Posted in My Journey

Memorizing the Bible

Bible memorization has been on my bucket list for years. It was only after my son took ill in the winter that I had decided to do something about it. It was then that I had memorized Psalms 23. Moving ahead to today, I am in the process of memorizing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7.

The importance of Bible memorization

I am sure someone will ask, why is Bible memorization so important? After all, anyone can quickly summon the Bible on a device with a few simply swipes. What would be the benefit to committing God’s Word to memory?

The discipline of memorizing scripture produces fruit that will remain with a person for the rest of his or her life. First, it will draw the reader closer to God by establishing his word in the heart of the reader. Second, the reader will gain wisdom with the slow and labored act of ingesting biblical truths on a daily basis, wisdom that can only come with the passage of time. Third, and most importantly, when the reader needs help with life’s trials, and the reader will need that help, God, through the Holy Spirit, will bring into remembrance the learned words as a means to carry the reader through those trials.

Why I began memorizing scripture

When my son was in the hospital for a month, I had a lot of time by his bedside to think about life. I also had a lot of time to read what God had to say about it all. His words, especially Psalms, were a comfort to me.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalms 23:4)

As each day dragged into the next, I knew God was there with me in spite of my not having an answer as to why he would allow tragedy to strike my family as it did. Those words eventually became part of me, where now I can not only repeat them aloud without much effort, but also recall experiences attached to those words; experiences I would not have had otherwise, had I not gone through everything I did with my family at the time.

How I commit the Bible to memory

The way I commit the words of the Bible to memory is the only way I have found that works for me:

  1. Choose a book or chapter that has affected you on a personal level
  2. Learn a verse a day
  3. Recall the previous day’s verse before adding a new verse
  4. Read the text carefully, looking at each word of the text until you can picture it in your mind
  5. Write everything down that you have learned so far
  6. Meditate on the words and make them a part of you

It involves a lot of hard work

I cannot stress how important it is to understand that moving forward with the discipline of scripture memorization is going to be a lot of hard work. Some days will be more rewarding than other days, but recognizing that fact in no way diminishes the overall goal of knowing God’s truths in such an intimate way.

Ultimately, the reward will be God’s word living inside our minds and in our hearts, leading us in our daily walk with Jesus.

Posted in My Journey

God Restores My Soul

My prayer life has changed over the years. Some seasons have brought untold anguish where I needed to drop to my knees with eager fervor wanting to know God’s will in my life. And some seasons have given me nothing but pleasure where I raise my arms to the heavens in joyous praise for what God has done. Zealously do I thank him for his marvelous work. He really is the only and amazing God.

Psalms 23 has been my unshakable stronghold in prayer. No more notable passage of scripture comes to mind when I pray to God than the words King David penned thousands of years ago. Those words have somehow become so personal to me that sharing them would seem as if I were giving you a good portion of my heart. I suppose it is because when I pray, I say them so that they personally apply to me. I do that a lot with other bible verses, but not as much as I do with Psalms 23.

This is how I pray Psalms 23:

Oh, God, you are my shepherd; I do not desire anything else.
You make me lie down in green pastures.
You love me so much that you lead me beside still waters.
You restore my soul; I shall dwell in your house forever.

The words change from time to time, but the meaning is always the same. God quiets my spirit, blesses me with hope and shares his dwelling place with me. He is my love, my strength and my passion. I have joy in him. No one else compares to him.

If you find it difficult to pray, try opening the bible and apply the words personally to your life. Intimacy with God starts somewhere, and when we allow God’s words to cover us, his presence will not be far off.

Oh, God, you truly restore my soul.

Posted in My Journey

The Beatitudes

I have the bible resting on my nightstand and before going to bed, I read it simply for the pleasure of reading it. It is my anchor, my fortress and my highest joy. If I ever end up on a desert island with nothing else, I would hope my bible was with me. I can never get enough of it.

Below is one of my favorite passages. I am presenting it here without comment or exposition. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12 ESV

Posted in My Journey

Oh, Love!

Some of the most beautiful verses in the bible come from 1 Corinthians 13. Many Christians may know this passage simply as the love chapter. For me it defines the very essence of Christ’s nature when he gave up his life on the cross for us.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

Oh, what a world it would be if everyone were patient and kind toward one another when waiting in line for anything. With envy and boasting out of the way, there would be no need for inflation because people would not be comparing themselves with others and desiring what others have. Eliminating arrogance and rudeness from society would do away with people’s sense of entitlement for special treatment. Selfishness would no longer rule. The world would have those who wore tolerance on their sleeves instead of irritability and resentfulness on their shoes. There would be rejoicing in justice and in truth.

We would bear with one another and bear with the burdens given to us. We would give others the benefit of the doubt and believe them first. We would hope always and never surrender in the face of our trials.

Oh, what a world it would be if everyone loved as Jesus loved when he died for our sins!

Posted in My Journey

Let Your Yes Be Yes

I once said to a friend of mine, a fellow Christian, it is easier dealing with unbelievers than it is to deal with some Christians. I said it off the cuff, but I also said it to express my frustration with believers who say one thing but do another.

The book of James talks about this and makes it clear that our words have an impact on people:

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12 ESV throughout)

For believers who are infants in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), seeing other Christians sinning is discouraging. That is why we always need to be attentive of what we are doing so that we do not partake in hypocrisy. Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3).

If we say something and do something else, then we are no different from the scribes and Pharisees. What we have to do though, is rise beyond mere display and ensure that our actions reflect our words. Otherwise, we would not only be in jeopardy of departing from the faith, but also cause others to do so, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

Putting it another way, liars will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is just that simple (Revelation 21:8).

Therefore, let us put aside vanity, lying and deceitfulness, and walk in Jesus’ footsteps. Especially so close to celebrating his death and resurrection, we need to repent and change in order for Christ to live in us. When we do that, then the fulfillment of God’s promise to us to inherit his kingdom will not be too far off.

Posted in My Journey

Thankful for Miracles

Yesterday I completed my “Year of Thanks” project I had begun in 2017. During this same time last year, I had resolved to think about one thing I was thankful for daily and tell people about it. I wrote it all out on Twitter as one long conversation. Some days I was thankful for the simple things, like eating a cheeseburger. Other days, my appreciation extended to knowing just how incredible a life I live having God there to support me.

Several things I did not mention, for which I am also grateful: I am on the Board of Directors of my church. I am on the Leadership Team, as well, delivering sermons on a regular basis. And I am a Youth Leader giving messages. Lastly, I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough, which I now realize God had led to publication.

Of course, the biggest of all events I am thankful for has to be the Christmas gift God had given my family when my son broke from his Autistic Shutdown. Our appreciation could not be any larger than when we later found out that the cause was anxiety.

But nothing compares to what I feel whenever I think about the salvation I now have through Jesus. The apostle Paul expressed it so well when he related his thanksgiving regarding the grace given to others:

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4 ESV).

No matter how small or how large of a miracle that takes place in our lives today, or this week, being thankful for all of it gives us the opportunity to know just how much God loves us. With every little miracle God grants, he demonstrates his love.

Posted in My Journey

Trust in God

Anxiety is a big hurdle for many. With my son, it had put him in the hospital for over a month. As I am learning about the effects of anxiety, I am also learning about coping techniques in order to recognize the condition. Most importantly, I now understand the difference between stress and anxiety, knowledge I previously did not possess had my family not experience what we did last November and December.

Stress is the feeling one gets when events happen all at once and need immediate resolution. Stress is not necessarily bad. Without stress, life would lack a certain amount of excitement. However, too much stress can cause all sorts of problems, including physical injury to the heart. In such a case, it would be a good idea to step away for a while as a short-term means to stem the effects of stress on the body.

On the other hand, anxiety is having a feeling that something bad might happen if a certain action does not take place. Anxiety works to saturate the mind with thoughts of “what if.” What if I did not turn off the burner to the stove after I cooked? What if I missed my rent/mortgage payment this month? What if I left the lights on to my car when I parked it for the evening? These types of scenarios could prove endless and could quench the light of an otherwise joyful life, turning it into a life of bondage filled with worry and fear.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mat. 6:25 ESV throughout). As a society, we tend to worry about everything, especially with social media being as pervasive as it is, leading young girls to compare themselves with waif-thin models, holding them up as standard-bearers to what girls ought to look like at that age. And young men having it in their mind that once they are out of college, their lives will be set with a high salary and job security.

Instead, as a way to alleviate the effects of anxiety, Jesus tells us to place our trust in God, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 33-34).

With God on our side, we do not need to worry about a thing. If we place our trust in God, seeking first his will in all things, he will provide for everything we need, including food, drink, clothing and anything else we might lack, because ultimately, our lives should be a reflection of our relationship with him and how he is deeply working to mold us into his image.