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Sunday, May 10, 2020

KEYS TO SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION



God has helped me a great deal with these four keys to memorizing Scripture. You too will find them helpful, especially if you are trying to commit large portions of Scripture to memory. They are to Slow Down, Calm Down, Focus, and Pray. God gave me these things in the struggle to memorize. But I believe you can find each of these emphasized in the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5, primarily in the fruit of patience.

Slow Down
It seems I have been in a hurry all my life. I always wanted to get to the next place or the next thing, whatever it was. At times this produced and accompanied a good work ethic. But it also made me want to quit whatever I was doing to experience something new. Hurrying does not help Scripture memory. It takes time. And you will need the patience to stay at it to memorize, and to continue to review passages day after day when you have memorized them.

Calm Down
Calming down requires the peace of God's Spirit in your heart. You will be tempted to get angry at yourself when you keep misquoting verses that you had memorized earlier. This is counterproductive and will discourage you. With God's patience you can simply read it over and over again until you can say it right.

Focus
My mind strays easily. It is not good to rebuke myself for this either. When your mind wanders, simply refocus it on the Scripture. Focusing is at the heart of meditating on the word of God.

and
Pray

Each of these is essential to Scripture memory. So it is difficult to say which is more important. Which tire is most important to a bicycle? Which is more important to an automobile, the motor or the wheels? But there is a sense in which prayer is the most important of these. It is necessary for the other three. You need to pray for God to help you slow down. Pray for God's help instead of getting upset at your failure or at the difficulty. Pray continually to keep focused and to restore your focus each time your mind strays.

This whole process needs to be saturated in prayer. Scripture memory should not be impersonal. I need to be aware that God is present, speaking to me in the words I am memorizing. I recommend doing it with an attitude of worship. This needs to be done for God and God alone. Be careful not to think about how this will impress or affect other people. I pray for God to help me memorize. And I pray for Him to plant His word and His character in my heart and life.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

PRAYING DEEP IN GOD'S WORD

PRAYING DEEP IN GOD’S WORD

Prayerfully Memorizing Scripture



There is a sense in which the most important part of a tree is its root system. The stability and nourishment of a tree come from its roots. And, of course, the roots grow more slowly than the branches. So it is with our spiritual lives.

For this reason and others, I recommend Scripture memory as a discipline of prayer. It is not impossible to prayerfully memorize an entire chapter each week. The main issue is slowing down to memorize, allowing God to nourish your soul. Here is the process.

Read a verse over until you can say it. Then go to the next verse. When you have it down, go back to the first and read them together. Then memorize the next. When you have it memorized, go over all three together. Continue this process until you come to a good stopping place. If you divide a chapter into seven segments, you can memorize it in a week. The next day you will have to re-memorize these verses before you start on a new passage. You will soon find this rearranging your entire schedule. And you and God may be pleased with the outcome.

Time spent in prayerful review is the key to memorizing. In reviewing Scriptures I have already memorized, I inevitably misquote some of the verses. I try to resist quickly correcting myself and going on. I often go over the verse several times until I get it right. I use this same process to review each chapter for two weeks. That means I am always reviewing two chapters while memorizing another. I am aware that this will require a significant amount of time. And the current quarantine may be the perfect time to embark on this project.

You will find that such scripture memory produces fervent prayer. I didn't realize this until I started memorizing in this way. Three kinds of prayer come automatically in this process.
  1. I have to ask God to help me slow down and concentrate to fix the words in my mind. “Lord, help me memorize this verse!”
  2. “Lord, plant your word in my heart and transform my life.” The goal of my Scripture memory is for God to transform my mind, making me more like Jesus. It is mainly in the process of reviewing passages that God takes me deeper spiritually.
  3. While I am memorizing and reviewing, God brings people and needs to mind. And He gives me unusual faith as I take time to pray for them while I am deep in His word.
Even though it is automatic, such praying will also have to be intentional. You do not want to become so preoccupied with memorizing that you forget to pray. Scripture memory requires commitment. You will sometimes have to work at it when you are exhausted. You may have to pick up again after being too busy for a day or a week. You may want to set long term goals like memorizing the Psalms in six months, or committing the Gospels, an Epistle, or the entire New Testament to memory. Right now I memorize two chapters from the New Testament, then one from the Old Testament before returning to the New. All the time I work at this, I pray for God to work in my life. While God often uses memorized verses to minister to others, calling Scriptures to mind at crucial times, that is not not my main purpose in this. I do it for God to plant Himself in me.

This method is not “the law of the Meads and the Persians.” I encourage you to adjust this as God leads you. However, I do warn you against trying to shorten the time you spend doing it. God will bless every moment you spend in His word and prayer.



Your most powerful praying may come through the word of God. 

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

WAITING IN PRAYER



What do you do when you have to wait a long time for something to happen? With the quarantine over Covid19 many of us are finding more time on our hands than ever before. Waiting can be difficult, almost painful. Many years ago, I served as a student summer missionary in Uganda. Possibly the most striking difference between the East African culture and the one I grew up in, was that people had little concept of hurry. I used to joke that I sometimes needed to get off alone and just hurry.

However, God has been teaching me that my inability to slow down and wait in the Lord is a major hindrance to my spiritual life. This is a common problem in the west. We can remedy this by devoting wait-time and more to prayer.

In the garden before the cross Jesus asked some of His disciples if they could not even watch with Him for one hour. He wasn’t talking about binge-watching TV. He told them and us to watch and pray. As you develop the change of temperament required to stay in God’s presence, you may find yourself seeking opportunities to “be still” in prayer. Let me suggest some ways to pray when you are waiting that may develop into greater spiritual discipline.

Begin prayer on the majesty of God.
Jesus began the model prayer with praise⁠—Hallowed be Thy Name. Nothing transforms an anxious spirit or boredom into joy like praise.

Pray for the Kingdom of God.
From praise Jesus shifted His prayer to the kingdom. You can make arrangements to pray for missionaries or unreached people groups while you are waiting in a long line at the store or elsewhere. On your smartphone you can carry lists of mission needs to pray for regularly.

Pray for yourself.
Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. It is worthwhile to try to discern what your needs really are. One of those needs is spiritual growth. Seeking spiritual growth will surely involve examining yourself and confessing sins. In the Lord's prayer Jesus told us to ask for forgiveness as we also forgive those who have sinned against us. You will need God to work in your heart to love and forgive people who hate or misuse you. Are you asking God to work in your heart?

Focus on other people.
You can pray for others around you, maybe in the grocery store line. You could develop the habit of praying for everyone around you wherever you go. That is sometimes easiest when you have to wait with nothing else to do.

You may not need a smartphone or a written list to pray for those in your extended family. You can also pray for the members of your Bible class or your entire church roll when you are forced to wait.

Your most valuable praying may come in the word of God.
One of the ways to pray for a full hour is to pray through the Lord's Prayer. As you pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” spend time lifting the wonder and Majesty of God. Then pray for His Kingdom in your life and across the Earth. Go through the whole prayer expanding on every part. You can do this with many Scriptures.

I recommend Scripture memory as a prayer discipline. This is a great way to fill wait time with powerful prayer. Three kinds of prayer come automatically when we are memorizing scripture. Ask God to help you memorize. Then ask Him to plant His word in your heart to transform your life. And while memorizing, God will often bring people and needs to mind. Take time to pray for each of them.

Your quarantine can become a wonderful time when you spend each moment of it in prayer.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

SELAH




Selah is not translated in our English Bibles. We just have the transliteration of the Hebrew word. But if you follow its usage, you can get a good grip on its meaning. It is used at the end of each stanza of Psalm 46. I have italicized it for you.

“God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah


There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah


Come, behold the works of the Lord,

how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the chariots with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”

Literally, Selah means, step up. It could have been a musical notation. I like the speculation that it was used when the people ascended Mt. Zion with singing. As they came to a pause in the music, they would all take a step, or several steps, up. They would pause to take a step nearer to God.

There is a delightful little poem in Spurgeon's Treasury of David.

“Selah bids the music rest, 

Paused in silence soft and blessed;

Selah bids uplift the strain,

Harps and voices tune again;

Selah ends the vocal praise,

Still your hearts to God upraise.”

But as I said, whatever the meaning of the word, the most telling thing about selah is where it is placed in the text. Selah is a call to be still and know God.

Selah is used as a pause to reflect. 
We are to stop and think about what God is saying to us in what we just read in the Psalm.

Selah gives a pause to pray.
Scripture reading should be bathed in prayer. We need to pray for God to open our eyes and hearts to see and hear what He is telling us. We need to ask Him to plant His truth in our hearts to transform our lives.

Selah brings a pause to listen.
Are you aware that God will speak to you personally in His word? We need to stop to remind ourselves that God is speaking as we read. Selah reminds us to stop and listen

Selah is a pause to understand.
The more we think about and meditate on Scripture the more the Holy Spirit of God explains to us. Our Lord speaks personally to you in His word. You need to be still and know what it means that He is God.

Selah is a pause to absorb.
In several of the parables of Jesus we see that the word and the kingdom of God are planted into our hearts. In Luke 13:19 Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed sown in someone’s garden, that grows to become a tree so that the birds make nests in its branches. This can certainly be applied to the kingdom of God being introduced to a tribe, a people group, or a city. But I think the Holy Spirit also applies it to each of our lives. James 1:21 calls us to, “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save our souls.”

Selah pauses to remember.
It takes time and effort to fix God’s word in our minds. We will need to remember that God has said He is a very present help when trouble comes. We need to remember the stream that makes our hearts and cities glad.

Selah is a pause to tremble.
Considering that God has spoken to us, and that He is God over all our circumstances, should cause us to tremble. If you do not tremble before the Holy God, you do not understand.

Selah lets us pause to rejoice.
God is gracious, loving, mighty, and glorious! His people should rejoice as He draws near to speak to our hearts.

Selah is a pause to praise.
We need to exalt His name along with the nations. We need to stop where we are to praise Him. We will exalt His name forever!

Selah pauses to commit.
Unlike the person spoken of in James 1:24, who glances at the mirror of God's word and promptly forgets what he saw, we are to take time to commit ourselves to obey what God tells us in His word.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

BEHOLD!



We seldom use the word behold in common speech. But it is a crucial word in Scripture and an essential concept for our spiritual lives. I could have posted this on my thinking in the Spirit blog, but particularly because of the passage I have chosen, I believe it fits Watching In Prayer better.

Behold is used three times in Jacobs encounter with God in Genesis 28:12-14. I have italicized them to emphasize its significance.

“He dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’”

Let me give you some applications of the word “behold,’ especially as it is used in this passage.

SEE
The foundational meaning of the word behold is simply to see. Here it means to see God. In Hebrews 11:27 we read that Moses endured because he saw Him who is invisible. Behold means to see the work of God. In John 5:19 Jesus said He could only do what He saw His Father doing. John 5:20 says the Father loves the Son and shows Him what He is doing. Behold is a command to see on a spiritual plane. We read about Stephen in Acts chapter 8. As he was being stoned for the gospel, the heavens were opened and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said “Behold, I see.” But those who were intent on stoning him were not willing to look.

HEAR
Behold also calls us to pay attention to what God has to say to us. God spoke to Jacob standing above the ladder in his dream. And God will speak to you if you listen. He can speak to you in any way He chooses. He can speak in a dream. He will consistently speak to you in His word, in the fellowship of the church, in circumstances, and in all of these things, you will hear Him speaking as you pray.

THINK
Behold is a call to grasp the significance of what God is showing you. Jacob got it. He realized what God was saying to him. Realizing that God is speaking will open your heart you more and more meaning as you focus on what He is telling you, especially in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 God commands us.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

BELIEVE
Beholding expects believing. When God speaks you need to recognize that He is real and that He is really speaking to you. In John 12 when Jesus prayed that His Father would glorify His name, a voice came from heaven saying, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The people standing there were amazed. Some said, “An angel has spoken to him.” But Jesus said, No. “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.” God is speaking to you.

EXPERIENCE
Behold calls us to experience the presence of the Lord. We seldom sing Surely The Presence in our churches. Its words come from verse 16 of Genesis 28.

“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. 
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angel wings. 
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

Of course, these last words point us to the promise of the presence of Jesus any time we gather in His name. I have never sung the second verse of this song.

“In the midst of His children the Lord said He would be.
It doesn't take very many.
It can be just two or three.
And I feel that same sweet Spirit that I’ve felt so many times before
Surely I can say I’ve been with the Lord.”

There is a special promise of His presence in church. We are also in His presence any time we are listening to His voice.

TREMBLE
In verse 17 Jacob says he was afraid. He said what we should say every time we gather in church. “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
When you are in the presence of the holy God you ought to tremble like Jacob did. He was terrified. But it was not an earthly fear. He experienced the joyful fear of God.
The third verse of Surely The Presence sings.

“There's a holy hush around us as His glory fills this place

I’ve touched the hem of His garment
I can almost see His face
And my heart is overflowing with the fullness of His joy
I know without a doubt I’ve been with the Lord"

WORSHIP
And that leads us to worship. When we see Jesus like John did in The Revelation, we too will fall on our faces before Him. If you do not worship, you have not experienced the reality of God.

Finally, the word behold calls us to
OBEY
The more time we spend in the presence of God, the more we desire to obey whatever He tells us to do.

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Sunday, February 2, 2020

JESUS WAS PRAYING



The Gospel of Luke, like each of the Gospels, gives us a little information the others do not. Look with me at two events recorded in Luke chapter 9. The first that I want us to look at is Luke 9:18.

“Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’”

I can see why the other Gospels do not necessarily note that Peter's crucial confession took place in a prayer meeting. What did recognizing the Lord's identity have to do with prayer? But a couple of important things do come to mind.

First, I suspect Jesus was praying for His disciples. He clearly warned them not to tell anyone because He had to be rejected by the elders, the priests, and the scribes. It would not have happened, if those people did not find it easy to doubt who He was. What if they didn't really believe, but the mobs made it politically advantageous for them to say they were believers? It might have been worse if a multitude tried to stop the Romans from crucifying Him. Thousands of them would have been slaughtered. But there is no doubt that Jesus wanted His disciples to understand who He was. And He wanted them to have a strong enough conviction that they could declare it publicly. He also knew the Scriptures would come from these men. He would have been looking down the ages at us who need to declare to our generations who Jesus is.

I also think we need to see that the life of Jesus was punctuated and saturated with prayer. His disciples were there, but they were not praying. We need to pray like Jesus, if we desire to see God's will come about in our lives and in our day.

The next prayer meeting that I want to point out comes a few verses later.

“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.”
Luke 9:28-29

Jesus was transformed in the heavenly intensity of His prayer. We are promised to be transformed when we see Jesus face to face. Although until that day our appearance will not be changed as much as Jesus's on the mountain top, we are being transformed day by day as we commune with our Heavenly Father in His name. The more we pray and grow in prayer and in His word the more like Jesus we will become.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

HEALING FAITH



To the woman with the issue of blood who snuck up behind Jesus and touched the hem of His garment Jesus said. “Your faith has made you well.” Jesus taught us some powerful things about faith in Luke chapter 8. There are some principles of faith here that apply to praying for physical healing and much more. Look with me at this passage beginning with verse 43.

“And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’ And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”

It is important to see that faith by itself is of no value. When Jesus told the woman her faith saved her, He was speaking specifically of her faith in Him. She had evidently had faith in doctors, but no one could heal her. The power didn't come from her faith. That power had gone out from Jesus. Her faith did save her when she trusted Him.

It is not true that there are no longer faith healings. They are fairly common in certain parts of the world. In China, for instance healings often accompany the spread of the gospel. But wherever they occur, the power comes from God. I think praying for healing needs to be encouraged in our churches. I believe we would see more healing if we prayed more. God might even use it to spread the Good News of His Kingdom. But our faith needs to be in Jesus. And He should receive all the glory.

I fear some healing is desired so we can go on living our lives with little thought of God. Like the woman with the issue of blood, we should come to Him for ourselves and for others whom we love with His love in trembling humility and hopeful faith. And our faith should bind us to Him forever.

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