867-5309

MeditatingI know I’m showing my age with this example: But how many of you remember the song by Tommy Tutone that contained Jenny’s phone number. That song hit #4 on the charts in 1982, and yet after all of these years if you start singing the song, people can tell you that Jenny’s number is 867-5309.

Why do we remember such trivial things?!

The way God designed the human brain is absolutely astounding! Electrical impulses from our five senses filter into the brain and are saved as short-term memories, with the emphasis on short. Short-term memories usually last 20-30 seconds. But we can reset the timer by repeating the information again and again.

If we repeat it enough or think about it more, our brain realizes that it has some significance to us, and begins to “solidify” the information in our intermediate memory banks. These intermediary memories last 5-8 hours.

But in order for the intermediary memories to be stored away in our long-term memory—where they can be stored indefinitely—there needs to be an added component from us. That component is emotion.

The more important the information is to us, the greater the likelihood it will be filed in the “do not delete” section of our brain.

People tell me all the time how difficult it is for them to memorize Scripture, but the keys to memorization are built into the Scripture itself.

First, you have to approach it with a passion. Oh, how I love your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). The “bookends” of this section show passionate emotion.

Second, you need to sing the Word. Twice the psalmist said he mediated on God’s Word all day long (vv. 97, 99). At the root of this word is to hum. Singing God’s Word attaches emotion to it, and the emotion tells your brain to move it to long-term storage.

Third, you need to realize just how important it is to have the Scripture stored away in your memory banks. In one section of the 119th Psalm we see benefits like: makes me wiser, gives me more insight, I have greater understanding, I can avoid evil paths (vv. 98-102).

C.S. Lewis commented, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” Jenny’s phone number won’t keep us out of trouble, or draw us closer to God, or even give us insight into helping a friend. But God’s Word will do all of those things … and so much more!

These steps will help you store and retrieve eternally useful truths, and not just fictional phone numbers! Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Painful Love

Sometimes pastors don’t want to say “No” to someone in their congregation because they don’t want to hurt them. Sometimes pastors don’t confront someone in their sinful choices because it seems “mean spirited” to do so.

David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson

Love must be tough. Love sometimes inflicts pain.

“Love inflicts pain, even as it does no harm (Romans 13:10). True love repeatedly disappoints, hurts, confronts, refuses, and disciplines. This is certainly how God has loved us, and we should not expect to love others without hurting them. Love hurts but does not harm. God’s minister bears the sword, but not in vain (v. 4) and with the hope that long-term health will come from short-term faithful wounds.” —Dick Brogden

“Elijah’s hatred for the sins of Israel sprang out of his very strong love for God’s people. He was not a people hater, only a sin hater. He was not a man of revenge, but rather a man whose heart yearned for Israel’s return to the Lord.” —David Wilkerson 

Thursdays With Oswald—Doubting

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald Chambers

Doubting  

     Lord, I praise You for this place I am in; but the wonder has begun to stir in me—is this Your place for me? Hold me steady doing Your will. It may only be restlessness; if so, calm me to strength that I sin not against You by doubting. 

From Knocking At God’s Door 

I love the “realness” of this prayer!

I’ve been in this same place where Oswald Chambers was. Have you? I know that I know that God has called me to a certain place, but then I begin to second-guess that call. Perhaps challenges have come against me. Perhaps things aren’t moving as easily as I thought they should. Perhaps I don’t have the passion I once had.

Is this God speaking to me, or is this just my impatience? Am I restless because I’m dissatisfied, or am I restless because God is preparing to move me?

Whatever the case, I need to ask the Holy Spirit to calm me. It’s in those calm times that I am strengthened to hear God’s unmistakable Voice. I don’t want to make a rash decision based on the emotion of the moment; I want to clearly hear what God has to say to me. He will either reenergize me to stay put, or He will clearly show me it’s time to move.

21 Quotes From “All In”

All InAll In by Mark Batterson is the sequel to his fantastic book on prayer called The Circle Maker. All In is the challenge to followup our prayer times with bold action. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These are some of the quotes I especially liked from All In—

“When did we start believing God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things?”

“You cannot be in the presence of God and be bored at the same time. For that matter, you cannot be in the will of God and be bored at the same time.”

“The Rich Young Ruler may rank as one of the most religious people in the pages of Scripture. The text tells us that he kept all the commandments. He did nothing wrong, but you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. By definition, righteousness is doing something right. We’ve reduced it to doing nothing wrong. … [Jesus] asks the Rich Young Ruler to ante up everything. Why? Because He loved the Rich Young Ruler too much to ask for anything less! We focus on what Jesus asked him to give up but fail to consider what He offered up in exchange.”

“God cannot reveal His faithfulness until we exercise our faith.”

“The first step is always the longest and the hardest. And you can’t just take a step forward into the future. You also have to eliminate the possibility of moving backward into the past.”

“One of our fundamental spiritual problems is this: we want God to do something new while we keep doing the same old thing.”

“When we cling too tightly to what God did last, we often miss what God wants to do next.”

“We all want to spend eternity with God. We just don’t want to spend time with Him. We stand and stare from a distance, satisfied with superficiality. We Facebook more that we seek His face. We text more than we study The Text. And our eyes aren’t fixed on Jesus. They’re fixed on our iPhone and iPads—emphasis on ‘i.’ Then we wonder why God feels so distant.”

“You cannot go to church because you are the church. … Your workplace is your mission field. Your job is your sermon. Your colleagues are your congregation.”

“Our lack of guts is really a lack of faith. Instead of playing to win, we play not to lose.”

“There are two kinds of people in the world—those who ask why and those who ask why not. Going all out is asking why not. Why people look for excuses. Why not people look for opportunities. Why people are afraid of making mistakes. Why not people don’t want to miss out on God-ordained opportunities.”

“We treat failure and success like their antonyms. Failure is a part of every success story. Think of it as the prologue.”

“No matter what tool you use in your trade—a hammer, a keyboard, a mop, a football, a spreadsheet, a microphone, or an espresso machine—using it is an act of obedience. It’s the mechanism whereby you worship God. It’s the way you do what you are supposed to do.”

“I’ve discovered that if I don’t take the first step, God generally won’t reveal the next step.”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, God wants to help you do it. He wants to favor your business plan, your political campaign, your manuscript, your lesson plan, your legal brief, your film, and your sales pitch. But you’ve got to position yourself for that favor by acting in obedience. And if God knows He’ll get the glory, He will bless you beyond your ability, beyond your resources.”

“Courage doesn’t wait until situational factors turn in one’s favor. It doesn’t wait until a plan is perfectly formed. It doesn’t wait until the tide of popular opinion is turned. Courage only waits for one thing: a green light from God. And when God gives the go, it’s full steam ahead, no questions asked.”

“Opportunities typically come disguised as impossible problems.”

“When it comes to sinful rationalizations, we are infinitely creative. But it’s our rationalizations that often annul His revelations. When we compromise our integrity, we don’t leave room for divine intervention. When we take matters into our own hands, we take God out of the equation. When we try to manipulate a situation, we miss out on the miracle.”

“Integrity won’t keep us from getting thrown into a fiery furnace, but it can keep us from getting burned.”

“It’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one!”

“There has never been and never will be anyone like you, but that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you. And that means no one can worship God like you or for you. You are absolutely irreplaceable in God’s grand scheme. And God is jealous for you—all of you.”

Word Of The Lord

BibleTwice in one chapter of the life of Abraham this phrase appears: The word of the Lord came to him (Genesis 15:1, 4). As awe-inspiring as it is to think about God speaking, what’s even more astounding to me is Abraham’s response.

Obedience.

God spoke. Abraham obeyed.

His first obedience was believing. So the Bible tells us, “Abraham believed God, and He credited to him as righteousness” (verse 6). By definition, righteousness means “right doing.” But doing comes directly out of believing, so Abraham had to first believe that what God said was the real deal.

God spoke. Abraham believed. God said, “You are righteous.” Then Abraham followed through on the word of God which he believed.

Why can’t it be the same with me? Or with you?

God speaks, I believe, God sees me as righteous, I act. It should be just that simple—there’s absolutely no need for me to add, subtract, modify, clarify, or delay.

The word of the Lord should be all I need.

All In (book review)

All InLast year I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and it reinvigorated my prayer life. Now the sequel, called All In, is raising my intensity and passion for prayer even higher!

This book has a different feel from all of Pastor Batterson’s other books. In books like In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day and Primal and others, the tone felt very conversational. All In feels more confrontational.

But in a good way! 

It seems like far too often we can talk a good game about prayer, but when it comes right down to it, all we ever do is talk about it. Using a picture that is well known to those who have seen a poker game, Mark urges us to use prayer as a means to push all our chips to the center of the table—to go all in—by not only believing God for great things, but by doing great things for God’s glory.

I normally share my opinion on who should read a certain book, but this time I’d like to share who I think shouldn’t read All In: (1) Those who already have such a dynamic prayer life that they put the members of the Faith Hall Of Fame members to shame (see Hebrews 11); (2) Those who don’t pray now and have no intention of praying in the future; and (3) Those who enjoy living boring, ordinary, barely-getting-by-day-after-day lives. If you’re not in one of those three groups, get ready for a supernatural boost to your prayer life through Mark Batterson’s words in All In.

Mark writes, “This isn’t a book to read. It is a decision to be made. If you read this book without making a defining decision, I wasted my time writing it and you wasted your time reading it. At some point, on some page, you will feel the Holy Spirit prompting you to act decisively. Don’t ignore it. Obey it.”

I am a Zondervan book reviewer.

Learning & Teaching

LamedhI’ve been leading my congregation through a spiritual workout from the 119th Psalm. This psalm is unique for a couple of reasons: (1) It’s the longest chapter in the Bible; (2) It’s divided into twenty-two 8-verse segments, with each segment beginning with its own Hebrew letter; and (3) All but four of the 176 verses directly mention God’s Word (using words like command, precept, statues, commands, etc.).

Something else that makes this psalm interesting to study is the Hebrew alphabet itself. In our western world, a letter is just a letter: an L is just an L. But in the Hebrew language, the letters have a name, a meaning, and even a numeric value. So the Hebrew equivalent to our English L is the letter/word lamedh.

Lamedh is the tallest of all the Hebrew letters, so that means it stands out. The section called lamedh in Psalm 119 is one of big proportions. Words like eternal, boundless, established, enduring, and forever are prominent in these eight verses. The psalmist is inviting us to climb up into God’s Word and get a bigger view, a higher vantage point of who God is.

When we are in difficult places, we tend to focus more on our problems, and less on God’s awesomeness. So lamedh is a call to shift our gaze.

But this letter/word also has a definition, and lamedh is a double-edged definition. This word can mean to learn. Indeed, as we gaze upon God’s majesty, we learn so much more about Him! But lamedh also means to teach.

I have found that as I go through difficult times and choose to change my focus from my situation to my Savior, that I learn more about His faithfulness. But at the same time, others are learning from that decision to switch my gaze to God.

So I’ve got one word of advice for you if you feel like your problem is too big and you’re thinking about throwing in the towel: DON’T!!

By focusing on God’s bigness instead of your circumstance, you will learn to grow in faith. And at the same times you will be teaching others to place their faith in God too.

Those who wait on God will soar to new heights!

If you can join me next week, I will be continuing to teach on Psalm 119 in our P119 Spiritual Workout series.

Got Problems? Good!

The absence of problems in a church does not mean that everything is fine. It might mean that the church is dead.

Check out these words from A.W. Tozer—

Tozer“Some misguided Christian leaders feel that they must preserve harmony at any cost, so they do everything possible to reduce friction. They should remember that there is no friction in a machine that has been shut down for the night. Turn off the power, and you will have no problem with moving parts. Also remember that there is a human society where there are no problems—the cemetery. The dead have no differences of opinion. They generate no heat, because they have no energy and no motion. But their penalty is sterility and complete lack of achievement. What then is the conclusion of the matter? That problems are the price of progress, that friction is the concomitant of motion, that a live and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties as a result of its life and activity. A Spirit-filled church will invite the anger of the enemy.” (emphasis added)

What do you think?

Raising Your Child To Love God (book review)

Raising Your ChildThis might be one of the shortest book reviews I’ve ever written. If you are a parent, you should read Raising Your Child To Love God by Andrew Murray.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how old your kids are, read this book!

Each chapter is short, insightful, loving, helpful, and God-focused.

Parents, read this book!

UPDATE: Check out some quotes from this book by clicking here.

UPDATE #2: Check out some prayers Andrew Murray wrote in this book by clicking here.

10 Quotes From “Alive To Wonder”

Alive To WonderIn this collection of essays John Piper shares how C.S. Lewis impacted his thinking about God. You can read my book review (and get the link to download the free ebook version of this book) by clicking here.

I could have highlighted and underlined nearly the entire book, but here are some of my favorite quotes—

“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.” —Clyde Kilby

“Although Lewis owned a huge library, he possessed few of his own works. His phenomenal memory recorded almost everything he had read except his own writings—an appealing fault. Often when I quoted lines from his own poems he would ask who the author was. He was a very great scholar, but no expert in the field of C.S. Lewis.” —Walter Hooper

“The work of a charwoman and the work of a poet become spiritual in the same way and on the same condition.” —C.S. Lewis 

“God is not worshipped where He is not treasured and enjoyed. Praise is not an alternative to joy, but the expression of joy. Not to enjoy God is to dishonor Him. To say to Him that something else satisfies you more is the opposite of worship. It is sacrilege.” —John Piper

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose…! You drove them from me, You who are true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, You who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, You who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, You who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. … O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.” —Augustine

“Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, ‘You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away’? So, for God to say, ‘Go to the ordinance, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count Myself glorified.’” —Thomas Watson

“Consider this question: In view of God’s infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would His love for a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him the most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself.” —John Piper 

“We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise.” —John Piper

“You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope’s object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning round to look at the hope itself. … The surest means of disarming an anger or a lust is to turn your attention from the girl or the insult and start examining the passion itself.” —C.S. Lewis 

“God is glorified in His people by the way we experience Him, not merely by the way we think about Him. Indeed the devil thinks more true thoughts about God in one day than a saint does in a lifetime, and God is not honored by it. The problem with the devil is not his theology, but his desires. Our chief end is to glorify God, the great Object. We do so most fully when we treasure Him, desire Him, and delight in Him so supremely that we let goods and kindred go and display His love to the poor and the lost.” —John Piper

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