Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Now, you remember that, and you will live a long and healthy life.

In Ps 119:9 David asks and answers an important question:
"How can a young man keep his way pure?"
By guarding it according to your word." (ESV)
David's subsequent personal application?
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Ps 119:11)
A stellar example of Scripture memory put to use was Jesus. When tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-11), Jesus used Scripture as a weapon (cf. Eph 6:17) to deflect his attacks.

Prior to my conversion I was encouraged to memorize Scripture and have never looked back. I hope to encourage you in Scripture Memory because of all the benefits therein.

Read John Piper on why to memorize Scripture.

Check out (read, watch, or listen) John Piper's sermon on John 15:1-7, "If My Words Abide in You."
"Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults."
I used the Topical Memory System (TMS) in college and found it convenient and effective. But I also benefited from practicing my verses by hand writing them.

Desiring God ministries also has some memory verse packs, the first more for young kids and the other for older kids & adults.

Read (pdf) Dr. Andrew Davis' An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture, which we gave out at Providence Church last year.

Check out some free Scripture memory songs.

Check out 18 Tricks to Memorize More Scripture.

Check out Lee's technique, that requires typing the text in your word processor.

Check out Sandi Hester's technique, particularly helpful in reviewing many different verses to keep them current.

Train up your kids and enter them in the Bible Bee, which tests Scripture Memory as a spelling bee tests the spelling of words.

One of the Sunday school teachers at Providence Church encourages the kids to employ his Jericho Method. Read the text 7 times each night for 7 days and you should have it.

Another technique entails taking a larger portion of text and removing all but the first letter of each word. After reading the full text a few times, it shouldn't be that hard to recite it with just the initials. You essentially wean yourself off the prompt. Here is a tool to help with this. Paste the text to memorize in the top box, and the initials appear in the bottom.

Some practical suggestions:
  1. If you could con a friend or family member into being a wing man, I think it would help immensely. Memorizing together encourages accountability and a common goal.
  2. Despite techniques, remember that memorization takes some time. But it's time well spent.
  3. Since you may be more of an auditory learner like myself, you might benefit greatly from hearing the Scripture out loud, especially from your own mouth. Read the text out loud and you might even try to recite it as you hear yourself say it on tape/CD/mp3, etc.
  4. Start off small, but don't think it's out of the question for you to memorize chapters or even books of the Bible.
  5. Remember that the goal is the glorification of God through godliness as the Word of God dwells in you richly (Col 3:16), not impressing others are feeling spiritually superior.

Any other thoughts and/or suggestions on Scripture memory?


Sunday, April 26, 2009

He gets down to the end of his life and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life ...

The following are some quotes and points made from my sermon on Matthew 5:10-12.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (ESV)
Click to listen:

I shared Six ways to learn everything you ever need to know about a man before you decide to marry him:
  1. Watch him drive in heavy traffic.
  2. Play tennis with him.
  3. Listen to him talk to his mother when he doesn’t know you’re listening.
  4. See how he treats those who serve him (waiters, maids).
  5. Notice what he’s willing to spend his money to buy.
  6. Look at his friends. And if you still can’t make up your mind, then look at his shoes. A man who keeps his shoes in good repair generally tends to the rest of his life too.
-Lois Wyse, Good Housekeeping, April 1985

Just as those things reveal the character of a man, so how one responds to suffering shows the character of a Christian. Also, the Beatitudes in general reveal the character of one who has been changed by the Holy Spirit into a new creation.

Difficulty/suffering is part of the (normal) Christian life. EASY Christianity is a misconception and a lie. (Phil 1:29; Matt 10:22; 1 Pet 4:12-19; 2 Cor 4:8-9; John 15:18-20; 2 Tim 3:12)
“There are worldly people who tell us they admire Jesus Christ, but that is because they have never seen Him. If they saw Him, they would hate Him as His contemporaries did. He does not change; man does not change. So let us be careful that our ideas about Christ are such that the natural man cannot easily admire or applaud.”
-Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Why 2 “blessed”s (μακάριοι)?
  • Emphasis to expect persecution
  • Reassurance that you're doing the right thing(s)
  • Happy because of God's blessing, knowing your reward is great

Why are they/we persecuted?
  • For righteousness sake (v. 10)
  • on Christ's account (v. 11b)
“Being righteous, practicing righteousness, really means being like the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore they are blessed who are persecuted for being like Him.”
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Jesus tells the people that they will be persecuted like the "prophets" i.e. those who proclaimed the Word. Like the prophets we are susceptible to persecution due to proclaiming God's truth, particularly about Jesus, His person & work, in evangelism.

Natural humanity will be at best indifferent, apathetic, and bored. Yet, more often than not, Jesus as the cure for their pervasive sinfulness will be met with hostility and hatred.
Evangelism is not changing their opinion about Jesus. Evangelism is informing them of the biblical Jesus, so that hearts changed by the Spirit might have someone in whom to believe.

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not so much seen in times of prosperity, but when times are hard.
What’s the difference between the two when mistreated? (e.g., Stephen, contentment & seeking forgiveness for persecutors, instead of retaliation, resentment, and discouragement)

A Christian Perspective … 5 Benefits of Persecution:
  1. Comfort from God
  2. Grow in faith/dependence
  3. Kingdom expansion
  4. A Great reward (v. 10b; 12a; 2 Cor 4:17-18)
  5. Assurance of identity (Matt 5:10-12; Luke 6:22-23 vs. 6:26)
“By thus persecuting you the world is just telling you that you do not belong to it, that you are a man apart; you belong to another realm, thus proving the fact that you are going to heaven.”
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“He needs not fear confiscation, who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his country; nor torments, when his body can be destroyed at one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow.”
- Eusebius

"You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy."
- John Calvin

"It's good to know who hates you and to be hated by the right people."
- Johnny Cash

"The Christian who is not conscious of being opposed had better watch himself, for he is in danger. Such unrealism is not requirement of Christian discipleship, but is rather a mark of failure in it."
- J. I. Packer

"If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified."
- Leonard Ravenhill

What does it say about you if you’re unwilling to undergo persecution? (cf. Acts 5:40-42)

“So we should all examine ourselves to see if we are playing a kind of cowardly Christian incognito. And if so, we should repent and resolve to be more sincere in the expression of who we really are.”
- John Piper

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

Hockey playoffs ... you won't see very much of this in the playoffs, so here's some hockey fisticuffs to tide you over.

Okay, one could make a case that this one might have got out of hand: Senators vs Flyers.

Dallas Stars' Aaron Downey in one of the shortest hockey fights.


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Friday, April 17, 2009

Some I consider my girlfriends, some I just consider.

I overheard my kindergarten son talking to his sister:
"Well, actually, they're both my girlfriend. But, I'm not sure if they know they're my girlfriend."

I still remember my kindergarten girlfriend, though I'm not sure she ever knew she was my girlfriend either.

But, honestly, does that really matter?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Everybody wants results but nobody wants to do what they have to do to get them done.

In ministry, you often encounter pragmatism as the motivation for doing things. If it works or gets results, you can't or shouldn't criticize it. In fact, you should probably do it as well ... if you really love Jesus.

This is particularly popular with regard to some sort of activity, event, or spectacle which draws a crowd whereby people are exposed to the Gospel. Surely, we want people to hear the Gospel, if we love Jesus, so whatever gets them in the door or within earshot is "all good."

I came across this via one of my former SWBTS students. (HT Aaron Landis) This was part of the services yesterday at NewSpring Church.

There were criticisms, of course. For example, one comment on the video said:
"Not only is this inappropriate for church, it's mediocre talent. Leave this music to the real pagans. Please don't let these wanna-be pagans do stuff like this anymore."
True, he's no Brian Johnson and that's not Angus Young, but the hat & Harley t-shirt and school boy uniform would have added to the effect.

Yet, one of those in favor of this approach commented:
"This mediocre talent participated in hundreds of people giving there life to Christ in the last two days. What did you accomplish this weekend? With that kind of attitude I doubt you've ever led anyone to Christ. The person who was sitting next to my wife was cheering when they played it. 30 mins latter he was balling as he gave his life to God. Go tell him this sucked! While you're at it. Tell Jesus that it wasn't worth it."

Surely there's a line one should not cross while pursuing noble goals. Right? What's the line? Do you just know it when you see it?

Topless women as greeters might draw a bigger crowd to hear about Jesus, but that's unchartered waters ... for now. I think for most the ends DO justify the means, so that the means might even be perceived as wrong, sinful, or at least inappropriate ... on their own, but for the noble cause, tolerated, heralded, and imitated.

Admittedly, my line is probably further back than than for most, but I fear many buy into the pragmatism prior to establishing a line of their own. In the noble desire to see results, the line is crossed perhaps unaware. You have to respect the line.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

I just think three days is kinda money.

"declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord"
-Romans 1:4
The cross is empty and stands as a symbol to us of the power of the atonement for the forgiveness of our sins. The tomb is empty and stands as a symbol of the satisfaction of God in taking the death of His Son as payment for sin.

Successful redemption for those in Christ is demonstrated in the resurrection, without which we are to be a people most pitied (1 Cor 15:14-19).

Read 8 reasons John Piper thinks Jesus rose from the dead.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

It's not uncommon for the question of "Easter" eggs and bunnies and their legitimacy in the church to come up. It often gets rather heated in the process.

2 things I've shared in response to Facebook friends.

Timothy Hammons asked,
"How in the world did we get from a empty tomb to brightly colored eggs, sun dresses, cards, streamers, chocolate bunnies, Easter bonnets,... etc?"

As a kid, I did hunt eggs and all that, but had absolutely no clue as to the resurrection of Jesus. In my case, at least, the other stuff eclipsed Jesus.

My sister, Brandi, shared the following:
the Easter Bunny died on the basket so we could be forgiven of all our easter egg hunts.

We've never done the eggs or bunnies with our kids, but with my inquisitive kids it may have been quite interesting had we done so.

"Dad, why do we color eggs and eat chocolate bunnies?"

"Well, Jesus died on the cross to pay for sin and rose again. That's why."

I'm sure they'd call me out on that non sequitor in record time.


Friday, April 10, 2009

It's ironic. He could save others from death, but not himself.

Tonight Providence Church is having a Good Friday service, a large part of which is exposition & meditation upon the 7 sayings of Jesus on the cross:
  1. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
  2. "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
  3. "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." (John 19:26-27)
  4. "Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?" (Matthew 27:46)
  5. "I thirst." (John 19:28)
  6. "It is finished." (John 19:30)
  7. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)
It will be somewhat of a somber occasion, but only somewhat since we know what comes next: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

He could have saved Himself, but chose not to, to please the Father and to pay for the sins of His sheep.
"11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:11, 14-15, 18; ESV)


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I bought a suit. You seen it. Now it's covered in mud.

We continue with our series based on The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, by Mark Atteberry.

DUMB MOVE #1 ... Slinging Mud on the Bride of Christ

Jesus is the groom (John 3:29) and His church is His beloved bride (Rev 21:9), which He loved so much He gave His life for her (Eph 5:25-27). Think of your potential ire if someone was defaming your spouse, but that's what is done when Christians sling mud on the church.

Atteberry notes 4 types of Christians responsible for the majority of mud slung on the bride of Christ:

1. The Missing - those AWOL, having left the church
"regardless of how they leave, sooner or later someone is going to notice and ask why. At that point, they will have two choices: take responsibility or play the blame game."
Typically, it is the latter and the mud starts to fly, because "every human being alive has a buck-passing gene that flares up every now and then."

2. The Malcontents - those "chronic complainers, the squeaky wheels that no amount of grease will ever silence"
They will "make the bride of Christ sound like a tramp to those who don't know her."

3. The Moochers - those who "have somehow gotten the idea that the church exists for the sole purpose of meeting their needs."
They have what Atteberry calls the "motel mentality."
These mud slingers "judge the church solely on the basis of the way it caters to their whims." "They walk in expecting everything to be perfectly prepared for their comfort and convenience, and walk out leaving the bed unmade and all their dirty towels piled up on the bathroom floor."

4. The Misbehavers - those who embarrass the church by their behavior in the community
"They don't just sling mud on the bride of Christ. They pick up handfuls of it and smear it all over her. And then they haul off and punch her in the nose for good measure."

We've all know, and perhaps still know, folks in each of these categories, but Atteberry cautions us to look inward. "Please don't assume that when I identify blundering believers, I must be talking about someone else. Have the courage to ask, 'Lord, who is it? Am I the one who does these things?'"

Atteberry offers 3 devastating results of mudslinging:

1. When mud is slung, the devil is handed an opportunity.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Satan's favorite believers are the missing, the malcontents, the moochers, and the misbehavers--for the simple reason that they create endless opportunities for him to make the church look bad."

2. When mud is slung, the lost are handed an excuse.
The unbeliever is further entrenched in the notion that he/she doesn't need to be a Christian, to be a part of the body of Christ. Who would want to be with those hypocrites?

3. When mud is slung, the Lord is handed a heartache.
Because Christ cherishes church (Eph 5:29), it is injurious to Him when His bride is defamed.

Atteberry offers 4 diagnostic questions to see if you're a (potential) mudslinger:
  1. When you have a problem with your church, do you approach your leaders, or do you just start blabbing about it to anyone who will listen?
  2. What is your church contentment quotient? (result of subtracting the number of communities in which you've lived from the number of churches you've attended; the lower the better)
  3. Do you have any habits or enjoy any activities that you would hate for your church leaders to find out about?
  4. How long has it been since you bragged about your church?

Atteberry asks, "Have you been slinging mud on the bride of Christ for so long that you don't even realize you're doing it?"

Perhaps even more incisive, he asks, "Is it possible that you have become more of a hindrance than a help to your church?"

My thoughts ...
  • It seems to me that many mudslingers are often unaware of the damage they're causing.
  • Under the guise of being honest in criticism or striving for perfection, malcontents will demotivate people with great efficiency.
  • Though the misbehavers may (per Atteberry) sling the most mud on the bride, I have found them to be easier to deal with than the missing, the malcontents, or the moochers. At least the misbehavers are more likely to recognize their behavior as sinful. The other three often create a veneer of spirituality to cloak their mudslinging actions, so they often see themselves as righteous.
  • While it's easy to get angry or frustrated by these mudslingers, I mostly feel sorry for them, for they have no idea that the Lord doesn't take it lightly when that which He loves is injured.

(Click to buy a copy of The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, especially if you want to read along.)

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Monday, April 06, 2009

No fightin' in the building. You got a grudge against someone, fight him Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday's sermon at Providence Church dealt with horizontal peacemaking (i.e., among humans), from Matthew 5:9.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (ESV)

(click to listen)
“Peacemaking tries to build bridges to people. It does not want the animosity to remain. It wants reconciliation. It wants harmony.” -John Piper

I had essentially 4 points or contentions:

1. Be a peacemaker between yourself and others.
  • This may entail being taken advantage of (Matt 5:38-41) and taking the initiative to love your enemies (Matt 5:43-48).
  • However, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes, after conversion we see (a) ourselves differently, (b) others differently, and (c) the world differently (i.e., the purpose being the glory of God).
  • So we forgive, as we have been forgiven (Col 3:13). We overlook an offense (Prov 19:11), knowing it is better to be wronged than to embarrass the church in court, for example (1 Cor 6:1-8). We may have to sacrifice our rights and privileges to live peaceably with the weaker or less mature Christians (Rom 14:13-19).
  • Try to reconcile relationships as best you can (Heb 12:14; Rom 12:18), but even if the other party will not entertain the idea, you can always pray for softened hearts to allow for reconciliation in the future.
  • Remember, fractured horizontal relationships jeopardize the experiential peace of the vertical relationship.(Matt 5:23-24; 1 Pet 3:7)

2. Be a peacemaker for others.
  • Following Paul's example, we don't assume devout Christian people will work out their disagreements on their own. To prevent factions and threats to church unity, we must intervene to make peace (Phil 4:2-3).
  • When you hear a Christian talking about another, bashing, belitting, and carrying on, suggest he/she talk with that person to get right the relationship. Offer to help them reconcile, though it be potentially costly and draining for you to do so.

3. Peace in the church glorifies God in the world.
  • Sadly, the world does a better job of striving for peace than the church does. Ironically, the church knows the root problem is sin and the cure is the gospel. Until people have vertical peace, there's no chance for real horizontal peace.
  • Sadly, the world puts a greater value on diversity than the church does. In contrast to the homogeneity principle, regardless of how much easier it makes church growth, unity in diversity around the cross glorifies God and gets the worlds attention. A good church for you is not necessarily one where there are many like you, but one where you can benefit from there being many unlike you.
  • Christians in the church ought to handle conflict differently than the world does. Sadly, when there's a conflict in the church, the peaceful option is for someone to leave. Even in a Christian marriage, when conflict arises, someone will leave. But reconciliation of relationships is what glorifies God.

4. We do not pursue peace "at all costs."
  • We do not pursue peace to the sacrifice of purity (Matt 5:8), of ourselves or the Gospel message. We do not contextualize to the point of espousing another gospel to get decisions or get along.
  • We do not pursue peace to the sacrifice of righteousness (Matt 5:10-12) in behavior or doctrine. We do not sacrifice truth/doctrine to be ecumenical. J.C. Ryle wrote, "Never let us be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace."
  • We do not sacrifice our relationship with Christ to get along with others, even family members (Matt 10:34-37).

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber, you go and do something like this ... and totally redeem yourself!

The book's cover was too enticing to leave in the "Super Bargain" section: The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, by Mark Atteberry.

I've decided it's a worthwhile read, but also worthy of a blog series and perhaps even a Sunday school series.

By way of introduction, I share some quotes and the table of contents, intending to offer a weekly post interacting with each chapter's theme.

Along the way, I welcome your feedback, stories, and suggestions for "dumbest moves" runners up.

"Right now, there's every reason to believe that several people in your church are working daily to frustrate God and hinder the progress of His kingdom." (xi)
These 10 are things often done in ignorance. That is, the people aren't intentionally trying to sabotage the work of God with their actions, but they are nonetheless.

Why do Christians do these dumb things? According to the Mark Atteberry ...
  1. "in some cases there's no 'book, chapter, and verse' that condemns them. As a result, they're very rarely discussed, let alone denounced, from the pulpit or in print."
  2. "they often involved some sort of religious activity or behavior that makes it easy for us to blindly accept them."
  3. "they tend to be things we've done for years without anyone ever shrieking in horror, calling the cops, or telling us we can no longer serve on the deacon board."
  4. "On the contrary, some of the dumb things we do actually earn us respect and hearty congratulations from other believers who are just as blind to them as we are." (xii)

One of the things that rang true with me was his observation that these 10 dumbest things not only act to frustrate God's activity, but they must please the devil, who loves to see God's church in-fighting and being selfish and unsuccessful.
"I'm going to identify what I believe are the ten dumbest things we do to frustrate God and keep the devil in stitches." (xiii)

What are these 10 dumbest things?

I think the pastors out there will most readily recognize and appreciate these 10 dumbest things, even though we all might have been guilty of at least a few of these in the past. Hopefully, these aren't in our future.

Atteberry offers 2 Cor 6:3 as our goal with regard to church ministry:
"We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry" (ESV)

I pray our churches don't contribute to the trite excuse of "bad church experiences" being used to justify the lack of church involvement.

(Click to get a copy of The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, in case you want to read along.)

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