Thoughts on Scripture Memorization

I’m currently in the process of working on memorizing the first 5 chapters of the book of Romans.  I’ve probably read the  entirety of Romans 1 twenty or thirty times over the course of my life. I’ve read the whole chapter through in one sitting numerous times and I’ve also read, studied, exegeted and  interacted with different fragments of it hundreds of times. This is good because I can tell you what Romans 1 is all about and how it should be read and understood. This is bad because it makes memorizing it nearly impossible.

Before I settled on the ESV,  I have used and owned the NCV [extreme teen bible!] NASB, and more recently the NKJV. This is on top of all the times I have seen parts of Romans unpacked with an NIV. I used all those translations to interact with the text, and now I’m working on memorizing with the ESV, but those translations keep jumping to my mind.

Lets use Romans 1:1a as an example.  I originally memorized it in the NASB, which says “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle. “ The ESV has it as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle.” Now, it’s not too difficult to switch from one translation to the next, except I know that the word servant and bondservant are poor and misleading translations. The Greek word is DOULOS, and it only has one definition. Slave. And so when I quote it, I end up saying “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to [or is it unto?!]  the gospel of God…” That’s one of the easier ones.

More challenging is Romans 1:26, NASB,  which reads “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” The NASB has degrading passions, the NKJV has vile passions, the ESV has dishonorable passions, and the NIV 1984 has shameful lusts. I’ve heard and read them so many times that whenever I try to quote the ESV, it seems like I am incapable of it. I’ll interchange any of those other ones, so that it’s anybodies guess which one I insert, or else I’ll stick with “dishonorable”, but then I’ll stop midway and get distracted because I’m so used to saying it and hearing  it as “vile” that I lose focus because it doesn’t sound right. Then once I do that I lose my rhythm and flow and I have to start all over.

Not only that, but I find myself blurring various articles, determiners and participles, so that sometimes I will quote something and will get hung up on whether it should be “an” or “a”, and other such things. What this has resulted in, therefore, is an amalgamation of stitched and sewn together bible verses. More often than not it seems like I have my own translation. I can quote about half of Romans 1 from memory, but if you are following along in an ESV for any length of time, there’s definitely a few places there where you’ll be shaking your head and asking where on earth I got that particular string of phrases from. I don’t want to be the creator of the NESDV [New English Sanctified Dustin Version] but it seems that at least for certain chapters that I am overly familiar with it may be inevitable.

Which begs a few questions.

1. Do you ever have this problem- getting hung up because the verses you are trying to memorize in a new version sounds wrong due to overfamiliarity with a different translation? What do you do about it?

The Oxyrhynchus Hymn

The following is taken from a manuscript fragment known as Parchment Oxyrhyncus 15.1786 [or more commonly as POxy 1786]. It was found on a papyri fragment in an ancient garbage dump in Egypt in 1918  and dates from the late 3rd century. It is significant for two reasons:

  1. It is the latest in date of the extant compositions using ancient Greek music notation and thus marks the end of that era.
  2. It is the earliest extant example of Christian hymnody. There are a few other hymns that are arguably older, including “Hail, Gladdening Light” and some passages of the New Testament [though there's some disagreement there if they are hymns or merely poetic flights]

The Oxyrhynchus Hymn


“(Spoken) [Σε Πάτερ κόσμων, Πάτερ αἰώνων, μέλπωμεν] ὁμοῦ, πᾶσαι τε Θεοῦ λόγιμοι δο[ῦλο]ι. Ὅσα κ[όσμος ἔχει πρὸς ἐπουρανίων ἁγίων σελάων.]
(Sung) [Πρ]υτανήω σιγάτω, μηδ’ ἄστρα φαεσφόρα λ[αμπέ]
(Spoken) σθων, [ἀπ]ολει[όντων] ῥ[ιπαὶ πνοιῶν, πηγαὶ]
(Sung) ποταμῶν ῥοθίων πᾶσαι. Υμνούντων δ’ ἡμῶν [Π]ατέρα χ’ Υἱὸν χ’ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, πᾶσαι δυνάμεις ἐπιφωνούντων· Ἀμήν, Ἀμήν. Κράτος, αἶνος [ἀεὶ καὶ δόξα Θεοὶ δωτῆρι μόνῳ πάντων] ἀγαθῶν· Ἀμήν, Ἀμήν.”

. . . Let it be silent,

Let the luminous stars not shine,

let the winds and all the noisy rivers die down;

and as we hymn the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

let all the powers add ‘Amen, amen.’

Empire, praise always, and glory to God,

the sole giver of all good things.

Amen, amen.

Alliance Church Sermon Review. March 6. Communication. Pastor Phil.

Alliance Church Sermon Review. March 6. Communication. Pastor Phil.

Pastor Phil begins the sermon by telling  the story of going on a cruise to Hawaii. He uses different aspects of his trip as a metaphor  for relationships and conflict, such as going through storms, not letting the boat idle in 20 foot swells, that the journey won’t be easy, that you need to trust the captain at the helm, etc.

He spends some time dispensing with the belief that if we serve God that at some point “we’ll make it” and everything will be good.  The reality is that if there’s life, there’s going to be problems, and that the Lord would have us develop an ability to walk through the problems.  He then reads a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox called “Tis the set of the sail” which is about how in life will have problems, and that its up to each person to get through those problems.

We are not born with conflict resolution skills, and we need to have the proper perspective, so that we don’t get in trouble. A captain would never put his boat in peril on purpose, and yet if problems arise, there is no choice but to go through. Our society runs when that happens though. People run when they get hurt, which is detrimental. For this reason our attitude cannot be “oh no, a storm”, because if that’s the case we’re done. If you put your confidence in God the captain, you’ll be able to get through anything,  especially in regards to relationships and communication. Conflict resolution can usually best be seen in the context of a marriage. He then gives us several steps in conflict resolution.

1. Call on God and say “God, we need your help”

13 minutes into the sermon we get our first crack at scripture, which is Psalms 145:18 “ The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. “ We are then told in no uncertain terms that “You are the righteousness of God in Christ. Not cause you’re in church, but because of what Christ has done for you”

2. Realize the person you’re dealing with isn’t your enemy.

Ephesians 6:1-18. There is no posturing or favoritism in God. Talks about how we ought to put on the armor of God and have that battle-ready mindset. He says that the number one tactic  that the enemy wants us to do is fight each other. He points out the truth of the matter that  if people are fighting each other, nothing happens.  And yet our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and how do you rectify the two?

“The first thing you can do is say look, in your own mind first, my struggle is not against- we’ll I’ll use my wife as my example. My struggle is not against Linda. And there are times in our heat, and in our marriage, where I’ve had to look at her or she’s looked at me and said “I am not fighting with you. My fight is not with you”. And we’ve had to deliberately position ourselves in our thoughts, as to what it is that we’ve doing. And that was one of the first steps after calling out to God, I’ve looked at Linda and I said “You know what, I’m not fighting you. This isn’t between you and me, this is an assault of the enemy trying to get in and divide us, and make us go against each other.”

Phil says that knowing where the battle is key to your success. Its 85% of the battle. We must not fight against people, because our fight is against something else and someone else. Its not easy to do that, but we must. “You see that’s where we have to… the bible says cast down every vain imagination and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ. What’s the knowledge of Christ? My fight is not against you. That’s the knowledge of Christ. Anything else that comes against that I have to cast down. I have to throw it away, because that’s not an accurate thought.”

3. Show up and be fully present.

This is the hard part. If we’re in a struggle, the last thing  people tend to want to do is be together. They want their space or they want to walk out of the room or go into silent mode, Ignoring or letting someone landlord your life. We can’t do that. Conflict is not fun, but it’s necessary

4. Take ownership for actions that you’re responsible for and repent.

This is not saying something like “sorry you got hurt” or “sorry you were offended” but rather “I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I offended you.”

5. Agree with the other person

6. Use submissive language.

This involves your tone and the words that you speak. You don’t want to take the accusatory role of “you disrespect me!”, but rather should be something akin to “when this happens, I feel disrespected’.” Don’t listen to the enemy who gets you riled up and makes suggestive thought, listen to the person.

7. Repent and forgive and ask God for your help.

The balance of the sermon involves telling a story of a counselling session, how he pushed a young man’s buttons to help him get the truth out, and how we need to forgive. He says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. If we cry out and ask him for his help he will be there for us.

REFLECTIONS

This sermon had its strengths and weaknesses. I think it was at its strongest in the middle section, when he used large portions of scripture to back up his assertions of how we don’t fight against flesh and blood. That we’re not fighting people, but rather are fighting against something altogether different. I found it quite instructive, because oftentimes this can get hyper-spiritualized and relegated to the realm of spiritual warfare for prayer warriors and other such things. But this is a great, real world application that we are not fighting our spouses, employers, families, friends, or even enemies. Even stopping in the middle of an argument and saying “Love, I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m not fighting with you.” That makes sense, and it was rooted in a strong scriptural foundation. I can only hope that next time I’m embroiled in an argument with my wife or family, that I can recall these words and bring it to bear. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” Ephesians 6:12-13.

The rest of it though… I’m not sure it was as successful. Not because it wasn’t instructive, because it was, but rather because this sort of relational/non-theological topical  sermon is not my cup of tea. Well- that’s not really fair. It was theological, just…loosely, if that makes sense. It’s probably good advice, but that’s not what I personally come to church to hear, or what I’m looking for in a sermon. I think he spoke true things about God, and I like that the whole thing had a very loving and pastoral tone. But but with little  biblical support used to buttress each point, it seemed more like a lesson in spiritualized psychology than biblical theology. Its probably all completely true with the right application, but I was hoping for more and found myself wanting.

Two points I did want to comment on, was when he said the #1 tactic of the enemy is to have us fight each other. I’m not sure where it says this in the bible- that its the main tactic. I think its something that Satan utilities, sure, but I don’t see a basis for saying it is the number one of anything.

The second was that he said “but the Bible commands us to forgive [people]. And you know why the Bible commands us to forgive? Because if you don’t forgive you’re hooked to them for the rest of your life. And they don’t care that you’re hooked to them because they don’t care about you cause that’s why they hurt you in the first place” I would  like to know what scriptures he bases that on. Where does the bible tell us to forgive, because if not were hooked to people for the rest of our lives? That may be a truism and a legitimate inference, but I’m unfamiliar where we see that that’s why the bible commands us to do it, and so if anyone could provide that reference it would be much appreciated.

 

Having a hard time “connecting” at Church?

John Acuff over at the legendary “Stuff Christians Like” wrote this phenomenal  gut-checking post. I thought it was worth sharing.

Stuff Christians Like- Saying you’re having a hard time “connecting” in Church

“This church isn’t very friendly. Have you noticed that? We might need to change to a new church, because we’re having a really hard time connecting at this one. We’ve been coming here for six months, sitting in service, not talking to anyone, then immediately sprinting out of the building and going home. And no one has connected with us. Rude!

We haven’t met anyone in small group either. We didn’t sign up for one, but still, it would be nice if a small group kind of magically happened in our living room, on a night that was convenient for us and someone brought banana pudding. Not box banana pudding, but like the kind your grandmother used to make. Is that so much to ask for?

Probably, considering that this church doesn’t really seem to reach out to people who have spent six months attending Sunday morning service and not participating in any other activities.

No one even called us and asked why we weren’t at the fall festival. Sure, we’ve never given them our number, but google it. And then help us connect.

I thought this church was going to be different. I thought it wouldn’t be like the last three churches we attended. Remember those three? Always saying, “Please stay for lunch and learn about the church. Please let us know if you have any questions. Please come to our first time visitor’s luncheon.” So annoying.

What’s that you say? Where are we serving at the church? Serving is a great way to get connected and plug into a place that is ultimately a two way street of people loving and giving and growing together? Even something as simple as handing out bulletins can jump start new relationships with new people? Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work. Quit judging us.

And start connecting us.

We’re having a hard time connecting at this church.”