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  • 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?

  • Read It!

    “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Rom. 15:4

    What is the best way to begin memorizing? Simple. READ IT, but don’t be lazy. Read your memory verse in context thoughtfully and slowly. If you are memorizing a portion of a larger work, I recommend that you read through the entire chapter (or story) on the first day. If you are using SMF books, I recommend that you read through all of the commentary on the first day. Consider day 1 to be your overview. You want to have a general idea of the verses and what they mean.

    Now, the repetition begins. Read your memory verses aloud five times emphasizing different words each time. Try to make a visual memory of what the words look like on the page, then close your eyes and try to "read" your verse in your "mind's eye." Our VerseLocker app never places more than eight words on each line. Ancient memorizers called this an “eye’s glance.” The essential brevity of each line allows you to retain the short series of words in your short-term memory. In psychology, this is called The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two. Short-term memory can only remember around seven things at a time. You should read your verses aloud as much as possible. Leveraging your sight and sound will help make a lasting memory. Retaining words better by saying them aloud is sometimes called the production effect. It is proven that memories created across multiple senses at one time tend to be recalled more accurately (i.e. sound and sight working together).

    If you are working with small children, or if you consider yourself to be young at heart, I recommend making a game of your recitations. Read it forcefully, read it softly, read it with an accent…you get the idea. What is learned with pleasure is learned full measure.

    I like to read through my verses while I am waiting in line or on my lunch break. These few extra minutes of “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16) give me opportunity to reinforce my short-term memory. However, these occasional readings do not qualify as reading thoughtfully and slowly. The bulk of my quality memory work usually happens either early morning or late evening when distractions are minimal. I prefer to read and memorize one line at a time. I will say the first line out loud three times, then try to say it without looking. If I succeed, then I move to line two and say it three times. Then I try to say line one and two together without looking, etc.

  • 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.

  • When the Cowboys Beat the Saints

    The Dallas Cowboys beat the New Orleans Saints last night here in our fair city, and it brings up an unpleasant topic: it’s become very fashionable and acceptable in our culture to “beat the saints” verbally. Criticism of Christians’ bad behavior seldom takes a holiday. Whether it’s the latest moral failure of a pastor, past centuries’ bloody persecutions perpetrated in the name of Christ, or just the garden-variety failures of believers who say one thing and live another, pundits within and without the church engage in this spectator sport with gusto.

    Continue reading

  • The (Partial) Truth Behind our Idols

    Idols are lies. Concerning idol-worshipers, Isaiah says, “A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” An idol is a lie of such powerful deceptive power that it actually blinds us to its existence. We don’t realize the idol’s existence or power over our thoughts, actions, and destiny. It’s in the palm of our hand, but we don’t see it. And idols intoxicate millions.

    Take one of our culture’s favorites, naturalism—the set of beliefs that deny God’s existence, trust human reason and the scientific method as the only means of discovering truth, and make this present world the only reality. In this worldview, human reason and nature itself have the highest value. One wing of this movement expresses its bumper-sticker theology this way: “Trees are the answer”—a snarky retort to Christians’ view that “Jesus is the Answer.”

    Continue reading

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