In this final message during the month of “Septem-prayer,” Pastor David preaches on Psalm 34, an acrostic psalm in which each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. How can this psalm transform the way in which we pray for specific needs? How should our prayer lives be more full than simply praying for the sick, grieving, or discouraged? Listen in to yesterday’s sermon:
If you were raised in church, like I was, you may have committed certain verses of the Bible to memory. When I was a child, my home church had various Wednesday evening programs. I remember one of them was called “Bible Mountaineers” – the different age groups of children had labels such as “Cliff Climbers” and “Summit Scalers” – and through the course of the year, we had specific verses and passages of scripture that we were encouraged to memorize. Those assignments ranged from simple verses (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 NIV) to entire chapters (I crammed all of 1 Corinthians 13 into my short-term memory one week!).
Even if you were not raised in church, or if you are not a believer, you probably know at least part of one Bible verse. All I have to say is “John 3:16” and some words might come to mind. (“For God so loved the world…”) Here’s an easy one to memorize right now: “Jesus wept,” John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible! That’s not a flippant idea, by the way; even that one verse reminds us, in its context, that Jesus feels the pain of the loss of loved ones. His friend Lazarus had died, and while the story ends with rejoicing in Lazarus’s resurrection, Jesus still wept when he was shown Lazarus’s tomb.
In any case, church-sponsored active memorization of scripture usually ends for us when we graduate high school – or even earlier. If you desire, as I do, that our children at Mt. Haley would be raised in the Christian faith and memorize important passages of scripture, then take this idea to heart: Our children will do what they see us doing.
This goes beyond memorizing scripture, of course. Our children will behave the way they observe adults behaving; they will worship how adults worship. They will resolve conflicts the way they see adults resolve conflicts. Our children are watching us, and if they do not see us taking discipleship, outreach, and community seriously, then they may not take those components of Christian life seriously when they are adults.
Why is it important for us to memorize scripture in particular? The Bible is the foundation for our journey of discipleship; it is God’s word for those who would follow him. The Bible contains everything necessary to describe, understand, and apply salvation in Christ to our lives. (By the way, this is as far as I go in approaching theological terms like “infallible” and “inerrant.” But that’s another conversation.)
Memorizing scripture keeps the word of God at the front of our thoughts. Memorizing scripture helps us recognize false teachings and ethically questionable practices. Memorizing scripture proves useful in our times of trouble, conflict, or sorrow. Memorizing scripture gives us words to say to others when they have such experiences. Memorizing scripture allows us more opportunities to meditate on the word of God on a daily basis. This is transformational!
So does your spiritual diet include this practice? Here are some passages that would be worthwhile to commit to memory. (Can you add to this list?)
- Psalm 23
- Psalm 46
- Isaiah 53
- Matthew 6:9-13
- Matthew 11:25-30
- Romans 8:28-39
- Philippians 3:7-14
- Colossians 1:15-20
- Colossians 3:12-17
This week, Pastor David walks us through Psalm 30, a prayer of thanksgiving. We often express our thankfulness to God for various blessings, but giving thanks should be transformative for us, not simply an afterthought that we direct toward God. How does this psalm – written for the dedication of the temple – change our attitude toward thanksgiving? Listen in:
King David’s well-known Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession that came after some terrible, sinful actions on his part. This prayer stands as an example of the spiritual value of confession in our lives. Why do we confess sin? How do we go about it? Pastor David helps us think about these issues by preaching on this psalm:
In this first of a series of four messages on the topic of prayer, Pastor David walks us through what Psalm 139 says about the nature of God. These attributes of God are praiseworthy and can transform how we go about praying. How should our prayer lives be oriented? Listen in to yesterday’s message by clicking this link. (Please note: Pastor David was fighting off a stomach bug during the service, so this message is shorter and “lower-key” compared to normal.)
It’s that time of year again: the time when our garden’s green beans are in full swing. Those of you who grow (or have grown) green beans know that once they start producing, you are going to be swimming in beans for a little while. Tara and I are enjoying our second harvest season here at the church parsonage, and believe me, we love green beans. We love them so much that we planted twice as many as we did last year! “Swimming” in beans might not be the right term for what we are experiencing right now. It’s more like a green bean flood.
The amazing thing about picking green beans is that it seems there are always more to pick. Just when you think you have moved every leaf and branch, another few beans catch your eye as they dangle secretly behind another hidden branch. You can pick all the beans you can see, but if you move a foot away – or look at the plant from the opposite side – you will see many more beans to pick. And of course if you manage to find all the full-grown beans in one picking, just come back in another day or two and you’ll have that many more to harvest.
In much the same way, there is something to be said for continual Bible study. If we read a portion of scripture once, we cannot hope to have gleaned all of its meaning. It takes continual effort, time, and different life perspectives for us to benefit fully from the Word of God speaking into our lives. In fact, while I work on each week’s sermon, I read and re-read the sermon text several times – many times out loud – so I have many opportunities to see the passage from many different angles. Just like a cluster of green bean plants, there is always something more to find.
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in scripture: at 176 verses in length, it is quite the work of poetry! The theme of this massive psalm is the love we have for scripture, for God’s word, for God’s law. Each of the psalm’s 22 sections (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet) repeats the theme: scripture is worth our love and attention. Read the next-to-last section, verses 161-168:
Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you. (Psalm 119:161-168 NIV)
By the way, whatever you love you will spend a great deal of time studying, thinking about, remembering, practicing, and working toward. We find it easy to do these things for people whom we love. I find it easy to pick green beans, because I love the harvest. What is your attitude toward the Word of God?
The book of Hebrews concludes with a series of exhortations, calling the church to conduct itself in specific ways. Each of these encourages believers to give up something else of value: a sacrifice in the truest sense of the term. How does Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 connect to our everyday lives – and to our memory of faithful Christians who have run the race before us? Listen to Pastor David’s message by clicking this link: