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What To Do If You Can’t Memorize Scripture

What To Do If You Can’t Memorize Scripture

I often get approached by an excited parishioner who has questions about a verse they read. They tell me the book, chapter and verse, but not what it actually says. I’m not sure if they think I have it all memorized, or perhaps it’s such a common verse that they assume I know it by heart.

Unfortunately, it’s very rare that I know that verse by its location, yet as soon as they begin to quote it, I have no problem remembering what it says.

That’s because I’m terrible at memorizing Scripture. I’m not sure if a pastor is allowed to say that, but it’s the truth.

This doesn’t mean I don’t know my Bible. I consider myself to be well educated on theology. For some reason, my brain just has a hard time memorizing certain things. I’ve tried to use books that teach you how to memorize Scripture. I’ve had flash cards I carry with me to help as well, but all to no avail.

I know I’m not alone in this because I have met lots of people who say the same thing. Although I don’t have it memorized, I can still quote large amounts of Scripture from memory.

How can I do that without memorizing it? Easy, I just remember it. Lots of us know things by heart that we never intentionally sat down to memorize. I can sing the entire theme to the Duck Tales cartoon series. I also know all the words to certain songs. Most of you reading this can at least get halfway through the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.

I highly doubt you sat down with song lyrics, made flash cards and then worked for weeks to remember them all. It’s much more likely that you heard that song so many times that it just got stuck in your brain, and no matter what, you can’t get rid of it. This is how I know what I do with Scripture—not from intentional memorization but from constantly reading certain sections over and over.

If you find math difficult, it’s likely your brain also has a hard time sitting down and memorizing flash cards of Bible verses as well. So my encouragement to you is to not get frustrated but instead sit down and read the same chapter every day for a week. You may not retain all of it, but you will know a lot more than you did before. In fact, this is a very biblical way to do this.

If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of festivals mentioned in the Old Testament. One of the reasons for this was so that, every few months, a story about why that festival was created would be retold and passed onto the next generation.

Someone would read from the Bible, and after hearing it over and over you quickly knew the Bible in the same way you learned the story of The Three Little Pigs.

Not all of us learn the same way, but God’s Word is so rich that we should all strive to find a way to write it on our hearts.

I’m The Whistleblower

I’m The Whistleblower

There is a war in Congress at the moment. A war that has been going on in the background for many years has become something that is now front and center for all of us.

You can’t turn on the television, radio or even talk to coworkers without the subject of this war being brought up. The question isn’t if the war is real. The question we should ask should be, “Is it our war?”

How involved should Christians be in this? What side should we take? Do our biblical morals hold us to a certain political party or even a certain political person? Not at all. I may still be young, but I have lived long enough to meet good men and evil men with both liberal and conservative affiliations.

Whatever attack one can make on any political party, there is a good chance that the same attack could be laid on the other party in the past or in the future. That’s my attempt to say that no party can claim to be the one that fully and accurately presents the will of the living God at all times.

Since no side can fairly be called God’s side, which side do I choose? Where do I stand in this war?

This is one of the things I love about being a Christian. I don’t believe in the war. The war is fake. The war may seem real to many people, especially to those who have chosen their side, but I choose Jesus, and in doing so, I chose to have a different view on the worldly wars.

One of the many places where I find the way to view all of this is in 2 Corinthians 2:14 which reads, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

You only have a triumphant procession once the war is won. Paul claimed that he was not participating in the war. He was marching behind the One who won the war.

Yes, the war has already been won. For Christians, the war is not against flesh and blood, not against political parties, but against the forces of evil that try to stop the progress of Gods truth.

Presidents will comes and go, but the real King sits on His throne, and there He will reign forever.

Because I have been set free, it is my duty become a whistleblower of the Good News. It is my job to let those who are twisting in the winds of political discourse know that the war is over. God has won, and sin has been defeated. Typically a whistleblower is exposing some corruption at the highest level. I think this is a title we as Christians can claim for ourselves. We can remind the world that the only reason the government has any power is because God has allowed it for a time.

So let us make the Good News the front page news. Do not get so enraptured by world drama that we forget that the real war has been won. We can march behind our King and let the rest of the world that all other false gods have been defeated, even the god of worldly power and politics.

Is Gender Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Is Gender Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Ideas have consequences. We are now reaping the consequence of certain ideas that have been a part of our society for so long we take them at face value. Yet when the face of culture changes, these values change, and we are left scrambling to make sense of how to address these issues.

This topic is one I have written and spoken about many times, but I want to make one more attempt to show how we can bring healing to those who struggle with issues regarding their sexual identity. I recently listened to an interview with a Christian woman who struggles with gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is the clinical name for what most people today know as transgender.

In her talk, she repeatedly commented on the fact that she never felt like she fit the typical world understanding of what it meant to be a woman. She would rather play contact sports than shop for clothes or wear makeup. She was often referred to as a tomboy growing up.  This is a problem that the Gospel can really help.

In Genesis, we are told that God created them male and female. What it doesn’t say is just as important as what it does say. It doesn’t say Adam was strong and was created to like football, and Eve spent her evenings sewing fig leaves for clothes. The reason it doesn’t say anything about how they behave is because gender is descriptive not prescriptive.

What do those two words mean? Descriptive is just describing their gender and nothing more. If it was prescriptive then it would be followed by certain traits that we are designed to adopt. Lots of descriptive Bible verses are incorrectly used in prescriptive ways. For example, Jer. 29:11 is a very popular verse. It reads, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans not to harm you but to give you a hope and a future.

This is a very nice verse, but it is descriptive. It’s God promising a certain group of people a certain thing. This thing that God promises is not applicable to all people at all times. How do I know this? It’s easy. This verse could not apply to Jesus and his disciples. Jesus and his disciples both had plans that included them being harmed. Yes, part of God’s plan for his disciples and himself included their own personal harm. They were beaten and sometimes killed.

So you can see how troublesome it would be if they tried to take that verse from Jeremiah and make it about them. Eventually, it would leave them confused when they faced hard times because it went counter to the promises they claimed for themselves. In the same way, we need to be aware that gender is descriptive not prescriptive.

When a transgender woman says she feels like a man on the inside, what she means is that she doesn’t fit the typical worldly view of femininity. The pressure that the world put on her to conform is not a biblical pressure. Very rarely does Scripture suggest that a man or woman should act a certain way, and when Scripture does, it has to do with how we interact with each other, not with what kind of personality we should have. Christians should be sounding the alarm against sexual stereotypes because we now see just how much harm they cause. They have drawn lines in the sand and when people don’t fit certain molds we reinforce those stereotypes instead of showing them that freedom can always be found in Christ alone.

As the culture flails about like a fish out of water, may we have the attitude of Christ who looked beyond worldly labels to the heart of each person, and then offered them a place to find rest for their souls.

The art of being quiet

The art of being quiet

I’m guilty of it, and you likely are as well.

As soon as there is a lull in the day, a brief moment of waiting, you reach into your pocket or purse and grab your phone. You don’t need to make a call, and you just checked your email five minutes ago, but for some reason you just have to pull it back out and scroll through endless post on your favorite social media sites.

You are not looking for something; you’re just looking at something. Our eyes gloss over with a zombie like stare as we just scroll, scroll and scroll down again.

It’s instinctual now. If there is a red light or an elevator ride, we look at our phones. I’m not writing this to tell you to stop; I’m writing this to remind myself of what is more valuable than time spent on my phone.

People don’t give up bad habits unless it is replaced with a better habit, and I think the story of Elijah gives us a hint at the better habit.

Elijah spent a lot of time by himself—three years to be exact—just waiting for God to do something.  After his time of waiting was up, God took him to Mount Sinai and hides him in a cave.

Elijah feels an earthquake, mighty winds and fire, but we are told after each event that God was not in the noise. No, He was to be found in the soft whisper or, as it literally translates, the thin silence.

As I read that, I wondered “What does thin silence sound like?” Even simpler, I wonder what just regular silence sounds like.

I live a mile from some train tracks, and you can hear them run all night long. The first night I slept in that house I was afraid that I had made a big mistake as I lay awake all night long. However, it only took a few days before I slept like a baby, regardless of the amount of noise. Noise, it turns out, is very easy to get used to.

Although I can adjust to a noisy room rather quickly, I find it much more difficult to adjust to silence. Turns out, I’m addicted to the noise, and you might be as well.

Noise is our universal cultural language at the moment. We live hurried and noisy lives, and as soon as it’s quiet, we turn on the radio, TV or just stare at our phones. So what is better than noise? It’s not just silence; it is God in the silence.

God tells Elijah that HE is in the soft whisper, and if that is a place where I can hear God then that is what I want. I’m not saying we all start to meditate for hours a day; it’s much simpler than that. I just want to hear from my Heavenly Father. I want to visit with my dad. My dad has always told me that love is spelled T-I-M-E.

You whisper when someone is really close to you. That’s why God whispered to Elijah—to let him know that He was standing right beside him. Elijah was not alone, and neither are you. God stands right next to you.

I pray that you begin to develop a desire to have less noise in your life and find moments where you can just be aware that God, the Creator, is close enough to whisper to you.

Churches made of sand: Why people are leaving the faith

Churches made of sand: Why people are leaving the faith

It’s only been a week or so since a prominent author and former mega church pastor announced he was leaving the faith. Suddenly, another highly public and popular Christian is leaving the faith, and the ripples of this will be seen for some time.

Marty Sampson was a key figure and songwriter and singer for Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United. His songs have been heard on Christian radio and sung in churches for years.

He announced his departure on social media, and his intellectual reasons for doing so are a reminder of just how little effort is put into sound theology in prosperity churches. He listed science, biblical contradictions, the doctrine of hell and science as some of the main reasons he is leaving his faith.

He states over and over that these are things people just don’t talk about in the church.

Wrong, they are things that THEY don’t talk about in his church.

You don’t have to look hard to realize that Christianity is defended in the highest of academic circles. From Oxford mathematicians to astrophysicists, great Christian thinkers and philosophers have been tackling the big issues for a long time.

However, if your entire faith is based upon feelings and emotions instead of solid truth then it’s easy to see how one or two hard questions could send you running for the hills.

In the book of 1 Kings, Elijah calls all of Israel together to make them choose their side. Evil rulers had dominated Israel for years, and their faith had been reduced to a tradition. They praised God when they felt like it, but they were more than willing to worship other gods as well.

Elijah makes them pick, “Are you going to worship the true God or Baal?” They suddenly become silent like statues, not realizing they couldn’t have it both ways. They don’t want to make a choice; they want to live with one foot on each side of the divide.

There is a truth about cracks in the ground that applies to cracks in our devotion. They only get bigger over time. Eventually you have to decide what side you are going to stand on.

Marty has spent much of his life attending Hillsong Church along with 100,000 people every week. It is THE mega church of Australia, and its theology is not biblical. Although its size is big, it’s a weak church that teaches a weak faith and makes weak followers.

As the cultural divide grows between Christ and the rest of the world, people are starting to fill the pressure to choose a side.  This pressure is not necessarily bad; the world could use Christians who are not so lukewarm.

But it’s the younger generation that look up to this band that concerns me.

The church should be a place where big questions are asked. God is never afraid of our questions, and we shouldn’t be either.

We should encourage people to think deeper and longer about certain ideas. The world is asking these questions, and if we sit silent and preach a watered down gospel, they will just assume we have no answers.

If Marty would look hard at science then he would realize it points to God. If he would dive deep into Scripture, the supposed contradictions would melt away.

If your whole life has been skimming the surface of Scripture, and then you just skim the surface of the world, of course you are going to be confused. It’s understandable how one can be so dismayed after being fed spiritual junk food for so many years.

Although the prosperity churches will be among the first to fall, this will happen in your church as well. Pastors, we have to introduce apologetics and deeper theological discussions to our churches.

If this is beyond your comfort zone or calling, I and many others are willing and ready to help. Let us not get caught off guard, but instead begin to plant both our feet on God’s revelation and recognize the areas where we have tried to marry God and culture.