Scripture Memorization 7 of 52: Luke 12:34

***Late last night it suddenly dawned on me that I had not written my scripture memorization blog for this week. I do apologize for the three day delay!***

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” -Luke 12:34 ESV

The application of this text is very straight forward but easily forgotten so this week let us check in with ourselves and see where our treasure is.

Seven questions to ask yourself to know where your treasure is?

  1. What is the focus of my job? 
  2. What occupies the majority of my free time?
  3. What do I spend the most time talking to my wife, my kids, my friends, my coworkers about?
  4. What do I spend the most time thinking about?
  5. What do I spend the most time worrying about?
  6. Do I make private and corporate worship a priority?
  7. Do I tithe (10% of income)? 

Now questions two through six are self explanatory but let me give just a few words of explanation to questions one and seven.

Question one: What is the focus of my job?

I am not indicating through this question that if your job is not a ministry job then your treasure is elsewhere. What I am indicating is that if your job whether in full-time ministry or a non-designated ministry career field is not seen by you as a vehicle by which you may be a witness and servant for Jesus Christ then your heart may have another treasure than Jesus. Where I live locally many people work in government. Working in government is seen by some as the most secular job in the world right now. For the Christian what others may see as a degraded field of work, the Christian sees as an opportunity to interact and witness to people whom hold various religious views and even practice various world religions, people with moral views contrary to the Bible on various issues i.e sexuality, life, money. The Christian whose treasure is the Lord goes to work, any work with this focus, I can make a difference for Jesus today.

Question seven: Do I tithe?

A very simple question, but a profound indicator of whether or not God is the treasure of our hearts! God laid out a very clear standard for our resources. God asked ALL Christians to give at least 10% of their increase, income, first fruits. So the question do you tithe is a question of obedience to God and thus a question of the heart. It is not a question of God’s need of the money, it is a question of the heart. Here is the truth on this question…we have an obedience problem in Christendom as a whole, but I will focus on Adventism, to be exact I will focus on Adventism in the United States (NAD = I know this also includes Guam, Bermuda, and Canada but I have not used either their tithe or their membership numbers in this report) exclusively in this post with my numbers, simply because I am a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor in the United States and these are the numbers I know and the people I work amongst. It has been estimated by some that only 30% of NAD members pay an honest, true, 10% tithe. Let us say our active membership is 500,000 (membership is reported at 1.2 million but walk into any Adventist church spend a few weeks and we’ll quickly discover less than half of the reported membership are active members). And then let us base tithe on a per household basis so we’ll say there are 250,000 active Adventist households in the United States. The median per household income in the United States in 2015 was $55,755 (the largest percentage of Adventists in North America live in states in which the Median Household income exceeds $60,000 and the states with the lowest number of Adventists are often also where median income is the lowest but for ease we’ll stick with $55,755). If Adventist median household incomes in the United States hold with the median household incomes of the nation as a whole which I believe they easily do, see the previous parenthesis, then for those 250,000 households then tithe from the United States alone would have been 1.4 Billion in 2015 (remember this is based on less than 50% active membership), instead our tithe was in 2015 from the states of the United States not our territories and not from Canada roughly $918,000,000. $918,000,000 is still a great number and it is why the Adventist Church is as strong as it is financially not only in the United States but all around the world, but we aren’t talking about great, we aren’t talking about strong, we are talking about obedience, we are talking about the treasures of our heart and $918,000,000 is still likely $482,000,000 less than a true tithe. This is why I said the truth on question seven is that we have an obedience problem in Christendom (the numbers in evangelical and mainline denominations excluding Adventists are actually even lower), we have an obedience problem, and thus a heart problem in Adventism in the United States.

Seven questions for us to ponder…not just you me also…this week as we memorize:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” -Luke 12:34 ESV

Scripture Memorization 6 of 52: Colossians 3:23

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
-Colossians 3:23

If you don’t have a life text, which is a text you set as your standard to live life by, then may I recommend this one.

Quick side note my life text is Acts 20:24: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

But back to today’s memorization text Colossians 3:23. Many of us, maybe even most of us operate segmented lives. What do I mean by that? We have our work life we live in one way with a specific purpose: to make money, become powerful, find purpose, etc. We have our home life we live for other reasons. We have our social lives, our hobbies, maybe we still have our school life. Then we have our church life or our spiritual life, and that part is segmented out to be purposefully about God and the things of God. Different areas of our lives all being lived with different focuses or intentions.

This segmented style of living is a huge problem for a Christian. Why? Because the Christian who lives segmented lives is really just a pseudo Christian.

If every part of my life has a different purpose or intent then really I am serving multiple masters. At work maybe I am serving the master of money. At home maybe I am serving the master of legacy. In my social life maybe I am serving the master of self. At school maybe I am serving the master of ambition. In my church and spiritual segment I am serving the master of God…except…

Jesus said it like this,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24a

A segmented life is a life of service to multiple masters and serving multiple masters is antithetical to Christianity, thus a segmented living Christian is not, because you can’t be both segmented and Christian…at least not for long…

Which is why today’s text is a good life text,

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” 
-Colossians 3:23

Colossians 3:23 removes all segmentation.

Whatever you do:

  • Work
  • School
  • Home
  • Hobbies
  • Social
  • Church

Do it all for God. Remove the segments. Make everything about God. In making God your ultimate purpose in every area of life is where you will find true fulfillment.

Read it. Memorize it. Apply it.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” 
-Colossians 3:23

Scripture Memorization 5 of 52: 1 Corinthians 16:13

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
-1 Corinthians 16:13

I apologize for the late arrival of this weeks memory verse blog. Christina flew to Ohio for a quick trip and I was on Daddy duty all day and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit and write at my computer.

In this passage there are four imperatives or what we would call in our modern day vernacular “commands”: Be on your guard” “stand firm” “be courageous” “be strong”

These four commands could be perceived by just a reading of the one text to indicate encouragement to a group that is being persecuted or encouragement to remain strong ’till the end times. But as we read the book of Corinthians we see that the issues addressed by Paul to this church are about moral failure and a lack of spiritual maturity when dealing and perceiving spiritual issues. Thus this text should be seen as a call “to stand firm in the faith” not in the face of external persecution but rather in the face of the internal temptations they have to fall morally. The text I am having you memorize is the New International Version, but many of the versions I read and study most often, the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible translate the phrase “be courageous” as “act like men” the reason for this is because according to the New International Greek Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians this Greek word ἀνδρίζεσθε seems to turn to a male focus but the commentary suggests rather than making things gender exclusive it seems that what the Greek is trying to say is, “show mature courage” again a reference back to what I was saying before about the Corinthian church struggling morally because they are spiritually immature.

I’ll give you an example, when I was a baby Christian only a couple years into my journey with Jesus someone criticized my hair. I had bleached white hair. I dwelt on that and dwelt on that…in fact more than one person made comments about my hair and I thought to myself all kinds of negative thoughts about the church and how unkind…yada yada yada…why did I respond that way and sin by holding bitterness and anger against those people? Because I was spiritually immature. Now nearly 21 years into my journey with the Lord if someone criticized my hair or really anything and I spent a bunch of time talking about it and being angry and bitter about it, if there were a modern day Paul he would say to me, “Chad show some mature courage” i.e. “don’t be a baby about things be spiritually mature enough to deal with these types of situations.”

This text maybe needs to be memorized by some of us in this way, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; show mature courage; be strong.” Because many of us that should not stumble in sin the way a baby/newbie Christian would and God through this text may be reminding us, or letting us know it is time to grow-up, to start to be mature in our faith!

I pray you plant this word deep in your heart and that it will grow and bless your life this week…and that all of us at the end of this week find ourselves much stronger in the faith of Jesus than we are today!

Scripture Memorization 4 of 52: 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

-2 Corinthians 5:17

We should not define for ourselves what it means to “become new” in Christ, rather we should let the Bible define it for us. If I define “newness” apart from the scriptures I may make “newness” into the image I want it to be in. I might say, “well I no longer swear therefore I am new.” Even though I may gossip. I might say, “I no longer do drugs therefore I am new.” Even though I may never exercise or drink water. I might say “I no longer fornicate or commit adultery.” Even though I may have lust in my heart. Do you see why it is dangerous for us to define “newness” in Christ for ourselves? Simply because we are new in one area is not the “newness” that is spoken of in this text. To find the definition of newness in scripture all we have to do is look back at the two previous verses.

First from verse 15 we learn those who are new in Christ “no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” And from verse 16 we learn, those who are new in Christ, “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”

In other words verse 15 shows us we no longer define our lives by one area but rather every aspect of our lives is submitted to the will and direction of Jesus. So I would not longer look at just one place of growth and say “Okay I am new now that is good enough.” That is living for self, giving up just enough to appease my own conscience but not so much as to really have to give up the worldly things I love. And verse 16 I no longer regard Christ from a worldly perspective, is to no longer define Christ by my worldview but now I am defined by a Biblical worldview and this results in a new HIGHER view of Jesus. “Egocentricity gives way to Christocentricity.”

Let us seal the text in our minds and apply it’s message to our lives. May we all through the power of Jesus who transforms hearts and minds be truly NEW in Christ Jesus this week!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

-2 Corinthians 5:17

 

 

Scripture Memorization 3 of 52: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What a challenging text! Not to memorize, but to live by!

Rejoice always…REALLY?

Pray without ceasing…REALLY?

In EVERYTHING give thanks…REALLY?

To read this text without pausing to think about what it means is daunting. And even when we do have an understanding of the meaning it can still be difficult, but it is a great scripture to put to heart because the words of Jesus are true, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) And if we learn in the midst of the trouble of this world to rejoice, to pray, to give thanks we will find a way through those trials and tribulations.

So let us break this down:

Verse 16: “Rejoice always”

If we were to read and examine all the instances in which the Apostle Paul writes about “joy” or “rejoicing” we would quickly discover that Paul is not speaking of an external emotion, but rather an internal confidence. In fact just in the first chapter of the first epistle to the Thessalonian Church Paul wrote,

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” -1:6

The joy came from the Holy Spirit which lives in us, in our hearts. There was external affliction, but internal joy through the power of the Holy Spirit. So when Paul writes “rejoice always” he is not speaking of a constant state of giddiness, and thank goodness for that I’d rather see a frown now and then than always have giddy people around me…but I digress…

“To rejoice always is to see the hand of God in whatever is happening and to remain certain of God’s future salvation. Without such conviction joy would not be possible in the face of affliction, suffering, and death.” Wanamaker, C. A. (1990). The Epistles to the Thessalonians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Verse 17: “pray without ceasing”

“If Paul had had formal, audible prayer in mind, this imperative would have been impossible to carry out. Rather, to pray constantly means that the entire life of the believer is lived in dependence on God.” Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, 1 Th 5:16–17). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

We may actually find that the first thing, “rejoicing always” is made easier as we learn to live more and more in a mindset or a preparedness to pray. In my life there have been people to state it bluntly that I did not like, something years ago I started to do was every time I began to think about how much I disliked a particular person, or if such a person was around and they started to bother me I made a conscious choice to begin to pray for that person. Having practiced this discipline for years in my life, where once I could rattle off the top of my head name after name of persons that bothered me or that I truly dislike as I sit here I am having a difficult time recalling even one. I am not a better person, but prayer makes the harder thing easier. Liking difficult people is made easier through prayer. I believe in like manner, rejoicing always is made easier through prayer.

Verse 18: “in everything give thanks”

This third piece of the standing orders found here in our memory verse of the week seems to be a combination of the first two. Thanksgiving is of course a form of joyful prayer. Now thanksgiving is at times easy. We are all familiar with easy moments of thanksgiving, when life is going as we planned or as we desired. When the kids are healthy. When finances are secure. When we are at 100% health emotionally, mentally, & physically (though in this sinful world is that ever truly ones state?) thanksgiving then comes with ease, maybe such ease we forget in those moments truly to say thanks to God, but that is another conversation. What makes this part of the text challenging is that the thanksgiving Paul writes of here is to be all inclusive, “IN EVERYTHING.” And Paul writes to a people both in his day and in the generations beyond that have been visited by suffering and death. Even tonight as I write I am reminded that earlier this evening I was thinking of a friend that passed away. How can I give thanks in everything? How is this possible?

Maybe the final clause of our memory verse, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” is meant to be applied to this entire section of scripture or maybe the clause only applies to the last stipulation recognizing that giving thanks in everything is only possible through the will of God. In other words through the power and the strength and the fortitude of God. 

Maybe I learn to rejoice always through prayer and my connection to Jesus. And maybe I learn to give thanks in everything by surrendering my will to Jesus and allowing His will to direct even my thoughts and heart.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As you memorize this week I pray you will also apply the text to your heart and when you’re struggling with joy or thanksgiving may God bring this scripture to mind that you may walk in His ways even in the most difficult of times!

 

Scripture Memorization 2 of 52: Proverbs 3: 5, 6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5, 6

The meter of the poetry literature of scripture makes this text and others like it more easily retained within our memory banks. In fact this scripture like last weeks (Psalm 119:105) is likely one that you put to memory years ago, maybe even when you were a child receiving a star on the memorization chart in Sabbath or Sunday school. I know that is true for me. If that is the case for you, as it is for me, then the real challenge this week will not be in memorizing  the text but rather in applying the message of the text to our lives. With meter memorization may be easy but it is in the application that we will truly gain value.

With that in mind may I suggest an activity this week as you memorize this text? An activity that may help you move this text from mere mental memory to intentional practice.

On your memorization card write down three areas where you would desire the Lord’s direction in your life this week.

So for me I would write down:

  1. Parenting
  2. Vision (for our church in 2017)
  3. Health

Have you written your three down? Now when you pull out this card throughout the week pause and ask yourself in regards to each of those three areas:

  1. Am I trusting God?
  2. Am I seeking God’s understanding or my own?
  3. When I see what God is calling me to do am I acknowledging, in other words doing what He is asking me to do (i.e I sense God is asking me to have more patience, am I being more patient) ?

At the end of the week after applying these three questions to several areas of your life I pray you are able to look back and say with confidence, “The Lord was indeed directing my paths!”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5, 6

Fifty-Two Scriptures

At the beginning of 2016 I announced to my church and here on my blog that I would be blogging through the Bible daily. I took this challenge on to help motivate our Spencerville Church family to study the Word of God consistently. It was an ambitious goal, but one I thought I could definitely achieve. Needless to say, I WAS WRONG! I believe I only made it through about 140 days give or take a few. Praise God though many still read through the Bible in a year even without the motivation of my daily blog.

Now in 2017 our church has once again set forth on an endeavor to read through God’s Holy Scriptures in one year. If you would like to follow the reading plan that Spencerville Church will be following in 2017 (a different plan than last year) you can do so by signing-up for our weekly update at the bottom of Spencerville’s website, and since we are already into 2017 here are the readings for this the first week of January:

  1. January 1, 2017: Gen 1:1–2:25, Matt 1:1–2:23, Eccles 1:1–5
  2. January 2, 2017: Gen 3:1–4:26, Matt 3:1–4:25, Eccles 1:6–11
  3. January 3, 2017: Gen 5:1–32, Matt 5:1–48, Eccles 1:12–18
  4. January 4, 2017: Gen 6:1–7:24, Matt 6:1–7:11, Eccles 2:1–11
  5. January 5, 2017: Gen 8:1–9:28, Matt 7:12–8:34, Eccles 2:12–17
  6. January 6, 2017: Gen 10:1–11:32, Matt 9:1–38, Eccles 2:18–26
  7. January 7, 2017: Gen 12:1–13:18, Matt 10:1–42, Eccles 3:1–8

This year I am not making a commitment to blog through every day of the Bible reading, I’ve learned my lesson. My wonderful wife, Christina suggested maybe I tackle a slightly less ambitious goal of just writing something once a week. I have taken her suggestion and in 2017 I will be writing once a week on one verse that I have chosen to memorize for that week.

And here is my challenge to you, along with your daily Bible reading would you be willing to join me in memorizing 52 scriptures. One scripture for each week of 2017. The 52 scriptures are not long, in fact I would guess that many of them are already at least partially, if not fully planted in your brains, from your childhood Sabbath or Sunday School days. If you have kids this might be a fun weekly activity for you to participate in together.

If you decide to join me on this endeavor I would encourage you to come-up with a system of memorization. My system is very simple and you can feel free to copy it, are you ready for it? 🙂

Right down the scripture on a 3 x 5 card and then carry that card with you and look at it several times a day.

Will you join me in this endeavor?

If you still aren’t sure or this just sounds like another task to add to your already busy agenda then let me share with you 5 points Rick Warren gave on the benefits of memorizing scripture that I wholeheartedly affirm.

Why should you memorize God’s Word?

  • It’s the number one tool for resisting temptation. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, His only defense against this attack was the Word of God. If Jesus knew a better way to fight temptation, believe me, He would have used it.
  • It helps you make wise decisions. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked God for guidance about something very specific, and He has brought a Scripture I’ve memorized back to mind, showing me what to do. The Bible says, “Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105 GNB). The more you know what God says, the more you are going to know how God thinks, because the will of God is found in the Word of God. The more you fill your mind with the Word of God, the more you will know the will of God.
  • It strengthens you when you’re under stress. We all get stressed from time to time. And the Bible says this, “Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles” (Psalm 119:49-50 NLT). If you will memorize Scripture, your stress level will decrease dramatically and your confidence level will increase dramatically.
  • It comforts you when you’re sad. The Bible is full of comfort. Jeremiah said, “Your words are my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16b GWT). I can’t tell you how many times I have been down and read Scripture, and it gave me great comfort.
  • It helps you witness to unbelievers. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV). If someone asks you what the Bible says about an issue or what they should do in a situation, what do you tell them? If you have Scripture memorized, it’ll help you be far more effective in sharing because you can share the truth of God’s Word.

Are you ready to join me?

What is this weeks memory verse?

We’ve actually already seen it in this post…

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” -Psalm 119:105 (KJV)

May this passage be your truth in 2017.

 

Worship Service From Spencerville December 24th, 2016

Blogging the Bible: 2nd Thessalonians

I want to focus on chapter 2 verses 9 & 10 from today’s reading in this post.

As a pastor there are people whom like to share with me all kinds of “conspiracy theories” especially as they are related to the “end times” or rather the role those “conspiracy theories” will play in bringing about the end of time. Often these “conspiracies” are secrets, things most people can’t see but they are happening.

In the scriptures there is absolutely no evidence…at least I have not been shown anything regarding the end of time being brought about by secret societies or subversive conspiracies in the government. It seems the signs will be evident to those whom have studied scripture and followed Jesus and it seems to me at least that the signs will in no way be “secret” or “conspiracy theories.”

And that seems to be obvious in 2nd Thessalonians 2:9 as well,

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,”

Satan isn’t going to hide his power at the end in a conspiracy or secret he is going to use superpower force to convince people to follow him and his ways. He is going to use signs and wonders, false signs and wonders, but they are going to seem to be as miracles in order to deceive. None of that sounds like something secret or some conspiracy theory. People are not going to believe in the supernatural and worship a false god because of a conspiracy theory…no it is going to be a supernatural display that is going to blow people’s minds and make them in awe…

And there is only one way to avoid that deception,

“and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thess. 2:10

Love the truth as it is in Jesus and receive Him as your Lord and Savior now. Don’t wait. Don’t risk being deceived and don’t spend your time chasing down theories…the Bible is clear the signs of the times are clear, the only way to really understand what is false is to fully know what is true. So spend your time studying the truth!

Next Reading: Leviticus 25-27

Blogging the Bible: John 1 & 2

Today we began the Gospel of John, to many their favorite Gospel and according to some polls like Biblegateway.com’s poll the favorite book in all the Bible with none of the synoptic Gospels in the top 10. John is not my favorite of the four Gospels (Luke is my current favorite, it used to be Mark, so one day it could be John :)), but it does possess some of my favorite passages in all of scripture like John 3:17…yes I know everyone else talks about John 3:16 also great, but I love John 3:17.

One of my favorite stories, a story that some scholars doubt that it should even be in the Bible or the veracity of it, I embrace it as a true part of the canon, John 8:2-11.

And of course John gives the most clear picture of the role of the Holy Spirit in all the Bible (John 14-16)

The Gospel of John is a great book and you’ll be blessed reading a portion of it every seven days for the next several weeks.

In all the Bible there is much we can spiritualize, which is not always a bad thing, it helps us add personal application, but at times we should address what is really being said because those perspectives can add great application as well, just such a topic appears in the first chapter of John,

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” -John 1:11

I have heard and I have applied and I do apply this to myself and really all humanity. Since we were all made by Him John 1:3 in a true since we are all Jesus’ “own people.” But that application is really a spiritualization of the text. The literal idea/intent John is expressing is that Jesus, came as a Jew, came to the Jews–first–His own people–His remnant, and they rejected Him. Now John is not talking about individual Jews, he is speaking of the corporate system of Judaism. Why do I even point this out? It is not to pick on the Jews, but to point out Jesus was not a Jew exclusively for Jews. His mission in the book of John is very clear, He is a global Savior. The very next two verses reveal this,

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” -John 1:12, 13

“To ALL,” who are the “ALL”? Those that were not born simply as Jews by blood/flesh/will of man, though this does not eliminate the ability of a individual born Jewish to be saved, but that salvation is no longer and should no longer be perceived as a matter of birth, but as a matter of heart!

Then we see again in John 1:29 a mission statement for Jesus and we see again it is global not localized to the Jewish nation,

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” -John 1:29

Jesus’ mission is for all humanity and His desire is that all humanity will receive Him as their Savior. We are all invited to be part of the remnant of His seed.

Tomorrow’s Reading: The book of 2nd Thessalonians