I just love reading Scripture and hearing lyrics start to run through my head. There’s a more recent song by MercyMe that finds its lyrics in 1 John 4:4b:
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Let me tell you some thoughts on the song. First the good. Any Scripture put to music is a great place to start. Music has an incredible ability to help us remember the holy words of the Bible, and we need any help we can find to store them up. We want an overabundance of God’s word in us. So the fact that this song focuses on this as its chorus helps me recall this good news and that is great.
Another good of this song: the tone. Just because a song has Scripture-soaked lyrics doesn’t mean the tone matches. Not all of Scripture is upbeat, and to sing a lament with your toes tapping doesn’t quite match up. But these words of 1 John can have that uplifting feel. We are confessing God’s greatness and how he is greater than the difficulties we’ll face out in the world. In 1 John he’s writing about false spirits and antichrists. So this is like a rallying cry. Something we need to remember again and again. We have a knack at forgetting what we believe to be true and we need that constant refreshing. So a song like this can do well when we direct it inward and keep telling ourselves that God is greater.
1 John does have plenty to say for how we should Iive and love. The call of the Christian is a high calling. But ultimately it is about what Christ has done and he is greater than any other so-called powers.
(Now I’ll quietly say my one persnickety nitpick. I’ll put this whole paragraph in parentheses to further downplay it. Skip if you’d like. The refrain is this long “in the world.” Or more accurately, “in the wooooooooorld.” You can listen below. That tone is strange because the part that is held out repeatedly is talking about the the false spirits in the world and “he” who is out there with power. He’s likely talking about Satan. God in us is greater than Satan, or any demonic forces in the world. If I write a song that says “God is greater than Satan”, I’d try to avoid repeating “Satan” in a soaring chorus. Anyways…)
Again, this song helps me remember that God is greater, and for that I am appreciative. Give it a few listens and let that victorious truth lift you up.
Since we finished reading 1 Corinthians just last week, what do we do now? The reading plan was pretty clear that we finished, but so you know, you are allowed to return to 1 Corinthians. You can reread it to your heart’s content.
If you want some methods of review, here are a few.
You could read it. Slowly. Again. Not a complicated method. Maybe you could try a different version this time around.
You could use the Bible studies to go in-depth. Besides that link to the website, you can also download them all as one PDF here.
Using the Bible visualizations you can review the memory verses. We did this in our final meetings of the Bible study and tried to remember what the context of those verses were. It’s great to know these verses, but it is even better to remember why Paul was talking about Christ as our Passover lamb or why he talks about eating to the glory of God. Again, if you want to download them, here is a big (20 mb) PDF you can use.
Something else we did to review at our study was like a puzzle. I stripped 1 Corinthians of all its verses and chapter headings and then mixed up all the chapters. The goal was to be able to put the letter back in order. You can use this to try it out for yourself. I’d recommend stapling the few chapters that are two pages together so that you have sixteen units to put in order.
We’re back to having a Bible visualization this week. (I’m still trying to catch up on last week.) 1 Corinthians 15 is a powerful chapter on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means for us as well. Paul puts it succinctly near the end as he lays out a great contrast. We all face death and are under the power of sin. The law could do nothing to save us from such a fate. Then Paul uses that wonderful, good news-filled, gracious phrase: but God. Or at least in this section, “but thanks be to God.” Death is not the end nor does sin have the power. God, through Jesus Christ, gives us the victory over such things in his death and resurrection.
If you’re a Presbyterian, particularly one who has served one a committee or session, then you’ve almost certainly heard the phrase, “decent and in order.” Now, if you haven’t already, you can memorize that phrase and add to it a knowledge of where it comes from. Paul writes those words in his essay on worship, for he believes our worship should be an environment where we can learn, where our God of peace is best represented, and chaos and commotion are kept at bay.
In thinking of how to illustrate this week’s memory verse, I must surely have been influenced by my three year old son. He loves legos and building all sorts of things with them. So when it came to this passage about building up the church what better than legos?
Paul’s instruction to strive after building up fits well with these chapters, as his concern is not for pointless manifestations of the Spirit. Instead the Spirit gifts us for a reason. We ought to desire the gifts not to boast and brag. These gifts aren’t about drawing attention to ourselves. We strive after them so that the church may be built up.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
It wasn’t that hard to choose a memory verse for this week. It’s not an unfamiliar one but it is a powerful one. Paul wants the church to turn from all that has divided them and caused them turmoil and turn to love. In this short chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, he lays out what that means.
In putting together a visual, I wanted to keep it simple and remind us that we wouldn’t really know love if not for the love that we see in Jesus Christ.
This chapter is on the diversity of the gifts the church is given by the Spirit, but while it highlights diversity, it does so in the context of the oneness of the body of Christ. Whatever differences there are, we aren’t to esteem some higher than others. We are brought together into one body that is to work together, weep together, and mourn together. These varied gifted all share the same source, the Holy Spirit, and are all to work for the common good. The one Spirit unites us, and this is a gracious work that only God can do.
Our memory verse for this week seeks to lift up and remind us of this unity that we have as a people all baptized into the same Spirit and who daily must drink of the one Spirit.
I read an article today that peaked my interest since I have been thinking about memorization a lot more recently. As I have emphasized much of the good associated with memorization (of which I think there is plenty), there can also be a downside. At times the focus is placed too heavily on recitation without any concern for understanding.
At The Atlantic, Ben Orlin writes an article titled When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning that comes down pretty heavy-handed against memorization. But he does then seek to build it back up to be more useful. Some of what he says I might disagree with, partly because of the limited definition he places upon memorization, “learning an isolated fact through deliberate effort.” But I’d share his biggest concern, which is that memorization detaches what is memorized from a web of meaning and connections and context. Orlin writes:
Some things are worth memorizing–addresses, PINs, your parents’ birthdays. The sine of π/2 is not among them. It’s a fact that matters only insofar as it connects to other ideas. To learn it in isolation is like learning the sentence “Hamlet kills Claudius” without the faintest idea of who either gentleman is–or, for what matter, of what “kill” means. Memorization is a frontage road: It runs parallel to the best parts of learning, never intersecting. It’s a detour around all the action, a way of knowing without learning, of answering without understanding.
This relates directly to this week’s memory verse. The words we may know by heart that precede our taking of communion may already be memorized. But if we know the words without knowing the meaning and significance, what have we gained? It is the same concern with memorizing the creeds or a catechism. Or why would we memorize the Lord’s Prayer if you only do so that you can recite it with your brain turned off?
This isn’t to say memorization is bad. We just need to remember its place. I want memorization of Scripture to be a result of long meditation and thoughtful reflection. It should be a desire of ours to know these great passages of God’s Word so well that we can recall them even if our Bible isn’t around. The end goal really isn’t memorization. Memorization can be and should be a tool to help us learn and retain. As we do so we’ll only then gain a greater sense of awe and wonder at the goodness of our God.