A seamless life

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Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24

In my last post I mentioned The Verses Project. For the last 10 weeks the focus has been Psalm 139, and today I’ve been enjoying the final instalment which covers verses 23-24.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading and hearing a similar message from several different directions, and it concerns the importance of my heart condition and the need to actively search my heart and protect my heart. I’ve been thinking about what it means to live a life of integrity, ensuring that there is no room for disparity between my inner and outer life.

The more I think about it, the more I realise how often we try to maintain some kind of pretence in our lives. We work so hard to convey the right external appearance to the outside world; we are remarkably good at hiding the way we really feel about things; we worry about how others will perceive or accept us. Now, I’m not suggesting we should all be bearing our souls to just anyone and everyone, but I think we could find greater freedom and joy by ensuring our inner and outer lives are seamlessly connected.

After all, it’s very tiring trying to hide something or keep up an appearance. And the condition of our hearts will always manifest itself eventually in what we do and what we say.

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34

I’ve been following the current sermon series at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church on the theme of making good decisions (This or That: The Secret to Making Great Decisions). Two weeks ago Scott Scruggs was speaking about regret and the legacy of previous bad decisions. He spoke about the importance of having relationships in which we can be absolutely honest and ask each other difficult questions. Here’s a transcript of part of the sermon that impacted me particularly:

“I used to meet with a good friend of mine for breakfast every week. We literally went through a list of
really significant questions about our lives, really difficult questions, questions about money and sex and
relationships, questions that were difficult to answer honestly. The most important question was always
the last one. We would ask each other at the end of the conversation, “Did you lie about any of the
previous questions?”
I had to be honest. There were times where I had to say, “Yes, I did. I left out a detail. I avoided telling
you this part. I kind of made this thing sound a little better than it actually was.” Do you guys know what
I’m talking about? You see, we Christians love telling people, “Oh yeah, we’re broken. Oh yeah, we make
mistakes,” but what we really want to do is name about 10 to 20 percent of what is really going on just so
we sound normal but so we don’t have to really dig into where we feel deep fear, shame, or
embarrassment.
Sometimes it’s okay. If you go talking about your deepest, darkest secret at every dinner party, you’re not
going to have any friends, but on the other side of that, there is a really important truth here, and it’s this.
There should be nothing in your life that at least one person doesn’t know. There should be nothing in
your life that at least one person doesn’t know because God can’t redeem your past until you own up to it.”

In the same series, the sermon from John Ortberg last week featured a description of the 12 Steps programme at the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous. Steps 4-7 of the programme are as follows:

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

That’s the essence of Psalm 139:23-24.

I’m praying for God to help me live a life of integrity, with no things that are hidden or covered up. Search me, O God!

Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

Let your eyes look directly forwards, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25

 

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Hiding God’s word in our hearts

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In recent weeks I’ve been challenged to start memorising God’s word in a systematic fashion. During Lent I read a resource from Open Doors about life as a Christian in North Korea. It made me think how unbelievably blessed I am to have such easy access to the Bible, in multiple formats and translations, in my own language. I’m ashamed that I take it so much for granted.

It also made me think how I would fare in a place where it was illegal to own a Bible. One of the safest places to keep the Bible would be in the mind and heart!

The writer of Psalm 119 talks of how he has hidden God’s word in his heart, or in the ESV translation:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

If I will do the work of committing God’s word to memory, he can bring it to my mind just when I need it. I’ve discovered that the process of getting the words and phrases to sink into my mind makes me look at certain verses in a new light, or notice small details that I would have overlooked. Having verses from the Bible buzzing around my neural networks can work on my heart, even when I’m doing other things or falling asleep! I’ve been surprised by how it is eminently possible to memorise extended portions of the Bible – I’m currently committing the book of Philippians to memory using a technique described in the first resource below.

Here are a few resources that are making my memorisation challenge easier and more enjoyable:

1)  An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture, Dr. Andrew Davis (Kindle link here)

This short book sets out a technique for memorising longer sections of scripture. It’s not rocket science, but it’s helpful. There’s also a helpful and motivating introduction that explains the benefits of memorising the Bible.

2) The Verses Project

This website is the work of a collaboration of creative and gifted people who are committed to helping Christians memorise God’s word. Each week there is a new section to memorise, complete with a musical rendition of the verses and visual art that can be downloaded, printed or just appreciated online. Parts of the Bible are tackled in a systematic way, building week on week.

3) Scripture Typer

This is an free online resource and pay-for app (currently priced at £3.99, available on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire) which allows you to learn Bible verses and then test yourself on them by typing them out (first letters of each word only) or viewing flash cards. Being a rather competitive soul, I love this! You can choose from a selection of pre-loaded themed verses or choose other sections of the Bible.

So, do you already memorise Bible verses? Or do you feel prompted to start?

Are there other resources or techniques you’ve found helpful?