Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's a Girl!

Well, our first ultrasound occurred this last Monday, October 6th.  We were excited to find out the gender of baby number 4.'s a girl!  Our girls, Kate and Allison, are so happy that they will be having another sister.  I will continue to console Micah through, but seriously, we are very happy and excited to welcome another girl into our family.  Now to start thinking of names...If anyone has any good ideas, please post them here.

Here she is!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quote of the Week - Gospel-Motivated Love

When my mind is fixed on the gospel, I have ample stimulation to show God’s love to other people. For I am always willing to show love to others when I am freshly mindful of the love that God has shown me. Also, the gospel gives me the wherewithal to give forgiving grace to those who have wronged me, for it reminds me daily of the forgiving grace that God is showing me.

Doing good and showing love to those who have wronged me is always the opposite of what my sinful flesh wants me to do. Nonetheless, when I remind myself of my sins against God and of His forgiveness and generous grace toward me, I give the gospel an opportunity to reshape my perspective and to put me in a frame of mind wherein I actually desire to give this same grace to those who have wronged me.
Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love, 24-25

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quote of the Week - Family Driven Faith

This is the linchpin in every argument I have made or will make in this book. God has designed your family—not the youth group, not the children's ministry, not the Christian school, but your family—as the principal discipling agent in your children's lives. The most important job you have as a parent is to train and disciple your children.
Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God, p. 118

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quote of the Week - God's Wonderful Mess

The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification center, where flawed people place their trust in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he has designed. The church is messy and inefficient, but it is God's wonderful mess -- the place where he radically transforms hearts and lives.
Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change, p. 116

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gilroy Garlic Festival

A lot of garlic infused food tasting, a lot of walking, and more than enough sun later, we are finally back in our hotel room after a great day at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Lots of garlic. Then there was some more garlic. And finally, you guessed it, more garlic. We had a pretty good time. Take a look at some pictures we took today:

Garlic Cooking at its finest.

Garlic Roasted Turkey Legs.

Garlic Corn.

Garlic Bathrooms! :-)

And, of course, garlic ice cream!

Allie got her face painted.

And so did Kate.

We took our picture in front of this huge, flaming garlic.

We also got to take our picture with "Mr. Garlic!"

Tomorrow we are on our way to Gilroy Gardens (formerly called Bonfante Gardens). According to their website, Gilroy Gardens "is California's only horticultural theme park designed for families with young children and garden lovers featuring 21 rides, 27 attractions, 6 majestic gardens and the world famous Circus Trees." I don't know how good the circus performing trees will be, but I'll let you know tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gilroy Garlic Gorge

Well, maybe not a gorge, but our family is traveling to Gilroy, CA tomorrow to partake in the Gilroy Garlic Festival. We have often wanted to take a trip up to Gilroy during the festival season, but never have had the chance (or planning) to do so until this year. So, early tomorrow morning all five of us will be driving up to Gilroy to get in on the garlic action! I will be trying to update this blog as we are there to let all of you in on the details of our trip.

Who knows, maybe we'll even get to meet this guy:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bible Reading

An excerpt from a J.C. Ryle tract called Bible Reading:
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.

To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible. . . . Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible. . . . Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?

There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?

If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience. . . . Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.

If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him. . . . Your sword is held loosely in your hand.

If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.

If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal. . . . Remember your many enemies. Be armed!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Testing the RSS Feed

Please excuse this post. I am trying to test out the RSS Feed. This will be deleted later. Thanks.

Quote of the Week - God's Free Gift of Faith

Ah, Sovereign Lord! The doctrine of eternal punishment terrifies, but the doctrine of unconditional election shatters. We thought we were the masters of our own fate; we supposed that we could be saved whenever we pleased. But now we find - and our hearts confirm the Bible's teaching in this - that unless You act to save us, we will be lost. We are trapped in ourselves until you set us free. We are the willing victims of our own insane animosity to You. We claim to seek You even when we are hiding from You, and we pretend to desire Your truth even when we are devising ways of suppressing it. If You change us, we will live. If You abandon us to our free will, we will perish.
Father, grant that those of us who are Christians may never detract from Your glory by supposing that our faith is anything other than Your free gift. And grant that those who do not yet know You may recognize their true position - under Your judgement and at Your mercy - and may realize the urgency of seeking Your grace. To the glory of Jesus, amen.

David Clotfelter, Sinners in the Hands of a Good God: Reconciling Divine Judgement and Mercy

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Boasting - Part 4

In my prior three posts on boasting (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I have begun to talk through six different ways in which I see, as Christians, that we can easily boast. I do not exclude myself from those who boast in things other than in Christ, as I am learning and growing in this area as well. I am hoping that in bringing up what Jerry Bridges would call this "respectable sin" in the lives of Christians, that we can work on becoming less prideful in anything other than in Christ and more trusting of Him who has saved us.

Here is a list of the six areas of boasting that I have been covering:
  1. Boasting in our faith
  2. Boasting in our morality
  3. Boasting in correct doctrine
  4. Boasting in life circumstances (whether good or bad)
  5. Boasting in achievement
  6. Boasting in our independent spirit
The first four have been covered in my previous posts on boasting, and I will be covering the last two today.

Boasting in achievement
The Bibles does teach that there is generally a cause-and-effect relationship between how we work, and the reward that comes to us. In Proverbs 13:4, it says, "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied." In the proverb regarding the ant, Solomon says, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:10-11).

We are also exhorted in our ministry to work diligently. Paul tells Timothy, "
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved" (emphasis mine). Paul also tells us that he is diligent as well. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he says, "...I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

However, the Bible also tells us that all of our successes are directly under the sovereign control of God (1 Samuel 2:7, Haggai 1:5-6). Two people in the same job can both work diligently, but one is promoted over the other. Two students in the same class can both work diligently, but one excels and get good grades, while the other does not. Why is this the case? God, under His sovereignty, gives one person more opportunity, more intellectual ability, more comprehension than the other. Whatever the case may be, God says that
He is the one who causes one to succeed and the other to fail. It is He who gives the ability and opportunity to succeed. It is not our own doing.

Are we proud of our successes apart from giving glory to God for them? We can often see this pride in others, for instance, when someone lets everyone know how successful they are because of their own hard work. But the rest of us who do not brag in such a way can also be offensive to God when we talk about our own successes or the success of our children without any acknowledgement of the gracious blessing of God.

Jerry Bridges, in
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, says this about how we can work to aviod this sin when speaking of our children's accomplishments:
Like most families, my wife and I receive a lot of Christmas letters with family news from friends and acquaintances we have made over the years. Occasionally, one of the letters might say something like this: "Our son, John, graduated summa cum laude from [some prestigious university such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or MIT]." Now, there is nothing wrong with communicating this good news to family and friends. But stated in the above fashion, the letter conveys the idea, "Isn't our son smart!" with no acknowledgement that his intellectual ability came from God.

If we want to avoid the subtle sin of pride in the achievements of our children, we might say something like this: "Our son, John, graduated summa cum laude from [fill in the prestigious university]. We deeply acknowledge that John's intellectual abilities come from God, and we are profoundly grateful to Him. We know that God does not choose to endow every child with the abilities He has given John. We have tried to instill this grateful attitude in John and to teach him that his academic abilities are a stewardship entrusted to him by God to be used to serve others and to glorify God."
Another aspect of boasting in achievement is the desire for recognition from man. If you find that you have this desire, two principles from Scripture may help:
  1. Luke 17:10 says, "So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"
  2. Psalm 75:6-7 says, "For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgement, putting down one and lifting up another."
I deserve nothing, and all I do receive, including recognition, is only of His grace. Therefore, if I don't receive recognition, I will not fret. All is of grace.

Boasting in our independent spirit
This type of boasting may express itself in the following attitudes:
  1. A resistance to authority
  2. An unteachable attitude
These two attitudes often go hand-in-hand. We see them often in the youth of today. But these attitudes are not only prevalent in the youth, but in all of us in one degree or another.

The Bible is quite clear on the matter of submitting to those in authority, especially spiritual authority. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." Submission to the Scriptures in this area will allow us to be teachable people, able to respond readily to the challenges of being discipled by another.

Jerry Bridges speaks to this well,
I sometimes encounter this attitude [of resistance to authority] in teaching the Bible to other adults. Often, a response to something I am teaching is, "Well, I think thus and such." No appeal to Scripture is made; it is only the person's opinion. Yet in his or her mind, that opinion is authoritative. There is no willingness to grapple with the teaching of scripture.
Yet the Bible strongly teaches the value of a teachable attitude (Proverbs 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 7:1). Do you have someone in your life who has your best interests at heart and can speak to those and other similar issues with wise, biblical counsel? Are you submitting to those who are potentially more mature in the faith who can help you grow up to become a more mature Christian yourself, able to help others? Seeking out these mentors of the faith is a step in the right direction in battling this boastful sin.

The six areas of boastfulness that we have covered in this series are, I would imagine, subtle sins that each of us must deal with in our lives. Many of the boastful sins that I have mentioned may not have initially seemed like sins to you at all. In fact, that is why they are so subversive within the Christian community. Even if we do regard these as sins, we often see them in others before we see them in ourselves.

I would strongly exhort you to pray over the sin of boastfulness in your life. I have been doing so, and will continue to do so, working daily to humble myself before God, always remembering God's promise in Isaiah 66:2, "...But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."
"...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:5-7

Truly Reformed

OK. You caught me. My next post was going to wrap up the boasting series I have been working through, but I came across this little gem on the web and had to share it with all of you. It's a blog post by Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN.
I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism.

The Judaizers in Galatia did not see their distinctive – the rite of circumcision – as problematic. They could claim biblical authority for it in Genesis 17 and the Abrahamic covenant. But their distinctive functioned as an addition to the all-sufficiency of Jesus himself. Today the flash point is not circumcision. It can be Reformed theology. But no matter how well argued our position is biblically, if it functions in our hearts as an addition to Jesus, it ends up as a form of legalistic divisiveness.
He concludes:
What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

e*p*t Positive

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate." - Psalm 127:3-5
Sorry folks. I've been out of touch here for a while now. A little bit has been going on in our family as of late. As you can already guess, June and I just found out that the Lord has blessed us with another pregnancy. Another newcomer to our family, still in the womb, will arrive, God willing, around the end of February 2009.

At first, we were shocked at the news and a little overwhelmed. We had not been trying to get pregnant, and, in fact, had actually been actively trying not to get pregnant (because we thought that we knew better). But God must have had other plans. This caused some distress on our part, wondering how we would be able to effectively raise four children all 5 years and under. But we realized that this kind of thinking was not trust in our God, but, rather, worldly anxiety. The kind of anxiety that the Lord tells us to cast upon Him (Philippians 4:6). The kind of attitude that does not trust in God for his providence in every situation. God is sovereign and in control of all that happens to us. He is the one who forms us (Psalm 139:13-14). He is the one who establishes our steps (Proverbs 16:9). He is the one who accomplishes all of His purposes (Isaiah 46:9-10). We need to be of steadfast mind, trusting in Him alone (Isaiah 26:3).

We have come to the place where we continue to trust in God for this new birth. We are going to trust Him continually in the raising of our children, however difficult that may be at times. It is only through this trust that we will find His peace lavished on us. And, this trust gives us an exciting anticipation for what He has in store for our family. We are excited for this new birth in our family and are excited to see how God will bless us yet again with a new member of our family.

The verse above (Psalm 127:3-5) reminds me that our children are arrows that we will be using to send out against the enemy. Arrows that we can use to send out to accomplish the purpose of God. Throughout the Bible, God uses the arrow imagery to depict those whom He sends out for his purpose. It's exciting to read these passages about Joash (2 Kings 13:14-19) and about the Messiah (Isaiah 49:1-3), where God used the arrow imagery to show how he would save Israel from their enemies and from themselves for His glory. Maybe, someday, my children will be arrows that I can shoot out against the enemy to accomplish God's purpose as well.

"Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'" - Isaiah 49:1-3
P.S. I plan on completing the series on Boasting in my next post. Sorry for the tardiness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Quote of the Week - Response to the Doctrine of Hell

My gracious, loving Father, the doctrine of eternal punishment shatters me and reduces me to confusion and embarrassment. I have often spoken with disdain of those who at various times of history have been complacent in the face of terrible suffering on the part of their fellow human beings, but what is to be said of someone who can be so little troubled by the thought that millions of his fellow creatures are destined to an eternity of torment? Should this thought not drive me to far greater efforts in prayer, evangelism, and service? Surely the truth, Father, is that this doctrine has penetrated only superficially into my heart and life, such that I have hardly begun to know what it is to take Your wrath with perfect seriousness and to struggle in prayer for and in witness to those who are lost.
That I may draw close to the spirit of Christ, I ask again the you strengthen my mind to understand sound doctrine, humble my proud heart to receive it, and embolden my spirit to proclaim and live it. I would gladly reject the doctrine of hell; but if I may not, then let me so receive it as to be haunted by it, and so believe it as to be incapable of cravenly withholding Your truth from those in danger of everlasting loss. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

David Clotfelter, Sinners in the Hands of a Good God: Reconciling Divine Judgement and Mercy

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wordled Blog

I just found an awesome tool, called wordle, on the web that lets you see at a glance all of the words that is in a particular text. Just for fun, I wordled my blog for the month of June and here's what I got:

I'm sort of glad that God made it to the center. Take a look and have fun with it!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Boasting - Part 3

"Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished." - Proverbs 16:5
For the past two posts (On Boasting - Part 1 and On Boasting - Part 2), I have been discussing the sin of boasting within the family of God. How do we as Christians tend to boast in a sinful way, and yet too often not recognize it in our lives? There are six ways that we boast that I am exploring in these posts, and I'll list them here for reference:
  1. Boasting in our faith
  2. Boasting in our morality
  3. Boasting in correct doctrine
  4. Boasting in life circumstances (whether good or bad)
  5. Boasting in achievement
  6. Boasting in our independent spirit
Recently, I have encountered the subject of boasting in many different situations over the last several weeks. It all started when our small group was studying Romans 3:27; then I starting reading a book by Jerry Bridges entitled Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate that has a section in it on the sin of pride; and our Sunday School class recently went through a discussion of Jeremiah 9:23-24. This has given me a lot of time to think about this subject and to start working on this sin of boasting as I see it in my life today. I am hoping that these posts will encourage us all in our walk with Christ, helping in our sanctification to greater godliness.

We have already covered the first two ways that Christians are prone to boast: In our faith, and in our moral self-righteousness. The two ways that I would like to cover in this post are boasting in correct doctrine (or you could call this boasting in knowledge), and boasting in our life circumstances (whether good or bad).

Boasting in Correct Doctrine
Closely related to pride in morality is our doctrinal pride. This is the assumption that whatever my doctrinal beliefs are, they are right, and anyone who thinks otherwise is theologically inferior. Anyone who cares about doctrine at all are susceptible to this form of boasting. And those who do not really consider doctrine that important even look with contempt on those who do. It doesn't matter what doctrinal belief you hold to: Arminianism or Calvinism; Dispensational or Covenant theology; Paedo-baptist or Credo-baptist; Continuationist or Cessationist. This is boasting in a particular belief system, whatever that belief system may be, and and attitude that puts ourselves as spiritually superior than others who hold different beliefs.

Paul addresses this type of boasting in his letter to the Corinthians. This was a church who was having issues with divisions in the church over various subjects. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses the church in their attitude toward those who would not eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. The Corinthians' conclusion in this case was that it was okay to eat this food because it fell within the bounds of Christian liberty. Paul did not disagree with the Corinthian church about their conclusion, but he did address their pride over those who did not have that belief. In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul says, "Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that 'all of us possess knowledge.' This 'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up".

If your Calvinism or Arminianism or dispensationalism or view of the end times causes you to feel superior to others, then you may be falling under the sin of boasting in knowledge. In 1 Corinthians 3:18-19, Paul addresses the church's puffed up "knowledge" once more: "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God...".

This is not to say that we should not have strong convictions about doctrine, but if those convictions cause us to consider others and spiritually less significant than ourselves, we have allowed our flesh to turn them into sin. If you think that this even might be an area of sin in your life, please prayerfully consider how to hold onto your strong convictions with a genuine attitude of humility.
"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:5-7

Boasting in Life Circumstances (Whether Good or Bad)
I think that we can all understand how we may boast in circumstances that are good in our lives. If we get an unexpected windfall, if we win the lottery, if our circumstances allow us to be in the right place at the right time for some sort of blessing. It's easy in those instances to boast in the good things that have happened to us without attributing them to our God through whom every good gift and every perfect gift comes (James 1:17). But I would tend to say that this is not the normative way that we, as Christians, boast in our circumstances. In fact, I would say that we more readily give glory to God when something good happens to us unexpectedly, and we have no qualms with doing so.

Where I believe that we can easily sin in this area is when our circumstances are not good. This is where I have seen many Christians describe in detail the bad circumstance they are currently in for a couple of different reasons: a) to gather those around them who will make them feel better, or b) to one-up others who are also suffering through bad circumstances. I see this all the time in the church, and it grieves me that this attitude shows mistrust in God and a confidence in something other than the Lord whom we serve.

God gives us several ways in which we should approach life's bad circumstances. The first is found in Matthew 5:43-44 which says, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". Jesus is telling us that no matter who is our enemy, whether our deadbeat ex-husband, or our co-worker who is slandering us, we need to be praying for them. Notice that he does not say, "Pray for your enemies, that they may be made into nice people, more like yourselves". This lesson is also found in Romans 12:14-21.

Another is found in Philippians 4:11-13:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
What is the remedy for facing our bad circumstances? Learn to be content in everything, for you can endure all things through Christ. Go to Him in prayer for everything, not to others, and not blaming others for your circumstances, for God is in control of all.

"Then how do we pray for our enemies or for our bad circumstances?" you might say. Well, prayer changes things. This is an important concept to understand. Prayer also changes
us. Most of us pray to change the situation, to change our circumstances, and to change the other person. We should be praying for these things, but we should also be looking at how God is using these circumstances to deal with us. When we pray like that we can potentially realize several things:
  1. How have I contributed or am I contributing to the bad circumstance? Oftentimes, we want to stand back and be the victim, but God wants something better for us. He wants us to be sanctified to become more holy ourselves. What is God teaching me about sin in my own life through this circumstance?
  2. How can I put myself in my enemies' shoes? Romans 3 tells us that no one is up to God's standard of righteousness. If we can understand that our enemy is a sinner just like us who needs God's forgiveness just as we do, that understanding can help us pray for others outside of the circumstances in which they have put us.
  3. How can I be an instrument of God's grace through this circumstance? Often, we end up thinking too much of ourselves when we are hard-pressed under a bad situation. "How can I survive? Why am I here? Look how hard it is for me!" But our eyes should be focused on God throughout every circumstance in our lives, and, in so doing, we can be used by him as an instrument for his grace and mercy for others.
All of these scriptures we have seen show us how to have freedom from self-preoccupation and self-infatuation and self-exaltation. And, much more than that — though that is crucial — we can be fully rooted in Christ-preoccupation and Christ-infatuation and Christ-exaltation through our circumstances, whatever they may be.

Next time: Boasting in achievement and boasting in our own independent spirit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On Boasting - Part 2

"'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.' For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." - 2 Corinthians 10:17-18
In On Boasting - Part 1, I brought up six different areas of boasting in which we Christians may find ourselves involved. These are very subtle sins that we have tended to accept as normal in our Christian culture, but which I believe - and the Bible states - are sins with which we need to confront in our sanctification process. The first two that I will cover in this post are: boasting in our faith and boasting in moral self-righteousness.

Boasting in our faith
This is a particular danger for the evangelical Christian. For the most part, we know that we are not saved by works (Romans 3:28). We have been taught that in the church many, many times. But faith is
the distinguishing mark of the evangelical Christian. So, even though we have been taught there is to be no boasting in heaven, and even though we do not want to boast, when pressed in our doctrine, Christians will often admit that in the final analysis the reason that we are going to be in heaven, and another person is going to be in hell, is that we believed God and trusted Jesus (Acts 16:31) while those who are perishing spurned Him (2 Thessalonians 2:10). James Montgomery Boice puts it this way in his commentary on Romans 3:
"Sometimes evangelicals express their ideas in the following fashion. They say that God first gave the law to see if anyone could keep it. But since no one did or can, God now comes to us with a slimmed-down or much-facilitated gospel, as if he were saying: 'I know you can't keep my law. So let me ask instead for something you can do. Just believe in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, I'll save you.'"
I'm sure you can see what is wrong with that idea. That makes faith into a work that we must do on the basis of which we are saved. And if that were the case, there would be grounds for boasting. But that is not what faith is. In D. Martin Lloyd-Jones exposition of Romans, he writes:
"Faith is nothing but the instrument of our salvation. Nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified because of our faith; nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified on account of our faith. The Scripture never says that. The Scripture says that we are justified by faith or through faith. Faith is nothing but the instrument or the channel by which this righteousness of God in Christ becomes ours. It is not faith that saves us. What saves us is the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect work. It is the death of Christ upon Calvary's Cross that saves us. It is his perfect life that saves us. It is his appearing on our behalf in the presence of God that saves us. It is God putting Christ's righteousness to our account that saves us. This is the righteousness that saves; faith is but the channel and the instrument by which his righteousness becomes mine. The righteousness is entirely Christ's. My faith is not my righteousness and I must never define or think of faith as righteousness. Faith is nothing but that which links us to the Lord Jesus Christ and his righteousness." (emphasis mine)
Have you ever thought of yourself as more enlightened or somehow smarter or closer to God because you decided to follow after Him, and those worldly people (or this one particular sinner) cannot seem to get it? Beware of this line of thinking. For you have not been saved because of anything inherently better in yourself. If God had not "made you alive together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-5), you would be just as condemned as those others.

Boasting in moral self-righteousness
Jerry Bridges, in his book Respectable Sins:Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, says this about pride in moral self-righteousness.
"The sin of moral superiority and self-righteousness is so easy to fall into today, when society as a whole is openly committing or condoning such flagrant sins as immorality, easy divorce, a homosexual lifestyle, abortion, drunkenness, drug use, avarice, and other flagrant and scandalous sins. Because we don't commit those sins, we tend to feel morally superior and look with a certain amount of disdain or contempt on those who do. It's not that those sins I've mentioned are not serious sins that are tearing apart the moral fabric of our society. Indeed, they are serious, and I respect those Christian leaders of our day who raise a prophetic voice against them. But the sin we ourselves fall into is the sin of moral self-righteousness and a resultant spirit of contempt toward those who practice those sins. In fact, Jesus told the parable about the Pharisee 'to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt' (Luke 18:9)."
I would venture to say that the sin of moral self-righteousness is one of the most prevalent sins within Christian communities today (I sure do see that it is the sin that I struggle most often with in the area of boasting). And because it is so common among Christians, that makes it even harder to detect in our lives because we are all practicing it to some degree. We even seem to get some enjoyment out of describing amongst ourselves how bad our society and the world has become. When we do this, we are falling into the sin of moral self-righteousness.

James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." And Romans 2:23-24 says, "You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" You see, by looking on others as less morally righteous than us, we have condemned ourselves and dishonored God before the world.

There are several ways that scripture has given us to help us in dealing with this particular sin, but I would like to focus on two:
  1. Identifying ourselves as sinners with mankind. This is given to us as example by several Biblical leaders, but I'd like to bring up just one. Ezra was a scribe who was tasked with teaching the people of God (after they returned from their captivity in Babylon) the law of God. When he saw how evil God's people were, he identified himself with those who were evil when presenting them before God. In Ezra 9:6, he says, "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens."
  2. Seeking to be humble in every situation. We must continue to strive to be humble, because that is the example that Christ has given us (Philippians 2:3-8). An attitude of humility not only puts others first, but it recognizes our position before the God of heaven: we were sinners by nature before we were even born (Psalm 51:5), and we can easily identify ourselves with Romans 3:10-12 which says, "None is righteous, no, not one...All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." It is only by the grace of God that we are kept from, or maybe have been rescued from, the flagrant sins that we condemn.
I trust that God has been speaking to your heart as you read about the sinfulness of boasting. He has sure been working on me in this area. I am not free from pride or boasting in my life, especially the kinds that we are talking about here. I want to make sure that you understand that, because I am mindful of the passage in Romans where Paul tells those to whom he writes, "you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" (Romans 2:21a). Please join with me in asking God to reveal to us the pride that He sees in our lives, so that we may grow in sanctification together.

Next time: How do we boast in correct doctrine and our life circumstances (whether good or bad)?

On Boasting - Part 1

"Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'" - Jeremiah 9:23-24

God has been bringing up the sin of pride in my life in so many different ways in the past several weeks. I would like to share some of the things that I am learning and hope to provide a sense of the severity of the sin of pridefulness or boasting, as well as provide some steps that we can take, as Christians, to overcome our boasting.

"But I'm not a boastful person," you might say. I think that I said the same thing about myself a month ago. I have always worked very hard to not talk about myself at the expense of others. Since high school, when I realized that it was my inclination to try and turn the focus to me in many conversations, I have worked very hard at diminishing focus on my abilities and achievements and trying to focus on others in conversations. I know that I fail often at this, and God has been working on me for a long time in this area. But I have realized over the last several weeks that there are a lot of circumstances where I am boastful, and where we as Christians tend to be boastful in general.

This subject initially came up in our Romans 3 bible study. Near the end of the chapter, Paul addresses the Christians in Rome, to whom he just explained the gospel (saved by grace alone through faith alone and not of ourselves). The first result of understanding this gospel is found in verse 27:
"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." - Romans 3:27-28

Looking into this passage and how God sees boasting in the Bible is leading me to discover not only the way in which worldly people boast, but the subtle ways in which we, as Christians, boast without even a second thought.

The Bible says that God does not associate with people who are boastful (Psalm 138:6, Psalm 18:27), opposes people who are boastful (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5), and even
hates our boasting (Proverbs 8:13). Of all the characters in the Bible who seem so offensive to us, no one is more so than the Pharisee in the parable of Jesus who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11). But the irony is that even as we condemn him, we condemn ourselves. Romans 2:21,23 says, "you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?...You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law." As we condemn others for boasting, we often condemn ourselves for the same sin.

I have found several ways in which we Christians tend to be boastful, and I will be digging into some of these in subsequent posts:
  1. Boasting in our faith.
  2. Boasting in moral self-righteousness.
  3. Boasting in correct doctrine.
  4. Boasting in our life circumstances (whether good or bad).
  5. Boasting in achievement.
  6. Boasting in our own independent spirit.
If you continue to stay with me on this topic, be careful. You may find, like I have, that you will have to confront this sin in your life as you read on, but God says that he will continue to sanctify us through the power of His Holy Spirit (John 15:2, Galatians 5:25, Philippians 2:13), and that is right where He wants us to be.

Next time: How do we boast in our faith and moral self-righteousness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Car Accident - Update 2

"See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

I am happy to report that we have settled an amount for the value of our old van and have already been able to purchase a new one. We are excited to be able to finally have a van that we can call our own. God has been so gracious to us during this time. We were able to replace our old van with a new one and even come out ahead from a monetary standpoint. Since the price of a new van, in this economy, has come down considerably, we were able to purchase our new one for less than what the insurance company was willing to give us in total for the accident (and replace our kids' car seats with new ones too)! I am so thankful that God has been able to continue to teach me to trust in Him, give me opportunities to be kind to everyone with whom I came in contact (and some of those whom I did not), and to allow me to learn to rejoice always in every circumstance.

Here is a before and after picture of our car situation:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Quote of the Week - Murmuring

Murmuring is no better than mutiny in the heart; it is a rising up against God. When the sea is rough and unquiet, it casts forth nothing but foam: when the heart is discontented, it casts forth the foam of anger, impatience, and sometimes little better than blasphemy. Murmuring is nothing else but the scum which boils off from a discontented heart.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today and That Day

It's been a while since I posted anything here.  I've been busy with quite a few things both at work and here at home - working to get the car situation settled.  So I thought I'd leave you all with some quotes I was reading through today to hopefully encourage you to live this day in light of the eternal.

"He who provides for this life but takes no care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever." - John Tillotson

"It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day." - Matthew Henry

"There are two days on my calendar - Today and That Day." - Martin Luther

Let us all live, not looking for human praise, but for the praise of our Heavenly Father when He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant." - Matthew 25:21

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 1:5-11

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quote of the Week - Prideful Morality

“Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 124-125

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Leadership and Family Vacations

"And he said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you.  Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.'" - Luke 22:25-26
C.J. Mahaney over at Sovereign Grace Ministries has recently finished a series of posts on the Father's leadership role in family vacations. I would encourage every father to take a look at this. Not only does it apply to family vacations (which many of us will be embarking upon this summer), but it should also apply to leadership in our families in every-day life.

This is what C.J. says about family vacations: "Here’s what I’ve learned. The difference between forgettable vacations and unforgettable vacations is not the location or attractions. Nope. The difference between forgettable and unforgettable vacations is the father’s attitude and leadership. This makes all the difference."

The series outline is as follows:
  1. A Servant Heart
  2. A Tone-Setting Attitude
  3. An Awareness of Indwelling Sin
  4. Studying Your Family
  5. Skillful Surprises
  6. Intentionally Together
  7. Gratefulness to God
Take a look at all three parts and see how you can apply it to your life wherever you may be travelling (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). I think that we need more fathers who commit to being leaders in this way.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On Selfishness

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is here, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”
- John Stott,
The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 179.

I was talking with a friend of mine this weekend about how we can recognize selfishness in our lives. I would say that I don't necessarily consider myself to be a selfish person, as the world defines selfishness.

For instance:
  • I don't hoard my money at the detriment of others.
  • I don't strive to be noticed at the expense of others.
  • I try to be a servant to my family and others as often as I can.
  • I respect others and work hard at loving those who are not like me (I don't have to work too hard at loving those who are like me).
  • I strive to be like Christ who, described in Philippians 2:4-7, showed us how we ought to be humble.
Most of us can probably all agree with the list of comments above.  But, there is one test that will show us if we are a selfish person in God's eyes, and it is not what is listed above.  It is this:
  • Do I hold Christ to be the most beautiful, most desirable, most precious thing in all of my life (Philippians 3:8)?
  • Do I seek the Lord with my entire heart (Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 119:10)?
  • Do I value the Word of God above all else in my life (2 Thessalonians 3:1, Psalm 138:2)?
  • Do I anxiously await the reading of the Word of God every day (Psalm 119:97-99)?
  • Does my soul desire after God as a thirsty, dying man desires after water (Psalm 42:1-2, Psalm 119:131)?
You see, if your answers to the above questions are not an emphatic, "Yes", then by God's standards, you are holding onto something that you desire, which is more precious than him.  Keep watch of yourself, because that is selfishness flaunted in the face of our Lord and Savior.
"You looked for much, and behold, it came to little.  And when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why? declares the Lord of hosts.  Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house." - Haggai 1:9

Monday, June 2, 2008

Quote of the Week - The Gospel Each Day

“God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness. The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day. We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do.”

- Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love, 5

Friday, May 30, 2008

Car Accident Update

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

I just received the police report for the accident on May 14th that totaled our car. Apparently, the driver of the other vehicle had a) stolen the car he was driving (CVC 10851(a) - GTA), b) been driving under the influence of some substance (CVC 23152(a) - DUI), and (of course) had ran a red light (CVC 21453(a)). Wow! I had no idea of the severity of the situation.

This gives me even more to be thankful for. Here is what I am thanking God for today:
  1. That my children are safe and unscathed (as far as I can tell). In fact, they even slept very well the night of the accident, and there have been no issues thus far. Praise God!
  2. My wife and son were not in the car during the accident. They had just come down with the flu the day before and were not feeling well enough to travel to church that night. Both June and Micah would have been on the passenger (impact) side of the vehicle had they been in the car. Praise God!
  3. The other party was not seriously injured. He had a minor abrasion on his left tricep, and a minor cut behind his left ear. He was taken to Chino Valley Medical Center (probably to stitch up the cut behind his ear), but other than that was OK. Praise God!
  4. The car has been declared totaled. My insurance company has declared the car totaled, so now we are negotiating a fair price for the replacement of our vehicle. This will allow us to get a new vehicle sooner than if they had wanted to fix it, and it also eases my safety concerns about driving a rebuilt car. Praise God!
  5. A man who had committed Grand Theft Auto and was driving under the influence was stopped without any harm to anyone else, even himself. This could have turned out much worse with the potential for loss of life if he had been able to continue driving as he was. Thank God that we were able to be used to stop him. Praise God!

I will be negotiating with my insurance adjuster more on Friday. I would appreciate prayer as I strive to have an attitude that would please the Lord, while also striving to be a good steward of the resources that God has given us.

I'll keep everyone posted on our progress. God bless!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quote of the Week - All the Righteousness God Can Require

“The whole initiative in reconciliation rests with God. It is an expression of His love: ‘God was reconciling the world to himself.’ But God’s love is not itself reconciliation. Between love and reconciliation there lies the great transaction referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘[God] made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.’ There is a staggering amount of theology crammed into these few words. There is the sinlessness of Christ; there is the fact that whatever it was He suffered, God was the ultimate cause of it; and there is the fact that His suffering itself amounted to His being made sin. He bore it. He identified with it. He was treated as it deserved to be treated – bruised for it (Isaiah 53:10), accursed for it (Galatians 3:13) and rejected for it (Mark 15:34).

But how did Christ contract such sin? How did He become vulnerable to its retribution? What right did God have to bruise Him? Because He was for us. That made His condemnation – His expulsion to the Far Country – righteous. But then, beside the for, there is another preposition, in. The formade Him guilty. The in makes us righteous: ‘We are the righteousness of God in Him.’ That is why God is reconciled to us – because we are righteous. That is why God justifies us – declares us righteous: because we are righteous. We have in Christ all the righteousness God can require. We are righteous as Christ himself. Indeed, we are God’s own righteousness – we have kept the covenant as faithfully as God Himself.”

- Donald Macleod, Behold Your God (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus, 1995), 105-106.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Scripture Memorization - Part 3

Please see my previous posts (Part 1, Part 2) for the introduction to scripture memorization and why every Christian should be memorizing scripture.

To try and answer the question of how to memorize, I have put together a list of potentially helpful memorization techniques, some of which I use regularly, and some with which many of my friends have had success. I have highlighted the ones I have found most helpful, but all of them have provided value to someone in the past. I list so many different ways to memorize here that it may seem a little overwhelming. But the key here is to use as many avenues of memorization as possible. The greater the variety of interaction with the verse, the better.
  • Pray and ask God to enable you to memorize His Word.
  • Set aside at least 10-15 minutes a day to do nothing but Scripture memory.
    • The TV is a great distraction which grows to consume more and more of your time. It can take over your family time and any spare time that you have left after that! Many people do not realize that (almost all) the time spent in front of the TV could be invested elsewhere.
    • Use your break times or lunch time to memorize at work.
    • Use meal times as a time to memorize.
    • Memorize while exercising (i.e. while riding a stationary bike, running, walking or reading on a treadmill, etc.).
    • How about memorizing while showering? Use a plastic pocket or write the verses on a slip of paper that can be thrown away when it gets soggy. Better yet, write the verses on apiece of plastic (an old tablecloth, or clear plastic from the hardware store) using a permanent marker. If people can sing in the shower, why not say verses aloud in the shower?
  • Say the verses out loud several times.
  • Say the reference before and after.
  • Add voice emphasis on certain words and phrases.
  • Read the verse you are studying several times, emphasizing a different word each time. This will help you with understanding.
  • Memorize word perfect (close enough isn't good enough).
  • Read the verse in the Bible context.
  • Try to gain a clear understanding of what the verse means. (You may want to read the verse in several translations and consult a commentary to get a better grasp of the meaning of the verse.)
  • Assign a topic to the verse and include that on the memory card (e.g., God's sovereignty, assurance of salvation, etc.)
  • Meditate (reflect) on the verse (who, what, where, when, why, how).
  • Personalize the verse (How does this apply to my life? Insert your name in place of pronouns like you, he, they, etc.)
  • Visualize the verse (the words themselves and the meaning of the words).
  • Think through the logical flow of thought in the verses. Notice what the subject of the passage is and what is said about that subject. Notice the verbs and how they relate to the subject. Notice the order of events or ideas. Visualize the passage being acted out.
  • Think about memory tools for the verses. Try to think of things that jog your memory about the passage. For example: "The meek shall inherit the earth." There's a cliché that says "meek as a mouse" and I imagine a mouse scurrying along the ground and it reminds me that earth goes with meek. Don't worry about silly ideas, the sillier the better because it is more memorable.
  • Use the verse in prayer (Pray to God incorporating the verse into your prayer).
  • Write out the verse a few times. Writing helps solidify the words in your mind.
  • Make an audio recording of yourself reciting verses several times through to listen to as you drive your car or get ready in the morning.
  • Write verses down on post-it notes and place them in places you will see them (on you computer monitor, refrigerator door, etc.).
  • Use 3" x 5" cards to write the verses down. Put the reference on the back and the verses on the front. Write down the topic of the verse at the top corner.
  • Make two stacks of cards: 1) One stack for verses you know but need to review occasionally; 2) Another stack for verses you're still working on memorizing that you go over daily.
  • Don't immediately look on the 3" x 5" card when you can't remember! Make your mind do the work of recall. Recall locks the verse in much more than repetition.
  • Some people find that writing out the verses by hand on an occasional basis helps them learn faster and remember longer.
  • Write out the first letter of each word or key word. Then practice saying the whole verse from this.
  • You can write out a verse on a white board or chalk board. Read the verse and then erase the last word and read it again. Repeat the process until al the words are erased.
  • Quote a new verse out loud at least seven times a day for one week, then twice a day for a week, then once a day, then once a week, then once a month.
  • It is hard to memorize if you only do it “in your head”. When you are reviewing your verses recite them out loud whenever possible. Make sure that you do not just speak in a whisper. Speak in a clear full voice as if you were talking to a group of people. In doing this, you re-enforce what you have learned.
  • Use a partner to quiz each other frequently on your verses.
  • Remember why you're doing this! See Psalm 119:9-16, note especially verse 11.
  • You will increase your chances of remembering new verses the next day if you review your verses right before you go to bed at night.
  • REVIEW! REVIEW! REVIEW! Repetition is the best way to engrave the verses on your memory.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Scripture Memorization - Part 2

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:14-16

In my last post, I discussed how scripture memorization today has become somewhat of a taboo. Yes, we all know John 3:16 like the back of our hand, but we do not encourage each other or ourselves to continue memorizing the words of God as we continue to grow in the faith. I would even argue that we are missing out on even more growth in our faith if we do not continue to memorize the words of our Lord.

In this post I would like to list reasons (from scripture) why we need to be memorizing God's word throughout our Christian walk, and why we cannot, in good conscience, neglect this critical spiritual discipline.

Why should we be memorizing scripture?
  1. We are commanded to learn God's word and meditate on it (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, Colossians 3:16). God tells his people during the giving of the law, that they need to be meditating on his words day and night. Paul tells the Colossians to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly". The word of Christ cannot dwell in us if it is ever sitting on a page and not continually in our hearts and minds.
  2. It transforms our minds to think God's thoughts after Him (Romans 12:1-2).  When the words of God are in your mind, there is no room for sinful thoughts.  As new creatures in Christ, we can dwell on the thoughts of God in every situation.
  3. It enables the Holy Spirit to guide us (Psalm 119:105).  God's Spirit can bring scriptures to our mind that we have memorized in order to teach and guide us.
  4. It gives us victory over sin (Psalm 119:9-11, Psalm 37:31).  Are you disappointed in yourself when you sin?  Hide God's word in your heart, and he will give you victory over sin.  When God's word is continually on your mind, your passions are no longer for sin, but they are for God's desires.
  5. It gives us confidence in witnessing (1 Peter 3:15, Acts 18:28).  Peter tells Christians to always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in us.  Have you ever felt like you were unprepared to witness when you had an opportunity?  Hiding God's word in our hearts prepares us to fulfill the great commission with confidence.
  6. It helps produce spiritual growth in our lives (1 Peter 2:2, Acts 20:32).  God's words are able to build us up in sanctification.  It is able to grow us up from spiritual babies into spiritual men and women of God.
  7. It helps us to overcome worry (Philippians 4:6-7).  God's promises are great in his word and these passages help us to focus on what he has promised us, not on what could cause worry in our lives.
  8. It helps us to discern doctrinal error (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).  How can we perceive error if we do not know the truth?  Committing the truth to memory helps us in every situation where doctrinal error could creep in unknowingly.
There are many other reasons supported by scripture on why we should commit the words of our Lord to memory, but I hope that this has given you a little encouragement to push you in the direction of scripture memorization.

"I see now how important scripture memorization is for my walk, but," some of you are still saying, "memorization is hard.  How do I do it?"

In my next post I want to cover the topic of how we memorize scripture.  Until then, if you have a question or response to these posts on memorization, please comment below or send me an e-mail.  I would love to engage with you on this subject that has been a passion of mine over the last several years.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scripture Memorization - A Neglected Discipline - Part 1

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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 1:7-8

I have often heard people say, "Oh, I can't memorize scripture. I can't remember things like I used to." Or, "I just don't have time to memorize." Or, "I don't need to memorize scripture. I have my Bible here with me." In our day and age, these may sound like valid excuses (we all can be busy living our lives), but they are only valid if the Bible carries no weight in our lives, and isn't the Word of the very God whom we serve.

Hebrews 1:1-2 speaks of two ways in which the words of the Bible are our guide. "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world..." The Word of God was spoken by the prophets, and the Word of God was spoken to us through Jesus Christ. How else do we know the words of God except through the scriptures he has given? How else do we know his truths except through his words contained within scripture? Shouldn't scripture then be the one thing that we, as his people, turn to constantly and consistently through every moment in our lives?

June and I have been memorizing Romans chapter 3 this year and we have almost completed the entire chapter (we are on verse 28 this week). It has been so rewarding to have the words of the Bible running through and camping in my mind every day, and then to be able to use that scripture in conversation and in my daily meditations has given me both encouragement and courage as I go about my daily life.

I would like to encourage everyone reading this post to take a good look at where you are with the Word of God. Do you desire his words more than riches; more than your evening television shows; more than food; more than life itself? I know, that sounds rather radical, but I challenge you to think of something more important than the words of the living God. How can you make the words of God more important in your life today?

Scripture memorization is one of the most neglected disciplines of the Christian faith. It is also one of the most rewarding. It involves more than selecting passages from the Bible and committing them to memory so that you can recite them word for word. The memorization of scripture is intimately tied into meditation on that same scripture. We memorize God's word so we can meditate on it as we go about our daily activities, having an attitude of submission to God, and thus be transformed in mind and spirit to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 12:2).

In my next post, I will go into reasons why (from scripture) we should be memorizing God's word. Hopefully, this will encourage you to turn again to hiding God's word into your heart.

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:14-16