Keep Yourselves From Idols

O God, You are my God;

Early will I seek You;

My soul thirsts for You;

My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land

Where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

I started memorizing Psalm 63 yesterday.  I’ve loved this passage for many years, and it’s been on my list of passages to memorize for quite a while.  As I was meditating on the first verse while walking Buster early yesterday evening, I realized that there’s another way to look at that verse.  No doubt David was drawing upon his circumstances and compared His longing for God to being in the arid wilderness to which he had been forced to flee – and in that comparison, he paints a very clear picture of the desire of a man after God’s own heart.  And with that picture in the background, whenever I have pondered this passage, I have mostly thought: “Someday, I’ll long for God in that way.  Someday I’ll seek after Him like I would for a drop of water after being stranded in a desert for a few days.”  Because, if I’m honest, I don’t often feel that kind of urgency in my pursuit of God.

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More tips on scripture memory!

My About page has developed a thread on Scripture memory techniques which I’d like to move off of that page and into the main blog – but rather than manually moving the existing portion of the discussion from the About page, I’ll just point to it from here (and to here from there), and any future discussion can continue here.

Here’s a summary of the discussion so far: reader Viola, who discovered my blog because of a comment I wrote over on Neal Whitman’s blog, Literal-Minded, read my post on my new Scripture memory technique, and said ‘hello’ over on my About page. We got into a discussion about some of the things which were being discussed over in the thread on Neal’s blog (music therapy, autism, Oliver Sacks, etc.), as well as Scripture memory. Viola’s latest comment covers a number of useful tips that she compiled as a result of years of Bible Quiz competition when she was growing up. The rest of this post is a response to her latest comment. Continue reading

A matter of the heart

Driving home from visiting with family over Thanksgiving (yes, I started this post over a week ago and am just now getting around to finishing it), I was thinking about Ps. 119:1-2 and 36-37, which I memorized a couple of months ago:

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart! (NKJV)

36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way. (NKJV)

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More observations on Ps. 144:2

Ps 144:2 My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my defense, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, who subdues my people under me. (NKJV)

I woke up real early this morning and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I started reviewing memory verses while lying in bed, not sleeping. I suddenly realized that though I had previously noticed what looks to me like the use of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, which Danny talked about here, I hadn’t taken that observation far enough. It’s easy to see the parallelism (I hope I’m correct here! Danny?) in the 2nd and 3rd parts of this verse, but it hadn’t yet sunk in that the first part also follows this formula: my X and my Y, where Y redefines, or is another way to look at X. (And then there’s the fact that each of the 4 parts reinforces the others – they all define and contrast different aspects of God as protector or refuge. Calvin helps in understanding how to fit “who subdues my people under me” in with the rest of the verse.)

It’s more evident that God, as my “high tower”, is my defense, and that I can take refuge in (behind) God who is my shield – but God my lovingkindness = my fortress? Somehow, I kept separate the fact that God being my lovingkindness (or goodness, or mercy) is a fortress! How could I not have seen that redefinition? I’ve even written about these verses a couple of times before – here and here – but I didn’t notice this connection: I can dwell securely in God’s lovingkindness in the midst of life’s trials because He is my fortress. God being my lovingkindness defines Him as a fortress.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

(It’s very possible that thoughts percolating in my head from the Perfect Storm men’s conference I attended this past weekend helped me connect the dots here. I’ll probably write about the conference soon.)

Memory verses: killing sin

I memorized these verses a month or so ago – they are great ones to learn to help with killing sin:

1 Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle–
2 My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me.
3 Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Ps 144:1-4 (NKJV)

Killing sin is a war! A war against the “old man”, a pitched battle for the heart and mind. But God, my Rock (I don’t know if this is supposed to be a foreshadowing of Jesus, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to think so!) trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle! Of course, David was talking about real, physical warfare, but this is a beautiful verse to apply to spiritual warfare. He follows the first verse with the comfort of the second – and then a reminder of who we are compared to God. Nothing like some good perspective when thinking about how much He can help in our time of need!

Awesome verses.

God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies

As I was going over some memory verses this morning, I (finally) saw a connection which I hadn’t seen until this morning:

Ps. 103:4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, (NKJV)

Ps. 144:2 My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me. (NKJV)

God not only crowns me with lovingkindness (ESV: steadfast love)–not to mention tender mercies (ESV: compassion)–in 103:4, He is my lovingkindness in 144:2! And in order to bless me eternally, He sent Jesus, who wore a crown of thorns and died in my place. Words fail me.

Spurgeon, in his Treasury of David, wrote this about Ps. 103:4b:

Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies. Our Lord does nothing by halves, he will not stay his hand till he has gone to the uttermost with his people. Cleansing, healing, redemption, are not enough, he must needs make them kings and crown them, and the crown Continue reading

My new Scripture memory technique

I memorized a lot of verses when I was a kid – my parents encouraged me to do so, I memorized some for Sunday School, and eventually I had to do a lot of memorization when I went to Christian Jr/High School (in El Cajon, CA).

In college and (more so) after, though I have wanted to be disciplined in working on memory verses, more often than not, I haven’t been. Part of the problem has always been the verification process; usually, when I’ve wanted to work on verses, especially in the early stages of learning any given verse or passage, it hasn’t been convenient to get feedback from another person. (I’ve even tried learning verses while riding my bike, “laminating” a small sheet of paper with tape so that I didn’t destroy the ink, much less the paper, with my sweat!)

Several months ago I discovered a new way of working on memory verses which has really worked well for me. I’ve shared the technique with a few people and have had some positive feedback, so I thought I’d share it here:

  1. Cut and paste the passage you want to work on from your favorite online Bible (or Bible software tool) into μsoft Word (or whatever you want to use).
  2. Read it a few times, say it out loud a few times.
  3. Looking at the pasted-in verse or passage, start typing the verse (or first verse of the passage). Do this several times.
  4. Here’s the benefit of this technique: mark (highlight) the original verse (copied in from the source you trust), hit Ctrl-Insert, Ctrl-F, Shift-Insert, and then Enter (in other words, copy the original verse into the clipboard, then initiate a search, paste in from the clipboard, and run the search).

This allows you to verify each and every instance of the verse you typed, down to the punctuation. Why do I care about the punctuation? It helps me think about the structure of the verse or passage: its grammar, nuances, etc. I find this greatly helps me in the process of meditating on the passage I’m working on.

One thing to watch out for: in Word, at least, you can’t search across a paragraph marker (i.e., the result of hitting the Enter key). At least, I haven’t bothered to figure out how to do that. So when you mark the text you want to search on, make sure you only swipe to the last visible character in the verse – a letter or some sort of punctuation mark – and don’t include any blank space.  (This also means that you can’t hit Enter before the end of a verse.  You could, of course, type a passage as a paragraph, but that’s more difficult to type correctly early on, and more difficult to check at any time.)

You should also recite the verses out loud, of course, to aid in the process of committing them to memory – but I’ve found that the process above really helps early on in the process of memorization.

If you find this technique helpful, let me know!