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

Friday, May 16, 2008

God is Sovereign

"Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose...'" - Isaiah 46:8-10

Coming home from Church with my two daughters on Wednesday night, May 14th, 2008, something completely unexpected happened (that could be considered an understatement).  Driving eastbound through a major intersection, I was blindsided by a car coming northbound at a considerable speed on the intersecting street who ran the red light.  There was not even time for reaction, as I did not see him until he was probably about 40 feet from my car.  No time to hit the brakes, no time to swerve, just a quick corner-of-the-eye look and, CRASH!

The other car stopped dead almost immediately, and our van was sent to the other side of this 6-lane intersection and, with our forward momentum, we kept traveling down the opposite side of the street until we were able to come to a complete stop at the side of the road.

After coming to a complete stop and turning around to see my kids looking at me and screaming their hearts out because of fear only (no injuries) was the most thankful moment I've had in a long time - perhaps even in my life.  No ambulance rides, no hospital visits, and we were all at home within an hour of the accident.

(I would like to use a small space here to give kudos to the Chino Police Department and the Chino Fire Department, who were very professional and a big calming factor for my kids and myself.  My kids were given cool FD stickers and even a little stuffed bear that they had in their truck.  The officer who took the police report, Corporal Kendall McIver,  was very kind and courteous and very helpful to us.  Thank you all for your service to our city.)

As I was going over the events of the previous day on Thursday with my family during our family devotional time, I asked Kate (my 4 year old), "Do you think that God could have kept the accident from happening?"  She responded in the affirmative.  I then asked, "Then why did God not stop it?"

I think that is a good question for all of us to ask when we encounter trials of various kinds.  The question hidden behind that is, "Does God have a purpose in what is happening here?"  I then turned to Romans 8 and read the verse that we have all heard before and know, "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 (emphasis mine)

All Christians have quoted that verse at one time or another, but we often leave out the last part of the verse, which I think is so critical to our understanding of the Sovereignty of God in every one of our experiences.  Those for whom all things work together for good both love God and are called according to God's purpose.  God has a purpose.  Will we delight in being called to play some part, no matter how big or small, in the purpose of God?

I can't begin to know the exact purpose of God in the accident on Wednesday, but I do know, and can rejoice in, these things:
  1. God's purposes are for good.  Maybe not good in the sense of health and wealth and prosperity (actually, his purposes are never for these things), but it is for his ultimate good.  I don't know, but I imagine that our accident may have saved someone else's life at the next intersection.
  2. God is not finished with his purposes for me and my family yet.  He miraculously saved us from being killed or hurt in the accident.  I can only imagine what could have happened if the other car was traveling faster, or hit right where my daughter was sitting.
  3. Nothing will be able to separate me from the love of God.  The bible says that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Maybe, just maybe, God was looking down on Chino and said, "Who can I use for my purposes tonight for this car accident and its outcome?  I will use Joel and Kate and Allison, because he loves me and is called to serve me."  And possibly, just possibly, God saved lives because of my involvement in his purpose.