This year I am working on memorizing Hebrews with a close friend. When we discussed it, we thought it would be a monumental task but well worth the effort. We decided that there shouldn't be a focus on a deadline. Instead, the focus would be on each day’s memory work, trusting that God would minister to our hearts and minds.
By Grace, You Can Do It
I’ve read much about the importance of scripture memory and have memorized large sections of scripture in the past. I've seen John Piper recite scripture for 15 minutes, and it was amazing! But it’s a discipline that is easy to leave behind in the busyness of the daily grind.
Seeing the title of this post may have almost turned you away because of guilt or lack of desire for working on scripture memory. I'm here to encourage you and remind you that the point is not quantity but quality. Hiding even small amounts of scripture in our hearts is of eternal value and worth the 5 to 10 minutes per day we could commit to it.
Remember, that the average American watches 5 hours of TV each day. In little more than 3% of that time, you could memorize Titus (46 verses) in less 3 months if you only memorized 5 verses a week. Even at one verse a week you could memorize a book of the Bible in less than a year! Imagine the spiritual encouragement you would have in that year.
The key to scripture memory is reliance on the Holy Spirit. Is that shocking to hear? It shouldn't be. I am guilty of saying, "it just takes 5 minutes a day" or "this method is foolproof". The reality is that no method can replace the work of the Spirit. A method can be a means God uses to show us grace, but if we are to truly benefit from scripture memory, we must look beyond the method.
All believers have the Spirit of Truth who raised Jesus from the dead (John 16:13; Romans 8:11). All means all. Whether you naturally have an amazing memory or a poor memory, God will help you hide His Word in your heart. This means that, by the Spirit, even people who have struggled with memorization their whole lives can memorize books, chapters, verses, or portions of verses from God's Word.
Some Benefits Of Memorization
I’m a list guy, so I just wanted to share some of the benefits of my time in Hebrews so far this year. I plan to do more posts like this to possible spur some people on in the pursuit of grace-powered scripture memory. Though I’ve missed some days and slacked on others, here are some benefits I've seen in memorizing Hebrews 1 during the first 22 days of 2019:
This is only the tip of the iceberg of the benefits of memorizing the Word of God on a consistent basis. Simply slowing down and thinking through God’s Word will change your spiritual vocabulary. And you never know when a verse of the day is a truth to preach to yourself or to counsel another with.
For tips on scripture memory, I highly recommend read Andy Davis’ scripture memorization method. Also, check out the Verses app!
What other benefits or tips do you have for memorizing scripture?
Image Credit: Rolling Stones
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. -Proverbs 18:17
The Kid Who Enraged Social Media
If you've been on Facebook or Twitter over the past several days, you may have encountered videos or articles about a young man staring into the face of a Native American man beating a drum. It was probably a picture of some MAGA hats and crowds of white kids surrounding this man and accompanied with a status like: "This is what the pro-life movement looks like." or "This is the what racism looks like... way to go Trump.
You may have been like me and felt a level of anger at the young man for being so foolish and disrespectful to a veteran and Native American. You may have commented as I did and said, "this foolishness doesn't represent the pro-life movement or Christianity" in response to all of the negative backlash plastered all over your Facebook newsfeed. With a short video clip, I thought I heard "build that wall" or something hateful, and I knew this needed to be condemned immediately.
I confess, I didn't do any further research than that. I made a judgment on this young man based on his skin color, his clothing, and political affiliation without giving him a chance to speak for himself. If I'm honest, I didn't give the situation more than a few minutes of thought because this stuff happens all the time in the days of president Trump.
At that time, nobody on my newsfeed shared the young man's perspective on the event.
On Sunday morning, I noticed that one of my Facebook friends shared another article with more footage and details about the case. He was back-tracking on his original sentiments regarding the situation, and I took some time to dive into the details. I honestly thought it was just a far-right website trying to disprove the realities of what actually occurred in the video.
In reality, the videos and further evidence disproved some of the "facts" I had just learned about on the previous day:
A Change Of Perspective
Needless to say, my opinion of the young man has changed. I am not taking a stance on whether he did anything right or wrong. That is not the point of this post, and I am still unsure of everything that went on. In good conscience, I can say that the media painted a picture of the scene that was extremely one-sided.
This is dangerous for many reasons, especially when a high school student and his family are receiving threats of murder and violence over a video, meme, and slanted social media post. More dangerous is the fact that it is sinful and can harden our hearts to the sinfulness of gossip, slander, malice, deceit, and dishonesty. God hates those sins.
Image Credit: OMKAR
A Biblical Path Forward
As a Christian, there is no excuse for slandering the boy in the video. If we don't know all of the facts, it is best that we pray for his soul as well as the veteran who was involved.
This situation has given me time to pause and really think about social media and its impacts on my life. Here are some practical thoughts that I'm going to be prayerfully applying to my life in light of this event:
Run To Jesus
In times like these, I feel the shame and embarrassment of being manipulated by the media. Worse, I have sinned against God and man through my sinful speech. I have become increasingly aware of the effect that social media is having on my life and the lives of the world around me.
There is hope for us, and that hope is found in Jesus. "In these last days, God has spoken to us through His Son" (Hebrews 1:2). If your life is anchored in the true words of the gospel, no matter how deceitful the media is, you have a firm foundation.
The truth is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, including people like me who fall into gossip and slander. He made purification for sin, resurrected, and is now sitting enthroned in heaven at His Father's right hand. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to show us the Word of God which is the truth.
Jesus' high priestly prayer includes these words: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). If I spend more time with God is His true Word than I do in this world with their false words, I'll be sanctified. If I let the Word of God dwell in me and rule my thoughts, words, actions, and emotions, I'll become more like Christ minute-by-minute, day-by-day, hour-by-hour. As I behold the Son, I'm being transformed into His image.
Think about the last time you were tempted and fell into sin. What were the thoughts going through your mind? What weapons did you use to wage war against your flesh and against sin? Now think of a time when you defeated sin and rose victorious over the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil? What was different about that situation?
Last week, we looked at the crafty serpent and how he tempted Eve into eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. While it is good to know the anatomy of temptation so we can recognize when we are being tempted, it is essential to know how to actively fight temptation the way scripture commands. Jesus, being our great High Priest, has been tempted in every way like us and yet withstood. Who is better to teach us how to fight temptation?
In Matthew 4:1-11, we can see at least 5 ways Jesus fought temptation. By His grace, we too can fight temptation as Jesus did. It’s a lifelong fight, and much of what we see happened long before Jesus was in the moment of temptation. By implementing these strategies in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, we will be able to overcome the whispers of Satan, the lustful draw of fleshly desires, and the enticements of the world.
1. Know Your Identity
When you see Satan’s attempts to draw Jesus into sin, it is clear that Satan tried to confuse Jesus about His identity as he did Eve in the garden. He begins his tempting words with “If you are the son of God…” (v. 2 and 6). In verse 9, Satan was so bold as to try to subject Jesus to idolatrous worship in exchange for earthly glory.
However, Jesus is so confident in His identity as the Son of God that He isn’t moved by Satan’s attacks. Instead, He launches counter attacks that shift the focus from the Satan’s questioning to the most important matters. Instead of making a stone become bread, Jesus points to something greater than bread—the Word of God. Instead of jumping from a building to test God’s miraculous provision and care, He reminds Satan not to put God to the test. Lastly, instead of bowing down to Satan to receive “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”, He knew He was the Son of God who is appointed the “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2, Matthew 28:19).
As Jesus rested in His identity as the Son of God, we need to rest in our identity as adopted children of God who are in Christ. If we are in Christ, we are “dead to sin” (Romans 6:11) and “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). We can consider ourselves crucified and risen with Christ because He has nailed our sin and record of debt to the cross (Colossians 2:12,14). We are no longer “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) for we are “saints… in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). We could go on and on about who we are as new creatures in Christ. If you don’t know who you are, the enemy will try to entangle you in a web of lies and accusations. Let the Word untangle that web by taking you directly the cross of Christ.
2. Know the Meaning of the Word
Satan attacked Jesus using the Word of God in Matthew 4:6. He did the same to Eve. The ancient serpent has seen and heard God’s Word far more than any human on this planet. That should humble us! This knowledge allows him to twist and turn it in more ways than we could ever imagine. Having hearsay of biblical concepts will not suffice for us. Christians need to know the Word of God and its true meaning.
This is not to say that God will not also graciously protect those Christians who are weak and feeble in the Word. He surely will! But mature saints must, by grace, imitate the Bereans and the blessed man of Psalm 1 through searching and meditating on the Word day and night. With an enemy so knowledgeable and crafty, knowing the Word is not an option.
Through the Spirit we can know the Word:
3. Hide the Word in your heart
It is clear from Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus knew the Bible and knew it well. He had the Word hidden in His heart and he didn’t sin against God. We should long to say with the Psalmist, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Temptation is a major reason to take up the task of memorizing scripture on a regular basis. If you want to use the sword of the Spirit and fight as Jesus did, you’ve got to have it memorized. Jesus didn’t use Google or the Bible app, He used His memory. This is spiritual work even for those who feel that they don’t have a good memory.
Memorization and meditation go hand-in-hand. As you memorize, you can meditate on the meaning, depths, and applications of a passage. As you meditate on the words, phrases, and structures of a passage, you begin to memorize the passage. As you memorize more passages, they begin to come together to bring deeper and fuller meditation than ever before. As you meditate more, your mind is renewed and you become more Christlike because you are beholding Him. The Word begins to slowly move from your mind to your heart. As hot water seeps through coffee grounds picking up the scents, flavors, and characteristics of the beans, we absorb the Word of God and become conformed to it through meditation.
Applying the Word to your life will also hide it deeper in your heart. Think of those times when you made a concerted effort to obey God’s specific teaching in your life. Do you have to go back and open your Bible to remember what it said? Instead, you are able to give yourself counsel directly from the Word of God because you’ve been there before. You may have used directions to get to work the first few times, but by the hundredth time, you recognize the streets, houses, mailboxes, cars, and know exactly where to go. The more you apply the Word of God in everyday life, the more you will be able to use it fight temptation. The Spirit will bring it to remembrance at the perfect time.
4. Walk by the Holy Spirit
It is easy to miss the seemingly insignificant detail that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Jesus was not alone! He was walking “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). As believers, we too must be filled with and led by the Spirit, especially during times of intense temptation (Ephesians 5:18). How often do we fail to pray “lead us not into temptation” and then walk aimlessly as though Satan has taken a day off?! We aren’t conscious of our enemy or the Spirit of Christ within us.
If we are going to walk by the Holy Spirit, we need to:
5. Fight with the Word as your sword
If it isn’t obvious yet, Jesus’ primary weapon in his war against temptation was the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Each time He refuted Satan, He used the Word of God powerfully to pierce His enemy. Each deceptive attempt to lead Jesus into sin was met with living and active Word of God. It should bring us great confidence to know that we have access to the same sword used by our Savior to defeat satanic temptation! How great it is to have the heaviest artillery ever wielded against temptation!
The culmination of knowing your identity (through the Word), knowing the Word, hiding the Word in your heart, and walking by the Spirit who inspired the Word of God is found here. When you’ve believed the gospel, you can counter attacks on your faith with the truths of the gospel. When you know the Scriptures, you can use them to dismantle the corrupt arguments crafted to deceive you. By hiding the Word in your heart, you can be armed and ready at any given moment. If Satan is prowling like a lion, we better be ready to defend ourselves! If we are walking by the Spirit, He will guide us in what scriptures to hide, what prayers to pray, and give us the power to walk in obedience.
As you begin the new year, it is wise to look back at last year to see areas of success, failure, and the need for improvement in your spiritual life. Regardless of how great your year was, you have sins that need to be repented of. There are temptations that need more diligence in guarding against.
Being watchful against sin means knowing when temptation arises and having a plan for how to fight. One way is to look closely at the cycle of temptation in order to develop a battle plan. Since temptation is a part of the fabric of life for the believer, it is wise to understand a general pattern for temptation.
5 Steps In The Path of Sin and Temptation
In Genesis 3:1-7, we see Eve faced with temptation from the "crafty" serpent who is later called "the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan" (Rev. 20:2). Taking a closer look at his tactics will reveal a lot about the process of temptation. As you read, consider how you’ve seen this progression in your own life.
1. The Word of God is twisted and contradicted. (Gen. 3:1-4)
Satan asks Eve tricky questions to trip her up and bring confusion: "Did God actually say?", "You will not surely die". Sometimes—because our flesh is weak—Satan doesn't even have to prompt such twisting. Men often twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). This first layer of temptation is especially dangerous for those who are lax in their devotional lives, especially Bible reading and prayer. If we don’t have a steady diet of daily bread, we will be anemic Christians in times of temptation.
2. A convincing argument is made against God and the meaning of His Word. (Gen. 3:5)
Satan offers a convincing argument for his contradiction and paints God as keeping something from Eve. This happens so often and so subtly. For example, "Be angry and do not sin" gets turned into, "you have the right to be angry, so your response can't be sinful! Even Jesus turned over tables and beat people with whips!". See how assumptions turn into facts and allow us to justify sin?
You can also see Satan sneakily throw shade at God: “For God knows that when you eat...you will be like God.” It’s like Satan said, “See Eve! He’s keeping something from you! He doesn’t want you to be happy or live your life to the fullest! Break free from this bondage and really find out what it means to be in the image of God!” Again, craftiness at it’s best.
3. The contradiction and argument are embraced. (Gen. 3:6)
Eve thought enough about Satan's argument to change her mindset about the tree. She set her mind on the flesh (Rom. 8:6). She began to covet what she didn't need rather than appreciate the forest around her, leading her into idolatry (Col 3:5). The fruit appealed to the flesh, eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16).
How often are we settled in our convictions about a sin only to conjure up some strange reason for why we might not have to fight it after all. For example: "It's only lust if you look twice, right?". We hear the lie, consider the serpent’s logic, and then embrace the contradiction.
4. The sin is committed. (Gen 3:6)
Eve took of the tree and ate. She embraced the lie of Satan so much that she threw away God's command like yesterday’s trash. When we get to the point of committing sin, it may not always be as conscious and certainly not as willful, but we all still take this step and make this choice. We can never say, “the devil made me do it!”. James 1:14 is clear that when we sin, it is due to being “lured and enticed” by our “desire”. Eve demonstrated this clearly when she saw that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6).
Sadly, we often sin with that anxious feeling in our stomachs because we've wrestled with it, but ultimately saw fruit that seemed more glorious than God. We must fear this lest we be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13).
5. Others are invited to partake in, or are supported in, their committing of the sin. (Gen 3:6)
Finally, Eve gave some fruit to Adam (who was with her!), and he ate. Even in our “secret” sins, we often try to convince others that it’s not such a big deal, or we partake in sins that involve others. In turn, we "give approval to those who practice them" (Rom 1:32).
Consider the sin of gossip. You’ve heard more than you should have, or you know about a situation more than others. You know you shouldn’t ask for more details or get into the nitty gritty of what you know. In that moment you could be honest and say, "You know, this is moving into gossip, I’m sorry. Please forgive me." Instead, you give the details with a perceived sense of concern or righteous anger, but you really just enjoy the conversation. Now you’ve brought others into sin with you. Replace with gluttony, along with many other sins, and you can see the same outcome.
A Beam of Hope
While some Bible readers spend much time trying to determine what the fruit was, what it meant for Eve to talk to the serpent, what the nature of her sin was, etc., it is more important to realize that we are weak and need help in the time of temptation. Jesus, our great High Priest, was "in every respect, tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). As we behold the glory of Christ, we are being transformed into His image (2 Cor 3:18). We are only able to fight temptation if we have trusted in Christ as our Savior and are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In your temptation, rely on the Spirit and look to Christ. Before your temptation, behold Christ’s glory by drinking deeply from the rich well of scripture. If you fall into sin, trust that He is interceding for His sheep and has paid for sin once-for-all for those who have placed faith in Him. Christ is the headcrusher of the serpent, and He is our very present help in time of need (Ps. 46:1).
Next time, Lord willing, we will look at fighting temptation the way that Jesus did.
The new year is underway, and many of you have probably already started your new Bible reading plan. You’re likely working your way through Genesis and Matthew and starting to get into a groove. You’re getting up early or staying up late to read, you’re highlighting and underlining like crazy, and you’re enjoying it.
But as we all know, that dreaded Monday is soon to come. You won’t feel like getting out of bed to read. You’ll be too tired to stay up and read. Your eyes will just gloss over the page or you’ll totally lose focus while you’re listening to your favorite audio Bible.
Life happens, but the blessed man meditates on God’s Word “day and night” (Psalm 1:2). With such busy and hectic lives, we must keep reading our Bibles and seeking the Lord.
5 Tips To Help You Keep Reading
So, how do you abide in Christ (John 15:4) and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) in the 21st century? Though not even close to an exhaustive list, here are some practical tips that can help you spend more time in God’s Word this year:
1) Acknowledge your dependence on God’s Word.
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He was tempted by Satan in Matthew 4:4. He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” If we want to live and thrive spiritually, we need to be eating the bread of the Word on a daily basis. Confess this to God and others on a regular basis. Deut. 8:11-14 serve as a good reminder that prosperity can lead to spiritual forgetfulness and carelessness.
2) Pray daily and ask for God to give you delight in His Word.
Not only should you depend on the Word, you should enjoy it! Ask God to give you the heart of David when he said of the word: “more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).
3) Make Bible reading a part of your daily routine.
Though it should be much more than a mere routine, reading the Bible should be something that you do every day. If you’re a list person, add it to the top of your daily to-do list. Keep a journal or document with your daily readings in it. In Deuteronomy 6:7, God called His people to talk about his Word when they sit in their house, as they walk, etc. The Word can’t go with us in all of life if we are not reading it and knowing it daily.
4) Meditate on something from your daily reading.
Whether it is a journal, text message, or simply sitting in silence, do something to process a portion of your daily reading. It is vital that we “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). This is a good time to ask: How does what I’m reading apply to my life?
5) Read the Bible with a spouse, your children, a friend, or an accountability partner.
One way to keep you reading the Word is to read and talk about it with others. We talk to people about what we delight in. If you have children, share your daily reading with them, too! Again, we see in Deuteronomy 6:7 to take the Word everywhere we go and to talk of them with everyone we meet.
Care For Your Soul Like You Do For Your Body
Put simply, Bible reading isn’t a thing you do to mark off your list. It is as vital to the soul as eating and drinking are to the body. Each week, we plan what we are going to eat, we make a grocery list, we shop, we cook, and we eat. Even when we don't do these things, we make sure our bodies are fed. All of this is to take care of body that is perishing (2 Corinthians 4:16). How much more diligence and care should we have for our eternal souls?
What are some practical tips that help you read your Bible day after day?
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
You may be wondering why I'm still talking about Christmas books in January. For many parents and grandparents, Christmas is a wonderful and exhausting time of year. If you're like me, you're too tired to even think about Christmas 2019!
However, before you put Christmas 2018 on the shelf, I want you to ask yourself some questions: Was your Christmas a "Jesus Christmas"? Was Jesus as much at the center of your Christmas as you desired? Did you make time to emphasize Christ during your family's devotional time last month?
Whether you're disappointed with the Christ focus of your Christmas or just want to keep up the steam from this Christmas, A Jesus Christmas: Explore God's Amazing Plan For Christmas by Barbara Reaoch is something you'll want to add to your bookshelf for Advent 2019.
Barbara Reaoch has made this book friendly for families of all ages and sizes. Each day families are called to explore, explain, engage, and enter in to a passage of scripture. The "engage" questions are keyed to different age groups so that all of your children can get in on the discussion. There is even an answer sheet on thegoodbook.com so parents can be confident that they give their children the correct answers to all the questions!
This isn't your average children's Christmas devotional guide. It is gospel-centered, richly theological, and sound in doctrine. Children will be exposed to biblical Christology as well as the amazing Christmas story throughout the month of December.
My most favorite aspect A Jesus Christmas is the family journaling space. Parents and older kids can journal directly in the book, bringing the experience even closer to home. Younger children and those with some artistic flair even have a large blank page to draw a picture or word art.
If you want a more Christ-centered Christmas for you and your family in 2019, get your copy of A Jesus Christmas today!