carry it out to the fullest. Saul said that he had saved the best animals for sacrifice. But Samuel says that, “To obey is better than sacrifice”. (verse 22)
2. When Samuel heard that God regretted choosing Saul as king, Samuel was angry and cried out to God all night. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to cry out to God. He can take it.

However, when we get angry, it should be about the right things. We don’t know if Samuel was mad at God or at Saul’s disobedience. Regardless, his response was right: cry out to God.

Application:
Are you angry about something? Have you cried out to God about it? Remember, He can take it. But be ready to hear and heed what He tells you in response.

An Open Response to a Friend

Recently on Facebook, a longtime friend posted a rebuke of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life.

“Hey, Rick – “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Cor 6:14-15” She linked to http://www.ocregister.com/articles/muslims-341669-warren-saddleback.html, written by a secular journalist, which appears say that Rick Warren believes Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. The same day, someone else linked to the same article, requesting my feedback.

My longtime friend added in her next comment, “And what is so flagrantly missing from this article? That’s right… ANY mention of the Lord Jesus Christ.”. A mutual friend posted a link from Ed Stetzer (https://www.edstetzer.com/2012/03/rick-warren-interview-on-musli.html), which I “liked”. In that article, Warren himself clearly expresses his view that Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God. The first friend responded,

“Thanks for popping in and also for the link. Say, for instance, that I were to concede that everything RW says in this *particular* article is true, unfortunately, there remains more than enough evidence to indict him on this and other counts. He has proven over and over again that he is quite the chameleon when it comes to what he believes. For example, when he was interviewed by John Piper, one would have thought he was an original reformer the way he waxed on so eloquently about reformed theology, Calvin, etc.”

After several more paragraphs, she concluded,

“RW is a wolf. He may be the nicest of men, but he is a false teacher. Wolves don’t blast in wearing red and carrying a pitchfork; they rise up from among us, and they creep in unaware. If he truly “loved Jesus” then He would be about the business of unashamedly preaching Christ crucified.”

The next day, she “mentioned” our mutual friend and me, requesting a response. She noted, “as ministers of the gospel, there is no way you should be supporting RW in any way, shape or form.”

For almost a week, I have pondered how I would respond, if at all, as Rick Warren’s name has come up before with this friend. Several months ago, I stated that I don’t necessarily agree with everything that  Warren has said, but that he does have some very good things to say, which I often Tweet and post on Facebook. He has been instrumental in bringing more lost souls to Jesus than I probably ever will. (Phil 1:18)

Here is my response (and it has little to do with Rick Warren or any other specific pastor/teacher):

 

I have grieved as I have read the tone of your posts on Facebook. It is vitally important to expose heretical theology and unhealthy emphases in the church, as well as those who propagate them. If we hold the Bible to be our rulebook, we must deal with things biblically. There is a time, place, and manner to deal with these things. Facebook (and the blogosphere) is not one of them. But since you have opened the conversation in this environment, I feel that I must respond in turn.

In every instance in the Bible where church discipline is mentioned, the context is the local church. In a previous e-dialogue, I pointed out that Rick Warren is subject to the leadership at Saddleback and that you should take up your concerns with the elders there. Granted, times have changed and we no longer have an overall structure, as in the book of Acts, to deal with discipline, therefore we need to find new ways of application. But it should still start and end in the local church.

Biblical Church discipline will always have redemption as its goal. Now, I qualified my previous sentence with the word “Biblical” because most “church discipline” I have seen has been far from redemptive. The tone of all of your remarks about Rick Warren has consistently been punitive and downright hateful.

Unfortunately, Christians who hold to a “reformed” theology have a reputation for being prideful, mean and hateful. Your accusations and comments are exhibitive.

Yes, we should speak the truth, but we should speak it in love (Eph 4:15). Everything we say should be for the purpose of building up one another (Eph 4:29). Our conversation is to be full of grace (Col 4:6). We should always be ready to tell other people about our Hope with gentleness and respect (1Pet 3:15). Finally, it must be noted that love is the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus (John 13:35), not espousing a correct theology or insisting on using any type of shibboleth.

Whether or not Rick Warren, or any other pastor/teacher, is being “heretical”, we must deal with such issues in the proper time, place, and manner. Airing our dirty laundry in a hateful manner in view of the world does nothing to further the Kingdom Cause. God is not glorified in that.

Perhaps we (all of us) should spend more time praying for those with whom we differ as opposed to Facebooking and blogging about them. In that, God would be most glorified.

Respectfully in Christian love,
cb