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  • Having Heart Trouble?

    “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

    John Bunyan’s little book, Heart’s Ease for Heart Trouble, begins with a chapter entitled “The Sovereign Cure for Heart Trouble.” There, Bunyan leads the reader to think deeply about Jesus’ words in John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled….” Jesus wanted His disciples’ hearts—our hearts—to be without care, to be untroubled (Matt. 6:34). But too often, the cares of this world weigh down our hearts. Even when we’ve captured Scripture in memory, we experience fainting fits and turbulence as our anxiety level rises, along with our blood pressure.

    At those moments, it’s time to take our own medicine. When my dad began to experience heart disease later in life, one doctor gave him a little vial of nitroglycerin tablets to take when he felt chest pains. Nitroglycerin, used in liquid form in explosives, has long been known to prevent chest pain and cardiac arrest when placed under the tongue. So Dad kept these tiny tablets in his pocket everywhere he went and used them as directed for years. But he had to take them out of his pocket and put them under his tongue for them to work!

    In the same way, memorizing Scripture is a fantastic discipline for everyone, but many times we need Jesus and His people to remind us to “take the medicine.” When fear or anxiety strike next, what biblical “pill” will you place under your tongue? What “key” of promise will you use to escape Doubting Castle and Giant Despair? Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”

  • Is Your Check Engine Light On?

    Few things in life are more unnerving than a check engine light. Isn't it amazing how a single light bulb carries the potential to ruin your whole day? Suddenly, a peaceful drive to the grocery store is replaced by a nerve-racking trip to the mechanic. What will they say? How much will it cost? Will I even make it there? These questions and more rush through your mind as you hope for the best. "After all," you tell yourself, "maybe it's just a bad sensor."

    As much as we all dread our car's check engine light, we all do the same thing when it comes on: go to the mechanic. You might be able to ignore a cracked mirror or a dented hood, but not engine issues. To ignore that warning on your dashboard is to risk making things worse or even breaking down.

    Just like the engine of a car, your heart is the driving force behind your thoughts, words, and actions.  Continue reading

  • Phone: ✓ Wallet: ✓ Keys: ✓

    There are certain things we don't leave home without. For most of us, it's a short list: phone, wallet, and keys. You check your pockets for them constantly and your heart skips a beat if something is missing. These items are simply too important to leave home without, so you look for them when they're lost and do a u-turn when they're forgotten.

    Just like your phone, wallet, and keys, God's Word is too important to forget. Continue reading

  • Crossroads: Preparing Your Children for Adulthood With Bible Memory

    Over the last four years, I’ve traveled to Christian conferences across the country. As I meet dozens of parents at these events, I often turn to their young children and ask if they can quote any Bible verses. As you might expect, John 3:16 and “Jesus wept” are among the most common responses — and for obvious reason. But when I ask if they can say any other verses, the response is nearly always the same: blank stares, sheepish grins, and a somewhat embarrassed parent.

    An unfortunate and unintended side effect of the digital age is that even classic memory verses like John 3:16 are hardly common knowledge among Christian young people. Sure, they understand biblical concepts like Creation, the worldwide flood, and salvation through Christ. But ask them to recite a verse to support any one of these beliefs, and you’ll likely encounter the same awkward silence I've come to expect.

    This might seem like a minor omission at first. After all, can’t we teach our children biblical principles without the hassle of memory work? Isn’t it enough that they believe the right things about God, even if they can’t trace those beliefs back to a chapter and verse? Continue reading

  • Seasons of Scripture Memory

    Spring: Fresh zeal and much planting mark springtime. For the memorizing Christian, this may be a renewed conviction that you need Scripture in your heart. Perhaps you have a new set of verses, a new goal, or a new friend to recite with. Energy is high and you plant verse seeds regularly and expectantly.

    Summer: Here you settle in. You tend and till the verses to accurate, confident recitations. These are good times hiding the Word as rhythm and system settle in. Zeal is not gone, but it’s overshadowed by routine. Memorizing is “what I do.” A few storms of busyness and distraction shake the verse blooms, but unless a complete drought of inconsistency sets in, most verses will survive. Continue reading

  • On your mark, get set, snooze?

    After a long week at work, few things sound better than sleeping in and enjoying a lazy Saturday. But imagine instead being awakened by the rude sound of your alarm clock. As you roll over and see the time -- 7:00 a.m. -- you groggily remember you were planning to exercise this morning.

    Your first instinct is to roll over and go back to sleep. But there's just one problem: you're supposed to meet your friend at the track by 8:00. Your lack of internal motivation to get up and exercise is suddenly overcome by external motivation and accountability. In simper terms, your desire to keep your word is stronger than your desire for more sleep. Continue reading

  • Too busy to memorize?

    Does the busyness of daily life feel overwhelming? If so, this might come as a surprise: research shows that Americans have more free time now than they did 50 years ago. Modern inventions and household appliances have simplified housework, and we work less overall than our parents and grandparents did.1

    So what gives? If we're technically less busy, why does everyday life feel so chaotic? According to one study, it's partially because being busy makes us feel important.After all, to tell a coworker that you have no weekend plans is rather embarrassing. So we fill our schedules with Facebook-worthy moments and then bemoan our lack of free time.

    "The ironic consequence of the ‘busy feeling’ is that we handle our to-do lists less well than if we weren’t so rushed."2 Can you relate? Continue reading

  • 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

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