Monday, June 25, 2012

On Grace & Coming Home

Oh Jesus, your grace astounds me.

Last night I got to preach my testimony at a revival. Usually I take hours to prepare, still doubting my words even as I approach the podium. Last night, I truly encountered the power of the holy spirit working in my heart and mind. I had an idea of what to say, what God had laid upon my heart. The greatest gift was seeing the fruit of a semester of discipline to hide God's Word in my heart.

I shared of growing up in an unbelieving home with alcoholic parents. I spoke of an emptiness and hopelessness which drove me to an attempt to end my life. I shared of God's protection over my body that night. I spoke of life and death, blessing and curse as described in Duet 30:20. I testified to the sweetness of choosing life. And then scripture just began pouring off of my lips, as though it were a new language I had been learning. It was sweet. A precious reminder of the truth that it is not by my words but only His which draw men to Himself.

I pray these people's faith may rest in Christ alone, not in me. The revival was broadcast via speaker systems over a 4 mile radius surrounding the compound, into countless villages. We were told over 1,000 sets of ears were listening.

This year God has blessed me beyond measure to be discipled by my sweet friend Heather. After being roommates for a year, marriage stole her away from life in our little apartment at the start of last summer. This past winter, God began to burden her heart to truly disciple me—just at the same time He was teaching me a hatred for the sin I continuously have battled, one which birthed in me a desire to know Him more. When Heather presented this idea of "discipleship" to me, I was a bit taken aback. I thought this was what she had been doing for the past year and a half in a sense. She explained me to that with her time in Fayetteville coming to an end as she and her husband make a move to Springfield in July, she didn't want to leave and not see my life look different—radically so—by her move date. 

Starting in February, she took me back to the basics—this hurt my pride a bit, but radically impacted my quiet time and my knowledge of the Word. We studied how to actually study the word. A few different methods. As I began applying these to my life and using them during my quiet times, I realized I could actually understand scripture in a way I thought I could only do through listening to podcasts prior. She also encouraged me to hide His word in my heart. I began memorizing a verse a week—often missing a week or two even. 

When in India, I saw the first fruits of this labor of scripture memorization in a tangible way. God's word continually poured from my tongue—in prayer, in teaching, in sharing testimony to His faithfulness. These were not my words, but His. Words I didn't even know I knew until I said them. He spoke so boldly through my lips—what grace. At that point I realized I had to grow in this discipline—I had to continue hiding away His Word because it was so much more powerful then any words I could think up during these times. 

Without knowing any of this, my first week back when Heather and I met for lunch she said she wanted to challenge me to something. At this point I just don't much care for those words coming off of her lips because it always requires some sort of sacrifice and pain. Seriously. 

"I think you should memorize a book of the Bible," she said completely nonchalantly. 

Say WHAT?!? 

A book of the Bible—memorize. Heck no. There's no way I could do that—its enough to try to get a verse or two a week. Chapters are meant to be read—not recited. I thought to myself. She is crazier then I gave her credit. Of course by the end of our little lunch, I was {hesitantly} all in. She does that to me—every time. Makes the crazy sound completely attainable—even normal. Why not? 

So part of writing this post is actually work at this memorization process. Part of it is to challenge you as I have been challenged. Have you seen fruit of hiding the Word in your heart as well? 
A bit behind the "whys" of scripture memory:

These verses sanctify us by causing us to hate sin and to determine to fight it vigorously. Through memorization, we are able to stand in the moment of temptation through the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) Therefore did the Psalmist say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9,11)

In addition, the word sanctifies us by transforming our entire worldview from secular to heavenly: “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) The “renewing of your minds” happens by the flow of Scripture through them like a pure river. As this river flows through your mind constantly, you will see things more and more the way God does, if you are a child of God... for “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) This gives us more and more wisdom to deal with this world.

The Scripture memorizer will be used mightily by God to teach and encourage other Christians, with an apt word from the perfect Word of God: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...” (Colossians 3:16) How better can you obey Colossians 3:16 than by Scripture memorization? The “word of Christ” will indeed “dwell in you richly” as you memorize it, and then work it over in your mind through meditation. Then you will most certainly be useful to God to “teach and admonish” another brother or sister. Scripture builds the Church to its final doctrinal and practical maturity (Ephesians 4:13-16), and God uses those who memorize it to do this building in a powerful and eternally fruitful way.

Finally, the memorization of Scripture enables us to bless lost people with a powerful and vivid presentation of the gospel of salvation. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Those who memorize Scripture obey Peter’s command in this regard: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) The “preparation” Peter had in mind is best done by memorizing Scripture. Remember that it is Scripture which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) The evangelist who stores up Scripture on the life of Christ, for example, can vividly retell the miracle stories to a generation which is biblically illiterate, which knows very little about the life of Christ. That person can also give the theology of salvation from Paul’s epistles, if they have memorized those books. In short, Scripture memorization makes one a much more powerful and effective evangelist.

Memorizing Books Is Better Than Memorizing Individual Verses
Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Paul said “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness...” (2 Timothy 3:16) Memorizing individual verses tends to miss intervening verses that the individual does not feel are as significant. Furthermore, most of Scripture is written to make a case... there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorized. Furthermore, there is also a greater likelihood of taking verses out of context by focusing on individual verses.
I cannot believe this is my last night in India. I feel like I just got here. I am so scared of going back—going back to the same old selfish, comfortable, busy, distracted, American I am. I'm fearful of many decisions that need to be made. I'm scared of forgetting the truth you've etched into my heart during these weeks. I'm scared no one will understand. I'm scared I'll shut down and return to my old ways of coping. I fear for my sisters in Christ who are coming home with me as well. But GRACE, this I know. Whether on Indian or American soil, I will soak in your Grace through the unknowns and heartaches of this life. This I know. 

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