The Open Word

A Moment with Pastor Mike

Hiding the Word in our hearts!

“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

 

If you’re anything like me, memorizing scripture isn’t your strong suit. I often have a difficult time recalling what I had for dinner last night. How would I ever memorize scripture? Recently I decided to begin an intentional effort of making scripture text memorization a part of my daily life. I have to admit that it hasn’t been easy. I have however, found a few tips that have really helped me. I want to share them with you.

1. Begin with passages that you are already familiar with, but have not yet fully memorized. It’s important to begin in territory that you are already fairly “well-versed” in. I began with scriptures that were in the “salvation” topic and made a concentrated effort to memorize them one at a time. Starting in familiar territory makes it possible to have more “wins” under your belt when memorizing.

2.Write the text down on an index card, or some other device that you can regularly look at it. I have my memory verses on small cards that are on a metal ring. They look something like these. They fit into my pocket, and I can pull them out to review them when I’m waiting. Don’t forget to write down the scriptural reference of where the verse can be found in the Bible.

3. Tape the verse on the fridge, mirror, or the visor in your vehicle. Repetition is the key to memorizing Bible texts. Put one verse that you are working on in multiple areas until you have that verse memorized and locked in your mind for instant recall.

4. Take 5 minutes in the morning when you wake up, and in the evening before you go to bed to repeat the verse of scripture over and over again out loud to yourself. This exercise will also help you solidify the verse in your memory “bank.” Focus on one scripture every three days, rather than attempting to cram multiple verses into your brain at once.

5. Go back twice a week, and “review” what you have learned previously.  The card deck of verses that can be carried around with you will help with this endeavor. Pull out the deck and read out a random verse that you have already learned. Do that out loud if possible.

What would it be like if you could memorize 100 verses of scripture this year? How would remembering those verses help in your daily life? Within a 10 year period, this would mean that you could memorize 1000 verses of scripture. There is power in God’s word! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to recall it whenever you needed it most?

“You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word.” Psalm 119:114

I believe that anyone who truly desires to remember God’s word will have a special measure of God’s grace in learning to remember. If I can do it, anyone can!

Be anxious for NOTHING?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the
peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts
and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Phillipians 4:6-7

 

“Worrying about it won’t help you!” 

If I’ve said this phrase to myself once, I’ve said it a thousand times. 

Worry comes by me naturally. 

My dad was a guy who worried, a lot! I can still remember him worrying about things that never even came to pass. That didn’t stop him from being anxious about so many things in his world. As his son, I find myself carrying his propensities for anxiety and worry about so many things in this life. I may attempt to convince myself that it’s just “a concern” that I am struggling with, but it’s usually something stronger that plagues my consciousness.

Be anxious for nothing.

I’ve discovered though, that one of the only things that seems to help me during these challenging times is to spend some extended time in prayer. God already knows what’s going on in my life, but somehow it helps me to unload my worries at His feet. I share what’s on my heart without pretense; I use real language, and talk to Him like I am venting to a friend. He has big shoulders, and I believe that He hears me…even when I don’t know everything that’s worrying me.

How is it with you?

Do you struggle with anxious thoughts, worry, and wondering how everything is going to work out? You’re not alone! You may feel isolated sometimes, but what you go through is completely normal for those of us journeying here on planet earth. We’re all pretty much the same.  We all want to be loved, we all want to make a difference, and we all want to know that we (and our families) matter to someone. We matter to our Heavenly Father! 

I encourage you to call out to Him, today and every day.

Is forgiveness that important?

Have you ever been so wounded by someone that you wondered how you would ever forgive them? Check out what President Abraham Lincoln wrote about the topic of forgiveness:

“I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. For too long, every ounce of forgiveness I owned was locked away, hidden from view, waiting for me to bestow its precious presence upon some worthy person. Alas, I found most people to be singularly unworthy of my valuable forgiveness, and since they never asked for any, I kept it all for myself. Now, the forgiveness that I hoarded has sprouted inside my heart like a crippled seed yielding bitter fruit. No more. At this moment, my life has taken on new hope and assurance. Of all the world’s population, I am one of the few possessors of the secret to dissipating anger and resentment. I now understand that forgiveness has value only when it is given away. By the simple act of granting forgiveness, I release the demons of the past about which I can do nothing, and I create in myself a new heart, a new beginning. I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit.

“I will forgive even those who do not ask for forgiveness. Many are the times when I have seethed in anger at a word or deed thrown into my life by an unthinking or uncaring person. I have wasted valuable hours imagining revenge or confusion. Now I see the truth revealed about this psychological rock inside my shoe. The rage I nurture is often one-sided, for my offender seldom gives thought to his offense. I will now and forevermore silently offer my forgiveness even to those who do not see that they need it. By the act of forgiving, I am no longer consumed by unproductive thoughts. I give up my bitterness. I am content in my soul and effective again with my fellow man.

“I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive those who criticize me unjustly. Knowing that slavery in any form is wrong, I also know that the person who lives a life according to the opinion of others is a slave. I am not a slave. I have chosen my counsel.

“I know the difference between right and wrong. I know what is best for the future of my family, and neither misguided opinion nor unjust criticism will alter my course. Those who are critical of my goals and dreams simply do not understand the higher purpose to which I have been called. Therefore, their scorn does not affect my attitude or action. I forgive their lack of vision, and I forge ahead. I now know that criticism is part of the price paid for leaping past mediocrity.

“I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself. For many years, my greatest enemy has been myself. Every mistake, every miscalculation, every stumble I made has been replayed again and again in my mind. Every broken promise, every day wasted, every goal not reached has compounded the disgust I feel for the lack of achievement in my life.

“My dismay has developed a paralyzing grip. When I disappoint myself, I respond with inaction and become more disappointed. I realize today that it is impossible to fight an enemy living in my head. By forgiving myself, I erase the doubts, fears, and frustration that have kept my past in the present. From this day forward, my history will cease to control my destiny.

“I have forgiven myself.
“My life has just begun.

“I will forgive even those who do not ask for forgiveness.
“I will forgive those who criticize me unjustly.
“I will forgive myself.
“I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit.”

— Abraham Lincoln

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

The Stray

He’s just a stray that showed up at our place out of the blue, but somehow this little pooch has tugged at my heart-strings. Our neighbors have named him “Ernie,” and I just can’t help it; I’m kind of smitten by him.  He’s rambunctious, all puppy, and (as my dad used to say), full of vinegar. He can be quite obnoxious (at times), especially when he’s constantly jumping around trying to get your attention, but there’s something vulnerable and sweet about this little man.

Every day when I return home, he’s there waiting for me.  He looks at me with those longing brown eyes, and I inevitably run to the box of dog treats to get him a biscuit.  Imagine that…he’s the dog, and I’m the one playing “fetch.” I returned home at about 9 p.m. last evening and he made quite a show of excitement as I was pulling into the drive. I couldn’t help but smile. 

Just to clarify, we don’t need another dog at our place.  We already have black and yellow Labradors that greet me in the driveway. There’s just something about Ernie though!  He’s an orphan, and sometimes I just can’t help but see myself in his predicament.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”  Psalm 10:14

Before I met Christ, I was a spiritual “orphan” of sorts. I was always looking for a soft place to land where I would feel totally accepted and loved—not for how I behaved, but because I had inherent value in someone else’s eyes. It makes me wonder how many other spiritual “orphans” are out there…people who crave acceptance, simply because someone else finds value in their existence. 

The Rough Terrain God

“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”  John 17:15

Jesus prayed for you!

Take a moment and let that sink in.

Long before you were born Jesus prayed for you, and He prayed for me. He recognized that we would have challenges in this life; that we would struggle with the things that this world serves up to us on a fairly regular basis. The pain we feel, the heartache that we endure, the unfairness of it all serve to remind us that we’re living in a profoundly imperfect world.

Jesus had no illusions that life is perfect, or that it doesn’t take precarious turns that we didn’t expect. His prayer reflects this idea when He simply says that He’s not praying that we are taken out of the world. Life is messy, and Christ acknowledged it.

If I’m alive, I’m going to experience problems!

The journey is often rough, rocky, and more than we are able to bear on our own, but Jesus didn’t pray that we would be taken out of it. He prayed that we would be taken through it. There’s a huge difference between what so many teachers and preachers seem to be espousing, and what Jesus actually said. You and I aren’t promised proverbial sunshine and rose gardens.

We’re promised a divine companion Who will walk with us through the tough terrain of living on planet earth.

How "fine" are you, really?

“How are you?”
 
Have you ever had anyone ask you this simple, three-word question?  How do you generally answer them?

For years I responded to this question without really thinking about what I was saying.  My answers would often look like these:
“I’m great, and how are you?”
“I’m doing fine.”
“Good, and you?”

It seemed like no matter what I was going through, I would gloss over what was really happening and give the person the answer that I thought they would want to hear. I did that for a few reasons.

1.      I thought that people were just being polite, and I didn’t want to prolong a conversation with someone who was just attempting to pass the time of day with me.
2.      I wasn’t certain that I could trust them with an authentic answer that included some of the struggle that I was currently going through.
3.      I wasn’t sure that they even truly cared how I was doing.

Have you ever responded like I did to that question of “How are you?” even when it felt like your entire world was falling apart? If you have, welcome to the community of life-travelers who want to be able to say “I’m great” and actually mean it. Being authentic with another person is such a vulnerable thing.  How do we correctly convey to someone that we’re not doing well, without putting ourselves into a situation where we might further exacerbate an already challenging day?

“I’m blessed!”

Lately I’ve been using two words to answer this inevitable question that comes up several times a week in my life.  “I’m blessed!”  My life isn’t always going well, but I am always blessed by a Heavenly Father Who hasn’t forgotten about me.  If the individual that I am speaking to wants to dig a little further about my challenges, I can share some of the struggles that I am experiencing. 

“I’m blessed” is always an appropriate response though, because I am!