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At NCC, we’re challenging each other to memorize the Beatitudes. Scripture memorization can be tough, especially since we’re typically raised in an educational system that tests us in order to advance us. Once we advance, there’s usually very little use of the previously memorized material. So, we’re in the habit of forgetting.

But Scripture doesn’t work that way. Scripture is meant to be “stored” (Psalm 119:11), “breathed” (Psalm 119:131) and “eaten” (Deuteronomy 8:3) on a daily basis, and is ultimately supposed to be the very thing that helps us “think” Christian-ly (Romans 12:2).

Since this is the case, let me suggest 4 steps to memorizing verses (they apply to passages, too, but passages require more commitment). When you want to memorize Scripture:

  1. read what you want to memorize 10 times;

  2. when you read, always read aloud (and bring it to life!);

  3. then write down what you want to memorize 10 times; and finally

  4. put it on a 3x5 card (verse of front, address on back) for later reference. You can start a stack of cards to check your progress.

There are a variety of other tricks for memorization, too, like using the Quzlet app, making voice memos of verses, and listening to audio Bibles. In the end, the method isn’t as important as the goal; what works for one person may not work for another. My challenge to you is this: adopt these 4 steps and see what happens. If you do, I guarantee that you will successfully memorize Scripture.

Blessings,

Joe

4 steps to memorize scripture


church: is it a location or a people group?

Today, there seems to be confusion surrounding what the church is, what it isn't, and whether or not "it" can exist without a meeting place or building. As a positive example, we can see this philosophy unfold in Western culture, when people are seldom committed to the Christian faith unless they're in a church building. As a negative example, we can see this currently in China, where, in an effort to thwart Christianity and provide a "balance" in the state, authorities are demolishing Christian church buildings. But what does the evidence say about the idea of church.

The word "church" happens a number of times in the New Testament. For example, it's found in Matthew 16, when Jesus says that He will build His church on the foundation Peter recognized: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (16:16). When the apostles wrote their letters, they referred to "the churches of Asia" (1 Corinthians 16:19) and the "seven churches" (Revelation 1:4). They talked about the "elders of the church" and even of some being "put out of the church." Yet, other references are far less specific. For example, in a broader sense, Christ "died for the church" and is the "head of the church" (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 1:18). 

So, perhaps the evidence isn't for a position of either/or. Perhaps the best position for us to hold is both/and. The church is both universal and local, large and small, broad and specific. As Christians, this would make sense. By putting our faith in Christ, we are part of God’s universal Church (with a capital C), and, by virtue of this fact, we are compelled to join others who align with us at a local church (with a lower c). So, if you're part of the Church, join us at New City Church for worship on Sundays at 11.


How do we, as Christians, exist in the twofold status that we are afforded as both the adopted children of God through faith in Christ and simultaneously citizens of the United States of America? To put it simply, it’s not always easy. On the one hand, there are times when our faith and earthly citizenship seemingly get along. On the other hand, there are times when our faith and earthly citizenship couldn’t be made to be more aliens to each other. Nevertheless, the Bible has a word for us, and, in view of the recent election(s), it seems high time to address it, specifically from Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2. They teach us 2 simple principles that we are to abide by as Kingdom citizens.

We Are to Respect Authority
First, according to Romans 13:1-7, we are to respect authority, regardless of whether or not we completely and entirely agree with their policies and positions. Case in point, President Barak Obama. I may or may not be in agreement with him and the direction in which he’s been leading our country, but that isn’t the question that God is asking me in Romans 13. God commands me to respect authority (of course, as long as it isn’t in direct contravention with His Word), and therefore that’s what I’m supposed to do. From time to time, we can find it hard to respect our parents’ authority, our teachers’ authority, our employer’s authority, or even Obama as a president, but we can still respect the positions they hold and respect them as people made in God’s image. In the president’s case, we can respect him as one who holds the highest office in our country. (This would apply to President-elect Trump, too.)

One issue that I have with his point, Respect Authority, is the link that the Apostle Paul associates with those in authority and God Himself; thus, eventually all authority leads us back to God’s authority. With that said, the point is simple: if we can’t respect authority that we do see, how can we claim to respect the authority that we can’t see?

We Are to Pray for Authority
The second and perhaps more important point at this time in our country is, We Are to Pray for Authority. It’s clearly taught in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, but it’s easier to talk about than it is to actually do, Why? Well, if you’re anything like me, you err in 1 of 2 ways. You either:

  1. don’t pray for those in authority because you already agree with them (so why pray?); or

  2. don’t pray for those in authority because you don’t agree with them (so why pray?).

But what we learn from 1 Timothy 2:1-4 is something grander than our own personal policy preferences. We learn that God has a desire for “all” to be saved, not just those with whom we may agree. Therefore, we should pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We are Christians before we are anything else, and intercession for others is paramount to our daily practice and faith.

Ultimately, we can’t control what those in authority will or will not do, but what we can control is our own behavior and our representation of our Kingdom citizenship (Philippians 3:20). We’re afforded the right as citizens of the US to speak our minds, but we should do so respectfully and prayerfully. We’re afforded the right as citizens of the US to vote, but we should do so respectfully and prayerfully. We’re afforded the right to congregate, meet, and protest, but we should do so respectfully and prayerfully. After all, we should beware that we do not emphasize our rights as citizens of the US  while neglecting our foremost obligations as citizens of the Kingdom. Christ’s command was clear:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Blessings,

Joe

I'm thankful for Kingdom and Country


As Providence would have it, last Sunday I preached a message titled "Fighting for Joy in a World of Worry," only to have Sunday afternoon and Monday morning unfold in such a way that I had to put what I preached into practice. I think at one time or another we've all been there. So, I wanted to share it. Here are the main points.

Decide for Joy

Each and every day, sometimes even moment by moment, we all have a decision to make: we all have to decide if we will allow worry to affect our joy. This week, my truck broke down while I was taking my daughter to school. But I decided to be joyful about the fact that it didn't break down while my wife was driving back from Orlando last week or while I was still on the highway with my daughter or in the drop-off point where it would've caused a huge roadblock (undoubtedly being a giant embarrassment). In other words, I decided to focus on things that brought me joy rather than the inconvenience that didn't.

Although deciding for joy may seem like a ridiculously small step, it's the first and most important step to living a live that is joyful, because, if you don't decide to live a life of joy, then you most certainly won't.

Plot for Joy

Joy has never just happened to anyone. If we want to experience joy on a day-to-day basis, then, after we decide for it, we have to plot for it. That means creating boundaries in our calendar that keep the good inside but the bad outside. For my wife and I, as it relates to this particular situation, we have a AAA membership (PS: it's worth every dollar). That means that even trying events that can steal joy, like my car breaking down on a Monday morning, can be avoided with a little "plotting." 

Here are some basics:

  • keep a healthy prayer life: maintaining a healthy relationship to God is paramount to a life of joy. It helps us remain strong during trails and also gives us perspective, which is the next point.

  • keep a wide perspective: we believe that the world revolves around us, but a little learning, a little broadening of our perspective will quickly remedy that mentality!

  • keep a regimen: a schedule guards your heart and mind from concerns that could invade your calendar and potentially steal your joy. Major on majors. Minor on minors.

Don't wait for joy to simply happen to you...

Celebrate for Joy

Finally, we have to celebrate for joy. Each and every moment that we're alive, we should find a simple reason to celebrate, reasons that we often overlook and casually dismiss.

  • celebrate Jesus, who never changes and is faithful (Hebrews 13:8)

  • celebrate our Heavenly Father, who awaits our presence (Philippians 1:21-22)

  • celebrate family and friends, whom God has given us to travel through life with (Matthew 19:23-30)

Don't wait for joy to simply happen to you before you decide to be joyful. Decide. Plot. Celebrate. Joy is a virtue of people who have decided not to allow the world's worry to negatively affect them, control them, or dictate to them what kind of person or what kind of life they're going to lead. How about you? Will you decide for joy?

Blessings,

Pastor Joe

Fighting for joy in a world of worry


The question that I got this weekend was: What Bible translation should I be reading? It’s a great question for a couple of reasons. First, it means that New City Church is reaching people who aren’t familiar with God’s Word–in other words, we’re helping people find and follow Jesus, and that’s our mission. Second, it means that people are interested in generally learning more from and about God’s Word. In any case, we all should be reading God’s Word with regularity, so here’s a little help when you’re looking for a (new) Bible.

First, there are essentially 3 types of translations.

  1. Literal — a word-for-word translation that aims at being as close to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts as is possible. (Ex: English Standard Version; New American Standard Bible)

  2. Dynamic — a thought-for-thought translation that aims at giving the balance of translation and readability. (Ex. New International Version; New Living Translation)

  3. Paraphrase — a translation that is aimed at readability. (Ex: The Message; Phillips Translation)

As you can probably see, it’s both simpler and more complex than most think. But here’s the gist:

  • What translation is used in your church? It’s always helpful to be on the same page as your pastor when he’s preaching.

  • Do you enjoy reading? If you do, then you shouldn’t have a problem going with the literal, “stiffer” translation.

  • Are you going to use the Bible for in-depth studying? If the answer is yes, you’ll benefit from a literal translation. If the answer is no, then you can lean toward the a dynamic or even a paraphrase.

For most readers, the important question isn’t, What translation should I be reading? but, Am I reading the Bible enough? 

The truth is, with Bibles and apps available by the hundreds, there’s no reason why anyone who calls themselves a Christian shouldn’t be reading God’s Word voraciously. Although I personally enjoy and read the ESV, I own a large variety of translations. I read and appreciate them all for different reasons. For most readers, the important question isn’t, What translation should I be reading? but, Am I reading the Bible enough?

So here’s the real question: Are you reading the Bible regularly? I can assure you that reading a paraphrase of the Bible is far more beneficial than owning a literal translation that’s never read!

Blessings,

Joe

What Bible Translation Should You Use?