Memorize and Meditate

Sadly, both memorization and meditation have become lost arts in today’s world.

Stephanie Weisman, author of the book, The Secrets of Top Students, and founder of the valedictoriansguide.com, writes about the serious consequences, “Memorization has gotten a bad rap recently. Lots of students, and even some educators, say that being able to reason is more important than knowing facts; and besides, why bother committing things to memory when you’ve got Google?”

Stephanie continues, “My response to this – after I’ve finished inwardly groaning – is that of course reasoning is important, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know facts as well. It’s not like you have to choose between one or the other. Besides, facts give you a foundation on which to reason about things.”

That last statement is so important: “Facts give us a foundation on which to reason about things.”

The author of Psalm 119 would have supported that. Clearly he believed in memorization: “I have hidden your word in my heart.”

And just as importantly, he also knew the value of meditation: “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.”

So what is your memorization plan to “hide” some of God’s word in your own heart? Do you have a list of 5 or 10 key verses that you’d like to always have at your fingertips because you’ve got them memorized?

And what is your meditation plan? Do you have a regularly planned “quiet time” each day when you can simply reflect on God’s words and promises?

The practical advice offered us in Psalm 119 would suggest that it would be extremely wise to weave both memorizing and meditating into the daily fabric of our lives.

Looking for a place to start? Here are a few passages that I really enjoy, and find useful for meditation:

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lordteach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Psalm 119:10-16, NIV).

Lord, help me to hide your word in my heart, meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I want to seek you with all my heart, as the Psalmist did. I want to remain on the path of your commands. And most of all, Jesus, I want to know your grace and forgiveness, won for me at the cross.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, October 10, is Jeremiah 21:1 – 23:8, 1 Thessalonians 2:17 – 3:13 and Psalm 119:9-16.

Header image based on "Bible and Ballcap (4)" by Eric Golub, CC By 2.0

Never Beyond Rescue

Have you ever felt that you were in such a bad situation that you were beyond rescue? Or in such dire straits that you were beyond recovery?

Paul, the apostle, only recognized after the fact how far gone he had been. Like anyone else, before he knew Christ as his Savior, he had been spiritually dead in his sins and transgressions. And that’s how it is sometimes — we’re already dead, and we don’t even realize it.

But regardless of whether or not we recognize in the moment how desperate our spiritual situation is, or how far beyond rescue we actually are, God wants us to know the reality is that we are never beyond his reach.

He can get to us. He can rescue our hopeless hearts and redeem our sin-wrecked minds. Not even spiritual death can separate us from his powerful love. Because redemption and resurrection are Jesus’ specialties.

And by grace, through faith, he does save us — by hanging on a cross and by rising from the dead!

However bad your situation might be right now, know this! You are never beyond hope or beyond rescue, as long as Jesus is in the picture.

And as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, he is always in the picture!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, September 23, is Isaiah 55:1 – 57:13, Ephesians 2:1-22 and Psalm 110:1-7.

Jesus, thank you for your grace. Thank you that you always give me hope, because you are the master of redemption, and resurrection is your specialty. I am a sinner, deserving of your eternal punishment. But because of Jesus, I can now rejoice in the certain hope of everlasting life with you.

Header image based on "Peace promise" by Jan Smith, CC By 2.0

Christian Gladiator Race

He created you in the first place. Then, after you were sold into slavery to sin, he bought you back at the cost of his own life. Finally, he personally summoned you by name to be his own.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit collaborated as one (because they are One!) to make you a child of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.

He is your Savior and Redeemer. Now you can be fully confident that you are God’s child. You belong to him. And he will afford you his full protection.

It’s a good thing because life is a lot like one of those “gladiator races” you see on TV.

Life is full of obstacles. Problems and heartaches may threaten to flood you. And you may even get “wet” from those floods.

And life is full of challenges. Adversity and opposition may lick at you like flames of fire. And you might get “hot” from those flames.

Nevertheless, you and I can run that race confident that we are his.

“But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3, NIV).

Lord, I know that life is full of obstacles and challenges. Problems and adversity are just part of the deal. Help me to run my race confidently, knowing that I am yours, and that you have promised me your divine, supernatural protection.

Our Bible reading for Friday, September 18, is Isaiah 43:1 – 44:23, Galatians 3:26 – 4:20 and Psalm 108:1-5.

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Busy, Busy, Busy…

We are busy people these days. Whenever we have issues we want to resolve or troubles that we’re facing, we begin actively looking for allies. We busy ourselves with finding the right solution, then we get to work laying out a plan, and finally, we run hard getting that plan implemented.

The problem with all this busy-ness is that we can fall into a habit of seeking solutions and help from everyone but God. We make plans that don’t include consulting his word, or seeking him in prayer. We get busy working a plan that takes us further away from God rather than closer to him.

Why would we do this? All kinds of reasons, really. Sometimes in our ignorance or arrogance, we think we have a clearer view of the situation than God does — and thus, a clearer view of the right path forward. Sometimes we are driven by fear to do things we wouldn’t normally do. We’re scared.

At other times, it’s selfishness and greed. We want what we want when we want it. Right now, if possible. Or a form of selfishness and greed — lust — drives us to chase things that make us feel good, no matter what it costs the other people affected. Often those solutions are very short-sighted, and later, the personal fall-out can be quite serious.

The Israelites were like this. They were busy, busy, busy. They had powerful friends, an active social life. And those friends — well, they were in all the right places. If hard work and great connections always brought success and salvation, they should have been prime candidates.

But instead, they were failing. And they were falling. Their relationship with God was a mess. So God — the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel — says to them through Isaiah the prophet: “Slow down. Stop talking. Quit thinking that the Egyptians are the answer to your problems.”

“Pharaoh is not the one to look to. I am! Turn back to me. Quietly examine your hearts. Rethink your beliefs — and the words and actions that flow from those beliefs. Stop all the activity, find a quiet place to sit down, and meditate on my forgiveness, power, love and faithful help.”

So, what’s your “Egypt”? Who’s your “Pharaoh”? What activity do you need to stop doing for a little while? What plans do you need to set aside for a moment?

And where is that “quiet place” in your home, or in your neighborhood, or somewhere within a few hours travel, where you can just go and think? Take your Bible. Prepare your heart for prayer. It may be time for a little repentance, a little rest, a little quietness and a little trust.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it'” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV).

Lord, stop me from chasing constant activity, busy-ness and human allies. Help me to step aside from the rush, reconnect with you, and repent of my sins. Help me to remember that rest and quietness coupled with repentance and faith are my salvation. Remind me to find time to look to Jesus, listen to him, and be reminded he is the real Solution for all my problems.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, September 12, is Isaiah 29:1 – 30:18, 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 and Psalm 107:1-9.

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Do Real Christians Have Doubts?

Do sincere Christians sometimes have doubts?

You be the judge. Let me introduce you to a person named Asaph. Asaph was a poet and a musician at the time of David. He was appointed by David to lead worship and write music for worship at the tabernacle:

“He (David) appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: Asaph was the chief…” (1 Chronicles 16:4-5, NIV).

Asaph was such a remarkable worship leader that ultimately David even set apart Asaph’s descendants to lead the Israelites in worship. David’s son Solomon would end up building the temple in Jerusalem. And Asaph’s sons would continue to lead worship as it shifted from tent to temple.

Would you think that David would select a man of faith for a ministry like that?

Of course he would! Would such a man ever have doubts? Check out the first 14 verses of Psalm 73, which Asaph wrote:

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.

Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits.

They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.

Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.

They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?”

This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.

All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. (Psalm 73:1-14, NIV)

If you have ever had a few doubts along the way, I pray that you will find comfort in Asaph’s struggles as he viewed the prosperity of unbelievers and wondered how they could be so successful. How could God allow it?

Ultimately, Asaph’s doubts did not win out. Jesus did. The Holy Spirit gained the victory in Asaph’s heart. Asaph ended up writing a full dozen of the Psalms, words of faith that still inspire us today.

Our Bible reading for Friday, June 12, is 2 Samuel 18:19 – 19:43, Acts 7:44 – 8:3 and Psalm 73:1-14.

Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!

Note: The quote on the picture is from Francis Bacon, an English jurist, philosopher, statesman, scientist, orator, and author. Also a Christian! In 1626 Bacon stopped in the snow to conduct an experiment on the preservation of food, fell ill, and died on Easter Sunday. In his will, he included this final prayer: “When I thought most of peace and honor, thy hand [was] heavy on me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving kindness. … Just are thy judgments upon my sins. … Be merciful unto me for my Savior’s sake, and receive me into thy bosom.”

Header image based on "Certainty and Doubt" by Celestine Chua, CC By 2.0

Your Will Be Done

David’s own son, Absalom, was rebelling against him. It didn’t look good for David, with his own flesh and blood conspiring to take his throne from him — and then the report came to David that “the hearts of the people are with Absalom.”

All this after David had just shown Absalom an amazing amount of grace and forgiveness! But this is the account of a man who over a long career as King of Israel had learned to seek the Lord’s will in matters.

A thousand years later, Jesus would teach the apostles to pray, “Your will be done,” when addressing their Heavenly Father. But by faith, David knew this was the correct course of action centuries before that.

And how about us, two thousand years after Jesus? Have we learned to pray by faith, “Your will be done,” in the crucible of our own life, when times are tough, when injustice seems to rule, when grace seems to have been wasted?

Do we have the confidence in God that David did? Confidence to say, “If God wants me to make a comeback from this, then I will make a comeback.” Or what about the meekness and humility to say, “If God is not pleased with me, then I am ready. Whatever he thinks is best, that’s what he should do to me.”

Those are words of awesome faith. Those are thoughts that only the Holy Spirit can teach us to think. Hearts like these and courage like this — only Jesus can give that to us.

And that’s the heart I pray to Jesus for you to have — and me to have! It’s the courageous heart to pray daily, “Lord, your will, not mine, be done!”

“Then the king (David) said to Zadok, ‘Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him’” (2 Samuel 15:25-26, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, June 10, is 2 Samuel 15:13 – 16:14, Acts 6:1 – 7:19 and Psalm 71:19-24.

Dear God, grant me the heart and the mind of David. When I am in trouble, treated unjustly, receiving all too little grace in my life, help me to pray with confidence in you, and meekness in regard to myself. Help me always to pray, “Your will be done!”

Header image based on "absalom, absalom" by John Lodder, CC By 2.0

Jesus Did Many Things

Scarcity mentality is what it’s sometimes called. It’s the mentality that was adopted by Eeyore. You might recognize it. It’s the feeling that you just might be the one that’s being followed around by a dark cloud hanging over your head.

It’s a mentality that’s easy to develop. As humans, we tend to see trials and troubles, rather than gifts and victories. And it’s common for us to feel as if blessings are few and far between.

Scarce, in other words.

Moreover, it’s a point of view that finds it hard to see God showing up in our lives. We start to feel like God has left us to deal with life’s hardships completely on our own.

The apostle John saw it the opposite way. For him, the stories of the amazing, powerful, gracious things Jesus did during his lifetime were many.

Not scarce at all, but abundant.

If John were here today, this is what he would tell you: “This is your Savior, Jesus. His love for you is abundant. And his power at work in your life is abundant too. The Library of Congress cannot contain the stories of his love and power at work in your life.”

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, June 2, is 2 Samuel 2:8 – 3:21, John 21:1-25 and Psalm 69:1-12.

Header image based on "Very cool dark clouds" by Josh, CC By 2.0

A Bad Day

David was not having a good day. First he got fired from his job. Then he returned to find his home — in fact, not just his home, but his entire hometown — burned down. His family had been kidnapped.

And this wasn’t just David’s hometown and family, but that of everyone who worked for him. And when they returned and found everything destroyed and everyone gone, these men were not happy, to say the least.

David caught wind of the talk. His soldiers were talking about getting rid of him. And I don’t mean just firing him as their leader.

They were ready to put him to death.

We all have bad days, but most of us have never experienced a bad day like this.

In one day… no more job, a major crime committed against you, and everyone is blaming you and saying the death penalty is the only answer.

Not to mention, you’re also physically exhausted from the responsibility of all the people under your care, the travel you’ve just finished, the deep grief of the loss you’ve experienced, and the loneliness of no one coming to your support.

Where will you find the strength to go on in circumstances like this?

Everything and everyone else was against him. David could think of only one person who could give him that kind of strength.

And I hope you will find your strength in the exact same person — especially when you’re going through those lonely bad days and painful crisis times in your own life.

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6, NIV).

Jesus, you are my Lord and my God. You are my Savior from sin, my eternal hope, and my strength for this life. I praise you for all the grace you show me day after day. Help me to always seek you for strength, especially on my bad days.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, May 31 is 1 Samuel 29:1 – 31:13, John 19:28 – 20:9 and Psalm 68:28-35.

Header image based on "House of Leaves" by LearningLark, CC By 2.0

Heavy Things

Life is filled with heavy things. Sadness. Grudges. Responsibility. Depression. Debt. Guilt. Fear.

That’s the short list. Many, many other heavy things constantly weigh us down and exhaust us.

And way too frequently, people live under the impression that they have to lift and carry all those heavy things on their own.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Our God is a Savior. He loves to help us. He loves to carry those heavy things for us.

And he does it every day.

David knew this. He trusted God to protect him from Saul when Saul wanted him dead. He looked to God to comfort him when he grieved the death of Samuel the prophet. He waited for God to bring about justice when Nabal, his Israelite brother, foolishly failed to assist him in a time of need.

David looked to God to carry the heavy things in his life. God always came through. And David sang songs of peace and joy.

Life is a lot lighter when we don’t have to carry all those burdens on our own.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, May 29, is 1 Samuel 24:1 – 25:44, John 18:25-40 and Psalm 68:15-20.

Lord, life is so heavy at times. I’m not capable of carrying my burdens on my own. You are my Savior. I need you. Thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for carrying my burdens for me every day.

Header image based on "these packs are heavy" by Jon Rawlinson, CC By 2.0

A Safe Place to Be

If you’ve ever been to a coastline where you can watch big waves tumble over sharp volcanic rock, you know that’s a place to be cautious about swimming. You want to make sure that you have some bigger rocks to hide behind. Otherwise, the forces behind those waves are going to be awfully harsh, if not deadly.

Life can be like that. At times, we need something to hide behind. The rough and tumble of daily living can overcome us, and the constant, unrelenting battering of life’s powerful “waves” slowly, but surely, threatens to drain the life out of us.

Nothing saddens me more than the realization that most people don’t know where to find true safety and rest. So they wander around amongst the sharp rocks and the violent waves and the powerful undertow of life constantly searching, using a trial-and-error method.

In that scenario, every supposed safe harbor just ends up being a short-lived solution to the problem. The fear and exhaustion soon return.

Until we find what David found. There is a true place of safety — a rock to hide behind. There is a place of peace and restoration.

That place is God.

And how does one find refuge behind him?

  1. Know that God really exists as one who wants to be your refuge.
  2. Trust that he is strong enough and loving enough to be your Rock to hide behind.
  3. You hide behind him when you study the Bible and believe its words and promises.
  4. You hide behind him when you are baptized, or when you bring to recollection the benefits of your baptism.
  5. You hide behind him when you receive the Lord’s Supper.
  6. You hide behind him with others when you fellowship with fellow believers in church.
  7. You demonstrate that you are hiding behind him when you pray.
  8. You demonstrate that you are hiding behind him when you give the same grace to others that you have already received from Jesus.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8, NIV)

Our Bible reading for Sunday, May 17, is Ruth 3:1 – 4:22, John 9:35 – 10:21 and Psalm 62:1-12.

Lord, you are my rock and my refuge. Help me to hide behind you so that I always feel safe, even when life is very rough.

Header image based on "Volcanic rock on the shore line" by raider of gin, CC By 2.0