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Category: God’s Word

Memorize Slowly: Living in Freedom

Memorizing verses from God’s word is a privilege. Too often we treat it like a chore, finding every excuse to avoid it. Many Christians claim they are simply too busy to take the time to memorize.

Personally, I tell myself that if I don’t have twenty minutes to dedicate to memorizing a verse, it’s not worth it.

That’s a lie. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to assume memorizing takes a huge chunk of time.

The Freedom to Memorize Slowly

I heard someone say once that memorizing God’s word should be like savoring a favorite dessert.

Take it slow, enjoy it, get every last bit possible.

I had never treated memorizing like that before, and the idea intrigued me.

I mean, what’s the harm? If it takes me a whole month to memorize just one verse, then I’ve learned one more verse than I would have otherwise.

I would never get around to it if I didn’t give myself the freedom to go slowly, to savor the words from God. Memorizing slowly, rather than as a chore to be completed, transform the experience of memorizing. I’ve noticed that it even feels more like worship when I take it slowly.

To Memorize Is To…

… meditate on the verses. It’s to think on it, pray it, get to the heart of the verse.

… hide the verse in your heart. It’s to make it available to yourself in a time of temptation.

… live out the verse, letting the words become a part of your day. Random things become triggers to remembering the truth God is communicating in the verse.

What to Memorize?

Then comes the question about what to memorize. Here are some ideas:

-any verse or passage that strikes you during your Bible reading time or Bible study time. If it feels powerful or important to you, mark and and make a point to memorize is.

-the verses listed on the Fighter Verses website (fighterverses.com) . They are called fighter verses because they help us fight temptation and remember God’s truth. You can sign up for the weekly email and just pick the few that stick out to you, or scroll through their lists and pick one to start with.

-use your concordance (or a search on the internet) to find verses about a particular topic. Struggle with peace? Look up verses about God’s peace, and pick one to memorize. This works for any topic explicitly covered in the Bible.

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Help me out! Share in the comments how you decide which verses to memorize, or a success story of taking your time to savor the scriptures as you memorized!

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Inviting Jesus to Step Into Your Problems Transforms Them

For a long time, I’ve felt guilty praying for and praying about things that were not spiritual necessities. I wasn’t good at inviting Jesus to solve my problems.

Somehow, a long time ago, I began to believe that God is only interested in uber-spiritual requests. I thought I had to know how God could use *blank* for his kingdom before I could pray about it.

And then I read about the time Jesus attended a wedding.

The Story

Jesus, his disciples, and his mom Mary are at a wedding. Celebrating, probably, having a grand ol’ time. Then Mary comes to Jesus with a problem. There is no more wine.

She could have complained to the other guests about the problem, but she didn’t. She could have mentioned to the bridegroom or the master of the feast about the lack of wine, but she didn’t. Goodness, she could have taken steps to solve the problem herself, but Mary doesn’t go off to the store or take up a collection. She goes to Jesus and tells them they are out of wine.

And at first, Jesus tries to stay out of it. He tells her it’s not time yet for him to start getting involved, doing miracles. Mary doesn’t really listen, she seems to assume he’ll solve the problem anyway. She tells the nearby servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do, and then we don’t hear any more from dear old Mary.

But that’s okay, because Jesus is up to something now. So much for it not being time yet! He has the servants gather over 120 gallons of water, then take some of it to the master of the feast. And somewhere between the water being in the jars and it being on the master of the feast’s taste buds, Jesus transformed it into some of the best wine that man had ever tasted.

The disciples saw all this, and believed in Jesus.

Woah

Mary doesn’t come to Jesus because she sees how he’d use it to help his disciples believe in him. She brings the problem to Jesus because it’s a problem.

And yes, when Jesus solves it he uses it for his glory, but that’s up to him. Figuring out how to advance the kingdom was Jesus’ job, not Mary’s. All she needed to do was invite Jesus into the solution.

The Little Things

It’s always left an impression on me that Jesus actually steps in and solves the problem of the wine.

At first he tells dear old mom that it isn’t his time yet. He’s not ‘supposed’ to start doing miracles yet. But then he does the miracle anyway.

So he started doing miracles earlier than he’d anticipated– to provide wine for a wedding, not to heal someone who was deathly ill, or bring someone back to life who would lead a nation to salvation, or feed a multitude of hungry people who have no other means to eat.

The wine wasn’t a necessity, but Jesus provided it anyway.

All because he was invited into the problem.

Inviting Jesus

Mary invited Jesus into the problem simply by telling him about the problem. She confided to him the problem of the wine, with the expectation that he would do something about it.

Mary knew enough about God and her son to believe this was the sort of thing Jesus would fix. She really thought that the lack of wine was something God would want to fix.

I tend to look at my problems and assume God’s got better things to do, so I try to fix the problems myself. Which I suppose is ‘fine’, but it’s not ‘the best‘– because God knows, and God cares, and God wants to be involved. He came to earth in the flesh, for crying out loud, I think he’s made it obvious he wants to be involved.

So I’ll take a few leaps this week, I’ll turn to God when I see a problem. I’ll tell him what the issue is, and I’ll listen. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them, and I have to be willing to do the same. More on that another week!

In the meantime, leave a comment and tell me about a time you took a problem to Jesus, however big or small, and he solved it!

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Growing Up in the Spirit

Jesus told Nicodemus that he couldn’t enter, much less see, the Kingdom of God unless he had been born of the Spirit. At first this confused Nicodemus; he had been so sure that by keeping God’s law he’d checked all the boxes and had his ticket into heaven. Jesus helped him see the importance of being born of the Spirit. But our relationship with Jesus shouldn’t stagnate once we’ve started our relationship with him. Our relationship with Jesus is a journey. He calls us to continually be growing and maturing in him, coming to new heights of faith, obedience, and hope.

Starting with the new creation

We don’t start in the heights. When we take our first steps with Jesus, we’re in the foothills. The journey has just begun, but it is certainly a journey!

God created us with flesh. We are human, and we need our skin and bones. But once we are in Christ, once we’ve started this journey with him and let him breathe our spirit to life, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Brand spanking new! And God will carry to completion the transforming work he has started in us. It’s a journey, and it will take time, but God won’t stop transforming us as long as we’re on earth.

We start as babies, having just been born again, and this transformation matures us in Christ a little bit at a time. Eventually, we’re supposed to grow up.

Peter tells us that when we first come to Christ, “like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). 

Yes, we are supposed to long for this milk, the things that are easy to do and understand. But Peter still calls us to grow up. In another book, Paul laments that the Christians are still ‘drinking spiritual milk’ when by this time they should have ‘grown up enough’ to be able to eat solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2).

Babies aren’t babies forever, and we’re not supposed to be spiritual babies forever, either.

Growing Up in the Fruit of the Spirit

We need to grow up, to mature. But we shouldn’t expect to run right away. Instead, let’s let Jesus teach us and help us grow.

One way we can see our growth is in the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is a list of character traits Paul gives us in Galatians that are fruit, or evidence, of the Spirit living in us. It is a list of God’s character traits that he gives to us once we’re born of the Spirit.

[Related Post: The Fruit of God’s Character]

So, take an inventory. Are you maturing in these areas? Have you been acting less like your old, human, ‘fleshly’ self and more like Jesus? Are you growing up, or stagnant?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).

Celebrate the progress you have seen, and pray that God would continue to mature you and make you more like him.

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How to be Fearless

This world is full of scary things. I don’t have to tell you that– you’re already fully aware. You and I, we live in this world brimming with bad and evil and everything in between. So Peter’s call to not “fear anything that is frightening” might come as a shock (1 Peter 3:6). It’s an uncomfortable summons. Peter acknowledges that the things are indeed frightening, but does not give us permission to fear. He calls us to be fearless.

At first I thought it was an anomaly, but verse after verse came to mind. Even the Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the time to come.” The future doesn’t phase her. She laughs in its face! She is fearless. The question is, how?

Jesus calls us to live fearless, but he doesn’t ask us to do it on our own.

These is one way to live fearlessly: don’t face the frightening things alone.

Fearless because of hope

We often turn to friends and family when we’re scared. While they can offer encouragement and support, they can’t actually promise much. Most of what is going on in the world that scares us is out of their control.

So who can we turn to?

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Those who hope in the Lord… 

When the world is spinning upside down or your personal world caves in, don’t be afraid. Hope in the Lord. He will get you through this.

[Related Post: Nebulae]

Fearless because of whose got your back

Yes, the world is legitimately frightening. But it’s certainly not any stronger than God.

Once, I heard someone ask if I had as much faith in God’s power and goodness as I do in the world’s power and evil. Yikes.

Maybe it’s time to grow in confidence in God.

The Psalmist sure had confidence! He writes, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Paul was thinking along the same lines in Romans 8:31 when he wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He goes on to write “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Paul then lists a slew of things (scary things!) that might try to separate us from the love of Christ, but fall pitifully short. They can’t keep us from God, no matter how strong they look. God is stronger, and we are more than conquerors in Christ.

[Related Post: The Day Pain Lost its Power Over Me]

Expectations…

So fear not. Yes, there are things that look worthy for us to be scared of. And from an earthly perspective we’d have every right. But from God’s perspective, we don’t need to. Instead, we need to hope in him, and trust him.

Not that we’re expecting everything to turn out with roses and rainbows, Starbucks and stargazing.

Not in the least.

Instead, we’re trusting that

  • we are secure in our relationship with him, no matter what happens (Romans 8:31)
  • he will use all things for our good (Romans 8:28)
  • that he IS good (Matthew 19:16-17)
  • God is stronger than the evil that surrounds us (John 16:33)
  • he will give us strength and renew our strength when we hope in him (Isaiah 40:31)

And in the end, we’ll be able to nod along with Peter and encourage others not to fear anything that is frightening.

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God is Involved: Tell the Stories of Jesus

God gets involved in our lives pretty regularly– he always has. And he knows that we get pretty forgetful of all that he has done. So it makes sense that he tells us multiple times to tell our children and those around us all about how he has gotten involved. Once he tells us in Deuteronomy, and another time in the Psalms:

“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law n  Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell their children,” (Psalm 78:5-6)

The psalm continues to recount some of the stories of old, including the water, manna, and birds God sent in the wilderness; how he, though provoked by the sin of the Israelites, forgave them and atoned for their sin; and of the plagues and the escape from Egypt. And it isn’t the only psalm to do so. Both Psalm 106 and 107 also tell about God’s mighty deeds.

Repeat to Remember God Getting Involved

We remember things we repeat.

When we keep recalling a fact or a story, we stick it in our brain and it’s easier to remember each time. That’s why kids know exactly how old they are, but many adults have to think about it for a while.

So telling the old stories of God, and of Jesus on earth, and of God’s involvement in our own personal lives is important. Repeating those stories helps both us and others remember.

[Related Post: When All Seems Lost, Remember God’s Character]

But remembering isn’t enough.

The next part of Psalm 78 tells us the expected results of telling these God stories:

“So that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

I see three things that result from us telling others the stories of how God got involved.

1. That they would set their hope in God.

It is easier to hope and trust that God will get involved when I am as familiar with similar stories as kids are with their ages. When there are stories of God’s power and faithfulness to fall back on, we are more confident in God coming through.

[Related Post: Needs are an Opportunity to Ask and See God Provide]

2. That they would not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

When we retell these God stories, people won’t forget them. Instead, the will be familiar with the stories and tell them themselves. Asaph, who wrote the psalm, was sure that remembering the works of God would result in people keeping God’s commandments. It makes sense.

3. That they would not be like their fathers.

The problem with the previous generations was their inconsistency. Asaph calls them a “generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” He implies that if a people remember who God is, they would have steadfast hearts, and spirits faithful to God.

So tell the stories of God you know, tell them knowing you’re spreading hope, encouragement, and maybe even obedience and faithfulness. Tell those stories at every opportunity, but don’t stop there. The stories of God getting involved in your own life are just as powerful!

Now I’m curious… what are your favorite stories of God, either from the Bible or from your life? Spread some hope by sharing the story in the comments!

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Blessings of Flying First Class: Switching Places with Jesus

First class. How did I find myself with the blessings of flying first class?

I was flying to Minnesota, and I hadn’t anticipated a lesson on my identity in Christ. I had bought a normal airline ticket from Illinois to Minnesota, but when I walked down the center of the plane to my seat, someone was already there.

“I’m in 11D,” I said, apologetic but not really understanding how he could have sat in the wrong seat.

“Oh, you’re 11D!” He said. “Ok, so I’m supposed to be in first class, but I want to sit by my girlfriend. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind switching?”

Mind?? I didn’t even have to think about it. Who turns down an opportunity like that? “If you’re sure… yeah! I’ll switch.”

“Great. My seat is 3A.”

The aisle was full of people loading themselves and their carry-ons, so I kept walking toward the back of the plane. When the aisle was clear, I headed back up front. First class, really and truly.

A comfortable seat, plenty of leg room, a mini pillow and blanket set, my choice of snacks, the works. And I could have said no.

Alternative Story Endings (without the blessings)

I could have missed out on the whole first class experience.

The man could have preferred sitting in first class over sitting by his girlfriend, and never even offered the switch.

I could have told him that was very kind of him, but let’s each keep the seats we bought, and, hey, why don’t we be friends!

Also, I could have told the young man, “No, I paid for this seat and I intend to sit here, squished and uncomfortable. I did not buy a first class seat, so I will not sit in a first class seat.”

Or I could have accepted his offer but waited at the back of the plane and refused to take the seat I have been given.

Yes, I could have easily missed out on a lot.

And while I sat on the plane in my unearned seat, early in the morning, I realized just how much the whole situation reminded me of our relationship with Jesus.

Blessings in Jesus

Goodness, it was unexpected and comfortable to stretch out on the plane, to curl up in a small blanket and rest my head on a tiny, travel-sized pillow (which I did keep, by the way). But as I rested, I realized I was still hanging out in the back of the ‘spiritual plane’.  It’s like Jesus took my seat on the plane– my space on the cross– but I’ve been clinging to my sin, not willing to walk up to first class and accept what God has bought for me with his blood.

Jesus has given me his first class seat, and although I let him take my seat and agreed to take his, I hadn’t really gone up to sit in first class.

There are things Jesus has given me that I often forget about, blessings I refuse to take. Sometimes I do just forget. Sometimes I’m simply not aware. Other times, I know full well the blessings he has promised but for some strange reason I refuse to take them. Jesus didn’t just take my place in death, he opened to me a world of life.

Jesus:

 

That man gave me a far more comfortable seat than I deserved– and a spiritual epiphany.

There are far more blessings in Jesus than the 10 I listed here. In the comments, add your favorites to my list!

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The Day Pain Lost Its Power Over Me

In July 2016, I got a call from the doctor which should have scared me silly. I was on medication that required monthly blood work. The call should have crippled me, trapping me in its power.

“We got your blood work back,” the nurse said. “Stop your medication, call your primary doctor.” She told me it might be nothing, it might really and truly be nothing. It’s probably okay, just schedule an appointment with your doctor. Her words weren’t as encouraging as she’d intended them to be, but I wasn’t phased. “Your platelet count is down,” she told me, which wasn’t helpful since I didn’t know anything about platelets.

After a conversation like that, it would make sense for me to be scared. But I wasn’t.

Who has the power?

When the nurse called me, I had just finished slowly and thoughtfully reading 1st and 2nd Peter. For some reason, that summer day, I’d decided to sit down and read them both. And just as I finished, my phone rang. When the call was over, I was somehow still calm.

I was so satiated in God’s word the news didn’t bother me. I was too focused on who God is, and how powerful he is.

It’s like the wind and the waves of the world were after me, but I didn’t care because I was resting in God’s power.

Not his power to heal me– that’s not what I was counting on. I was calm believing that no matter what sickness came my way, God would never leave me.

It’s like the story of Peter walking on water.

 “And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” “

Peter was fine and even walking on the water, until he saw the wind. When he saw the wind, he was afraid, and he began to sink.

Then, I began to sink

Those first days after the phone call, I was fine. I had my eyes focused on God, and I was not afraid.

But as the days dragged on between the call and the appointment with my doctor, I began to ‘see the wind’. What are platelets, anyway? What does it mean that they’re low? How many ways is that going to change my life? Am I doing something that’s making it worse?

When I started focusing on the problem instead of on God, my faith wavered. 

Our thoughts are important. When I was thinking about God’s love, power, and faithfulness, I was calm. But when I thought about all the bad things that ‘low platelets’ could mean, I was afraid.

In between

A year later, and there are still a lot of questions. We don’t know what caused my platelets to drop. We don’t know how to make the numbers rise.

There are lots of things we don’t know. But there are many things we do know. At this point, it’s still not dangerous, and it doesn’t change my life at all.

Here between the diagnosis and the healing, God is the same. God is good. God is near me. No matter what problems and obstacles have come, God’s not going anywhere.

And I’ve already seen God use it for good, because I trust him a lot more. Things happen in life. Bad things happen, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason. But pain holds less power over me now because I’m trusting God like never before. Because God is powerful, and God is good, and God is near.

 

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