Why and What Now?

As of today (technically yesterday, as it is after midnight), I finished memorizing Philippians chapter 1. However, now is a good time to ask two very simple questions: 1. Why do this in the first place, and 2. What now? Both of these are incredibly important questions when we take on any spiritual discipline, especially one that can lead to pride or arrogance in the person who is practicing it.

So, why do this? Right now it is one of the early days of 2019. We have had Bibles that fit in our pockets for decades. With the advent of smartphones, we now have the ability to carry around every translation available to the human race in our pocket. This means that memorizing the Bible is not about simply access, especially not in one of the most technologically advanced societies to every exist. Is it possible that some of us, like Paul, may be thrown into prison in the next year for preaching the Gospel in America? Anything is possible. Is it likely? Not really. Again, access is not the point.

Yet, this is about access in some way. I cannot (I should not) be reading my Bible while driving 60 miles per hour on the highway with other two ton vehicles going the same speed, if not faster, with me. What I can do is give my heart access to the word wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Whether I am driving, vacuuming, or drifting off to sleep, the word of God, the most potent and powerful “force” in the Universe, is always there with me, should I choose to access the word. In the end, this is the why. It has to be about more than the ability to memorize, or even the celebration of saying you are done with Philippians 1, all of Philippians, or all of the New Testament.

Why is this important? We live in a society that has been designed to suck up and siphon off as much of our time as humanly possible. Studies show that our phones are set up to keep us on them for longer and longer periods of time. Now, of course, technology is not wrong. Technology can be used to further our relationship with Christ and one another if used wisely and with discernment. But that is not most of the time, nor is that for most people. What memorization does (for me at least) is help reclaim my mind and time.

And why do I want my mind and time reclaimed? Because of Joshua 1:8. God tells Joshua that the key to success and prosperity (at least in God’s eyes) was to not let the word depart from his mouth. Joshua, despite his busy schedule, was to spend his mental energy meditating on the word of God, so that he would carefully obey it. If this is God’s desire for Joshua, I’m going to assume that he would desire the same for me.

And the “what now”? I am done with Philippians 1. The hard part is over. It’s not to say that the other three chapters are easier somehow. Rather having made it this far in, it is now a huge motivation to continue. I have already decided that I am going to move on to Titus after Philippians, continuing the process of writing and Resolutions. I am excited to use my mind in this way to build, not only memorization, but, more importantly, obedience.

Again, for all those who read this blog, thanks for coming along for the ride!

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Philippians 1:27-Meditation

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel–Philippians 1:27

Our greatest desires, as godly and good as they may seem and actually be, do not obligate God to fulfill them. Paul knew that he may not get back to the Philippians he so deeply loved. He desired to do so, and his desire was driven by wanting the best thing for them, but he knew it might not take place. That meant that, while he was absent, he wanted to hear about the same thing he desired to see for himself up close. He wanted to see that they were living Gospel lives, but the next best thing would be to hear that they were living Gospel lives. Though kind of a goofy way to put it, you could say that he wanted to hear gossip of their godliness if he could not return to them.

Our goal should not be that we are on the lips of everyone. Nor should it be that we are necessarily obscure and unknown. This has been my personal issue in the past. I hate the “celebrity Christian culture” with a passion, to the point where it kept me from doing things like a blog. Not that I will become famous from doing one, but just the possibility of it turned my stomach. However, NOT being famous or being famous is a horrible reason to do something. Our desire should be that if we are mentioned by the many or by the few, they speak of our godliness, they speak of how we are living out the Gospel.

Yet, even in this, this is not a full understanding of Paul’s desire. This was a letter, not to an individual, but to a group. He wanted them, as a group of Christians in Philippi, to be spoken of in such a way that their unity in the Gospel was what people mentioned. The unity that the Philippians would show the outside world was of great concern to Paul as he sat in prison for the sake of the Gospel. And while unity is of the utmost importance, unity does not come without a cost, which Paul speaks more about in chapter two.

Judging by Paul’s desire, it would seem that living a life worthy of the Gospel is not possible apart from the “one anothers” of the faith. We can and must be obedient individuals of course. Christ will not do a bulk Judgment Day, where he will judge all of FBC Whatever as though they were one person. However, our obedience will be, at best, incomplete and starved if not faithfully lived out in community. The lone Christian does not exist in a healthy state.

Every now and then, I think it is fun to look at the verbs in a passage or a verse. In this one, the first thing that caught my eyes was the “striving side by side” at the very end. The word strive has the idea of pushing yourself, exerting yourself in something. Someone does not accidentally strive anymore than they accidentally become an expert at something. Striving is not simply an action. Sleeping is an action, and plenty of people accidentally fall asleep. Striving is something we put our minds to in order to accomplish it. This means that, as Christians, we are to strive together in local bodies for the faith of the Gospel. There is joy and love and blessings together. Yet, in some aspect, there is work and exertion and vigor wrapped up in this as well. No church, if Paul is right, has ever fallen into striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. They fought for it and won it through hard work.

This verse, for me, has no resolution attached to it. Paul mentions the “togetherness” of the Gospel so much in this first chapter that it would be fairly redundant to add one. But it does make me reflect at least on this idea: What is my part, my role, in striving for the Gospel in our local church?

On Memorizing Scripture

Now, of course, this is not the only topic that this blog is dedicated to, but it is a substantial part. This is where I post my meditations on Philippians, which I am currently memorizing, and also where I give advice on how to memorize scripture the most effective way possible. My desire is that people memorize scripture, but the how is not that big of a deal to me personally. Once you have it stored, you can do all sorts of important things with it–meditate on it, witness to other people, pray it back to God, etc.

It’s kind of like needing a specific tool for a project: It does not matter if you borrow it from a friend, buy it yourself with a credit card, cash, birthday money, whatever. What is important is that you have the necessary tool. With that being said, here a couple of things that I do as I memorize. Note, this will be geared more towards memorizing whole books of scripture, chapters, or large chunks. I do (and have) memorized individual verses, I just choose not to most of the time.

  1. Daily Review: I am a personally fan of reading through whatever I am memorizing at least once a day. That does not mean that I am reading through Philippians every single day. Rather, I am currently reading through Philippians 1 in my morning devotional time. This allows me a review, but it also allows me the ability to have an idea of what is coming next, so that when I do memorize later verses, they are easier to do. For example, I am through verse 26 right now, but I also have a rough idea of the flow of verses 27-31.
  2. Writing: As I said in my last post, I do not know how to truly processes as I should without the medium of writing. If you ask me about a verse that I just memorized, I can give you the idea behind it, maybe even how I would preach it if I had to at that moment. As soon as pen hits the page, though, and I start actually writing out my meditations, this is where my mind engages my heart. Without this process it does not sink in nearly as much for me as it may for other people. This also helps in memorization because I am camping out with the verse. Instead of just a brief run through of five to ten words, I am touching upon each one, letting the light shine on each thought and idea within.
  3. I cheat!: Now, I do not really cheat. When I first started memorizing scripture, I would write out my time in memorization. I would write a verse 10 times while looking at it. Then I would try to write it down ten times without looking at it. For the rest of the day, then, I would carry that new verse (or verses) around with me on note cards. When I did get a cell phone, I would create a note of some sort and open it throughout the day. These days I am a little more sophisticated. I now use an app called The Bible Memory App. I can upload different passages, or whole chapters at a time. For me this stands as proof (as do other things) that nothing is all bad. Technology can be a massive time waster. However, it has also aided me in more productive times of memorization. The program works really well because it sets up a program to memorize the verses. Once you have “mastered” a verse, it will have you review it daily, then once every three days, then a week, all the way through to once a month. You can also override the system and set it to whatever you like.
  4. Personal “Do nots”: I personally do not fall into the idea of having to memorize the “address” for Bible verses. I know that some people do, but for me it has never been a necessity. One “do not” that I do not think is necessarily personal though is this one: Do not just memorize then walk away from your Bible or “quiet time”. If you are going to memorize the word, and I think everyone should take time to do so, once you have memorized a verse, sit there and think through it. Pray it back to God, write about it, do whatever you need to do. This helps you to understand that, while academic studies may have a component of memorization to them, memorization of scripture is infinitely more than just having information stored up to release on demand. Memorization is a gateway into a more intimate knowledge of scripture, thus a more vibrant relationship with Christ.

If anyone has any tips or tricks of their own concerning the memorizing of scripture, please feel free to add them. I have set up a page on Facebook called “Think on This”, for anyone who got here that is not connected with that group. As always, feel free to add comments here as well.

Why I Write

The Superbowl is currently going on, and I honestly have to say that I am not really impressed. However, here I am, sitting in my dining room, as someone who will never sit in the stadium watching the Superbowl, let alone play in one. I am staying in my wheelhouse, which is writing.

I have always found a particular freedom in the medium of writing. Sports has never been a thing to me, and I am not a huge fan of music, which has come up more than a few times in conversations. What I have is writing. I write in order to think. I write to process my own personal feelings. I write because I do not even know what I fully think about something until I actual write it down and process. I can preach without notes, but I have to be able to write out my entire manuscript. You get the idea.

But my writing, I would think, has to do with more than myself. My writing, if I may be so bold, is my contribution to the Kingdom of God in my day. I say this is a bold statement, but in a way it should be a normal one for any Christian to make. God has given each and everyone of us gifts for the formation of the Kingdom of God. That is what this blog is about in the long run. This is why I have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and any other writing platform I am involved in.

At the tail end of last year (within the last week of December), I had to repent before God for something. Truth is that, even with my love of writing, I have not focused on my writing the way that I should. I have let other things, frivolous things, get in the way of honing my skills. So, with the help of my gracious wife, my goal for the next year is to do two things: 1. Leave the house once a week and go write for a two hour stretch, and 2. Write for at least 30 minutes a day. If we have been given a gift, we have been called to strengthen that gift for Christ and Kingdom.

One of the reasons I am wanting to do this is because I am going to be writing a book on Scripture Memorization throughout this year. I self-published one eons ago (or maybe 12 or so), which had tons of editing issues in it. My goal is to redo this specific book again, having matured, not only in theology, but also in the art of writing itself. Throughout this time I will also continue to memorize Philippians (I am through verse 26) and write my blog as the Lord sees fit. I believe that when I am done memorizing Philippians, I may put together all of the Resolutions from it along with my meditations and make it something downloadable.

However, I am not going to mince words: Doing all of this takes time and energy. I want to be able to spend time on it as I am able to do so, but I also am seeking support in this work. I have created a Patreon site that you can get to here: https://www.patreon.com/chrisjpearson. For those of you who do not know, Patreon is a platform that allows artists, musicians, writers, and others to be supported through their work, allowing them to create more in the mediums that they love. Truth is that I am going to write regardless. Woe to me if I do not write! I must, I have no choice in the matter. How much I am able to do and the things I am able to produce is what will shift and change. So, pray, and seek the Lord in whether or not you would be able and willing to help fund my work in this way. Above all else, as I try to accomplish these things, please be praying for me to honor Christ as I do them.

Philippians Resolutions: Philippians 1:25

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith. — Philippians 1:25

Resolved to remember my never ending need for fellow believers in the Body of Christ. Resolved to keep a list of brothers and sisters who are essential for my progress and joy in the faith and I in theirs. 

Part of this resolution will be to keep a list of names, not of famous Christians, but local ones, who I do life with, and read through them once a day. These will be believers that I remain and continue with for their progress and joy in the faith. But not just for them, of course, but for me as well. I will continue on with these brothers and sisters for my own progress and joy in the faith, knowing that, without them, my own progress will be stunted and my own joy will be lessened.

Is it wrong to say that I need these other believers? On one hand, yes. I do not need these specific brothers and sisters. It is Christ that I need, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit through His word. Should my family and I move away to another state, another country, I will not be at a deficit because I am not with this particular group. I will miss them. I will always love them. But I will eventually find a new fellowship wherever we would end up going.

Yet, on the other hand, no, it would not be wrong to say I need them. I greatly need these brothers and sisters! I am in need of only Christ, but it is through these fellow believers that Christ meets many spiritual needs that I have. Paul, I do not doubt, would be the first one to say that he was not a necessity, but Christ was meeting that necessity through the Apostle for the Philippians. He existed in their lives as an instrument and tool from God for their progress and joy in the faith. And this is how we must see ourselves in the lives of one another. We are, for one another, an important factor, a key ingredient to growth in faith and continued joy.

And, when this takes place on a church wide scale, can we even imagine what the outcome would be? Do we have a mental paradigm for the power this would unleash? In a machine one gear does not move alone. As one moves, all move, and as all move, one moves. A local body operating as a group who sees themselves as an essential component for progress and joy of one another will leap at the opportunity for fellowship, kneel excitedly by one another in prayer, and walk joyfully beside others in need. Conflict will be minimized though never absent, and fruitfulness will be seen by all, even those outside of Christ.

James 1:22–Hearers and Doers

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.–James 1:22

This is where the argument for Resolutions begins. It begins where we decide to not simply hear the word, but to actually, practically, and changingly put it into practice. Hearing the word of God could not be easier. In fact, many Christians almost make a sport or a pass time of it. There are numerous conferences, Bible studies throughout the week, Small Groups, Disciple Groups, and, of course, Sunday morning church service. Many well-meaning Christians–men and women who truly love the Lord–are jumping from spiritual meal to spiritual meal without digesting the first one. If we treat our physical bodies that way, we would quickly be bloated and sore. Eating a meal takes virtually no time at all compared to digesting the same.

Obedience must be a union of a desire to obey, and a plan to obey. Solomon, when asked by God what he wanted, replied that he desperately needed wisdom, as Israel was a great deal of people to rule. And they were not to be ruled haphazardly. They were God’s people. We, in our current place, find ourselves like Solomon. The Christian who makes it a priority to attend fellowship at a healthy local church, has heard around 52 unique messages a year from a pulpit. If they faithfully attend Bible study or Sunday School, that becomes 104 times a year, give or take a vacation, sickness, or other interruption of routine. If the same person reads the word even three times a week, that becomes 156 more times of taking in the word of God. That is now 260 encounters with the word of God in any given year, not to mention decades upon decades.

So, then, like Solomon, we must admit that this is a lot to “rule over” just as Israel was. This is a lot to put to use. Solomon asked for wisdom, and so should we. Can we say that we have truly applied the word taken into our hearts over the past month? How are we doing at obeying it from the last week? What plans are in place to obey this morning from our Quiet Times? The Bible is not an ancient book of spells to be read and, somehow, the “power” just flows into us. It must be applied if it will have any effect on us at all. In short, we must take action, we must work to obey the word delivered to us. We must be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves.

Philippians Resolutions: Philippians 1:23

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. –Philippians 1:23

Resolved to remind myself three times a day that nothing here is better than being with Christ. Resolved to remember that every blessing and joy I experience here is a shadow of the blessing and joy of Christ. 

What is being with Christ far better than? Everything! When we depart from this life, we are not simply leaving pain and loss and sorrow behind. Who does not want to leave those things? The atheist wants to leave those things. The man or woman who has no desire for the things of God are perfectly happy to have God’s blessings in their lives: health, wealth, good family and friends. And it is not wrong to have or want those things. Nor is it wrong to even ask those things of God.

Every human being will lay their blessings down when it comes time to depart. However, the difference for the Christian is that, we empty our hands of temporal blessings here, so that God may fill them with eternal blessings in the presence of Christ Jesus. Nothing we have here, desire here, have lost or gained here is comparable to the least bit there. Does that mean we hurry the point of our death? No, that is unwise, but it does mean that we can hold this life a little looser than others do.

I love my wife and children, but to be with Christ would be far better for my own soul. It would be better because I will have shaken off the pain of this temporary home and find myself in a permanent one. Yet, just as Paul ran into in the next couple of verses, Christ still has work for me to do. I get to still bear fruit as a husband and father, and those things in themselves are blessings. I get to still disciple and share the gospel, and those are great blessings as well. But just as a worker lays everything down when the end of the work day comes, so everyone found in Christ will lay their works down and go home.

Along with this, being with Christ is far better than working for Christ. A spouse would rather (hopefully) spend time with their family than working for their family. The work is necessary of course, but the heart’s desire is to be home with their family. So everyone who works for Christ and Kingdom should love the work they do in the name of a Christ and for the Kingdom of Christ. But when the call comes to return home, to be rewarded for the works done, we should happily and gladly go. The work that we do for the One we love should never steal our affection for the One that we love.