How I memorize Scripture

“And upon that law does he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

“Thy word have I hid in my heart….” (Psalm 119:11)

To meditate on the word of the Lord in the middle of the night requires one to know it.  So, someone–the writer of the first Psalm–has been memorizing Scripture.

Since people in biblical days had no books as we do, when they heard the Word read, they seized upon it eagerly and worked to remember as much as they could. No doubt that, more than anything else, accounts for the way Scripture is quoted throughout the Bible: never verbatim.  They were going by memory.

You and I have Bibles all over the house and rarely give a thought to memorizing it.

Perhaps we’re like Einstein.  According to the story, which may be apocryphal, when asked for his phone number, the great man went to the phone directory and looked it up.  His visitor was incredulous.  “You don’t even know your own phone number?”  Einstein said, “I refuse to clutter my mind with information that is easily accessible elsewhere.”

I suppose that’s why we don’t memorize the Word.  All we have to do is open our phones or laptops or pull down the volume from a shelf, and it’s all there.  But if this is our plan, it overlooks a major factor:  Christians need the Word inside us, not just alongside us.

I started memorizing Scripture as a child.  And kept it up as a pastor.

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My morning prayer

In the morning, O Lord, I will direct my song and my prayer unto You and will look up.  (Psalm 5:3)

O Lord. I feel so weak.  So helpless.  So unworthy.  So guilty.  So lazy and so unqualified.  I feel fleshly, not spiritual, and burdened, not free. 

If You were to mark iniquities, O Lord, surely I would be the first to fall.

Thank You for grace. Thank You for Thy infinite mercy.

Thank You that this is not about me.

It’s all about Thee.  Thy riches, Thy supply, Thy will, and Thy honor.

I have no words to say how liberating that is.

Thank You, Father.

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The effective pastor: Have many friends and a few confidants

Sixth in the series.

And He sent them out two by two.

I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied.  For they refreshed my spirit…. (I Corinthians 16:17-18).

Don’t try this alone.

If the Apostle Paul was the great role model for preachers–and he surely must be–then no minister of the gospel should ever go it alone.  Look at the friends he mentions in Romans 16 and I Corinthians 16.  The apostle was awash with friends.

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The Effective Pastor: Never skimp on the sermon

Fifth in a series on The Effective Pastor.

“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.”

“We preach Christ.”

They call you “Preacher” for a reason.

This is your primary calling.

You counsel people who are dealing with problems, but no one calls you Counselor.

You visit people in their homes and you minister to them during times of crisis, but they don’t refer to you as The Visitor.

You administrate and cast the vision for the church, but no one calls you the Administrator or the Vision-Caster.

They call you Preacher because nothing you do is as important or as critical to the work of the church as your preaching.

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The Effective Pastor: You are the chief servant. (So serve!)

Fourth in a series on The Effective Pastor

“He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he who governs as he who serves…. I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:24-30).

When Bill and Carolyn Self wrote a book about hospitality in the church, they said the pastor and his wife should never eat at church dinners.  Instead, they should circulate among the diners with the tea pitchers, serving people, getting to know everyone, greeting each person in the room.

That is so smart.  And infinitely wise.

Such a minister and spouse can do as much personal ministry in one hour of pouring tea as they will do in a week.

Serving people. What a novel concept!

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Message to seniors in the Lord’s work: Never retire!

“Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). 

“Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

Never stop doing what God put you on earth to do, whether a senior or a beginner.

And as for the seniors among us, this is certainly no time to slack off. It’s just getting good.

I’ll be speaking to the senior adults in a Mississippi church this weekend.  The person making this schedule definitely had seniors in mind. The meal–I’m not sure whether it’s lunch, dinner, or supper–is set for 4 pm, after which our worship service is scheduled for 5 o’clock.

Now, they didn’t say, but I guarantee someone figured we would all be home and in bed by 6:30!

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I am a senior adult. Finally.

“They will still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14).

For reasons unknown to me, I have never looked upon myself as a senior.

I’ve smiled when host pastors would welcome everyone to our senior adult emphasis, then say something as outlandish as “If you’re 50 and above, you’re a senior.”  Why, I have children who would qualify by that standard, but they’re barely out of their teens.

I’m smiling.  This is serious but with a wink.

The other day, while riding the train from Concourse D to Concourse B in the Atlanta airport, I entered the crowded car and spotted an empty seat toward the rear.  As I settled into it, I noticed the sign read “for handicapped and seniors.”  My spirit smiled at that.  “I’m a senior.”

It felt good, actually.

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The Effective Pastor will not say certain things.

Third in a series on The Effective Pastor.

Every parent, every teacher, and every pastor has things they believe strongly about, lines they will not cross.  Call them pet peeves or strong convictions, the leader will not go there.

As a pastor for over four decades and a minister for five-and-a-half, here are some statements you will never hear from me:

1. Will you lead us in a word of prayer?

The expression “a word of prayer” is a putdown.  It minimizes the value of prayer and the effectiveness of praying.  So, you will not hear me saying it.

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Why I participated in the work of the local association (even when pastoring the largest church in the city)

In our Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC churches in an area form themselves into an association. Usually, it’s the churches within one county, but often several counties (in Louisiana, counties are called “parishes”) go together to form an association.  Our New Orleans Baptist Association (called NOBA) comprises churches from the tip of the Mississippi River, 100 miles northward into New Orleans and beyond, which takes in the parishes of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, and some in St. John the Baptist.

Here’s what often happens, as it did recently.

I’ll be preaching a revival in a middle-sized town somewhere in the South.  Often, I’ll meet with the pastors’ in the city and speak to them, maybe give them copies of one of my books.  At some point, I’ll ask the host pastor, “Does the pastor of the First Baptist Church attend these meetings?”

You would be distressed to know the answer is frequently, “Never.  They don’t participate in anything the association does.”

Big, big mistake.

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