Thursday, 19 April 2012

Re-examining Psalm 23's "green pastures" and "still waters"

I've been listening to and learning some amazing things from Ray Vander Laan and his Follow the Rabbi lectures (though Focus on the Family).

I remembered learning about the actual meaning of "green pastures" from the famous Psalm 23, and since that's the psalm we're memorizing now at my scripture memory blog, His Word in My Heart, I was reminded of it again and needed to share it with you.  In fact, I googled it and found this great video that explains it - and the video imagery makes the point even more than words ever could.

The green meadows were actually rocky hills, and with the very small amount of moisture available in the area, small tufts of grass grow by these small rocks, and the Shepherd leads His sheep to those tufts of grass, and every day the sheep eat them, and there is just enough for what they need for that day.

In other words - God gives us what we need for the day, or even for the moment, when we need it.  This verse is not promising us a happy-go-lucky life with no problems along the way.  No, it's promising us that God will provide what we need when we need it, and not before - if we follow Him!  The grass is sparse and we can't find it on our own.   But we can trust Him, because He was faithful yesterday and the day before that and He will continue to be faithful today and every day.

Anyway, here's the video.....

And the still waters?

In the deserts, wadis can quickly kill. In fact, in that part of the world, more people die in the desert from floods than from starvation or dehydration. When it rains in the hills, water rushes through the wadis, creating flash floods that can’t be seen or heard until it’s too late to escape.
Sheep without a shepherd go to the wadis to find fresh water and have no hope of escaping the floods. It’s the shepherd’s job to find “still water,” that is, water that doesn’t risk death.
Again, it's not referring to a beautiful placid river running through lush meadows that you lounge beside.  It's about God leading you to water that refreshes and does not lead to death.

For more about the Shepherd - click here.


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Book Review: By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer

About the Book: Amelia Gladstone's hopes are tied up in the Titanic--hopes for a reunion with her sister and an introduction to an admirer. But when she offers a spare ticket to a down-and-out young man, her fate is about to change.

Quentin Walpole is stunned when a sweet lady secures his passage to America--and even more surprised to find his wealthy father and older brother on board the ship. Suddenly Amelia finds herself caught between the attentions of two men, but who should she entrust her heart to? As the fateful night arrives, will Amelia lose everything to the icy waters?

My Thoughts: I've always been fascinated by the Titanic, I loved the blockbuster movie (and am going to see it again now that's out for the 100 yr anniversary), and we love cruising - so when I  heard that Tricia Goyer was writing a work of fiction that takes place on the Titanic - I jumped on board immediately! :)

I was not disappointed.

Goyer does an excellent job describing the ship and what it was like, without it feeling like boring commentary, but being detailed enough that you can almost see yourself on board this ill-fated vessel. And yet, despite the opulence and wonder of the ship, it was simply the background to a fantastic story.  I found myself reading faster and faster, knowing (obviously) about the ships impending demise, and anxiously wanting to find out what happens to the characters in the book.

A variation of the prodigal son parable, the storyline deals with family estrangements, misplaced guilt, loyalty, discernment and wise life choices, forgiveness and second chances, and, of course, love.

Two thumbs up from me!

Thank you to Stephanie and Amy from Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Scripture Memory - easier than you think

Memorizing the Bible just might be the most "misunderstood" way of growing closer to God through His Word.

I always thought memorizing took too much time and was too difficult.  Until I read some articles by Janet Hope on Revive our Hearts, and then her book, "His Word in my Heart".  I highly encourage you to read the articles, you will be inspired!

Anyway, what I loved most was the fact that she acknowledged that we simply just don't have any more time in our days.  (That could actually be an arguable point - we have time for the things we want to make time for - the amount of time we spend online or watching TV are great examples of the fact that we DO have time.  But I digress).  In depth Bible study, and even short devotions, do take time, and sometimes it seems too overwhelming and so we don't even bother doing anything.

Janet's point is that we spend a lot of time during our day on mindless tasks.  Tasks that keep our hands busy but our minds otherwise unoccupied.  Perfect opportunities to redeem the time!

What better way to do so than by memorizing scripture?

while in the shower
while blow drying our hair
while brushing our teeth
while making breakfast or school lunches
while doing dishes
while waiting at the dr office
while driving or running errands
while cleaning or folding laundry
the options are almost endless!

It doesn't take more time, it redeems the time otherwise spent on mindless tasks.  What a fabulous idea!  And totally practical, feasible, realistic and doable.

Anyone can do it.  You don't have to have a good memory (I don't!).  Do you know the words to your national anthem?  Why?  Because you repeated it over and over and over again until it was in your long term memory.  After learning a passage of scripture, you will review once a week, so it becomes ingrained in your long term memory - and you will never lose it.

And the benefits of scripture memory are incredible!

Charles Swindoll: I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. That's right. No other single discipline is more useful and rewarding than this. No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. 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.

LeRoy Eims on the importance of Scripture memory:
"I think two of the master strokes of the devil have been to convince people he doesn't exist, and that Scripture memory is only for children. He remembers the humility of defeat when Jesus Christ, who was tempted in all points like as we are, met him with the Word of God." (What Every Christian Should Know About Growing; p. 26-27)

Still need more motivation?  See what John Piper and Tim Challies have to say about the benefits of scripture memory.

I was convinced.

I definitely wanted to do this but wanted some accountability, so I created a facebook group and a blog dedicated to scripture memory.  I started this journey in the middle of January and so far, using Janet's "method", I've memorized Psalm 1 and the entire book of Titus. (That sounds a bit more impressive than it actually is - it's only 3 chapters, or 46 verses).  Now we're going to start memorizing a few psalms - smaller projects that are a great starting point for anyone wanting to try it out.

Today we start with (the first verse of) Psalm 121, a very familiar and beautiful psalm.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

If you want to join me, check out my blog, His Word in My Heart (especially this post that explains the "method"), and type your email address in to receive all the blog posts with the day's verse.

Here are the links to the articles I read (you can listen to them or read them, whichever you prefer)
How Busy People can Memorize Scripture
You can Memorize More than You Think
You Need Hunger

Some quotes from Janet's book.....

No, the Bible does not command us to memorize Scripture. But here are some of the commands and exhortations we do find:
Know God’s Word.
Remember His Word.
Do not forget His commandment.
Have His Word ready on our lips.
Meditate on His law day and night.
Dwell on Christ’s words.
Store up His words.
Keep God’s Word within our hearts.

For me, memorizing Scripture is just a vehicle for accomplishing those objectives.

Janet encourages memorizing passages, chapters or even entire books of the Bible, instead of just "random" verses.  One benefit is less references to remember!!  Another is how important it is to memorize verses in the context in which they were written.  Here's another point Janet had about this....

The focus was definitely on me. I’m not saying we shouldn’t memorize these verses, but if we will memorize them in their context, we will keep the focus on God and greatly enhance our learning in the process. God put His thoughts and His words in a particular order within each book, and this is how God intended for us to learn them.

One last encouragement from the book.....

When we get into God’s Word, it becomes our pipeline to God’s way of thinking and doing things. As I stay in God’s Word, abiding in God’s Word, drinking in God’s Word, letting it go deep, it will do its work in me, the work it was sent to do. It will accomplish God’s desire and achieve His purpose, which is to cause growth in me by bringing my thoughts and my ways into alignment with His. Memorizing Scripture is never unproductive time.

God bless you as you take this journey with me!


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