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Archive for October, 2009

MORE ON MEMORY PEGS

October 31, 2009 1 comment

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Okay, so I understand that my memory pegs post last week was met with a bit of skepticism. That’s understandable. It sounds bizarre for sure. Furthermore, this technique has its drawbacks, the most notable of which is that it sort of limits you to memorize only one list at a time since there is only one set of pegs (although there are ways around that which I won’t get into…at least in this post).

The big advantage to the memory pegs, though, is that it allows you to recall any item in the list instantly, without having to start at the beginning of the list every time. This is especially helpful if you are using the peg system for a list of say, 60 items, and don’t want to go through the first 57 items to remember what the 58th one is. However, it is rare that you will need to remember the exact position of an item in a list; usually simply remembering that the item is on the list is enough. Occasionally, however, you’ll be memorizing a list in which it would be very helpful to be able to recall an item at the end or in the middle of the list without being forced to recall all the items before it.

For example, I have often thought that the peg system would be particularly beneficial for someone who wants to remember the content of each chapter of a book in the Bible. If you employed this system to memorize the content for each chapter of the book of Matthew, then you would be able to instantly recall what chapter 14 is about without having to mentally scroll through the first 13 chapters. I’ll come back to this sometime in a future post. But enough of the memory pegs for now.

Tomorrow’s post will be about an alternate memory technique that I personally use all the time. All you’ll need for this technique is a bit of creativity and a willingness to give it a try.

[NOTE: To see the original post on memory pegs, click here.]

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A BETTER BEDTIME ROUTINE

October 30, 2009 2 comments

Overall I think Heather and I have done a decent job in establishing and maintaining bedtime rituals with Haven. The routine has evolved over the course of her first 1000+ nights, but now typically goes something like this: book one, book two, Bible story, talk, be silly, kiss, hug, secret, then lights out. Often there will be a prayer between Bible story and talk, but this most important part of bedtime ritual has admittedly and regrettably been the most inconsistent part of our pre-bed protocol.

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Wednesday night after church I was inspired to do better, as I had the privilege of hearing Walker Whittle reflect on how he and Mrs. Louise raised their children, Dwina and Rosemary. He prefaced his recollections by saying that he doesn’t set his family up as the example to follow; however, upon hearing his reflections I was convinced that I would do well to take some cues from them. As he was talking about praying with his daughters, I was thinking, “I can do better than I’m currently doing.”

So last night I told Haven that we were going to talk to God before she climbed into bed. As we were getting ready for our Bible story I asked her to start thinking about what she was going to talk to God about.

What are you going to thank God for? I asked.

She began to think out loud: Granna and Pops and Aunt Amanda…baby Pierce…

What are you going to tell God you’re sorry for? was my next prompt.

For getting too many squirts (of the liquid hand soap).

Are you going to be sweet to God and say nice things and tell Him you love Him?

Yes.

Then we read our story, said our prayers, and she climbed into bed. I’m glad we prayed together last night. I plan on praying with her at bedtime tonight, and I intend on doing a better job of making prayer a consistent part of a better bedtime routine.

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WHY GOD REJECTS RELIGIOUS RITUALS

October 29, 2009 3 comments

Our church is in the process of reading the book of Jeremiah as a part of our Old Testament Reading Plan this year. One of the most shocking statements that Jeremiah makes is that God can’t stand His people’s worship in the temple. All the ceremonies and sacrifices do nothing but frustrate and infuriate God. Why is this? It must be because of some flaw in their procedure, right? Their problem surely stems from having inadvertently overlooked some technicality, whether it’s that they’re offering the sacrifices at the wrong time or at the wrong place or in the wrong way, right?

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Wrong. God’s negative response to their worship really has nothing to do with their worship, per se. The problem is not that they’re doing stuff wrong while they’re at the temple; rather, it’s all that they’re doing wrong when they’re not at the temple that’s the problem. Stuff like injustice, oppression, deception, slander, adultery, murder, idolatry, and even human sacrifice. You name it, they’ve done it.

And, in spite of their blatant immorality, they think they have nothing to worry about. After all, they are God’s people! They have the ultimate ace in the hole–the temple of God. The temple–the very place where God dwells on earth–is the center of their city, just a few minutes’ walk from their homes. Of all the people on earth, they are the only ones who worship God the way he’s asked to be worshipped. No other group is observing Passover or Pentecost or offering sacrifices daily, but they are! They have nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. Terribly wrong. Just read Jeremiah’s temple sermon in chapter 7. In this sermon Jeremiah informs them that the temple is no safe haven for sinners. He tells them that religious rituals don’t cause God to accept disobedience; instead, disobedience causes God to reject religious rituals.

Perhaps Jeremiah’s audience isn’t the only one that could benefit from his challenging insights. Maybe it would do us modern church-goers good, the next time we’re filing out of pews and exiting the parking lot after an hour’s worth of religious expression, to recall Jeremiah’s sermon and remember that formality is only as good as morality.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are delivered!”–only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?

– Jeremiah 7:9-11

SMALL TOWN LIVING

October 28, 2009 4 comments

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how blessed I am to be living in Henderson. When Heather and I decided to move here a few years ago, the potential benefits of living in a small college town were a large part of our decision. While we knew that in leaving Memphis we’d be giving up some entertainment, dining, and shopping options, we were convinced we’d be gaining a lot more. That has proven true, and these days it seems like I’m continually thinking about all the reasons I love living in Henderson.

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Here are a few of the blessings of living where I live:

  1. NO TRAFFIC JAMS (unless you get behind a tractor) OR RUSH HOURS (except for Jack’s drive through from 8-10 am on Saturday mornings).
  2. PERSONAL, FRIENDLY SERVICE. Rarely am I treated like a stranger when I take my car to a mechanic, eat at a restaurant, enter a doctor’s office, or buy a vehicle from a local car dealership.
  3. CONVENIENCE. I can walk from my office or house to downtown Henderson and eat, get my hair cut (before my barber left town, that is), mail letters at the post office, renew my car registration at the court house, and take care of any other city business in less than an hour without driving all over creation and waiting in long lines.
  4. UNIVERSITY LIBRARY. If I need a few commentaries for a lesson I’m preaching, I simply drive (I was contemplating using an ambigous word like “run” but decided to just admit my laziness) across the street and get what I need at Freed-Hardeman’s library.
  5. QUALITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS. I don’t feel like I have to send my children to a private Christian school for them to receive a quality education from godly teachers.
  6. OPPORTUNITIES ON CAMPUS. With Freed-Hardeman University across the street, there are plenty of opportunities to watch sporting events, attend concerts and other performances, hear dignitaries and celebrities speak, and enjoy theatrical productions.
  7. BELOW AVERAGE COST OF LIVING. Land can be bought for a few thousand dollars an acre. Housing prices are very reasonable. Taxes aren’t too bad.

What’s the point of this post? Mainly I just wanted to acknowledge these blessings. It’s healthy to reflect on the blessings in our lives–even the benefits of living wherever we happen to live.

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PUFFED UP?

October 27, 2009 1 comment

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I wish you could have heard the message that Justin Gerhardt (my good friend and coworker) shared Sunday morning at Henderson on pride. It was exceptional. A large part of what made it exceptional was that he helped us to see the pride in our hearts by asking several pointed questions. Then he offered four practical suggestions for overcoming pride. I’ve included them below because I’m confident that they will challenge you (as they did me) to deal with the pride in your heart.

Here are the seven diagnostic questions:

  1. How difficult is it for you to submit to other people?
  2. How do you feel when someone tells you you’re wrong? Or attempts to give you input?
  3. How often do you compliment your peers?
  4. When’s the last time you listened intently and appreciatively to advice?
  5. How much more do you like giving advice than receiving it?
  6. How often do you ask for help?
  7. How easy is it for you to say, “I’m sorry; I was wrong” to the people closest to you?

If your answers to some of those questions uncovered your pride, then perhaps you should consider giving these suggestions a try:

  1. LISTEN to the people around you, humbling yourself enough to see wisdom in their advice, correction, and counsel.
  2. LOOK for strengths in the people around you; not weaknesses.
  3. PRAY for humility. It’ll be the scariest prayer you ever pray, but if you trust God you’ll be able to pray it.
  4. SPEND TIME with God. The closer you get to him, the smaller you’ll look.

[NOTE: You can listen to the sermon by going to the church’s website and clicking the media tab.]

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5 ESSENTIALS FOR A DYNAMIC SPIRITUAL LIFE

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Spirituality is not inherent in religiosity. Therefore, I must not assume that I possess a dynamic spiritual life on the superficial basis that I possess a rigorous religious life. Even for the most religious, there is no such thing as an automatic dynamic spiritual life.

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Since an automatic dynamic spiritual life isn’t ever going to happen on its own, an intentional dynamic spiritual life is the only option. Here are five essentials we must intentionally embrace if we want a dynamic spiritual life:

  1. CONFESSION. Look at the examples of spiritual transformation in the Bible and one thing will become clear: spiritual life gets better after confession, not before. I’ll never have a dynamic spiritual life until I stop pretending that I do and start admitting that I don’t.
  2. PERSONAL DISCIPLINES. Four in particular. Two pairs. The first pair is reading and reflection; that is, getting into God’s word and letting God’s word get into you–ingesting and digesting God’s word. The second pair is prayer and fasting; that is, emptying your heart to God and emptying your stomach for God.
  3. WORSHIP. True worship does three big things: (1) It captures the essence of our relationship with God–that it is not one between two equals. (2) Worship infuses us with the power to continue striving to develop spiritually. (3) Worship makes God happy, which is what spiritual people most want to do.
  4. OBEDIENCE. Christianity is about a lot more than filling our heads with information. It’s about living lives characterized by transformation. Jesus was never content with people knowing the truth. Jesus was relentless in his insistence that people practice the truth. If you know these things, he said, blessed are you…if you do them.
  5. RELATIONSHIPS. Our social lives powerfully impact our spiritual lives. Reflect on how you arrived where you are in your spiritual life. Start telling your story and you’ll undoubtedly see faces and name names of people who have been instrumental in starting you on and guiding you along your spiritual journey.

So, if your spiritual life could stand a bit (or more) of improvement (and whose couldn’t), how about being intentional to make these five essentials a part of your life? I think you’ll be pleased with the results. I know God will be.

HERE I STAND

October 25, 2009 4 comments

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Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scripture or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

-Martin Luther, when asked to renounce his beliefs at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1851

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