Memorizing Scripture in 2011

28 12 2010

“I just don’t have a good enough memory to memorize Scripture.”

That’s the excuse we often give ourselves, others, and God for why we don’t memorize Bible verses.  Think for a moment about the stuff you actually do have memorized… How many songs do you know by heart?  How many phone numbers could you dial right now without looking at your contact list?  How many movies can you quote line by line?

The point is, God gave us an amazing memorization capacity.  You CAN memorize verses!  Psalm 119:11 says

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

For many of us our “verse bank” has insufficient funds!  When we need to make a withdrawal to combat sin in our lives there just isn’t anything there to work with.  I would write a little more about the necessity for memorizing Scripture, but John Piper has an excellent read on this subject: CLICK HERE to read what he says.

I will admit to you this is something that I struggle with too.  We need to discipline ourselves to memorize God’s Word!  Will you challenge yourself to do so in 2011?

Below is a link to a challenge I’m taking in 2011- Memorizing the book of Philippians.  Beginning in February we’ll start a series on the book of Philippians here at FBC so if you are a member here, this would be a good challenge for you to take too!  If you don’t attend FBC DeWitt, then I still think this will be worth your time… Check it out below:

Partnering to Remember the book of Philippians

I also found this website: http://scripturetyper.com/ I have not really looked at it much yet, but it seems that it may be a neat resource to use in your effort to memorize passages of Scripture.





How to Read through the Bible in 2011 (and why you should)

27 12 2010

One bite at a time.  That’s the answer to the old riddle, “How do you eat an elephant?”.  I think it’s also the answer for Christians when it comes to the question, “How can I read through the entire bible?”.  Ok, so I don’t think we want to pull a Jeremiah and literally eat the Word of God, but when it comes to reading through the entire Bible in 2011 here’s how you’ll do it: One verse at a time.

One verse at a time.  Why is that so important to remember?  I think some Christians look at their Bible and feel so overwhelmed by its size and content that they lose the battle to read it in its entirety before they even get started with Genesis 1:1. 

The Bible is made up of 66 individual books, but it is also one grand story.  I’m not advising reading the Bible out of context or to zoom yourself in so closely to a single verse that you miss God’s amazing narrative.  What I am saying though is that the Bible is made up of books, and that the books are made up of chapters, and the chapters are made up of verses.  Keep this in mind as you plan to read through the Bible in 2011…

Do you really think it’s a must that Christians read through the entire Bible? What about all those genealogies? What about difficult books and passages?

What did Jesus say?   “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4).

How about the author of Hebrews:  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (4:12)

And then of course Paul: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16).

How can we live on every Word of God, if many of us haven’t even read every Word of God?  It’s amazing that we live in such a nation with such easy access to God’s Word and yet have become so ignorant as to what it says.

The goal is to not just read the Bible as a textbook.  Read it as Scripture! Read it for transformation!

So, what can you do? Start one verse at a time! Make a commitment right now to read through the Bible in its entirety in 2011.  Below are a few practical tips on how to do it, and some links to several Bible reading plans.

Tips:

1. Have a consistent time and place for Bible reading.  This is key!  Don’t just read when you find time, make time.

2. If you miss a day, or even a few days, don’t get discouraged.  Keep reading! One verse at a time!  And if you get to a day where you can read a little more to catch back up, do it.  And if you get to December 31, 2011 and you still have 1/4th of the Bible to read, just keep reading!  The goal is to read the whole Bible in 2011, and I hope you meet that goal, but the most important thing is that you do read through the entire Bible.  So, if it takes a little longer than a year for you, then so be it.

3. Pray.  Pray that God will open your heart to receive His Word.  Pray that He’ll give you the faith to apply His Word to your life.

4.  Don’t get discouraged about not being able to understand some passages.  I do believe that most of the BIble is pretty clear, but you will probably run across at least a few things that you may need to talk to a pastor about or consult some extra readings.  Don’t get bogged down on those passages, but don’t just dismiss them as incomprehensible either. (Sometimes a good study bible can help clear that up!  Here, here, here, and here are some I recommend).

Bible Reading Plans:

Bethlehem Baptist Bible Reading Plan (I used this in 2010.  You read a few chapters from different places in the Bible each day, and then have a few catch up days built-in at the end of each month).

Expository.org Bible Reading Plan (Similar to the plan above, but you’ll read the OT Chronologically)

OWNit365 Bible Reading Plan (This one’s pretty neat!  Gives you one day off each week. The other 6 days you’ll have 2 separate readings on your own, and one chapter to read with your family! Great way to begin Family Worship!)

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan (Probably not a plan for 1st time readers!  This plan is 10 chapters a day.  Click the link for more info.)

Create your own plan! The first time I read through the Bible I looked at the number of pages in my Bible and divided it by the time I wanted to finish reading.  So, if you want to read your bible in 365 days and it is 1075 pages you’ll need to read 3 pages a day (1075 divided by 365).

Also, if you haven’t heard about YouVersion, it’s worth checking out…

I hope you will commit to reading the entire Bible in 2011!





That “Same Old Story”

14 12 2010

Well, here we are again… It’s less than two weeks before Christmas and this week most pastors are preparing to share that “same old story” from Luke 2.  Every year it’s the same thing… How can I tell this story in a new or creative way? How can I keep my congregation from tuning me out since they have heard this story so many times?

I want you to remember something: It’s a marvelous story! Don’t worry about how to present this story in a new or creative way because it is wonderful just the way it is!  It’s most amazing story in history and without it we would still be wandering in darkness.

This Sunday I’m preaching Luke 2:1-7.  During the course of my study for the message I began to think about explaining to my church the necessity of the incarnation. 

We know that ever since the moment mankind fell in the Garden that we have been storing up wrath for ourselves.  This is because God is completely Just.  As R.C. Sproul says, we have committed “cosmic treason” against God by setting ourselves upon His throne.  This means that if there is to be reconciliation between us and God then our sin debt must be paid. But how?

In the Old Testament we see the foreshadowing of what needed to take place: the shedding of blood.  However, the blood of bulls and goats is insufficient to pay for our sins (cf. Heb. 10:4).  In order for payment to be sufficient for God’s justice, the sacrifice had to be perfect.

Well, what about an Angel? Couldn’t God have sent forth an Angel to live in perfect obedience?  This is problematic for several reasons, but some of the main issues are this: Angels are created beings unable to withstand the full wrath of God that had to be poured out.  Also, an Angel is neither God nor man and therefore could not mediate between us.  And of course the sacrifice must be willing, otherwise God’s justice would be compromised. 

All that to say, if there was to be reconciliation between God and man, here are the requirements of the Sacrifice:

  1. The Sacrifice must have the capacity to perfectly obey God’s Law. (To make right what went wrong in Eden)
  2. The Sacrifice must have the ability to relate to God and man for reconciliation. (100% God and 100% Man)
  3. The sacrifice must have the capacity to withstand the full weight of God’s wrath without being annihilated into oblivion. (again, God’s justice demands payment for our sin)
  4. The Sacrifice must be willing.

The standards are such that for all eternity only ONE can fulfill all.  Only One took on flesh and blood, and bones and guts to perfectly obey God’s Law.  Only One withstood the full weight of God’s wrath during the crucifixion. Only One was willing to do His Father’s will.

His name is Jesus.  God sent His Son into the world for the sake of His people and His glory.  He didn’t wrap His gift to us in pretty Christmas paper, He wrapped in flesh and blood.  He didn’t lay it under a pretty Christmas tree in a warm cozy mansion.  He came to the manger.

Praise God, this story will never get old…





Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?

8 12 2010

“Don’t be deceived: If u r able to go to church and don’t, u r either in sin or you’re not a Christian”

On November 30th 2010 I “retweeted” the above quote.  Since then I’ve had some questions and comments about this quote so I thought that I would write a little…

Where in the Bible does it say a Christian has to attend “church”? Aren’t we all the “Church?”
Yes the term church in the New Testament can mean the universal church.  It can also mean the church of a specific region. But also very specifically, it can (and does in many instances) mean the “local” church. Check out for example Philippians 1:1. Notice Paul addresses the Saints, Overseers, and Deacons of Philippi. He was writing to a local congregation that gathered regularly.

Secondly, think about church structure. There are Pastors, and deacons in churches. This is clearly taught in the New Testament. Hebrews 13:7 says “obey your leaders.”  Teachings and verses like this wouldn’t make sense if there was not a regularly gathered congregation.

In Acts 2 we see the church regularly gathering.  In Hebrews 10:25 we have a specific command to not forsake the times we meet together. Also,  in the New Testament world the idea of “being a Christian” and “not gathering together with the church” would not have made sense.  Now days we do have many “Christians” who claim to be adopted by God but don’t gather with His family. Now, I do agree that the church is NOT a building.  We should not say “I’m going to church today”.  We should say “I’m going to gather with the church today.”  But in our culture, “going to church” and “gathering with the church” have become synonymous, so I don’t think we’ll win that battle!

1 John 3:14 tells us that we know we have passed from death to life because we love the “brothers.”  This is not talking about cheap “I love you” with my words love either.  This means that we can’t truly love one another if we don’t ever see one another.

Now, is the church supposed to gather on a weekly basis? Several passages of Scripture not only indicate yes, but they also indicate what day!  Take for instance one of the first gathering of the disciples post-resurrection (cf. John 19-20).   Then we look in Acts and see the church gathering on the same day (Acts 20:7).  What day were they gathering? Sunday! The first day of the week- Sunday- the day Jesus rose from the grave.  See also 1 Cor. 16:2 where Paul instructs the church at Corinth to collect money on the 1st day of the week, and also notice in Revelation where John was shown many great wonders on the Lord’s Day (Sunday).

Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the word” and even tells him that one day people will still “gather” but with false teachers because they can’t take sound doctrine (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4). Another interesting verse is 1 Thess. 5:27 where Paul instructs the recipients of his letter to read that leader to all the brothers and sisters.  These things would be impossible without a time that the church regularly gathered.

Also, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 talk about our spiritual gifts that we use when we are gathered.  What’s interesting about 1 Cor. 14 is that Paul goes on to detail for us some of the things that need to go on during worship together (1 Cor. 14:26-40).  The New Testament shows that God’s people gathered together in local congregations (that were led by Elders (Pastors)).  The Bible clearly commands God’s people to gather on a regular basis.

Finally, I’ll comment some more on Hebrews 10:24-25.  Just because you attend church does not mean you are actually fulfilling this commandment.  One may go to church and still be “forsaking” the assembly.  They may go to church begrudgingly or just for ulterior gains (power, political, etc.).  Also, one may be at home and not really be breaking the commandment given in these verses.  They may actually be unable to gather (sickness, unavoidable job situation, etc.).  The point is however, that the people of God desire to be with the people of God.  Those who are able, but don’t go to church are either living in sin, or not a Christian.