Devotional Life: Scripture Memory

Discipleship

One facet of my devotional life that is a struggle is Scripture memory. I can read, ponder and pray Scripture – but a real battle is memorization. It is not so much the difficulty of memorization, but the work. But, here is the truth, to grow deeply and to be prepared for battle with the enemy memorization is required. The Bible says this:

I have stored up your word in my heart,

    that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 ESV

and

Your word is a lamp to my feet

    and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Jesus knew the Word.

In a very strange way that I cannot completely comprehend, the Word of God who is Jesus, knew the Word of God and used the Word. We find Jesus in Matthew 4 doing face to face battle with the enemy in the desert. Jesus was hungry, thirsty and no doubt tired; basically vulnerable in every way. At this point of vulnerability, the accuser tempted Jesus. Jesus’ response was to quote the very Word of God.

Waiting for the battle to know the Word is too late.

Jesus knew the Word before the Word was needed. Do you know the Word in key areas now? The Bible relates that we all are tempted (1 Cor. 10:13), yet God provides the way of escape. The Bible says we should resist the devil, submit to God and the enemy will flee. The Bible says that we are all tempted in much the same ways:

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. I John 2:16 ESV

A key way to recognize temptation and the lure of sin is to know the Word of God. If you know His law, you can recognize what breaks it. God’s Word also gives the offensive weapon, the Sword to defeat temptation.

Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, Eph 6:17 ESV

Let me say again, this key area is a weakness for me. As I share this post with you, I am convicted to return to the verses I have placed in my heart and continue to add to them as this is a key foundation of spiritual health and maturity!

Tools to help in memorization:

There are old school and new school ways to memorize.

An old school way is long hand. I still have a box of memory cards in my desk. Believe it or not, but I found using some of my own old business cards was perfect. I use the backs of these perfectly sized and sturdy cards. I also have some old school memorization card holder packs and starter verses from familiar discipleship organizations.

A new school way is on my phone. There are some cool apps like The Bible Memory App. One of the highlights of this app is the way it helps you memorize with totally easy first letter typing of the verse in chunks.

Another new school way is using the Bible App. I do not believe there is an actual memory function yet as I read through the Bible each day, I highlight scripture that stands out to me. This app lets me scroll back through highlighted portions – especially those portions I would like to commit to memory.

And finally and my current go-to (and don’t judge), I simply take a screenshot of the passage I am currently memorizing from the Bible App screen on my phone! Cheesy – yes. Functional – extremely! I can scroll back through the verses and passages I am learning. Currently my screenshot scroll is 1 Peter 5:2-4.

What to memorize?

Another post could likely be an entire portion on what to memorize. Care can and should be taken in what to memorize. There are folks committed to areas of Christian growth and discipleship like memorization. Check out this resource at the Navigators.

A great way to memorize is to think of key areas such as these:

God’s Promises

Anxiety

Relationship growth

Evangelism

Confession of sin

Temptation

God’s Law and Commands

God’s will

Christian growth and maturity

Prayer

I would love to hear how you plant God’s Word in your heart!

Devotional Life

Discipleship, Personal Growth

At the church where I serve we are currently focusing on growing as disciples of Jesus. We learned many lessons during the pressures and strain of the pandemic. One was a recognition of the resilience in our isolation of those who had already established patterns of personal growth and discipleship. That knowledge led us to a theme for the church called A Time to Grow. With that in mind, I want to share some keys for me that I have picked up from mentors in my own personal time with the Master.

Just do it.

So this first encouragement on personal growth and discipleship is not fancy. Simply put, just do it. One of my favorite passages about Jesus is His simple commitment to spending time with the Father.

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:16 ESV

However and wherever you can, spend time with the Father. I am reminded if Jesus needed time alone with the Father, I for sure do! Before Jesus made His selection of the disciples, he spent time alone in prayer. Before Jesus made His way to the cross in the Garden He spent time alone in prayer.

Withdraw

It’s okay, check that, it is healthy to wall off time for yourself to be absolutely alone with the Father. To be poured out like Paul as an offering means you have to be filled up! True empowerment and full-fillment can only come through time ALONE with God. I love the images shared of Jesus going alone to “desolate places” the “mountain” or the “hillside” to be alone with the Father.

And pray

Spending, or rather I like to say investing time with God is key. What I mean is this is not simply a nature stroll, or time in the study contemplating life. This is not about emptying your mind. It is a time to talk with God. It is a time for God to speak to you. This may sound overly simplistic, but this simple step, this simple action can transform your life. God wants to spend time with you.

I love my wife. One of the ways you know I love my wife is, I want to spend time with her. A lot of time with her. I don’t care if I have to drive her to every fabric store and home decor outlet in the western hemisphere. I love my son. We like to chill and watch stupid shows, talk about jets and trains, fish and shoot. I love my daughter, we grab coffee. She is an athlete and it is a ball to get beat by her in any sport or simply watch her do her thing. You would know if I did not love them because I would be doing something else with my time.

I love God. I want to spend time with Him.

Don’t quit

This is all so simple, yet so deadly. Here’s the enemy’s plan. If he can convince you that spending time with God is not important he will, period. He does not want you to talk with your Father, read what your Father has to say, or listen to Him speak to you by His Spirit.

Here’s one of satan’s main tricks. You kick off having a time with the Lord daily. If you start, you are going to miss time with God here and there. But the enemy will say, “See, you know you couldn’t keep this up. You’re such a disappointment. Plus, this really doesn’t matter, God knows you love him.” And, you’ll quit. Listen, if you miss time with God for one day, two days, ten days, start right back where you left off.

Over time, and the enemy knows this, you will cherish this time. You will miss this time when disrupted. It will become one of the most important parts of who you are as a disciple.

Have you talked with the Father today?

With you and for you – Ray

Spiritual Influence

Leadership, Personal Growth

Early Sunday morning, a mentor in my life passed away. Back in the early 90s I had the opportunity to serve on a church staff led by Pastor Rod Masteller. Putnam City Baptist Church in OKC happened to be my future wife’s home church, the same church where her parents were married in 1969. This church and serving there has a special place in my journey no doubt. While there are many good memories wrapped up in this place of service, one significant factor is the opportunity to cross paths with this Pastor and experience his influence in my life in 3 key ways:

Guiding through Key Transitions

As a leader, you would be familiar with being asked, “What do you think I should do?” I hit a key transition point in my life: stay and serve there locally at the church, or move on to seminary and move forward with that pursuit right away. Jennifer had another year before graduating from University nearby. I was already taking seminary extension courses while serving. Should I stay and serve there longer, or should I move on ahead of my fiance settling in the area of the seminary in Texas?

Here’s the thing for decision making. It is not the easy stuff I am referring to in this pursuit of wisdom and direction. There are truly easy pitches that take no time in deciding, clear choices between right wrong, good evil, sinful, all of those are easy. What is complex are the choices of actual good options. There is nothing good or evil about pursuing seminary in Oklahoma City or Ft Worth, but the decision is still weighty! He did not have the answers, but he knew the Answer – get with Jesus.

How did he recommend this time with Jesus? For my decision point, he recommended I take a day, find a unique place – in this case, one of the meeting rooms there in the church – and schedule the day for me, alone, to meet with the Lord. He recommended taking my Bible, journal, pen and be ready to pray, read, write. But, most of all my task and “appointment” that day was to ask the Lord to lead. I still use this technique to this day when someone asks me advice about a life decision or ‘crisis point’ fork in the road. Get with Jesus. Bro. Rod was not the Holy Spirit junior. The will for my life was not Bro. Rod’s but God’s and he knew what I needed most was to connect with God.

I did that very thing. Obviously as disciples we all walk daily with the Lord in dialog with Him. But for crisis points like this, I still believe it is important to go alone to the hillside, pray, focus, meditate, read, wrestle and ask God for clarity. I walked away from that day with the Lord giving confidence he was guiding me in my decision. When important life ‘crisis point’ decisions come up in your life (and there could be just a handful), invest time by scheduling large chunks of time to literally focus on the decision before you with the Lord.

Pointing to Key Resources

I still have a copy of a book in my library that Bro. Rod encouraged me to walk through. He knew the direction I was pointing my life in ministry and he had a key tool to put in my mind. The book is Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. This simple read is chunked into bite-sized portions that cover the span of healthy spiritual leadership and life.

Even as I flip through the preface by the author, I read and am reminded as he shares, “If I had my life over again, I would devote much more time to the ministry of comfort and encouragement.”

Presence at Key Moments

I have a church member friend who recently shared that Bro. Rod was the kind of pastor who related personally with those in his care. My friend shared of Bro. Rod being available recently, decades later, to preach her mom’s funeral. He was the kind of Pastor who was blessed with a large platform and reach, but balanced that with a strong ability to connect on personal levels with many, especially at times of pastoral care. For those of you in ministry, you know this is a hard balance.

For me, his ministry presence involves marrying my wife and I. He invested through many moments of observing his ministry. He invested in me and my ministry by leading that church to grant my License to the Gospel Ministry, when I was still green and thought I knew so much. I am grateful to Bro. Rod and his influence on my life and ministry particularly at key points.

The older I get, I have such profound gratitude for the daily grace and mercy applied to my own struggles and flaws, and the grace and mercy given by God to serve through them. Bro. Rod was not perfect, I am not perfect. But, we are responsible to keep on serving, keep on confessing, keep on striving, and to keep on pointing the way forward. When I think on Bro. Rod and his influence, I am mindful of this key verse:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their way of life, imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7

Now minister/leader, it’s your turn. Who will you influence? You can be intentional or accidental in guiding. You can be present or absent. I am grateful that in many ways and by many leaders, leaders in my life have been intentional at key times. Be ready with the tools, advice and direction for key moments in others’ lives. You will have an impact.