“Remember Me” – The Best Scripture Memory App I Have Used

If you desire to memorize Scripture, but have had a difficult time doing so, let me suggest a free app that may help.  I have tried many different ones in the past, but this one is BY FAR the best I have ever used. So give Bible Memory: Remember Me app a try and let me know what you think.  (You can also find it on iTunes for Apple users but unlike the Android app counterpart it is not currently free)

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May 13, 2015 · 9:00 am

Can Ordinary Marriages Become Extraordinary?

He snapped at her during breakfast. She brought up a past mistake. He walked out angry. She left without saying good-bye. An ordinary day in an ordinary marriage. But what if things could be different? What if the moments that seem the most ordinary moments of annoyance, conflict, pain, or cold indifference could become moments in which you’re able to understand God’s incredible agenda for love and begin to do something new?Winston T. Smith, drawing on his extensive experience as a marriage counselor, offers a simple yet powerful prescription for changing your marriage. He shows how examining the everyday disappointments and irritations in your marriage will help you understand yourself, your spouse, and your need for God’s love. Change begins with seeing day-to-day interactions from a different perspective, taking simple steps to love one another more effectively, and then learning how to take those steps over and over again. Interactions that used to devolve into pointless annoyances and fights can become an opportunity for God’s activity and love to become increasingly evident and powerful.The principles in this book will take your marriage to extraordinary places and lead you into a deeper relationship with an extraordinary God. Don’t settle for an ordinary marriage, learn to live out God’s extraordinary love in your most intimate relationship.–

Winston T. Smith, M.Div., is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) and has extensive experience as a marriage and family counselor. In addition to the Marriage Matters book, he is also the author of two Marriage Matters companion products: Marriage Matters Manual Facilitators Guide, and Marriage Matters Study Guide. Additionally, he is the author of the minibooks Divorce Recovery: Growing and Healing God’s Way; Help for Stepfamilies: Avoiding the Pitfalls and Learning to Love; It’s All About Me: The Problem with Masturbation; and Who Does the Dishes? Decision Making in Marriage.

Currently you can download Winston’s Smith ebook entitled “Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change in Ordinary Moments” for free from Amazon.

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Free Kindle Ebook on Depression

Have you ever struggled with depression or know someone who has?  Currently Amazon has Ed Welches book Depression:  Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness as a free download.  Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00FNCSBDI/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1430754618

 

 

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Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?

Orginally posted on CrossWalk.com

Todd Pruitt
Sept 29, 2014

Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?

There is a great misunderstanding in churches of the purpose of music in Christian worship. Churches routinely advertise their “life-changing” or “dynamic” worship that will “bring you closer to God” or “change your life.” Certain worship CD’s promise that the music will “enable you to enter the presence of God.” Even a flyer for a recent conference for worship leaders boasted:

“Join us for dynamic teaching to set you on the right path, and inspiring worship where you can meet God and receive the energy and love you need to be a mover and shaker in today’s world…Alongside our teaching program are worship events which put you in touch with the power and love of God.”

The problem with the flyer and with many church ads is that these kinds of promises reveal a significant theological error. Music is viewed as a means to facilitate an encounter with God; it will move us closer to God. In this schema, music becomes a means of mediation between God and man. But this idea is closer to ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.

Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He alone is the One who brings us to God. The popular but mistaken notions regarding worship music undermine this foundational truth of the Christian faith. It is also ironic that while many Christians deny the sacramental role of those ordinances which the Lord Himself has given to the church (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) they are eager to grant music sacramental powers. Music and “the worship experience” are viewed as means by which we enter the presence of God and receive his saving benefits. There is simply no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God. This is a common pagan notion. It is far from Christian.
In his helpful book True Worship Vaughan Roberts offers four consequences of viewing music as an encounter with God. I will summarize them.

1. God’s Word is marginalized.
In many Churches and Christian gatherings it is not unusual for God’s Word to be shortchanged. Music gives people the elusive “liver quiver” while the Bible is more mundane. Pulpits have shrunk and even disappeared while bands and lighting have grown. But faith does not come from music, dynamic experiences, or supposed encounters with God. Faith is birthed through the proclamation of God’s Word (Rom 10:17).

2. Our assurance is threatened.
If we associate God’s presence with a particular experience or emotion, what happens when we no longer feel it? We search for churches whose praise band, orchestra, or pipe organ produce in us the feelings we are chasing. But the reality of God in our lives depends on the mediation of Christ not on subjective experiences.

3. Musicians are given priestly status.
When music is seen as a means to encounter God, worship leaders and musicians are vested with a priestly role. They become the ones who bring us into the presence of God rather than Jesus Christ who alone has already fulfilled that role. Understandably, when a worship leader or band doesn’t help me experience God they have failed and must be replaced. On the other hand, when we believe that they have successfully moved us into God’s presence they will attain in our minds a status that is far too high for their own good.

4. Division is increased.
If we identify a feeling as an encounter with God, and only a particular kind of music produces that feeling, then we will insist that same music be played regularly in our church or gatherings. As long as everyone else shares our taste then there is no problem. But if others depend upon a different kind of music to produce the feeling that is important to them then division is cultivated. And because we routinely classify particular feelings as encounters with God our demands for what produce those feelings become very rigid. This is why so many churches succumb to offering multiple styles of worship services. By doing so, they unwittingly sanction division and self-centeredness among the people of God.

Scripture is full of exhortations to God’s people to sing and make music to the Lord. Our God has been gracious to give us this means to worship Him. But it is important to understand that music in our worship is for two specific purposes: to honor God and to edify our fellow believers. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to grant music a sacramental power which Scripture never bestows upon it.
Todd Pruitt serves as Lead Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Raised a Southern Baptist, he is a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He blogs regularly at Ref21 and 1517. Todd, along with Carl Trueman and Aimee Byrd, is one of the hosts of Mortification of Spin. He and his wife Karen have three children.

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You Never Marry the Right Person: How our culture misunderstands compatibility.

With three of our children getting married this summer (in a space of six weeks), I have marriage on the brain. Here is a good perspective on marriage from Tim Keller.

Originally posted on RelevantMagazine.com

by timothy keller
JANUARY 5, 2012

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

In John Tierney’s classic humor article “Picky, Picky, Picky” he tries nobly to get us to laugh at the impossible situation our culture has put us in. He recounts many of the reasons his single friends told him they had given up on their recent relationships:

“She mispronounced ‘Goethe.’”
“How could I take him seriously after seeing The Road Less Traveled on his bookshelf?”
“If she would just lose seven pounds.”
“Sure, he’s a partner, but it’s not a big firm. And he wears those short black socks.”
“Well, it started out great … beautiful face, great body, nice smile. Everything was going fine—until she turned around.” He paused ominously and shook his head. ”… She had dirty elbows.”

In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner. They do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires. This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.

You never marry the right person

The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that…

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Prayer for Families of Victims on Crashed Airplane

Please pray for the families of those who were killed on the Germanwings airline that went down today.

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A Bright Song From A Deep Darkness

The following post comes from an e-mail that a friend of mine sent to HeadHeartHand Blog. My hope is that it will bring comfort and hope to you no matter what you are going through.

Originally posted on HeadHeartHand Blog

A week or so ago, I received an email from Brad Hansen with the lyrics of a song he had composed while in a recent dark spell with depression. I was deeply touched by the words, and asked if I could share his song and story on the blog. He replied: “I would be glad to share my story. I decided long ago that I would open my life and struggles to others, with the hope that people could know that they’re not alone.” So here’s a little of Brad’s testimony to God’s grace followed by the song.

Even an old dog can learn new tricks; and even a depressed dog can be found smiling for reasons which elude the wisest of masters. This is the story of such a dog – old (which I know to be true because my sons say so) and well acquainted  with depression, now for about 40 years.

The onset of depression was, for me, like a moment from Jurassic Park – the moment when a distant “thud” creates rings in a nearby puddle. You think it’s nothing, until it happens again, a bit more pronounced. Soon you realize that there is something present more mysterious and threatening than you realized.

The Bottom Drops Out

All this began taking place in my late teens, when I noticed that my mood, my energy, and my enjoyment of life would take a tumble for a few days. It was a bit unpleasant, but it wasn’t long before I was my usual self. But over the next 3-5 years the tumbles became falls hurtling deeper. What once affected my life for a few days here and there began extending to a few weeks, and later still months on end. I had graduated from college, was married, on my way through seminary, and all the while living in a fog from which I had only a few periods of relief. Somehow I muddled through. I graduated from seminary, received a call to a church, and was ordained. It was then that the bottom dropped out.

My memories of that period are (blessedly!) few. But I still remember the pattern. I would begin my day getting up, eating breakfast, showering, getting dressed, and then immobilized in bed for hours. Within a year of beginning this pastorate I found myself hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. I was experiencing what medical people would later call “Bipolar II” – a depression with varying mood swings, most of which are experienced below the water line. In those days the medical arsenal for depression was relatively slim, but I was fortunate to find relief through lithium. After two months hospitalization I was released and returned home.

Burned Out Shell

But I knew that as a person I was mostly a shell, and my inner being was burned out. It’s quite common for people to misunderstand what medication can and cannot do. In my case lithium served to level the playing field, but I had a lot of recovery to do before I began to believe “I got game.” It’s been a journey of 35-40 years with many ups and downs, which continues to this day, when the old dog learned a new trick.

Only a few weeks ago, I sat at a prayer meeting at our church on a Sunday evening. Shortly before prayer began, I felt the darkness descending on me. The best description of what this is like is to remember your last visit to the optometrist. She sets before your face a contraption with any number of lenses, and, with the eye chart out ahead of you, begins the questions: “Which is clearer – 1 or 2? Which is clearer – 3 or 4?” In between those verbal choices, of course, is a moment when the optometrist flips a lens from one side to another. One side (in theory!) is clearer than the other, and becomes so in the wink of an eye. That is what my mood swings are like. One moment, I’m fine; the next moment everything is cloudy or even dark. On that evening I wasn’t able to pray out loud; I prayed silently knowing what was happening to me, and thanking God that he was with me. I attended to some of the spoken prayers as they were spoken. But I knew that I might be in for a dark spell.

Songs From The Darkness

The following morning proved that to be the case. I was down and heavy, and my prayer to God was “Help me to do what I can today.” What happened next is a bit hard to describe. I found myself going to my table with my Bible open to Psalm 42-43, with a sudden urge to write a hymn, and retell the story of the psalmist and his God in my own words, out of my own human condition. Within a half hour I had the result: a hymn which I entitled, “Here, Lord, I Kneel to Pray.” And with hymn in hand, and John Ireland’s music (“Love Unknown”) in my head, the old dog smiled a bit, and contentment (though certainly not euphoria) reigned. My world, and welcome to it.

Since that time, I’ve turned my attention to other texts and theology, both biblical and systematic, to ply this new trade. I’ve discovered that God entrusts to his oft-depressed servants the very songs he has given to them in the darkness, for the building up of the body, to the praise of his glory. And it’s not bad work if you can find it. Cheers!

“Here, Lord, I Kneel to Pray”
Psalm 42
Tune: Love Unknown (John Ireland)
Here, Lord, I kneel to pray;
Yet deep within my heart
There is no joy and darkness clouds its ev’ry part.
The memory of worship sweet
Stands far away while I must weep.
So my soul longs for you,
My Lord, who truly lives,
Whose presence like the flowing streams he richly gives
For thirst do I, and thus I cry.
My tears for food won’t satisfy.
Yet my Lord sings to me
His steadfast love by day,
And through the night his song is with me ‘ere I pray.
Shall he forget the cruel threat
That bids my soul my life regret?
So to myself I speak.
To my soul would I preach,
“Be not cast down, let hope become your heart’s relief.
God shall you save, begetting praise;
His light and truth are yours always.”

If you don’t know the tune, here’s a video to help you learn it:

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Rosaria Butterfield: Repentance & Renewal

“Watch as Rosaria Butterfield describes her conversion, and explains her experience in following Christ in order to encourage and challenge listeners to live as a light in this dark world.”

“Christians are called not just to a single instance of repentance. Rather, they’re called to repent throughout their lives, trusting Christ for life every day. Dr. Rosaria Butterfield has a unique perspective on repenting and trusting Christ. In this session, Dr. Butterfield describes her conversion, and explains.”

via Ligonier Ministries on YouTube

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Smartphone Sanctification

Cogitatio - thinking.meditation.reflection.

Apps 'integral' to family lifeI’m writing this post to recommend some of my favorite smartphone apps.  Anyone who knows me will recognize the momentous irony of that sentence.  I’m the classic neo-luddite and it will always be a source of pride for me that I managed to hold out on getting a cell phone until I was 24.  But, alas, the mighty have fallen and I too have joined the ranks of captive creatures softly submissive to the developing dictates of the technological age.

But as long as we’re here, we might as well make use of it.  Technology of course is not a bad thing (kudos to the guy who invented the wheel – and indoor plumbing).  There are always dangers with technology, but there are opportunities as well.  One of the ways I’ve found myself blessed by the use of smartphone technology is the use of apps.  Like many of you my…

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Goal of Theology

Abstract, impersonal theology helps no one. The goal of the theology of Scripture is not information, but personal heart transformation.

Paul DavidTripp

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