Archive | December, 2013
How to Read the Bible in a Year

How to Read the Bible in a Year

Bible in Hands 2 copy

Along with Scripture memory, reading the entire Bible through in one year is a fantastic discipline for spiritual growth.  As the new year is about to begin, why not choose a Bible reading plan and commit to read the Bible from Gen. 1 to Rev. 22 this coming year?  Yes, it can be a challenge not getting behind on each day (and reading through Numbers!), but what an important and rewarding exercise it is to read the whole Bible in a year.

 Here are a few pointers:

  • Use a modern English translation that is reliable and readable (I recommend the ESV, NASB, or HCSB).  Other translations are good, but avoid using a paraphrase (The Message, The Living Bible) for this task.  Paraphrases are good to supplement your reading/study of the Bible from a reliable translation.

  • Pick a plan that works for you.  Some plans simply follow the books in order as they appear in the Bible.  Others incorporate both Old and New Testament readings each day.  Some include a portion of Psalms and Proverbs each day.  A unique plan is to read the Bible in the historical chronological order as the events actually occurred (link for this plan is below).  This might be a great plan for you if you have previously read the Bible through in a year.

  • Set aside a time and place to read each day.  This time/place needs to allow you freedom from interruptions and distractions.  Turn off the TV, put your phone away, read at a time when the kids are asleep or at school, etc.

  • Don’t get discouraged!  If you miss a day, make it up as soon as possible.  If you lag behind you will get discouraged and quit.  Also, reading large portions of the Bible doesn’t take as long as you think.  Our staff recited from memory the entire book of James last Sunday and it took only 15 minutes.

  • Don’t let reading larger portions of Scripture completely substitute your more in-depth study of passages (such as in a Bible study you are doing, Sunday School lesson, quiet times, etc).

Here are some helpful links to help you accomplish reading through the Bible:

Read the Bible in a year: http://immanuelshawnee.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFs/yearly_bible_reading.pdf

Chronological reading plan: http://www.esv.org/assets/pdfs/rp.chronological.pdf

One Year Bible online: http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com

Bible reading plans in multiple media formats: http://about.esvbible.org/resources/reading/

Have each day’s Bible reading emailed to you: http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

Read the entire Bible in 90 days: http://www.thebrooknetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/BibleIn90Days.pdf

Read the Bible in 2 years: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/files/2010/12/TwoYearBibleReadingPlan.pdf

Helpful blog post on importance (as well as strengths/weaknesses) of Bible reading plans: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/12/29/two-year-bible-reading-plan/

Read the Greek New Testament in a year: http://www.dennyburk.com/Stuff/ReadGreekNT.pdf

 

 

How to Memorize Scripture

How to Memorize Scripture

iStock_000001547067SmallWhy is it important and what are the benefits of memorizing Scripture?  Scripture memory is a powerful tool in growing deeper in your walk with Christ.

The Benefits of Memorizing Scripture

Dallas Willard- “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation.  If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs.  This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it!  How does it get in your mouth?  Memorization.”

There is a direct joy that comes from memorizing Scripture.  When your mind is filled with the word of God, it brings a direct joy in that it reveals to you the beauty of Christ.  The word reveals the person of Christ, His perfection, His grace, and His love.  The word of God reveals the tremendous promises of God.  There is also an indirect joy that comes from memorizing Scripture.  When your mind is filled with the word of God it brings indirect joy in that it weans you off the toxic pleasures of the world by means of the superior pleasures of Christ.

Life is going to throw some tough stuff at us.  Temptation to sin, either through lust, greed, pride, anger, you name it.  We will have crushing blows that seem to defeat us. People will disappoint us.  Tragedy will bring great grief.  Notice how many Scripture verses there are that directly apply to so many of the situations we face in life.  What if we had those verses already memorized when those tough challenges come our way?  Psalm 119:9,11- “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word… I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Let’s say you’re facing a situation that tempts you to sin. What do you have in your toolbox to fight against such a temptation- just your willpower?  If so, you’re probably in trouble.  But what if the Holy Spirit brings to mind at this point of spiritual battle a verse from God’s Word? All of these are illustrations of what Eph. 6:17 calls the “sword of the Spirit.”  When the Holy Spirit brings to your mind a pertinent spiritual truth at just the right moment it is a weapon- a sword- that makes the difference in spiritual battle.  Jesus did this in Matt. 4:1-11 when Satan tempted him.  Each time Satan tempted Jesus with a different temptation, Jesus had a spot on Bible verse that directly refuted the specific temptation Satan was throwing at him.  Jesus used Bible passages as weapon against temptation.  But that weapon has to be in place. This is where Scripture memorization comes in.

We can apply this same principle to times when we are trying to encourage someone going through a difficult time, sharing our faith, or making decisions.

Chuck Swindoll- “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture… No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends!  Your prayer life will be strengthened.  Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective.  Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change.  Your mind will become alert and observant.  Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced.  Your faith will be solidified.”

So, memorizing Scripture is beneficial to spiritual health and daily life.  But how do we do it?

The Method of Memorizing Scripture

You can memorize better than you think!

Many people say they cannot memorize Scripture because they have a bad memory.  Forgive me, but this is really just an excuse for the vast majority of us.  The problem is not our memory, the problem is we don’t want to be disciplined to put in the work required to memorize Scripture.  What if I offered to pay you $1,000 for every verse you memorized for the next 7 days?  How many verses do you think you could memorize then?  Also, how many movie lines, slogans, and cultural idioms have you committed to memory?  Several years ago the Lord convicted me of how many lines I had involuntarily memorized from movies I had repeatedly watched compared to the amount of Scripture I had memorized.

How do we memorize Scripture?

Write the Verses

1. Buy a pack of Post-It notes. Determine a color that suits your tastes. A color that is too dark or neon does not lend itself to memorization.

2.
Write (in black ink) on each Post-It note one phrase of the verse. Continue this until you have written the entire verse.

3.
Affix the Post-Its to a highly visible place in your bedroom or bathroom where you look often. Post them in vertical descending order. Take additional Post-Its and cover all phrases except the first one.

4.
Memorize the first Post-It. Recite it out loud, 5-10 times without error.

5.
Uncover the next Post-It. Follow step four again, this time with both Post-Its. Do this until the entire verse is memorized.

For a passage of Scripture, write out the passage on a page.  Cover the passage with a sheet of paper except for the first verse.  Recite the first verse 5-10 times and then move to the next verse reciting the previous verse(s) with it.

Memorize Word Perfectly

It’s a temptation, especially when you’re first starting out to fudge on the exact wording.  You get about ¾ of the verse memorized, then insert a few words you made up.  Don’t settle for just getting close, or for the main idea of the verse, or leaving off the reference number of the verse.  Why?  Without an objective standard of measure, you may keep lowering the bar and then eventually quit altogether.  Also, if you don’t have the verse memorized exactly you will lose confidence in sharing that verse to help a friend or witness to someone.  Incidentally, verses you know word perfectly are easier to review than those you don’t know so well.

Seek Accountability

Find a friend to whom you can recite your verses.  This will build accountability.  Here’s a great idea: find a person who doesn’t know the Lord to listen to you recite Bible verses.

Draw Picture Reminders

Sounds silly, but the reality is that most of us are visual learners- especially in this era of technology.  Doesn’t have to be elaborate or “good” art, but making a verse visual can help it stick in your mind better.

  • Psalm 119:11- a heart with a Bible inside of it.
  • Matt. 5:13- saltshaker over planet earth
  • Matt. 7:3-5- plank in the eye

Review, Review, Review!

Reviewing a verse takes a fraction of the time than actually learning or saying the verse aloud. Review your memorized verses once a week, then perhaps once a month, then every 6 months.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to keep a sharp edge on remembering verses. Review verses when you are waiting in traffic, or for an appointment, or trying to go to sleep at night.  Review is important or you will lose what you memorized.

I hope you will make the effort to memorize Scripture.  I believe it will give you a love for God’s Word and will in turn be life-changing.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-29-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-29-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 29th, 2013. Special presentation.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-22-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-22-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 22nd, 2013. “Change of Plans.” Matthew 1:18-25.

The Real Issue Behind the Duck Dynasty Flap and What Should Be Learned From It

The Real Issue Behind the Duck Dynasty Flap and What Should Be Learned From It

11174The controversy surrounding the suspension of Phil Robertson by A&E over his comments opposing homosexuality has undoubtedly crowded the newsfeed of just about everyone’s choice of social media.  Sadly, it appears to have brought out the worst of some people on both sides of the controversy.

More than the issue of free speech or the merits of the show itself, the Duck Dynasty dust up signals the significant shift of the moral landscape and perception of biblical authority in this country.  The reality is that 20 years ago comments such as this would not have drawn the firestorm as we see today.  At the heart of this controversy is not Phil Robertson, A&E, or reality TV, but rather the growing intolerance of secularism against a particular Christian conviction: homosexuality.

The subsequent issue becomes how both sides are going to respond to each other over this issue.  The comments Robertson made in the GQ article were crude, but they were not inflammatory (read the article here).  Thus, the whole thing seems to have been blown out of proportion.  And to be fair, I have seen countless comments from conservative Christians that were inappropriate and completely unhelpful in contributing anything to the debate.

My query in all of this is why each side feels the need to silence the other with bullying tactics.  This is absolutely not the way to get someone who believes differently than you to change his or her mind.  The controversy also brings to the fore the completely erroneous mindset that to disagree with someone means you hate them or think them to be backward.  Both sides need to jettison this approach posthaste.  To this end, I came across two quotes that are especially helpful on this point.  Each quote comes from both sides of this controversy.

Here’s the first quote from Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and a conservative evangelical:

“Let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.”  (Read Moore’s full article here)

Here’s the second quote from Brandon Ambrosino, a writer and professional dancer based in Baltimore and is gay:

“For the record, I’m undecided on whether or not I think Phil actually is homophobic, although I certainly think his statement was offensive… But I also think that if I were to spend a day calling ducks with Phil, I’d probably end up liking him- even in spite of his position on gay men. It’s quite possible to throw one’s political support behind traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted.  I’m reminded of something Bill Maher said during the height of the Paula Deen controversy: ‘Do we always have to make people go away?’ I think the question applies in this situation too.

Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them? One of the biggest pop-culture icons of today just took center stage to “educate” us about sexuality. I see this as an opportunity to further the discussion, to challenge his limited understanding of human desire, to engage with him and his rather sizable audience — most of whom, by the way, probably share his views-  and to rise above the endless sea of tweet-hate to help move our LGBT conversations to where they need to go.  G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is ‘an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.’ If he is right- and he usually is- then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.”  (Read Ambrosino’s full article in Time here)

The best way to convince the other side of your position is through thoughtful engagement, not bullying tactics with the aim of silencing the opposition through pedantic and inflammatory comments.  Christians need to be careful not to shun those with whom they disagree, but rather through our words and actions point people to Christ and the truth of His Word.  After all, is this not how Jesus did it?

 

 

Growing in the Word podcast:  12-15-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-15-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 15th, 2013. “What To Do While Waiting for Christ’s Return?” 2 Peter 3:11-18.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-8-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-8-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 8th, 2013. “Why Does Jesus Delay His Return?” 2 Peter 3:11-18.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-1-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-1-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 1st, 2013. “The Reality of Christ’s Return.” 2 Peter 3:1-7.