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Motivation

  • Trash or Treasure?

    "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." (Heb. 12:2)

    We live in the Information Age. For most of us, this means facing a near-constant bombardment of news, phone calls, emails, text messages, and advertisements. Can you relate?

    Surviving this inundation of media requires saying "no" to the vast majority of requests for attention. That means deleting most emails without reading them, letting unknown callers go to voicemail, and throwing away 44% of paper mail without even opening it. Silently but certainly, we decide a thousand times each day what's important and what's garbage.

    As we process this constant stream of information, the danger is not that we'll accidentally throw away a piece of junk mail; it's that we'll mistakenly discard something valuable. All too often, this happens spiritually as we treat God's priceless Word like yet another disposable part of our daily routine.

    For some, God's Word is like junk mail: unimportant and easily ignored. For others, it's just one more bill to pay: a daily obligation that's not quite junk and yet anything but enjoyable. Finally, there are those who eagerly open God's Word each day like an unexpected package on their doorstep. God's Word is to them "the joy and rejoicing" of their hearts -- and they can't wait to see what's inside (Jer. 15:16).

    Which group best describes you?

  • Memorizing is the Easy Part

    Memorizing Scripture does not by itself make a person Christ-like or spiritual. In fact, memory work is the easy part. Many actors, singers, and scholars can quote God’s Word precisely and even forcefully. But that is not the same thing as knowing God.

    Allow me to repeat: memorizing is the easier part of internalizing God’s Word. And here’s why: memorizing Scripture, properly executed, is never mere data storage. We may never equate rote knowledge of Scripture with spirituality. On the contrary, God’s Word aims at nothing less than transformation of the heart, mind, and soul into Christ-like character, the image of God restored to its original purpose.

    God’s Word makes it plain that He is deeply committed to this process, so committed that He causes “all things” to “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” What is that purpose? That those whom He foreknew, He “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:28-29).

    So how does memorizing Scripture fit into that process? The content of God’s Word absorbed into our minds becomes the equivalent of computer code, written instructions for how the heart and soul should work. Internalizing God’s Word makes that code part of our psyche, where the Holy Spirit can use it.

    There will be effort here. Let us be clear—effort does not merit salvation or grace. Grace is still grace. But godly, disciplined effort is a response to grace. “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). “… Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).

    The Apostle James captures this difference between mere mental storage and life change: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22). Bob Bennett sings about the all-too-real possibility of fooling ourselves:

    Mistake the nodding of the head
    And all the words that can be said
    Mistake the sympathy we bring
    For the doing of the thing

    Memorizing Scripture is a means to the ends of meditation, fellowship, obedience, and wisdom. It is instrumental. And it is challenging. But almost always what we live out in our lives we have thought about. Let’s fill our thoughts with God’s truth, so that our lives on the outside will reveal something good inside.

  • Soul Coffee: Why You Cannot Afford to Miss Another Quiet Time

    "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You..." (Psalm 63:1)

    We’re all creatures of habit. Whether you’re making breakfast, hanging laundry, or driving to work, certain parts of your day are so routine they require little thought or attention. That’s why you sometimes can’t remember whether you locked the door or turned off the lights on your way out; it’s so habitual, it’s almost mindless.

    Some habits, like brewing coffee, are easy to maintain. Nobody reminds me to stumble towards the Keurig each morning and push that flashing button. The taste of coffee isn’t quite my favorite, but as I face 16 hours of busyness, I know I need the energy contained in that little cup.
    Continue reading

  • Talent vs. Commitment

    "And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things..." (1 Corinthians 9:25)

    In 2008, the world watched in amazement as Michael Phelps made Olympic history. One of the most talented swimmers of all time, Phelps won 8 medals just like he'd done 4 years earlier. But this time, they were all gold.

    Michael Phelps wasn't just talented; he was unbelievably committed to his sport. His weekly routine consisted of 6 hours of training, 6 days a week -- swimming a grand total of nearly 50 miles during that time. He also followed a specialized 12,000 calorie diet, slept 8 hours each day, and took a 2-3 hour afternoon nap. All those gold medals weren't the inevitable result of natural talent; they were the fruit of unwavering discipline and relentless effort.

    Continue reading

  • The Chimney

    Every person you meet fights a hard battle. The smiling friend with whom you just had lunch faces fiery trials that would break your heart if you knew them all.

    But God’s Word enables us to come through the fire. A heart nourished on words of truth acquires an asbestos-like quality, which fire may purify but not destroy.

    Not too far from Big Cove, Alabama stands a solitary reminder that some things outlast fire and storm. The house is gone without a trace, but its hearth and chimney stand tall, straight as the day they were made. They show us that building materials may be combustible or non-combustible, flammable or fireproof, perishable or imperishable. When fire comes, all is consumed but the permanent things, the things made of lasting stuff. This durable chimney reminds us to build our lives of materials which remain certain and solid despite the flames.

    For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:11-15)

    Jesus says the wise man hears His words and does them. Such a person builds his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24), and that house proves to be stormproof! In the same way, we make choices every day that are filling our lives, building our lives out of materials from one category or the other. What are you importing into your heart to prepare for the storms sure to come? The time is now—let God’s Word find its intended home in your heart. It is permanent. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35). It is the anvil that wears out the hammers, and its promises will come true when the skeptics and critics and all their vaunted theories lie quiet.

    “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
    Psalm 119:160
  • The Measure of True Success

    “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12
    Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

    What is the measure of a life well lived? If you browse your local library for books on professional success, financial success, marital success, or academic success, you’ll find no shortage of resources and advice. But the Apostle John, writing some 50 years after witnessing the death and resurrection of Christ, summarizes true success in only a few words: “He who has the Son has life.” By contrast, our earthly achievements notwithstanding, “He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

    The pathway to life is clearly marked in Scripture. Only through God’s Word do we understand that “… we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ … ” (1 John 5:20). But all too often, this life-changing truth is forgotten as distractions of every sort beg our time and consume our energy. When unexpected busyness floods our schedule, Scripture memory and other spiritual disciplines are often the first to be sidelined. The result? We forget who we are in Christ because we’re too busy remembering who we are to everyone else!

    As we consider what it means to follow Christ, John’s closing appeal to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21) is particularly relevant. In response, let us deal swiftly and ruthlessly with any idols that keep us from fully knowing and abiding in Christ. Indeed, “… This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

  • The Difference Between Memorizing Scripture & Raising Chickens

    "I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts." (Psalm 119:94)

    Years ago, a hobbyist chicken farmer in Missouri was asked, "If I start raising chickens, when can I expect to start making some money?” The chicken farmer simply smiled and said, "You don't raise chickens to make money. You raise chickens for the joy that they bring."

    Having owned chickens myself some years ago, I’m personally familiar with just how true this is. My family had a modest flock of just six chickens, two of which were roosters that apparently missed the memo about crowing at dawn. Oftentimes, the peaceful silence of nighttime was pierced with the voices of our insomniac roosters. Continue reading

  • Lessons from a Water Bottle

    Article by Jim Woychuk

    “Eternal.” “Pure.” “Good life.” “Redemption.” “Pure Life.” “A future full of possibilities.”

    These theological-sounding phrases came to my attention, not from the Bible or a devotional book, but from water bottles in our office! Nestlé “Pure Life” water invites us to drink it with the pledge, “Pure life begins now,” and the suggestion that their water grants a “nutritional compass.” Yet another brand, “Eternal Water” carries the slogan “eternally pure.” Nestlé promises that, by drinking their water, “Pure life begins now.”

    Mere advertising hyperbole? Maybe. But beyond ordinary marketing, worldview statements underlie these slogans, including implicit claims about what really matters. According to this view, it actually is what goes into a man that purifies (or defiles) him (Matt. 15:11). And this goes along with the belief that our physical being is all there is to us. If you drink pure water, presto! You’re pure! If you’re drink “Eternal Water,” voilà, you’re eternally pure! Continue reading

  • A Charlie Brown Memory Lesson

    In the classic Christmas movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus is assigned a prominent role in the group's upcoming drama production. Charlie Brown contributes much-needed leadership to their efforts, but Linus is daunted by the thought of memorizing his lines.

    After reviewing his part, Linus concludes emphatically, "I can't memorize something like this so quickly! Why should I be put through such agony? Give me one good reason why I should memorize this!"

    As laughable as his reaction may seem, anyone who's been memorizing Scripture for long has probably asked the same questions. When a verse or chapter proves especially difficult to memorize, we may wonder with Linus, "Why should I be put through such agony?" Thankfully, we have much more than "one good reason" to memorize. (Click here to see a few of them). The benefits are countless!

    Memorizing is tough, but it's something you'll never regret doing. So, in all the busyness of the holiday season, be sure and take time to immerse yourself in God's Word and hide some new portion of it in your heart. It's worth it!

  • Dodging Landmines

    Article by Laura Laura Lynch

    If you’re like me, landmines dot the field of memory verse review. Here are a few of the struggles I encounter as a memorizer--with suggestions for combat!

    The Aimless Must-Do

    “I need to review sometime somehow...and I will…sometime somehow….”

    Combat: Make a specific review plan, and get right to it. Any plan is better than no plan. First, make a list of the verses to review, then decide which days of the week you will review each verse, and finally determine a realistic time. Don’t get bogged down making the perfect system. Test-run your plan for a few weeks, then tweak as needed.

    I’m-So-Behind Despair

    “There are last summer’s memory verses and last month’s and the ones from Bible study and the Sunday school set and… I’m so far behind I won’t even try!”

    Combat: Pick a manageable number to start with; once you have a good routine, gradually add the rest in. You may find it helpful to make an initial time investment in organization. Would a notebook, verse cards, or app be most helpful to you? Again, don’t let the setup overrule the objective. Limit yourself to fifteen minutes in your initial setup time, then start reviewing. The remaining verses can be added little-by-little as you gain confidence and have the time. Reviewing some verses on day one is better than reviewing none.

    This-Is-Boring

    “That verse again? I’m so tired of saying it. Enough already!”

    Combat: Pray for fresh appreciation of God’s Word. “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psa. 119:18). “The word of God is living and powerful…” (Heb. 4:12). Read a commentary and/or discuss with Christian friends for fresh insights. Regular review, though it may seem unnecessary, will dramatically improve your recitations in the long run.

    The old Latin saying is true, Repetitio est mater studiorum--"Repetition is the mother of learning."

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