Reminding (part three)
How much there must have been in Moses' book of remembrance: The story his sister must have shared about how he was supposed to be murdered in a rash effort to slay all of the Jewish boy babies at birth, and how she played a part in the ruse that saved him. There must have been pages and pages on the years he spent in the palace, enjoying the best of everything; fancy clothes, the education only royalty receives, exposure to heads of state, princes, and kings; viewing the pleasures that accompany affluence and prestige first hand.
He must have recorded how he would slip away at night and visit his real family, hearing stories about how the Jews were being abused and neglected and persecuted. And there must have been a chapter that depicted the time he was faced with the choice of his life. The Scripture records it this way:
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Then came chapters stained with tears. His abortive effort to protect his people that led to his becoming a murderer and then a fugitive from justice. The feelings he must have had as this one who was once destined for the throne was now running for his life, assuming he would never see his people again.
What a life he had lived. Filled with pomp and circumstance; filled with excitement. Filled with recognition and the respect of the common man. No longer. Now he found himself all alone, tending his new father-in-law's sheep, a nobody no one cared about; a has-been who had been destined for greatness.
I would love to read the account of his feelings when that bush began to burn but not be consumed. Here was the promise of everything he had dreamed of as a boy, but now he was too old; too out of step; too unskilled in the ways of society to be useful. Or so he thought. But His God had this in mind all along. He would let his man see his dreams die on a hillside, then when he knew he was the one who couldn't, Jehovah would tap His man on the shoulder and say, "Let's go, son, now I can use you."
I would like to have been a fly on the wall as he shared those thoughts with Joshua. How he explained the process of arguing with God over his credentials, while his arguments were his very credentials. How he had learned that meekness was not weakness, but the most beautiful exhibition of strength in the spirit realm ever seen. How God had emblazoned on his heart that His written word was the basis upon which all of life would be built. I would love to know what he said to Joshua when he came down that mountain and saw what Aaron and the others had done.
Some of these things are recorded in the word. Others are not. But wouldn't you like to be able to know this man's heart the way you know the heart of David? And wouldn't you like to leave that kind of imprint in the cement of the foundation of the next generation? Wouldn't you like them to have the benefit of what you saw, what you experienced, what God did, and why?
You can. Your life may not be quite as eventful as Moses'. But to someone; someone God has ordained to follow in your steps, your life has just the blend of excitement, determination, faithfulness, and meekness God was looking for. He made no mistake when He made you. And He wants who you are and how He has used who you are to make an impression on another generation. It may be your children; your neighbor's children; your grandchildren; your disciples. It may be those you taught in Sunday School or those you led in Bible School or those you were in a small group with. You may never know who it was. That's good. You will have that locked up in the vaults of heaven and shared with you as a heavenly reward one day. But in order for your life to be passed on to others, something needs to be recorded somewhere, so that what God has done for you might be applied by someone coming along behind you; someone who, believe it or not, wants to walk in your steps.
We've been looking at those principles in our last two studies. We've looked at why we are to mentor by reminding, and we've looked at what we are to be reminded of. In this last look at learning to remember and remind, we need to get intensely practical. Using the Scripture as our plumbline, we need to ask ourselves, "Okay if that's what we are to share with those who follow, and this is why God thinks it's important, what am I going to do from now on to see that the journey begins and the process goes on.
The Issue of Accountability
The first key, I believe, is accountability. Most of us have proved through time that we think the process of remembering and reminding is important, but not important enough to do it. We mean well, but very, very few believers have current records of the word, the works, the ways, and the worth of God as revealed in their experience. We often begin such a project with good intentions, usually within a week or so after hearing a message on the subject, reading a book on journaling, or seeing something someone else has done to keep their memories fresh. Even then, we often forget where we put whatever we wrote down, and the whole thing loses its momentum a week or two after it began. Pity. We forget to meditate on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Ecc 2:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
That is where small Bible Study groups, focus groups, accountability groups, and prayer partners become so important. Perhaps their greatest value is in the process of gently (or not so gently) reminding one another (with permission, of course) to share what they have done in a given area of spiritual discipline. If you are not accountable to anyone, why not ask God right now to place in your heart the name of someone who will be faithful enough to ask you and bold enough to ask you again until you do what you yourself agreed to do.
It's not a new principle. Without it, we would never make it in school. Someone has to test us on what we agreed to learn and hold us accountable, or we will try to go on to the next level without learning to be faithful in the basics. Even video games won't let you go on to level two or three unless you have mastered level one. The Christian life is not a game. It's for real. I have, in my life, let years slip by with minimum growth because I just wasn't willing or was too lazy to find someone and remain accountable.
The Miracle of Memorization
At the end of our last study, we looked momentarily at Joshua 1:8 and God's commandment to memorize and meditate on the word of God. We won't spend much time here, but the miracle of memorization is far too much of a well-kept secret in the Christian life. I know these passages are all too familiar, but unless we are obeying them, it doesn't matter how familiar they are. We need to read and reread Deuteronomy 6 over and over. It says:
Deut 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
The word of God is not something you taste weekly and hope you can remember what it tastes like. It is to be the air you breathe. It is your spiritual lifeline. You don't breathe once a week. You don't breathe every morning before you leave for work or school and hope that takes you through the day. The word is the only antidote you have for the influences this world throws at you. You must breathe it all day and all night. It must replace the things you would watch and the thoughts you would think that would deprive your lungs of their capacity to breathe in God's thoughts, God's ways, and God's decision-making process. It is not a one a day vitamin you take and then go out and eat and drink what you please from the world's buffet table. It is not an aspirin you take to block the effects the world's philosophies are having on your double-minded mindset.
The word of God is the mind of God in breathable form. That's what 2 Timothy 3:16 means when it says: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" . It means "All Scripture is God-breathed". It is the very air God breathes into your life when you let Him.
It ought to be a sign upon our hands, like frontlets between our eyes, on the doorposts and the gates of our houses. It was not designed to be something God wrote to put in a book and keep on a shelf. It is God Himself, alive and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, designed to be the very words we think about, talk about, dream about, and see wherever we look. To do that, beloved, we've got to place it in our hearts, meditate on it day and night and strategically place it so it will show up everywhere we look.
You can do that unobtrusively. You can have the verses you are memorizing inside your daytimer where you look for your schedule, on the bathroom mirror where you get your first taste of reality every morning, on the dashboard of your car, inside your billfold next to the credit cards you use all day, on the back of your cell phone, pinned to the inside of your coat, wrapped in plastic inside the shower, on a card in your shirt pocket, on the refrigerator door. Why so many places? So you'll remember, that's why. That's what Deuteronomy 6 was saying: It was saying, you don't need to wave a banner in front of your unbelieving friends, put it where you will see it, and where you can't help but remember that placing it in your heart it is the most important thing you do every day. More important than breakfast, lunch, or supper. Job 23:12 says it clearly:
Job 23:12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
Young people, I beg you to place the word in your heart now while you can still remember to remember what you're doing and why. It gets harder, much harder, as you get older. Get accountable and get to memorizing Scripture. Unless you remember God's word, you will focus on God's works and begin to glory in them rather than in Him. That doesn't work. It leads to a gospel of emotionalism that can only be satisfied with a bigger miracle or a more intense feeling than the last one you had. Before long, your memory bank is filled with experiences rather than Scripture. The experiences are vital. We'll look at them next, but they must be attached to God's word or they become stumblingblocks rather than stepping stones. Ask Paul.
Learn to memorize systematically. Learn to memorize practically. Learn to memorize topically. Learn to memorize seriously. It is your very lifeline, spiritually. Yes, it can become legalistic. Anything can. But it doesn't need to. And if something in your life is going to become legalistic, better Scripture memory, because once it is in your heart, regardless of the reason you put it there, God can take it and bring it to your remembrance, just as He promised. Remember what Paul said in Philippians, chapter one:
Phil 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
The same thing is true of memorizing. You may be doing it to look good to someone else. You may be doing it to keep up with your friends, or you may be doing it just because someone told you to. That, beloved, is still better than not doing it. If you have diabetes, I don't care what motivates you, taking your insulin can save your life. The word of God placed in your heart and meditated on can save your life, too. Let it. And let's each one of us start over this very day no matter what has gone before, no matter how many times we have started and failed. Let's find someone we trust to check up on us and test us and remind us so we will. It isn't a matter of competition. Don't get on that roller-coaster. Your memory work ought not to be compared with anyone else's. Remember what Paul said:
2Co 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
The word of God. It is the first thing we are to remember. And if it's the only thing we ever remember, we'll still be on our way.
The Christian's Home Journal
Next to memorizing Scripture, perhaps the next most important thing we need to do is begin to journal. Journaling is not some new secret in the Christian life. It's what God told Moses to do for Joshua:
Ex 17:14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book
It's what we read about in Malachi 3:16:
Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
Many of the Psalms were pages out of David's journal. Here was a man who had tasted defeat and lived to be spiritually resurrected with a kind of depth and sensitivity that virtually every believer desires to have. That is why when hurting, we turn first to the Psalms. Read and reread the Psalms and use them as a pattern for recording what God is doing in your life. Here are some key things to write down:
1- Write down what God said to you from His word today. Reread it at lunch time. Reread it after supper. Reread it at bedtime. Why? Because repetition produces results.
2- Write down your prayer requests and note every single time God answers. Otherwise, Satan will snatch from your mind the miracles God performed in answer to prayer.
3- Write down the things God has done in your life and in the lives of others since last you wrote. Keep a running record of the battles won, the evidences of His grace revealed, the ministries He supernaturally allowed you to have.
4- Write down the different evidences of God's character He revealed to you since last you wrote. Remember how He showed you mercy. Recall how He demonstrated His power. Rejoice at how He gave you peace. Write it down and review it. Otherwise, you will stop expecting God to act because you forgot how much He loves to.
It's the Christian's home journal. It ought to be in some kind of a book format so you won't lose the pages or forget where you put them. Treat it at least with as much respect as you do your check book. It will pay bigger dividends than your check book. Eternal dividends. If you don't write down your remembrances of who God is and what God has said and what God is doing, the chance of your being able to recall it to pass it on to the next generation drops nearly to infinity. I'm convinced that as you get older, (and I think that's what all of us are doing) it drops even further than that.
The Christian's Home Journal. If you don't have one, start one today. If you have one, and it's become a "DC" (dust collector), today would be a good time to move it out from under "that pile of books I'm going to read some day" and put it back next to your Bible where it belongs.
The Mystery of Memorials
That "Home Journal", however, is primarily for you. It is your reminder of the personal things between you and God that need to be recorded. God had some other things in mind, as well, as we learned in our last study. When Joshua crossed the Jordan, God instructed him to stop and build an altar so that "that when their children asked them in time to come.... 'What mean ye by these stones?' you can tell them all about what happened today."
Throughout Scripture, God told His people again and again to stop and build an altar to commemorate certain things He had done. Sometimes, the key to the altar was to have a place of worship. Other times, however, the reason was different: God wanted a memorial, or a remembrance, like He did with Joshua in Joshua, chapter four.
In Numbers, chapter 16, the children of Israel were in trouble and Korah and his gang were at the root of it. God wanted to teach His people a lesson they would never forget. And then He wanted to teach them how to never forget what they were supposed to never forget. This is what happened:
Numbers 16:37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed.
38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar:
40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.
To solve problem number one, He let the earth open up and swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, alongwith their houses and all their belongings. Those who were there, were witnessing God's righteousness in a way they ought never to forget. But would they? And what about succeeding generations? That would be problem number two: God decided to have Aaron's son take the censers out of the fire, scatter the fire, make an offering to the Lord, and turn those censers into broad plates used to cover the altar. Then, every time they came to that altar, they would see those brass plates, remember what happened, and having remembered, they could a) "Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness" and b) tell their children and their children's children what happens when you willfully violate the word of God and willfully challenge the authority God places over you.
There need to be reminders of special things God has done or allowed you to experience that you never want to forget. Maybe pounding censers into sheets for the altar or taking rocks and building an altar is not your style. But if it means enough to you, (and it should) you can do something, even if it's no more than finding a picture that depicts the experience to hang on the wall as a reminder.
Some can buy or make stitcheries or do woodwork or paint something simple or just buy a memento that has meaning to no one but you. That's okay. Do something, so that a) every time you see it you will remember, and b) when your children ask you "What is that for?" you have an answer that will open their hearts to God's working in your life. These little things become living "memorials" or "reminders" of the hand of God.
Maybe you need to make one that is indicative of how you came to Christ. Maybe just an open letter to God in a frame that others can see if they choose to, but that doesn't seem ostentatious or project insensitivity. Maybe you went through a trauma or disappointment, and it became a turning point in your life, spiritually, and you want your children to be able to understand that the very things that crush the unbeliever become pathways to the heart of God. Make something or do something that quietly reminds both you and them of that trauma and of the precious fruit that was borne from that disappointment at the hand of God. It becomes a "living lesson".
Tried and True Traditions
One final thing: God had another technique for remembering and reminding that may be His most powerful tool of all. He created occasions, usually yearly ones, when His children had to stop and celebrate or relive something He had done. They were reminded not only by the occasion itself, but by the process of looking forward to it, and remembering as they planned for it, why they were doing it.
Exodus, chapter 12 gives us an example:
Exodus 12:21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
Instead of something physical these children looked at and asked about, now God was describing an ordinance, a tradition, that would take place regularly, which would cause the children to ask the same question and allow their parents to say, "Thank you for asking, my child, let me tell you what God did one day."
In the New Testament, baptism and the Lord's Supper were instigated for the same reason, but I am not sure our children often come to understand the significance of what they are celebrating and why. Of coming to the Lord's table, Jesus said:
Lu 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
"Every time you do this, think about what I did for you and worship." That's what Jesus was saying. It is a solemn occasion. It is not to be taken lightly. 1 Corinthians, chapter eleven, explains that and what happens when we do not approach it with the reverence and integrity it deserves. The same is true of baptism. Matthew 28:19-20 declares it as an ordinance of the church and gives it a place in the believer's life that is not optional, but a vital part of his or her testimony.
Today's church needs to continue to be creative in making these ordinances personal and in seeing that what they stand for isn't lost in the process. More than that, however, these "ordinances" give us visible pictures of how we can create in our family or in our small group, ways to set aside days and times which are our "feasts" or "celebrations" of things God has done for us. We need to study how God went about creating those feasts and why. And we need to set aside not only places and mementos, but times and dates wherein we as families, or as churches, stop to remember special things God did for us. That would help the next generation and that would help people coming into the church to realize the heritage and the legacy that God has created by revealing His love and His power in days gone by. You don't worship the past, but you honor God for what He did in the past. There is quite a difference.
The key is not in what we do or even in how we do it. We don't want to substitute traditions for reality. But in our quest to prevent that, dare we overlook the great value of creating ways to remember and ways to remind others of who our God is and what He has done? I think not. I think the great danger is that we don't have enough things in our lives and in our churches to cause our children to ask in time to come: "What mean ye by this?" Nor do I think most of us in our own lives have really substantial remembrances to keep us grateful and keep us humble.
The result? God has to take us over the same ground again and again simply because we forgot to remember what He taught us the last time. We are taking the same courses over and over in the school of Christian experience simply because we don't do the little things we could do to engrave on our hearts what we have already learned.
Go back to the beginning of this lesson now and start over. The two keys are tying everything God has done to His word and memorizing it so you can meditate on it day and night. And the key to doing that is something called "accountability"; someone who cares enough to walk alongside and say, "How are you doing today? Have you learned your verses? Share them with me." And those of us who have others walking beside us, watching, looking, learning, have no choice but to do that for them.
Optional? I think not. Difficult? I think so. Important? By all means. We will now move on to other things; other ways we mentor: by teaching and by helping those we minister to by showing them how to turn weaknesses into strengths. But, beloved, if we move on without driving a stake in the ground and making some commitments, we will have been hearers of the word, but not doers. And we will come to the end of our lives having forgotten to remember.
A Challenge to Further Study and Application
1- Pretend for a moment that you are Moses, and God is asking you to write a book of remembrance. What would be the key chapters? How would you relate each incident to God's character? Now, try to do the same thing for yourself. Try to look back at your life and relive the key events, tying them to the nature of God.
2- Are you accountable to anyone? Do you memorize Scripture faithfully? Do you have anyone who keeps checking on you to help you remember? If not, are you willing to covenant with God today to seek out such a person?
3- Memorize Deuteronomy 6:6-9. No matter how long it takes, stay with it until you have that passage engraved on your heart. Then begin to meditate on it day and night that you may "observe to do according to all that is written therein."
4- Do you esteem the "words of His mouth more than your necessary food"? Would you be willing to skip meals rather than miss meditating on God's spiritual feast? If not, should you be willing?
5- Do you journal? Do you write down the things God is saying to you and your response each day? If not, are you willing to begin?
6- Is there a special experience in your life wherein God touched your life in a way that you want to live on? Have you created any kind of remembrance to keep it alive? If not, are you willing?
7- Would you like your family to set aside one day a year to celebrate their conversions? Or a day to celebrate that special event that God used in your family? Get a calendar now, a make that "a feast day unto the Lord for you". Make it special. Make it a day of celebration and praise and thanksgiving.
© Russell Kelfer. All rights reserved.